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!
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!
Last weekend was the University of Charleston (WV) half marathon. I like to run, but I have typically only run in 5K races around the area. I had never run a half marathon, so when I heard about it, I knew I wanted to run.
I am a fairly new runner, having started in March of 2015 to run with my daughter. At the time, we were planning to train together to prepare her for X-C season. She does nothing in the off-season but I kept running. I didn’t follow a plan per-se, but I run 3-4 days per week for an average of probably 25 miles per week. About 6 weeks ago, I somehow screwed up my posterior tibialis so my mileage dropped some. I ran a mix of hills and flats which is probably what messed up my leg. I have run a number of 5Ks locally since starting running.
The race was managed by students and faculty as part of a sports management class. As such, they seemed to really do things cleanly (with the exception of their website). I had a lot of communication via facebook and email regarding the course, volunteers, aid stations, etc. They took great pride in advertising that local artists were making the finishers medals and prizes…it was very cool. Packet pickup was easy the night before and ran smoothly. On the race day itself, I wanted to be onsite at 7am for an 8am gun. As I said, I am inexperienced but I like to be early even though this was not a huge race. I needed to pee 25 times before lining up, etc. The weather was pretty crummy…40 deg F and rain at 7am. Snow was forecast for later in the day so the expectation was for miserable conditions. I got to the University of Charleston at 7 and we were greeted by a ton of volunteers. I may be making this part up, but I swear I heard there were 300 volunteers. Inside the student union where we waited for the start, the crowd was good though thinner than expected. At packet pickup, I asked how many were regsitered and was told around 300. Earlier in the week, they had advertised that they had crossed 200 runners, so I assume they were correct in the 300 number. I later found out that there were 127 finishers. I am certain the weather kept a number of people away…seems odd that 180 didn’t show but who knows? A few people I know who I saw at packet pick-up were not at the race so at least a few stayed home. Anyhow, about 15 minutes before the gun, the rain stopped and the temp help steady…so it was sort of perfect for racing.
Miles  to [3.1]
I didn’t know what to expect, never having raced a half so I found a 2 hour pace group and started with them. It was ok, but within a half a mile, I knew I wanted to speed up. I increased my pace to around 8:40 per mile and found a friend. We talked for a mile but he started to slow and I was feeling good so I speed up to around 8:20 per mile. The rain started although not bad…it was one of those rains that makes you wet but you don’t really notice it. I settled in on that pace and found a woman right ahead of me who was very steady so I just ran with her. About 2 miles in, the first water station came up and a large number of university students were having a great time listening to 80s music. They were playing my song (well, it seemd like it was being played for me) as I ran by…Danger Zone. I give the volunteers a lot of credit…they came out in good numbers with great signs and cheered on everyone! Basically, the course runs from the university along the Kanawha River so it was really pleasant to watch the river flow by. There were 3+ volunteers at every intersection and every turn so it was very clear where the course was. Miles were well marked and actually corresponded with my gps watch. The course was USATF certified which was pretty cool for such a small and new race.
5k time: 25:50
Miles  to 
I was concerned that this race was going to be a little boring as it was through neighborhoods and was a double loop course. I don’t know what possessed me, but I chatted a little with a few people as we ticked off miles in the middle of the course. I am usually pushing pretty hard on a 5k so don’t talk at all, but I didn’t know what to do here so I decided to pass a little time. Generally, people were happy to chat and they made more conversation than I did…2 miles flew by and I didn’t have any problems. My pace had stayed pretty steady around 8:10 at this point
Miles  to 
I decided to try to drink a little gatorade at around mile 9. I never drink gatorade as I am a water guy and generally not a drink-on-the-run guy at all. Something possessed me to try though so I grabbed a cup and put it to my mouth and promptly spilled it all over myself. I think I was more tired than I realized. The woman with whom I was pacing was feeling it too and we traded the lead back and forth a few times. We stayed pretty solid at 7:50-8:00 pace. The course was very flat which was nice, but the wet was starting to bother me too I think. Being a dummy, I forgot to tape my nipples so I was getting raw around this point. I won’t have to learn that lesson again…rain + cold + distance = blood spots on my shirt. Anyhow, I still really commend the race volunteers and police officers…they were great about cheering and played some great 80s tunes…some Cindi Lauper tune was blaring as I ran through the second time!
