Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Phrase of the Day

During the message in church on Sunday titled, Good Works or Good News? I found the following phrase be very interesting--

"I'm not a bad as I could be,
but I'm not as good as I should be!"

The message into which the phrase was woven was a great discussion of works versus grace and how a good works system of salvation is arbitrary, can never provide absolute assurance, ultimately requires God to approve of evil and condradicts the Bible (see Titus 3:5).

I also found the phrase to be a interesting counterpoint to the Toby Keith country song "As Good as I Once Was" which has the phrase:

"I'm ain't as good as I once was
But I'm as good once as I ever was."

So when the two phrases are joined together I get something like:

I'm not a good as I should be
But I'm as good as I can be!

Which, by the way, is still not good enough!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Musings - August 30, 2010

1. Well, panic is setting in already here in Maryland--talk of a hurricane for the weekend! Ugh. Snow--hurricane this region just gets fixated on weather.

2. Beautiful weekend in the sun and pool. Reminds me why I love summer.

3. I thinks someone needs to feed the mosquitoes a bit better--in the evening they seem to be starved and flock to me for sustenance. If they were better fed--maybe they wouldn't.

4. Jax decided he wanted to mimic his big brother by jumping off the diving board into the deep end of the pool yesterday. Only problem was, he didn't let any of the adults know his plan. Was a bit exciting for a brief time.

5. Today is the first day of school for children in Howard County and many other places in Maryland--and Chris has to face their smiling faces. Take a moment to thank a teacher or education professional that you know. God Bless Them!

6. Gonna be a hot one today--bring it on!

7. Hurricane Katrina--do you remember it? What have we done to help reconstruct? Five years ago destruction was the word along the entire Gulf Coast. Five years later--oil and BP are the word of the day.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blooms of Summer

As I was arriving at Nicole and Mike's house last evening, I was struck by the beauty of the roses in front of their doorstep.

The flowers varied from full bloom to long past full. Mimicking the story of the summer.

We are still in a full out run enjoying the summer, but so many things have already happened and are just memories.

Yet even with the fragrance of the summer still on our noses, it is sad that there are not a lot of buds left on the bushes.

Not many flowers will bloom on this bush before it sleeps the winter away to bud and flower again next spring.

And so the summer--there are only a few summer events left to enjoy before the autumn winds begin to make it too cold to enjoy the outside.

But those events surely will be fun!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mosque at Ground Zero?: It Really is Hard--And Different

I have been spending some time lately talking to people about the mosque and Ground Zero in New York City.

It is an explosive issue--and I have been trying to wrap my head around the explosive nature of this issue.

It really is hard and it is a very different situation for our American culture to face.

In the past, we have fought wars against nations or states or groups (such as the Barbary Pirates). These conflicts were not religious, but rather ideology based conflicts which allowed for the clear identification of the "enemy" from the American "good-guys."

The problem we have right now is that the lines--ideology separate from religion, have blurred. Despite the official position which says that the War on Terror is not a war on Islam, it is very hard for many of us to separate the two entities since the Terrorists themselves keep calling the war a Jihad--or struggle. Some, incorrectly, translate Jihad as Holy War--which further complicates our understanding of the problem.
The only thing that seems to unite the terrorist groups--whether Iran, Iraq, or Afghanistan is Islam. When we are identified with terms such as Great Satan--it is hard, if not impossible, to separate our the religious from the secular context. And the continued use of the Jihad imagery changes the struggle from a ideological one to a religious one in our eyes.

Let me repeat this, the single unifying factor of the terrorist groups is religion and that religion is Islam. Through the filter of my eyes--it certainly has the appearances of a Holy War--Islam versus the secular United States and for that matter all of the non-Islam embracing countries and societies of the world. It may even be the Middle Ages all over again.

Anyone who maintains the Unites States is a Christian country is wrong! They are mis-informed and they do not understand the basics of U.S. history, nor have they read the Constitution of the United States.

And this is the root of why it is hard to understand the complexities of thought associated with the peace loving, American citizen, Islamic believers wanting to erect a house of worship near ground zero and the visceral reaction that many Americans have to it. They are American citizens.

Most Americans do not understand who we SAY we are, AND the Islamic Americans who want to put a mosque near ground zero do not recognize that most of us cannot separate Islam from the terrorists who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

Both sides are at the same time right and wrong.

The Islamic community has the right, granted to them under the Constitution, to worship as they please, where they please--in accordance with the laws of the land. But it really demonstrates a lack of sensitivity to place a mosque so close to a place many of us consider to be sacred soil.

And we Americans--have the right, granted to us under the Constitution, to be vocal and to express our feelings about the placement of a mosque so near sacred ground; but at the end of the day we have an obligation under the laws of the land to allow the construction and not to impede it.

We do not have to like it--but we do have to allow it.

We are a complex society. A society of exceptions and inclusions. But we are engaged in a war which is stretching our ability to keep or belief system in a narrow box.

It is hard and it is different and it pushes us to fully reconcile what we believe about who we, Americans, truly are.

Do we really believe the words on the Statue of Liberty--
America was likened to the visions in the Bible as "the land flowing with milk and honey." A land where everyone's life has meaning and we believe in "unalienable rights."
We either believe this--or we become intolerant, the same as those who wage war against us and desire that we slip out of existence.

Friday, August 27, 2010

First Day of Kindergarten--A Remeberance

Ethan began his formal school career yesterday.

Kindergarten--one of those rites of passage where kids begin the process of changing from being "ours" into being "themselves." In a way it is sad to lose them that way, but it is something that we must do as part of launching our children tinto the world.

I remember brief glimpses of kindergarten.

