Monthly Archives: April 2009

Was he ever angelic?

We visited my parents a few weeks ago and had a chance to look through some old pictures and talk about stuff. We found one picture of my Dad and some of his friends (sometime in the mid-1950s) as they were dressed to perform their duties as alter boys at the Episcopal church in their hometown.

A few things caught my attention. I don’t know if you do this, but I always get this silly picture in my head of people in little kid bodies, but with their adult heads. I guess it almost is bobble-head-ish, but I always have a hard time imagining people as they were “back then”. So, I see this picture of my Dad and it sort of makes me remember that he is human (though sometimes I wonder…) and that he was a kid once, probably a knucklehead like I was/am and also like my son sometimes is now. He probably even played with toys and had childhood romances and collected boogers like Isaac does now (not really). Isn’t it weird though, how it’s hard to imagine your parents as people (smile) let alone as kids?

Anyhow, my Dad was in the back row, far right near the old man with funny glasses.  That brings me to the other thing that caught my attention.  There is a huge variety of style captured in that one picture.  It’s sort of funny how many different hair-dos there are…from flat tops to greasers to duck’s tails.  It sort of cracks me up but is a neat look back in time…ancient history in fact.  Although, many of those hair styles can still be seen today!

Yeah, I eat salad…what of it?

So, anyone that knows me pretty much knows that I am a meat and potatoes and sugar kind of guy.  But lately, we have been trying to eat healthier.  Yeah, I lost a bet, and since my head was already shaved, there was only one good bet left.  So here I am trying to eat better.  So a few weeks ago, I talked about 7 layer salad. Some may argue that it is not super healthy…but it has lettuce and spinach in it so get off my back already…it’s salad!

We discovered another salad that I sort of dig too.  Well, really, lettuce is only the dressing-delivery-vehicle, but I’d rather have a corvette than a chevette as vehicles go.  Wait, I am talking about lettuce here.  Ok, so I do not like ice berg lettuce.  I like the funky expensive spring and summer mix greens if you are buying bagged salad.  Of course, if you grow your own, so much the better.  Anyhow, I throw a bunch of greens in a bowl and add unreasonably sized handfuls of walnuts, craisins, and gorgonzola cheese (feta or bleu cheese work also).  Sometimes I add sunflower seeds and if I’ve had too much to drink, raisins.

thumbs up
These guys ate my salad…

So all that stuff looks pretty and may be enough to trick most guys into eating a bowl of salad.  Of course, I am not most guys.  My Dad always told me I was special…and that one day, if I worked very hard, I could be useful as a clamp or maybe I could be the guy who holds the tape measure on the dumb end.  Anyhow, it takes a bit more than some pretty craisins or a few seeds to get me to eat salad.  No, no, I need dressing.  A friend shared this secret recipe with us and, so long as you promise not to tell anyone, I will share it with you.  Ok, ready?  Here is the dressing:

2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1-2 Tbsp sweet hot mustard
1-2 Tbsp honey mustard
2-3 Tbsp honey
1-3 Tbsp sugar (to taste)

We mix all this in a pint jar and store in the refrigerator.  Let it warm before serving of course…it looks very dark because of the vinegar but I love this stuff…probably because of the vinegar!

Wound up, dressed up, wound up

Easter came to our house this weekend and was a lot of fun for all of us.  Saturday night, the Easter Bunny came to visit and made a mess of things, spilling 2 boxes of Nerds candy all over the table near the Easter baskets.  I hated the idea of the poor bunny cleaning up such a mess all on his own, so I pitched in and helped him by eating every last bit of the evidence I could find!  Needless to say, I was a bit wound up!  Some people scorn the power of nerds but they are one of my favorite candies (the Easter Bunny is so smart!) and always make me feel like a kid (moreso than usual!)  I was up waaaay too late, but I felt great!

The kids actually slept in on Sunday and didn’t come downstairs until 7:30. They had colored eggs the day before with their grandparents, but Isaac and Abigail were very interested in their other baskets!  

Their baskets from the Easter Bunny were incredibly full of sugary goodness and kid fuel (he didn’t spill all of the candy)!  Buried in each basket was a new game for their Nintendo DSs.  Normally, that is enough for them not to care about anything else, but they spied eggs hiddn throughout the living room and started another “feeding”  frenzy. High and low they looked until they had cleared out the place!

