Saturday, February 28, 2009

Be the Big Dog and the Circle of Life

Oh--the size and speed difference. I love it when the big dog comes to play. I get a chance to see what Makayla may grow in to. Ben is Jeremy's Keeshond--and he is both beautiful and well mannered.

It is always a lot of fun to see the dogs play together. And they do play.

They play hard and fast and constantly. I love seeing how tired Makayla is from playing with Ben. I'm sure Ben is a tired puppy too--after playing so hard with Makayla.

A--the joys of puppy hood. Our neighbor noticed how big Makayla is getting and remarked that she won't be a puppy much longer. I don't know though. I mean--I think I'm still a youngster and I'm sure it is the same for dogs. They don't even know they are getting older. One day, Makayla will be the big dog for some young pup--just like people become grandparents for young ones.

And maybe she'll think--wasn't it only yesterday I was chasing the big dog? And now I'm it.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Man's Best Friend: A New Chainsaw!

Gotcha! Thought I was going to rant about the cutest dog in the world again didn't ya!

Nope--today it is about the power of a chainsaw to remove felled trees from the yard. We had a huge walnut tree topple during a wind storm last June, which I was only able to just clear off the property but the bulk of the huge tree was still creating havoc in the forest behind the house. And then, two weeks ago, a dead tulip poplar fell into the yard.

Now I had a small, electric chain saw suitable for heavy pruning--but it was no match for the bulk of the walnut now the tulip poplar. So--as with any task, I needed the right tool for the job.
Enter, my new Homelite 20" Bar Chainsaw straight from Home Depot.
It cleared the downed tulip poplar in no time and is tearing into the felled walnut tree as well. Pre-Springtime and early-Spring is the best time to work in our woods because the low green bushes are not obscuring visibility and the job goes really fast.

Chris and I have been working since we moved into the house to clean up the forested area behind the house--and the windstorm last year which felled the walnut tree really dealt us a set back. Hopefully, we are back on track to clean the mess up and beautify the area.

The reviews on the saw are mixed--but mine works great. So far. And the yard really looks very nice and it was easy to do. My saw has started easily and run well--through the first tank of gas. We'll see how it goes, but so far so good and I'm looking forward to using it even more.

As you can see--there is a lot more work to do to get the area back into shape. And tools and heavy equipment are going to be required. I even think the chipper queen of Howard County may get a chance to do her stuff some Saturday afternoon not too far off!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Watching the Pens on Sunday

Well, it is probably pretty obvious that we are both Pittsburgh Penguins hockey fans.

What could be better than a Sunday afternoon together watching hockey? Maybe watching baseball at Camden Yards--but probably nothing else.

The other thing here is that we were watching the game on our formerly small HDTV. Shortly after the game (a loss to the Capitals) and also following the loss by Syracuse to Villanova, I succumbed to Chris' and Jeremy's suggestions that the screen was too small and we went to our favorite electronics boutique: a/k/a Best Buy, and upgraded the screen size. The event precipitating this was confusion over the score of the basketball game due to the incredibly small size of the numbers in on the screen.

But it was a great Sunday with Jeremy and I really enjoyed it.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Friends: A Boy and a Dog

Ethan and Makayla--who would have thought it?

But an overnight with Gramma brings out the best of everyone and this was one of the funniest. Ethan dragging Makayla firmly clutching her snake across the floor. And both of them were having a great time.

Who knew that a small dog and a small boy could be such good playmates.

Up until Saturday, Ethan's total interaction with Makayla was to say, "NO" whenever she got near him. I admit--she is a bit toothy as a puppy. I should know, I have puppy tooth marks everywhere as I am training her "no teeth!"

The funny part is that Makayla wanted Ethan to pull her across the floor. They did this action on multiple occasions and Makayla was always asking for more.

And so did Ethan.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

You want me to do What?

Training can be a lot of fun. Except when you get a look like this.

Makayla looks as if she is saying--"That is all well and good for you, but remember, I'm a puppy!"

I look at her eyes and just smile. It has been so long since we've had a puppy that I forgot how much fun and work they are. But she makes me smile a lot with her boundless enthusiasm for life.

And she is getting so big. Soon the puppy will be but a memory.

But she is such a good dog and a quick learner. I hope I have the patience and perseverance to teach her to become the dog I want.
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Stuhlmuller Vineyards Estate Zinfandel 2005

A great wine--Stuhlmuller Vineyards Estate Zinfandel 2005 with a fabulous bouquet, a deep inviting color and a smooth finish which lingers. The wine is a blend of Zinfandel (88%) and Petite Sirah (12%).