It was an old almost three-story green-trimmed white building stucco looking building. Kindergarten was up the first set of stairs on the right. 1st grade was on the left up those same stairs and second and third grade was on the top floor--I don't remember the basement very well. The school only had grades K through 3. When I was in second grade, we moved to the new school in Danby which still stands and was a true elementary school of its day (OK, it was like 1962). I attended it through 6th grade before heading off to the big city of Ithaca for junior high school.

They tore down the old school during the late 60's and built the new town fire station on the site. The building, as I remember it, had been vacant for all of those intervening years.

I was an old four-year old when I was dropped off that first day of kindergarten, my birthday being in late-September. I remember a lot of confusion but I did enjoy playing with the blocks. As I recall--and I may need to correct this, Mrs White was my kindergarten teacher. And I was that square peg trying to fit into the round hole. I don't remember if I cried--but I probably did. It was really scary back then as we didn't not have pre-school programs like today to get children ready for the big school.

The classroom seemed huge. There was always something to do, like show and tell or reading time. But best of all I remember trying to build the tallest structure with the blocks. One significant event I do remember involved black construction paper. We were coloring and I thought it would be neat to use a white crayon on black paper.

That didn't work out as well in real life as I had envisioned it in my head.

I loved riding the bus--but couldn't get down the idea that I had to wait for the driver to signal me across the road. In those days, for some reason, they let me off and picked me up on the wrong side of the road even though the bus had to pass the house and return back by. I think I finally got it right as the school year was ending. My bus used to go all over Danby--I seem to remember the short 10 minute ride by car to the school taking almost an hour by bus.

And so as Ethan did his first day in Kindergarten--all of these memories came streaming back from the deep recesses of my mind. We went out to dinner last night with Ethan and his family to mark the occasion. In typical Ethan fashion, he was pretty closed mouthed about the day.

I even think I can remember the smell of the classroom--I wonder what memories he will have of that first day of "school?"

Thursday, August 26, 2010

You Thought You Had Bad Traffic?

Traffic around where I live can be miserable. At times when driving the beltway around Washington D.C., a normal 40 minute trip has taken almost three hours. Although, one time I just quit trying and went back home.

I read an article about China's Massive Traffic Jam which makes all of my experiences pale by comparison.

Here are some excerpted paragraphs.

A massive traffic jam in north China that stretches for dozens of miles and hit its 10-day mark on Tuesday stems from road construction in Beijing that won't be finished until the middle of next month, an official said.

Bumper-to-bumper gridlock spanning for 60 miles (100 kilometers) with vehicles moving little more than a half-mile (one kilometer) a day at one point has improved since this weekend, said Zhang Minghai, director of Zhangjiakou city's Traffic Management Bureau general office.

Some drivers have been stuck in the jam for five days, China Central Television reported Tuesday. But Zhang said he wasn't sure when the situation along the Beijing-Zhangjiakou highway would return to normal.

This kind of traffic tie up boggles the mind. I complain if I get delayed for more than about 10 minutes! And if you look at the pictures in the article--most of it is truck traffic. I wonder how the produce going to market is holding up?
It really helped put the three hours we were broken down in the U-haul truck on Saturday into perspective. What if we were only making a half-mile per day? It would have taken about a month to get to Patrick and Tina's new house. Ugh!!
I guess it kind of puts it all in perspective. In the morning on my way to work, when I hit traffic on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and slow down to 35 mph--I should be happy I'm not in China.
Oh, let me think--I am happy I'm not in China, anyway.
But reading this, I sure do appreciate living here a little bit more.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Headlights in my Eyes

It happened yesterday morning.

My drive to work at the fairly reasonable hour of 6:30am was accompanied with headlights.

Even with the dark skies though, the top was down on Cat. The cool morning air--and it was cool, high 60's; felt refreshing--yet it made me sad too.

It is amazing how quickly the summer passes.

Monday evening, we took a timeout form the hustle of life and sat on the screened porch enjoying dinner and a bottle of wine and watching the evening fall around us.

Chris and I enjoy those times together, alone except for Makayla who desires to be near us.

We were escaping a bit--right in the middle of where we are. To enjoy conversation and planning, and a sip or two of wine to cap off the day.

We talked about life and the things of the day and the week. Chris reminded me that her favorite season is autumn as we noticed a coolness in the air. I reminded her that autumn makes me sad as I mourn the passing of another summer. And technically it remains summer for another whole month--but we all know the truth, don't we?

Of course, it was Monday evening and it was Chris' last evening before returning to work following another fantastic summer vacation. She accused me of secretly being happy when she returns to work; but that is not true! I wish we both could be on summer vacation everyday.

But we still need to work to live.

Long ago though, I stopped living to work and started enjoying the living a lot more.

So no matter the season--live and enjoy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bad From the Start

As I wrote yesterday, some days are just bad from the start.

Let me write about my Sunday.

It all began before I was awake--or should I say as I was awakened with a thumping on my back and my lovely, but sleep deprived wife screaming at me to stop snoring. I asked her what the problem was--because I was startled and not fully coherent. She told me in her best imitation of a sailor that I was snoring and should leave. It being 5:45am and being now fully awake, I just decided to get up, which Makayla thought was great.

Groggy though I was, I did enjoy watching Sportscenter, especially since the Orioles were in the last segment which was just airing as I got the TV on.

My next mistake was making coffee. Although I make coffee all of the time, this morning the coffee pot decided, about half-way through the brew, to stop accepting more coffee--which sent hot coffee over the counter, onto the floor and saturating the rug in front of the sink. A nice mess to continue the day. Although I was later accused of not emptying the coffee from the pot before brewing, I pointed out that the pot was only half full of hot coffee when I poured my first cup and so that could not be the case. Doubts, however, remained in the accusers mind I later found out.

