Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lighting Up My Life - At Least My Kitchen

What you see to the right is called a ballast.  Not to be confused with the steadying weights found in a boat, this ballast is a power conditioner for fluorescent lighting.  We have a 4 tube fixture in the kitchen that wouldn't come on the other day.  I checked the bulbs in another fixture we had and they were fine so it had to be the ballast.  Ashleigh and I made a quick run to Home Depot to get a replacement and came away with much more - a new ballast, 4 new bulbs, and an education in "new" lighting.  It turns out that the old style of fluorescent lighting - called T-12 - has become obsolete.  So it is very hard to find a T-12 ballast.  Plenty of bulbs though.  So I had to switch the T-12 ballast with a T-8 ballast but for once, someone did an upgrade with some thought - the T-8 tube bulbs fit in the same fixtures as the T-12.  The tubes are thinner but the end connectors are the same.  So I went home and clipped the old T-12 wires like I was defusing a bomb.  Wired in the new ballast, put in the new T-8 bulbs (a T-8 ballast won't fire up T-12 bulbs) and we were back in business.  Brighter actually.  More natural lighting.  And I guess within a year we will save enough money from the more efficient ballast and bulbs to pay for them.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

He's In!


As if that part above wasn't good enough, this next paragraph is like icing on the cake:


Elliott had completed the early admissions packages for a few colleges but Northeastern was the one he wanted to get into the most.  Lucie and I got our Master's degrees from there but we really didn't influence his decision.  He pretty much holed himself up in his room, researched colleges offering him what he wanted (accounting and marketing), and emerged with a Top Three list.  Over the summer he and Lucie and Ashleigh took a whirlwind trip to Boston to visit the schools and made a pit stop at the Patriots training camp on the way home.  That sealed the deal in his mind - Northeastern was the place for him!  And now he is in with some grants too!  We still have a few bucks to come up with but if that is where God wants him to be, the money will come.

He is ranked in the top 10 of his class of 350 at the high school with a 4.3 GPA so he can coast a bit.  Lacrosse is coming up soon and he will be traveling to Anaheim, CA this spring for another DECA competition (national business and marketing organization).  The other day, he scored the highest IN THE STATE on a practice test.

If things keep going as planned, Lucie and I will be able to enjoy our retirement with a son handling our finances and a daughter managing our health!




Monday, December 3, 2012

Stink Bug -> Bed Bug

Let me set the scene:  I like to read when I go to bed at night.  Our headboard has individual reading lights so when Lucie goes to sleep, she leaves my side on and turns hers off.  My bookmark is a solid, thin metal bar with an anchor at the top that slides over the spine of the book with the thin metal part in page crease.  So there I am, reading in the mostly-darkness, and out of nowhere something comes flying across the room and hits me smack in the middle of the chest.  That made me jump.  Now I have to find out not only what it was, but where it went!  In true Christmas spirit, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter...  Then my nose identified what it was - STINK BUG!  Whooey!  And it was on my arm.  They don't bother me much, but I don't like them crawling on me in the middle of the night.  I walked gingerly to the bathroom to flick it into the toilet but it took off and headed into my closet.  Which means in a few days I will pull a shirt out and it's dusty carcass will come tumbling out.  I went back to bed and flopped down - right on top of my anchor bookmark!  My spring sprang again!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Lucie's 50th

Well that picture just about sums it up - Lucie's surprise 50th birthday party was a success!  It all started when we were at our former Pastor's 80th birthday party and someone asked if Lucie would like a big party when she turned 80.  She said she would so I figured if she was OK with one at 80, she would probably be OK with one at 50.  I had two weeks to pull it together so I enlisted the BIG help of a friend and got the wheels in motion.  And it was quite an undertaking - we invited the whole church (400+ people) via Facebook, emails, hand-outs, and an announcement from the pulpit.  All secret of course!  Then we had to order food, arrange for cakes, set up, hang decorations, etc.  Our church was very generous and assisted with letting us use their Cafe, fountain soda machines, paper goods, etc.  I could only do so much without raising suspicion so our friend and her family jumped in and really did the bulk of the work.  One of the hardest parts was getting people to understand what the "R" in RSVP meant!  How do we plan for as many as 400+ people?  About 100 did reply that they were coming so we planned for a little more.  75 or so actually came.  And the secret stayed a secret!  Ashleigh told Lucie she was going to take her shopping but wanted to stop by the church to see Elliott play football and show her friend the chapel where Lucie works.  I had left the house earlier saying I too wanted to see Elliott play (it was the annual Turkey Bowl flag football game at church).  When Ashleigh got Lucie to the Cafe door, Lucie could see the decorations but wouldn't go in thinking that they were crashing someone else's party!  But she came in and she was overwhelmed.  Great time.  Lots of love from her friends.  Now to start planning for the second 50th...