The vintner describes the wine as follows: Displaying a beautiful dark ruby color with purple hues, this Zinfandel overflows with aromas of earthy red berry, raspberry and sweet candied strawberry. On the palate, this medium-weight wine is loaded with red fruit and floral flavors, while possessing a natural acidity that translates to a long, spicy finish.

I found this to be accurate. I have always enjoyed Zinfandel's for their spicy flavors and long finish. And this wine did not disappoint.

RECOMMENDATION: A solid wine for a special occasion--at about $24 per bottle--probably not to be used as a table wine, but one that should be on the table for a special dinner.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Day at the B&O Museum

It is one of those gems that lie right under our noses. Especially for those of us who love to ride the rails and dream of life the way it used to be.
The gem is the B&O Railroad Museum right down in Baltimore. And on Saturday we vewntured there with Ethan to enjoy a day from the past.
We crawled up into the cupola of a caboose and enjoyed the view.
We marveled at the sheer size of the trains as we stood in front of them. Drive wheels of 80 inches the sign said--that is almost 7 feet tall and solid steel.
And top speeds of over 100 mph.
The lure of the rails and of days gone by. Realizing that the history of railroading began right here in Baltimore in 1828 with the first track opening in 1830.

The engines and the cars are marvelous sites.

I was fascinated that those huge machines ran without the use of all the fancy electronic gadgets that we have today. Totally mechanical. Water to make steam and coal.
The museum is fantastic. This was my first visit since the collapse of the roof a few years ago. They have really upgraded the displays and the fun.

I highly recommend this as a great place to spend the day.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Makayla in the Snow and Palm Trees on the Corner

Makayla is getting so big. This picture was taken last month in the snow--but I noticed how much bigger she has gotten the other night--now all I need to do is get a newer picture of her.
My, how the time does fly. Less than two months ago on Christmas Day she was a really little puppy lying in my lap, scared and totally disoriented. Now? She is the terror of the house!
I also noted that after my rant yesterday about the cold that Winter decided to show me real cold and delivered some snow today.
Thanks. I guess that will teach me to complaining about one of the three things that we can't do anything about: Death, Taxes, or the Weather.
And don't get me going about the taxes.
I'm glad the government has so much money to give away. I looked at the number the other day. You know, if they just gave every American $200,000 and said get out of debt and go spend it--I bet the economy would turn around real quick. And it would be cheaper than the $800,000,000,000 we're spending (by $200B). (do the math, 300,000,000 Americans times $200,000 each)
The way they're doing it now, someone is going to get rich(er) and the rest of us will get poor(er) by paying taxes for those getting rich(er).
As for me? I know I'd buy a nice Dive Boat in Key West and retire there with my dog--and if the wife wanted to come along--so much the better! I dream of Palm Trees on the corners.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Who Let Winter Back?

OK--I'm looking for the person or persons who decided that warm temperatures were not allowed!

A potentially beautiful three-day weekend was destroyed by freezing temperatures. It was soooooo cold!

There is this large tree laying in the yard waiting to be cut up--too cold!

I need to buy a chainsaw---too cold to use it so why buy it?!

The storm last week blew leaves into the pool area and around the fence line again that need to be removed--- too cold!

The yard needs to be prepped for Springtime--too cold!

The gardens need to have the leaves removed---too cold!

The water level in the pool needs to be lowered---too cold!

Take Makayla for a walk--too cold!! (but it had to be done, the consequences are just too much to bear)

Put air in Chris's tire---too cold!! (but I did it anyway)

Go to the grocery store---too cold!! (this could become a problem at some point!)

Get the picture?

On the other hand--I did get the taxes filed! A whole month earlier than last year. I hate tax time. I'm reminded how much we pay in taxes and wonder what we get for it. It seems I pay taxes so others can get benefits. Hmmmmm!

I did take a great nap!

But really--let's turn the warmth back on to stifle the outrageous electric bills we have been getting and get back to some outside living.

I was able to brave the cold and barbecue some burgers last night. It was fun to watch Makayla run around the pool area and onto the pool cover. Boy is she in for a surprise in a couple months.

We have had a taste of Springtime--now let's turn on the warmth and sunshine and begin to live outside again!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Things or People?

So I got it from two very different sources over the weekend.

