Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Break.

In 17 years of marriage and 5 years of dating preceding that, we have worked out a rigorous schedule to get time with both our families. It takes planning, determination and full tank of gas.

Since Christmas Eve is Mrs F's Mother's Birthday we head to my sister-in-laws for Christmas Eve. We usually do a big spread up in God-knows-where PA and stay until after midnight but this year sister-in-law and her husband were singing at Midnight Mass at Our Lady of the Sticks church so we pushed Christmas ahead by three hours. I some how convinced the crowd that it was in everyone's best interest to watch the Cincinnati-Denver game since I had two players in Fantasy Football in the playoffs in that game. We usually watch "A Christmas Story" five hundred or so times until we can repeat lines from it. (I think, with a little effort, we as a nation, can make "A Christmas Story" like "Rocky Horror Picture Show" with audience participation and an annual family event. )


Every year at my sister-in-laws at about 8 pm or so we have the same conversation: "What time are we getting to Mom's?" This conversation revolves around what time everyone will be arriving to my Mother-in-laws to exchange presents on Christmas even though we just saw each other hours before at my sister in laws. Same people - different geography.

We have this conversation knowing two things perfect well:
  • We always say 2 PM.
  • We always lie.
We could have the conversation in July with similar results but we do our best to make it by the prescribed time.

The actual arrival time of each party follows the "inverse of the distance" rule. The further away you live, the closer to the prescribed time you arrive. We live in another state but some how get there before her brother and sister that live in the next township.

This year my mother in law generously gave us each checks for Christmas and my wife whispered to me "how much?" looking at her check. Thinking quickly, told her I got twice as much as she did.

We exchange gifts there and then head to my mother and fathers for dinner.

This year was a little different at my Mom's since the Eagles-Dallas game came right in the middle of our visit and took precedence. We exchanged gifts at commercials and sat to eat home made raviolli just after half time. The filet wasn't quite ready after the pasta so we all headed back to the game to watch the Eagles crush the hated Cowboys and the receiver who's name we dare not speak.

We got to work up more of an appetite for the filet.


As is customary, I've taken the week between Christmas and New Years as vacation but this year Mrs F has to work so it is a little different. I have made a list of things that I wanted to get done and she made me a new list of things she wanted to get done and guess what - blogging wasn't on either list so you can imagine how that is going.

So I better get back to my list and get to work.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bastogne

A few weeks ago Youngest Son and I were flipping through channels and landed on one of the three hundred HBO channels my cable company seems to carry. We ended up watching a World War II series that somehow we had missed when it first came out in 2001 called "A Band of Brothers".

This is the story of "Easy Company" of the 516 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st airborne division and at first we thought it was just another fictional account of WWII. Later we noticed that the real people whose stories were being told were interviewed at the beginning of each episode.

We were hooked. The only problem was that we had really only seen the end of the story and not the 9 episodes before. We picked up the whole set at the local library and have been watching them for weeks now on and off.

The men interviewed really down play their heroism but some of the things these men did where unbelievable, heroic events. One example: In December 19th of 1944 they marched into Bastogne, Belgium as the German Army was sweeping through the area in the last great German offensive of the war in the Battle of the Bulge. The soldiers that had been in the area were leaving as they marched in. Within 24 hours of settling in they were completely cut off and surrounded and spent the next few days being shelled in their foxholes in the snow. Many were killed and maimed but they stood their ground in one of the famous battles of WWII.

I have been fascinated with the "Battle of the Ardennes" as it officially called since seeing that episode, especially since it happened at exactly this time of year. It's been haunting me for days as I have spent a lot of my free time reading stories and checking maps.

I also wonder what the next large scale war like this will be like. The technology has changed so much now and I think Americans have as well. Are we willing to fight like that again? I'd like to think we would but I don't know.

Either way I have a new respect for the men that fought in WWII after seeing just some of what they went through.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I think I pulled something......

I think I pulled something getting back up on the Philadelphia Eagles bandwagon. A few weeks ago after the Monday Night debacle in Indianapolis I was ready to leave them for dead but now that they have won two in a row and remain in the wildcard hunt for the NFC, I believe again.

Yes, they can't stop the run, sacks are way down, they have two huge injuries (McNabb and Kearse). I actually think they think they can do it.

Yesterdays game was coyote ugly and they were lucky to walk away with the W but a win is a win and they are back above 500 again thanks to Brian Dawkins game saving sack of Jason Campbell.



Match the Bengals player with the charge.
CB Deltha O'Neal
spousal abuse;
DE Frostee Rucker
burglary;
DT Matthias Askew
DWI;
G Eric Steinbach
resisting arrest;
LB A.J. Nicholson
operating a boat under the influence;
LB Odell Thurman
DWI;
WR Chris Henry
resisting arrest and drug possession
WR Reggie McNeal
DWI

Fantasy Update
I am also tired after staying up too late to watch the The Dallas - New Orleans game. It was doubly sweet since I have Brees and McAllister in the playoffs of my Fantasy league and my opponent had the Cowboys defense. My team, The Fragile Porcelain Mice, move on to the next round of the playoffs having knocked off the team with LT. Every time Brees threw a pass, the Dallas Defense dropped in points. It was beautiful.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A hook, a hat and a coat.

When youngest son was about four we took him to Santa at Macy's downtown. It was a special employees only visit and my Mom joined us for the day. There was a long line and when it finally was Youngest Son's turn, he got in the big man's lap and said:

"I want a-hook-a-hat-and-a-coat".


We had no idea what this meant. We heard coat.

We thought he wanted a new coat because as the youngest of four cousins Youngest Son was always getting every one else's hand me downs. I felt terrible. The boy had asked Santa for a coat.

We completely misunderstood.

Both boys has spent the better part of the previous year watching Peter Pan and were fascinated with Cap't Hook. He wanted a pirate hook for a hand, a pirate hat and a pirate coat.

Better.

My Mother made the boy a red pirate coat complete with ruffled sleeves and wide lapels and we found a hook and hat.

That Christmas morning the first thing he opened was hook. He then used the hook to open the gift wrap on all the other presents.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Waste of a day

Yesterday was not exactly what I would call a productive day.

I still needed to cut the ornamental grass before it spent the winter blowing all over the yard, under the pool cover and into the water and to do this task I needed twine. It's string. I needed string.

A house full of crap and I can't find string.

I know I had some in the house and spend an hour searching through junk draws, shed and garage before I gave up and decided to run to the store. I ran over to the local Stop and Shop that used to be a Super G because I knew they had what I was after.

After searching the store-I-am-learning-to-hate for 30 minutes I gave up. Apparently one of the differences between Super G and Stop and Shop is twine. Some genius at Stop and Shop thought "If we only get rid of the twine, people will flock to our store". No twine.

So hustle off to the drug store and then a larger drug store. I became an expert at searching through those pseudo hardware sections that the supermarkets and drug stores have, you know, the one with the tiny hammers and tools that no one ever buys because it isn't really a hardware store - it's a food store.

Anyway after an hour and half of that frustration, I gave up and went home. I had wanted to give the boys a task before heading out to food shop but it wasn't going to be to bundle up the grass.

I food shopped at my Shoprite and stumbled upon, of all things, twine. I was never so excited to see twine. It was like finding the Ark of the Covenant in aisle 34.

I finished shopping (did you ever notice that the people enter the food store with you with seem to be like your shopping buddies? You see them in every aisle. Some times going the same direction up the aisle, sometimes the opposite. This is really awkward if you know them and you finish the small talk in "produce" and end up seeing in every aisle "frozen foods". It's like you have nothing to say so you nod awkwardly every time you see them.)

So I sent the boys out to wrap grass with twine while I unpacked.

After putting all the food away I went out to cut the grasses with the hedge trimmers.

For years I have been giving my Dad a hard time because whenever he uses the hedge trimmers he ends up cutting the extension cord. I usually end up repairing it and shortening it so that a 50 foot cord ends up being 13.2 feet long.

Anyway....