Miles  to [13.1]
I was all turned around as we wove through the neighborhoods along the river so I only had a sense of where I was based on my watch…my pacing woman and I were both pretty tired at this point and I could feel both my hamstrings and my calves starting to fade/pull. I figured that worst case, I could walk depending on what happened so I decided to keep pushing. We both ran the last mile or so into the finish about as fast as we could…we kicked it down to a 7:30 or so pace. She faded about a quarter mile out but I was still ok…ok being a relative term. Rounding the building in front of which was the finish line, I caught a guy and passed him which gave me mixed emotions…I hate when people do that to me, but I loved placing one spot higher than I would have. Originally I told my wife to expect me around 2 hours, so when I rolled in at 1:47:38, she was not exactly expecting me but she was able to get her phone out to get a few pics.
I grabbed a banana, a water and a cookie after they hung my finisher medal around my neck. It was a really cool medal made of ceramic by a local artist (and some university students). I was sort of sad in a way to finish. As this was my first half, I was over the moon excited in the days and weeks leading up. My saintly wife had to have been done with me for all of the talking about my strategies and questions about how I should run, what to wear, etc. I guess you never forget your first time and this half will always be sort of a cool memory. I didn’t know what else to do at the end so I lingered a little bit and we finally decided to just go home. I iced and put on some compression socks and generally relaxed all afternoon.
This report was generated using race reportr, a tool built by /u/BBQLays for making great looking and informative race reports.
The Greenbrier Resort and Hotel is a bit of a legend in WV. The Greenbrier is located in White Sulphur Springs, WV, where rich folks used to come to drink/bathe in the sulphur waters in the area. People believed that there were medicinal powers in the water so they flocked to the area to cure all sorts of things. Of course, amenities built up around as the influx of people grew and the Greenbrier Hotel was built. It’s a palatial structure situated on 11,000 or so acres and it caters to all sorts of outdoor activities including pheasant hunting, horseback riding, off-road Jeeping and high-end golf. The PGA holds the Greenbrier Classic there each Summer and it draws all sorts of golf-y folks.
People still travel from far and wide to partake of the ambiance of the area and it truly is beautiful in the Greenbrier Valley area. We have visited Lewisburg as well as the Greenbrier Hotel to do the bunker tour, but we had never stayed at the hotel itself before.
Some have said that I am a bit thrifty. Emily calls it other things, but I prefer to find a value whenever I can. A few months before Christmas this year, I saw that the hotel was running a special deal on a weekend stay in January. It was perfect! We could stay at the hotel and take in all that is the Greenbrier, and I could feel content in having gotten a “bargain”. Please note that the Greenbrier’s special price was a “bargain”, not a bargain. It still cost us around $500 for two nights, but we had a nice enough room and the opportunity to stay!
Upon our arrival, a gate-man had a card for our car with our name already printed. He ushered us through to the grand entrance where bellhops grabbed our bags and hustled them inside out of the snow. I couldn’t bear to pay the valet so I parked the car myself…at least 100 miles away…in the newly falling snow/rain. But it’s good…and definitely cheaper.
Anyhow, we received champagne and our room keys and were good to go. All checked in, we decided to explore the massive building. There are ballrooms and great foyers. Enormous fireplaces burned delightful fires and the atmosphere was rich. There is a dress-code at the Greenbrier which we followed to the letter, but it appeared that not everyone bothered. I was a bit disappointed, frankly, that people chose not to follow the rules and that the hotel allowed them to get away with it. I normally hate dress-code stuff, but it just felt right there…like people should be dressed up.
Anyhow, we caught a live singing performance where a really talented group sang a variety of tunes and did a great job interacting with the crowd. We clapped and sang along like good tourists…it was a blast!
We took the bunker tour again and visited all of the shops (or are they shoppes?) in the Greenbrier. The weather was not amenable to our touring the grounds or doing many of the outdoorsy things, but we really enjoyed the time to lounge around and talk and read. All-in-all, it was a nice trip.
The only complaint I had was with the food. We chose to stay in and eat at the hotel. It was convenient and part of the experience in my mind. It cost more for four of us to eat three meals than the room cost and we didn’t eat high-end at the hotel. Food was really expensive there. We ate breakfast at the main dining room and both the food and service were really great. Lunch and dinner, however, were no better than what we would have gotten at Applebees, but at 3x or more the price. Both service and food were average which was a shame for how much it cost…live and learn I guess.
Anyhow, I would like to go back and visit in the Spring when I am sure the place really shows its beauty. I am not much of a golfer but I hear that part of the fee includes a guy who will stand out in the fairway and watch where the balls land. For golfers, the savings in lost balls may make up for the expense in the food department!
I am glad to have stayed at the Greenbrier and look forward to the continued improvements that the fairly new owner is making after years of neglect by the previous owner!
