Today my grandfather died. He was 95 years old and was physically failing even before we received the devastating news that he tested positive for COVID. Whether he died from or with COVID is immaterial to those of us who loved him and are mourning his loss. But COVID definitely has impacted us. Let me tell you what COVID has caused – COVID prevented my family from being at my grandfather’s side during his passing. COVID prevents me from being around my husband and children, parents, aunt and uncle, brother and his family, cousins and extended family as we mourn – because some of us were with my grandfather before we received the news that he tested positive and are now in self quarantine. COVID prevents my grandfather from donating his body to science (his final gift to this world). COVID delays our gathering together to celebrate the life of my grandfather, a WWII veteran. His generation is often referred to as the Greatest Generation because of the sacrifices they were willing to make. I fear we will be referred to as the most selfish generation because of the sacrifices we are NOT willing to make. Why did my grandfather contract COVID? Because somebody, somewhere, did not follow the guidelines. They did not wear a mask or did not wear it properly. They did not follow the recommendation to social distance. They did not cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing and/or did not wash their hands afterwards. My grandfather may not have been able to donate his body to science, but he still has a final gift to give to this world. Please join me in honoring my grandfather’s life by protecting the lives of others – wear a mask and wear it properly, social distance, wash your hands, follow the guidelines. Give others the gifts of being at their loved one’s side when they pass and the comfort of family as they mourn.
So I said I was going to do better about writing and there a few weeks went and got away from me! We have had all sorts of stuff going on of course so maybe I can use that as my excuse.
Abigail played several musical pieces in the local Solo and Ensemble Festival. Her solo, in particular, was recommended as a submission to the state solo and ensemble competition, so that is pretty cool…
Sorry to just drop that link above without a preview image…I am a little lazy I guess and wordpress has added a new post editing feature that really sucks. Anyhow, click the link and I hope you enjoy!
We enjoyed, from afar, another celebration of the most important of all holidays (Groundhog’s Day of course). I donned my groundhog cap and shirt and went for a run around town with my pals, evangelizing everywhere I went…Spring is coming! Spring is coming! It was glorious, if I do say so myself.
Not too much else going on here. We are floundering in mud and muck as the temperature fluctuates between 70 and 15…add a few inches of rain to the mix and everything is sloppy. Welcome to winter in WV!
I am very embarrassed to admit it, but somehow I missed a year of writing…anything. You know, insert usual excuses here and all that.
Well, as you can imagine, a lot has happened and we have been pretty consumed by the bulk of that. I think I’ll just list a few things, for my own sake, just to keep a record of what we did…
So….Isaac graduated from high school and got a great scholarship to attend college in Ohio. He is majoring in chemistry and his first semester was successful. He plays in several of their bands…marching, jazz, concert, steel drum. You may remember that Isaac is a sax player, so steel drums seemed out of his lane but he loves it and enjoys the variety.
Abigail finished her freshman year and is half way through her sophomore year in high school. Last year she was selected to sit as first chair flute for the all-state orchestra. This year, she was selected to sit as first chair in all-state band (there are two separate “bands” in the all-state realm). We are, of course, very proud for her to be selected for this great honor.
As I mentioned in my last post over a year ago, we did move into a new house. We finally sold our other house so that was a relief. Things do not move fast in our part of WV so we are very thankful to have that worry done. Our new house has not been without…fun, though. We had to put a new roof on it (which we had planned when we bought it) and a new furnace (which was a delightful surprise). As always, we are so happy to support the local economy for repairmen so it’s all good.
In 2010, we found our male orange cat, Seph. He certainly gave us fits, especially early on but mostly he was full of personality and spunk. Unfortunately, this past Fall, during a routine check-up, the vet mentioned that he had an enlarged heart. Without extraordinary measures, there was nothing to be done so we just decided to let things go as they may. He seemed to have few effects from his affliction so we thought nothing of it…until he started losing weight. Finally, about 2 weeks ago, his affliction had come to bear, and he had to be relieved of his suffering.
So…end on a positive, right? Most recently, I completed my first 25k trail race. It was among the more challenging things I have done, physically. The annual race is called the Frozen Sasquatch and is held in Kanawha State Forest.
As you might guess, weather can be a factor…last year it was 7 deg F I think…this year was warmer but it had rained a ton so it was super muddy and slippery. Couple that with overall elevation gain of 2300 feet elevation loss of 2400 feet, and you have a tough, hilly, slippery mess…anyhow, I finished pretty well and was not injured so I call that a win!