It was getting dark because I had frittered the day away looking for twine. I had one last grass to cut down and was hustling to get it done.

I reached the trimmer around the back of the last stand of grass and started whacking away and when the last stand of grass was done I noticed that I had cut a wire leading into the house that came out of the ground and into the garage.

I cut the phone line into the house with the hedge trimmer.

It could have been worse. The Cable TV was right next to it.

So now we have no phone. So I call the phone company except I have no idea who "the phone company" is anymore. I search through bills for a phone bill that may have a clue as to who "the phone company" is.

It's MCI. I call MCI.

I am convinced that there is only one actual person that works at MCI. We'll get to him later. All of the other people have been overtaken by machines like in those Terminator movies. On July 27th 2004 MCI became self aware.

MCI is now only voice response units via telephone.

Not only are they voice response units, they want you to talk your response. None of this "press one of English" stuff, they want you to say "English".

Great plan - unless you have two barking schnauzers in the background. Then it's a series of "I'm sorry I didn't get that, could you repeat it" responses from the robots that have overtaken MCI.

You didn't get that because you don't understand schnauzer!

We have a plan with MCI called the neighborhood. I found out that the neighborhood has the only human at MCI, the repairman. The repairman is busy because we had storms on Friday.

I spend the next 20 minutes with a pleasant woman with a thick Hispanic accent explaining I have no phone.

She is going through her script "I want you to unplug all the phones in the house and have them change rooms - put the bedroom phone in the kitchen" etc etc.

I fess up to cut to the chase to keep from playing silly games with my phones like "OK plug in all the red ones". I explain that I cut the wire coming into the house and need a repairman (OK, the repairman) to fix it.

We spend the next 10 minutes explaining where the cut is. I find myself saying "the wire comes out of the ground and into the house and before it goes into the house it was cut". This seems simple enough to me but she is not understanding she wants to if the wire was cut "coming off the pole". All of our cabling is underground and there is no pole!

She is not getting it and I am convinced I am talking to a machine. A machine ingenuously designed with a thick Hispanic accent.

"The wire comes out of the ground and into the house and it was cut before coming into the house" I keep repeating this, over and over with schnauzers yapping in the background.

She/it finally understands and we decide the best time for the repairman to come is Sunday afternoon. Maybe. Since things are busy, they may not be able to come until Tuesday.

Until then, please call me in my cell phone.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Holiday

My brother and his wife from California were in town over the weekend and so we spent quite a lot of time over at Mom's in Pennsylvania. I drove back and forth on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and it seemed like just about every trip was in the rain. It was good to have the whole family together as brother-who-does-not-exist-on-the-internet-even-though-he-has-a-domain was also in for the weekend and my sister lives there.

We usually get together and play "the game" as it is referred to in my home. "the game" is Acquire, a stock market game that I picked up in the Navy 30 something years ago. In the years since we have always played on the days around the holidays when all of us are in town.

This year I couldn't find the game and so we were disappointed somewhat. I am not sure what happened to it. It's got to be around somewhere but it may be time for a new model since we were playing around missing pieces.

We also just hung out. The boys enjoyed time with their cousins and stayed over at Mom's several times.

In between all this we had a soccer tournament, the annual million man nap on Thursday during the Dallas game, put up Christmas lights in the warm weather for a change and saw my mother in law.

All in all it was a fine five days off.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Homemades

This Thanksgiving my entire family was in town and my mother made the traditional Thanksgiving day dinner and was prepared to make Italian wedding soup as the appetizer when at the last minute, my Nephew suggested that we make home made ravioli.

In retrospect this was like saying "why are we always buying cars, why don't we just make a car?" or "Hey let's make a Nuclear Reactor!"

My grandmother was the always the one who made these delightful little pasta and ricotta cheese Italian delicacies on Thanksgiving and my cousin J took over the franchise on her passing in 1999.

Our family had never made them, only eaten them. Lots of them.

Years ago, when my grandmother was getting older and no one had yet taken the on the mantle of continuing the family traditions of homemade pasta, my Aunt had wisely sat down with my grandmother and written down the recipes. She gave the recipes in book as a Christmas gift that year but I'm just not sure that we had ever tried them.

I've since learned that my wife's family made them a little differently. They would make square ones and put sugar and cinnamon in the ricotta. We consider this evil.

I had also seen my grandmother make them when I was much younger so I knew the basic steps. You make dough, you roll and cut dough, you fill it with ricotta cheese and close the ravioli .

Repeat 200 times.

How hard could this be?

First, this is a two day process. On the first day you make the dough and let it rest. Frankly, I think it's you that needs the rest and not the dough after hand kneading 24 cups of flour and 24 eggs but the recipe says the dough needs the rest.

On Wednesday afternoon, with my brother and mother as the main workers and my nephew no where in site, they started in on the first batch. They decided to break it into two batches since my mother only had a smaller kneading board. The first batch came out a bit dry since someone had misread the recipe and used half the amount of water with the eggs as the recipe called for or my brother miscounted cups of flour.

A trip to the supermarket for more flour and eggs later and they had two resting lumps of dough in gallon zip lock bags, enough for 200 ravioli.

It's a good thing the dough is rested up on the second day because it is going to have a work out. On Thanksgiving morning, t took an army of family members to perform the next few steps. My brother had brought his pasta machine so the rolling and of the dough wasn't so much of a chore but the cutting of dough circles to fill with cheese turned out to be tougher than expected.

It seems that my grandmother had one special glass for this. A glass with just the right size and just the right edge so that it was perfect for cutting ravs. I am not sure that the sacred glass was ever used for anything other than making ravs. It would be un-holy to drink from the rav glass.

We didn't have this glass.

There was much discussion about what became of the glass after my grandmother passed and we decided that my cousin must have must have taken the glass.

We were making due with a beer glass but it was slowing things down. In the end they made 200, freezing half and serving about 100.

Later in the weekend we spoke with my cousin about the glass. He said "it broke" and he has been using an aluminum cookie cutter to make ravioli. He also confessed to making the dough in bread maker and now he uses a mixer with a dough hook.


At least he doesn't cinnamon in them.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sure-crawl

Several things I was thinking about while stuck in traffic on the Schuykill yet again this morning.
  • What the heck did Admiral Wilson do in life to have that crummy road named after him in Camden. He must have pissed someone off.
  • What is a Kia "SFPH A"? A light blue was in front of me for 30 minutes at US1.
  • What does Conshohocken mean? It's got to mean something, right? "Zoned light industrial"?, "Land of many old factories"?
  • Why do most people still seem to use the cash lanes instead of ez-pass at the Ben Franklin bridge.
  • Isn't a 16 inch Tsunami just a big wave? How could you tell which wave was the tsunami? Did it wet japanese beach blankets and towels? Wash away children's beach toys? Why is no one leading a relief effort?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sure-kill

This is a different type of week for me. I am out of the office and attending training in Conshohocken, Pa - just north and east of center city Philly. Since I live in New Jersey and can't fly, the only way to get there is take the Schuykill Expressway West.

Readers from the Philly area will immediate recognize that I am in trouble. This morning's commute took 1 hour 45 minutes to travel 28 miles - and there were no accidents. This was only volume and weather related.

Schuykill, of course, is an Indian word that is best translated as "45 minutes of staring a truck bumpers" or "merge or die" depending on the dialect. The path the expressway takes along the Schuykill river was first used by the Indians to reach their summer homes along the Jersey shore and later by colonists that wanted to reach Neiman Marcus at Christmas time. The real reason that Washington's spent the winter at Valley Forge? They did not want to use the Schuykill. They said "I wound rather starve in a freezing tent rather than travel that road". Later they crossed the Delaware at Trenton to avoid the whole mess. As time went by the corridor along the river was used for train right of ways, leaving approximately 31.5 feet for the future road's twisting and turning 4 lanes.

Like I said, everyone hates this road but is forced to use it.

Philly Roads has a great quote from Bill Allen, the designer of the Expressway. Bill said "If you don't like it, don't drive it".

