Friday, September 30, 2011

Greatest Night in Baseball

The regular baseball season is now ended. But what a finish. I have longed to see the Orioles play meaningful baseball during September--and this season at least I got my wish.

Wednesday night will probably be recorded as one of the wildest finishes in all of baseball history with the collapse of the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves and the ascension into the playoffs of the Tampa Bay Rays and the St Louis Cardinals.

But a part of the magic belonged to the O's who stormed onto the field for the last time this season after completing a bottom of the ninth inning rally to defeat the Red Sox and hold the door for open for the Rays, who just three minutes later stepped into the playoffs via a walk off bottom of the twelfth inning home run to overcome a 7 run deficit to the Yankees.

Sadly, I was asleep at the time. I had given up on the O's and the Rays. Never again!

Baseball is a wild sport and until the last out is recorded--anything can happen.

It warmed my heart to see the national sports media showing highlights of an O's game over and over again during the day. The way the players streamed out onto the field after the last out would only have been better if they themselves were headed into the playoffs. But at least the Orioles were a big part of the greatest finish in baseball history--as it has been called.

I am already dreaming of next year--maybe we will be better and be playing ourselves into the playoffs rather than ushering Boston out.

But the winter is coming and there are so many things that will happen between now and April.

For a day or two though, the O's were in the spotlight--in a good way.

And now it is onto the playoffs. I'm liking the Rays in the AL and the Diamondbacks in the NL. Betting money though is on the Yankees and the Phillies.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Doctor Day - Again

So I had another couple of days devoted to doctors and appointments. It had nothing to do with the NDPH, but rather a recurring sore on my cheek. It seems that is takes so many doctors and specialists these days to get things done. This was my second appointment for the sore.

But that is not the reason I write today. No, rather it seems that in this day of computers and internet we are still required to fill out reams of forms when we visit a new doctor--which I sadly have done a lot more than I would like to admit lately.

And the forms are all filled out long hand in pen in the doctor's office before the first appointment. Why couldn't they have provided me with a website to complete the paperwork before hand and then had me just certify it in their presence. I mean--how many times do I really want to answer the question about all of the medicines and vitamin supplements that I am currently taking? And I tell you--it is too many to remember, I'd use a cut and paste function on the computer to get them all.

My experience yesterday was with a dermatologist. It was generally good--right up until she wanted to cut out a piece of my face. You know you are in trouble when they bring in the consent form and tell you that the xylocaine is going to hurt like a bee sting, and then laughingly they add it could be a big or small bee sting. Wait--I thought xylocaine was supposed to deaden the pain????

Small bee sting as it turned out.

And after the sawing was completed, the cauterizing began and I cracked a joke about the room smelling like burning flesh, oh yeah, it was my burning flesh.

Hopefully, I will soon get to the bottom of the recurring sore on my cheek and get my dashingly good looks back.

OK--so I'm not dashing.

Suffice it to write--another day, another doctor.

Here's hoping my 57th year gets better as it goes along and my visits to doctors decrease dramatically.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Camden Yards Finale for 2011

Last night, Chris and I made our final sojourn to Camden Yards to see the Orioles play baseball for the 2011 season.We went to see some meaningful September baseball since the Red Sox, whom the O's were playing, are battling for a playoff spot. The final game of the season is tonight--but let night I went to see the Red Sox lose, which they did not do.

I got frustrated with the game in the sixth inning after the Red Sox took an 8-3 lead. It was a slow plodding game punctuated by Red Sox home runs and then inadequate responses by the O's. Although the final score was 8-7, the outcome was never really in doubt. Thankfully, the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Yankees so thoughts game will be equally as important since the Rays and Red Sox are tied for the Wild Card entry into the post season.

So, during the sixth inning Chris an I left our seats, wished Dave our usher a happy off season, and headed off to walk around the park and enjoy the sights and smells for one last evening.

We walked down Eutaw Street looking at the vendors and marveling at the playing field from the perspective of the famous flag court where so many lefties hit home runs. We went into the Orioles Store and checked out the over-priced wares. We heard the home run siren scream one last time as Adam Jones hit a shot to make the score 8-4.

And then it was time to say good-bye to the stadium I enjoy so much and head off to the car. I had lost interest in the game, sadly. Even the most ardent Orioles fan can lose interest when the team is performing so poorly in all aspects of the game--base running, fielding, pitching, and timely (or not timely) hitting.

There is next year. There is always, it seems, next year. We'll get them then. Play-off baseball will return to Baltimore next year, I hope.

And as we walked out the gate, for the final time in 2011, I said good-bye to another piece of summertime. The boys of summer are giving way to the boys of fall. And it shows.