Ok friends, I think that is all for now…we are still keeping on here in WV!
We have always used this blog to, among other things, document our lives and how our kids are growing up. In many ways, I am sad that I have not done a better job of keeping this up to date. So many things have happened in our lives…some good and some bad. Life still goes on, recorded or not I guess. Anyhow, I sold my part of the company I used to own to pursue a different direction. It turns out I hated that direction for so many reasons. While I had no interest in trying to return to my old company, I decided to return to writing software, the work I have done for a long time. It feels good to go back to being a software developer, not worrying about making payroll or playing politics. It’s good to return to the work that has helped our family grow and thrive. It’s good to use my mind on complex tasks and to face and overcome challenges. So, the last 8 months have been swept away in the stress of not one, but two new jobs and the sale of my share of not one, but two companies.
The details are not really important, but that bit of stuff has been very stressful and time consuming and I am glad it is over. We have also decided to sell our house and move to a smaller one story place nearby. That happens very shortly. Of course, that means we need to prepare and sell our current house which I do not think will be much fun. The kids were a little unsure about the idea of moving. This move will not require them to change schools or even neighborhoods, really. Still, our current house is really the only house they remember. I only remember one house for my entire growing up years so I never faced the issue. Emily moved several times though and assures me that everyone will survive and be ok. I guess it is a weird thing as a kid to consider moving from the house in which you were basically raised. I think both kids have processed it enough to know that things will be ok.
What makes this new house especially appealing is that it is all on one level. Our current house has tons of character and is old and very cool. Part of what gives it character are the multiple levels inside…translation: steps. While we are still young and healthy, we have recently watched grandparents and parents begin to struggle some with steps. The idea of growing old in our current house is painful to consider. Our current house is also a lot bigger than what we need. The funny thing is that even though the new house is significantly smaller, it has much better storage and uses the space much more efficiently. In the end, I think we will feel like we have more room. Bah, there are lots of reasons we want to move and they all involve making our lives smaller, simpler and easier. That’s the real bottom line I suppose.
The kids started school on Monday of this week. This is a really big year for them both as far as school goes. I cannot believe it, but this is Isaac’s senior year and Abigail’s freshman year! It is unbelievable! They cannot be that old…we cannot be that old…where has the time gone?! Isaac was pretty cool about the whole start of school. I think he is behaving exactly as he should. Senior year is a big deal , but he has earned it and knows what to expect. He knows what he is about and is learning how to manage stress and information and how to make decisions for himself. I am incredibly proud of the man he has become! Likewise, Abigail is where she should be also. Being a freshman means she had to learn a new, bigger school with all sorts of new challenges. She was a little nervous I suppose, but she is ready for the change!
The kids are so different and react to things so uniquely. It takes a lot to rile Isaac up and he is about as Type B as they come. That makes me shake my head as both Emily and I are Type A. Still, he wears it well and he rolls with the flow so well. I usually do not worry about him as he just makes do and figures things out. Abigail, on the other hand, is our first-born trapped in a second-born’s body. She is Type A and sort of driven to understand and excel, right out of the gate. She will be fine too, but I know her stress a little better than Isaac’s.
We have toured a few colleges and I suspect that Isaac will stay in state for his post-secondary education. He still has not decided where he will go, but his grades and test scores are very good so I think he will find opportunity in many places. For now, WV still has the Promise Scholarship which provides some funds for students who stay in state for college. Our political situation is as screwed up as anywhere I think so it is not clear to me that the state-funded scholarship will survive much longer, but we will take advantage while it remains. It was supposed to be set up as a benefit for WV students taking its proceeds from lottery revenues. It seems our politicians keep eyeing those funds to solve general revenue shortfalls that have resulted from all of tax breaks they have assured us would result in economic prosperity and businesses beating down the door to come to WV. I digress.
Anyhow, the kids are setting up another good year in school and we are hopefully going to see the final piece of our stress reduction scheme fall into place in the next few months as we complete the purchase of a new house, the move, and the sale of our current house. Wish us luck dear friends as the world is a wild place, full of surprises!
It has been quite awhile since I have posted and I seem to have sort of run out of things to say. Isn’t that odd? I mean, I talk every day with people but things just seem to be less interesting to me lately. I don’t mean that in an “I have the blues” kind of way, but I just don’t know what to write about…
So when all else fails, drop back and write about bees or chickens!
