Saturday, August 27, 2011

Did that Really Happen?? Yeah - I Just Put in an Offer on a New House!

When you wake up in the morning you usually have a pretty good idea of what you are going to do for the day.  Rarely do events totally and completely surprise you and take you to a place that you never suspected.  When I woke up this morning I hadn't the slightest clue where today was going to take me.

First off, I woke up in a horrible mood.  Events of yesterday - which I am not going to go into details about left me in an extremely foul mood.  After waking around 8:00AM I decided that the day wasn't worth it and I hightailed it back to bed around 10:30AM.  My goal was to sleep as much of the day way as was humanly possible.  Unfortunately my slumber was interrupted around 11:00AM by a call from my real estate agent.  Back in the late winter/early spring of 2011, when I had been heavily involved with Shelly, I had commissioned my real estate agent to show me pretty much everything that came on the market so that we could buy a new house.  Later after Shelly left the scene I changed my qualifications to Roberta (my real estate agent) and asked only to see houses that were on one of the greenbelts, had a walk out basement and were thorough renovated throughout.

Prior to today, there had only been one house that met these qualifications and I wasn't too enamored with it.  Roberta's call at 11:00AM this morning sparked my interest and I decided it was the pick me up that I needed to pull myself out of my foul mood.  Regardless of whether or not this house would work for me I decide it was a reason to get out of bed and do something with my day.

First I checked the house out on the Internet and I was blown away - it was gorgeous.  My interest was definitely piqued at this point.  Zack and I had a bunch of errands to do as we were totally out of dog food and a bunch of other staples.  As we left the neighborhood to run these errands I saw that there was an open house that was being hosted by the agent selling the house that I was interested in.  Of course it WAS the house that I was interested in so Zack and I just had to go in and explore.  It was everything I wanted!!  Zack was so excited by the thought of living in this house.  I phoned Roberta back and told her I was interested in the house and would most likely make an offer.

The rest of the afternoon seemed to crawl by.  Finally the time arrived when I was to meet Roberta at the house.  We meet up and walked the house from one end to another.  I explained all the things I like to Roberta and she explained what it meant in terms of price.  At the end of our 20 minutes in the house I had concluded I was going to make an offer on this house.

After we were finished looking at the house we headed to Roberta's office and came up with a contract.  I wrote the check for the earnest money and I signed the contract.  I should know by 4:00PM Sunday whether or not this house will be mine.  If this house is to be mine there are some key decision to be made.  Such as - what do I do with my current house?  What does Nancy do - as there is no first floor bedroom.  All-in-all I am quite excited by the turn of events.  Had anyone told me 24 hours ago that I would be putting a bid out for a new house - I would have told them they were full of crap.  But here I am...  Looking forward to acquiring a new house and moving in a different direction in life.

Thanks and peace to all!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A New School Year!

It has been a while since a new post has been added to the blog.  It is time for me to get busy and do some writing!

Monday marked Zack’s first day of his 7th grade year in school!  It was amazing to watch him head out the door and walk to the bus stop.  Gone were the anxieties from past years.  Gone too was the trepidation of going to school.  Instead there was hopefulness for the school year and a desire to do well and achieve good grades.  Zack left me with a positive feeling and hope that he has finally turned the corner in regard to his anxiety.  He has made me very proud of how much he has achieved in overcoming his anxiety and starting to take ownership of his own life.  I love my son dearly and all I can say is that I am so very proud of him!
The last 2 summers have been very important times for Zack.  He has really grown and started to feel confident in his abilities to manage his own life.  Don’t get me wrong there are still plenty of anxiety related issues that he needs to work through.  However, he has really moved beyond the maturity level of a child into that of a teenager.  He is thirteen now and is really starting to adapt to how he should behave as a teenager.  In one way it is scary as he is starting to take an interest in girls – gulp!!!   Since Zack is an only child, this is the first time in my life that I have had to deal with a teenager and their blossoming interest in the opposite sex!
(Zack on the way to the bus stop for his first day of school.)

(Zack wanted to show off his new backpack in this photo.)