Next was the breakfast bagel. By now my lovely sleep deprived wife was with me and I offered to make her a bagel after I completed mine. She was happy that I offered and I cut her bagel and placed it in the toaster at which point I noticed that there was a bagel setting on the toaster that I had not used. Feeling very pleased with myself I selected the bagel setting and pulled the handle down. A short while later I heard the toaster pop up and then the smoke alarm sounded. Seems her bagel was a bit crispy. I gave her the unconsumed half of my bagel and took one of her crispy halves. The smoke alarm stopped wailing after a short while.

We prepared to go to church and the last thing I do before leaving the house is put my wallet in my pants. I never lose my wallet. I know where it is. Yet, this morning we could not find it. We looked all over the house in the usual and unusual places, retraced steps to the car--but no wallet. Finally, as we became later and later departing for church, I realized that the last place my wallet had been located was my pants pocket from the day before after moving Patrick and Tina. Great. Or not. Someone had thoughtfully picked up my pants and washed them while I was swimming in the pool. Yes, we found my drenched, ruined wallet still in the washing machine. Fortunately the losses were not too great--but one of Chris's shirts was destroyed as the color from the 10 or more year old wallet had run into her shirt.

And so it was off to church with my driver's license in my pocket--but no wallet. What could happen at church? Nothing right? Well almost. No sooner had we seated ourselves and stood for the opening songs when I could not find the bulletin to doodle on. It had fallen under the seat in front on me.

One would think, that with the time being only about 9:20am and this many things going wrong that I would have gotten the message, right?


We returned home after I had been coerced into grocery shopping, a stop which went from "we need a couple things for dinner today" into major grocery shopping.

I unwittingly decided to mow the lawn. After dutifully inflating the tires on the mower, and my truck and Kitty; the mowing went relatively uneventfully until I crashed into a short tree stump that I forgot was there because it was covered with grass that I wanted to mow. This bent the mower deck so that the blades would not turn--but thankfully, did not break the drive belt. Two hours and one severe rainstorm later, I had finished repairing the mower deck after saying some unkind things to the person I live with who showed up late with suggestions about how to fix the mower deck. I was very hot and sweaty because the humidity was up around 100 percent.

Was I bright enough to just call it a day at this point?

No. Sadly--

We went over to Patrick and Tina's to help them unpack and move in. Everything went great right up until the last project of the night. Patrick and I were hanging a quilt on the wall. It is a very big, beautiful quilt that Tina's mother made. The hanger needed a bracket in the middle to stop the sag. Right where I wanted to put the bracket in the wall was something into which I could neither screw a screw nor even drill with a masonry bit. Ugh! With the ends already in place and secure and the quilt already modified for the middle bracket I had to move the bracket a bit, the quilt is about 1 inch off center. UGH!

With that--and it being 10pm, Chris and I took Makayla and went home ending one of those days that should never happen to anyone.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Musings - August 23, 2010

1. Some days are just bad from the start--and then they continue to get more frustrating until, finally, crashing into bed and drifting off to sleep ends them.

2. Moving is hard. Packing is bad but unpacking is worse.

3. Some weekends pass by so quickly that on Monday morning as I am preparing to go to work I hardly feel refreshed for the workweek ahead.

4. Makayla didn't see too much of me this weekend--I'm sure in her doggie-mind she was wondering if it was something she bit.

5. Sales at major department stores really bring out the crowds on a Sunday afternoon.

6. I was reminded this weekend that the next time I move--we will definitely pay someone to move all the stuff.

7. Fish are great to look at, they are really difficult to move. It doesn't matter if they are salt or freshwater--I've helped move both and they require a lot of care to arrive alive.

8. The pump on the pool burned out. I wonder how long I can keep the pool from turning green and will the new pump arrive before that happens?

9. And here is an interesting tidbit: On this date in 1617, the first one-way streets open (London). Where would we be now without them? (From Brainy History)Link

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Moving day disaster

So the u-haul broke down within a couple miles of the starting location.

Jeremy showed up for comic relief.

We are still here after like three hours.


We are in moving day hell.

Summer Afternoon?

What is the best way to spend a summer afternoon in late August?

Answer? See image at right.

What is the not so best way?

Answer? Moving furniture form one home to another. Ugh!

It is moving day for Patrick and Tina. And the family is being mobilized because that's how we roll!

Hopefully, we will be able to minimize injuries--the team is not as young as it used to be.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Riding the Rails to D.C.

I took a half-day off Wednesday to take Ethan, along with Chris, into D.C. to do something I always love doing--visiting the museums.

The national museums are free--and so the only cost is getting there--a metro ride, which by comparison for the traffic it avoids is really pretty inexpensive.

A five year-old in a museum is an experience.

It is pretty much point and shoot--see something and look at it then move on.

It takes a bit to get into it and then you can really get going. Ethan seemed to like the movies a lot--where he could watch what was being presented. Although he did appreciate the dinosaurs and the animals. He spent some time playing with the ancestors, too.

I've been to the museums so much, I pretty well have the big exhibits memorized--but I still love looking at the airplanes in the Air and Space Museum.

After Ethan bored with the Natural History Museum, we had some ice cream, shopped till he dropped in the museum stores and then it was off to the National Air & Space Museum. Yay!!!!

We were incredibly lucky to miss getting dumped on by the rain which came down in buckets just as we walked into the Air & Space Museum.

Of course, since he was already tired this museum went by much too fast--but that was O.K. because it was his day! I think he enjoyed the Skylab space station the most--although the exploration of the planets was right up there.

And then, except for the ride home--that afternoon was done. Although we had to navigate the rush hour mess--we did O.K.

Well worth the effort and twice the fun.

That was a day to remember.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Spending the rainy afternoon in the Museum of Natural History with Chris and Ethan.


And then I lost them both, I hope they are together. I'd hate for them to become Dino food.

Rain, Dark, and Cool

I figured out what it is I don't appreciate about August: rainy, dark, cool days.