Been a little slow here on the blog but I will try and pick it up.  The good news is that I have been busy with work and I don't want to post work related stuff here.  But I will try and add some other activity on here.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Couldn't Just Let Them Bee

About a month or two ago I was mowing the yard and a yellow jacket flew up my shorts and stung me on the back of my thigh.  I didn't need to do any research to confirm this but I did and found their sting ranks among the top 10 most painful insect stings.  And unlike a honey bee, they don't have a barb on their stinger so they can jab you over and over and over...  And believe me, it did.  About a week after the swelling went down (and man did it itch!), I counted about a dozen spots where it got me.  After looking around outside, I found yellow jackets were flying in and out under the shed.  So of course I did the smart thing and got out the gasoline and sparklers...  That didn't even touch them (I was being careful not to burn down the shed).  Then I tried various sprays and had a hard time finding anything that would bring them down.  Even after coating them.  Finally I found a red can of Spectracide that was designed just for yellow jackets and that did the trick.  I wiped out a bunch of them from 25 feet away but those cans are mostly propellant with very little juice.  Then WalMart brought out their Christmas stuff and the sprays all went away.  Fast forward to today and  I was mowing and hadn't seen any bees in a while so I grabbed a shovel and decided to turn over the ground where I had last seen them flying in and out.  Of course I am wearing shorts...  Well there were more bees than I could have imagined under the shed.  One of them found his way onto my left calf and started going to work.  Fortunately he only got one jab in me before I smacked him.  Ran in the house and pulled out the gallon jug of vinegar we had bought since my last encounter and swabbed down my leg.  Gave it a smear of Benedryl and I was good to go.  Hurts a little but only a fraction of the last time.  After the swarm settled down, I tossed a Gopher Gasser in their hole.  Not sure what effect that had but it couldn't hurt.  I read the best thing to do is to flood them out with water so I may take the garden hose and let it run down the hole for a while.  Another day...

It has been a while since I have posted because I have been busy!  Thank God!  Work is going great.  I got in with this company at the perfect time - they are expanding from a regional company  into a national, full service security company.  They hired on some FBI and Secret Service executives and are plugging me into a lot of the operations and financial meetings.  Hard to believe I have over 25 years experience but it is about to start paying off.  I have been doing a lot of traveling to Chicago and NYC but I don't mind.

Speaking of 25 years of experience, a couple of weeks ago, Lucie and I went back to Maine for my 30 year high school reunion.  I am happy to report that I was not the fattest, baldest, or oldest looking so I may push my luck and go back again next year.  We had a great time seeing some "old" friends and faces.  Someone brought a yearbook so I was able to show Lucie some before and afters of the people.  Only about 25% of the class showed up but hopefully word will spread and more will come next time.  My junior prom date was there and she gave me a big hug so either that night wasn't as bad as I remembered it for her or she suppressed the memory...  Although we were only up and back the same weekend, we had a good time visiting those friends, my younger brother and my mother.  (Took the Acura up and we made near record time!)

One more quick story - my mother came down to Amish country near us about a week or two ago with a church bus tour group.  So Lucie, Elliott and I drove over to see her and have dinner at the Amish restaurant they were eating at.  We had a nice visit and ran into my old youth pastor and his wife.  They hadn't changed all that much but I bet they felt ancient after seeing me.  The group only had time to eat for about an hour before they were off to the huge Sight and Sound show.  We had an issue with the restaurant - they charged us the group rate (because we ate with the group) which, oddly enough, is more than the regular rate! - but overall it was a good time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Promises, Promises



In my March 28, 2012 blog, I put a picture of a car at the bottom of the blog with a line about it being a personal rainbow with more info to come.  Well, here we are 6 months to the day later and here is the update.

During the time I was unemployed, I would frequently get discouraged or down a little.  Never did I doubt God but many times I just did not see an answer to our problems.  So I would ask God for just a simple sign of encouragement.  The Bible says he cares about the birds in the field and He provided signs for the Israelites so I didn’t think I was out of line asking for a sign.  One day at the Costco parking lot, I saw a car that really caught my eye.  Sharp, high tech, sedan-like yet fast and different.  So I did some research and it was a 2010 Acura TL SH AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive).  Loved it.  That night Elliott came home raving about a car he had seen that day – same exact type!  From that day forward, it seemed that car would roll by right when I was feeling down or discouraged - and I took it to be a word from God that not only would He meet my needs, but He would grant me my wants.  Now that is getting on some theological thin ice but there are plenty of stories in the Bible where God granted in excess to His people.  I kept my prayers simple and said, “God, if it is Your will…”  Lucie and I went and test drove a couple and we enjoyed the dream.  Regardless of whether I ever actually got one or not was sort of irrelevant – God would send one by me right when I needed a lift and I would be encouraged.  Sometimes I would laugh right out loud and thank God for sending me a little rainbow to brighten my day.

Fast forward to present time and now I am working (thank you Jesus!) and I get a car allowance plus gas and toll reimbursement.  So I looked up local Acura’s for sale and found one in Philly.  It seemed the perfect car – color, options, etc.  But it was just out of reach financially.  I told God I didn’t know whether I should put the car allowance towards savings or “claim” His promise to me.  So I said I was going to go for it and God could easily close the door on me if I was not to have it.  I was fine either way and kept my prayers ending with, “…if it is Your will.”  After running numbers every which way, the dealer could not get a monthly rate to what I could afford and the whole experience with them didn't feel right.  I set a limit and refused to budge from it.  So we shook hands and I walked away (though they put a lot of pressure on me).  A little disappointed to be honest but I had to be true to my word – if the door was closed, I was not going to barge through it.  The very next day after not bowing to the sales pressure and sticking to my guns, a 2010 Acura TL SH AWD showed up online at the Delaware dealer where Lucie and I first test drove one – same color, options, everything.  It was a little cheaper than the Philly one (higher mileage) but I thought it just might get the price down to my range.  So again I laughed at God’s work and said, “If it is Your will….”  I contacted the Delaware dealer and it turns out, it was THE exact same car Lucie and I test drove months ago!  It had been sold but the new owner traded it back in within a month to buy a 2012 model.  How crazy is that?  So Lucie and I went in, signed some papers, and came out feeling good.  No - feeling great!  And so blessed.  It was actually cheaper than my budget so we extended the warranty.  And to “top” it all off, they gave me a Patriots hat!  So it was quite a day and quite a confirmation of God’s blessing.