Work continues around the house on all the projects that have been in flight since early this summer.  The entertainment center in the basement is almost complete.  My brother has worked hard and all the cabinets have been installed and now the finishing carpentry and the placement of a counter top is all that needs to take place.  It will be quite exciting to purchase a new television and get the satellite system installed. Though it may be a little bit before that happens as the selection of the TV to go into this space may take a little while!  Regardless it is certain to be installed before the football season is too far underway.  So we will get to watch some of the Pittsburgh Steeler games on a new big screen TV.  Of course Zack is very excited to get it up and running as he is looking forward to playing his video games on a giant sized TV.  You can only imagine how excited he is going to be to play “Smash Bros.” or “Mario Cart” on that television for the first time.
 (The beginnings of the new entertainment center in the basement.)

Other than this, there hasn’t been too much going on.  God – I sound so boring.  But I guess life for me has become relatively boring at this point.  The end of August and the month of September are always a time of transition as you move from the fun of summer into the humdrum existence of school and colder months.  (I can tell I am in somewhat of a crappy mood as I had an invitation to attend an event at the Colorado School of Medicine for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society tonight and I didn’t quite get there.)
Truth be told, we are far from the colder months at this time.  The temperature for the last two weeks has been extreme with Denver tying a record high the last two days in a row. 
In addition to the extreme heat we have had another strange event in Colorado this week.  On Monday evening at 11:42PM the largest earthquake Colorado has had in 40 years occurred.  It was a 5.3 magnitude earthquake with the epicenter 9 miles to the south of the small town of Trinidad.  Though the epicenter was located about 160 miles south of here, we still managed to feel it.  I was sitting on the couch watching television when I noticed a slight shaking of the couch.  It wasn’t anything too drastic at all, but it was definitely noticeable.  (I have been through several more significant earthquakes before including several 5.x earthquakes in California and a 6.8 magnitude quake in Seattle in 2001.  I was in Portland, Oregon during that earthquake.  Even though it was over 200 miles from the epicenter it did enough shaking to scare the crap of me.)  So it has been a weird week all around in terms of earthquakes and extreme temperatures.
That is about it for the evening.  I hope everyone is having a great week so far!
Thanks and peace to all!

P.S. There is much to be written in the coming days.  I have purposely not written much recently because all that has been happening.  There are many deep and interesting stories that must be poured out into this blog.  Stay tuned.....

Friday, August 12, 2011

Chocolate Vodka!

 A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of tasting chocolate vodka for the first time.  You might think that a drink of that type sounds pretty darn nasty, but in reality it is one of the best tasting drinks that has ever been invented.  Imagine the rich, supple taste of chocolate mixed with the finest, smoothest vodkas - and you have Godiva's Chocolate Vodka.  Whoever invented this drink really needs to be taken out into the middle of a really big field and beaten with the biggest and hardest sticks you can imagine.  Good god - they have invented a drink that is going to turn the world into a bunch of lushes!!!

Yet despite that thought it is a drink to set your mind free.  You can drink and drink without having to gag your drinks down.  It kind of tastes a little like an adult favored Nestle Quik.  Yeah - it is that good.  If you are strong enough do resist the urge to go out and buy this drink as you will be hooked.  In that way it is a little like crack cocaine.  One drink and you are hooked.

All joking aside it is a marvelous tasting drink and one that was not expected to produce such a sense of flavor and delight in my mouth.  On a trip to the liquor store this afternoon I took the plunge and purchased a bottle.  It now sits getting ever colder in my freezer.  When it has reached the proper temperature it will pour just like the chocolate syrup that it tastes like!

The weekend has at last arrived and I am extremely grateful for that.  It seems that just about every waking moment ends up consumed with some type of work during the work week.  Maybe I grew to used to vacation and going back to work has left me with a heavy heart.  The weekend will be very good for us as I hope to finish off much of the work in my basement as we are getting ready to install our entertainment center and the new flat screen TV.  I really can't wait until that work is done!!  It will make viewing of the upcoming NFL season that much more intense.

Today Zack completed his registration for 7th grade!  Dear god - it is hard to believe that Zack is entering 7th grade. Every parent must feel this emotion as they see their children grow up, but where has the time gone?  What has happened to the last 7 years of my son's life as he has gone from kindergarten to 7th grade?  It is unbelievable to think that in just 2 short years Zack will be getting ready to enter high school!  Where or where has the time gone?

Tomorrow I will resume the narrative of our vacation.  I have a ton of pictures to share and I hope to make a video of all that we experienced.  Until then - I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Harry Potter v7.2

Taking a break today from the details of the wonderful trip we had to Yellowstone.  The flow of the vacation has been interrupted by an event from this evening - we went to see Harry Potter 7.2.  It wasn't our plan to go see the movie, it was suggested by my brother and sister-in-law.  So Zack and I, along with Tim, Celinde and Cole went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at The Meadows 12 this evening.