The rain really dampens my spirits, although I was able to turn off the sprinkler system which kept the gardens alive, barely, during the scorching heat of July. The rain is here and really coming down as the cooler weather bumps against the humid heat we have been experiencing.

The high for today (Wednesday) is only supposed to be 77 degrees. Cool compared to the 99's of jsut a few short weeks ago.

While we were in Ithaca over the weekend, there was a smattering of 50's in the hills and Ieven saw some early signs of autumn in some of the stressed trees and bushes.

And this morning I noticed that it was dark again--no dawn in sight, as I let the dog out for her moning business. I paused for a sad moment to consider what this means. Of course I was also listening to the raindrops splat against the front walk and encouraging the dog to get her feet wet at the same time--so it wasn't much more than a passing thought.

August, at least the last half, seems to segway into September.

I am reminded of a Paul Simon song--April, Come She Will and the last verse being:

August, die she must

The autumn winds blow chilly and cold

September I'll remember

A love once new has now grown old

I feel as if Paul got it right. My love affair with summer--is becoming old and gives way into the autumn.

But the darkness is creeping across the area again. The hours of light are shorter--by almost 3 minutes every day now.

August, then can be reduced to three things--Rain, Dark, and Cool.


Up in the Air

Sometimes, things are not what they seem.

Usually, when a loud noise is heard in the air I can usually correctly identify it as a jet, or a propeller driven airplane, or a helicopter.
When I was a lot younger--I could often even determine the type of aircraft it was--although those were usually military aircraft. The venerable C-5A has a distinctive sound as does the B-52G.

On this day, I could not identify the air vehicle. I was snorkeling about 100 yards off the beach and I looked up to see the Goodyear Blimp. For real, slowly, and almost gracefully flying overhead.

I kind of wished that I could have just stood and watched it, but as I was in about 10 feet of water, that wasn't going to happen. So I snapped a couple of pictures with my now dead camera, to remember the moment and then went back to looking at the fishes.

I had forgotten that a blimp is based in Miami--and so while it was unusual to see one, it was not something highly out of the ordinary for the area.

I was happy to be in the water snorkeling.

But I still think about flying, sometimes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More government in our lives is not the answer? Really?

I was reading through the blogs and papers yesterday about the economy and the dilemma that we seem to find ourselves in.

I came away from reading some of the articles believing that bigger government is not having the desired impact on the economy..


I think I have heard that somewhere before when a new president took the reigns of a crumbling economy--and then he turned it around.

I was reading an article on FoxBusiness.com about another coming stimulus package and had my eyes opened about the current situation. The article was titled "Watch Out, More Government 'Stimulus' is Coming!"

Really--I feel pretty stimulated already. I sure don't have much more to spend, but I am stimulated.

FoxBusiness made the following statement: "The folks in the White House are true believers. They really believed that bigger government could solve our economic problems."

And then they went on to write about how the White House needs a radical solution, but that Fox was proposing a different kind of radical--that in the form of Ronald Reagan. They wrote: "Most of all, Reagan had the same radical view of government that our founders had: That government is the problem, not the solution; that policies should be developed to keep government out of our lives, not give government control over our lives; that the way to turn our economy and our spirits around was to put our faith in the individual, not the state."

Of course, anyone who knows me knows that President Ronald Reagan is one of my heroes. He was a man who could help me see his vision. He had a vision for America, and he had a way of sharing that vision so that common people like me could understand it.

I remember the labels of "voodoo economics" which were slapped on his policies.

But you know what--his policies worked. This country went from double digit inflation, yes, I bought a house once with a mortgage interest rate of 11.75 percent and thought I had received a good deal, to single digit manageable inflation,. Not like the deflation we are experiencing now, but an economic recovery that sustained this country and the entire world for over 20 years.

President Reagan made the following statement in his Second Inaugural Address:
"There are no limits to growth and human progress when men and women are free to follow their dreams."

Fox Business wrote this about Reagan in closing the article:
"That's the kind of radical vision we need now. Not one based on models that failed us in the '30s, but based on the policies that turned our economy and our spirits around in the '80s."

I guess I am not ready to say that economic stimulus has not worked, but it sure seems to have made a few people rich--and those people were the cause of the problems in the first place. And the rest of us are going to be left with higher tax bills to show for the government's intervention into the economy.
It is almost like a dream come true. Oops, sorry, a nightmare.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Musings - August 16, 2010

1. Drove to Ithaca and back for the weekend. Long drive, especially in the rain yesterday. A convertible is just another car on the road in the rain.

2. We let the GPS find the shortest route to my parents house as we were coming in from a different direction and although we knew the roads pretty well we totally forgot--there are still dirt roads in upstate New York.

3. August is a funny month--it was chilly in NY and hot here in MD. We were surprised how cool it was just a couple hours away--even as we were returning yesterday, it was a lot cooler in York, PA than here in MD.

4. Something tells me it's all happening at the zoo. I'm glad some people can still find fun in the attractions that surround us. Jeremy and Lucas sure seemed to be having a good time.

5. Makayla has become a great traveler. She especially likes riding in Cat with the top down and she puts her nose in the air.

6. The pool really got hammered during the storms--it is amazing how much work a few thunderstorms can cause--despite the good they do with the rain which refreshed the land.

7. The O's had a bad weekend--they lost 2 of 3 to the Rays. But they played tough! And they are 9-4 so far for August, which is a winning record.

8. Someone said something about football season. Do people really get excited about preseason scores? Really--come on. Wait a month till the real season begins.

9. Does anything feel better than sleeping in your own bed after a trip?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Butterflies on the Wing

Yesterday as I arrived home, I was greeted by two butterflies dancing in the mid-day sun. Ok it was cloud covered.

They reminded me of the summer and the joys and smells of the heat and the trees baking in the summer sun

As it was the start of the weekend, they really made me take notice and appreciate the fun they were having.