Thanks Bill.

I even listened to the radio traffic reports this morning before heading out. Normally, even if I do turn on the radio, I tune out the traffic reports as background noise. I tried to listen this morning, I really did. But after 40 something years of hearing "the Schuykill is backed up from Vine street to Conshohocken" everyday on every station you tend to filter it out. All I hear is "and now traffic and transit on the twos" and I completely zone out. It's like that phrase puts me in a trance. Next thing you know, the sports report is on. They could be saying that the Loch-Ness monster is eating all black cars that pass milepost 335 after "on the twos" and I would miss it. (Although that may explain the slowdown, that would take a lot of time wouldn't it? eating every black car?)

I even checked out the television traffic reports this morning. One report said that from Vine Street to Conshohocken was a 24 minute commute. 24 minutes. I really should have known better because even at 3 am this ride takes 20 minutes. This took me 1:05 Hrs. You couldn't have made that trip in 24 minutes even if you sprouted wings and flew off like those monkeys on the Wizard of Oz.

I swear the traffic reporters must be just making it up. How would you ever know if they were right? Unless your driveway connects right to the Vine Street entrance of the road, it is going to take you maybe a half an hour to get to the area that they are reporting traffic on. A lot can happen in a half an hour. Loch-Ness eating cars for example. If you asked them, they would just say that a half hour ago there was no Loch-Ness monster eating cars.

Maybe traffic reporters should the ask animals at the zoo what is backed up. The Schuykill goes right past the zoo and the animals might have a really good view. They have as good a shot at getting it right as one of those good looking traffic reporters. Mr Elephant says Eastbound at the Curve in Conshohocken is backed up. Mr Giraffe says it's going to take you 45 minutes to get to Girard. Mr Tiger says stay away from City Line. Like you have a choice anyway.

So tomorrow I take the trip again Westbound (that really goes north) and I will leave earlier. This means nothing. I have a 50-50 shot at getting to the class on time.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Band Season winding down

We spent Sunday chasing the marching band across Pennsylvania. The All States championships were held in Hershey, PA and this year we were finally able to attend. We missed the previous years because of Mrs F being in school and of course in those two years they won this championship and the Calvacade of Bands in successive years.

This year they did well and came in third but we had to leave well before the 9:30 PM scheduled awards ceremony.

My Mom and Dad came and watched through Oldest Son's band and then took off the minute He was done. We were right behind them after the next band finished up because it was cold, we were tired and it was time to go home. We also had the neighbors come with us and enjoyed the company for the 2 plus hour ride.

Next week is Cavalcade of Bands, the last real show of the season and then finally He gets a break for a while.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Learners Permit

Oldest son turned 16 over the summer and of course that only means one thing in NJ - getting your learners permit to drive.

Here in the Garden State a 16 year old must take 6 hours of professional drivers training which must speak volumes about the environment around the young new driver. Our state government decided that professional training is required before you get behind the wheel of an automobile as a 16 year old.

Well $300 dollars and 3 months later that part of the experience was complete and Oldest Son was ready to start driving behind the wheel of cars that I owed. The permit arrived on a rainy Wednesday when we needed Bleu Cheese dressing for dinner. I didn't know it had arrived when I demanded that we had to have Bleu Cheese with the buffalo chicken. I was thinking that I would jump in the car and race over the Stop and Shop that used to be a Super G and has now gone downhill and we don't shop there any more except for Bleu Cheese Dressing right before dinner.

But I digress.

When I said I had to have Bleu Cheese Dressing, Mrs F suggested Oldest Son drive over the Stop and Shop that used to be a Super G.

I wasn't quite sure what to say. I don't think I was fully prepared for the moment. Wasn't just yesterday when She woke me up and said "the stick turned pink"? And now He was going to drive me over to the store.

I said "sure".

We went out to the the small car. My drive-to-the-train-station-car and he got in the drivers seat. I got in the passenger seat, a seat to which I am not accustomed. Ever.

He put on his seat belt and started the car. Actually he started the car once and then sprung the key into the starter position again making a grinding noise.

You have no idea what they don't know.

The state of New jersey only makes it worse by making them spend 6 hours in a "professional" setting because then you don't know what they know about driving and what they don't.

After the starter episode he turned on the lights to the first position, the "parking lights" (what the are these for anyway? In thirty years I have never driven anywhere with just these lights on).

Lesson one: These are the head lights. You need them to see.

I decided that a little refresher of all the switches and knobs was in order. Windshield wipers, emergency brakes, seat adjustment. Check, check and check.

We were ready and he drove off into our cul de sac. There is nothing more frightening then realizing that you have just turned over a 1500 lb automobile to someone whose skills as a driver are a complete unknown.

As he turned around in the dead end I tried not to show my panic. "You are doing great" I told him and he was, it was the truth. I just felt helpless.

As we drove off our street and through the development to the exit we talked about a strategy for approaching the Stop and Shop and parking the car. I realized there was another skill I had taken for granted: parking.

Over all he did great except for making a right without being able to see all the way up the street and we were back in 15 minutes.

Mrs F said that she would let him drive home all the way from the High School after she picked him up from Band the next day but I told her "you are not ready for this" .

Since that night I grown accustomed to letting him drive.
It's not easy but I am better at it. He was always fine - I had the problem.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pope abolishes limbo.

As I wrote last week, I read that the Pope was about to abolish limbo.

For the non-Catholic reader, limbo is described at newadvent.org:

In theological usage the name is applied to (a) the temporary place or state of the souls of the just who, although purified from sin, were excluded from the beatific vision until Christ's triumphant ascension into Heaven (the "limbus patrum"); or (b) to the permanent place or state of those unbaptized children and others who, dying without grievous personal sin, are excluded from the beatific vision on account of original sin alone (the "limbus infantium" or "puerorum").

So basically it's where unbaptised babies or as I was taught "pagan babies", go if they die.

I think this is great - there are paid people whose job it is to wear large pointy hats and worry about where unbaptised babies go if they die and this says a lot about the society in which we live. Pondering such issues not very practical and doesn't really produce any economic value but at least we are not living in such dire conditions were we couldn't afford to have able bodied men consider the afterlife fate of the un-dunked. I'm sure this didn't happen during my Grandfather's time in the depression when men were busy trying to make ends meet by selling apples and pencils on street corners and deep thoughts on the subject of limbo was the farthest thing from their minds. So we should consider ourselves rich since we can afford to pay people to provide such services to our society.

Also, the whole topic of limbo just yet another divisive subject. It automatically divides people into one of two camps. Are you for limbo or against it? Are you a limbo-ist or an anti-limbo-ist? Like abortion, Iraq or this red state, blue state thing there is going to be clear line and you have to be on one side or the other. Why I am Pro-Limbo and Pro-life. Except for the fact that the Pope has made a stand on the "issue", it's just a bumper sticker and a catchy icon away from ripping this country in two.

So how did this dramatic decision come to be? It seems fishy to be Pope for a short time and to make such a dramatic move. Did Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lobby the college of cardinals before becoming Pope? Did he promise them "You boys put me in the big chair and I'll make sure that limbo is abolished in our lifetime"? Has he secretly been planning this for years while working his way up the ranks? Did he start as a small boy with a dream? Did he say to himself as a young man "I hope some day to abolish the silly concept of limbo and set pagan babies everywhere free"?

Or was it the other way around? Did a group of Cardinals promise to get Ratzinger the Big Pointy Hat if he abolished limbo? It just brings all kinds of questions doesn't it? Like I said, it seems fishy.

So before it was abolished, what was limbo like? After all, it sounds like a heavenly Lord of the Flies. First of all, the entire population of limbo is under the "age of reason" which most cultures believe is about 13 years old. Millions and millions of children under the age of 13 with zero supervision. This sounds like a recipe for disaster. Let alone how impractical it sounds as a very large percentage of the limbo population must be newborns who died at child birth. This brings up the whole question of care and feeding. Who is going to care for millions of babies? Do they grow? Are they stuck as babies forever? What of the toddlers, three year olds and pre-ks? Who is keeping them occupied with no Sesame Street, Barney or Tell-a-tubbies to lean on? If you are one of the unlucky 13 year olds this isn't limbo, it's hell because you are a babysitter with a lot of kids to look after.

