Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dory's Special Day

Nine Years ago today I did something that I was extremely apprehensive about doing at the time. As it turns out it's one of the best decisions I've made since my move to Kentucky. 

On January 31, 2004, after James and Paula has spent a couple of weeks trying to convince me, our family adopted a beagle/hound mix dog from the local animal shelter. 

She was a stray dropped off at the Bowling Green Humane Society after she was found wandering along  interstate 65 by a woman from Connecticut, who was passing through the area. 

Her shelter name was "Queenie" but we wanted to change that. I guess as a means of having me "buy into" the idea of being a dog owner, my family allowed me to name our new pet. 

It was 2 weeks after we had gotten back from my dream vacation in Walt Disney World. So with Disney still fresh in my mind I decided that the pup's new name would be "Dory."

Although she was not a puppy, according to the vet at the shelter, she was less than a year old. After being on her own for who knows how long she was a bit under weight. Here's what she looked like the day we brought her to her "forever home". 

Initially, Dory wasn't too keen on the idea of being "held captive" in our house and backyard. She almost immediately began trying to escape under the fence. Eventually, though she decided she like the comforts of our home. 

Soon she was eating and sleeping well. A year later she was happy and healthy. Here's my favorite picture of her taken in 2005. 

It's now been 9 years and life with Dory has been terrific  She's a well kept pup with a doggie sister named "Angel". 

Dory loves her crate, her pillow in the living room, her dinner, snacks, and especially her walks. 

Now considered an older dog, Dory is as happy and healthy as she has ever been. 

Like all of us over the last 10 year, Dory has aged a bit but there's still a spark in her eyes. As you can see she's gotten a little gray in the muzzle but she's the doggie sweetheart of my life.

 Everybody loves Dory, especially the "leader of her pack", me. She has made as much of a difference in my life as I have in hers. 

This morning I gave her a special treat for her special day. It was a cupcake shaped treat made especially made for dogs. 

Dory is one of the richest most treasured blessings I've ever had come into my life. I love my Dory with all my heart and I don't care who knows. 

Happy Adoption Day Dory. 

Too Close For Comfort

In Smiths Grove this past Tuesday night something I knew was possible but never thought would ever happen, did. 

Although as of this post it hasn't been officially confirmed by the National Weather Service, from all the evidence and witnesses, a small tornado came through the eastern part of town.

Don't worry it was a mile from our house and we felt no effects or damage.

The suspected cyclone traveled a north western path starting east of I-65 and caused significant damage to quite a few properties. Several of them are part of my every day life here in my small little town. 

The most damage occurred on the farm of a local family own who own a small flower and plant store. Their barns were totally destroyed. 

The back right corner of the IGA grocery store was taken out. Across the street a plate glass window of a tax accounting office (our friend, Gail works there) was shattered. 

In the same building the door of the dentist office run by our friends, Mary and Deon, was damaged by a piece of wood blown from the IGA building. 

As far as I know the vet's office where I take the dogs had no damage. 

Although it wasn't directly in the tornado's path, the Bryce Motel, where my family from Pennsylvania stays when they come to visit, had some roof damage. It's nothing major but was enough to close the hotel.  

These places are so familiar to me and the idea that they were hit by a small tornado is very disturbing. 

If you live in the part of the country where I do the possibility of a tornado coming through your neighborhood exists with every sever weather system that comes through the area. 

But up until last night, they always happened far enough way to be relatively nonthreatening. Now the next time a tornado watch or warning is issued for where I live I guarantee I won't dismiss them so easily. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Follow The "Plastic Brick" Road-Part 3

Continuing with my journey down the road to "Lego Land"...

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the history of the United States is the 1960's space race, specifically NASA's Apollo program. Even more specifically, I love the Saturn V rocket. The propulsion vehicle that took our astronauts from earth to the moon.

So the Lego kit I was looking to buy late summer of last year was kit # 7468. It has models of 3 Apollo program space vehicles: A Saturn V rocket, command/service module , and a lunar excursion module. 

It was discontinued for commercial sale. So I had to get it from Ebay; but it would come at a hefty price. 

I began to try to win one of the many auctions. I was outbid at the last minute on at least a dozen of them before I realized I was going to have to increase my maximum bid if I wanted to win. 

Finally after about 2 months of watching many auctions get away from me I won the Saturn V Lego kit at a price that I choose not to reveal here. 