Like about a quarter of the US population, we got hit by the snow event named Jonas 2 weekends ago. For at least a week beforehand, we heard hype and warnings and altered forecasts. At first, I think we expected a good snow but not too bad as predictions seem like they are often overblown, at least around here. As the week wore on and we grew more and more tired of hearing about the storm of the decade, it became apparent that we were going to get a good covering with a really good chance of a wet snow which would lead to widespread power outages.
Starting Wednesday or so, people started to really pound the grocery stores to stock up on milk, eggs and bread…I guess to make their emergency French toast. We shop on Sundays most times so we avoided the mess, but I hear a lot of places were cleaned out. Thursday was a really weird time as all forecasts pretty much pointed tot he same thing…we were going to get a lot of snow. I went to the office on Friday morning as usual. The sky was dark but there was no snow at that point. Almost on the hour, at 9. the snow started. I think by 9:07 we had an inch. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but it came quickly. We closed the office by 9:30 and by 10 when I left, it was questionable as to whether I would make it home. My car had no problem, but lots of folks in two-wheel drive vehicles were pretty much screwed. I weaved through a developing parking lot on the main road up the hill to my neighborhood.
We hunkered down and basically waited and watched. Snow piled up very quickly. Fortunately, the temperature didn’t rise enough to produce the wet snow they expected so we never lost power. We stepped out occasionally to measure snow, but it was accumulating so fast that we quickly gave up.
Saturday morning, we found that it was still snowing, but not nearly as hard. I tried to open my front door at some point but found it was snowed closed. I had to go out another door and shovel my front door open. That sucked a little. I took a few quick measurements which pretty closely coincided with the official measurement of 18.6 inches when it was all said and done. I measured as high as 21 inches but all things vary of course.
The city was a bit of a mini-disaster as people had abandoned cars all over. Plow trucks were working hard but we don’t usually see snow this deep and fast so they just couldn’t keep up, try as they might. We started baking cookies Saturday sometime and baked our way out of butter so, by Sunday, wanted to get out so we could bake/eat more. Our road had not been plowed at all though, and we figured that, with the chaos all over, they wouldn’t be getting to us any time soon. Our driveway is maybe 50 feet long and very steep. We started with it, hoping that would entice the plow trucks to come and plow us in, much like washing a car encourages rain.
Finally, we decided to just go for it and we shoveled out our neighborhood road from our place to the main road which was somewhat passable. I’d say that road is maybe 100 feet long where we were interested. My wife, my amazing workhorse of a wife and I shoveled out the road as well. It wasn’t a lot of fun, but we had eaten a lot of cookies so figured it balanced out pretty evenly, calorie-wise.
First the driveway
A lot of roads are still not passable, but I was able to get to the office. Schools are still closed, wisely. The biggest problem now, is where to put the snow that the highway crews are plowing. Our road was finally plowed out after dark, about 60 hours after the snow started. That’s not terrible with all things considered, but I am glad we dug out ahead of time. Let’s hope it takes at least another decade before we see this again!
A month ago, we actually made it to the Potomac, but rather than tubing, we spent the weekend boating. My brother and sister-in-law have a river house along the river and invited the family for the weekend. My parents and aunt came from PA and my crew drove in from Charleston.
So, their place has a dock which was begging for something to be tied to it. My brother has a saying: “If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly.” We use that all the time, but in our case, it’s usually when we screw something up…we go all-in. Anyhow, my brother goes all-in also but not usually in the screw-up department. My point is that when the decision to buy a boat came up, he decided not to settle for a mere 16 foot boat, but rather to buy a 30 foot long pontoon and two jet-skis that will knock the tears out of your eyes.
When I was a younger man, I had a motorcycle that I rode everywhere in all weather…even once in the snow…don’t ride a motorcycle in the snow…it’s cold and really really hard to not slide. Anyhow, I loved riding my bike but as newlyweds, we really needed a washer and dryer. I sold my motorcycle and never got another. So, the jet ski was a perfect sort of hearkening back to my motorcycle days. I could go crazy fast, do stupid stuff and have a much lower risk of getting killed compared to a motorcycle. It was perfect!
Anyhow, we had a great time at the river house and boating and eating all sorts of food. My brother cooked bacon outside on an electric skillet and my kids raved and raved about it. It’s hard to beat camp food or anything cooked outside for that matter. And of course, anything cooked by their uncle is good too.
I love these family times and boating and the Potomac, at least where we were, was absolutely beautiful There were eagles and lots of fish and turtles and ducks. People were nice and we all had a wonderful time sharing each other’s company! I’d call that a good trip!
I know I have been posting a lot of band stuff lately but it has been our lives lately. School is winding down so band is slowing too although lessons and playing are definitely not! Anyhow, I have been remiss in posting about our kids’ participation in All-County Band for Kanawha County!
