Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sometimes I wish I wrote something else...

Sometimes I write and I post a blog entry and then I wish I had written something else. Though my post from today was relative bland in terms of the fact that it was a story from long ago, I do wish I had written something else. There isn't anything major that I wanted to write. The only thing I would have added is that today was a really tough day for me. Don't want to describe why - but it was tough. It was not the kind of day that I want to repeat. What makes it worse is I really don't understand why things have happened they way they have. Anyway... Just had to add that because it was weighing on my mind.

Another Story From Long Ago

Today has been a very busy day for me. I have been running to and fro and doing a whole bunch of things. I haven't had time to write the way I normal do, so I have reached into the "vault" and pulled out a story I wrote a long time ago. This is the story of my first dog Tara. She was my friend and companion for many years. Of all the dogs I have had she lived the longs 14 years and 2 months. (Bailey is starting to approach this mark - he will be 13 years old in 2 weeks!) Anyway - without further ado - here is the story of my puppy Tara. In June of 1970 we got a dog. She was an Irish Setter that we named Tara Queen O’Shea. Of course we called her by her first name only – Tara.

(Tara in our front yard near our driveway in the early 1970's.)

I remember when we went to get Tara. I think we got her from a family in Smithton. The people’s house was at the bottom of an embankment. On the side yard of the house they had a fenced in area with a doghouse in the middle. There wasn’t any grass left in the fenced area and there were holes dug underneath the doghouse and everywhere else. I remember seeing what to me seem to be a countless number of puppies running throughout that puppy pen. In reality there was only the one litter of 8 or 10 puppies in the pen. But to a 4 year-old they seemed to be everywhere. And they were so cute. Even to this day – thirty plus years later, that scene of the puppies running throughout that pen sticks in my head. Somehow, someway we ended up picking Tara out of that rolly polly bunch of frolicking puppies. I don’t know if we took her home that day or not. I do remember the first day we got her home. Being the youngest in the family I got to take her for her first walk around our front yard. Of course Tara wanted to go one way and I wanted to go another way. So my first walk of Tara didn’t last too long. I don’t remember how we worked with her to get her house broken. I am guessing we probably kept her in the basement for the first couple of weeks. (I vaguely remember her sleeping in the basement nearly the laundry machines. I think for the first couple of nights we put a warm water bottle in the pen/box with her.)

(Tara and I hanging out on the kitchen floor.)

In those days we had a desk in our kitchen. We made Tara’s home a large TV box under the desk. A front “door” was carved into the side of the box so Tara would have some way to get in and out of the box. We put some old blankets and newspaper in the box for Tara to lie on. She loved it. Before and after breakfast, I would crawl into the box with Tara. I would play in the box with her for a long time. I remember crawling half way out of the box and telling my mom “She thinks I am her brother”. This was the beginning of a long friendship with my first dog. As Tara grew to be a full-grown dog, she turned into a wonderful, beautiful dog. Since she was an Irish Setter, she had these long tail and leg “feathers”. By feathers I mean long hair that extended down from her body. Additionally, Tara was born before the “white spot” was bred out of the breed. The “white spot” was a white area of hair right on the front of an Irish Setter’s chest. (I personally liked the white spot and thought it made the Irish Setter a more distinguished looking dog.) Anyway, Tara had a nice white spot right in the middle of her chest. She was a gorgeous looking dog. As she was growing up and a young adult, Tara occasionally made a few breaks for freedom. I remember at least one or two times in which she ran off and was gone for a day or a number of days. One time I remember she took off and then we got a call a couple of days later. I remember going with my Dad and maybe my sister to pick her up. She was running in a field hear a gas station below Hurst high school. We went to pick up in the car and she came running up to the car and jumped in the back seat. Tara was a great warm pup with which to sleep. Now back in those days my parents didn’t let Tara sleep on any of the beds in the house. But that didn’t stop me from curling up on the floor with her. In the evenings, particularly in the winter I would curl up with Tara on the floor. Sometimes I would even fall asleep for the evening lying on the floor next to her with my arm sprawled over her cuddling her like a stuffed animal. There was only one piece of furniture in the entire house that Tara could lay on. It was an old couch in our “game room”. This became Tara’s de-facto piece of property. The game room had a fireplace and TV in it, so the entire family spent a lot of time in that room. But you couldn’t expect to sit in the middle of that one couch. That place was Tara’s. She would crawl up on that couch and curl up a tight as a ball. She would spend the entire evening on that couch while the entire family spent the evening watching TV, playing games, etc. We sometimes made life difficult for Tara. We would leave her out at night to go to the bathroom etc. Given that our yard was not fenced in or anything she could go where she wanted. Every once in blue moon, we would forget that we left her out before we went to bed, and Tara would spend the entire night outside the house. We would find her sitting at the kitchen door scratching the door in the morning. Needless to say she did not like when this happened. Then there were the skunk episodes. Living where we did in the country there were skunks just about everywhere. Of course Tara was ever curious about other animals and she didn’t realize that skunks could make her smell really, really bad. As a result, there were numerous occasions when Tara would come in at night smelling of that nasty skunk smell. That led to baths in tomato juice and other foul smelling concoctions. In the end these baths really didn’t do too much to kill the smell. So poor old Tara was left to spend several days out in her pen alone until the smell died down. As Tara and I both got older and my brothers and sisters went off to high school and college, we became constant companions. I would take walks almost every day throughout the woods behind our house. Tara was always with me. We would walk for miles and play throughout the woods. Tara died when I was eighteen. Unfortunately I don’t remember the exact date. All I know was that it was in July of 1984. Like the stupid idiot I was at the time, I was away from home working (and messing around a lot) at Boy Scout camp. I didn’t even get to see my old friend one more time before she died. Nor did I make it home to see her before she was buried. I was really stupid back then. To this day however, when I go back to Norvelt I always go and visit her grave in my parents yard. She was and always will be my puppy and my friend. I hope everyone has had a great Thursday. Tomorrow is Friday and the start the weekend - yippee! Not sure what kind of adventure we will have this weekend, but I am sure we will have a lot of fun doing something. As always - thanks and peace to all! - J.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Here Piggy, Piggy. Here Piggy, Piggy

As I spend my day working here at home I frequently either have my iPod playing all the time or I have the TV on tuned to either CNBC or CNN. For whatever reason the last 2 days I have kept the TV tuned to CNN instead of listening to music. My senses have been overwhelmed with every single little piece of information I can take about Swine Flu. Until Arlen Specter moved over to the Democratic Party (yeah Arlen!!!) there was literal NOTHING else on CNN during the day other than wall-to-wall swine flu coverage.

First off – I don’t know how severe this situation could turn out to be, but to me it seems a little bit excessive. This is especially true since there really hasn’t been anything new to report other than the fact that the number of cases is increasing. Personally I think there is a sense of panic that is starting to grip various parts of the nation and I think it is being fueled by wall-to-wall coverage of the problem. I won’t deny that if this strain turns more virulent we could all be in a lot of trouble. But what is the point of the wall-to-wall, minute-by-minute coverage other than to scare the crap out of people.

(By the way when I was trying to find pictures of pigs I found a website called thepigsite.com. Talk about funny!)

I have always kind of had a doomsday mentality in me. Given the way that we have exploited the planet I have always felt that some kind of mass castrophy was going to happen. They have happened so many times in the past. We are less than 100 from the last big one – the flu pandemic of 1918/1919. My dad was actually alive during that one! Granted he was only 3 or 4 years old, but within our memory set we have seen these kinds of mass tragedies occur. Though we are much more technologically advanced are we immune to these kinds of things – nope. I just think it is a matter of time until some kind of really nasty virus gets going and takes it’s best shot at man kind. I guess one positive thing that might come out of all of this is we might be able to get inexpensive airfares for summer vacation. I am seriously thinking about starting to look for airfares for our summer trip to Europe – we are still deciding whether we are going to France or Iceland. Anyway – I think the news coverage on this whole issue has been way overdone! I didn’t post anything last night as I had a very busy day and evening. I was very tired and just didn’t have the mindset to sit down and write. Our last two days have been busy and there has been much accomplished! One Tuesday the workmen from Dean’s Sprinklers showed up and began the installation of the sprinkler system. It was pretty amazing to watch them work as they brought in this large machine to essentially burrow underneath the ground and put the pipe in place. I will say those guys had to work really hard as our yard is pretty rocky and parts are steep. They finished their work around 4:00PM today. When they were done they gave me a run through of the system and now I know where all the zones are and how to re-program the master control so it will run when I want it to and for how long. I am very much looking forward to having a very lush and green lawn this summer. It will look very nice with the other landscaping plans I have for the summer! Zack has been doing OK at school recently. I am really trying to work with him on maturing and doing so much better at things. This is where he has really suffered from Patty’s death – it is like he lost 3 years out of his emotional development and now he needs to try and catch up to all the other 10 year olds. On another note – for those of you who don’t routinely read the Caringbridge site I posted an update there yesterday. My update for that site was about the fact that I will be forming a team to walk in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Light the Night walk in October. I will probably also write an entry about that on this blog also. We hope everyone had a good day! Thanks and peace to all. – J.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Family Guy...