We planted a butterfly bush this year. Maybe we will have even more next year.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Looking Up From My Pool

The other evening, as twilight fell over the house, I went out to the pool to relax for a few minutes after a rough day. I did not even take a glass of wine with me--I just changed into my swim suit and went to the pool to relax.

The air was heavy and humid. That summertime kind of air that lets you know it is there. So heavy it does not even carry the fragrances of the flowers with it.

The pool and the air temperature were nearly the same, yet even so, laying on my floatie it was relaxing and serene.

There was no wind.

I leaned back on my floatie as far as I could and looked up into the darkening sky to see my friends--the bats, maybe as many as 10 of them, maneuvering through the air to reduce the ever growing mosquito population.

I watched the bats dance in the air for a long time--mesmerized by the patterns they flew and awed by the ballet playing out before my eyes.

In summers past, occasionally one of them would swoop down and skim the surface of the pool for a drink of water, but not tonight--the mosquitoes were higher up and that is where these stealthy hunters stayed.

I longed to dance in the air like the bats. It reminded me of when I used to think I wanted to fly jet fighters and scream off into the sky like a modern knight on his steed armed long-range lances slung under each wing.

But, here I was, enjoying their winged dance. Relaxing in my pool--which is one of my favorite places.

And then--in the ever darkening sky--there it was. A solitary point of light that just pushed its way into my vision.

I thought of the saying--

"Star light, star bright,
first star I see tonight.
I wish I may, I wish I might,
have the wish I wish tonight."

And I could not think of anything to wish for.

Another star poked its way through the ever darkening sky and broke off my thought. I noticed again the bats, and the ever growing number of stars and I began to paddle to the side of the pool because I remembered I had things to accomplish before the night was fully upon me.

But my time alone in the heavy, still summer air watching the bats and noticing the stars is something I will remember for a long time.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Remember? It was Bad!

I was going through my images from winter yesterday and ran across this one. It reminded me of how bad it really was during the middle of the snowpocalypse.


Nothing but snow and cold as far as could be seen.

No travel.

No sun.

Nothing except dreaming of a warm beach somewhere.

Thank you for summer!!

I love summer and the beach and the salty air. And the heat.

Bring it on it is so much better.

Washing off at the beach after a morning of fun in the surf and the sun.

Sleeping the afternoon away to get ready for the evening of more beach time and looking for turtles laying their eggs.

Swatting mosquitos and wondering where the dragonflies are.

Really--don't rush summer's ending. The alternative is just too cold to imagine and it will be here soon enough. Coats, gloves, boots and the ever present cold.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Charleston Restaurant: Dinner for a Really Special Anniversary

Chris and I, upon the recommendation of Mike and Nicole, decided to do something really special for our anniversary dinner. Something even a bit over the top for us. We decided to eat at restaurant which earned four of five number 1's in the current Zagat rating--Charleston.

We had a 6:30pm reservation, which is early, but it allowed us to enjoy an unhurried evening which did not end until after 9:00pm at the restaurant.

The restaurant is fabulous and opulent. We were greeted by the valet to park our car and there the experience began. Everything was top notch and first class. We enjoyed some time together in the bar, sipping some champagne to begin our unhurried dining experience. A high point that happened right there, in the bar, was that the staff recognized that Chris was cold and they offered her a wrap to improve her enjoyment of the evening.

From there, we were ushered to our table. There were apologies that our table request could not be accommodated due to a small function in that room, but the table offered in the wine room was more than adequate--and perhaps even better given our early hour.

We chose the "The Season" from the menu and the wine pairings. We were just too overwhelmed on our first visit to try to develop our own unique menu for the evening. What we had provided a good sampling of the menu items. And in our case this was a seafood themed meal which was very well paired with some excellent wines.

The meal--served in courses consisted of:

Rich Lobster Soup with Curry accompanied by Amontillado Viejo, Byass "Del Duque"

Local Heirloom Tomato Salad, Warm Goat’s Cheese Medallion, served with Sportoletti Rosé, Mas de La Dame (Les Baux de Provence) 2009

Jumbo Lump Crabcake, English Peas, Roasted Sweet Corn, Mustard Cream Chardonnay, accompanied by Dehlinger "Un-Filtered" (Russian River Valley) 2006

Pan-Roasted Halibut, Grilled Local Baby Squash, Creole Sauce Valtellina Superiore, wi
th Conti Sertoli Salis "Sassella" (Lombardia) 2006

Stilton – cow’s milk, blue, creamy, rich, mildly spicy (Nottinghamshire, UK) and topped off by being served with Heitz Cellars Port "Ink Grade" (Napa Valley) NV

Local Blackberries & Madeira Sabayon

Fabulous. Each course was perfectly cooked and expertly served in gourmet style. The portions were just the right size--not too much and not too little. The wine pours were also perfectly matched to the course.

They also added a small pastry platter for dessert and a melon starter that I never really understood exactly what it was composed of--but suffice it to say, it too was awesome.

In the end, I did not want for more--except more of the atmosphere and the ambiance which in the wine room was absolutely perfect. The wait staff led by the Captain, Ryan, were spectacular and attended to our needs before we even realized we had them.

Cost? Well, it is not for the faint of heart. It is well worth it, but I have had complete meals for four for less than what I left as a tip.

Will I return? You bet! I am a definite fan.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Lights of Land and Life

Sometimes I read things that really get my mind turning. Good stories about things that turned out well. But I wind up with so many questions.

Today I invite you to read a news item I read yesterday.

It is titled: Three Boaters Rescued after Three Days Lost at Sea. It is a CNN news item.

