Monthly Archives: May 2009

Our pal Franco Harris

Emily works at Piedmont Elementary, an inner-city school in Charleston, WV.  The kids there are ethnically diverse and a great number come from poverty homes.  In spite of those issues (and they are many), there are so many great things about the school.  The staff generally want to be there (because you wouldn’t stay if you didn’t), and the principal has a passion for doing whatever is best for the kids.  Piedmont is one of only a few year round schools in WV, thanks to the principal’s passion to serve the kids.  Year round school gives the kids consistency and at least 2 regular meals year round.

Mr Knighton, the principal also knows a lot of people.  Yesterday, one of his contacts delivered.  Franco Harris of the famous Immaculate Reception and the Super Bowl-ring-heavy Pittsburgh Steelers was speaking in Charleston yesterday and had some free time.  Mr Knighton’s friend was able to schedule some time for the Piedmont kids to meet Franco Harris and he delivered a talk on eating right, making wise choices, etc.  The kids, none of whom were alive when Franco played football, enjoyed the talk and the chance to meet a football great!  It was a great treat for the kids and the staff (who DO remember when he played!)

Emily was able to have Franco Harris sign my Steelers hat which has taken its rightful position on my pillow, right beside my head.  He was very gracious to all the kids who had questions and wanted autographs as well.  I absolutely dig it when sports stars come back to Earth and do great things for people who need it.

So what about you…do you have any autographs or stories of famous folks?

Brace Face

I have crooked, messed up teeth.  I have had them since before I can really remember.  I suppose my baby teeth must have been crooked as well.  Why would a person be lucky enough to have straight baby teeth only to be plagued by crooked adult teeth?  Huh…come to think of it, that is exactly how the world seems to work.  Anyhow, I have crooked teeth.  They are chipped and mangled and ugly.

Emily has been bugging me for years to see an orthodontist to get them straightened.  Since she means so much to me, I went to the orthodontist after only 11 years of “discussion”.  That’s really pretty quick all things considered.  Anyhow, the orthodontic staff stretched my face in all sorts of unnatural ways and took all sorts of pictures at angles sure to accentuate the crookedness of my chompers.  I suppose the hideousness of my appearance was supposed to shock me into wanting to fix my teeth.  I fooled them though…my wife scared me into it…they had no effect!

As a part of the examination, I got a few x-rays taken.  I know no one would believe my story unless I showed you the proof.  If you’ll notice, the shot of my skull does not show a hollow space.  There is something inside and it does not appear to be either rocks or marbles!

Since I am an adult and I get the pleasure of paying for whatever orthodontia I choose, I decided to get invisible braces.  I signed up for Invisalign straighteners that are supposed to be essentially invisible and as effective as normal braces if used properly.  Apparently every couple of weeks I will get new plastic inserts that snap onto my teeth and pull them into alignment over the next 12-18 months.  I will be in no danger of getting my braces stuck to Emily if we ever decide to share a smooch!

The orthodontist promised me I would end up with perfectly straightened teeth.  He plans to smooth out the rough edges and chips I have too.  I protested at first telling him I earned almost every one of those chipped teeth the hard way.  I still need to pay my brother back for most of those knocks…

Anyhow, in 4-8 weeks, I will have my new invisible braces.  I will happily be on my way to new and straightened teeth.  If all goes well, I may jet out to Hollywood and expose my bits to the papparazzi because surely I will be just like a movie star!

EDIT:  Braces are here!

I used to sing backup for Billy Joel

I started working when I was pretty young. As I recall, I was 13 when I started selling live bait and hunting and fishing equipment in a sporting goods/general store in my home town. We really sold everything there and it was a pretty fun place to work. We worked hard but we played pretty hard too.

I worked in college and graduated a semester early. While waiting to marry Emily, I moved to her hometown and worked several jobs. It started with Red Lobster. I was hired as a server. I worked my first night and told them I wouldn’t be back the next day. I had found a better gig afterall. I was to be a shift manager at Taco Bell. I worked there for 4 days and found an even better gig (hard to imagine, I know) so I moved to a position as an “electrical schmuck” at Lowes. I stayed there for 2 months or so and moved to a garden nursery where I worked 1 week. By this time, Emily was pretty concerned about who she was marrying. I was obviously unstable and a “roamer”. My final gig that summer was at a feed store in Charleston where I think I worked harder than I ever had before. All of these jobs did give me a good appreciation for what it meant to work and what I didn’t want to do for a living.

So we went to graduate school where I taught some math and computer classes to make a few bucks in addition to the research I was doing. I have had a few regular jobs since school including the one at which I work now.

All of these other jobs were nothing compared to my favorite job (so far). This weekend, Emily and I went to Cleveland, OH to hear Billy Joel and Elton John in their Face 2 Face tour. Emily and I both sang backup vocals for the two entertainers! We were brilliant at it really. Billy himself commented at how we were right on key!