It is kind of late and I am still up. Well I am always up late so I guess it doesn't make much of a difference. I have had a kind of depressing evening - just the normal ups and downs of my life at this point. I have found some laughter and hilarity in a show called "The Family Guy". This show is so f*ing funny! I can't begin to tell you. (It's animated.) I think this is going to have to become a daily routine. It is great the 2 year old little baby of the family is a freaking hoodlum! He just beat the crap out of his family's talking dog, because the dog won't pay up on a gambling bet. It is hilarous. If you have never watched this show - you have to do it!

The Joy of Cooking

It may seem very funny, but I like to cook. I am not a fancy chef or anything like that, but I like to try my luck and experiment with different foods and things. It is always a nice ending to a busy day of work to get home, take things out of the refrigerator that I am going to make and lose myself in the work of preparing a meal. My normal habit has me opening a bottle of wine and putting on some Mozart on my iPod while I get everything ready to cook. Now I got to admit this is something that drives me buggy about being single. I don’t like cooking alone. Granted Zack is in the family room which is only 20 feet or so from the kitchen. But it just isn’t the same. It was always fun when Patty was alive and healthy for us to work together to prepare the meal and spend a ton of time talking about what had gone on during the day. Of course there are many other things I miss about not having a partner, but that is one that strikes home every single day. I have dealt with the situation and now a lot of time that I am cooking I will call some one on the phone and spend the whole time chatting with them while I cook. It is a poor substitute to having a partner, but for now it will have to do. This evening I made pasta with a semi-homemade meat sauce and an onion, pepper and tomato salad. It wasn’t anything fancy but it took me about 30 minutes to get everything ready. Even though I am alone in my cooking it is still enjoyable to do. I haven’t done a lot of experimenting recently so I think I am going to have a plan a big dinner one of these coming weekends. We haven’t used the dining room table since Thanksgiving as we did a kind of a buffet for Christmas and everyone just ended up hanging out in the kitchen/family room. So we need to have a big dinner for which we use the dinner room table. So as I get my house totally in order, I hope to start having a lot more dinner parties and bbq’s. It will be fun to have more people over and enjoy meals together. As I think of my desire to cook, I keep thinking that the time to redo my kitchen is fast approaching. Let me put in mildly – I HATE MY KITCHEN! It has a wonderful 1980’s style to it. The layout sucks and all the appliances are electric. One year before we moved into this house we totally redid the kitchen in our old house. It wasn’t an over the top remodel, but it we took the kitchen down to the bare walls and put in new cabinets and counter tops. We probably should have replaced all the appliances but we kept them as most of them were pretty new. It made the kitchen a great place to cook and just hang out. Now I need to do the same thing in this old kitchen. Unfortunately, it will cost a lot of money to do that and though I could do it now, I just don’t want to spend all that money while the economy sucks. My plan for the kitchen will be a complete remodel, essentially ripping the kitchen down to the wall studs. I would be changing the foot print of the kitchen so this would necessitate redoing the hardwood floors throughout a good part of the first floor of the house. Currently all of the appliances are electric and I would at least want to put in a gas stove. I don’t mind electric ovens as much but I would really want a gas range. Of course putting a gas line into an existing kitchen would take a fair amount of work. The main utility area of the house is just a short way below the kitchen in the basement. However my office sits directly below the kitchen and the ceiling is finished, so there would be a fair amount of re-work that would have to be done downstairs to make that happen. I would use a floor plan similar to what my brother and sister-in-law used when they re-did their kitchen in 2006. That floor plan would put an island in the middle of kitchen area and put the appliances in a much more useful order. Slab granite counter tops would also be a requirement. Ok – I know I just keep running the price up by all the things that I want. Right now my existing countertops are granite tile which are not good. The grout between the tiles is continually getting stuff on it and it is a real pain in the butt. I know I won’t attempt the kitchen remodel until I get a few more house projects completed. The work on my irrigation system was supposed to start today but it was delayed due to the weather – we had 3 inches of snow here our house this morning. Our day was pretty much a standard Monday. Lots of work stuff for me and lots of school stuff for Zack. He had Sylvan after school today and I had a conference with the academic director at Sylvan. The conference was the routine monthly conference. Nothing extraordinary came out of the conference. Zack is making some progress and I can see some of it in his writing at home, but he does still have work to do. After dinner tonight we have just been hanging out. I recorded a movie on DVR for Zack last night - “Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker”. So while I type I am watching that with Zack. He will be heading to bed soon and then I will be getting back to work on various things around here. All-in-all it wasn’t a bad Monday. We hope you all had good Mondays too! Thanks and peace to all. – J.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Jerry 2: Rodents/Bees 0

Wow is all I can say. This weekend has been one thing after another with rodents and pests. And no – I am not talking about Zack or the dogs (ok – bad joke – but at times they can all be pains in the rumpus!). As I wrote in my last post, Friday saw the removal of a hive of bees from around my chimney. This weekend saw the removal of a group of squirrels from the crawl space above my garage. Yes that is right - squirrels – several of them! I normally love squirrels. I think they are cute, I think they are funny. But I draw the line when they think that they can take up residency in my house! Though my garage is attached to my house, it is really a separate part. It sits on its own slab and there is no living space above the garage. Above the garage is a fairly substantial attic/crawlspace. Throughout this past winter I would hear the sound of squirrels in the attic above the garage. Each time I climbed in there to check it out I would not see them. So there really wasn’t anything I could do about it. What really got me going this time and got me fired up and determined to keep them out was the fact that one of them died up there. Let’s just say that it wasn’t pleasant! It was a big ass dead squirrel and he smelled the place up! I first noticed the smell on Friday when I was getting paint out of the garage for Shane to do touch up work from the bee removal. I was thinking it wasn’t anything much. I thought at first it was probably just a mouse from the rat poison that I have to keep mice from getting in the house. However, I quickly realized that it wasn’t a mouse as it stunk too much. A mouse wasn’t going to fill the whole garage up with the stink. After a bit of investigation I realized that the only place it could be coming from was the crawl space/attic. On Saturday morning I crawled up there and began looking around. I was wearing a mask to prevent me from breathing in anything in case whatever it was had died from Hantavirus. Dealing with Hantavirus is always a concern in this part of the country. Due to the types of mice around here you always have to take precautions in any kind of enclose space like an attic or a shed. On Saturday I wasn’t really into it. I went up into the attic but I honestly didn’t look too hard as I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with it. Then I nearly had a heart attack when a squirrel practically ran right on top of me. So after about 3 minutes of looking I decided I was done. Today was a totally different day – I was determined to get this thing out of there and to prevent any other squirrels from getting in. Early in the morning I took Zack and Cole swimming at the Lone Tree Rec Center. When I came home I was bound and determined to make it happen. I quickly suited up in long pants, long shirt, hat, gloves and a mask. (I borrowed the mask from my brother – it is the kind that is used by painters when they are applying really nasty stuff like stain, etc.) I got the ladder repositioned under the entrance to attic and I crawled on up. This time I was looking much more closely and I found Mr. Big Ass Dead Squirrel within 2 – 3 minutes of getting up there. Agh… He was big and he was really dead! With the warm weather of Friday he had swelled up to about twice his normal size. It was pretty gross After I found him I went back down and got a bunch of plastic bags, bleach and a small shovel. I scooped him up on the shovel and got him bagged up as quickly as I could as I felt bad for Mr. Squirrel and I just didn’t want to have to keep looking at him. Thankfully there wasn’t any insulation where he had bit the dust so I put a bunch of bleach all over the place to clean things up. After that I unceremoniously took him down the ladder and put him in the garbage. I am just so glad that is done! After I got that cleaned up, I began the process of find out where the squirrels are getting in the attic. There are several vents near the end of the garage and they appear to be the likely culprits. I have some of them sealed already but it is going to take a bit of work to get them all sealed off properly. I will get it done through as I don’t want to have to deal with another Mr. Big Ass Dead Squirrel again. But for now I think I have safely evicted my family of squirrels that were living there. I think I scared the crap out of them by being up there so much. As I mentioned above, Zack, Cole and I went to the Lone Tree Rec Center for a very long time this morning. We had a lot of fun. We swam, we went down the slide and we hung out in the hot tub. I think both of the kids had a great time and they will be exhausted tonight. I also did something I haven’t done in a very long time – I made some bread. I didn’t make it the old fashion way, I used the bread machine. We now have some freshly baked bread for breakfast tomorrow! The rest of the day was also good. All-in-all a pretty good weekend! We hope everyone had a great weekend! Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bzzzzz, Bzzzzzz, Bzzzzzz

I meant to post this entry on Friday evening, but I ended up falling asleep on the couch and I didn’t feel like getting on the Internet until now. For whatever reason I was not feeling real energetic yesterday. Nor am I today - so I will see if I write another entry for today or not. Before I even start tonight’s blog entry, I must first say “please excuse any excessive amounts of typos or missed words”. I gave platelets and plasma today and I have had my obligatory cocktail or two. The evening after giving blood I always have a couple of beers, glasses of wine or cocktails as I start feeling very good very fast. I usually laugh pretty heartily when I am done with my donation and the techs at Bonfils tell me to refrain from having alcohol for the rest of the day. Hahaha…. They know me well enough at the Highlands Ranch donation center that can pretty well predict what I am going to say in response to that. “Isn’t that the point of giving blood, so you can feel really happy without drinking much alcohol.” I do have to say that I am proud of my brother Tim. For the last several years I have been prodding him to go and give blood with me. Today he finally gave in to my continuous annoying whining. He went with me and gave a unit of whole blood. He wasn’t really sure of how it was going to go and he probably felt a little nervous, but he handled it like a champ and did it. So – yes I am proud of him. As I always say – every time you give blood you save someone’s life. He saved someone’s life today! The big excitement for us today was the removal of the bee hive from our home. I have worked for the last several months to try and find someone to come in and remove it. After numerous phone calls without much success, I finally found a guy from Golden who does this kind of work. He comes in and assesses the situation, determines the best way to get the bees out, removes the bees without killing them and then does whatever repairs are needed to your house. Here are a couple of pictures of the bees and hive being removed. I think they are pretty cool!