(CNN) -- Three boaters in South Florida have made it back to worried friends and family on dry land, three days after they went missing when their 32-foot boat broke down during what was supposed to be a one-day fishing trip 20 miles off of West Palm Beach.
The trio -- identified as John Land, 48, David Blakeney, 39, and Kevin Wood, 45, all from the local area -- and their disabled boat, named the Shade Maker, were spotted Saturday night by a U.S. Navy frigate 85 miles east of Jacksonville, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
None of the men was injured, and their craft was towed to shore in a joint effort between the Navy frigate and the Coast Guard, arriving in Mayport, Florida, overnight Saturday.
Skipper Land told CNN affiliate
WJXX that the boat blew an oil pan gasket and the radio failed when he tried to call for help.
The men's situation grew tense when the boat was caught in a Gulf Stream current and drifted further north.
The men were reported missing early Friday by a relative who grew worried when the boaters did not return Thursday at sunset as originally planned, the Coast Guard said.
"We could hear on the radio, we could hear everybody looking for us, but could not get back," Land said.
Land said they ate their catch to maintain strength during the three days at sea.
"Last night we had raw dolphin and a little spicy mustard," he said.
He was grateful to be back on shore Sunday, expressing appreciation to see signs of life again.
"It is good," he said. "I'm looking at buildings and trees and stuff. It is a beautiful thing because out there we couldn't see the glare of the city lights anymore."

I have been fishing off West Palm Beach, only last month. We were not 20 miles out to sea by any stretch of the imagination, but we were in the same general area.

I found the last sentence of the news item to be the most interesting.
They could not see the lights of land and were afraid for they were lost at sea.

I have always thought that it would be so beautiful to look into the starry night sky far away from the lights of cities and to ponder our God who created each of those stars.

But then, I did not imagine myself adrift in a small boat--helpless, out of food, caught in the Gulf Stream and headed for the wide open Atlantic Ocean and storms of unimaginable proportions.

It is a fully different perspective from what I imagine for myself--but at least their boat continued to float.

And so I question myself--do I find comfort in the things created by humans--the buildings and the lights--signs of civilization? Despite what I want to believe, could I live without those things? How would I have felt given the same circumstances--adrift in the open ocean with few prospects for rescue?

The three men had a lot of time to think and ponder.

I wonder if they prayed.

I wonder of they talked about death and dying.

I wonder what they talked about and how they probably tried to repair the engine of the boat and the radio on which they could hear the searchers, but could not respond.

A fun day of fishing became a three-day ordeal. A "three-hour tour" so to speak.

And yet, they were rescued! I cannot imagine the joy they must have felt as they realized that the ship they saw on the horizon had seen them and was heading for them with the intent of rescuing them. I'm sure it was unimaginable joy and relief.

I'm glad this story had a happy ending.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday Musings - August 9, 2010

1. Today is a very significant day--35 years ago two 19 year-olds said I do, and they are still together. I guess the old Paul Simon song title is really true: Still Crazy After All These Years. I'd modify it a bit to read Still Crazy in Love After All These Years.

2. It happened last evening--the NFL is back for what could be its last season unless the owners and the players decide not to kill the cash cow. Pre-season Football results: Cowboys 16 Bengals 7. Importance to the overall season: My wife is happy.

3. And not to forget the O's--they won yesterday and are 5-1 since the beginning of August! The O's usually crash and burn during August.

4. It appears that BP really has killed the oil well in the Gulf. Good for them. Now they need to clean up the mess and stop patting themselves on the back for fixing a problem that they created.

5. Our local Exxon station (at the corner of Washington blvd and Old Montgomery Road), the one that I have been doing business with for the past 10 years decided to add a 5 cent per gallon charge for credit transactions. And their counter service for cash is terrible. I now use the Hess station across the street which is usually 1-2 cents per gallon cheaper for gas anyway. Go figure. I wonder how that is going to work out for them.

6. It was a good weekend, we got a lot of yard work done around the house and got the gardens mostly back into shape. It was nice to be working outside.

7. I need to mow the lawn--how could I forget that?

8. I brushed Makayla and when I was done, I thought I had another dog sitting next to me!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer Flowers

I love the flowers of summer.

They bring life and excitement to the scene and keep everything interesting.

Yesterday was a work day around the house. We had a lot to do and catch up on after being gone on vacation and really tired when we returned.

We made two trips to the landfill in the newly repaired pickup truck. I am proud to report that with the exception of two small items--everything was recycled!

And then we had the idea to remove a fairly homely, tall bush which was out of control near the deck and replace it with a crepe myrtle.

We have one beautiful red crepe myrtle on the other corner of the pool area. We have watched it grow now for the past four or five years and it has become a magnificent specimen and so we decided to drop another one on another corner--nearer the deck.

This activity was preceded by removing the 10-12 foot tall bush which was previously occupying the spot. Cutting down was easy--digging out the stump--not so much. Thank goodness for an all wheel drive vehicle which could assist in encouraging the stump to come out of the ground. That was a lifesaver because the digging was really tough. And did I say it was hot?

If you look in the picture of the red crepe myrtle you can see the tire tracks in the grass as we drove down around the back of the pool to access the area where the stump needed to be pulled--I love driving on the lawn!

It was very hot like in the mid-90's. Probably not the best time of day to labor outside--but it was all good and the end results are nice. We still need some additional top soil and a bag of mulch; which is the project for today.

I like the blast of color that the crepe myrtle's provide and it is one of the advantages of living our area that I enjoy. They just provide a canopy of color to enjoy. And then underneath--as this newly installed crepe myrtle grows--aha, then come the hostas for ground cover underneath.

And we have hostas the need to be moved because they have matured into huge hostas!

We have become a fan of hostas because they are green and they keep the weeds down.

Here are two of the varieties we have--the little standard green hosta that most people get, and then the huge Frances Williams variety--which was recommended to us and we love. With their huge leaves they fill up an available space.