So let's look for the news from the Vatican to see if they are successful!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

How I spent my 17th Wedding Anniversary

Yesterday was our 17th Wedding Anniversary and here is how I spent it.

8:00 AM - Woke up and turned on the oven to 325. Made coffee.
8:15 AM - Made Brownies for Bake Sale at Band Home Competition.
8:25 AM - Watched Spouse leave for first Columbus Day Soccer Tournament game of the day with Youngest Son after another episode of "why didn't you get your water ready".
8:30 AM - Make shopping list.
8:40 AM - Put Brownies in Oven for 50 Minutes and ate breakfast reading about TO (Terrel Owens) in the local TO news outlet the Philadelphia Inquirer. Read that the Pope has abolished limbo.
9:15 AM - Being that it is cold, I decide at the last minute to make Hot Chocolate for Spouse.
9:25 AM - Brownies are done. I remove from oven and set on rack to cool.
9:30 AM - I race over to the Soccer fields hoping to catch second half of first game.
9:35 AM - Don't remember which field they are playing on. I guess at field 2.
9:40 AM - I guess wrong and go back to car to find field 4.
9:45 AM - I find field 4 and bring chair, hat and thermos of boiling hot hot chocolate. I arrive as the whistle blows starting second half. They are winning 1-0 and Youngest Son missed a shot at the goal in the first half because it is wet.
9:50 AM - Spouse burns chin on piping hot hot chocolate.
10:30 AM - Game over - they win 2-0. Spouse stays to fulfill obligation to sell T-Shirts for Soccer Team.
10:40 AM - Drop off youngest son and race over to food market.
10:55 AM - Arrive at food market.
11:45 AM - Spend $173 in food having no idea what I bought.
11:48 AM - Receive call from spouse - buy burn cream.
12:00 PM - Arrive home. In a blur in the next fifteen minutes I will:
  • Put away all items needing refrigeration.
  • Instruct Oldest Son to make his mother a sandwich.
  • Cut and individually bag 30 Brownie squares into snack bags.
  • Instruct Oldest Son to put away non-perishable foods.
  • Mark cooler with our name in permanent marker and give to boys to put in car.
12:15 PM - After locking door, see two boys struggling to fit a 40 quart wheeled cooler in the trunk of '97 Civic. I tell them to throw it in the back seat, cram in next to it and we race to second soccer game.
12:25 PM - Drop off youngest son at soccer fields with the sandwich for his mom. I am 5 Minutes ahead of schedule.
12:40 PM - Arrive at high school Home Competition with Oldest Son. Drop off brownies and attempt to drop off cooler but the cooler is not required. Still 5 minutes ahead of schedule.
12:42 PM - Put cooler back in car and leave high school. Race 3.9 miles back to the soccer complex.
12:55 PM - Buy burn cream at CVS.
1:02 PM - Arrive at soccer game. They are running late.
1:03 PM - Mad at myself for unnecessarily worrying about "pagan babies" when I was young since the Pope has now abolished limbo.
2:25 PM - The soccer game is over. They lose 2-0 to a huge team from Delaware.
2:30 PM - Arrive home and make lunch of soup and sandwich.
3:00 Pm - Gather hat, gloves, walkie-talkies and batteries.
3:15 PM - Leave for High School home band competition.
3:30 PM - Arrive at High School. Change into fluorescent green safety vest for parking duties.
4 PM - 8:15 PM - Park incoming high school buses using only a flashlight and my vest.
8:30 PM - Eat a meatball sandwich standing among piles of unused coolers with the other "parking dads"
8:45 PM - Help assemble large red barn made from cloth and PVC pipe.
9:15 PM - Bring fragile red barn onto football field with other dads.
9:20 PM - Race to seats to watch band show.
9:45 PM - Disassemble large red barn.
10:00 PM - Find oldest son. He is going to coffee shop with girlfriend. I could really care less. I am exhausted and my legs hurt.
10:30 PM - Arrive home and crawl into bed. Pass out watching "Castaway".

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Temporary Homelessness Again

So at 8:30 this morning I was walking through Wildwood, NJ with a full backpack in the rain after sleeping on the beach.

It wasn't that I was homeless, I was part of Beach Jam and I was walking to my minivan.

Thousands of scouts and their families come twice a year to Wildwood to stay on the beach and ride rides, walk the boardwalk and hangout. Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts come from as far away as Maryland and New York. It's a perfect example of a win-win. Wildwood needs people to come to the Summer beach resort in the Fall and Scouts from all over are looking for places to go and be in the outdoors.

This was our first time and we didn't really know what to expect so we came as early as possible and set up. It was a lot like being on a crowded beach on hot day. If you came early you were able to set where ever you wanted and if you came late - good luck. We spent a large amount of our time holding our ground against invading late comers.

At one point a Girl Scout leader came by and the conversation went like this:

Girl Scout Leader: Do you mind if we fill this area next you with girls?
Me: Are they pretty?
Girl Scout Leader: Well they are all pretty on the inside.

Later I found out that one of our boys, under their breath, said "that has not been my experience"

The Girl Scouts found a better spot.

Later a group of Boy Scouts from New York eventually moved in behind us and squeezed into every available crack of space between all of our tents towards the beach. We kept our real estate in front of our tents but behind us were the New Yorkers.

We experienced every kind of weather in 24 hours as well. Saturday during the day was sunny, in the afternoon the winds whipped up and today we had rain. During the wind the tents on the front lines near the water were nearly flat from the wind and tents all around us were overturned.

The rain on the beach was nasty too but at least the wind had stopped by that time.

The boys had a great time but what was not to like - it's not too often you go a camping trip where the fudgie-wudgie man comes by selling ice cream.

I don't think I've ate so much on a camping trip before either. There was just too much to pick on from the boardwalk stores.

All in all it was a good time and enjoyed by all.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

It's OK, I'm with the band.

Mrs F and I decided that we were going to make a commitment to actually see oldest son's marching band competitions this year. In the past she was studying constantly and we did not have the time to see him perform due to everything we squeezed into a weekend.

That is a shame since for past two years the high school marching band has won the championships for their division. Let's hope they do as well this year.

We headed over to the "away" competition in the next county only to find that the band needed a massive amount of help since they had more props than a "fancy brigade" and we were quickly recruited to move props onto the field.

The theme for his band this year is "Down on the farm" complete with a barn, fences and half completed pictures of animals. It took a small army of people to move everything on to the field and off in the 15 minute time limit. They really needed the help.

I thought they performed great but then again, I am a little biased. Usually in the beginning of the "band season" they are a bit rough around the edges since the choreography is rather complex. By Thanksgiving they should be very sharp.

The parents really support the bands with cheering of course but the real cheer-leaders use cow bells. Our band parents association hands them out as soon as you join and expects that the parents will use them at all the competitions. One band at this competition took cow-belling to a new level with huge custom cow bells. They were obnoxious baritone cow-bells. They were loud and huge. One guy actually wore a glove to handle his. A glove. What, did he get blisters?

I have a fever ......

We had a wonderful time and expect to make a lot more of them.

[update]
They made second place in their division.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Philly Underground Fire

I am beginning to feel like Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter.

At about 1:15 I was in my next door neighbors office when we heard what sound like something large being dropped a long way.

BOOM!

Of course we all headed to the windows to look out on 15th street where the noise seemed to have come from and as we examined the construction site across the street, looking for what dropped, we noticed a manhole cover was missing and in parts on the street.

Smoke was still coming out of it as I grabbed my camera and rushed off a few shots from 17 floors up.

We watched out the window for a while and noticed that the fire company had already been on the scene before the explosion and we watch as the fire company put orange caution cones around the manhole and for a while people walked down 15th right past the cones like nothing had happened.

