Thursday, July 31, 2008

Irony? Or just happy coincidence?

I got more comments on the last posting than almost any other ever...


Of course, they all seem to agree that the whole word verification thing isn't too much of a problem. Mom, naturally, thinks it's fun!

Maybe I'll just go in at random times and add it and subtract it. Just to keep you all on your toes!

More Later.

Thanks My Friend Jen

After a thoroughly resounding scolding from My Friend Jen via alternative modes of communication, I've taken the word verification thingy off of the 'leave a comment' part of the blog.

I completely agree with her that unless your blog is being read by thousands of people, it is a useless tool and a burden, small though it may be, to people who do want to leave a comment.

I even scoffed for a few days at other blogs and such where I had to enter the mystical letters. Who are these people who think they are so important? I wondered.

Of course, being me, it took a few days for me to realize that perhaps my blog was forcing that hoop upon others. And after some poking around in the settings, I found I was correct.

So - Merry Christmas! No more Word Verification to leave a comment here!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Even though it's the sixty first post

Sixty posts, sixty days.

Yesterday I hit the big six-oh. Sixty posts. Back in the summer of 2002, Dad and I paddled the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca - the very beginning - down to St. Louis. In canoes. In sixty days. Just shy of 1200 miles. (I will publish this exact post again for my 1168th post.)

Shoba came with and was a remarkably wonderful traveller considering she spent the majority of the time curled up at my feet. Of course, she didn't have to paddle.

About halfway down, or thereabouts, we were camped on a beach and I took a bath in the river to wash the scrudge off. You know you are grubby when the river water is somewhat cleaner than you! Anyway, Dad was sitting up on the beach, watching the water go by. I decided to get Shoba in for a little rinse, as she was rather smelly as well. She did not appreciate it, but cleaned up rather nicely. She looked at me with pleading eyes, waiting for the ok to climb out of the water. So I said to her,

"Go on up the beach and shake out next to Dad. He could probably use a shower."

Much to my amazement, and Dad's chagrin, Shoba marched out of the water and (unlike a normal dog who would shake as soon as its feet were on land) walked all the way over to Dad, stood right in front of his chair, and shook like there was no tomorrow.

That dog was two opposable thumbs away from being people.

Anyway, the book I've written taken from the audio journals I kept is just about done being edited. I'll let you know when it's available for general consumption if anybody wants to read about the adventure.

I miss Shoba much today. Four months, still doing some grieving.

More Later

(FYI this post was completed on the 30th, but as paramedicine is an unpredictable field, it was not submitted in time... however, someone's night got much better.)

P.S. wow... I guess it was in time ... guess I need to update my time zone or something.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

T'was a Fairly Fair Fair

We went to the county fair today. What fun! The Boyo saw many animals not usually seen by us 'city kids' and was completely charming. He introduced himself to many of the other fair goers, as well as quite a few of the animals.

Little Sweet Pea did a fine job of napping, although the braying of a small burro woke her with a start.

We travelled from building to building admiring the works of others, be it animal, mineral, or vegetable. And I wondered how much 'The Fair' has changed in the past hundred years, if at all.

Oh, there are a few more Ipods around these days. Back then I suppose almost everyone looked Amish. Today I saw a teen girl wearing a green t-shirt, blue shorts and cowboy boots. Made me giggle.

My mother's family was ensconced in that world. My grandpa, whom we called Opa, and his girls (wife and four daughters) raised Herefords. They did the Fair for forty years, winning enough ribbons and trophies to fill a room. My aunt even made a quilt from the ribbons, and a pillow to match, and still had dozens left over. I remember as a youngish boy of seven or nine, going to the fair, 'helping' with the cattle (which I'm pretty sure was odd jobs that were safe for city kids and kept us out of the way) and dreaming about raising Herefords in our back yard.

I remember too, napping in the hay, leaning against a cow that was also sleeping. Who gets to do that but country kids?

Now, knowing that the raising of a prize heifer is out of the question at our current residence, I mentioned to The Wife that I should very much like to enter something in the fair next year. I make a pretty good Sweet Pepper Jelly (this year's Grand Champion Jelly was a Wild Plum variety). Although my pepper crop is poo this year. But, after the 'Great Thistle Incident' I am giving serious thought to making a wild thistle jelly for entry next year!

I can also enter photographs, a stained glass piece, and maybe even a pocketknife or two. Who knows? I might even score a ribbon!