I was even searching for Penguins tickets at one point during the game, if you can believe that.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Matt Wigler - House Concert Review

Saturday evening Chris and I attended another house concert in the series provided by Cellar Music House Concerts. Sadly, this concert was not heavily attended, probably because of the type of music--Matt Wigler is a jazz and blues pianist, composer, organist, and singer.

I admit, I am not a huge jazz and blues fan, but Saturday night changed my view of this genre of music. Matt, accompanied by Mike Aubin on the drums, provided a hugely entertaining, dynamic, and varied performance full of energy and enthusiasm for the music. Most importantly, it was fun!

Matt and Mike displayed a comfortable, jam session like attitude and ease right from the start. Their ability to improvise on the fly was obvious and that they play and work together a great deal was evident. Matt's piano work was fantastic and at one point I thought I would need to get a bucket of water to cool off the keys on the piano because his hands were flying over them so quickly making music that I was sure they were getting hot.

Matt is a talented vocalist as well and his singing ability simply highlights his multifaceted talent as a pianist, organist, singer, and songwriter. I was impressed that he was a visiting artist at the Strathmore Artist in Residence this past year and it shows in is music. His own compositions displayed a variety and depth in style and composition that highlighted a maturity in music beyond is years. They were interesting and complex in design with competing rhythms and themes. I admit, my favorite pieces of the evening were the Boogie Woogie ones which were cried by his ability to play a strong bass line.

This was a great concert and I need to also highlight Mike Aubin's smooth percussion work which complimented, and at times led, the performance. The two musicians appeared to work together effortlessly and easily through some really difficult pieces.

Gary and Pam--Cellar Music House Concerts hit another home run. Keep them coming.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Thanks for the Birthday Greetings

This is just a simple thank you to everyone who took a moment from their day to wish me Happy Birthday. I really appreciate it and was humbled by your greeting.


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Monday Musings - September 26, 2011

1. I went to a fabulous house concert Saturday evening to see a piano prodigy play jazz and blues music for which I gained a new appreciation. I'm working on a review for tomorrow.

2. Sometimes I need to take a decorating risk--and I talked Chris into that with our crown moulding. All in all it looks really good.

3. Fantasy Football is fickle.

4. We watched Ben, Jeremy's Keeshond, for the past week and it always made me smile to be greeted at the door by my pair-o-kees.

5. Today is my birthday. There is something special about a day that you can call your own. I am not a huge fan of my own birthday, but I would love to know more people who share this day with me. That written, I am honored to share my birthday with Johnny Appleseed (1774), Pope Paul VI (1897), Carlene Carter (1955), and Serena Williams (1981).

6. Alternatively, some famous people have died on my birthday, too. These include Daniel Boone (who knew? 1820), John Byron (1763), and Paul Newman (2008).

7. One of the hardest decisions it seems that I am asked to make is deciding what I want to do for my birthday evening. There are so many options that I want to do them all.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Football-- The Opiate of the Masses

I remember from my school days that an infamous man, Karl Marx, once wrote that "Religion is the opiate of the people." His meaning was very sinister and he devoted himself to eradicating religion through his writings that say that true happiness cannot be found until religion is eradicated. He wrote, "The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo."

As I sit here in front of my TV this Sunday afternoon with the DirecTV Red Zone channel keeping me informed of the progress of every NFL game happening at the moment, I realize that football may have replaced religion as the illusion we use to make us happy, at least during the NFL season which runs from the draft until the Super Bowl.

Now I know this may be an unpopular thought--but when compared against organized religion, I would believe that the NFL has a larger following. Even I have rushed from my church pew on a Sunday morning to my home to partake of the NFL Sunday. And while church may only last just over an hour, the NFL lasts nine hours on Sunday and an additional three on Monday nights, before the Thursday night football games even kick into gear.

Does football make me happy? Sure. It makes me forget the mess that our country is in with a dysfunctional leadership. And that the economy is not getting better. And that while my expenses are rising, my income is static.

Yet football makes it all better. And I prefer baseball, but with the Orioles tanking so bad, I don't get as excited about the game as I used to. Fourteen consecutive losing seasons will do that for you.

And so, at least for Americans--NFL Football has replaced religion as the opiate for the masses--or as Marx wrote, the people.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saddest Day of the Year

While for some people summer ends on Labor Day and for others summer ends on the first day of autumn; for me, summer ends with the annual closing of my pool--which I have just completed.

Pool closing day marks, for me, the official beginning of the dark, cold seasons. I am being held hostage by the forces of cold and dark until April when I can reopen my pool and begin to enjoy summertime in earnest.

The pool seemed to resist my efforts to close it this year and numerous small annoyances cropped up as I completed the now well practiced closing operation. But, sadly, I prevailed recognizing that the leaves are beginning to fall and the time was only growing shorter if I had decided to procrastinate and postpone the closing.