Who knows what today will bring--another project and more satisfaction about being home and working around the house.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sand Castles and Memories

Sand Castle built by Mike, Ethan and Jax during July 2010
Works of art arrayed on the beach, for only a short time.

Built by hands striving to make their mark on the world--no matter how temporary.

It is like writing your name in the sand on the beach. A strong statement that "I was here" but one that will soon be gone with the wind or the tides.

I have seen some fabulous sand art. And I am always impressed by its transient nature--the artist, or sand sculptor, uses their talent to create a design which causes people to pause and consider it, but also realize that the art is only temporary. And then the canvass is clean for them to start over.

It must be a freeing experience.

Not to be constrained by what has already been done and yet free to take yesterday's creation and remold it to make it different for the mood of the day. Even, in some manner, better.

I am sometimes so busy trying to create something that will last and have an enduring quality, that I forget that like the flowers of the field that bloom and then die in a day, transient things can be beautiful because they make a memory!

It is memories that really last and endure. Not the item or the thing. Over time things grow old and weathered. They crack and peel and become soiled with the passage of time.

But memories--they remain. And they are always with me.

And I can smile at the remembrance of them.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Plagiarsim Conundrum--A Newspaper Item Hits Home

I read a fascinating article in the New York Times the other day titled, Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age.

It brought back memories of college and writing long involved 20-30 page double-spaced and typed (yes typed) papers after poring over texts in the library. How I wish that I had had a computer in my dorm room back then to help me do the research in the comfort and clutter of my room.

Or so I thought, until I realized how the blurring of lines between original thought and creating collages of thoughts has affected today's computer-literate generation.

I strive to ensure that when I use items from other's works, I document them with hyper-links back to the original--not because I worry about plagiarism, but more so that the reader can read the entire piece and determine for themselves if I have used the extract in a consistent manner that is contextually consistent.

But as I read the article I referenced here, I realized that despite the best efforts of all of us, the boundary between common knowledge and unique theme-specific knowledge has become blurred. I often ask myself--how do I know that? Was that my idea? Or did I read it somewhere?

The information age is truly a complex one.

The tendrils of thought have become confused.

And then--the article I referenced earlier ends with the following paragraphs:

Many times, said Donald J. Dudley, who oversees the discipline office on the campus of 32,000[UC Davis], it was students who intentionally copied — knowing it was wrong — who were “unwilling to engage the writing process.”

“Writing is difficult, and doing it well takes time and practice,” he said.

And then there was a case that had nothing to do with a younger generation’s evolving view of authorship. A student accused of plagiarism came to Mr. Dudley’s office with her parents, and the father admitted that he was the one responsible for the plagiarism. The wife assured Mr. Dudley that it would not happen again.

It is easy to justify what you are doing in your mind--right up until someone asks about it.

Writing like any skill, must be learned and practiced.

But we live in an instant society--where we can have and we long for anything we can get, instantly!

Hence--writing is reduced to copying someone else's thoughts.

We all need to strive for originality and creativity--but when someone else says it just the way we would have said it--at least give them credit.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cheap Blessings and Cheapened Grace - A Rant

OK, look out, here comes another rant. And this one is likely to really get the hairs on your neck ruffled.

This one is about some of the "well meaning" stuff I receive in my email.

They seem to end with something like this:

Pass this to 12 people including me. A blessing is coming to you in form
of a new job, a house, marriage or financially. Do not break or ask
questions. This is a test. Does God come first in your life? If so, stop what
you're doing & send it to 12 people now. Watch what he does!

Really? Do you believe this nonsense?

This is the Joel Osteen-style Christianity that sells books and keeps people's email full of empty hopes and promises. The "If I do, then God will " type of non-biblical Christianity. The type of Christianity that is so shallow it doesn't work. It is a Laodiceian-type of Christianity. Or form, but no substance.

What is the biblical basis for something like this?

Do we really pray to God and do things in his name to have him reward us like Santa Claus?

God blesses us in so many ways that we never even appreciate--and then we cheapen our relationship with Him by playing a game like--if I send this to 12 people then he will give me the desires of my heart!"

Really, come on!

He has already given us the greatest gift he could give us--through grace we have eternal life. We did not earn it by sending an email to 12 people. We were given it because His Son died for us, while we were still sinners and certainly did not then nor even now deserve it.

And then to top it all off, He blesses us every day and lavishes upon us things we don't even know we need, until He makes them known to us.

And so our response to this is to send little email messages to our friends promising that if they do this, then God will do that? I wonder if this is some of what John was writing about to the church of Laodicea in Revelations 3:14-22?

Emails that end like this, with the "If you do, then God will" promise are really missing the mark.

We are not going to heaven based on our works, 'cause we can't do enough to pay the price. And we certainly are not going to get there by sending emails to other Christians encouraging them to send emails in order to receive blessings.

Ah, some might say, it is a way of letting unbelievers hear of God. Really? How many of those emails really go to unbelievers. They are not even designed to go to people who have never heard of the Living God. And if one should be sent to an unbeliever, do we want them to learn of a god who seems to be little more than a purveyor of incantations? There is a lot more they need to learn--like starting with, you feel guilty about something you did way back when, let me tell you what our God did for you, already!

It is that old problem again--we think we need to do something to earn God's love.

Wrong! We can't earn it.

It is tied to the age-old question about works. We can't do enough to earn on our own what was freely given to us already by God. Why would we want or need to?

It's free. Accept that.

We must, however, reflect in our lives and the way we live how God has changed us from the inside--but it certainly should not be tied to doing little deeds with the expectation of receiving earthly rewards. And as a result of our joy, we do things (works) which confirm the faith we have.

We already have the reward--eternity.

I guess when I read emails that end with the action and the promise, I hear the televangelists at the end of the broadcast pleading, like so many politicians who have been coming to my door lately, "send me money and God will . . . "

God will anyway. Just ask.