Oh, and it was our 25th wedding anniversary too…

Saturday, August 18, 2012

EMPLOYED!


On August 14, I officially became the Project Manager for Harvard Protect.  They are a security services company based in NYC with operations in many states.  They are a division of Harvard Maintenance which has about 6,000 employees.  The security side is growing rapidly and I was brought in to manage operations and projects outside of NYC.  I will be focuses on compliance issues, policies and procedures, etc.  I was originally scheduled to start at the end of the month but I met with some great and enthusiastic people and they moved my start date up.  I am really excited as I will be working with some former colleagues including the retired Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, Philadelphia.  The new Senior VP is the retired Deputy Director of the Secret Service - he has a great vision for development and growth.  I am getting in on something that will get really big.  Right now I will be based from home but going to the Philadelphia and Wilmington and NYC offices as needed - as well as traveling to wherever I am needed.

It's been a long 10 months or so of unemployment.  I have a letter going out to my State Representative next week with some thoughts and recommendations on how the state can improve that system.  The whole family was able to recognize how blessed we were and how God never forgot us.  SO many times He provided in a way we never saw coming.  Our church family was so great to us with financial support, prayers, words of encouragement, food and on and on.  Pretty humbling and we pray they are rewarded for their thoughtfulness.  I kept a personal log of events that I hope I never have to look at again...

Meanwhile, life goes on at the Hale Homestead.  Elliott is working at Walgreens and managing his money.  He saved and bought a beautiful acoustic guitar that he plays on stage at church services.  He is so good with his money we may turn over the household finances to him to manage!  Ashleigh is finishing her last week of work for the hospital system and returns to school next Sunday.  Her summer has been a whirlwind of activity, concerts, games, running, etc.  She needs to get back to school to relax!  We will miss her energy (and drama!) around here but she is only an hour away.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

I am beginning to see a light at the end of the unemployment tunnel.  Not getting too high, not getting too low.  That is one of the many lessons I have recently learned.  Over the past few months, two former colleagues have been pushing for the creation of a Project Manager position at their contract security company.  They needed the position before I came along but I am the perfect candidate - if I may say so myself!  Creating a position in a company with small overhead is difficult and as much as I thought I would be right for the job, I had to continue to look for other opportunities, apply, interview, etc.  It finally seems to be coming together and I am expecting an offer next week.  I am ready to hit the ground running and can't wait to get back to work.  We're not there yet, but it's coming!

Today was a typical day - I worked in the yard in the wicked hot sun (in my bathing suit), finished, hopped in the pool, and it immediately clouded over and began to sprinkle!  I got out when the thunder started.  Of course I wasn't inside an hour when the sun came back out...

I'm a little concerned about Mocha tonight.  She was occasionally crying seemingly at random but seemed fine - ate, walked, pooped, etc. with no problems.  So I gave her a thorough exam and found her right rear leg was very sore - she yelped at the touch.  I gave her some aspirin and will keep an eye on her.  Everything I have read says it is probably a muscle strain.  Hopefully it is not too serious and with rest she will be fine.  She is not limping but she sure isn't running and jumping around either.  Can't afford to go to the vet so we will just watch her.

The Olympics started last night.  I love to watch the individual back stories.  Still can't understand the global fascination with soccer though...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hales Hooping

Today Elliott made his first appearance at the church adult basketball night that I run at our church.  I didn't introduce him as my son.  He and one of his friends (also from church) came so I just said they were a couple of high school guys from church.  And he did well!  He had some good shots, some good moves, made a few baskets, had a steal or two, and generally represented well.  When the night was mostly over I told some people he was my son.  They were impressed.  And for the record, the old man did pretty good as well.  I have said that I could pick any two players that come out (usually about 15), add their ages together, and I would still be older than them!  But when you get older, you don't play harder - you play smarter.  And I do fine.  Also for the record:  Elliott has more skills already than I ever did.  It was a proud night for me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

2,000 Q-Tips

Today I used the last swab in our bathroom Q-Tip holder and went to the hallway closet to get some more.  Wouldn't you know I found two more containers - with 625 Q-Tips in each?  So at some point, I thought it was worthwhile to buy nearly 2,000 Q-Tips.  Then I just smiled and realized it wasn't me who thought it was a good idea to buy that many, God was prepping us for such a time as this.  He knew way back when when I was standing in Costco buying the family size container that a day was coming when I would need to go to the closet and pull out another box.  As insignificant as the cotton swab is, and really how almost unnecessary it is, I learned another lesson today about God's planning, God's timing, and God's provision.  And that encourages me.  Like the sparrow, if God can care about our swabs, how much more does He care about and have a plan for us?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lessons I've Learned (so far!)

In no particular order...