For me there are only two seasons--summer and not-summer. Summer is marked by the opening and closing of my pool.

Do I enjoy not-summer? Not really. I enjoy some things and some holidays, but they are really small points of light in an otherwise dismal season.

It is hard to believe that in a few short weeks we have transitioned from family gatherings around the pool, such as the one above--to the picture taken a few minutes ago of the covered pool, hibernating like a bear waiting for the renewal of the year.

Soon, I will again hear the squeals of the grandsons chasing each other around the pool in heat of a nice summer day. And the non-summer season will be forgotten.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

And the rains finally stop

Friday evening and the rain has abated for a short while. Enjoy the blue in the sky.

Rainy Friday and Doctors

The day started off well. I was on the racquetball court at 0530 for a rare Friday match. But then, the day turned and I needed to head off to the doctor to for some stupid thing that keeps popping up on my face.

Then I found out the appointment was for Monday!


But they squeezed me in.

And it is raining. Again! The skies are as gray as my mood.

I was talking to a friend yesterday who suggested we should move to Florida.

I'm in!

But it is Friday.

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Autumn 2011

And it is here. The beginning to the ending of the year has arrived today. Today is the first day of Autumn. Tomorrow is the saddest day of the year as I close the pool and put the period at the end of the sentence which is summertime for 2011.

I can still remember sitting in St Lucia during July drinking a Piton beer enjoying the heat and humidity of the summertime now past. The warm waters of the Caribbean lapping at my toes as it invited me to slide into its warm waters for another fantastic experience.

Or napping on my floatie, now deflated, in my pool.

Behind me is the heat of the summertime sun beating on my now tanned back.

Ahead are the rains and snows of the cold, dark seasons ahead.

We are a mere three months from Christmas.

When I close the pool tomorrow, it will be seven months almost to the day until the cover comes off for another season of fun in the sun. Really, seven whole months. It is hard to believe that I enjoy my pool for less than half of a year and long for its use during the remaining months of cold and darkness.

But through the months of cold and dark I will carry with me the memory of lounging on my floatie in the hot sun with a cold beer, dozing, and letting the troubles of the world pass me by for just a bit. I always come out of the pool a bit refreshed and ready to face the challenges of the day.

April--pool opening day will arrive soon. Until then, I am sojourning in a hostile land.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reflections on a song - East to West

I've been listening to a song lately titled East to West performed by Casting Crowns. I urge you to listen to the song if you have not heard it. Part of the song goes as follows:

The chains of yesterday surround me
I yearn for peace and rest
I don't want to end up where You found me
And it echoes in my mind, keeps me awake tonight
I know You've cast my sin as far as the east is from the west

The line about ending up where I was found is especially poignant and states the reality of my condition. It is too easy to end one day and start the next day being in the same place where I started the day before. It seems as if I am not gaining any ground.

The chorus of the song, though provides some comfort

Jesus, can You show me just how far the east is from the west
'cause I can't bear to see the man I've been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
'cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other

Everyday, there is forgiveness for not making the progress we should be making. I just need to accept it. I can't earn it--and I don't deserve it. It is given freely to me.

My response is to grow a bit every day--to be different today than I was yesterday and to put behind me the earthly things and leave the man I was yesterday behind in order to become a new man today.

That is the journey.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Today marks one month of being afflicted with NDPH. I have read that about 82 percent of people with NDPH know the day when their headaches started--and I am most certainly one of those. I even remember where I was, in my gold La-Z-boy chair on a Sunday evening, when my now persistent headache arrived.

Until a week ago, I did not even know that NDPH existed--and the name almost made me laugh when the doctor diagnosed me with this syndrome. Who would call something, New Daily Persistent Headache?

I am not trolling for sympathy--but rather I am reflecting upon how something I never thought about until a month ago and did not even know existed has become a persistent and almost ever-present part of my life.

I am lucky, so far, in that I am not debilitated by the persistent headache. I can function--but I know that even on the best days so far, that I am achieving only about 95 percent effectiveness--and on bad days, I am running about about 75 percent.

From my reading, I have found that usually they do not diagnose NDPH until someone has been afflicted with it for three months--so I am grateful that the doctor made the call early. I definitely fit the profile.

There are bloggers out there devoted to NDPH. One that I have been working through is titled Living with NDPH. I am saddened by many of them because there is not a lot of hope--one person has been afflicted for 14 years. The hard part is that there are three natural outcomes and no medical treatment has been identified to speed achieving outcome number one. The three are:

1. The headaches go away after a while and never return
2. The headaches go away for a while, but return sometime in the future.
3. The headaches never go away. (ugh!)