(All those little black spots on the photo are the bees trying to sting the hell out of Shane.)

It was really amazing to watch him work. He suits up in his beekeepers suit and he just goes right to it. The bees were totally and completely swarming around him yet he didn’t even seem to notice. He has some amazing stories to tell that is for sure! This morning when he showed up his left eye was all red and swollen. He said he had been stung on his eye ball yesterday! That just sounds so absolutely horrible. For the most part he says that he is used to the stings and they don’t bother him that much. The guy who did the work is named Shane Rodgers and if any one who reads this blog and lives in the Denver area ever needs bees removed, he is the guy to do it! He runs his own company called Through the Fog LLC. Shane estimated that the hive had been in place for about a year and that there were 30,000+ bees in it. Besides the 30,000+ bees he also took out about 15 pounds or so honeycomb. It is amazing what the bees build and produce! The rest of our day has been nondescript. Zack had school and I had work. During school today Zack went on a field trip today to the Colorado History Museum. From what he said he had a good time and learned a lot. This evening we haven’t done much. I a couple of good conversations with friends over the phone and that is about it. So all-in-all it was a good evening. We hope everyone has a great weekend. Thanks and peace to all! – J.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Amortality

Yep – it’s soapbox time! I read a very interesting article in the March 23, 2009 edition of Time Magazine today. Zack had a psychologist appointment this evening since his psychologist is going to be out of town tomorrow. For whatever reason I forgot to take my laptop with me and I ended up reading an old Time Magazine from last month. I found an article in it titled “Amortality” very interesting. The word “amortality” was coined by the author of the article. Basically what the word means is “you deny mortality”. The article was about the 10 ideas changing the world right now. Amortality was one of these ideas and it was viewed as something positive. I took a slightly harsher view on the whole idea. Within this subject I saw the cause of so many of the ills that are affecting our society and have brought us to the point of the economic collapse in which we now live. I found this one paragraph in the article to be especially telling. “Amortals live among us. In their teens and 20s they may seem preternaturally experienced. In later life, they often look young and dress younger. They have kids early or late – sometimes very late – or not at all. Their emotional lives are as chaotic as their financial planning. The defining characteristic of amortality is to live in the same way, at the same pitch doing and consuming much the same things, from the late teens right up until death.” In that last sentence is the big gotcha – “Consuming much the same things”. What it is basically saying is that our consumption is stuck in this illogical “teenager driven” mode. To me it seems as though the people who live in this ageless way are forever sucking the life and financial health out of the next generation. Who cares if you are 80 years old and refinancing your house for a 30 year mortgage. It doesn’t matter! The debt can just be passed along to the next generation. I am not passing judgment by my statements. In many ways I am one of these “amortals”. One of my fondest wishes is to celebrate my 85th birthday by skiing “Anticipation” (a blue run on the North Peak at Keystone). Of course that may not be possible if the extreme consequences of global warming take place – but you get the idea. I guess the point is – yes we all want to be ageless. Yes – we all want to be healthy and strong long into our advanced age. But, we can’t forget about those who are to come after us. At some point we need to stop consuming and consuming. Somehow we all have to step back and enjoy the benefits of being strong and healthy for a very long time but we also have to be cognizant of the impact on the earth and the generations to come. Now exiting soapbox left. Our doings for the day were a little bit off the beaten path for the day. Zack didn’t go to school today. Instead he went to “take your kid to work day” at Lockheed Martin. As you probably know by now - I don’t work at Lockheed Martin. However, I have friends who do – Jeff and Amy. They take their daughter who is 8 years old and then they ask their friends if their kids want to go. Lockheed Martin puts on one of the coolest presentations. The kids get to see rocket components and the buildings where the rockets are assembled. There are also lots of neat science experiments and things that are going on. Zack really like the Mr. Nitrogen experience where they had a guy demonstrating the properties of liquid nitrogen. This evening Zack had the psychologist appointment as I mentioned above. He has really been wrestling with a lot of anxiety issues recently. The appointment went pretty well and I spent a good bit of time in the room with him. Normally Zack is alone with the psychologist and I am in the lobby. Today’s session was one of the first in which I really got to hear him talk to Dr. Jane about his fears. Even though he is going through a ton of anxiety, you can see he has made so much progress from a year ago in the fact that he can talk about what is making him feel fearful. After his appointment we grabbed some takeout from both Noodles and Chipotle (Noodles for Zack, Chipotle for me). This evening was as usual was low key as we hung out and watched some TV together. Zack and the dogs are all sound asleep upstairs as I am now winding down for the day. We hope everyone had a wonderful day! Thanks and peace to all – J.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Plumbing Hell

Why does it seem that small house improvement projects frequently turn into absolute hell? That happened to me today. What started as 30 minutes of plumbing work to ready my house for the installation of the new sprinkler system turned into a daylong plumbing hell! Things started off in a bad way as the plumber, my cleaning ladies and my lawn service people all arrived within 2 minutes of each other while I was on a conference call. It was a big pain in the behind as I had to talk to all of them (with the exception of the cleaning ladies) and explain what needed to be done. I am pretty good at balancing my conference calls with other activities – washing clothes, doing the dishes, etc, but this was a little bit hard for me! Once the plumber got started on his work we quickly realized that we had a conflict with Kathy and Kelly - the cleaning ladies. To do their work, Kathy and Kelly need water. Unfortunately the first thing that the plumber did was turn off all the water to the house. This wasn’t a fortuitous start to the day. Shortly after the plumber turned off the water, he came up from the downstairs and said ‘we have a problem”. Umm… Those aren’t the words that I like to hear from people doing work on my house. The problem was the fact that as he had turned of the master valve to the house, he had broken it. The water was turned off and the valve was broken in a state that it couldn’t be turned on again. GREAT!!! To fix the master valve in the house, the water would have to be turned off in the street. The only way that the water could be turned off in the street was to call the water company – in this case Southgate Water District and have them come out and turn it off. Needless to say, Southgate doesn’t have a lot of workmen right and ready to just come out and turn off the water. So the plumber was going to have to wait for a while. The work crew from Southgate showed up about 2 hours after they were called. Things still would not be simple. It turned out that the valve in the street was not in good shape and the crew had to do a lot of work to even get access to it before they could even try and turn it off. Once they had access to it, they had to work for another 30 – 45 minutes to get it shut off. While all this was going on, I was working with the plumber to make sure that things were getting done. It really was not how I had planned to spend my day. I was doing conference calls while going back and forth from the master valve in the basement to the work crew out in the street. Yeah – it made for a fun Wednesday afternoon – NOT! Kathy and Kelly did get pretty creative and were able to get most of the house clean despite the fact they had no water. They took a bucket and went over to my next door neighbor and got enough water to do the floors and cabinets. So the house at least got cleaned. In the end run what was scheduled to be a 30 minute piece of work to replace a valve for my sprinkler system ended up being a 5 hour endurance test. It got done but it was a lot more painful than was expected. This afternoon I also finally had someone come and take a look at my bee problem. I can’t begin to tell you how many calls I had to make to get some one out here. The guy who is going to do the work is still not certain how he is going to address the problem, but he feels he can get the bee hive out of the wall with out killing the bees. Right now he is scheduled to come back on Friday and remove the hive. I am very glad about this as Zack has already gotten stung 2 or 3 times this year. Otherwise it was a normal Wednesday for us – school, work and Sylvan. There was nothing unusual this evening going on just the same-old, same-old. Despite my plumbing hell, it was a pretty OK day. We hope everyone had a great day! Thanks and peace to all! – J.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Lives of Dogs