The alternative to these emails?

Here is a thought.

I have felt that the stories that come in many of those emails are great and uplifting. Some are just fun to read. So delete the ending, the "if you send this to 12 people and me . . ." part.

Change it to a simple blessing to your friends--something like: I saw this and thought you would appreciate it. I'm thinking of and praying for you today.

A simple blessing.

That's what we all really need more than anything else. A reminder that we are loved by God and others.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Weary Already and Grinding Away

Back already for only two days--and weary of the grind already.

My head is still on "some beach, some where" (to quote a country song).

It is hard to believe the level of seemingly meaningless activity, meetings, questions, and actions that stream by me on a daily basis.

I am caught, it seems, in a bureaucratic for bureaucracy sake situation where the paper required to do intelligent things keeps them from being done.

And to top it all off, my truck is broken. But it should be fixed today, for a small transfer of large unmarked bills from my piggy bank.

I'm not sure what it all means at this point--but getting back into the saddle, as they say, after a wonderful vacation away sure is getting tougher.

I am, of course, excited that the Orioles have a new manager--but they will still likely finish last in all of baseball this year. It is hard to get worse than last. I guess the new manager is taking over at a good time--that can't really go anywhere but up. At least they won last night--which in itself is newsworthy.

And I am sure A-Rod is hoping to see the O's soon so he can finally hit his 600th homer. Want to talk about frustration? Another game last night--no home run. There you have it!

Talk here has already turned to football--and the Ravens are self-destructing in training camp! Injuries are putting people out for the season. Unlike the Redskins who can't seem to even get their players onto the field for training camp. It might be a good time to change teams, like someone in the family I know!!!

Did I say my truck is broken!

But it is all good.

My dog is happy to see me when I come home at night. And it makes me smile when she heads back upstairs to bed in the morning after mooching my toast to get a few more hours of shut-eye with Chris. They are quite a pair in the morning when I leave for work--nestled deep into the bed sleeping.

Lucas at Dinner in Outback
It would be a funny picture.

And the pool is there for me to fall into and wash away the cares of the day when I come home.

And I had dinner last evening with Lucas ( and his Mom and Dad). It was an awesome time!

So all is not lost--it is just seems like it is hiding.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fizz in the Glass of Life

While on vacation, I discovered something really different.

I am provided with fizz in my glass of life to spice it up. Just like a cola or champagne--the fizz is there to keep me excited and interested.

What is this magic fizz in the glass of life?


Yup. Watching grandchildren play on the beach, or wrestle with their Mom and Dad on the floor, or fight like the brothers they are, and discover the world is truly the fizz that adds interest to life.

They are canvasses to write memories upon--memories which will remain long after I have changed my address from where I am now to eternity.

They explore and interact with the world and people in ways I had long forgotten and sometimes in ways that as a parent, I didn't appreciate then and only now after my own children are grown and having children of their own can I appreciate the ways of the child.

So what is this fizz?

The joy of discovering sea urchins on the beach and realizing that they are not plants, but animals.

The fear of letting a snail crawl on their hands.

The excitement of running headlong into the pounding surf driven by a tropical storm with the red flag flying.

Finding a small turtle on the beach and then learning all about turtles at the turtle rescue place.

Watching helplessly as they strike out again at the baseball game.

Seeing them struggle to roll over and become more like a person as they grow from a baby.

Yes, there is stress--and like a glass or more of champagne, the fizz can be overwhelming at times. But it provides the interest in life to help me see things differently.

It is fizz surely. Sometimes it gets up my nose and makes me cringe--but usually it helps me appreciate life and something that I have forgotten that I had a lot of fun learning and doing.

I guess it keeps me from getting too old, too fast.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Musings - August 2, 2010

1. It's August already? What happened to July?

2. Sunrise and sunset today are combining to make today 2 minutes shorter of daylight than yesterday.

3. And so it is off to work today--the first time in over two weeks that I will be wearing long pants and shoes. Should be a lot of fun.

4. I was having so much fun on vacation last week that I totally forgot to write Monday Musings and no one missed them.

5. The oil spill in the Gulf is turned off but the disaster continues.

6. Question: If the people who run WikiLeaks knew they were publishing US Govt classified information, why shouldn't they go to jail for treason or espionage? Is it not the responsibility of all citizens to protect US classified information? I'm confused!

7. Have a positive outlook for the day and it may surprise you and be a good day!

8. Do not despair the passing of July because August is still summer!

9. As of today the Orioles have a new manager--they still are the worst team in baseball though.

10. Chris and I saw two movies alone as a couple while on vacation We believe it has been probably over a year since we have seen a movie together and alone. We enjoyed it.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Morning After the Two Weeks Before

We are back home in Maryland.

After over two weeks of vacation we returned safely home to resume life.

Our home, despite hosting at least three parties while we were away, was in fantastic shape. All told there were only three causalities--all plants, while we were away. Which is good for any vacation during the highest heat of the summer.

The signature symbol of Jupiter is the lighthouse. Designed by Gen George G. Meade to provide safe passage to mariners, it now provides passage for me to my happy place. The place where everything seems to be right with the world and I am able to blot out negative thoughts for a time.

Maybe it is a small preview of heaven, in that sense.

Chris snapped this image on our last evening in Jupiter--I have lots of images of the lighthouse in daylight, but she had the idea to get it at night--and it is an awesome shot.

A beacon to navigate the dark night.

A memory to grasp and hold onto during the hectic days of life--a place where I am unhurried and the biggest decision of the day is whether we go to the beach at 8:30 am or 9:00 am.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring as I head back into work and resume my 50 week per year life. But, I am armed with many memories and fully relaxed and ready to tackle the challenges that I will inevitably face.

But the lighthouse is the signal to help me to find my way back.
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