For my part, I have discovered two things that relieve the pain temporarily--racquetball and wine (beer works too). Coincidently, two of my favorite activities. Alas though, I am pain free only temporarily--but I take time to enjoy feeling almost normal again for the brief respite that I am given. Fortunately, it only takes one or two glasses of wine.

Other than all of this--life is pretty normal. Most days are good days with low pain levels. Some hours are bad--but I get through them.

I know there are a lot of prayer warriors out there praying for me--and I want to thank them because I am convinced that my pain is manageable and low because of your concern and intervention for me.

I am reminded of Paul's thorn in the flesh, from 2 Cor 12:7. While I make no comparison between myself and the Apostle Paul, other than this one, the response Paul received to his prayers in 2 Cor 12:9 is truly something I am holding fast onto: "My grace is enough for you, my power is made perfect in weakness."


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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lost in the Middle of the Week

It is only Tuesday and already the week has charged off like a run away train similar to the one in the movie Unstoppable which starred Denzel Washington and Chris Pine.

Unfortunately, the only way this week is going to end is to crash into Saturday.

It is not that I don't like being busy--not at all. But I do appreciate some time to think in-between meetings to keep from providing a knee-jerk response to items that really deserve some application of gray matter to them.

And it is only Tuesday morning.

Well, better busy than not.

I believe it is going to be an interesting couple of weeks ahead as the Republican controlled House and the Democratic controlled Senate attempt to keep the country functioning when the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

To everyone on Social Security or other government programs, like military medical and retirement, we need to be very cautious. From the tones of the spending reduction plans all of the promises we based our futures upon may be nothing more than dry grasses waving in the wind.

And so the week will rocket on.

We can only hope that the Congress and the President come to their collective senses and begin trying to lead the country in a bipartisan manner.

And I hope that the week slows a bit--that said it is just after 5am and I'm heading out the door to play racquetball followed by a match tonight.

But then, I love racquetball--it makes my headache go away.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Musings - September 19, 2011

1. Grandsons, one at a time, are not so bad.

2. Windshield wipers are an essential part of an automobile--it is really hard to drive when they don't remove rain from the windshield. I finally replaced the ones on my truck which were pretty rough and long past their prime.

3. Flying antique and historic airplanes is an inherently dangerous activity. My prayers go out to the families of the victims of the Reno air show crash.

4. It is amazing how the yearly television season kickoff season has changed. I really am not interested in too many of the new shows.

5. I was amazed at the number of projects I was able to knock out this week end. I guess it is good to hang around the house on weekends occasionally.

6. The movie Contagion did contain one interesting quote: Dr. Ian Sussman: Blogging is not writing. It's just graffiti with punctuation. -- IMDb Quotes: Contagion (2011)

7. I am spending time with my pair of Kees (pair-o-kees) again as we are watching Ben while Nicole and Jeremy are away. It is amazing how much time we have spend trying to figure out where that dog is hiding--we finally found him in the closet with the door closed, not once but three times. I had to convince him to "come out of the closet."

8. Pool closing day has been set--it is next Saturday, September 24th. Volunteers will be appreciated. No prior experience required.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Saturday Flurry of Activity

What a day.

Amazingly, it was an incredibly productive day which also saw me do something for the first time.

Lots of projects around the house were accomplished. Lights changed, crown moulding installed and the general Saturday activity that we can do when we are actually home. I even went to the mall and we had batteries installed in four, yes count them four, watches. Two each for Chris and I. Somewhere in there I even had time to shop for some wine at a local wine store.

During the middle part of the day, Chris coerced me into getting a massage that she scheduled for me without my knowledge in an effort to help me deal with my persistent headaches. I admit--the massage was way outside of my comfort zone, but I did it. And it was OK. I'm not sure it helped my headache too much, but it sure helped my racquetball strained shoulder and back.

So, I will be getting more massages to see if they can really improve the way my shoulder, back and head feel.

All in all--the day didn't end until 9pm when I drove the last nail into the crown moulding. It still needs to be painted, but it has already changed the appearance of the room for the better.

Well it definitely wasn't a Renaissance Festival day, but it was a festival of activity.

And I collapsed into bed after seeing that the Orioles had won again feeling fulfilled and with that feeling of accomplishment.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Contagion - Movie Review

I finally got out to a movie the other night and decided to see the movie with the blockbuster cast and which had done so well at the box office. I was disappointed with what I found in the movie Contagion.

Steven Soderberg directed the movie and Scott Burns wrote the script. Despite the great cast, the plot is predictable and the suspense isn't suspenseful. The acting was very perfunctory and with the exception of Jude Law and Laurence Fishburne, the characters just did not generate any interest or creativity. Matt Damon was especially uninspiring in his role, which, was an extremely predictable role as he loses his wife who he later finds was cheating on him and is stepson as some of the first victims only to find out that he is immune to the virus. His subsequent portrayal as a single father of a high schooler--his daughter by a previous marriage, is equally predictable, uninspiring and somewhat thuggish.