Chickens it is! The chickens are great. They appear to be dumber than the last flock I had but they take great pictures. We are getting a good number of eggs and I think I handled our raccoon problem. I think this summer, we will need to do a little work on the coop. I suspect we will need to do even more work on the yard. Chickens scratch and dig to find bugs and worms and stuff. When Fall takes its hold, grass growth slows, but the chickens continue to dig. Translate: mud pit for a back yard!
Well, that’s all I have for the chickens. Everything else is fine. I have a new job which requires a lot more of my time so my home time is very valuable to me. The kids are growing up fast and we will be doing college tours this spring. I guess the chickens have the right idea…just keep digging!
I’ve been absent on here unfortunately, but today marks a big event in our house…the return to school! School continues to start earlier and earlier, and typically, I don’t really care. For some reason, this year, I am really bothered by its early return. Summer just passed by too quickly!
We have had a busy summer I guess which explains it all. We took a tour of a lot of WV. We visited family in Montgomery Alabama…in July (it’s hot and humid…don’t do that). We worked on the house and caught up on doctor visits. Last week, Isaac was away at band camp all week which definitely signals the end off Summer! And now, here we are back to school!
Per tradition, I interviewed the kids asking them what they want to be when they grow up, who their friends are, what excites them about starting a new year, etc. I promised them I wouldn’t post the videos, but I love to look back at them from earlier years and see what changes and what stays the same. My kids are growing up into wonderful people and I am so very proud of them…of what they think about and what the see for the future!
So, even though getting back to school might seem like a drag to me sometimes, it is the marking of another year forward toward such exciting futures!
Back in December of last year, Emily was searching for a birthday present for me. At that point, I had not run any races except 5Ks which I love but I thought it would be cool to try other distances. Some people think 5Ks are only charity events and that any one can do them so view longer races as better. To be sure, 5Ks are usually within reach for most people to complete and are fantastic charity events, but it’s hard to find a harder race distance if you run not to complete, but to compete.
I digress…anyhow, even though I never poo-poo the 5K, I wanted to race other distances and Emily, being the lovely and supportive wife that she is, entered me in the Asheville Half Marathon which was help June 4, 2016. I had half a year to get psyched up and read all I could about race strategy, the city of Asheville, pacing, etc. I ended running a flat half marathon here in Charleston in March as a test of the distance and I am so glad I did.
A half marathon is a really nice challenge at 13.1 miles and I enjoy it immensely. It’s just a totally different race than the 5K with which I am more familiar.
I know Emily totally doesn’t understand why I like to run myself to the point of exhaustion, but I am so glad she is supportive of me! We had a great weekend and this was a fantastic birthday gift!
| Goal | Description | Completed? |
| A |< 1:45 hours | *No* |
| B |< 2 Hours | *Yes* |
| C |don’t die | *Yes* |
I have been running 20-25 miles per week consistently for quite awhile. I typically do a 10 mile run on weekends, a 5 mile run with my club during the week and then 1-2 runs on my own through the week that vary between hills, fartleks, mid-distance, etc. Overall, I felt ok with my preparation.
### Race strategy
I knew Asheville was a hilly course so tried to visualize where I could grab some time to coast and where it was going to be tough. I wanted to run overall 8:30 – 8:45 miles on average so I could sneak in under 2 hours. My first half was a flat course and I ran 1:47 so I knew I wouldn’t likely beat that on a hilly course, but I wanted to be in the ballpark. I figured 2 hours and under would mean I ran stronger than my initial race in March (https://www.reddit.com/r/running/comments/4bisc5/race_report_uc_half_marathon_university_of/)
We arrived in Asheville the afternoon before the race and went to the expo. It was small but fun and had a few gear sellers and representatives from other races coming up. We didn’t stick around long because I wanted to eat and drink a little of the local beer for which Asheville is famous. I had a flight of local beers and a meal and walked around town to browse the varied shops and see the buskers and other people just out and about. Asheville is a hipster/hippie town…there are both there I think and it has a really fun and cool vibe. There were probably thousands of people just milling around and checking things out. I fell asleep not too late, watching the Weather Channel with my wife…typical Friday night for me! We stayed in a chain hotel near the starting line so I was able to wake, grab a bagel and some fruit that I had stashed from the night before. I left the hotel at 6:15 or so as the race coordinators wanted people at the start by 6:30 for the 7am gun (although there wasn’t a gun…weird). There were ample porta-potties it seemed but there were still lines…everyone had the nervous-pees I guess. The half was to start at 7 am and the 10k at 7:05 so they split up racers into separate areas which worked pretty well. I think there were around 1000 half runners and around 500 10k runners…there was good pre-race music and everyone was in pretty good spirits. The temp was around 60 or so, but the humidity was beginning to show itself. Asheville is a really cool and quirky town and it really showed I think (in a good way). There were all sorts of interesting people around!