There is the old saying that “people never know what their dogs do when they are at work”. Being a person who works from home I disagree with this statement. I really do know what my dogs do. I thought of this statement today as I watched my “pups” lounge around all day in the living room. My dogs live the good life! They have no responsibilities. They are fed promptly on time every day. They get to do what they want pretty much whenever they want. They force me and Zack to do their bidding – let them out, give them treats, get them water etc. If we don’t get them what they want they start barking at us and won’t stop until we do their bidding. Yeah – they have good lives! Everyday I spend a bunch of time petting and playing with the “boys” (i.e. Bay and Lex). After I take Zack to school I come home and immediately jump into my daily conference calls. Every day around 8:30AM or so, Bailey comes wandering out to me with a toy in his mouth. He wants me to play with him. He will be insistent and continue to nudge me with his muzzle until I give in and start playing him. Forget about the idea of ignoring him as he won’t let me. If I do ignore him there will be hell to pay as he will get pissed off and start doing something naughty. Lex on the other hand loves to go out early in the morning and bark at anything that moves or anything that makes any kind of noise. Once his barkfest is done he needs to come into the house and have some water and then retire to my bedroom for his mid-morning nap. He is so fun as he doesn’t care what anyone is doing he just wants to get upstairs and sprawl out all over my bed. After a while I will wander upstairs to visit with him and he will treat me like he is some king and I am his supplicant. He will only acknowledge me if I do something for him – like rub his ears or scratch his neck. After the morning nap and play period is over, the dogs will normally go outside with Nancy when she goes out for a cigarette. Once they come in from this excursion, they will begin to sun themselves in the living room. They each have their designated position and the order cannot be broken. Bailey must get the leather chair so that he has a great view out into the street. Lex being the younger of the two takes what could be viewed as a secondary position on the big couch. Personally I think Lex prefers this position. Though it doesn’t give him the great view of the outside – I think he loves the comfort of the soft couch. I guess what it all comes down to is that the dogs are really in charge. We people have little say as to what goes on, the pups are treating us like puppets and pulling all the strings. Yep – my dogs have the life!

(Lex on his throne in the living room.)

(Bay on the big leather chair.) On another note - something I have noted about my writing recently is that I really need to edit and re-edit each one of my blog entries. Today I went back and read through many of my blog entries that I have written throughout the last several weeks. I was mortified with what I read! I had so many missing words and incorrect words it was ridiculous. For example – I should have used “an” but instead I had and. It wasn’t that I didn’t know to us “an” it was that I was just typing so stinking fast that I screwed up. I hate when I do that! Please feel free to call me on all of my screw ups as I would love to go back and correct them. I am not asking you guys to be my editors, but just asking you to make fun of me enough that I will improve my own editing. Please be merciless in the e-mails that you send me because I need to write and edit better. The day was relatively low-key. Nothing particularly special went on during the day. Zack had school and I had work. After school Zack went to WCCK. He appeared to have a good time and he at least came home with all of his homework done. I did have one fun activity today in the fact that I spent a bunch of time IM’ing with a buddy of mine in Costa Rica – Ruben. Ruben is one of the most intellectual people I know. He always is reading at least one very intense book if not two. He has a collection of great quotes that he throws out. Including this one from today… “If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.” - Bertrand Russell. We had a great conversation and I ended up laughing my ass off. Ruben has that effect on me – he is just a great friend and a good guy. He is coming to the US (New York City) in September and hopefully I will be able to get back to the east coast to hang out with him for a couple of days. If not, I am considering doing Thanksgiving in Costa Rica this year. I am sure Zack would love that! Anyway … we hope everyone had a great day! Thanks and peace to all! 6:45AM Wednesday morning: Just thought I would add some additional commentary about the dogs. My alarms (yes - that is right plural - I need 2 alarms to get my ass out of bed) go off at 6:30AM. Once those alarms go off, the doggies know that I owe them food. It was very funny this morning as Lex decided it would be appropriate to stand on the floor right next to the bed and then jump and put his front paws on my face. Nice way to get the day started - dog paws in your face! I am used to doggie abuse in the early morning as both Lex and Bay think it is their god-given right to come up along side me and continuously nudge me with their muzzles. Though I am complaining about it here on this blog, I won't want to start my mornings any other way! Have a great Wednesday! - J

Monday, April 20, 2009

Where were you 10 years ago?

Today, April 20th is the 10 year anniversary of Columbine. Can anyone believe that it has been 10 years since that horrible day? I personally can’t believe it. I remember that day very clearly. I was only 15 days into my new job as a principal consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting. I was working in Republic Plaza - the tallest building in Denver. People in the office started talking about what was going on around noon. After that we all started gathering around our computers reading the news that was poring into the various news websites like CNN and MSNBC. It was a very difficult day. We were not affected personally by the tragedy but we knew families that were. We had friends of friends who had children in the school. Thankfully none of them were physically hurt but the mental trauma they experienced is probably still with them to this day. Patty was near Columbine when the shooting occurred. She was in Littleton visiting a friend of hers and she and Zack got caught up in all the traffic that resulted from the whole situation. She wasn’t scared or anything, but she was very anxious to get herself and Zack out of the area. Columbine caused a lot of introspection and thought within the local community. I think some of the lessons of Columbine have paid off and there are many different programs in the local schools to prevent something like this from happening again. I am continually amazed by the extent to which they take “bully proofing” in Zack’s school. The program that Cherry Creek Schools have in place to prevent students from being picked upon is ingrained throughout some much of the schools activities. Given that Zack is a smaller child and marches to the beat of his own drummer, I am very pleased that this kind of program is in place. I think it will prevent him from falling prey to any kind of bullying. Have we as a nation learned enough from Columbine? I really don’t think so. It was just two years ago that the worst school shooting ever – Virginia Tech occurred. Why couldn’t Columbine have been the end to it all as opposed to just another black mark in this long saga of kids killing kids? Moving away from that dark subject – our day has been normal in many ways but also very tough in other ways. It was normal in the fact that Zack had school and Sylvan and I had work. It was tough in the fact that I had a lot to deal with mentally and emotionally. The day started very rough in that fashion and it has only been this evening when I have managed to resolve things. At one point my mind was so much on fire that I decided I either had to go to the gym and beat the crap out of myself or I was going to have to sit down and drink an entire bottle of wine. Thankfully I decided on going to the gym – which I did around 8PM. I can’t believe how good my workout felt. I did have one really good piece of news. I had to run to Target while Zack was at Sylvan. While I was there I decided to try on some shorts as my supply of shorts for the summer season isn’t where it should be. I was so pleased to see that all my working out, biking riding and walking has paid off. I have lost an inch around my waist! Yippee!! That is our story for the day. Here are pictures from the “year of portraits project”. We took these while we were out eating dinner at Chili’s.
We hope everyone had a great day! Thanks and peace to all!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Simple Post – What We Did Today

I definitely like to write, but on some days the “what to write about bug” strikes hard. I am left with not too many good ideas about which to write. Part of this is because Zack and I have done a lot of adventures recently. The weather has been such here in Colorado that it has made weekend hiking or biking trips somewhat difficult. This weekend was definitely a great example of that. We received something on the order of twenty inches of snow here in Centennial. Talk about crazy! On days like to day the only commentary I feel like providing is pretty basic – what we did on this day. Saturday night I was up pretty late because I was trying to get my blog entry posted to blogger.com. It didn’t work to well last night – but technology isn’t always 100%. It was just one of those minor annoyances to deal with. We got up around 7:30AM this morning and quickly got into the swing of things. For breakfast we headed out to The Egg & I on Yosemite. I had a Wisconsin scramble and Zack had an item off the kid’s menu which I can’t remember the name. He is continuing to say his stomach hurts and he didn’t feel like eating much. I am not sure if it is anxiety or what. But if it continues this week he is going to the doctor. After breakfast I wanted us to get out for a walk. Walking around here in Centennial would have been very problematic because of all the snow, so we decided to head closer to downtown. We went to Washington Park and took a couple mile walk around the perimeter of the park. Zack got to play on one of the playground sets for a while. When we were walking he stopped to pet every dog we saw! After that we headed home for the afternoon – though I did go out for a couple of hours this afternoon to get out of the house and do some shopping. Nancy was working on making a beef stew for dinner so it was nice for me not to have to worry about dinner for a change. Zack and I went over to Tim and Celinde’s for a little while to pick up some stuff that we left over there on Easter. We also wanted to congratulate Cole whose Destination Imagination (DI) group took first place in the Colorado State DI competition on Saturday. They will now be heading to the US National competition in Knoxville, Tennessee in late May. Before dinner Zack and I were hanging out in the kitchen together listening to some great classical music – Dvorak’s New World Symphony. That is one of my favorite pieces of classical music! It was a very enjoyable afternoon as he was reading and doing some homework and I was writing. Nancy’s beef stew was good. Zack was not happy with it though as he didn’t like all the vegetables that were in it. After dinner we decided to watch Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the Clones. Zack has been playing a Star Wars Lego video game for the last month or two so I think it is actually good for him to see the whole Star Wars saga. I know they aren’t the greatest of films but they are still quintessential Hollywood films. If you haven’t seen the Stars Wars films you are definitely missing something. Today’s pictures are our daily photos that we took today. I am still working with the Z-man for him to get the right perspective for each shot. I think that will take some time. I will be getting a new camera tripod here in the coming weeks so I will be able to start using the timer again and hopefully will have better results. That’s our story for the day. I do feel that I will have a lot more to write about later in the week. I have been thinking of lots of things I just haven’t yet had the desire to put them down in a file. (Zack holding his book that he got from Tim and Celinde for Easter.) (Me saying something to Zack and him catching my in the action.) We hope everyone has a great Monday! Thanks and peace to all!