The story is simple--a new virus, the combination of two species DNA through a unique and hopefully improbable event, gets started in China and rapidly spreads around the globe through the wonders of the interconnected nature of our world. The Centers for Disease Control, CDC, play a central role in defining and developing the vaccine to counter the breakout. There is the typical bureaucratic and governmental slams highlighting the inefficiencies of the system and of course it all works and we are saved through the actions of a renegade hero doctor who finds, tests and gets the vaccine deployed in record time. Yawn!

The character development is very weak and the movie never develops the relationships between the characters nor provides a reason for me to care about the characters even when they contract the virus and die. It is almost as if, since they we going to die, the editors carved out any scenes devoted to character development to shorten the movie.

Fortunately, the movie is only 1h46m long--even though it seemed like it would never end.

Recommendation--MUST MISS! I cannot recommend this movie unless you need some dark, alone time for a nap.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Moon over the Roof

I noticed the moon, full and bright
hanging in the predawn sky
while I was walking Makayla.

It was casting faint shadows on the ground
blotting out the stars in its immediate vicinity
in the still dark sky.

Hanging there.
The light given for the night.

I remember,
not too many weeks ago,
when it was light as I walked
Makayla this early in the morning.

Yet today,
it was 45 degrees outside.
I am going to have to wear a jacket
ver my Aloha shirt
when I head off to work.

September is full of seasonal changes.
I guess swimming season in the pool is over
and I need to begin planning for that saddest day of the year
when I give in to the changing seasons
and close the pool.
I do not enjoy looking at the green mesh covered pool
during the months from late-September until late-April.
It is as if the fun
has been taken from the world.

But the moon shines bright
on my rooftop. Bathing my world
in the cold light that it provides.

Whispering into my ear
that change is near.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Flowers in the Setting Sun

I was reviewing some of the images from August and ran across this one of Brown-eyed Susan's illuminated by a setting sun.

I was walking around Newport, RI with the camera and spied this clump of flows in the golden light that happens as the sun heads towards the horizon at the end of the day.

Right there, in a garden in the middle of the main shopping area of Newport. Sandwiched between the shops and the harbor.

They caught my eye with the sun behind them giving them a bit of a halo appearance. A small spot of solitude in the center of a busy area to soothe the soul.

I need to grasp these moments more and struggle to remember them when I get too intensely focused on the crisis du jour.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

10 Reasons why Men don't Willingly seek Medical Help

As I wrote about two weeks ago, I have been experiencing some medical issues during the past few weeks which have caused me to visit doctors of various professions on four occasions. During this time, it has become clear to me that the medical professions really cater to women. The whole experience is set up to cause women to feel comfortable. Men on the other hand appear to be after thoughts in the patient care arena.

Men want answers--and then results. I am a "do this and then . . . " kind of guy. My recent experience has been anything but definitive.

So I think I have discovered some reasons why men do not like to seek medical treatment, unless we are unconscious and being taken for medical treatment in an ambulance after some horrific accident.

1. Usually, the symptoms go away before I can get an appointment. And then I feel stupid going to the doctor.

2. I am feeling so much better by the time I get an appointment that I should have canceled the appointment, but I didn't have the time to call and cancel or it was too close to the appointment and I didn't want to pay the cancellation fee.

3. There is almost never a definitive answer--just more referrals and more tests.

4. "Take two aspirin and call me if you don't get better," is a real treatment plan.

5. The doctor tells me: "Don't laugh when I tell you what you have, it is real."

6. My reaction when receiving the name for my diagnosis is "No kidding, did someone get their doctoral thesis coming up with that?"

7. The is such a treatment plan as, "Well there really isn't anything to help, it will either go away on its own and not return, or go away and return, or not go away." I needed four doctors and 45 minutes alone with my thoughts in a really noisy MRI to get that?

8. I get stuck in a small room or 30 minutes waiting for a doctor to see me, armed with only my iPhone are really lousy reception. And I am watching the clock tick closer to my scheduled racquetball match time getting stressed about being late--and then they come to take my blood pressure!

9. I'd say I'd rather have a root canal than go to the doctor--but wait, dentists are doctors, too!

10. In the end, I am expected to feel better because what I have has a name, there isn't any effective treatment, and it will either go away or not on its own. And I saw four doctors to tell me that, why?

So my recent experience left me less than fulfilled.

Face it, I'm a guy! I guess that is why they call it medical practice and not medical science.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wet Earth

I love the smell of wet earth. The smell of the ground after the rain, while it is still damp and rich with the smells of life.