Ok…so all that is to say that we, along with 20,000 other folks , went to hear Elton and Billy play an awesome 3 and a half hour concert! The Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland was sold out and very much packed. The crowd went absolutely nuts when Billy and Elton’s pianos rose from the stage and they walked on. It was incredible! Billy was absolutely every bit as good as I had hoped. I have been a huge fan since high school and was not disappointed in the wait to hear him! He was funny and engaging and a phenomenal entertainer (doesn’t he have a song about that? 🙂 ). I would go and see him again without hesitation. Billy and Elton together were very good as well. They played back and forth and had fun keying off of each other. Elton by himself was not stellar which was disappointing. Still, I am glad I got to see him as well.

Anyhow, the crowd was absolutely into the show. We had pretty great seats but that didn’t keep the “interesting” folks out. Let me just say that I am thankful that my wife is not a drunken-lap-dancing-ho like the girl next to us was. Enough said… But the rest of the crowd (save the one person who was burning something herbal) was tremendous. My ears rang and I was dizzy from the roar of the crowd. All-in-all, it was a fantastic show and a great weekend! I am certain that my favorite job was my time as a rock and roll star…or at least doing the backup vocals for a rock and roll star!

Just for reference, here is the set they played:
Your Song, Just the Way You Are, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, My Life
Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, Burn Down the Mission, Madman Across the Water, Tiny Dancer, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Daniel, Rocket Man, Levon, I’m Still Standing, Crocodile Rock
Angry Young Man, Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song), Allentown, Zanzibar, Don’t Ask Me Why, She’s Always a Woman, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, River of Dreams, We Didn’t Start the Fire, It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me, Only the Good Die Young
I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues, Uptown Girl, The Bitch Is Back, You May Be Right, Bennie and the Jets, Birthday, Back in the U.S.S.R., Candle in the Wind, Piano Man

How I resist Edward Cullen…or…Isn’t my garlic awesome?

Some folks know that I am addicted to the Twilight series of books.  Basically, they are about a girl’s experience with a family of vampires, including one vampire named Edward who is incredibly handsome, smart, charming, etc…you know, all the stuff that guys typically aren’t.  I read the books and saw the first movie.  Edward is indeed a dreamy bugger.  Fortunately, I am a married man and also have my secret weapon… 

I planted just shy of one ton of garlic last fall.  It seems that most of it has done very well and will be ready for harvest later this summer.  Garlic is so fun to watch grow.  It starts in the fall and shows itself but then dies back over winter.  Early in the spring though, you will see it poking back up through the dirt and by late spring, it produces large, hardy onion-like leaves.  In a month or so, it shoots up scapes full of little garlic seeds (if you let it go that far.  The scapes are good to eat on their own).  It sort of looks prehistoric to me.  Anyhow, prior to growing our own, we never really used garlic much.  Once you try fresh garlic, though, you’ll never go back.  We use it in everything.  We can with it, we cook with it.  We even bake heads of garlic in olive oil to make a quick and easy spread for on bread (pour olive oil in between the cloves that you separate slightly, leaving them still mostly attached.  Bake at 350 until they are tender…maybe 30 minutes…serve the  cloves with bread.  Once baked, they are spreadable).

All this food talk is nice, but the most important thig about garlic is it’s effect on vampires.  I wear garlic around my neck to ward off Edward Cullen and his ilk.  As much as I like Edward, I am pretty sure that I prefer my human form and plan to stay that way!  If you have a Twilight addiction like me, I recommend you plant some garlic this fall!

Happy Mother’s Day…I’m early

I am feeling really great about Mother’s Day. I am 355 days early and here I am already wishing my Mom a Happy Mother’s day! I mean, how many mothers could ask for a better son?!

I thought it might be fun to show some old pics of my mom and tell a few stories…

My Mom grew up above a gas station that my grandparents owned in the same town in which I grew up. She knows everyone in town and has for a long time. She graduated from the local high school (one of two in the county) a really really long time ago.

After school, she went off to school, married my Dad, moved to Washington, DC, birthed me and moved back to Tionesta. I am sure I am glossing over a few details there but the part where she had me was the important part anyhow.

So, Mom and Dad moved back to a small town to raise me and so I was raised. We lived close to all sorts of family, some of whom we even liked! I am very thankful to have been raised “back home” and by the parents who claim to have made me (though sometimes I wonder).

It’s funny how growing up makes a person appreciate their parents more.  I am sure you have all noticed the same thing. Anyhow, I think one of my favorite adult experiences with my Mom was in 2005 when we went to the beach as a family for the first time.  In all her many, many years, my Mom had never seen the ocean. We happened to arrive together and my Mom sprinted for the shore and jumped right in, clothes and all! It was glorious!