My "victory" happened in late September, after my birthday so I would have to put the kit away until December so  "Santa' could bring it to me. So 3 months later on Christmas morning I opened my most treasured Lego possession. 

As of the writing of this post I have yet to assemble the components  But when I complete the construction of all 3 vehicles, I'll post a picture in a place I'll mention a bit later. 

The next step in my Lego adventures came in the 3rd week of November. At the beginning of October I started working 
again. I'd been "between jobs" for about 6 months. 

My new job was at a call center doing basic trouble shooting over the phone for people who have a contract with a national electronics service company. 

After moving from the classroom to on-the-job training and then to working on the call center floor I discovered something about my new job. Because it tends to be a bit routine, agents who worked on the phones were allowed to bring things to have things at their desks to help them pass the time. 

I observed that my co-workers brought with them things like: cards, puzzle games, and even paperback books. I even heard someone say that at one time there was a guy who used to bring Legos. 

Hearing that I decided that I this was an opportunity for me to finally start using the 450 piece Lego set I bought back in August. 

Upon opening the container I found out that there were instructions included in the set. They were step by step guidelines on how to build at least half a dozen different objects and scenes using different combinations of bricks and accessories in the kit. 

I started out just making buildings. The first one I made, a church, was really something I was proud of. I built it from the ground up; complete with a cross on the front, pews and a pulpit inside. 

Not everything I built turned out the way I envisioned it when I started. My attempt to build a friendly robot turned out to be more a maniacal looking robotic rabbit.  

When I suffered a case of temporary of creative block I started building the things in the instruction booklet

My favorite of them was the helicopter. 

Soon after constructing a "Happy Thanksgiving" in block letters while working on Turkey day, I started creating things having to do with Christmas including: Santa Claus and a snowman. 

Because they are directly from my imagination, I am very proud of them as well. They are only a few of the multiple Lego creations I built over the last months of 2012. 

Sometime in December while Christmas shopping I discovered a line of Lego products that were just what I was looking for. They're under the name "Lego Creator." 

The premise of this series is that the blocks in the sets can be used to build any of 3 different models. There are a lot of these sets available. I have already gotten a few of the smaller kits and really like the designs that you can build with them. 

I'm not going to show you any pictures of these "Creator" sets in this post. Instead, if you want to see most of my Lego projects, you can go to my Facebook page and find the photo album entitled "My Legos". 

It will contain all the pictures I've taken of all my Lego projects since I started building them. 

It should be on my FB page soon after this post is published. If you are not one of my FB friends just send me an invite. I'll accept it and you can see all what I've been having fun building. 

Finally, to bring you up to date on what's going on with my Lego world. Believe it or not it brings the "Plastic Brick" road back full circle to the Lego store. No, not the one in Chicago but the one Nashville. It's in the Opry Mills Mall. I found it on yet another one of my December Christmas shopping trips. 

When I walked up to the front door of this specialty store that's just an hour of away from my front door, I'm not sure but I think I just might have heard angels singing. 

I can get many of the "Creator" sets that are on my want list as well as buy individual pieces in bulk. At the back of the store there's a wall of bins filled with bricks and pieces of various shapes, sizes, and colors. 

A customer can take a small store supplied bucket (about 8 inches high and 3 inches in diameter) and fill it up with as many bricks or accessories as they, purchase it and take it home, bucket and all.  

As of this post I have filled that bucket twice. I've got quite a few bricks that are not part of a kit. 

I'll continue to update my Lego photo album on Facebook. With the Creator sets I have waiting to construct including the Apollo set and one that can be built into any of a trio of dinosaurs. 

So that's where I am in my journey down the "Plastic Brick" road. Legos are part of this 52 year old man's world for the foreseeable future. 

Say what you will about me and my new toys. But they help me learn about and express the creative nature God included when he built me. 

For those who wish to harshly judge me and my enthusiasm for this hobby, let me paraphrase a quote used by "Old Man" Marley in the church scene in one of my favorite Christmas movies, Home Alone: 

You can be a little too old for a lot of things but you're never too old for Legos. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Follow The "Plastic Brick" Road-Part 2

Shortly after getting back from Chicago where I went to a Lego store for the first time in 8 years I bought my first Lego kit. 

As I mentioned in part 1 it was a replica of the Willis Tower we visited in Chicago. I had never put a Lego kit together before so I was a little intimidated.