  • God has a plan
  • I can't see all of the Plan but that is where faith comes in
  • People can be very generous
  • Sometimes it’s the little things that matter
  • Nothing happens by coincidence
  • Being optimistic is a choice
  • There are shopping deals to be had if you look for them
  • SOME generic foods taste as good as the “real” ones
  • Sometimes bad things happen to good people
  • Some problem resolutions were initiated long before we know them
  • Strenuous exercise helps clear the mind
  • There’s something to be learned, confirmed, or found at every church service
  • God’s timing isn't our timing – it’s better
  • Lucie and I have great kids
  • I have a great wife
  • Don’t put your faith in opportunities or possibilities – just keep your eyes on God
  • Sometimes God’s plan doesn’t line up with “conventional” wisdom
  • God may use distractions to keep us occupied until His next step is revealed
  • Be thankful for closed doors because God keeps us from where we’re not supposed to be
  • Most often resolutions to issues are not what we expected
I am sure there are more lessons to be learned and my situation isn't resolved yet, but I thought I would write down what I know for now and maybe add to it later.  When this is over.  Soon.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blessings

As we continue to wait for God to break through, I decided to look for a blessing every day.  They have probably always been there, but I decided to actively look every day.  Actually, I forgot a couple of days but when the blessing came, it was obvious.  So far the blessings have included a lunch invite after church, a gift card which covered dinner one day, an unexpected gas tank filling, a cash gift, a free shake from Chick Fil A, two gift ice cream half gallons, two billing errors in our favor and today's:  Mocha and I went to the pet store to get her some food.  She really doesn't eat as much as you would think (2 cups of food, twice a day) but we are tight on money so we decided the bills can wait another day - the baby has to eat!  In we went (they love her there and recognized her from her 2nd place finish in the photo contest) and I wrestled the bag to the counter.  When we got up there the cashier said they had JUST changed their policy of buy 12 bags of food, get 1 free to buy 10 bags of food, get one free.  This was bag 11 so it was free!  Thank you, Jesus.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Losing The Chains

I was going to save this picture until I was actually employed again but I'm gonna step out in faith and post it now.  Lately the theme for us has been to not just have the chains that are holding us back loosened, but to lose them entirely.  I don't know of a single Bible story where someone had their chains loosened but still dragged them around.  When they were loosened, they fell completely off.  And that is what we need.  We have received blessing after blessing from our church family and friends but we aren't really even staying even now - we are getting behind in some bills.  We need a major breakthrough.  God has really spoken to us about being patient, not taking matters into our own hands, and that relief and restoration are coming soon.  We are so thankful for what we have and how people, some we know, some anonymous, are helping us out during this time.  Songs and messages and personal words of encouragement are all adding up and pointing to a happy ending.  Can't happen soon enough...

Meanwhile, we are thankful for what we have and know that things could be worse.  A&E both have jobs and are pitching in to help with things.  We take full advantage of Elliott's employee discount!  They both left this morning for camp - as counselors this year.  Very proud that they are re-investing back into that program.

Maybe my next blog post will be about how we were set back on a high place.  Could happen any minute!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Focusing

Lately the message I seem to be hearing is to not focus on circumstances, opportunities, bills, issues, challenges, people - whatever.  Just keep my eyes on God and we can endure the ups and downs.  Sure seems to be helping.  A few opportunities that looked promising have either been postponed or outright gone.  But those opportunities are not the source of our blessings and future.  Maybe God gave them to me on a bad day to encourage me to get through that time or distract me and give me hope.  So when the doors close or when issues arise, I have the choice to get discouraged or to thank God for our daily manna and recognize that His plan hasn't changed for me - just my view of it.  He has been unbelievable in His provision lately - unexpected rebate checks, anonymous gift cards, incredible sales and savings, on and on and on.  Sometimes I have to laugh right out loud at the way He comes through.  But always trying to be positive and thankful and recognizing the Source.

When I went online to find a picture for this blog, I found these three.  So I made a collage.  And as I am working on this, the Praise and Worship page on Pandora is playing the perfect songs to confirm what I am writing.

Looking forward to how God is going to come through - and I am sure it won't be in a way I am expecting...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Connecting


Things have been connecting around here the past few days.  Someone left Lucie an anonymous gift card (thank you Jesus!), I got my jury duty pay, a $5 rebate from the pharmacy, and a call from the security guys I do some occasional consulting work for wanting me to do some background investigations for them.  Not steady work, but I can work from home and I will take about anything at this point.  The big connection of the day though was me finishing a project I have worked on for years - running Ethernet from the router upstairs at one end of the house to the living room downstairs at the other end of the house.  I have had all of the cables and connectors and the switch I need - just logistically it was very hard.  So a long time ago I ran the wire up to the attic and let it sit.  Finally, over the past two days, I managed to get it snaked down to the basement and back up to the living room.  Now the Tivo and Blu Ray player are wired in (previously they were on the much slower and less reliable wifi network).  I also ran a couple of leads so we can hook in the laptops if we need super fast speeds.  The most amazing part of the whole thing is that not only did I not get hurt, break anything or have leftover pieces, it worked the first time!