The Wife pointed out, quite correctly, that I have about a jillion ribbons (and a couple of trophies) from my aunt who passed away last year. And I could very easily adopt one of those. But I told her that the old Marine in me still believes that unless it is earned, it's just not the same. She, of course, knows me a little better than I know myself, and agreed. She also stated that I seem to have this strange drive to 'leave a mark' on the world.

Again, she is correct. One of the reasons I fell in love with her is that she was always a willing audience for my stories. I have always liked to be 'on stage', 'in the spotlight', whatever. And I live for recognition. It's why I blog instead of journal. This is open for anyone to enter my world for a while. (thanks again for visiting by the by) I do want someting of myself to remain a little while after my death (which is not, I hope, imminent by any stretch)

I'll never be the President. Nor will I assassinate a President. So I doubt the world will remember me by my title or by all three of my names. I'll never be famous, never have a monument erected to me unless I do it myself (which I might) so all I can do is do what I can! And if I can add one more ribbon to the collection... Well, it will have my name on it. Sometimes that's all it takes.

Rambling on tonight. Slew of night shifts coming up, and I'm trying to get turned around to survive them.

More Later

Monday, July 28, 2008

Welcome Back

What a weekend! The Wife headed back to work after her three month maternity leave. She was greatly missed by all.

The Boyo was a wonderful helper all weekend. Helping with feedings and diaperings. Being quiet when the Sweet Pea was sleeping. Sweet Pea was equally charming, and has started giggling at Daddy when he tickles her on her toes.

Consequently, I got not a thing accomplished over the weekend except spending time with the kiddos, which I consider my greatest accomplishment.

But, I'm back now. I figure since I have more posts than there are days of the month, I'm good on the attempt at having 365 posts in 365 days.

Also, I've come to understand just how hard it is to be witty and clever every day on here. So forgive the mundane, whenever it happens.

Finally, I've noticed that I tend to gripe a lot on here. Granted, it is easier to type out a gripe and send it off into the Internet ocean in it's little post bottle. But rather than send out the bad thoughts, I'm going to try sending out good Karma for the entire month of August. (It is good to have goals)

The Wife came back from work with a story about a person who's cancer is so advanced that there is nothing they can do for it. This patient has had a rough life anyway, plagued with many other health problems.

And we are both so very thankful for our health, and the health of our kids. So August postings will include at least one thing that I am thankful for each and every day.

Gotta run, it's shower time here and Sweet Pea has just exploded with all the glory that is baby poo.

More later

Friday, July 25, 2008



Here are the answers to my little quiz.

1. The declaration was signed on August 2, 1776. On July 2nd, 1776, congress voted to declare independence. July 4th was the date that the document's wording was approved.

2. Paul Revere, of course, was the most famous of the riders. William Dawes was sent out at the same time to take a longer route to Lexington from Boston. Their mission, of course, was to warn John Hancock and Sam Adams that the British Regulars were on the move towards Lexington. (He didn't yell 'The British are coming!' either. As they were all British at the time.)

3. George Washington was a Colonel in the British Army and led troops into Canada to try and move the French out. He was not successful.

4.The War ended in 1783 with the signing of peace documents done in Paris, France.

5.True. Up until the very Declaration, there were many who were still hoping for a way to reconcile. If only the Crown had repealed the heavy taxes and allowed Americans to produce some of their own goods... we'd still be British. Sort of like Canada.

I think I'll set off some fireworks on August 2nd, and have my own little parade down the street... dress up Phebo in red, white and blue. My poor neighbors!

More Later

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Of Patriots and Rebels

At dinner tonight The Wife and I were talking a little about the origins of our country. I'm reading a book on Ben Franklin (the person, not the store) and am once again boggled in the brain at the thought of our founding fathers wanting to remain Englishmen. (Well, with the exceptions of the Adams Family and Hancock) Which leads me to The Wife's great comment of the day.

I know that when you read Adams Family, the creepy and kooky version probably leaps to mind instead of the Rebels John and Sam (again, not the beer). And when I say Hancock, he is the signer of the Declaration, not the superhero played by Will Smith, and not the insurance company.

So, in this book about Benjamin, it mentions that he had a pretty good working relationship with Admiral Lord Howe. Howe's brother was the famous general Howe that led British forces against the rebels.

Anyway, after commenting to her about how people associate names of our forefathers with relatively new pop culture, I asked The Wife if she was familiar with the Howes. She said with a chuckle, "Of course... Gilligan's Island."

It occurs to me that people probably don't know that much about our founding fathers, so here's a quick test...

1. When was the Declaration of Independence signed?

2. Name two riders that warned that the "British were coming".

3. What did George Washington do militarily before he led the Continental Army?

4. When did the 'War for Independence' end?

5. True or False. The first Continental Congress wanted to reconcile with England and remain loyal Englishmen under King George.