This race has a lot of climbs. By my watch, the course had 802 feet of gain. I knew the bulk of it was from mile 3-5 and especially from mile 10-11 but there seemed to be ups and downs everywhere so it was hard for me to really plan much in reality. We ran through some neighborhoods and through both AB Tech and UNC-Asheville campuses which was pretty cool. A lone performer was set-up at AB Tech to play country/folk covers which was pretty neat. I could hear him from a distance and enjoyed the distraction. There was a stretch where we ran along the French Broad River but it seemed a little seedy there and we were on the road with traffic. The traffic was pretty well managed by the numerous police and volunteers that were out…kudos to them as they did a great job, but I still am always a little hesitant with cars around. Meh, it was fine. My watch had been ticking off the miles pretty much exactly with the posted mile markers for the course until mile 7. When I passed the 7 mile marker, my watch showed 7.25. I heard a guy running near me notice the same thing somewhere around that same spot or maybe a little later. That discrepancy continued throughout the rest of the race. By the end, my watch showed I ran 13.38. I saw posts later on Strava and elsewhere of people who also showed more that 13.1. That isn’t exactly a problem I guess because the race is the same race for everyone, but I would have preferred the advertised distance to have been the course length…so, while my overall time is 2:00:08, I am claiming a sub-2 half. I would estimate my actual half time to be around 1:57 or 1:58. I am claiming my goal of sub-2-hour.
### Miles  to 
This was the real killer part…There were water stations around every 2 miles through the course on the odd numbers (miles 3,5,7, etc) but in this case, at mile 10 there was an extra station at the base of the hill. I grabbed a cup of water and started the long slog up. It was a sort of narrow and windy road up through a neighborhood and had around 300 feet of climb in that mile. I kept running but it got uglier and uglier as I went…for such a hill to be at mile 10 was unkind. At the top, they had a well-staffed medical tent and another drink station. It worked out ok and I knew I had seen the worst.
### Miles [12.75] to [13.4]
After finishing the big hill at mile 10, I knew I had an uphill finish as well. Asheville is a hilly city and the dang finish was on an uphill. I knew it was the case, but I didn’t love that part…Still, they announced my name, I got my cool finisher medal and I walked a few times through the mist tent. I didn’t die! Another goal accomplished!
There is a cool park in the middle of Asheville called Pack Park and it seems to be where everything happens in the city. There are numerous festivals and events that all seem to happen there. Anyhow, from the finish, I headed a few feet into the park and picked up a few beers, compliments of Sierra Nevada and enjoyed a pretty good band that played until the awards ceremony. There were numerous food tents, massage tables, etc and the atmosphere was festive and a lot of fun. My wife and I sat on a bench in the shade and enjoyed cooling down, chatting with other runners, swilling a few beers, etc. Afterwards, there were a lot of runners roaming around town and chatting, drinking and having fun, me included! All-in-all, I liked the race and even the hills though I might run differently if I do it again. I need to ponder pacing on the hills and the finish line but I am pleased with my performance and the event with the excpetion of the distance snafu, although that’s not a show-stopper for me at all. I love the city and the vibe it puts off and it was well-captured by the race as well!
I have been pretty sketchy on posting about the bees lately but there has been all sorts of stuff going on. Every year around tax time, I add supers to the colonies in preparation for the honey flow. It’s that time of year when the blooms start and the nectar flows. In the hive, it is a boom time and the period that makes or breaks the bees as well as my honey harvest later in the summer.
This year has been a strange year (as they all have been lately). We had a good warm-up early but then we have had cool temps and rain for what seems like an eternity. The WV Department of Agriculture sent our advisement that they were seeing bees starving this year due to the weather. You see, the queen lays a lot of eggs as it warms in the spring. That makes for a lot of bees and when all goes well, the spring honeyflow coincides and provides more food than the bees can eat…thus stored honey. In a bad year though, the bees still increase in number but the food is sparse….that signals bad times unfortunately. My bees still look pretty good but it will depend on the remainder of the season to know what the end result will be.