The office started to stink like fire by about 1:25 and word was passed that we could go home if wanted. It wasn't smokey but you could smell something electrical burning.

No one was really frightened or anything it was just sort of "oh well, what is going on at the window now?"

Later an announcement was made to evacuate the building using elevators or stairs. Again, things were calm and relaxed with people headed to the bathroom before heading out.

We all hopped on the freight elevator and walked out on the plaza with the Clothespin sculpture and decided it was best to go home before anything happened to the trains.

Just another day in the city.

Of course those weasels at Philly.com got better pictures somehow and I was there the whole time!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

This just in .... A shed update.

As you can see the new shed construction is coming along rapidly. I am not sure why the zoning variance was required - those zoning guys are so strict about 3 story steel frame construction! They are just nuts. I hope the lawn mower fits on one of the floors and the wheel barrow on another. I'll have to get some of those expensive organizers as well to hang my rakes and shovels. I hope it all fits.

The roof is a concern since I don't seem to have one but I'm sure the Amish guys will get to it. I am sure the neighbors are going to love it since it such an improvement over the old one.

So what if it is 100,000 SQ FT. and blocks out the sun.

Actually the Amish showed up at exactly 6:30 AM Saturday morning in the rain. The schnauzers started barking so I went to the door expecting some strapping milk fed bruiser like in the movie Witness and found - Doogie Houser. I swear the kid couldn't have been more than 16 and he was wearing glasses. He was 100 lbs soaking wet.

So doogie had his "crew": a guy driving the truck was a little older - maybe 23 and another heavy set kid that was 15.

They started taking the old shed down right away and had it down by about 9 am. We started to figure out that they weren't real Amish when they started cussing up a storm.

The cursing Amish. Never heard of them before Saturday.

I had some errands to run and by time I came back the new shed was nearly done. They had brought it in pieces so it went up rather quickly.

Mrs F got home at about 1 and noticed right away that they had the windows on the wrong side. We had made some oral changes and the Amish moved the windows on us as well as moving the porch. Not much you can do now though - so we have two windows that look at the neighbors fence.

The glory of the cupola more than made up for it. It rises above high the roof with a rooster that points the wind direction. A real thing of beauty that must be seen to be appreciated.

The thing is that I had my weather station on the old shed and no one ever noticed the wind direction. Mrs F spent most of Saturday telling me "Now it's from the South East". That never happened with the old weather vane even though the data was on the internet.

We had the ceremonial moving of the lawn mower at about 2 PM and of course speeches by the Mayor and most of the town council. The Mayor spoke on the need for more shelters for homeless wheel barrows.

It really is a beautiful shed and it's like something out of Disney world. I plan to add and animatronic Lincoln on the porch next year and have a version of "it's a small world" inside.

"It's a small world after all,
It's a small world after all....."

I could sell tickets.

The boys took one step inside and each had the same thought: "I could live out here". Why do guys have this primeval urge for solitude? Youngest Son wanted to know if he could have sleep over in it. "Does it have electricity for my Xbox? He wanted to know.

The neighbors love me again and have stopped me on the street saying how wonderful I am for having the vision and determination to replace the old shed.

I just have to remember to paint this one.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I remember 9/11

I had spent a small portion of that Monday (9/10) being coached by the manager that I needed to spend less time in meetings and catch up on some work I needed to do so I cleared my calendar for that Tuesday morning. I was a supervisor of about 8 people in IT in a office tower in Philly.

I remember the weather that morning was one of those near perfect September days. It had rained the day before and a big dome of that legendary Canadian Air poured in from the North to the entire Eastern Seaboard of the US. The sky was cloudless and blue and the temperature was to be in the 80s.

My wife paged me on my two way text pager with the news that an aircraft of some kind had crashed into one of the two "twin towers" in NYC. It went something like "MIKE A A&RPLAN$ H!T THE TOWERS IN NY%" because the stupid pager was notorious for dropping characters and mangling sentences. (I once got a message to PICK UP HUGGIES when our kids were 8 and 10 - I was very worried until I realized she had meant HOAGIES).

The first thing I did was to hit the Internet for news so I typed msnbc.com into my browser and I knew this was going to be a huge news story by how long it took the farm of servers that MSNBC must have to render the page. When I finally got a page all it had was a picture of the smoking tower and a half baked story about an accident involving a small plane and the north tower.

I remember that the office just went a little nuts then with people yacking it up and looking for information. The other tower was hit. One guy that worked for me at the time who was a well-known maven rushed in my office and told me the news. I told him to "get back to work - there is nothing we can do here". Another guy that had just started working for us ran off with a look of fear and sadness that I just can't explain. Later we found out that his former employer had merged with Empire State Health and had offices in the North tower. He knew missing people.

One resourceful guy found a TV in a conference room and wheeled to his office and attempted to get a signal. The TV was meant for DVDs and videos and didn't have an antenna so we watched the snowy picture of the smoking office towers.

I went back to work.

My maven rushed in to tell me that the south tower, the second one hit, had fallen.

I remember thinking that "this never occurred to me" that the towers might fall. I figured if they survived the initial impact that they would just burn themselves out and leave scarred office towers behind.

I rushed over to the crowded snowy picture and watched in disbelief. A short time later the second one fell.

About this time I started thinking about disaster recovery and started printing out everything I could find and syncing my laptop with the latest documents we had on DR. I had reams of paper printed and I heard that the Pentagon had been hit as well.

About this time all kinds of crazy rumors were flying about: Pittsburgh had been hit, there were more out there, Camp David had been hit, etc etc.

The Camp David one struck me as "suspicious". How do you even find Camp David, let alone run a 757 into it at 600 MPH? It sounded to me like there was one weak team in the organization and they were told "you go long, out by the Buick". Camp David?

About 11 we were told that the office was closing and we were to get our people out so I went about finding everyone one by one and telling them to go. I couldn't find "J" our college recruit so I search the building looking for him until my Maven told me he left after the first plane crash.

I headed off with my boss since she and I took the same PATCO train from Jersey everyday.

I recall how efficient PATCO was. They had every one of their trains stacked up at 16th and locust and were filling them and sending them off as fast as they could. They had stopped even taking tickets and opened the turnstiles for anyone that wanted out of the city. All of the people in the city and on the train were humbled by the experience and were solemn. They were polite to one another. It was different.

I got home by lunch and turned on the TV and was glued there for the next 24-36 hours.

The kids came home a little after I did and seemed unfased by the whole thing. All they knew was that was the second day of school and now they were off. Oldest Son was 11 and Younger was 8.

That night there was a prayer service at Fellowship Alliance Chapel and it was there that I heard the name Todd Beamer for the first time. He was a member of the Princeton Alliance chapel and was known to have been on flight 93. He left behind kids and a pregnant wife.

The next few days were strange. The skies were quiet and the people remained solemn. God bless America signs were everywhere. People were nice in traffic.

This lasted about two weeks before everyone went back to being themselves.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bad News 2 days in a row.

On Tuesday we brought the minivan into the dealership for what seemed to be the 50th time for them to find an elusive problem with the transmission. It was the second time in a week that we brought it in. My front floor area is filling with those paper floormats the dealership leaves behind that say things "We value our customers" with a giant pair of shoes.

We have done this numerous times over the past 2 years or so. The transmission would act up on us, only to be well behaved at the dealership.

Once, on the way to Boy Scout Summer camp, I thought we had it nailed. The transmission really acted up and the "D" indicator went crazy and started blinking and the "Check Engine" light came on. I knew the computer on board "recorded a code". The only trouble was that one of the boys left the interior light on and the battery died taking my precious code with it.

This time the dealership found it.

1st Bad News: We need a new transmission at 60k miles and the warranty is long past. The good news is that Mrs F is good at maintaining the car and she did everything the manufacturer recommended at every 15,30,45,60 whatever mileage they wanted.