I opened the package and placed all 69 pieces out on a table.  

Once I got started on my Willis Tower, it turned out to be really simple. In just a few minutes I was finished. 

I was so proud. I had made my own souvenir. The action of following the illustrated plans to organize the pieces into a model of the Chicago landmark. I felt a sense of accomplishment. I was hooked. 

Which Lego Architecture kit was next for me? The Seattle Space Needle? Empire State Building? Perhaps the White House?  

On a trip to Toys R Us (I forget the real reason I was there) I went into the Lego aisle and saw something that I really liked: Disney characters. That's right there were kits that let you build Matchbox sized versions of Lightening McQueen and Mater from Pixar's Cars. 

It was fun putting them together. I didn't take a picture of the pair I built but here's one I found on a website. 

They are such a great addition to my Disney collection. 

I really liked putting kits together but I also decided that I'd like a set of Legos that would allow me to just build whatever comes to mind; my own creations. Something I really liked doing with the set of plastic building bricks I had when I was a kid. 

Then in early August (ridiculously early if you ask me) my local Sam's Club store set up an aisle with toys for Christmas. There were a couple of Lego play sets among the selections. I decided it was time to get one for myself. 

I took it home and set it on a shelf in my bedroom. Waiting for when I had the time to just sit and enjoy my new hobby. As it turned out I wouldn't find the time until a couple of months later. 

Meanwhile I was searching for my next Lego model kit. But acquiring this one would take some time. 

The kit was a set of replicas of 3 vehicles used in the U.S. Apollo space program in the 60's & 70's. It was no longer available in stores but could purchased on Ebay for the right price. 

More on that getting that kit and the conclusion of my series about my journey along the "Plastic Brick" road.   


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Follow The "Plastic Brick" Road: Part 1

At age 52 I can never be accused of acting old or not being able to get in touch with my inner child. Here's some of the reasons I could be considered one of those guys who "never grew up."

I've got plenty of toys. Some are grown up toys like my digital music library and my DVD collection of my favorite movies and TV shows. 

Then there are some things that, according to most people, a man in his 50's should have like: puppets, a miniature radio controlled helicopter, a Duncan yoyo, a Slinky, and a plastic egg filled with Silly Putty.

I really enjoy all of my toys. They provide real stress relief when I need it and help foster my creativity.

During the last half of 2012 I added a new type of toy to my menagerie...Legos. But enjoyment of those interlocking blocks of plastic isn't  just an "all of a sudden" thing.

I have always had a bit of a fascination with Legos. But the start of my current interest can be traced back to October 2011. That's when Legoland theme park opened in Winter Haven, Florida. The opening was covered extensively by a few of the podcasts and video casts I listened to and watch each week. 

In that coverage I saw some of the really cool things that could be built. I saw models of New York's Times Square and the Statue of Liberty and entire cities in the pictures of the park.  

In the spring of 2012, at a local Barnes & Noble's store, I saw a collection of Lego kits based on architectural wonders of the world. These included replicas of the White House, the Seattle Space Needle, and the Empire State Building. 

That's when I started thinking that perhaps I could get away with playing with Legos by building some of these kits. I liked the idea but I still worried about what "people" might think of a man my age playing with "kid's toys." 

Then came our August 2012 trip to Chicago. During our shopping excursion in the Water Tower Place mall we found a Lego store. I hadn't been in one since 2004. I really really loved this store.

There were several large models. The dragon was cool but I had seen one in the Downtown Disney store 7 year earlier. 

I was reminded of that visit when standing outside the Chicago store I saw a giant Lego model of Woody from Disney's Toy Story. 

What really impressed me most were the large models of Chicago landmark buildings on display in the store's front window. 

These buildings really inspired me and I finally decided that when I got back home I would get one of those Lego Architecture kits: the Willis Tower. More on that later.  

The indoor shopping mall was named after a building just across Michigan Avenue from it's entrance. The castle like structure is the only public building that survived the infamous Chicago fire. It a city that was full of amazing architecture the Water Tower was my favorite.

As we made our way from the 2nd floor of the mall I was treated to yet one more Lego model. In the area of the cascading fountain in between the up and down escalators was a Lego version of the Chicago Water Tower. 

I've already posted pictures of all the Lego displays I've I written about in one of my series of posts about our Chicago vacation. To see them again just go to the post:  "Weekend In Chicago Day 1 Part 2" published on August 26, 2012

On that day in Chicago, the Lego seeds were planted in my mind and I would soon begin a new hobby. 