And another huge connection of the day was Elliott interviewing at the local Walgreen's pharmacy for a summer job.  It is about a mile and a half away and inside.  He filled out his online application, went in and did their online aptitude test, and interviewed today.  All is looking fine and he will do his drug screen tomorrow.  That just leaves one more family member to get employed...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mistrial? More Like Missed-Trial

With over-whelming evidence, 11 out of 12 jurors coming to a quick verdict, one juror completely unaware of key elements in the testimony and evidence, I have to say that juror missed the trial.  I was on jury duty for 3 days.  It was an assault case where one guy, who had been drinking, became obnoxious at an acquaintance's apartment.  The apartment resident chased the guy out of the apartment, jumped on him and the drunk guy comes away with a cut face and stab wound resulting in a collapsed lung.  The main charge was first degree assault.  All that is needed for a guilty verdict is 3 elements.  (1) The defendant acted intentionally, (2) the defendant used a deadly weapon and (3) the defendant caused serious, life-threatening wounds.  Slam dunk I say.  The defendant, in a recorded interrogation, admitted to chasing the victim down the stairs and out of the apartment so there is the intentional part.  (The defendant said he blacked out while on the victim and didn't remember stabbing him.  He then ran away until he turned himself in 3 weeks later.)  A trauma doctor who treated the victim said the punctured and collapsed lung was not only life-threatening, but also caused by a knife. So that takes care of the other elements.  We heard testimony from a couple of witnesses and saw another videotaped interview with another witness. Order me up some lunch Bailiff and let's get out of here.  Hold everything - one juror decides it's not that clear.  She missed several key elements during the trial so we had to watch the interrogation videos over and over until it sunk in.  We had to look at the bloody clothes and she wanted us to ask the judge for a copy of the transcript of the trial.  Um, no.  Finally we got her cleared up on those issues but then she decided she couldn't be sure that the defendant stabbed the victim.   I tried to reason with her and rule out the improbable (did she think someone else came along after the defendant ran off and stabbed the victim - the victim who identified the defendant from memory and picked him out of a photo line-up?)  There was about 1 minute between when the victim got up and stumbled into the street stopping a car to have them call 911 after being stabbed.  Then I tried  discussing the three elements we needed to agree on.  Nope.  At first I thought she had seen too many episodes of CSI - she wanted more eyewitnesses, the weapon, blood splatter evidence, forensics, confessions, video of the crime, satellite views, and probably a declaration from heaven above.  But then I realized that was all excuses.  No reasonable person could ignore all of the evidence.  I think she just didn't want to make a decision that would send the bad guy to jail.  And there was no convincing her otherwise.  So we marched back into the courtroom and the judge declared a mistrial.  What a shame.

What is NOT a shame is Elliott at his lacrosse banquet.  He has the best GPA of any of the players and looked really good when they called him up on stage.  He got his varsity letter that night.  Lucie is the booster treasurer and I did the DVD of the season pictures which ran all night in the background.  Here is the video:

video

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kitties Galore!

For the past week or so, the dogs were barking and digging at the shed at the corner of our lot.  I looked under the shed with a flashlight but couldn't see anything.  The dogs kept at it so I kept checking until one day I saw two little kittens under there!  The shed is too low for me to get under it and it is bordered on 2 sides by the split rail fence and lattice.  I can't figure out how the mother got in there but later on I figured out the mother probably had them under the workbench I have behind the shed (adjacent to it) and they crawled through the fence and under the shed.  Anyway, Lucie and I tried to get them out with tuna fish and steering them along with poles.  Nothing worked.  We just decided to leave them alone.  I looked for them the next couple of days but they seemed to be gone.  That didn't sit well with us - what kind of life would they have running around in the woods?  Then Monday morning the dogs were at it again.  So I pulled back part of the lattice and let Britni the beagle go under.  She rooted around but came back and focused on one corner of the shed.  But she was looking beyond the shed.  So I went around the back on the outside and there sat a gray kitten!  I picked it up and put it in a plastic pet crate we had.  I figured the other one was around somewhere so I went away and came back and sure enough, there was a black one in the same spot - sitting on the fence rail!  So I put that one in the crate too.  Then I went online to figure out their gender.  Both males.  I figured my work was done but the dogs kept barking.  So back I went and found TWO more!  Oh my!  The whole gang got put in the crate and they were happy to be together again.  They looked nice and healthy and well fed.  All blue-eyed with their ears standing up which put them at about 4 weeks old.  According to my inspection, there were two males, and two females. The gray one we named Smoke Monster (from the show Lost), a black one we named Hisser (he hissed a lot but never bit), the other black one Olive and the striped one Tiger Lilly.  Couldn't find the mother.  Some friends came over with dry cat food and I got some kitty formula from the pet store.  They lapped up the formula and ate the food.  I left them outside in the bench by the pool with the lid open overnight but mama cat never came (that I could tell).  They snuggled together under the towels we put in ther and it wasn't very cold.  We couldn't find anyone to take them and I wanted to be sure they weren't euthanized so I did a lot of research only to find that the SPCA is now considered no-kill.  So, after initially not contacting them, I called them and they were the best!  Took them right in and really loved them.  They said they would be adopted really quickly.  Oh, it turns out I mis-identified Tiger Lilly.  Turns out she is a he so we re-named him Tiger Willy.  When I got home, mama cat showed up - looked just liked Tiger Willy.  I have a catch and release trap out there with some tuna in it.  The SPCA said they would take mama if I caught her.