A Picture is worth a 1000 Words

OK - I tried posting this picture about 20 times last night. Blogger.com is just not working right since last night. It took me almost an hour to get my blog entry posted last night. It was really annoying! I am not sure what has been going on with the website but it was no fun.
Anyway - here is a picture of my clean kitchen pantry. I took me hours and hours to get it as clean and as organized as it is. This is just the beginning of the house cleaning. And I am really addressing the tough stuff. Yes - I am dealing with Patty's stuff - it has to be done for both Zack and me.
On top of the cleaning the first part of my irrigation project starts this week. A plumber is coming on Wednesday to re-do all the interior plumbing that is needed. It is going to be great to get these projects rolling. I will also be starting to get bids on the replacement of my garage doors within the next week. That will another huge project to get done as it will really enhance the curb appeal of the house.
I'll post again at the end of the day - but I just wanted to get this picture out there as it really annoyed me last night that I couldn't get this posted!
We hope everyone has a great Sunday. I think we are going to head out to the Egg & I for some brekie fast!
Thanks and peace to all!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Snowy Saturday

Another weekend is quickly spinning to it's conclusion. How is it that time goes so fast on the weekends? The work week doesn't seem to go this quickly! The snow finally ended around 4:00PM this afternoon. Zack and I took advantage of the break in the weather to get out of the house and see a movie. We went to the Highlands Ranch AMC 24 and saw Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D. The movie was pretty good and the 3D effects were excellent. It is amazing how many 3D movies they are starting to make. We saw previews for at least 3 or 4 more 3D movies that will hit the movie theaters this summer. After seeing the movie we headed to Park Meadows Mall as I had a bunch of shopping that I needed to do. We got dinner at the food court from Panda Express. After that we took care of all the shopping I needed to do. I had a couple of shirts to return to Express and then I needed to buy some other things at Dillards. Our mission was accomplished and then we headed home for an evening of relaxing. All-in-all it was pretty much a very low key day. The only major points of note was that I have totally finished much of my kitchen cleaning project. I still have a couple of items that I am working on, but I feel pretty good with all that I have accomplished. I especially feel good about the work I have done on the pantry! My pantry was a general mess for a very long time. It is now totally and completely cleaned out and organized. With my little man in the house I do have to keep a fair amount of food around as he has a tendency to eat through it pretty quickly. So I am sure to many people it still looks disorganized, but it is so much cleaner than it has been for a very long time.
I even managed to get the refrigerator cleaned out and sparkling cleaning. That was an even bigger pain in the rump. But it is done now and I intend to clean it every other week to make sure that it stays clean.
On another note, I know I have written much about our hiking adventures in recent days and weeks. We really haven't been out and about very much recently. The weather has been crappy most weekends and we have been very busy. However, I am planning that this coming week I will start re-capping some of our previous hikes and I will start write a bit more about some of our plans for adventure this summer.
We hope everyone is having a great weekend!
Thanks and peace to all!

More Snow…. More Snow…. And a Recipe??

It continues to snow! This is the longest snow storm we have had all year and it has really changed a lot of my plans for the weekend. It is great we are getting the moisture but I got to admit I am a little bit tired of it now. Yesterday it was really amazing how quickly things got bad. It snowed most of the day but it really didn’t do much. Then at 20 after 2 everything changed. The sky turned white and the snow just came down and came down. I had to go and get Zack from school at 2:35PM and I barely made it through the snow. All the slush on the road had turned into ice almost instantaneously. Roads in the Willow Creek were bad. I drove to get him and I took our Explorer. Normally I can get through any kind of snow in four wheel drive high mode. I never have to put the car into four wheel drive low unless I am 4 wheeling in the mountains. Not yesterday! I put the car in four wheel drive low and I was still having a hard time. It was plain and simply nuts. The horrible thing about the snow last night was that it really ruined some plans that I had. I wasn’t particularly happy about that, but I wasn’t going to have anyone be in danger by going out on the roads – and ultimately that was the right decision. One severe downside to the snow in our house is that we loss our television. We have satellite – DirectTV and whenever we get a severe snow storm like this it goes out. It takes away a mindless thing to spend our time on when the weather sucks. But it was good – we survived the evening without TV! I ended up spending a good part of the evening on the phone instead – so it turned out to be pretty good. Though I ordered pizza in for us last night I did take some time to make a nice dessert for us. I had planned to make a cheesecake this weekend, but it was very funny as I received an e-mail from a friend on Friday. In the e-mail there was a recipe for a 5-minute chocolate cake. Being a chocolate fanatic, I had to try this instead of making the cheesecake. It turned out to be excellent! If anyone is interested here is the recipe. 5 MINUTE CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE 4 tablespoons flour 4 tablespoons sugar 2 tablespoons cocoa 1 egg 3 tablespoons milk 3 tablespoons oil 3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional) a small splash of vanilla extract 1 large coffee mug Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high). The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed! Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.

EAT! (this can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous). And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world? Because now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night! It turned out very good and I enjoyed it. You should give it a try as it is pretty neat how quickly you can make a cake! Here are some of the latest pictures from my backyard. Thankfully my big trees are standing tough through out the snow. The little trees are getting the crap beaten out of them, but I think they will stand throughout the weather. In a little bit I will go out and try and shake as much snow off of these trees as possible.

Well – I hope everyone here in Colorado survives the snow and for those of you in other parts of the country and the world – I hope you have a nice weekend!
Thanks and peace to all!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Snow, snow - isn't it suppose to be spring!

Just a quick little update this morning. The snow storm has become a reality. So far there is only about 2 inches of snow on the ground and the roads this morning. But the forecast is for upwards of 24 inches of snow in the South Metro area of Denver.
I am a little concerned about some of my trees as the snow is as heavy as concrete. I have no desire for a repeat of the snow storm that brought down so many of my trees in October of 2005.
Here's my back yard this morning.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Blogging Milestone

With this blog entry I have reached a blogging milestone. This is my 100th post to “A Dad and His Boy Living the Life”. I wrote my first entry to this blog on November 11, 2008 and in these past 5 months I have written on average a blog entry every other day. As I have cut down on the number of blog entries that I have made to Patty’s Caringbridge site, I have increased the number of entries on this site. For me it is hard to believe that I have been blogging now for almost two years if you count from when I started Patty’s Caringbridge site. At first my blogging was just about Patty and her battle to live. Now that Patty is no longer with us, my blogging has turned to many different subjects. The one central theme of my blogging is of course Zack. In the end run this is all about him. Not all of the subjects for my posts directly relate to him, but for the most part they are about him or inspired by him. I feel proud of what I have done with this site. I have put a large amount of effort into my writing and I have come to enjoy it immensely. My day does not seem complete unless I can sit down at some point and pen a new entry for the blog. I really appreciate all of you who have become dedicated readers. I enjoy all the comments and emails that I receive about my writing. And yes – I do know that sometimes what I write is controversial and I appreciate when it is pointed out to me, and I appreciate when I say something stupid and I am called on it. So thank you to each and every one of my readers. Without you this would not be anywhere near as fun or enjoyable! On a totally different note – it is April 16th isn’t it? It is supposed to be the middle of spring. Yet tonight, tomorrow and potentially Saturday will be the middle of winter for those of us living in Colorado. We are expecting a spring snow storm that could bring up to two feet of snow to the Denver metro area. As much as I love Colorado, this is one thing that I never like. I hate spring snow storms. I always think that once we go on daylight savings time, the time for snow is done. However, it seems that this is the time we get the most snow in Colorado. Though we really need the moisture I would love not to have the snow! In our day-to-day activities we have been dealing with a lot unfortunately. I haven’t mentioned it here before, but Zack has once again experience some major anxiety issues. Unlike his previous spin downs into anxiety land, I really can’t seem to put my finger on what is causing the issue. I have some ideas but,I just don’t know for sure. Yesterday – Wednesday was so bad that he had to come home from school. The good news with the situation is that for the first time he is actually able to articulate what is going on. In the past he would not even be able to say that he was experiencing anxiety. Instead he would just be scared out of his gourd. This time around he is able to explain much of what he is feeling and has even suggested some activities that will help him resolve the situation. I know that doesn’t seem like much progress, but it is huge. At this time last year he was not able to handle the kind of anxiety he is feeling – he simply would have “melted down”. Though he had to come home from school, he did not melt down and was able to control it to some degree. Another funny note from today is a “it was bound to happen” kind of event. For the last several months I have wanted to get my carpet cleaned. So a week ago I finally made an appointment to have Stanley Steemer come and do the work. I scheduled it for this morning. The Stanley Steemer guys came and did a great job cleaning the carpet. But this afternoon the rain began. And when it rains the dogs get mud on their feet. I did a good job getting their feet cleaned up as soon as they came in the house. However, when they went out for the last time tonight – you can imagine what happened. Yes – they got mud all over the clean carpet. All I can say is ARGHHHHHHH. It never fails to happen that whenever the carpets get cleaned one of dogs does something to get them dirty. Normally they end up puking on the carpet. Just getting mud on it is much better than the puke. So it could have been much worse. With that wonderful pleasant thought of dog pukage – I will leave you for the evening. Once again – thank you for reading and commenting and making my blog a success! Thanks and peace to all!