It seems ironic that on that Windy City shopping trip the immediate excitement of the Lego store was soon forgotten when we went to visit the Disney Store. 

That's because one of my first ventures into Legos would be a combination of both those two worlds. 

Come back for part 2 and you'll see where my trip down the plastic brick road leads me.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Audio Time Travel

Have you ever been browsing through a shopping website and you unexpectedly discover an item you weren't looking for but were very glad you found?

That's what happened to me last Tuesday. The results of the experience was some additions to my music collection that I've wanted for over 35 years. 

Last Tuesday I was adding to my I-Tunes library based on a "want list" of songs I'd created over the last few months. With over 10,000 songs already, you'd think my collection would be complete; but not so. 

While searching through a list of songs by Mac Davis; looking for "It's Hard To Be Humble" (a funny song about false humility from 1980), I found a song I never thought I'd ever find again: "The Closest I Ever Came."

It's a slow ballad about a man lamenting a lost love. I have a very strong emotional attachment to it. Here's why.  

Back on September 12 of last year I published a post about the portable cassette player that was a very important part of my teenage years. 

One Christmas along with, what had become, my customary gift, a new tape recorder, my parents gave me a couple of cassette tapes with 8 country music songs each. 

Now at the time I had just completed a year of trying to distance myself from my parent's musical preferences. I had  really had gotten into the Top 40 music being played on the radio. I had started my own 45 RPM record collection over that summer.  

But because it was part of our family culture, country music wasn't completely off my musical radar. It was one of the things that we all shared together. To this day I still enjoy listening to country music: both current and classic. 

Also, in the early 1970's, cassette tapes were the newest format for music, well on their way to replacing 8 tracks.

Sure my Christmas gifts didn't have the songs of Paul Simon or Elton John but they were "pre-recorded" cassettes. Those were still unique enough to be kinda cool. 

I was happy to have some music on cassette that wasn't recorded off the radio with a DJ talking over the intro.

I listened to those country music tapes a lot. Though not initially thrilled about them I grew to really like them. I could sing most of the songs from memory to this day. 

One of the tapes was entitled "The Nashville Sound". It had songs by Tammy Wynette, David Houston, Johnny Cash, John Wesley Ryles, and the Carter Family. I still have that tape and have imported it to my digital library.

Ironically, I don't remember the title of the other tape but it was my favorite of the pair. It's long gone. I don't know what happened to it. But my best guess would be that the cassette just got worn out and the tape got caught up in the drive wheel of the player. Rendering the tape useless. 

Now back to that Mac Davis song. I was thrilled when I found it.  It was by far my favorite of all the songs on both of those tapes. Getting a copy of that song started me thinking about all the other songs on the 2nd tape.  

Another I-Tunes search resulted in adding a Johnny Cash song called "25 Minutes to Go" (about the last minutes of a man about to be hanged) and, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs version of "A Boy Named 'Sue'. 

I now have 3 of the songs from a compilation I never thought I'd ever find again. I've had these songs in my memory for more than 35 years and now I have a few of them back. 

They are the sounds that evoke very pleasant memories and take me back in time to those early days of being a teenager. 

In my mind's eye I picture a snapshot of a typical winter afternoon in my mom & dad's house on Brainard Street in Phillipsburg, NJ; circa 1973/74. 

I am in my bedroom sorting my baseball cards, listening to my country music cassettes. My mom is downstairs making supper in the electric skillet while sitting at the dinning room table. My sister is watching her favorite TV show and my dad just came in the door from work.  

I know that in the next few minutes I'll be called downstairs for supper and we will sit together around the dinner table as a family.

I may be seeing that scene through a mental lens that morphs reality into something closer to an idyllic fantasy filtered through the passage of time; but still it's a comfort to me. 

So the results of my first "I-Tunes Tuesday" proved to be something more valuable to me than just the ability to cross off a few songs from my "want list". It has given me the ability to plug my headphones into my I-pod and take a "mental journey" back to the days of my youth. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Advice For Husbands

I am not, by any means, an expert on marriage or relationships with women. But I believe I have an above average understanding of them and "what makes them tick". Now like all men past, present, and future, total understanding of the fairer sex will always be elusive to me. This is especially true when it comes to marriage. 