I mowed my lawn last evening and it was still not completely dry after the tropical storm induced rains of the past weeks. The smell of the new mowed grass combined with the damp earth--there was standing water in some places, created a combination of intoxicating odors for my nose to enjoy as I rode the John Deere around the yard.

I marveled at how there could still be so much water in my lawn and rejoiced that I was not being covered in the dust cloud that mowing my lawn usually creates. The thick cloud envelopes me, the tractor, and the pool causing me to wonder how the simple act of mowing could produce so much dust.

Not yesterday! The earth was damp and in places soggy. I could see the out lines of the tractor tires in some parts of the lawn.

But I got the job done.

Not too many more times I expect I'll be mowing the yard before the seasons change and the grass no longer grows.

But yesterday, the sun was beating down on me as I reveled in the warm day and the rich of odors. Sometimes, I think I can catch scents of the earth in some of the wines I drink.

I enjoy those wines.

I enjoyed being alone on the tractor yesterday, too. I looked at the house, the yard, the gardens and the area around the house marveling at the blessings that have been given to me. I vowed to notice them more and appreciate them more rather than letting them become a dim addition to the crowded landscape that is my life.

And then, almost too soon, it was over. I dumped the last of the clippings from the bagger and drove the tractor into the garage. Funny, I keep the tractor in the garage, but only one of my cars. Someone told me it was a two car garage. I guess it is a one car garage plus workshop/tractor shed/storage area.

I walked back to the center of the yard to enjoy that scent one more time. The wet earth and mowed grass.

Savoring the memory for a time, not too far away, when I will long to be mowing the yard on my John Deere.

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Location:Rainbow Dr,Elkridge,United States

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Musings - September 12, 2011

1. In reflecting on the ten years since 9/11/2001, it was interesting to note the number of changes the we have experienced: weddings, births, deaths, and other changes. I'm not sure they are more than any other decade--but are they really more than any other decade?

2. I reflected on the events of 9/11 and I realized that we are a changed people. We view the world very differently and we, as a people, have dedicated our talent and treasure to fighting the forces of evil wherever they are in the world.

3. NFL Football is back--and so are the crazy Sunday's of massive family gatherings to scream at the television together.

4. Our local paper raised its daily rate from $1.00 per day to $1.50 per day. I'm not sure given its reduced size that it is worth the cost anymore.

5. One of the wines I tasted at Sheldrake Point last weekend was rated a 88 by Wine Enthusiast in the October 2011 issue. It was the 2009 Dry Riesling--and we though it was very good, too.

6. I watched the movie PT-109 the other night and during the breaks the skipper of the USS Samuel B Roberts was interviewed about how that ship was saved after it hit a mine in the Persian Gulf during 1988. It was a fascinating bit of history that I only vaguely remembered.

7. Makayla is very perceptive at determining when we are leaving the house and picks her moment to try to be included in the trip. It is very comical sometimes.

8. Weekday mornings around the house have returned to their school-year routine. I'm not sure that is necessarily a good thing.

9. I was reminded of an important concept during church yesterday. Paul writes of it to the Philippians in 3:13 where he states that he is "forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out to the things that are ahead." We can't live our lives looking behind us--we must move forward to affect the future because the past is already done.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Maryland Renaissance Festival 2011 - Review

Quite suddenly, a day can turn. Yesterday, for instance, I had planned a day of working around the house and recovering from the almost 12 inches of rain we had experienced during the past week.

And then, in what seemed like only a moment, I was at the Maryland Renaissance Festival with Chris, Patrick and Tina.

It turned out to be an exciting and interesting day. It had been about 10 years since I last visited the festival, and I remembered that I enjoyed it then.

We started by renting some costumes to get in character. I was a knight and Chris a pretty maid--and she is pretty, too.

There was plenty to do and to shop for. The number of people in character exceeded those who were just visiting--and the costumes were really very impressive. It was a lot of fun to look at the wide variety of costumes and the people wearing them during the day.

It is a full day adventure with shows to see and many different things to experience. We even got the opportunity to experience some of the ambiance of medieval times as we toured the grounds and interacted with the vendors and actors. The king, Henry VIII was in attendance yesterday and of course was a curiosity wherever he went with his attendants. .

We had a fun day and I even tried on my first kilt--did't buy it, but tried it on for some fun. There is so much to do and see within the confines of the festival. I especially enjoyed the jousting events--they fascinate me and they were very well done.

Entertainment was everywhere--and not in just the acts on the stages. Chris tried on some period clothes to see how they might help her to experience life in medieval times a bit more authentically.

All in all, I highly recommend the Maryland Renaissance Festival--go check it out and have some fun. Plan a whole day and it is definitely suitable for children.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Makayla is ready

We were looking all over the house for Makayla as we were preparing to head off to the Renn Fest. She had already figured out we were leaving and wanted to make her case for going with us.