I wish I knew how their lives would turn out and what lives would be affected by them.  I do know they are better off there than trying to survive in the woods.  And us keeping them was not an option.  I was their first human contact and they got a lot of loving from the family and friends who came over.  One lesson learned from this whole experience had to do with the shelter search.  I was originally told the SPCA would take the kitties but then euthanize them.  It wasn't until after I had looked at all of the other options when I was told, by a specialized animal hospital (where we had taken Britni for her eye condition) that the SPCA had become a no-kill shelter.  And when I called them, they were the most sincere and honest and compassionate of all the places I had contacted.  It was simply the right place for them to be.  Had I not done all of my research, I would have missed an opportunity to do the right thing.  Lesson learned.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Worm Just Ate My Shade

Everyone knows the story about Jonah and the whale but there's another little part of the story that doesn't get mentioned often.  After Jonah got spat up on the beach and went to Ninevah, the city was saved.  But Jonah got mad and told God that God could have saved the city without Jonah going through his whole ordeal.  Jonah could have just stayed home and God could have done His thing and saved Jonah a whole lot of aggravation.  So Jonah marches off all mad and sits down in the blazing sun in a huff.  God was merciful and made a vine grow (quickly I guess!) and it provided shade to Jonah.  So Jonah literally cooled off and felt better.  But the next day, God sent a worm and it ate the plant and there was Jonah right back in the heat and again, he got mad.  But God used the worm and the vine to teach Jonah a lesson about priorities and provision.  I thought of that story today when I saw that I had exhausted my Unemployment Benefits.  My how time flies...  The Department of Labor website reports that because the state's unemployment level has dropped below a certain percentage, there are no extensions available.  The Unemployment money certainly isn't much and only offers a little "shade," but it is better than nothing.  I had an immediate gut-sinking feeling of, "what are we going to do now?"  Then I remembered making that same statement six months ago and God has provided over and over and over.  So just as God provided the Unemployment as a means of provision for us, He can provide any other way as well.  We don't know what happened to Jonah - at the end of the book he is still angry but I choose to believe that God taught him his lesson and Jonah learned it.  And so shall I.  God could have saved Jonah a whole lot of heartache but there was a purpose for what He did.  And I have to believe there is a purpose for this as well.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Someone's In The Garage!

Let me set the background up on this story.  The other night at basketball I took a hard elbow to the chest that wound up bruising my sternum.  From the inside.  I imagine it feels like a broken rib or pulled chest muscle because EVERY appendage on my body is somehow attached to it.  I felt like a lobster tail being split open every time I moved.    The next day I got a bad cold and hadn't slept well at all the night before.  So I went to bed early Saturday night completely sore, sick and exhausted.  At 2:22 AM, the dogs started barking.  And it was serious barking.  So Lucie sprang to the window and said there were police cars outside.  Sure enough, 3 county police cars with the officers talking to a guy sitting on the curb in front of our house.  We have electric candles in the windows so there was a glare and I couldn't see very well.  I sat on the edge of the bed to put some sweats on when Lucie yells out, "There's a car backed up to our garage and someone is coming in and out!"  I looked again and there WAS a car backed up to the house!  Well that lit a fire under me so I finished getting dressed and threw on a hat and went downstairs.  I yanked open the door from the family room to the garage and there was someone standing right there!  Ashleigh!  Now for the rest of the story...

She and her boyfriend (Nathan) and some other friends were going to go to the Baltimore Orioles game that night.  On his way to get her, with their friends in his car, Nathan's car broke down.  He got it off the road so Ashleigh went and got them all and went to the game.  Nathan and the friends needed to get home in our area so Ashleigh decided to bring them all home and spend the night with us (instead of going back to school).  I turned my cell off so I could sleep so I missed her calls and texts (she didn't call the house phone).  When they got to our house, they saw the police were talking to the dude outside.  (Don't know where he came from but he was just upset about some domestic issue - not a problem.)  So she pulled into the driveway to drop off some stuff she had in the car and come in to go to bed.  Nathan would take her car home and drop off the friends along the way.  Just bad timing.  Of course it was a couple of hours before we all got settled down and to sleep...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Six Months

It was six months ago Tuesday that I became unemployed.  Six months!  I remember coming home that day and Lucie and I looking at each other asking, "how will we ever make it?"  Well, God has provided in some very creative and timely ways.  I don't sit back and wait for a pot of gold to appear on the porch but I have to learn the lesson being taught to me and that is to do my part, yet be still and wait for God's timing.  Sometimes I need a little reminder that things are still under control but overall we are at peace and determined to choose to be positive and believe.

Meanwhile, this week Lucie and I (and Mocha) were contest winners.  A package arrived at the door the other day and it was full of scrapping stuff for Lucie.  Turns out she won some online contest.  They never told her - just sent the box with a notice inside.  Mocha and I were on a big campaign to get votes for her in a photo contest sponsored by the local newspaper and a pet store.  It was pretty amazing how many people voted for us - including my international Newfoundland owner friends on Facebook.  We came in 2nd place and won a $100 gift certificate to the pet store.  And the provisions keep on coming...

Elliott is heading out to Utah tomorrow for a week to compete in the national DECA competition representing the state of Delaware in Business Marketing.  He has all of his "preppy" clothes ready and is going to have a great time.  Of course that means missing a few lacrosse games but we are pretty sure competing in DECA will pay off more than competing in high school lacrosse.  His coach, however, doesn't agree...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

If You Build It, They Will Come. Or Not.