The fact that divorce has become as common in our culture as going out to get the mail is evidence that marriage is not easy. 

I am not, by far, the perfect husband. However, I do know what has worked for me in the relationship with the "Love of My Life" over the last 15 years. And I have gotten into the habit of cultivating those attitudes and behaviors to help make my marriage work. 

One of my favorite comedians, Jeff Allen, builds his comedy around the saying: Happy Wife, Happy Life. While that phrase in those words have a lot of merit they really don't give the details of just how it transcends to the act of marriage.

I'm not going to expound in great detail on what I'm about to write in this post. I want to leave room in a face-to-face discussion with anyone who may want to know more. 

First of all, I can't improve on the words of the Bible written by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesian church but directed to husbands. He told them to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. 

But, here's my take on the Jeff Allen mantra. It's my best basic advice for any man who wants to be a good husband.  

Celebrate your wife's strengths, foster her passions and protect her weaknesses. 

When following this remember to think emotional first and physical, second. Women are so much more emotionally based creatures than men. Understanding that will be key to implementing these three guidelines in your effort to be a better husband. 

So after claiming not to be an expert in marriage twice in this post I guess I've kind of thrown myself out there as "specialist" (that's a military word meaning someone who is trained at a specific task).

But everything I know about marriage I've learned. A lot of it is experience but most of it is from reading and watching. I encourage you to learn as much as you can about ways to cultivate your marriage. 

Now let me play to your natural self interest. Loving your wife and serving her in ways that show it is not without benefit for you. It's a two sided coin. Please your wife and you'll get your reward. But that shouldn't be your main motivation. Your main motivation should be your love for her. But take it from me, the secondary benefits are great. 

So there you have my advice for husbands. Take it for what it's worth to you. But I can tell you from experience it makes for an adventure that's part of what makes life a blessing. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Moving Forward & The Interactive Baby

Well the first week of the new year has flown by. Like a lot of people I am taking a second look at my list of 2013 goals and have started deciding what I have to do to meet all of them. 

Of course, I know that I will probably not accomplish them all but I want to be able to cross off most of them. I want to do better than I did in 2012. If you look back at my January 9, 2012 post you'll see my list for last year. 

I can only honestly claim that I reached just two of those goals. But there were several "road blocks" and changes in circumstances that kept me from accomplishing more of them. Then there were others that I just our right never worked toward. 

But having said that it's time to put into play one of Walt Disney's most popular sayings (it's quoted almost every week by Lou Mongello host of a podcast I listen to, WDW Radio). That Disney quot is "Keep Moving Forward". 

For me that means focusing on both a daily, weekly, and long range list of goals. I mean a literal list. I've always been a list person. Lists help me stay on track and see evidence of my accomplishments.   

So its time to get going. I'm putting it into "drive", hitting the gas and moving forward. 

The Interactive Baby: 
Although she has no idea she's doing it, there's special person in my life who is showing me how moving forward means growth. Here's a picture of me with my inspiration.

Over the last quarter of 2012 my granddaughter, Aria Nicole, grew and changed just about every day. Fueled by a change from just formula from a bottle to eating baby food her mind has developed a curiosity and wonder about the world around her. 

Her muscles are almost strong enough to allow her to move about on her own (she is in the initial stages of crawling) and she stands with mommy or daddy just holding onto her hands.  

This awareness of her surroundings has made her want to move and explore it all. She doesn't want to stay in one place or concentrate on any one thing for very long. 

This means that, as her Papa, my approach to spending time with my "pretty baby" has to change. No longer can I just sit her on my lap and keep her attention by just singing to her. 

Oh she still lights up with her biggest smile when I sing the "baby toes" song, but she now wants something to occupy her other senses as well. 

So this means I may now have to make sure that I have plenty of toys and other things to entertain her when I hold her. Or by getting down on the floor and playing with her and her "friends". 

She has become interactive. Not only does that give me a license to start playing like a kid again. It also means I can start introducing her to some of my puppets. I can't wait. 

So there you have my first post for 2013. I will mention one of my goals for this year. I want to post at least 100 times on this blog this year. I know that's an ambitious goal but it's also double the number of posts from last year. 

It means my posts are going to be shorter or that longer posts will be divided up into parts. 

Thanks for coming back and reading my blog. I hope to do my best to share more of my life with you this year.

Although, as you may already know, I like to look back but in accordance with my theme for this year I'm going to do my best to keep moving forward.