First, my boss gave me a book to read titled Gung Ho! by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. We have been having some turbulence at work personnel wise and I'm not sure why he handed me this book to read the other day--but I'm glad he did. It is the leadership style that I try to emulate and believe in.

The book is not new--it was written in 1998, but the focus is upon the people of an organization. Simply--make sure people:

1. Have worthwhile work,
2. Are in control of achieving the goal and
3. Are committed to cheering each other on.

The Native American approach the book uses appeals to me a lot.

There is a great quote in the book: "Running a business from numbers is like playing basketball while watching the scoreboard instead of the ball. Look after the basics if you want success, and the first basic is the team."

OK--so what was the second source?

That would be the sermon on Sunday in church on Jonah 4.

We have been going through the book of Jonah learning about our relationship with God and how we are much more like Jonah than we would really like to believe. This week was the last in the series--which has really been fascinating and full of awesome teaching.

One point that was made on Sunday though was about the difference in perspective of God and Jonah.

In Chapter 4, God causes a plant to grow one day and shade Jonah while he is mad at God and then die the next day. Jonah is furious.

And then God lays it out for him: Jonah is more concerned about the plant for which Jonah did nothing than the 120,000 people in Nineveh. Jonah is more concerned about process than people. God is more concerned about the people and even the cattle. Read it!

So this is the take away. As people and especially as leaders and managers, we need to be more concerned about people than the process. Processes are important, yes--but without people we really don't need any processes.

God is concerned about people and that is the model for good leaders.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sunrise of the Mind

As I was leaving the club this morning at 6:30 AM, after a hard fought racquetball match, I was treated to an especially enjoyable sight--a beautiful sunrise.

I have to say, I really improved my mood--because I was limping due to a pulled/strained muscle and I really needed the lift. The sun had not yet risen--but it rays were fanned out across the sky, kind of like the advance party for the day that was dawning.

I was really kinda down because I have a bit of a head cold, I am playing hurt in my racquetball league again--and I am wondering why every new racquetball league brings a new and distressing injury.

But the sunrise--now that was a thing of beauty and it drove me to think of the blessings that I have received and of those around me who love me.

I wish I had my camera--but I almost never have my camera with me when I want it most. Isn't that the way it goes. Then when I have it with me--the battery is dead.

But I have the memory--and God provided a little reminder in my life this morning of His greatness and beauty.

Isaiah 58:8 says it all:
Then your light will shine like the sunrise;
your restoration will quickly arrive;
your godly behavior will go before you,
and the Lord’s splendor will be your rear guard.


Monday, February 9, 2009

A Taste of What is to Come

I love summer--everyone knows that. This past weekend provided a foretaste of what is on the way. We had a very Springlike weekend which allowed most of the ice to melt and provided temperatures in the 60's.


And we got some of the critical pre-Springtime outside work done--for instance cutting down the ornamental grasses which line the the fence surrounding the pool. This task--which is not a lot of fun, is one of those annual maintenance tasks which results in summertime beauty--lots of green. It also reminds us that Winter is waning, although not gone.

Makayla enjoyed being outside with us--but had to be confined within the fence line because she has that puppy nose for wandering. We are still working with her on some of those basic commands like: NO and COME. Yeah--she is really a puppy now and trying to push those limits to see how far we will let her go.

She starts puppy school on March 18th at Petsmart.

Working outside in just a shirt was fabulous though. The mud was a bit hard to deal with-- but still I'm glad we did not let the day escape without enjoying the sun and the warmth.

But warmth and Springtime are within sight--although I'm sure Winter will remind us that it is still around at least once more.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Super Bowl Leadership Lesson

The family met and conquered another Super Sunday.

It is sad that another NFL season has ended. At least one family member is happy with the outcome--but I nearly had to call 9-1-1 during the last part of the 4th quarter. It was great to watch someone so in tune with his team that he never lost faith--well, almost never. He was really questioning the game situation with a little over 2 minutes to go, his team down, and not moving or controlling the ball very well.

We run across situation similar to that in life every so often. Time running out, our situation bleak, and having to dig down deep to pull out a miracle.

Ever think about those times? When the miracle finish actually happens? Who do we thank for it?

Do we keep all the credit for ourselves, or do we share it with those who helped?

Isn't that the true character of a winner and a leader? To humble themselves and build up others? Share the success and shoulder the blame for a poor performance.

Do we thank God for our success? For our abilities? Do we thank those around us?

I'm reminded of Big Ben holding the Lombardi Trophy yelling his thanks and praise to his O-line!

A study in leadership!
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