That, my friends, is a carpenter bee trap.  As empty today as when I took it out of the box and hung it three days ago...  For those who don't know, carpenter bees are big, aggressive bees that hover around soft wood.  Worse than that, they drill dime sized holes into the wood.  And keep on drilling and drilling and drilling until they are way deep into the wood.  Once they are way in, and I am talking feet in sometimes, they lay their eggs.  Meanwhile, the males buzz and buzz around the openings.  They look like bumblebees but don't have stingers.  I was out there the other day with a tennis racquet swatter batting them down, then stepping on them.  I got over 25 but didn't even make a dent in the numbers.  So then I got some wasp spray and coated the holes and nailed a few bees.  That slowed them down but they kept coming.  New holes and fresh piles of sawdust every day.  Killing my split rail fence.  So I did some research and found this device.  Pretty simple concept - the bees go in the holes, find no one home, head for the light to get out, get trapped in the bottle.  Once it is full, just unscrew the bottle, put the cap back on and throw it away.  Good theory and apparently works for some people.  Not me.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rack One Up For Home Depot

This strange looking thing to the right is actually a tool clamp rack that I have in my shed.  Got a couple of them from Home Depot a few years ago.  They work pretty well and slide along the rack.  One of the clamps broke the other day so I contacted Home Depot about replacing just the clamp - not the whole rack.  Within a couple of hours I received a call and an email from HD saying they contacted the manufacturer but they don't sell the individual clamps.  I was long out of warranty so I thanked them for their speedy response and let it go.  The next day, someone from the local HD store called and said she wanted to give me an entire replacement rack!  I said that wasn't necessary - I wasn't complaining or dissatisfied and certainly wasn't angling for a freebie.  But she said it was there if I wanted it so I went and got it!  Nice job Home Depot!

Meanwhile, I replaced the Pathfinder mirror and all is going well except for my tree pollen allergies.  Wicked bad this year.  Elliott missed some practices during Spring Break (his coach is one of those who believes there is nothing more important in life than high school lacrosse and all extraneous activity must cease during the season...) so his coach benched him and the other starters who missed some Spring Break practices for two games.  Oddly enough they were games against the worst teams in the division and his team won big without him and the other starters so it was OK.  Elliott was fine with it.  He will miss some more practices while he is in Utah for the DECA competition.

Still working on a couple of employment leads and very optimistic something will come through soon.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

No Looking Back

Literally - no looking back.  I was driving out of the neighborhood and was adjusting the rear windows for Mocha when I got a little too close to someone's mailbox.  Or should I say, "Fort Knox?"  The mailbox looked like a regular one but it was some sort of hardened steel box inside.  My hitting it didn't do a thing to it and it barely left a mark on the outside of my mirror housing, but it shattered the glass.  $22.55 from eBay and I will be all set in a few days.

As you know I am always finding meaning for the seemingly random things in life and it didn't take long for me to see how this is consistent with a recent theme that Lucie and I have been noticing.  The theme is from Isaiah 43:19 where God says He is doing a new thing.  We've seen this pop up a few times in the past week or so so I am claiming this as an allegory to not looking back but looking forward to whatever new thing is in store for us.

All else is going well.  Elliott is playing well at lacrosse and got his second goal the other day.  Ashleigh is home for spring break.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cloud By Day, Fire By Night

This isn't the exact picture I wanted but I couldn't find anything better.  The other day I was a bit discouraged about things and I remembered how God provided a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide the Israelites and encourage them.  Well, if it was good enough for them back then, I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask now for some encouragement.  I didn't get any pillars, burning bushes, or talking donkeys, but I did get a very encouraging phone call and a few other positives happened.  I'll take it.  I have great faith and hope and thankfulness for all God has done for me, but I'm still human and I don't think asking for a little boost every now and then is a bad thing!

Meanwhile, everything is going OK.  Elliott is still starting lacrosse and doing fine.  We will be reviewing my recording of his last game tonight.  I will be switching over to GEICO car insurance in a few weeks.  They came in $100 per month cheaper than anyone else (when I add Elliott).

I'm going to throw in another picture of my personal "rainbow."  I'll explain it later but it is another reminder that things will work out.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Car Insurance - Money Down The Drain

In May, we have to add Elliott to our car insurance.  We'd be far better off selling the cars and buying bicycles.  What a racket.  I have checked the rates from 8 different companies and all but one are within about $10 of each other.  Doesn't that sound like price-fixing...?  But the one that is cheaper is $100 per month cheaper!  I did this same research a while ago and found that my own company was cheaper than everyone else but AFTER I canceled my policy with them and re-joined.  What a scam.  Turns out it is the consumer who has to do their homework and request new rates - the companies will soak you for as long as they can.  Until you catch on.  I so wanted to just quit my old company but after re-applying, they were the cheapest.  Not this time.

All else is going fine.  God continues to bless us and meet our needs.  Somehow.  I don't ask.  We just go to the cupboard and the oil and flour are there every day.  I look for jobs every day and keep up with my contacts on Linked In and elsewhere.  Had a couple of things with some potential about two weeks ago, but they didn't work out.  There is another great opportunity that I would love to do but it requires the creation of a position and that will take time.  When Lucie heard that, the first thing she said, and in fact the first thing I thought was, there is no way we can make it that long.  But I looked at her and said, that's what we said in October...  So we press on believing and being thankful and asking God to continue to provide and to be sure that we don't miss any opportunities.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Father Passed Away, February 21, 2012

My father passed away on February 21, 2012.  He was 72 years old and had been in a Little Rock, Arkansas hospital for a few weeks.  It seems there were some complications from his dialysis treatments.  Thanks to God and the generosity of a lot of people, my brother and I were able to use my remaining frequent flier miles to go there, rent a car, and stay in a motel for a few days for the funeral and burial.  We were able to connect with some family members from his side of the family that we had either never met or met over 40 years ago.  Each one of them was gracious and open and generous.  We were also able to go see the C130 plane that he flew on as a mechanic during the Vietnam War.