Anyhow, Thanks Mom and Dad for having me and for getting so much smarter as you’ve aged. Happy Mother’s day…early!

Race car bed

Several years ago when we still lived in TN, I built a race car bed for Isaac. It took me many nights to do all of the cutting and shaping. I inhaled at least one lung-full of dust, even through the mask I wore. No doubt, the house still had sawdust in it when we sold it to the next people.

Anyhow, I worked and worked to build Isaac a race car bed that he would love and enjoy sleeping in. It weighs just short of one ton and we moved it from TN to the top floor of our house here in WV. It seems, though, that its time is done. We have extra beds in the guest room and he has expressed an interest in one of those. The race car bed has run its race and is headed to the big garage in the sky.

Before we bid it adieu, I thought it would be fun to share some pictures of it and to talk about growing up. Isaac is nine and a half and starting to shed so much of his little-kid-ness. We bought him new shoes last night and he now wears a men’s size 9. I wear a 9.5-10 so we can almost share shoes (though fear not, we are males and will not share shoes!) He comes to my shoulder and reads books from the teen area of the book store. He gets my jokes now and Emily and I can no longer safely use sarcasm to communicate with each other. He is starting to close the door when he goes into the bathroom (though not always) and he is tired of his race car bed.

So, this weekend, we’ll take down the race car and give him a more adult looking bed frame. I’ll try to give him a big hug as we work, but he won’t let me. Still, I’ll smile inside as my baby boy grows up just a little more.

Flat in WV!

When we lived in Nashville, TN, we had a beautiful flat piece of land on a flat, dead-end road with 5 houses.  We played outside all the time.  We messed around in the yard and we rode bikes.  We rode bikes constantly. 

Isaac started riding his little Red Flyer tricycle there and graduated to a two-wheeler with training wheels.  He was briliant on a bike.  He got better and better and quickly was able to ride without training wheels.  In fact, he was so good that I took his training wheels off one day and he jumped right on his bike and rode off.  He never has wrecked since that day.

Charleston, WV is not flat space.  We moved here when Abigail was 3.  She had just started to ride bikes in TN so moving here definitely stunted her bike riding ability.  I suppose my brother and I were born on bicycles.  Not sure how my Mom worked that out and I sort of hope we keep it that way.  Anyhow, we were always on bikes and I need for my kids to be that way too.  It’s been tough here though since we have no flat space to ride.

There is a neat area in Charleston called Kanawha City that has neat homes and flat back streets right along the river.  Typically, there isn’t much gunfire, during the day at least, so we were able to ride pretty freely this weekend.  Several of the back streets are very bike friendly.  Cars typically are aware of bikes so it’s an ideal situation.  Our only barrier until now was how to get all of our bikes to Kanawha City.  We have a bike carrier but none of us was smart enough to figure out how to use it.  This weekend, after 3 years of holding out (seriously), I caved in and finally read the instructions.  We hooked it all up and made it to flat ground in WV!  We rode bikes like when I was a kid (i.e. with abandon!) and had a blast and will definitely be back!  The best part is that my bike has a speedometer so Isaac and I had fun watching our speed (the speed limit in Kanawha City is 25…I can say no more for fear of the repercussions).  We were careful to obey most of the rules of the road!

(Isaac’s first bike!)

Were you a “biker” when you were a kid?  If not, what did you do when you played outside?

It’s zoonotic!

We have had our old cat Madeline for 13 years and she has only ever had a few problems.  If we don’t feed her the right food (which we can only get at the vet’s office) she gets urinary tract infections within 2 weeks.  So, it’s not a huge additional expense to buy special food and she is worth it to us, but it’s not the same as buying meow mix either.  She also got bit by a brown recluse once in TN which was unpleasant for all of us and was also expensive.  Still, as critters go, she’s been pretty easy.


While in TN, we also found an all black cat in front of a Baptist church (so we called him Baptist).  He had been hit by a car sometime earlier in his history so had a badly messed up leg.  We took him to the vet figuring they would find all sorts of issues with him.  Instead, we ended up having his one back leg removed and he was fine…except he was never fine.  After that surgery, he became the meanest cat on Earth!  He used to bite and scratch us all the time.  Finally, as part of his contraryness, he decided to start pooping on the floor…everywhere.  We were about to move into a new house and decided that his behavior was not going to fly there.  So, he didn’t make the move with us.  Still, as you can imagine, he was incredibly expensive to get “fixed” just so he could turn into the cat-devil!


Fast forward a few years and now we have Mohinder.  He also was a stray and is jet black.  He just walked right into our house one day (after hanging around for many days prior…along with the 10 other strays that hang around us).  He has all 4 legs but is missing most of his tail.  I guess we just can’t have a normal black cat.  I was leary at first remembering the pain and expense of our last black cat.  We all decided he was sweet and worth taking in (and we were right!)  