Emily’s folks had gotten the kids some new Easter clothes so we all got gussied up and headed to church.  We were terribly pretty as usual and looked so springy!  I felt not unlike a cadbury egg, myself (having ingested 8 in a 24 hour period) as I let out a “cluck” or two.

We ate lunch at Emily’s aunt and uncle’s place where we had a heaping pile of food (protein was good as we desperately needed to counteract the sugar in me, mainly, but also the kids).  For dessert, we had carrot cake which, at first, didn’t make sense to me until I thought about what bunnies eat…carrots!  Ah…I get carrot cake now!  Anyhow, we played croquet and hid more eggs and had a great time messing around in the beautiful sun!

Cow on wheels?

A coworker of mine (actually, the founder of our company) is an excellent, though atypical skateboarder.  He’s been at it for many years and has a lot of great skills and some really nice scars to show for his efforts.  Recently, he has gotten me into skateboarding too.  After a number of really nasty days here in WV, yesterday was absolutely beautiful.  We cut out of work a couple of hours early and headed to Coonskin Park where there is a great skate park.

We got there and there were a number of teenagers.  It’s funny, as I thought about it.  Skateboarders are typically considered punks and maybe even criminals.  To be sure, I saw kids who needed a shave, kids with tattoos and long hair.  Some of them cussed and most of them were show-offs.  

But I also saw older kids helping younger kids learn new moves, I saw people gather around to help when one boy fell and hurt his leg.  I saw a boy trying to teach his new girlfriend learn to skate.  There was plenty of clowning around and tons of good clean fun. These were really great kids who aren’t much different than I was when I was a teenager.  Really, they are not much different than I am right now when I think of it.

Anyhow, I am gaining a new respect for skaters.  These folks were decent kids who wanted to have a thrill, to show off and to hang out with friends.  They were not stoned or drunk or any of those things that people often associate with skaters.  They were a lot of fun and my pleasure to hang with.

I think the funniest thing I saw was the guy in the cow suit.  He was a great sport and an awesome skater.  One of the younger kids asked him why he was wearing a cow suit.  His reply was, “to get the ladies”.  The younger kid just shrugged and said, “Oh..I get that.”

Where I grew up

I grew up in a small town in NW PA called Tionesta.  It’s the county seat of Forest county, the least populus county in Pennsylvania.  Since there aren’t many people, you might guess that there are a lot of trees and outdoorsy things to do.  Of course, with a county name like Forest, could there be any doubt?  Anyhow, I lived every bit of my childhood there (since I was 1 or so) and grew up as a country boy.

What exactly it means to be a country boy varies from person to person I suppose but I figure that there are a few common denominators.  I grew up exposed to nature and critters and dark skies and simple life.  There was ugly stuff about living in the country too, but I choose to ignore all of that stuff.

(the Tionesta dam)

So, anyhow, I grew up near a town of 600 or so people.  We lived a few miles out of town in the boonies.  Actually, when you get to the boonies, you turn left and go a bit further.  Anyhow, in the country, we got into all sorts of things.  I have mentioned a few things on here before…we were about gardening and making maple syrup, boy scouts and camping, wishing on the stars and laying under a shade tree chewing on a piece of grass.  I learned about guns and shot all the time.  It was wonderful!    

I miss those things…sometimes more than others.  The funny thing is, though, I guess I can do all those things now too, but I think there is something special about being a kid in the country.

Do you have memories, past or present, of being a kid in the country?


Abigail is a talker.  She talks all the time and several of her girl friends in kindergarten are the same way.  Her teacher has fussed at her many times and she has been in time out, had notes sent home and been moved all around the classroom.  She just can’t help herself.  Now, believe it or not, I am not a talker.  I typically don’t say a lot to people face to face.  It’s just not me.  So…that leaves Emily as a talker.  I figure talking of Abigail’s caliber must be genetic and she must have gotten it from Emily’s line!

She didn’t understand why it was such a big deal whether she talked during a test or when the teacher was teaching.  “I was done with the test” or “I already knew that stuff” was the usual response we got.  We finally told her that it might be like cheating…her teacher might think she is telling someone else the answer or that she was getting the asnwer from someone else.

I guess that the cheating talk must have sunken in a little.  This Sunday, Abigail came home from church with this paper.  I am not sure what else to say!