Honda is replacing the transmission if we pay labor. I'd sure rather have a transmission that lasted 200k miles but that is better than we pay for the whole enchilada.

On Wednesday I call about the permit for the new shed.

2nd bad news - no permit. The shed thing is now beyond ridiculous. Apparently if a shed is greater than 10' high or greater than 200 square feet, the shed must be on a foundation with pilings that are below the frost line.

No, it doesn't matter that we have a 196 square foot 11 foot high shed on a concrete slab already, we need pilings.

Nuts.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Ernesto rips through South Jersey

Tropical depression Ernesto ripped through southern New Jersey overnight causing downed leaves and branches and bringing over one inch of rain. The fifth named tropical storm of the Atlantic season reached the midlantic states mid-day yesterday and slowly moved through the region overnight.

100% of the local schools were closed as school children enjoyed an extended holiday weekend. Many properties are littered with sticks and small branches. One man was reported as saying "I am not sure how long it will take to dig out from all of this debris".

One local man reported a wet newspaper and was forced to disengage a canopy top in order to prevent Ernesto's powerful winds from toppling the 2 year old aluminum canopy structure. A garden umbrella was also forced to close in this same neighborhood.

Additionally swimming pools in the area were reported as filling as much as another one inch as sump pumps worked to remove ground water from under homes in the area.

Ernesto began as a tropical depression on the 24th of August in the Leeward Islands and briefly reached hurricane status last Sunday making it's way across Cuba and Florida before heading out to sea before striking the Carolina coast. The exact location of the Leeward islands is unclear but is believed to be warm.

Damage is reported in the tens of dollars and governor Corsidine is expected to tour the area by small plane later today.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

End of an era

Today marks the end of a era for the Philadelphia Eagles as they waived both Koy Detmer and Todd Pinkston. Remarkably, two of the skinniest men in the NFL were released on the same day.

Koy was a strange bird. He looked more like your neighbor than an NFL quarterback, someone you might borrow a rake or a leafblower from rather than your field general. It always amazed me that someone so slight could play at the NFL level and last for ten years. I always gave me hope that someday I might line up under center.

By comparison, Jesse Palmer (aka The Bachelor and a text book looking QB) only lasted six.

Koy played his best game in 2002 on Monday Night Football against the 49ers. Donovan McNabb had broken his ankle the week before and it was up to this 195 lb quarterback to win on national TV and keep the Eagles season going. He picked the 49ers apart before dislocating his elbow in the third quarter. It was painful to watch him thrash on the field clutching his elbow from the gruesome injury but he played a beautiful game.

I'm sure that Koy would most like to be remembered for his quarterbacking skills or least for his wacky zorro/swordsman celebrations but he will best be remembered like this, on one knee, looking down, holding the football for kicker David Akers. He was very good at this apparently as everyone just raved at how good he was at holding the football. Holding the football. He got paid to hold the football. I guess all the other guys on the team for the past ten years never learned how to do this or had the uncontrollable urge to swipe it away at the last minute ala Lucy on Charlie Brown.

Holding the football. Another thing I could have done if given the chance.

In recent years it had to be this skill that kept him on the team year after year. It was either that or that he had compromising pictures of Andy Reid. Either way, he made a bundle of money for being David Akers' security blanket as he signed a $3.25 million contract over four years in 2003.

3.25 million for holding the football. I could have done that, how hard can it be?

He also had a strange habit of buying a single outfit at the beginning of the year in Target and wearing that outfit to every road game. Word was that he didn't bring much else on the road either. Maybe a toothbrush and his playbook.
You can also see that he did not blow his money on fine automobiles either. Koy drove this 1981 Caddilac until this year when it was auctioned off for charity.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

click-click-click-click

This time of year reminds me of being on a roller coaster and being towed up that first big hill. Our whole family is looking up at sky with our hands in the air knowing that once we pass that peak on Labor Day it is going to be a wild ride to Christmas. An endless stream of Soccer-Band-Scouts-Soccer-Band-Scouts until next thing you know you are shoveling snow in January.

So we take a pause for the last week of real summer as the roller coaster cars slowly come to the top, change direction and head off down the hill.

Oldest son will be a Junior in High School this year and that now adds the element of College hunting and SATs into the mix and youngest may not be doing Scouts so that may free up some time but still we are going to need more planning than the Allies had for D-Day if we want to see Christmas alive since we are both working. I'm thinking on-line calendaring might do the trick but no one besides me would use it.

It has been quite a summer with the trip to Italy and Greece, Sailing the Chesapeake, Concerts and numerous camps - it seems like a blur. Except for the graduation party, we really didn't even have any big pool parties - that is a first. Sleep-overs were dramatically down this year as well - I guess the boys are out growing them.

Maybe we can get one last fling in before the school season starts after Labor Day. Maybe a camping trip - who knows. I haven't been to the shore yet this year either. Maybe a day trip is order.

Concert Update

We saw Tom Petty last Friday on the grass at the Tweeter in Camden. It was a great show even if it was attended by what seemed to be 20 year-olds for whom the lights were on but no one was home. The place was packed but we had our usual 20 or so in attendance so we had a strong foot hold against the crowd. Thanks to Tina and Wendy for camping out early holding back the tide.

We alledgedly saw the Allman brothers too but I only caught the last few songs of their set. Many in our crowd never saw them at all after spending the better part of the evening in line at the bathrooms.

Good show even if the encore was a little weird. Three slow songs in row - a lot of people, including us, left during the encore.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hidden Treasure

I spent most of Saturday hauling 14 years of junk from the shed to the curb. An admitted pack rat with a 12' x 16' shed is like an alcoholic living atop a bar.

I found
  • Three old windows that I admittedly pulled out of some else's trash when Mrs F was going through her shabby chic design phase. ( my back up plan was to use them to make a green house)
  • Tiki torches that we collected the time that we helped the middle school decorate a dance Hawaiian style and that the real owners did not want back.
  • A box full of the excess solar cover material for the pool.
  • My 1974 Motobecane 10 speed.
  • Three sets of rusty shelves.

All to the curb.

We kept Mrs F's 1978 Huffy 10 speed for sentimental value. It was a gift for graduating High School.

I could have used the "Monback Brothers Trash Hauling" from Prairie Home Companion who not only haul the stuff away, but help you decide what to throw out. Their motto is

If you keep telling yourself, "One of these days I'm going to sort out this stuff" ----- call for us, we'll sort it out for you.

At about 6 PM on Saturday someguy with a mohawk and a pickup drove by and picked off the good stuff (My Motobecane?)


There were a lot of things I had put away into that shed thinking that someday they might be treasures but in the end there was only one thing.

You see my shed has two doors, a left and a right. We use the left door daily to get in and out but the right door is only opened if we have something large entering or exiting the shed. This usually only happens twice a year in April and October.

On Saturday I had the right side door opened and saw something I had forgotten about.

Twice a year I had marked the boys height on the inside frame of the right door and I had forgotten all about it.

I had also marked my height and watched as they slowly got closer and closer to me.

At that moment I was really angry at myself for not taking better care of the shed. These sharpie marks on a 2 x 4 were a treasure that was going to be lost when they come and tear down the old shed in a few weeks.

I went and measured all the heights and recorded them but it's just not the same is it?

Maybe I can continue them in the new shed.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

PATCO fire

I always wanted to see the "ghost station" at Franklin Square but I never thought I'd see it like this.

I was a little angry that I just missed what I thought was the express PATCO train leaving the 15/16th & Locust station in Philly and then I looked at my watch and found that it was 5:05 PM, 2 minutes early for the express. I also caught that the train was marked "Lindenwold Local" as it left the station. OK So I didn't miss the express.

I waited at the station and another train pulled in as soon as the first one left. This one was the express and I took my favorite seat in the very front, next to the conductor. I like the window. What can I say? I also used to make all my friends hold their hands in the air like we were on a roller coaster when we headed over the bridge on the front train.

I was thinking how lucky this was to have my favorite seat on the express but I really had no idea how lucky it really was.