Seeing this movie was very bittersweet to me.  Harry Potter had been one of Patty's favorite things in life.  She must have read the books (with the exception of number 7) at least 20 times.  She never had the opportunity to read number 7 because by the time it came out her eyesight had deteriorated to the point that she really couldn't read.  Numerous attempts were made to read the book to her - even playing it for her on CD, but she never could really get into it.  Before she died, I did tell her the end of the story, but I think by that time she was no longer aware of what was going on.

As I watched the movie tonight it brought a lot of feelings of mine into perspective.  It made me realize that perhaps there isn't that much of a future for me.  My future was always aligned with Patty's and now that she has been gone for 3 years I am starting to realize that starting a new future isn't that easy.  Perhaps we only get one real chance at a good future with a partner and that is it.  My chance was with Patty not with anyone else and so it is gone now.

I haven't let on to a lot of this, but there has been a ton of things happening in my personal life.  However they haven't turned out in a positive way and so for most nights I find myself alone in my office working until late hours of the night.  Yes - I do have my bottle of wine most nights that keeps things liveable, but nothing seems to occur of recent that connects me with people.  Instead most activities seem to drive me away from people - especially the people who I thought cared about me.

All I can do at this point is give a big sigh and say "Oh well".  Harry Potter in the end turned out OK though he went through a lot of pain - maybe the same can be said for me.  I have strong doubts about that, but it is best to keep a stiff upper lip and move through life as best as you can.

On top of all that there is a very good chance that foreign travel is once again in my future.  My boss has lined up a number of overseas projects that she wishes me for to take part in.  The first is in Brazil and work is currently underway for me to get my Brazilian work visa.  This is obviously not the most happy of events for me, but sometimes you have to do what the job requires.

Sometimes life changes in ways that you never expect and you realize that life will never be the same again.  It is surely one of those times for me!

We hope everyone is having a great week so far and is looking forward to the weekend.  I know I am!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Vacation Day 3 (July 31) - Sturgis and Deadwood, SD; Devils Tower and the Big Horn Range

The Internet connection from West Yellowstone is extremely poor.  As a result, instead of being able to blog each day, I got very frustrated with the situation on Monday and haven’t blogged at all!  Oh well – but instead of trying to blog everything all at once I have decided I will still write an entry for each day and then just post them as individual blog entries.

On Sunday we took the drive of all drives!  When I got up that morning I used my Garmin GPS to estimate the time it would take us to get from Rapid City, SD to West Yellowstone, MT.  It came up with what I thought was an utterly absurd answer so I just ignored it.  Unfortunately, even though the GPS estimates that all non-Interstate roads have speed limits of 35 MPH, the time frame it estimated for us to get from Rapid City to West Yellowstone wasn’t too far off the mark.  It came to be not too far off the mark because we stopped at just about ever single point of interest we saw!

The first stop was in Sturgis, SD.  Though the motorcycle rally doesn’t start until August 8th there was still a lot of action in that tiny little town.  So we had to investigate it!  I can imagine the place is out of control during bike week and someday I plan to be there for it.  (Not that I ride a motorcycle – but just to see it and experience it.)

You could tell that they were getting ready for the big Bike Week which starts on August 8th.  The streets were already lined by barricades and orange cones.  Additionally the vendor stands were up and many vendors were already setting up there equipment.  Even if you aren’t a motorcycle rider, attending Bike Week must be an exciting event.  Of course you might look a little out of place showing up in your car, regardless of that I still want to come here during a Bike Week sometime to experience it!

From Sturgis we headed on to Deadwood, SD.  For those of you who have HBO, the television series Deadwood is based upon the life and times of that town.  It has a definite gun slinger, 1880’s type of past and that past is alive and well today!  We walked all the streets of the old down town and explored some of the more famous buildings before heading out of town and west on I-90.

(Famous Hotel in Deadwood)

 (Deadwood Street Scene)

Our next stop was Devil’s Tower.  We wound through some very remote territory to finally reach Devil’s Tower.  It rises from the valley floor in an unearthly presence.  It remind me of Mount Doom from the Lord of the Ring’s series in that it is so imposing over the rest of the landscape. 