The Portrait Project

A couple of years ago I did a project where I took a picture of Zack every day of the year. I have been thinking of doing this again.
While Zack and I were out at dinner tonight we talked about doing a portrait project again. Zack had cub scouts this evening and then we went to the food court at the mall to get some dinner afterwards. After a bit of discussion we decided that we would do it. So we started with some pictures from my iPhone. I left my good camera at Tim and Celinde's on Easter so until I can get to their house to retrieve it we will be doing the pictures via the iPhone. I won't post most of these pictures to the blog, but I will go ahead and post some of the memorable ones.
Today's pictures aren't particularly memorable - they are just the first. We took them inside the Park Meadows food court in front of the massive fireplace that dominates the space. So without further commentary - here are today's portrait pictures.
(I almost don't want to post this one it is so bad. Zack caught me with some kind of really weird pained expression on my face.)

(The light from the fire definitely made it hard to take the pictures.)

I am keeping this way short tonight because it is really, really late. I am having my carpets cleaned tomorrow morning so I have to be up really early to get everything moved out of the way before the cleaners come. On top of that fact I have a conference call that I have to be up for at 6;30AM. So... I REALLY NEED to go to bed

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happiness, Contentment and Purpose

Before I get to the meat of this post, I thought I would explain my writing process. I say this because I have been working on this post for a long time. I tend to spend a lot of time writing. It is something I have done for the last 10 years or so. The hard drive of my laptop is filled with many stories, commentaries, reflections, ravings, etc. I just like to write. Ninety percent of what I write no one ever sees but me. Often I will get an idea to write about something and I will start a Word Document and ad a sentence or two to my writing every couple of days. I will write when I have a chance – a snippet here, a sentence there, a paragraph whenever I can. In the case of what I am posting today, I have been writing and thinking about it for weeks if not months. It has been a constant theme in my life for a very long time. I decided to finally post this today because of two separate events that have occurred in the last 24 hours. The first is a conversation that I had with the woman who frequently cuts my hair at the Cost Cutters that I go to. She is originally from Cambodia and speaks with a heavy accent. A lot of times I have a hard time understanding what she is saying. But over the years (she has worked at the same Cost Cutters for what seems to be forever) we have talked about many things while she has cut my hair. Yesterday’s conversation as she cut my hair was profound and caused me a lot of thought. The second event was an e-mail that I received overnight. Every night I go to bed and I leave my iPhone on the night stand beside me. I have it plugged in charging overnight because I am usually on it so much during the day that I need to re-charge it at least 2 times per day. This way I can at least start the day fully charged! Anyway – I use my iPhone as a secondary alarm clock as I would never get up on time if I only used one. As soon as I turn off the alarm, I typically check to see what e-mails I have gotten overnight. This morning when I looked, I had received a totally and completely unexpected e-mail from an old friend. After reading the e-mail, it just made me think more and more about this subject. So what is this post about? It is about happiness and being content with life. Have you ever stepped back and thought about what makes you happy? What about being content? Are you content with you life? As Zack and I have journeyed through the last several years, I have thought about the questions of happiness and contentment quite a lot. Is happiness something that we “find” by the way that life unfolds for us, or is it a something that we choose to make happen for ourselves? Even when life is throwing us many difficult situations can we still be content or must everything be “perfect” for us to be content? These are interesting questions to think about and to try and answer for yourself. Some of my thinking on this subject has been flavored by the rhetoric and words of a conservative talk show radio host. (Wow – for a dyed in the wool liberal, I sure have been referring to conservative talk radio a lot in my recent posts!) Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated talk radio host who is on the Denver station KNUS daily. Each Friday he dedicates one hour of his show to talking about the concept of happiness. His basic premise is that we have the ability to choose to be happy. He goes on to say that we actually have a moral imperative to be happy. He also makes that point that if you are a parent to a child the moral imperative to be happy is even greater. Though I never quite thought of it in the terms that Dennis Prager puts, I have always had what I would call an “optimistic” viewpoint on life. There could always be a lot to be unhappy or sad about. There is the disappointment that a friend let you down. There is the general dissatisfaction with our jobs and careers. There is the feeling of “every day is the same – there’s no excitement in life”. We have tons of things that we could be down in the dumps about. But the point is why? Why should we be unhappy or dissatisfied with life? Why not try and see the good points in our lives? For every bad thing that we experience there is always something that could be worse – always. During the difficult time of Patty’s illness and death, there were times I had to work very hard to remind myself to be positive and happy. When Patty was first diagnosed and during the horrible period in January of 2008 I really struggled to maintain my sanity and to be happy. For several weeks I failed horribly. I was a wreck, I was a mess. The toughest period for me was in January of 2008 – I feel that was when Patty really died. That was when the person who she had been was forever lost to mental confusion and depression. For several days after the whole situation of January 18, I remember lying on my dogs’ bed in front of the fireplace doing nothing. It took all of my mental and emotional strength to put the agony in its place and regain “happiness”. Despite everything that was going on – I did. I was determined to be happy. I was determined not to let anything get in my way of being happy for myself, for Zack and for Patty. The key thing is that I chose to be happy at that time. I chose to make the decision that I had to live life and do the best job at it that I was capable of doing. My choice to be happy benefited me and every member of my family. I was able to put the hell behind me and move on. It allowed me to be there for Patty. It allowed me to be happy for Zack. Had I dwelled on the agony and hell, nothing good would have come of it. Much the same thing can be said about being content with life. We can choose to be content with life. I know many people go through life searching for a purpose. They need that purpose to be content. People search for the contentment and purpose in all kinds of different places. Lots of people turn to religion. Others turn to their careers. Many people find their contentment and purpose in their families. Still other’s seek their contentment in alcohol or drugs. But problems arise if these “foundations’ of contentment are taken away. What happens if you lose or job? What happens if you lose your spouse or you get divorced? What happens when you become disillusioned with your religion? You lose that sense of purpose and you lose your contentment with life. Maybe the answer to being content with life is really simple. Just be content to be alive. You don’t need a purpose for life as the really purpose of life is just life itself. Living is a purpose and every second we are alive is a victory. I tend to think about contentment from the stand point of animals. If an animal like a snake where able to speak what do you think it would say if asked whether or not it was content? What would it say its purpose in life is? The snake knows its purpose – to hunt, to eat and to live. As long as it fulfills that purpose it is content. It doesn’t need any other motivation in life other than just living. Sometimes we need to step back and realize that we are just animals – just like the snake. We do have a higher brain function, but organically that is all that separates us from the rest of the animals that inhabit the earth. So maybe we ought to look more simply at our sources of contentment and just be content to be alive! This kind of argument extends into so many areas of life. Besides the choices of being happy and content we make choices about doing the right thing, we make choices about whether we want to be in love, we make choices about whether we want to succeed or fail in many of our endeavors, we make choices about whether we want to be victimized by life or take life by the horns and do the things we want. There is a lot to ponder when you step back and realize that you have free choice to make so many decisions about your own life. It is all in your control. I know many of my words on this subject may be viewed as controversial, but having experienced all that I have experienced in the last several years I have come to realize these things to be the true. It’s the only way I know how to live. There is no point in being a sad depressed mess. So be happy. Be content. Life is good! Thanks and peace to all!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The House O'Barf