I could almost hear her saying, "I'll drive!"

Sadly, she had to stay behind. But the thought was funny.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Rain, more Rain

I have come to realize over the past week that rain is a four letter word.

In some regions of the world it is celebrated as salvation and deliverance from drought and provide hope for crops to grow and produce a bounty upon which people will survive for the next season.

In the Northeast--it means flooding, pain and suffering right now. We have had too much rain. I think of my sister in Houston and wish we could send some of the rain to her, here they really need it to help with the drought and to extinguish the fires which are destroying acres of land and many homes.

That understood, here in the Baltimore area we rejoice when it stops raining even for five minutes. Yesterday, it seemed as if we were able to walk Makayla between storms--but by evening again the rain was falling steadily.

Believe it or not, I could not find out how much rain has fallen since before Hurricane Irene visited--but I know I keep pumping water out of my pool almost daily and that the total must be well over six inches. We only average about 41 inches of rain a year.

Thankfully--it is not snow or we would likely be under 100 inches or more of that cold, white stuff.

But even so, I would like to experience the warmth of the sun again and to have my yard dry out enough for me to be able to mow it again.

All this really means, is that when the rain does stop, we will, for a bit, enjoy being outside and appreciate the opportunity to be out of the house for a bit.

Maybe tomorrow?

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sheldrake Point Vineyard

Last weekend we had the chance to revisit a winery on the west shore of Cayuga Lake that we first visited about two years ago--Sheldrake Point.

The setting is beautiful along the shore of the second largest of the Finger Lakes and I will confess that we almost didn't stop.

Two years ago when we last visited the winery, we were not impressed with the wines--mostly whites. They just didn't suit our palate. But we saw the sign that said that the winery was both the 2009 and 2010 New York State Winery of the Year, and so despite our remembrance, we gave it a shot.

I am glad that we did!

This winery is a gem and the variety of wines they are producing is fabulous. The whites, as you might suspect, garner the bulk of the interest and I was especially impressed with the 2010 Pinot Gris with its pear, honeysuckle, and good minerality. Their Luckystone White is a fun around the pool on a hot summer afternoon kind of wine which I also found to be enoyable.

But surprise! I found a couple of red wines to enjoy as well. The 2009 Merlot, although a bit thin by California standards is a great NYS merlot. I also enjoyed the 2008 Cabernet Franc and their 2009 Luckystone Red is interesting in the mouth with its rich flavors.

So, if you are in the area--the Finger Lakes, I recommend a trip to Sheldrake Point Vineyards--I was not disappointed.

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Location:7448 County Road #153 Ovid, NY

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Who am I, Really?

The end of summer, and afflicted with this headache that will not quit, has made me a bit reflective.

September is not one of my favorite months of the year--and most anyone who knows me knows that this is true. Aside from marking the end of summer, it is also my birth month. And so, each September I am confronted anew with my own mortality and the sad realization that I am a twenty-something trapped in a fifty-something's body. Try as I might, I just can't see the upside in the equation.

I do not enjoy discovering new things that I simply cannot do as well as I used to be able to do them. Usually these things are athletic in nature, and so far I have resisted the temptation to actually damage myself proving that "I'm as good once as I ever was," or however the stupid country song says it.

I am just too competitive.

Each passing day, it seems, calls me to reexamine myself and to discover that the person that I am is not the person that I thought I was and that I hardly recognize the face looking back at me in the mirror.

I hate mirrors--have I ever told you that?

If you want a cold piece of reality--look in the mirror. Ugh. You cannot even photoshop a mirror.

So with all of the changes--it is true I'm not the same today as I was yesterday, except in my mind. I'm a legend in my own mind. I am who I was but not who I am. Just as soon as I catch up to who I am, I become who I was again.

A never ending pursuit of reality.

And then again each morning I am left with the question: Who am I, really?

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sure Signs of Autumn

While visiting upstate NY this past weekend, the sure signs of Autumn were evident in the blooming goldenrod and the ripe grapes on the vines.

The Chancellor grapes hanging on the vines at the Thirsty Owl winery made a beautiful image against the sky on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. It had been an idyllic morning and a means to get away from the trials of life for a bit and do something that brings joy to both of us. Wine tasting is both fun and educational. I always learn something new every time I visit a winery.

Sometimes I have this irrational dream of owning a vineyard--that is farming after all. Imagine me, a farmer? Probably not, but it is fun to think of tending the vines and and enjoying the wines produced by the grapes from the land.

The golden rod is also in bloom. And that of course means that the allergy season is ramping up with the autumnal allergens. All too soon, the trees will don their autumn colors and closeout the seasons and begin the transition into the dark times.