Anyhow, my Mom helped me prep things earlier this spring. It was her first time working with me in the bee and I know she enjoyed it even though it was hot, heavy, time-consuming work. Like most people who first see a lot of bees, she got a case of the creepy-crawlies. When I first started keeping bees, I remember feeling like bugs were on me hours after I was out of the hives. She managed her heebie-jeebies pretty well though and we got honey supers in place on the hives.
This was a pretty good swarm year too. I am not aware of any swarms out of my colonies (which is a good thing), but I got a number of calls and was able to capture several swarms around Charleston. I also made a new friend in a local beekeeper. We met at a swarm where we had both gotten a call to capture it. We now pass calls back and forth which is pretty cool. He’s a local firefighter so can’t always get to the swarm calls he receives.
I have pics of two swarms that I caught. As always, I like to pet my swarms (because I am a show-off) before I catch them. Don’t try touching a swarm on your own if you ever come across one. It’s just not a good idea unless you know bees a little. I love catching swarms and it is likely my favorite part of beekeeping. Here’s to hoping this season turns itself around and makes for some great honey!
A few weeks ago, Isaac and his school band went to Chicago to play a special performance in the Chicago’s Symphony Center. We drove separately as we didn’t want to ride the bus and he didn’t want us tagging along separately. So, we made a family-1 affair of it and had a lot of fun touring around Chicago seeing the sites and having a great time!
We did stay in the same hotel as the band…The Palmer House Hilton in downtown, right near Millennium Park. The hotel is listed as an historical landmark and I can see why…it is a beautiful hotel and well worth the experience! I loved being able to step outside and see the “L” pass by. We could walk to almost everything. I especially love that part.
We had Chicago deep-dish pizza the first night at Giordano’s. I typically do not like deep-dish as all of the bread wears me out but it was a cool ambiance and the flavor was really great! I especially loved to start off with a Chicago staple as well! I know Jon Stewart gave Trump a hard time about eating New York pizza with a fork, but with deep-dish, we had no choice!
Abigail, Emily’s parents and I braved the Sky Deck in the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). The Sky Deck is a set of glass push-outs near the top of the building where visitors can step out into what seems like thin air at 1353 feet up! It was really neat to do and the views were simply amazing. To me, the Sky Deck was so high up that it didn’t feel like a scary thing at all. It was sort of like flying in a plane…I think 100 feet would have been more scary. Anyhow, it was worth the trip. We bought a City Pass there which gave access to a lot of the cool exhibits throughout the city and saved us a lot of money.
We walked around in the cool air a number of days and nights and saw Calder’s Flamingo, Cloud Gate (aka the “Bean”), and the Chicago Board of Trade. Really, Chicago is a fantastic city to visit. We took in the Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. There is just so much in Chicago and it is a shame we didn’t have a lot more time to really take in more of the city. We spent some time seeing Van Gogh’s work in the Art Institute but that was only the tip of the ice berg of the famous works that are housed there. We saw American Gothic and Nighthawks and A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. We saw Monets and Picassos and works of the ancients. It is truly a remarkable collection which I would like to further explore.
Finally, we did get a chance to actually lay eyes on Isaac and his his fantastic band play fantastic pieces in a fantastic hall! I think they were all so very proud to play and their love of music was quite evident! I so enjoy seeing Isaac and everyone in the band in tuxeudos / formal dresses and I am very proud of the hard work that led them to be able to play at this venue.
Even though it snowed while we were in Chicago, it was a marvelous trip and one I would love to repeat!
Earlier this month, Abigail, my precious little baby, had another birthday. It was a big one…the big thirteen! My adorable baby has turned into…a teenager!
I do not know if I am lucky or what, but aside from first thing in the morning 🙂 , Abigail is an absolute joy. We were out of state on her birthday so didn’t get to properly celebrate, but we will remedy that this weekend.
Like most teens, she loves to listen to music and see movies, but where she really shines, I think, is that she is capable of and really enjoys thinking about all sorts of interesting subjects. She has opinions on politics and the future, and the world around us and can elucidate her thoughts very well. I always say that I don’t think I ever progressed, mentally, beyond age 13, but then I see how mature Abigail is, and I think I over-estimated my mental age. She makes me so proud and I am happy to welcome another teenager into the world!