You can probably tell what is going on in my life based upon the title of today's post. Illness has struck our little old home on E. Otero Place. The issues began this morning shortly after Zack got up. He started complaining that his stomach hurt. Being Mr. Mom - I promptly ignored him! I thought it was a bit of drama because he didn't want to go to school. Or alternatively it was caused by the fact that he hadn't taken his Lexapro yesterday. Lexapro is the anti-anxiety drug that Zack has taken since Patty became ill. When you don't take it for a day you can get an upset stomach and headache. Being the firm believer in mind over your body, I told Zack he needed to deal with it and go to school. Admittedly that probably isn't the most sympathetic thing for a parent to say. As I always say - I am a great Dad but not the best Mom. Unfortunately, I have to be both the Dad and the Mom to this little boy. I can be a little lacking in the nuturing aspect. (Yes - I don't candy coat my life. I just put it all out there! How silly is that?) Needless to say it wasn't caused by the Lexapro or Zack not wanting to go to school - he was simply sick. He was a trooper and tried to make it through school. However, I ended up getting the call from the school nurse around 10:00AM. Zack is quite familar with the school nurse and she has developed a pretty good routine for dealing with him having stomach aches. But when she called me this morning she basically said everything she had tried wasn't working so he should probably go home. I picked him up and got him home. I still wasn't sure what was going on, but I knew if the nurse hadn't been able to get him over it, he probably was actually sick. During my lunch hour Nancy and I had to go out to H&R Block to sign our tax forms. Since Zack was home he had to come with us. No sooner had we arrived at the H&R Block office than Zack promptly puked all over the sidewalk in front of the office. Umm - not good! Turns out we have some kind of stomach bug going through the house. Nancy has been in the bathroom puking at least 3 or 4 times this evening. Though I haven't had any physical manifestations of the illness my stomach certainly has not felt good. I really thought I was going to puke tonight until I got a phone call and spent the next 2 hours talking - that distracted me from thinking about my stomach and now I feel pseudo-OK. Thankfully no one else from our Easter celebration yesterday has picked this up as I would assume Zack was probably contagious at that point. You just never know when the illness thing is going to strike. So that is our story for the day. Not much going on except for barfing! As always - thanks and peace to all!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Beautiful Day

What an Easter it has been! Despite the cold rainy weather today has turned out to be a wonderful and fun day. Easter has never really been a major holiday for me. As a child I did enjoy the Easter egg hunts and candy, but it was always overshadowed with the time that I was forced to spend in church. Even from an early age I was never particularly religious. I did what I was asked to do by my parents and my school teachers. I say school teachers as I attended Catholic school for grades 1 – 12. But I never really believed a whole lot in all the things in which I was asked to believe. Throughout grade school I sang in the boy’s choir at the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. As the seat of the Greensburg Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, Blessed Sacrament Cathedral was the venue for long hours of liturgical ceremony in the weeks leading up to Easter. On Holy Thursday and Good Friday the masses and observance would go on for hours. I distinctly remember my disdain of having to spend such long hours singing in church during the beautiful afternoons and evenings of spring. Therefore, I was never quite into Easter as it just seemed to mean long hours in church for me. As I got older and developed my own personal beliefs about spirituality, the importance of Easter became even less pronounced. It became a day like any other Sunday. Today my thoughts on Easter have changed some what. My views on spirituality continue to be the same; however I have come to see this as a holiday that is about love and joy. The day has become about family and friends – whether they gather at the table with us or whether they have journeyed on ahead of us. It is a day to find love in your heart and embrace all of those around you. To me the key point of this day is to get together with as many family and friends as possible and enjoy the time together with an enormous and wonderful brunch or dinner. It is a time to sit and talk and talk and talk, enjoying the company of all those who are with you while remember those who used to share the table with you. Our day didn’t start until rather late as I was very tired from preparing food last night and then hiding all the Easter eggs and presents that needed to be hid. I didn’t go to bed until 2:00AM last night. We got up around 8:30AM and once I got the dogs fed, Zack quickly embarked into his Easter egg hunt. Given the weather, I didn’t do the traditional Easter egg hunt outdoors. Instead it was spread all over our living room, dining room and entrance way to the house. Zack ran hither and fro as he searched this way and that for every Easter egg he could find. In the end he found them all and was quite amazed by his haul. (I never put the dyed hard boiled Easter eggs out or the dogs would eat them. Instead I have the plastic eggs that I fill with all kinds of treats and prizes.) We spent a good hour on the hunt and examining all the prizes that Zack got. He was quite excited for the small prizes he got – Moon Sand, Pixos and Pokemon cards and he wanted to play with them right way. It was Easter so of course I let him play. He also got a ton of new books from the Easter Bunny which is really good as he has read just about every book in this house. (Zack's Easter basket post carnage. My mom made this basket for Zack the last year that she was alive.) After the Easter egg hunt, I quickly had to get my egg soufflĂ© into the oven to cook as I expected it to take 2 hours and we were to be at Tim and Celinde’s by 11:30AM. The soufflĂ© was still cooking when we left the house, so I had to come back and get it around Noon.
(My egg souffle - it didn't even fall!)
We spent pretty much the entire day at Tim and Celinde’s house with lots of other friends. The kids were wild and crazy as they were pumped full of sugar from all their Easter treats. The adults worked hard to ignore the rough housing, playing and the inevitable arguing that took place. We shared a great brunch together and talked a lot. It was really good to spend the time in the company of those who we care about. It’s been a couple of years since we have been able to celebrate like this so it felt especially good to feel a sense of normalcy return. I will admit – I ate a ton! I am still down about 8 pounds from my medical adventure in March but I am sure I gained a good bit of it back today with the quantity of food I consumed. Everybody just brought such good dishes and Tim and Celinde did a wonderful job coordinating and preparing everything as usual. (My pictures that I have posted for today's entry aren't that great. I forgot to take my camera and iPhone to Tim and Celinde's so I didn't capture any of the brunch - which stinks.) Zack and I are now home and taking some time to relax. The Z-man is engrossed in one of his new books – The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey and I am writing. We are both happy and content from a fun and wonderful day.
(Zack reading the Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey.)
As this Easter Sunday comes to an end, I hope everyone has had a wonderful day and you have all found peace, love and contentment within yourselves on this special day. Be happy to be alive. Be happy for those around you. Be happy for all the love and contentment in your life. Just be happy.
PS - Today I have also updated the Caringbridge site at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/pattykromer .

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter!

Tonight's post will be short as there is much I have to do yet this evening and I am very tired.
Our day has been really good! It started around 7:00AM when we got out of bed. As soon as we got out of bed I immediately started work on the cleaning project. I made some pretty significant progress on the pantry in the kitchen and I am almost done with it.
Around 9:30AM I headed out to run errands that I needed to accomplish for Easter. I headed to the bank and got a bunch of $2 bills so that I can put them in eggs for Zack as part of our Easter Egg hunt for Sunday morning. After that I had a bunch of other stops - Target, Safeway, Barnes & Noble, and Home Depot.
This afternoon I continued my work in the kitchen. Around 3:00PM Zack and I headed out to buy a piece of furniture that I have been contemplating for a long time. We purchased a large leather coffee table for our family room. In some ways it is potentially a disposal piece of furniture as I don't know how it will fit into the overall re-designed family room that we will build out in 2010, but it is really something that we need now.
After that we dyed a bunch of eggs that I had boiled earlier this afternoon. Zack came up with some great color schemes and they look really good.
(Zack's bunch of dyed eggs.)
This evening we headed out to the ESPN Zone in downtown Denver. We haven't been there in about 2 or 3 months and I just wanted to get out and have some fun. Surprisingly the place wasn't very busy at all! I was amazed at how empty it was given that the Colorado Rockies were playing at Coors Field and the Colorado Mammoth were playing at the Pepsi center. We had a good dinner and we also had a lot of fun playing games. For me I found out that their Lemon Drop Martini is an absolutely wonderful tasting drink. However I was responsible and limited my alcohol consumption. (We took the light rail so I didn't have to worry about driving.)
(Zack playing his heart out at the ESPN Zone in Downtown Denver.)
The ride home on the light rail was really good as Zack and I sat there listening to music from my iPhone. We both had one of the ear pieces in one of our ears. Zack was all cuddled up to me on the seat. It was great. It was one of those parent/child things that just doesn't get any better.
Once we arrived home I quickly got to work on the my Egg Strada Souffle that I am taking to tomorrow's brunch. Let me tell you, it has got to be one of the richest dishes that I have ever made!
That is our story for the day. I am trying to get everything finished up in terms of hiding the eggs and treats for Zack. I have to get him to bed as it is pretty late.
I will definitely write a lot more tomorrow! But for now - we hope everyone has a wonderful Easter!
Thanks and peace to all!

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Good Good Friday!