Mortgage on the castle

We originally bought our house 3 years ago when we moved here with a 30 year mortgage, similar to how most people buy homes.  We had a conventional, fixed-rate mortgage and paid three years on it.  Basically, we paid $30000 in interest and $0.47 on the principal.  With the lower interest rates that are a result of the economic climate, we recently found a lower rate and decided to refinance our home.  

We did not refinance to take out some of the equity or prolong our loan another 30 years to lower payments.  I understand that things happen and it becomes necessary to do these things sometimes, but for us, our goal was to shorten the length of the loan and pay it off a bit earlier.  

In a lot of cases, refinancing fees eat up a large portion of the benefit of refinancing.  Closing costs and title insurance and other similar fees can total thousands of dollars and, if rolled back into the principal, can negate the refinancing benefit.  We looked around some and found some interesting information.  First of all, the refinancing backlog at some banks is incredible.  The banking industry is apparently not suffering too bad (or else they run on a skeleton staff) as many places wouldn’t even call us back.  

Anyhow, our bank, it turns out, still owns our loan and has an easy refinancing option whereby they essentially reduce our rate/term for only $415.  We still have a fixed rate, prime loan at a conventional brick-and-mortar bank.  We now only have to pay on it for 20 years instead of 30.  I put together a little spreadsheet to analyze the loans and discovered that by cutting 7 years off of our loan (we already paid 3 of the original 30 years), we will save over $100,000 in interest.  Our payment only slightly changed and it is likely that by limiting my Mt Dew intake, we won’t feel any difference in our bottom line!

You can see the spreadsheet I created to have a look at your own home loan.  Basically, the yellow cells need your input.  You’ll notice an area called “extra payment” that will allow you to add additional money on your principal payment to see how a little extra money translates into a lot of extra money down the road.  You can also see the total cost of your loan which will likely be shocking.  Anyhow, have a look and see what you think!  By the way, if you don’t have excel, you can download OpenOffice which is a free replacement for Microsoft Office.  I have used this since 1998 or so and have had great luck with it.


When Isaac was born, it was wholly unlike the typical birth of a child.  He came 2 months early and we hadn’t even been through birthing classes.  We didn’t get a chance to do much baby shopping and it was so scary.  Don’t get me wrong, on this side of his birth, I wouldn’t change a single thing…not one bit.

(2 years old)

(4 years old)

But I did sort of want to have that typical “birth experience”…you know, where we wake in the middle of the night and scurry around.  I throw the suitcases in the trunk while my wife makes her way to the car.  Three years after Isaac was born, we had that very experience with Abigail.  Emily woke around midnight, her water had just broken.  She grabbed a quick shower as I gathered up her suitcase.  This part diverges from my vision a bit – she decided to run the vacuum over the entire house.  Anyhow, after that, we called someone to watch Isaac and at 1am or so, we headed to Baptist Hospital in Nashville.  Of course, on the way, I had to stop and get a Mountain Dew.  After running the vacuum, I figured we had no worries.  We could stop at Waffle House (except I didn’t have my gun), grab a bite to eat, maybe watch a few infomercials on how to pay for this baby.  But oh, no.  We had to get to the hospital yesterday when it was a stops I wanted to make.

(almost 6 years old)

(almost 6 years old)

Anyhow, we made it to the hospital and the folks there promptly told Emily she had just peed the bed.  Emily, knowing better put her foot down and demanded a recount…no pregnant chads for this chick.  Sure enough, when they did a pH test, uh…”in there”, they discovered that she had not peed the bed.  Regular labor soon followed.  At 5:53 am, Abigail was born, 6 years ago today.

(almost 6 years old)

It’s pretty hard to believe that my little girl is already 6.  It seems like just yesterday that my little black haired baby (Emily had some questions to answer there) was laid in my arms for the first time.  And just yesterday, I swear she was saying her first words and taking her first steps.  Can it be that she is already 6?  I guess so.  But I am truly not sad.  She is a delight and grows more interesting and fun by the day.  She can read, she has a mean soccer kick and an infectious laugh.  I love my little 6 years old!

(almost 6 years old)

There is a funny story to tell…Last night as Emily and I were tucking her in, we said, “This is your last night as a 5 year old.”  We kissed her on the head and walked away as usual.  Fifteen minutes later, she came downstairs, crying.  “I am so sad…I am going to miss being a 5 year old!”  Fortunately, all was well this morning.  She is more mature now after all!

(6 years old today!)