The ride was uneventful until we headed out over the bridge and I noticed that the train was moving slowly. The train usually comes out of the tunnel and speeds up as it heads up the hill of the bridge crossing the Delaware River.

I heard the conductors' radio and one of the other conductors of a train ahead of us was saying that he had an emergency light come on and then our train stopped on the bridge. We stopped just below mile post 1.75 and I am not sure that the whole train was even out of the tunnel. I was because I was on the east end of the train, closest to New Jersey.

We sat there for a bit and the radio crackled again, this time saying something about a fire under the last car on the train ahead of us. The conductor didn't sound panicked, he just sounded business like.

People were making phone calls telling loved ones they were going to be late.

There were several of us up front with the conductor and we were on the edge of our seats listening for news about the fire.

Finally, after about 20 minutes the central control station told our conductor to make an announcement that we were going back to 8th and Market street station and she headed back to the west end of the train to drive from the other end.

Our trained headed slowly back west it the tunnel but it didn't seem to have all the lights and air conditioning on.

Then it stopped dead. I could see the end of the tunnel leading to the bridge and I still had a cell phone signal from where the train stopped so I made a few calls updating my home and work were I was.

I was a little mad at myself because for the last 6 years I have carried a flashlight in my bag. I carried that stupid little flash light everyday for 6 years. In July I got a new bag. Guess what didn't make it into the new bag? The flashlight.

I think there was an announcement about staying in the tunnel until power was restored and we were all asked to move to the center cars. After that an announcement was made that PATCO workers were going to open the Franklin Square station and we could all leave from there.

We waited for a bit and then I headed to the center cars and found one with the doors open and headed out on to the Franklin Square platform and from there, all the people on the train waited to head out up into the sunlight.

For a short time it was a little adventure, making our way out through the abandoned station. It looked like the set of science fiction movie. No one was really frightened at that point, it was more like your neighborhood after a car wreck or a fire. People chit-chatin' up. There was a big guy who was having trouble getting up the last bit of stairs and blocked everyone for a while but that was about the end of it.

NJ Transit came with some shuttle buses and took most away and I waited for my ride (Thanks again George).
Courier Post Story

Monday, August 14, 2006

Kukaro Part 2

As reported earlier, we spent the weekend on the S/V Kukaro on the Chesapeake Bay. The weather was perfect, with almost none of the humidity that we had been having the week before and nothing but sunshine and moonlight.

The Kukaro is a Hudson Force 50 built in Taiwan in 1980. While there is not direct translation, kukaro is a Micronesian word that means "really long to do list" because, as is expected, there is always something that needs fixin'.

I spent the weekend re-learning a whole new language of course since sailors have a different name for just about everything. While I usually go to the store and buy food, this weekend I went food shopping and bought some "provisions". It wasn't the left side of the boat, it was port. It wasn't a bathroom it was a "head" and we needed lessons to run it. The boys and I were reminded not to throw feminine hygiene products down the bowl. We fought this urge all weekend long.

We motored up to a semi-secluded anchorage at the Sassafras river and spent the over night "on the hook". Of course we swam off the boat and the boys enjoyed jumping off the pulpit into the water below.

This was a lot different than the last time we were on L&R's Sailboat in 1998. The boys were 8 and 5 and the boat was their boat previous to this, a 34 ' Hunter. In those days the boys work up at dawn and being on a sailboat did not deter them from their early morning adventures. The only problem? No where to go on 34 ' sailboat so they ran up and down the Fiberglas deck. bop bop bop bop bop bop up the deck and bop bop bop bop bop down the deck.

They peered in the hatch said "hello!" they ran back down the deck.

This trip was a bit different since they are teenagers now and slept in until 9 and complained about missing sleep.

Here is a pic from 98 and the same crew from this trip.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Live aboard the Kukaro

Good Morning from the Kukaro. This morning we are pirates, wifi pirates.

We are still in the marina getting ready to get under way for the day. High tide is coming and we are fastening everything down. Captain Rick has hoisted the pirate colors and is giving naviation and sailing instrcutions to oldest son.

Overnight was comfortable as we slept in the huge "V" berth up front. The salon is huge as well and now Jimmy Buffet is playing as the diesel fires up.

Well I want to get up topside as we get going.

Bye for now.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The shed saga continues

It's been a while since I did a shed update and a lot has happened on this exciting topic.

Our last update was that the township approved the zoning variance and we thought that was the end of the story with the paper work.

However when we went to pick our pool tags for the community pool we were told that we couldn't because we had an outstanding Architectural Review Board (ARB) issue.

Follow me now as I show you the path that lead to me and my family not being able to use a pool facility that we pay for.

I have a shed. An ugly shed. I want to replace the shed.

I follow the process and ask the ARB if I can replace the shed. They say yes but the township must approve a zoning variance since the shed is too close to my property line. Never mind the fact that present shed is already too close to the property line and I am replacing a shed that looks like something that belongs on the Clampett's old property (before they found oil) with something that belongs in Disney's "it's a small world".

I pay close to $700 for a variance and it is approved.

Now because I requested a shed through the ARB and they never heard the final outcome, I can't use the community pool. Huh?

Now I need the ARB to approve what the Township did or I can't swim.

I believe this makes perfect sense but that is only because the largest financial investiment of my life is in the hands of crazy people and am in denial.

We submit yet another ARB request for a shed and that also is approved. Total time: 14 months.

Last Saturday we finally felt ready to engage a contractor to build an actual shed and headed off the Berlin Farmer's market.

The contractor was Amish.

I think. It may have been some sort ruse since I didn't see a horse and buggy out front and the place was air conditioned. They had beautiful sheds.

We talked with the salesman. We'll call him Elmer since that was his name. Elmer looked Amish. Sort of. He had one of those Amish beards with beard hair only from ear to ear under the chin. He also had no zippers - just buttons. But he had the strangest shirt. It was silky like a 70's disco shirt but with buttons.

Disco-Amish. Ah ah ah ah stayin' plain ah ah ah ah stayin' plain.

Great sheds. Wacky clothes.

Mrs F picked one with porch. Yes, I will have a shed with a porch. And a cupola with a rooster weather vane. And flower boxes.

In fact the only option she didn't get was the "it's a small world" mechanical figures for the porch and windows. Yes, it has windows. With shutters. I see a lot of seasonal decorating going on here. Pumpkins for the porch. Lighting. Christmas Lights. Giant hearts in February. All this for place to keep my lawnmower dry.

So today I took some time off work for, surprise! More shed paper work. I needed a permit for the Amish to build the shed.

So we are almost set.

The only thing that Elmer said that sort of alarmed me was "do you have a problem with us starting early?". So what is early to the Amish? Doesn't their normal workday start at 4 AM? Is 2 AM early?

No, they start at 6:30 AM on a Saturday.

I can only imagine a scene from the movie Witness with horse drawn wagons full of strapping Amish men driving up to my house to build me a place to put my rakes ( I have two rakes). Of course the just-as-big Amish women would need to come to make high-carbohydrate Amish food for lunch.

This seems like a lot effort for shed.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

One Hundred

I promised that if I got to 100 posts, I would post this story. Since this is the 100th post, here goes. It's long.

In 1978 I was living in Oak Harbor, Washington in the Pacific Northwest. I was in the Navy, being trained on the EA-6B aircraft. I was depressed. I was 19 and on my own for the first time. I was lonely.

I had a car, a 1971 Super Beetle, and my Navy friends and I would take rides to Vancouver and Seattle on weekends and drive into the hills when ever we could. The car was basically a big walkman with a 40 Watt stereo and the back deck loaded with speakers. This may have something to do with my hearing loss.

I would bring along my friend Gus and a friend I met through him, John Livingstone. When Gus left and went to sea with his squadron, I hung out mostly with John, taking our nightly road trips drinking, partying and playing music. I was still depressed but enjoyed the camaraderie.