Good Friday and the Easter have arrived. I don’t think there is a clearer sign that spring is here! The weather in Colorado is still deciding whether or not it is to be spring or winter. Thursday was gray, cloudy and cool and this morning started in the same way. However, this afternoon things began to turn around and the sun made a return to the skies. There was still a lot of hazy in the air, but with any luck this will clear and we will have a beautiful Easter weekend. It has been a good day for Zack and me. The day started very early as I had an appointment to donate platelets and plasma at Bonfils. I got Zack to school very early and then headed to Bonfils’ Highlands Ranch center to do my donation. I have gotten used to spending 2 hours in the chair while they suck out my blood and separate out the platelets and plasma. This morning my time in the chair was only 1 hour as my platelet count was lower than normal – 201,000. (This is still a great number as the typically your platelets run 150,000 – 400,000. However my platelet count is often around 270,000.) Your platelet count can vary from day-to-day depending upon many different factors. The life span of a platelet is only 5 days, so your body replaces all the platelets in your body every 5 days – therefore there is a lot of variability in your day-to-day platelet count. It felt good to be at Bonfils this morning as the place was very busy. I don’t know that I have seen the place that busy in a long time. I guess a lot of people had the day off from work and decided to do a good deed and donate blood. The importance of blood donation is just so huge. The need for blood and blood products never ceases. Just because it is a holiday or the weather is bad, people in the hospital still need to get blood and blood products to live. So as I always keep asking everyone who reads this blog – go and be a blood donor. You are saving someone’s life. You never know it could end up being some one you love or care about who you save. After my platelet donation I had a really good phone call which set the tone for the rest of the day. During my lunch hour I took Nancy to Tony’s Meats (a specialty food store on Dry Creek) so that she could buy some things that she wanted to take to our Easter brunch. Our yearly Easter brunch is going to be at Tim and Celinde’s this year. I had wanted to do it at my house, but since Celinde is feeling under the weather with her chemo, she really wanted to host it. So, they will host the big get together on Sunday. After Tony’s I dropped Nancy off at home and then took my car to The Suds Factory to have it detailed. Zack has such a tendency to be so messy in the car that I could no longer stand it. The inside of the car was scrubbed and completely cleaned. It feels like I have a new car! I meant to take a picture of the interior and post it here – but it got dark before I could do so. After an exhausting afternoon of work, I went to pick Zack up from school and boy was he in a happy mood! They had a special presentation at school today about science. (It was kind of like a Bill Nye the Science Guy presentation.) Zack was so psyched up about it. In one part of the demonstration they learned how to make soda pop “bombs/geysers” with a bottle of soda and a menthos. I am sure there are going to be a lot of homes in Willow Creek getting covered in spraying soda tonight! We did the experiement twice, but we did it in the middle of our cul-de-sac. We got some pretty big geysers going. I filmed it so I might post it to Youtube over the weekend. Zack had his normal psychologist appointment today. The really neat thing is that Dr. Jane and I are beginning to talk about seriously cutting back on Zack’s appointments. She feels that he has made so much progress and is returning to his normal self. Over the summer we are planning to cut the appointments down to one or two the entire summer. We’ll reevaluate whether or not we need them again at the beginning of the school year. Additionally, I will be working with his other doctor to start the process of weaning him off the Lexapro. Wow is all I can say. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see Zack making this kind of progress. Though tomorrow is supposed to be a nice day I have decided that we are going to pass on hiking this weekend. Instead tomorrow is going to be a day filled with working around the house. For once and all I want to make some very serious progress on the house. It is time. I need to clear out a lot of Patty’s stuff and decided what to do with it. It is just time for us to get that done! I still have one little item to clear away in regard to my taxes. I really need to get that done this weekend so I can get them filed and completed. I’ll ask the question – are all of you done with your taxes? Only 5 more days until they are due! On a totally different note, I heard something on the radio yesterday that I found interesting. I like to listen to conservation talk radio shows to get my blood pressure going. However, there are a couple of shows which are truly informative on various subjects. In particular Hugh Hewitt often covers some pretty interesting topics. Yesterday much of his show was dedicated to the whole concept of “new media” – particularly blogging, Twitter and Facebook. There were some interesting facts discussed about “getting yourself out there”. The main lesson that I took away from the whole discussion is that you need to be an active participant in this “new media”. If you are on Facebook or Twitter – you should be active. Don’t just sit there and never post a status – engage people and get involved with what they are saying and doing. I know this little blog is just one of my outlets to be involved in it all. I really enjoy reading the e-mails that I get and the comments that are left behind. It is also so neat to see hit counter go up each day. So get involved – be part of it. Join Facebook, join Twitter, write a blog! One other side note – for any trying to get in touch with me, my home phone is not working and Qwest hasn’t gotten out here to fix it yet. So if anyone has been trying to get in touch with us – only my cell phone is going to do it at this point. Thank goodness I have a broadband card in my laptop or I would have no Internet access as my high-speed Internet access is DSL and runs on the phone line. God – what would Mr. Internet (me) do without access to the net? Go insane! Well – I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and enjoys Easter. Thanks and peace to all!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Pardon the Interruption - But it's Just Zack

Tonight I am taking a break. I am a bit on the tired side as my day has been long and brutal. My desire to write is at a minimum tonight. I have been promising Zack that I would highlight some of his writing and art work on the blog - so that is exactly what I am going to do tonight.
The following essay was written by Zack as one of his book reports for the year. You can get an idea of how his writing skills are beginning to mature. The pictures I have place through his essay are pictures that he drew several years ago when he was in an after school art program called art parts. Anyway - enjoy the writing and art work of the Z-man!
The book report was written for a mystery book - of which I forget the title. It was supposed to be written in the format of a newpaper article.
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Rick and Kenny Van Huler were investigating the strange disappearance of their mom. She disappeared shortly after other troubling events occurred. Rick commented on his mom’s disappearance. “I know trouble comes in three’s. First our Pa had a load of TV’s stolen from his truck. Then Pa and Ma had an argument and Pa left. Then it happened – Ma vanished!” Rick is currently in sixth grade here in our town. His brother Kenny is just a bit younger and attends the same school as Rick. When their mother vanished both Rick and Kenny went to live with their great-uncle Roger, who lives near Wonderland, our town’s abandoned amusement park. Seeking entertainment Rick and Kenny would frequently sneak into Wonderland. In Wonderland they had fun on the abandoned rides. Rick and Kenny could forget their troubles while they played.
Their playtime in Wonderland allowed Rick and Kenny to solve the problem of their mom’s disappearance. One day they noticed a car that matched the description of the car their mom was last seen near. They realized that their mom’s kidnappers were using Wonderland as a hide out! Rick and Kenny found themselves being chased by the kidnapper’s. A wild chase took place and the police were called and they caught the kidnappers!
Their mom had been kidnapped because she had incriminating evidence about the theft of the TV’s from their father’s truck. After their mom was rescued their father returned and life has returned to normal for Rick and Kenny.
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Sorry for the brief post tonight - but I am just dragging. I am going to sit here on the couch with the fireplace burning and just relax and enjoy some TV until I fall asleep.
Thanks and peace to all!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Bit of Social Commentary

Those of you who know me personally know I can be pretty vocal about my opinions. Despite that I have pretty much kept my opinions about the activities of the day out of this blog. I did feel the need to comment on something that has been going on recently. That is – all of these large scale shootings that have been taking place all over the country. Years ago it seemed that things like this didn’t happen that often. Now they seem to happen everyday. I read a fair number of news websites each day – CNN, MSNBC, US Today, etc. Each time I have read one of these sites in the last 2 weeks or so, there has been some mass shooting event reported. Has the country gotten that insane? Has the situation with the economy driven people to murder? Do we as a country care? It seems that we have lost touch with reality and that no one even seems to care about this carnage. We are approaching the 10 year anniversary of the Columbine massacre. Given that I live in Colorado about 12 miles from Columbine, I distinctly remember that day and all the following national news coverage that occurred. Nowadays these mass shootings don’t even seem to garner that much news coverage. Have we lost all sense of rationality? Why are we as a nation, not doing something to stop this stupidity. I saw in one news report that in the last two weeks 54 people had been killed in these mass shootings. Imagine if a salmonella outbreak caused 54 deaths. Imagine if an airplane with 54 people crashed. Think of the investigation that would take place to find out what caused the salmonella outbreak or the plane crash. Once the cause was identified all kinds of actions would be taken to prevent it from happening again. Why are we not doing the same thing about this kind of stupid, reckless gun violence? Last evening I had a lengthy conversation with a friend about this whole situation. The good thing is we were both in agreement and were utterly disgusted by the situation. But if the two of us are feeling this way, aren’t the majority of the people in this country also feeling the same way?
Here's the latest one I read today. A woman went with her son to a shooting range. There were both firing guns and everything appeared to be fine. For some reason the woman then came up behind her son and blew his head off. She then killed herself. What the hell is that? Why was that story buried way far down on the link list on MSNBC? Why isn't there a sense of outrage that a parent used a gun to kill their own child? I just don't get it. Yet if anyone were to advocate taking even minor actions to do something to control violence like this (i.e. make it harder for people to get guns, etc) there would a major outcry against the attempt. And so the carnage will continue. Are we just too stupid of a nation to resolve problems like this? Sorry for the opinionated post – but it is something that I just hate to see. I have nothing against guns per say, but I just think that this stupidity has to stop. It is now time for me to exit the political soapbox. Today has been a pretty good day as I feel like I am getting back on top of the situation at work. I have been working my butt off and feel like I have made up for the week lost to vacation. Additionally, our cleaning ladies came today – it feels so GREAT to have a clean house. Kathy and Kelly hadn’t been at our house in 4 weeks because of the blizzard to 2 weeks ago. So they had a lot to clean – but boy did it feel good to get things cleaned up! Zack had a good day of school today and had Sylvan this afternoon. So we have been busy. Our evening has been good and I am now just doing some writing now that my little man has headed to bed. We are looking forward to the weekend and holiday. I am hoping the weather will be good enough on Saturday that we can get out for a hike. It has been several weeks since we have gotten out for a hike – other than our Grand Canyon hike. So I am definitely chomping at the bit to get out and do some serious hiking. Well – we hope everyone had a great day. Thanks and peace to all!