But despite that, it was an interesting weekend of grapes and goldenrod and family.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday Musings - September 5, 2011

1. Happy Labor Day. I hope the weather is good wherever you are celebrating because it is rainy and downright cold in upstate NY.

2. I have been enjoying sleeping in a bit this weekend--I wonder if I should change my arrival and departure times at work so that I can enjoy sleeping in on a regular basis?

3. It is definitely football season, I have watched more college football games this weekend than I can remember watching in a long time. And I am looking forward to the Maryland-Miami game to closeout the weekend this evening.

4. The saddest part about holiday weekends is going back to work.

5. I was reviewing the projects still on the plan for this year and realized that I am beginning to get a bit behind--crown molding in the dining room, new decking, and cleaning the garage attic. Ugh.

6. I've been asked when I plan to close the pool a lot lately. Truth is, I don't know. Sometime between now and October.

7. Wineries are a good reason to visit the Finger Lakes region of NY. We visited three on Sunday morning and plan to visit two more on our trek back to Elkridge later today.

8. I found out what the combination of blooming golden rod, fresh cut hay, and newly mowed lawn causes. Nasal congestion! Break out the Claritin and Flonase.

9. I love the sound of a quiet house in the morning before everyone gets up. Maybe that's why I get up so early.

10. If the postal service defaults and mail delivery stops, do we still have to pay our bills that we won't receive?

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cat on the Railing

There he was last evening. One of those iconic cats that just seem to survive all and over come all sitting on the railing on the porch.

Jackson, the cat, has been around it seems like forever. He is a self assured, no nonsense cat that dogs respect and for whom people are necessary only as a food source.

Jackson has seen it all and been through it all. He is an accomplished hunter and stalker.

He is the definition of the self-reliant cat.

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Location:Hayts Rd,Ithaca,United States

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Haze Covered Hills

As we drove to Ithaca yesterday, and again this morning, I noticed the haze covered hills far in the distance like a collage by some famous artist.

The hills stretched into the distance and t one point I counted four distinct ranges--each more faint to my eyes, but still there. And as the road covered the miles the distant hills were replaced by more distant hills.

Endless it seemed.

The farmers are out working the fields bringing in the hay. Big circular bales lie in the fields ready for the winter season ahead.

There is so much work being done--even on a weekend when the weather is good.

I'm thankful that I get most of the weekend off.

But it was good to get back to an area where the landscape is defined by the majestic hills lending character and texture to the scene. And of course, that haze reminds me of the dog days of summer--one of the final weekends before the season changes for good.

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Labor Day Weekend 2011

Holiday weekends--aside from been three-day weekends, seem to excite everyone who gets to enjoy the time off. Planning for a short trip to visit family or just to travel a bit provides a much needed break from the routine of life.

Holiday weekends also provide a reason for families to get together and to celebrate being a family. I am looking forward to spending time with family just being family this weekend.

Labor Day is also one of the holidays which marks the passing of a season: the transition of summer into autumn. Although the season doesn't actually change until later in the month--it is essentially the autumn after Labor Day--which is in reality the last weekend of summer.

I can't believe it is September already. I always feel a bit sad for Ethan in September because for our family it is the beginning of a fairly aggressive birthday season which does not end until his birthday in April. It is tough being the tail-end-charlie for all of the birthday celebrations. I think everyone is a bit birthday weary by the time mid-April rolls around, but his Mom goes all out for him to compensate.

Travel, birthdays, cooler temperatures, and shorter days--September is all of these.

I will strive to keep the pool open a few more weeks--but it is already so cool that I'm not sure anyone really wants to spend time in it anyway. And propane has become so expensive that I probably won't heat it up, either.

Whatever your plans are--

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend. If you get to celebrate by having three or more days off, then celebrate. If you have to work--celebrate having a job, these are hard times. If you are traveling, be careful and thoughtful of others who are traveling with you either on the roads or in the planes, trains, and busses which will likely be full.

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Doctor Day

Some days just need to be devoted to things we don't like to do. Like going to the doctor.

That was my day--two different doctors who coordinated to make my life just a bit more difficult by loading me up more tests and scans.

All because I've had a killer headache for almost two weeks.

But I feel thoroughly violated (not really), but I do appreciate the diligence that they both used in examining my symptoms and trying to find something. Failing that, the kicking team came on the field and we punted.

At least it was a beautiful afternoon--enjoyed from the inside of medical arts buildings.

Maybe some answers in a week or so.

Till then--take a couple pills and call me if it gets too bad. (It already is).

But both of them are really nice and I enjoy talking to them because they listen and try to put things together, much like I do.

By the way, did anyone notice that August 2011 is history?

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