One night, as was our habit, I stopped by John’s room before our nightly jaunt and he was watching the 700 Club on TV. I thought that this was a little weird for a guy whose life motto seemed to be “John Livingston: live stoned”. It was after all 1978.

I made fun of the program, I mocked it. “What are you doing watching, “Carson of Nazarath”? John just kind of took it stride. I can’t remember exactly what he told me but he explained what a free gift I was ignoring. He told me that in order to be in relationship with God I needed to “accept Jesus”.

I had no idea what this meant. I really didn’t.

He said you need to accept Jesus as your “savior”. More babble.

Up to this point Jesus was a guy who just made me feel guilty, really, really guilty. I grew up Catholic where the gospels are read in eye-dropper sized portions and only by the priest. They would read stories like the “rich young ruler” and I would feel nothing but guilt.

In this story, a man approaches Jesus and asks what he must do to enter heaven. Jesus tells the guy “obey the law and the prophets” I know what this means – the Ten Commandments. The guy tells Jesus “I have, since I was boy” Jesus tells the guy – and this is the kicker – “Then sell everything you have and then you will have eternal life”.

I kinda got stuck a “sell everything you have”. I grew up with lots of nice stuff. I had to sell everything I had? I had to be poor to live forever? Look, Jesus, you’re a nice guy and all, I love what you did with the loaves and the fishes, the storms, but I really like my new stereo.

The Catholic Traditions did nothing to explain this and any of the other Gospels to me. They really just made it more confusing. It was all about suffering and pain and pleasure was bad. There were a lot of rules.

But what John was telling me was different. This was free. It had very little to do with men in pointy hats rubbing oil on my head and “giving” me the Holy Spirit. It had very little to do with statues and stained glass. This was the direct program. You and God.

So that night we drove up to “mount” Erie in Skagit County. It is only 1300 feet high but it looks over some the most beautiful mountains and lakes. I liked to race the VW up the twisting switch backs that climbed the back side of the hill. The poor VW would smell like burning oil by time we would reach the top.

There in March, 1978 I spoke the words “I accept Jesus Christ as my savior”. I spoke them like they were a magical incantation. They were magic words that lead to a free gift.

I think John said something like “Cool” and that was it. We drove back to the Naval Air Station.

The very next day I found a book. It was a small, red book, with a hard cover. It was written by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now, I didn’t know the JW’s from a moonie but I read the first part of the book.

It explained how God spoke to us by his Word, the Bible.

Catholics really don’t have Bibles. Priests have Bibles.

The book also explained the story of the Garden of Eden. God made man. He made him to be perfect and without sickness and death. God made woman to be a companion for the man. The woman disobeyed God and then the man had a problem. There was a moment, an instant in time, where the man had to choose. He had to choose between the perfect, good looking woman with him and what God said. God had said “do not eat from this tree” but the woman was tricked by of all things, a talking snake and ate from the tree.

The man had to choose. Stay on God’s side or side with the woman.

He chose poorly.

We all know what happens next.

But for me, that day, it was if I was blind and now I could see. I knew this really happened. This story jumped out at me. This was not a fable or an ancient myth. THIS REALLY HAPPENED. THERE WAS AN ADAM AND THERE WAS AN EVE. I couldn’t explain what made the difference to me that day, but I realized later over time what had occurred. I was different.

The book went on to explain how in order to reconcile God and man, Jesus needed to be an atonement. He needed to die in my place in order to make us whole again. All the missing pieces in me, physical, mind and spiritual would eventually be put back in place by Jesus. He would come and rule the Earth in a Kingdom.

This spoke to my heart. I knew this to be true in a new a vibrant way. I had joy knowing this.

That day I went to my friend John Shoemaker’s house. John was married and had two kids and lived way outside town in small house on highway 20.

I was ecstatic and I explained what had happened to me. “This is real!This is real! There really was an Adam and Eve. You have to know Jesus! He is coming and will have a kingdom and we are going to live forever and this is going to be great!”

John and his wife Bobbie looked at me like I had three heads and a tail.

I drove off confused. Why couldn’t they see like I did? Was I crazy?

I got a Bible. I read. I was fascinated to learn. I sucked it up like a sponge. A lot of it didn’t make sense to me but I read and read. Some of it spoke to directly to me.

Soon it was my turn to ship out and leave Oak Harbor. My squadron was assigned to the USS Saratoga in Mayport, Florida. So I went as the advance team to clean and get our ship’s spaces ready.

During these weeks, my eyes were continual opened as they had been with the small red, book. However, I lost the book somewhere along the lines. More likely I gave it to John and Bobbie but that is another story.

I was at sea. The world was whole new place to me. The sky never seemed so blue, the ocean so dynamic and vibrant. I was really, for the first time, alive. God loved me just as I was and I knew it.

I was drinking, but less, I smoked, cussed like a, well, sailor but I knew something that others didn’t seem to grasp. I was a child of the living God. At first I thought it was something I had figured out, but I began to realize that God in fact had opened my eyes. I looked at the men on the ship and realized men have not changed in thousands of years. These men would be equally at home on a Roman Ship of that period or a ship of Columbus’s time.

Man can’t change unless God changes him.

I prayed. I prayed for stupid things. I prayed and stupid things came true.

I was mopping floors with sea water, a common practice on ships at sea. I was mopping and the water was filthy. It was brackish, brown salt water. I recall praying that doing this job was depressing and that I need to see something beautiful, Lord.

I dumped the water onto a cat-walk 90 feet above the ocean. The wind was blowing and when I dumped the brown liquid, the wind took it and blew it up into a fountain and the sunlight caught it.

It was beautiful. The brown, brackish water was beautiful.

A chill went up my spine. God heard me. I didn’t speak any words. God heard my thoughts. He knew me and everything about me.

This image is forever impressed on my mind and over time I have come to realize that that water represented me. Dirty, brackish, ugly but that God could make it clean and beautiful.

That night I walked up on the flight deck and thanked God for what I had seen and understood that day and while looking up, a shooting star went by. It was like a wink from God. He knew and he heard me and he loved doing it for me. I was deeply, deeply, loved by God.

Another time I was down in the mess deck, eating and it hit me like a ton of bricks. God really loved people. He knew each one of them and loved them deeply as well.

These feelings were undeniable and came in waves over weeks of time. At the time I thought I was going to feel like this forever, but that also is another story.

I recall Joy, real God given Joy and understood how martyrs could have died knowing what they knew.

Later, the ship pulled back into port and my friend Shawn who lived in Orlando, invited me down. I hitchhiked down and on the way I met this girl. I hung out her and her friends for a while. We went to a concert. It was Bob Segar in an outdoor venue. We wandered around and may our way to the front. I remember seeing two people making love in the crowd. They were partially clothed but they were clearly making love in the crowd with people all around. They were drunk.

I recall distinctly that my feelings about seeing this act had changed. In the past I would have loved it. Ya! Go baby! How rebellious! But now I realized that they were rebelling against a Being that had only good in mind for them and he was quite powerful. He can make shooting star from a piece of debris hurtle across the solar system and plunk into the Earth’s atmosphere on demand. Rebelling against Him is a bad move. This was what got us in trouble in the first place you idiots! I was angry.

I began to realize there were things I did like this. I was shown this and slowing these things came off me like weights. I didn’t give up drinking, It just sort of fell off like an unneeded part. I wasn’t missing anything. I stopped smoking almost over night. I watched the words that came out of my mouth.

In the end, these few months and the events that took place in them would shape my life and it's direction more that I knew at the time. There have been ups and downs and sometimes I went more backwards than forward but in the end the net direction has been forward towards Christ. I'd like to tell you that everything was perfectly clear and I understood it all from that point forward but there are parts that still don't make much sense to me. Like TV Preachers. What is with that voice and that hair? But I digress.

Today I've come to learn that what happened to me has happened to a lot of people but not to everyone. I've learned that without that direct experience trying to explain what happened is like trying to explain a sunset to blind man. But I believe what happened to me can happen to anyone if they reach out to God. He is faithful and will reach out to you and make his presence know to you.