Abigail started lessons a few years ago as a younger-than-normal flute student. She had her ups and downs with it initially, but has developed into quite a flutist. Jump ahead to this year, the first year she is actually old enough to play in band. She was ahead of the curve some from experience which set her up well to try out for All-County Band. As I understand it, she was the only 6th grader in the county to make the band and to boot, she made 9th chair out of 22! I am so proud of her and she really stepped up her game. She rose well to the challenge and plays all the time now around the house.
Isaac also made the high school All-County Band for tenor sax. He’s such a funny kid…he did his audition but felt like he didn’t play as well as he had hoped. He was disappointed and never bothered to even look at the list of students who made the band when it was released. By dumb-luck, one of his friends made a comment along the lines of “See you at practice tonight.” He had to query what the friend meant who of course, let him know that he was in the band…the day of the first rehearsal! Isaac had no idea that he had made the band as second chair! Anyhow, he also played very well and I am so proud of his playing as well. Band truly does mean a lot in our house and we enjoy watching the kids develop into really great musicians!
It’s the season of band! Well. it seems like it anyhow. Last night, Isaac played in 2 separate concerts. First, the George Washington High School band played their final concert together as the 2015 band last night. Seniors are hitting the road so this was a nice opportunity for them to get together one last time as a group and play a killer concert.
I think what made it especially nice was that it was outside and that the weather was perfect! We enjoyed their music as always and especially liked the opportunity for a little vitamin D!
Like any good kid, Isaac refused to look up at his parents so I sort of had to sneak a few pics. Meh. I’m good with that. More excellent were the selections they played…of course, it was outside with my cell phone sitting on metal bleachers where kids played and adults shifted about so please excuse the extraneous noises:
After that concert, a number of the high school band members ran over to the middle school which was performing their annual arts showcase. The middle school jazz band director had arranged with a few former-middle-school-jazz-band-now-high-school-band members to return to perform in an alumni jazz band as part of the larger concert…and of course, they were great!
Tonight we celebrate the end of high school band season with a banquet. After that, we have one middle school band concert, a banquet and an end of the year trip. It’s been a little wild around our neck of the woods lately, but I am so proud of my kids in particular and the entire bands in which they both play as well!
I have mentioned many times that the kids are both very involved with band in their schools. Band means many things to different people but I never ceased to be amazed at how incredible these kids play and how truly kind and awesome the majority of our band kinds are.
Isaac’s high school band played their spring concert this week at the Clay Center in Charleston. Truly, Charleston is fortunate to have such an amazing performance hall. And even more fortunate is that our high school has the opportunity to play in the same hall as the WV Symphony. It’s a high-class, beautiful location!
Isaac was principle chair for his instrument, the tenor sax. I am very proud as you might imagine. His band-mates all seem to be very driven and really respect their band director. He’s a serious man, and demands excellence from these kids and absolutely gets it. I think the kids very much respect him for helping them to see how great they can be. I am very pleased with his ability to inspire the band to play as he does. It’s clear he loves the music and the kids and that’s just perfect in my mind!
So friends, I know that these may take a bit to download, but if you find the time or the inclination, please enjoy the music from the George Washington High School Spring Concert – 2015!
Where did the last 10 days go? It seems like we just got back from the trip we took to Lewisburg, but it’s been a while now! So, it turns out, the Greenbrier resort is in White Sulphur Springs, WV, a few miles from Lewisburg. The Greenbrier is one of those pretty high-end resorts that reminds me of where Daddy tried to put Baby in the Corner. It’s not a place I really understand, but they have really pretty grass, so why not?
Emily and I decided to go and walk around the place and enjoy the beautiful views and take a tour of the declassified bunker that was built into the mountain during the Cold War. The bunker was called Project Greek Island and was built to allow government to continue to exist in the event of nuclear war.
The bunker itself is not all that notable, but the tour given by staff is well worth the cost of the tickets. There was so much secrecy and Cold War intrigue in its construction that simply seeing the structure without the story would be to miss the real gem.
We had a lot of fun walking around the grounds as the staff prepared for the Greenbrier Classic. We spend a few moments indulging our fantasies of wealth and importance and the state of the world during the Cold War. I think the Greenbrier is exactly built for that…a place to get away from reality and ponder things. The cool part for us, at least, is that we didn’t have to pay to stay in the hotel or eat at the restaurants. We were able to escape for a few bucks for the cost of the bunker tour. And even better was leaving with my savings in my pocket, my wife at my side and a reservation back in Lewisburg!