The temperature at Devil’s Tower was pretty hot as we arrived in the early afternoon.  The temperature reading on the car’s thermometer was 96 degrees.  Conning Zack into getting out of the cool air conditioned car was somewhat like pulling teeth, but eventually he decided to join me for a walk to the base of the tower.  As you get closer to the tower, the geology of it becomes even more impressive.  The tower is made up of these columns of stone that were some how fused together.  Even now geologists are not exactly certain how this monolith was created. 

Unfortunately, after our walk to the base of the tower Zack decided to return to his car and since it was his birthday I let him go without demanding that he stay.  My goal was to walk the entire way around the tower along the Tower Loop trail.  As I moved around the tower I took pictures of it from every different angle.  The beauty of this trail is that as you move further from the trailhead, it becomes less and less populated.  Everyone seems to stay close to the parking lots and the popular viewpoints.  They really don’t know what they are missing as the best views of the tower are far away from the parking lots.  It is a shame most visitors to our National Parks don’t go far beyond the viewpoints and parking lots as they are missing some of the most beautiful terrain the parks have to offer.

Throughout the walk around the tower, the heat made the air seem to shimmer.  The forest grew quieter and quieter as the trailhead was left behind.  Sweat streamed down my back in great quantities but the walk through the heat was worth it.  The views of the tower were magnificent!

(One of the many different views of Devil Tower)

 (Another view of the tower)

(The tower through the forest)

 (Zack in front of Devil's Tower)

Returning to the car, Zack was ready for us to take off so we could finally get to the destination he most desired – Yellowstone.  We wound our way through the rough and broken landscape before we finally reached I-90 again.  Getting on I-90 the journey took us further and further west through the unbelievable scenery of Northern Wyoming.  Finally we exited the Interstate near Sheridan and began a climb through the Bighorn Mountains.  The route we followed was US Highway 14 and shortly after we left I-90 the road began to very steep and steady climb into the Big Horns.

We were both awestruck by the beauty we found in the Big Horns.  Stretches of deep and dark pine forest would alternate with wide open mountain meadows.  In many cases the road went through open range land for both cattle and sheep.  In several cases we had to stop and wait for a slow moving cow to cross the road. 
 (View from high in the Big Horn Range)
 (Me at a look out in the Big Horn Range)

 (A beautiful lake deep within the Big Horn Range)

Exiting the Big Horns via Highway 14 is down through a deep and winding gorge called Shell Canyon.  The canyon is named for one of the early pioneers who settled the area and began the implementation of a vast irrigation system.  About half down the canyon you come across a magnificent waterfall called Shell Falls.  Zack and I stopped there and explored the falls.  The falls were beautiful and we arrived as the color of the harsh mid-day sun was fading and giving way to sunset.  It could not have been a more idyllic site!

 (Shell Falls in Shell Canyon on the way out of the Big Horn Range)

While we were there a large extended family of Mennonites stopped and also explored the falls.  It was interesting to observe this large group of people dressed in clothing and mannerism reminiscent of the turn of the 20th Century.  Despite the look they were outfitted with the last cells and digital cameras – it was all very interesting.

After Shell Falls we were pretty much done with our stops for the day.  However we just had to pull over in Greybull, Wyoming when we observed a large collection of aircraft slowly rusting near the Greybull airport.  From the looks of things they are trying to start an aircraft museum there.  Reading on the Internet there is a mention of an airport of Aerial Fire Fighting at Greybull.  It was interesting to say the least.

The rest of the drive became somewhat of a slog.  We reached Cody, Wyoming and fueled up before entering Yellowstone.  Our hotel was in West Yellowstone, Montana which meant we had to drive the whole way across the park from East to West.  We entered the park at the east entrance, drove over Sylvan Pass, circled the northern portion of Yellowstone Lake and then joined the Grand Loop Road at Fishing Bridge.  From there we traveled the Grand Loop to Canyon Village and then onto Norris Junction before finally coming to Madison Junction and leaving the park via the West Entrance.  Unfortunately for most of the drive along this route it was very dark so we were unable to see a lot except for steam rising from some of the hydrothermal features.

We finally arrived in West Yellowstone around 11:30PM and go checked into our hotel.  It had been a very long day but it was filled with lots of adventure and excitement!  We learned a lot about our country that day as we saw scenery and beautiful sights we had never seen before.  The interesting things is, the more you see of the United States the more you realize there is so much to see!

Tomorrow with any luck I will post an update concerning at least 1 or 2 of our days in Yellowstone and all the adventure that we found there!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.