Anyhow, he was expensive to get fixed and declawed, etc.  Other than that, he has been healthy and fine…until this week.  He developed a case of “leaky butt” and started throwing up all over the house.  He stopped eating and became lethargic.  Most of that doesn’t bother me too much, but you can imagine a case of “leaky butt” causes problems.  We took him to the vet and $400 later, we find that he has campylobacter and clostridia.  The best part about campylobacter is that it is zoonotic.  That means that if we aren’t careful, we could also end up with “leaky butt” and vomiting.


They gave us some (apparently) nasty tasting medicine to treat Mohinder and it seems to be working pretty well.  Here’s to hoping that we all keep “normal butt”!

What about you all…do you go all out for your pets?

Pictures of my wife in the bathtub

Hey, what kind of pervert are you anyhow? Did you really think I would put those kind of pictures on my blog? Well, yeah, I see your point. I mean, with a title like that, what should I expect, right?

Just kidding my blog friends. I thought I would share with you what I got Emily for Mother’s day while at the East End yard sale last weekend. Yes, you read that right, I got her Mother’s day present at a yard sale…the day before Mother’s day. I am that kind of guy.

I have mentioned before that our house was built in 1939. A lot of the house is still reminiscent of 1939 but the main bathroom screams 1985. It was a good year, no doubt, but as bathrooms go, it was not a bright age. There is a gawd-awful garden tub that we can’t even fill with our hot water tank (let alone afford to fill it)! There is way too much wood and a good heaping scoop of ugly on top just to tie it all together. We started tearing into the bathroom just because we were sick of looking at the ugly (plus I accidentally drilled a hole in the waste pipe from the upstairs bathroom that ran through this bathroom…but that’s another story). Anyhow, we have plans to modernize our bathroom in an old fashioned style. The garden tub is out of the question. The ugly bits everywhere must go. We hope to make it similar to how it might have looked when it was built. But before I can fix up the bathroom, I need to jack up and level the floors, install new windows and do all sorts of work on the floor below.

Ok, so that’s a long-winded way of saying that the bathroom is on the list but won’t be getting fixed super soon. Imagine my surprise as I walked down Quarrier Street on Charleston’s East End and saw a glorious claw-foot bathtub out in a front yard. I have seen all sorts of claw-foot tubs around with crazy prices and lots of dents and bruises. I was certain that I was going to have to settle for a beater or else spend thousands of dollars to get a new faux-antique tub which sort of ruined my idea of old and cool (and it especially offended my sense of thrift). I tentatively approached this mirage-tub. Surely my eyes were deceiving me. The price…too good to be true. It’s condition…in need of a new finish but without structural blemish. Did I mention the price? I didn’t want to look too desperate, hoping to get a deal. I ran right up to the homeowner and fell at his knees, begging him to let me buy his tub. He smiled and chomped down on his cigar, preparing to deal. We came to an agreement and I came back later with 3 men and two small boys to help me load this widow-maker into the back of my man-van. If it weighs 5 pounds, it weighs 400.

We managed to get the tub back out of the van and into my front lawn (in perfect style!) where it will have to sit until I get the main bathroom in such condition that the floor will support the weight and there is room to install the tub (i.e. we get that garden tub out of the bathroom and into the front yard). In the meantime, we’ll enjoy our front yard tub and rest easy knowing that we scored the coolest claw-foot tub in the United States!

I have a crush

My blog friend June Cleaver has an serious obsession with movie stars and I have to admit, I have a bit of a crush myself.  I have been reading the Twilight series of books so I could figure out why Emily was all the time dreamy-eyed.  She kept saying the name “Edward” in her sleep and I was beginning to get a bit of a complex.  I cracked the first book and I have to admit, I get her obsession.  In fact, my crush on Edward has now surpassed hers and I mumble his name in my sleep too…Emily has recordings of me so I will deny no longer…I have a huge man-crush on Edward Cullen!

(somewhat cool?)


Ok, so I am not the first person to have a crush on Edward.  There are tons of fans sites and many (way too many if you ask me) people have Twilight-inspired tattoos.  I laugh at those folks though.  Edward is a purist…he doesn’t want all that body art!

Ok, so I am bodering on gross here, but I really like the books.  The other thing I have to tell you is that I bought the movie soundtrack.  I liked the movie pretty well, but of course, it pales in comparison to the books.  Anyhow, the movie also has an awesome soundtrack.  I am no soundtrack guy, but this one is excellent!  We have been listening to it a lot lately and Emily and I dance around to it even more than the kids do I think.  It rocks!

So, here are a few selections from the soundtrack…

I love you Edward…call me!