So I have been watching a discussion about evolution on facebook (by the way, I am addicted to facebook…it’s madness!  Look me up if you are on fb!) and it’s made me think about how things need to change in order to keep up.  Regardless of whether you subscribe to macroevolution, I think most folks accept microevolution where small changes occur that benefit a species.  That made me think about West Virginia in particular.  For so long, we have been a coal state.  In fact, WV produces 15% of all coal in the United States and leads in the production of underground coal.  More specifically, in 2006 West Virginia mines produced over 158 million tons of coal (more WV coal facts).    So all of that is to say, WV is a coal state.  Ok, now I am going to rant a bit, but please read on ’til the end.  I promise not to be too obnoxious!

Walker CAT has been sponsoring these billboards for quite awhile around here.  I don’t really want to have a huge debate on mountain top removal or global warming right now but I wonder why they are pushing such a crazy idea.  Coal is still dirty.  It’s dirty when it is mined and dirty when it is burned.  I am not suggesting that we stop all mining or use of coal.  But I wonder how these signs are left to stand.  I hope the idea is to suggest that we look for ways to make coal clean and carbon neutral rather than to try and trick folks into believing that coal is currently clean and carbon neutral.

So what do we do?  I like electricity and driving around and my air conditioner as much as the next guy.  But we can all do better about conserving.  I won’t list all that stuff here because folks know how to conserve.  But in addition to conservation, I think WV and other places need to diversify.  I am surely not the first to say it, but WV can become an energy state rather than just a coal state.  Coal will likely always play a role here, but so should natural gas and wind and solar.  We could become a place that makes turbines as well as hosts them.  We can lead in research and development.  We just need to evolve.  Heck, my son alone can fuel our house with natural gas.  I am sure there are lots of “unusual” sources for energy if we look. 

I was so inspired the other day at how diversification is starting to take hold in WV.  I saw a sign where it appears that the Department of Corrections is getting together with the Real Estate Division of the state.  There is tons of potential there!  I can see the prisons becoming neighborhood initiaitves!  The Depart of Corrections can buy up abandoned homes, and build neighborhood  jails!  Maybe we can run fund raisers where we “arrest” our friends and neighbors and then have to pay to bail them out.  Maybe we can just put all teenagers in these places and feed them every week or so.  I don’t know, it just seems like the folks in charge are starting to think about things in a different way.  Maybe now we can get the Department of Natural Resources to merge with the Department of Education so we can harvest the post lunch methane of 9 year old boys!  See?  We need to diversify and think outside the box!

School Pictures

Today is picture day for the kids.  It’s always a big event as they choose their outfits and get haircuts.  You know, they do all that stuff so they look nothing like they normally do.  Abigail got to use some hairspray today and Isaac actually used a comb today.  

Anyhow, Abigail has been into clothes and looking nice and all that for awhile now.  Isaac is the funny one to me though.  Emily went through his closet the other day and made him try things on so she could clear out the small stuff.  The funny thing is that he loved trying on clothes.  I just don’t understand.  I mean, I have 7-9 pairs of nearly identical  khaki brown pants (depending on whether Emily throws some out when they get holes) and a 15 or so shirts.  I have one pair of brown shoes and a brown belt.  What else do I need?  I wanted to dress him in burlap underwear, just like my dad dressed me, so that he would get over wanting to try on clothes.  Next thing you know, he will enjoy shopping for clothes too.  What is the world coming to?!   I was, obviously, shot down on the burlap idea of course.  I did get Emily to “rock, paper, scissors” me for it though so I put up the good fight.  Anyhow, enough about that.  It was fun this morning getting ready for picture day at school.

Last night as we were setting out clothes, I got to digging around in the old picture box and found a collage of my school pictures from 1st grade through senior year.  It’s pretty funny to me to look back over the pictures.  In first grade, I was so mad because I nearly missed the picture shoot and thought I was going to be in with 2nd graders.  In 2nd and 3rd grade, I loved western shirts…I can’t explain it, but it is all I wore.  I loved my green gum boots then too and wore them all day every day too.

As time went on, I guess I got a bit more normal but something happened senior year.  All of my senior pictures…yes every one…has me in a pink shirt.  Now, I am not afraid of pink and I like plenty of people who wear pink.  I even like Pink’s music. But really, every picture in pink?  Where were my parents?  Why didn’t they stop me?  And then the photographer adds those awful poses and the blurred edges!  It was a scary time I guess.  Well, anyhow, picture day always produces some interesting results and I hope you enjoy mine!