Click the link below for video of the Air Force Honor Guard ceremony at the Veteran's Cemetery.


Here is the last picture I have of he and I together.  I was in Dallas in the Fall of 2010 for a convention but I was able to get away for a day and see him.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I Like My Coffee Hot But Not THIS Hot...

I have my Cuisinart DCC1200 coffee maker programmed to start brewing five minutes before my alarm goes off in the morning.  That way my coffee is all brewed and ready by the time I amble downstairs.  So down I go this morning and immediately smelled a burning plastic smell.  I looked over at the coffee maker and saw that not only had it turned itself off, but some nice blue smoke was curling up out of it.  Especially from the back where the cord comes out.  So I unplugged it, waited a minute or so, and plugged it back in.  No clock and no lights.  Unplugged it and waited 15 more minutes.  This time when I plugged it in the clock came on and the lights worked but it wouldn't brew.  I did some research online, specifically at www.ConsumerAffairs.com, and found many complaints about Cuisinart coffee makers doing the same thing.  No actual fires, just burning up.  I am guessing a fusible link does its job before an actual fire breaks out but that is still unacceptable.  I bought it from Kohls in 2010.  So I wrote to Cuisinart and told them about it, posted my experience on the Consumer Affairs page, and then wrote to Consumer Reports.  That model was rated #1 and they need to know what is going on.  The good news is that Kohls has a no-hassle return policy.  I walked in with the coffee maker in a bag, presented my receipt, and they refunded my money (most of it anyway but that was OK).  Marched myself over to WalMart and bought myself a Mr. Coffee.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

#1 And #9

Elliott came back home tonight from a state-wide DECA competition with the first place prize!  DECA is a marketing and business association.  DECA used to stand for Distributive Education Clubs of America but is now international and they just kept the DECA name.  So now he goes to Salt Lake City to represent Delaware!  There were five other kids from his school that competed in different categories so he will have some company.  Some time in March.  (Of course Lucie wants to be a chaperone!)

And what about #9?  Oh, he is #9 in his class of 320...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Raising The White Flag

I got beat on a few projects this week.  The most frustrating one is captured in the black box to the left.  You might notice the tiny white underline cursor in the top left.  That is what I saw when I rebooted Lucie's computer...  Just after the BIOS POST and before Windows starts. Now there is only one or two files that are accessed to kick off Windows. I fixed them, replaced them, edited them, everything.  Nothing would work.  I could restore a Ghost image and get her computer to work for a while, then on the next reboot (after 8 or 9 successful ones), this would happen.  For the first time ever, I had to re-format and re-install.  Fortunately I am a back-up fiend so I had backups stored in multiple locations.  What I actually did was restore a back-up of Elliott's laptop (which is essentially the same as Lucie's) and then re-customized it and restored her pictures and documents from one of her backups.  Frustrating.  Never been beat before.

But that wasn't the only thing to get me.  I couldn't find a cheap replacement wheel for the elliptical even though I went to bike and skateboard shops, other mechanical places, scoured the internet, and even tried to epoxy it.  I wound up having to buy one from the manufacturer.  But Lucie and I use it every day, five days a week and its the first problem we have had in over 4 years so it was worth it.

The Tivo remote went on me as well.  The down button stopped working.  I cleaned it and did all I could.  So I had to get another one of those.  Fortunately, the remote was VERY cheap on Amazon and the computer repair didn't cost anything (but time - and I have plenty of that...).  So I looked at it as God keeping me busy during this time.

More "random" things keep happening which at the very least remind me that God hasn't forgotten me.  There was an interesting development today that I am very encouraged about.  Hope to share it soon...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Q: What Goes Step, Shudder, Step, Shudder?

A:  My elliptical.  To the left is a picture of one of the four guide wheels on my elliptical.  It is under the right foot and rolls along a track.  Lucie and I are on the elliptical every day and the other day it was vibrating with every other step.  Elliott and I got under it and he watched while I stepped.  He found this wheel is cracked and when weight is on it, it flattens.  Stupid thing is hard to get to and wicked expensive to replace.  I am going to pull it today and see if I can replace it with an in-line skate or skateboard wheel.

It's funny, there have been a lot of little issues come up lately that have been resolved pretty inexpensively.  My cholesterol medicine is about gone and I remembered I had a bottle of 80 mg pills (I take 40's).  So I grabbed a pill cutter and halved them.  The Tivo remote was driving me crazy as the down button wouldn't work (press it and it would select every other position but down.  A&E found it very funny to see me get so frustrated with it.).  I fixed that with a tiny screwdriver.  And the washing machine was fixed with a $9 part.  There have been a bunch of other little things too.  It seems God is giving me little projects to keep me busy and my mind occupied while I wait on His timing.

Below is a bonus picture of the Ravens missing a game tying field goal which sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl.  Elliott and I just about lost our voices watching the game.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I Am All For A Good Deal But...

I got this in the mail today so I scanned it and sent it to Consumer Reports Magazine.  On the back page of every issue they print bloopers like this.  We'll see if I get published!!