I took the test, and only got a few, so no worries. All of this reading on Franklin has led me to want to study those times more... another new project.

In other news, we've named the riding mower 'Phebo'. We've also decided the best way to keep up with the Boyo now that his cast is long gone is to put a brick in his backpack.

It almost works.

More Later

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Rider

My little lawn tractor was delivered this morning at ten. The whole family was excited. The Boyo and I circled it like sharks, inspecting every bell and whistle. The Wife stood nearby holding Sweet Pea, who was so excited that she pooped magnificently.

I fueled it up and climbed aboard while the rest of the fam headed inside for cover. I was intending to make a few circuits of the yard and (contrary to the 'published rules and warnings') take the Boyo for a quick spin.

Lawn tractors seem like they would be easy to run. After a bit, they are. But initially I was a little thrown by the 'release brake to move' idea, and my starts and stops would most likely have launched the Boyo across the yard. Thus proving the stick figure warnings correct. And I couldn't have that.

So I dropped the mowing deck, put the blades in gear, and MOWED THE LAWN!

It went so very quickly and most remarkably of all, when it was over I could still breathe! I could still SEE! No parts of my body were itchy or blotchy. How have I lived this long without one of these?!?

After front and back yard were mowed in record time, I raised the deck, disengaged the blades and took the Boyo for a spin around the yard, then up the street and back.

He LOVES the tractor. More bribery bait in my quest to bring up a decent human being.

More Later

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Good Fences, Good Neighbors and Bigger Toys

What a day. What a life. Where oh where to begin.

First off. The Boyo and I went shopping today and bought ourselves a tractor. Not the pull a plow harvest the beans kind, but a riding mower. We've been saving up for one for a time now.

This has been a want I've had for a few years. We've got a little over a half acre to mow. When we first moved in I thought it would be great exercise to use a push mower to trim the greens. After a few seasons of this I have come to realize that while the exercise is indeed great, I really don't enjoy it all that much.

Not because it is exercise, but because I'm cutting grass, which I am allergic to. The grass cutting now ranks right up there with sleeping under a goose down blanket with my head resting on a goose down pillow, after which I will look like a puffy, red marshmallow. Or grabbing the family cat and rubbing my face vigorously in her coat for about ten minutes. this would lead to itchy, puffy lips followed closely by my airway sealing itself off, me turning blue, and 911 being called.

The mowing isn't bad. If I can shower right away I am only left with itchy, blotchy legs... watery, scratchy eyes... a nose that leaks more goo than a dozen babies. But now (sound the heraldic trumpets) we are getting this very riding mower!


This will cut down on the mowing time in two very important ways.

1) The rider will go faster and mow a wider swath than the pusher.

2) The Wife said that if we ever did get a riding mower, she'd be willing to mow on occasion!

Ah, new toys... what could be better!


Time to build a fence...

Our neighbors could have a sitcom of their own. We have three besides us in our little cul du sac area. One is the prior owner of the house we are in, and they are a delightful family.

The other two... well...

They are both retired, and I'm pretty sure they have a bet between them to see who can mow their lawns the most in a single summer. Or perhaps who can put the most miles on their riding mowers. Either way, seldom does a day go by that one or the other or both are out there cutting their grass. One has a bagger on his, which makes me wonder just how many clippings he can gather when he's only taking off the top 2 millimeters of his lawn.


While the Boyo and I were out shopping this morning, The Wife glanced out the window and saw Jurassic Neighbor (the other shall be henceforth known as Triassic Neighbor) out by the mailboxes spraying Roundup on a particularly lovely thistle growing near the culvert. Now this area is technically not our property. Although we mow it and upkeep it. Good Neighbor on the left and I have talked about it, and since that parcel contains a little wetland area, we've kind of agreed to just let it grow over the summer. We have cattails and grasses and wildlife galore.

Either way, he was spraying very close to our yard. The Wife reacted as I would have, by going out and asking him what on earth he was doing. He stated the obvious, that he was spraying Roundup on the thistle. She mentioned that we like the thistle, and that lots of kids play around in the wetlands. Not to mention that putting poison on plants that close to the culvert would not just kill that thistle, but many things downstream as well. He commented that there was a law against letting thistles go to seed.

She told me about the exchange when I got home. I've given serious thought to building a fence along the property line. Especially since this same neighbor chopped out a beautiful row of purple lilacs that were on that line... on our side.

This fence would give me a bitter sense of victory, as many years ago (before we moved in) he widened his driveway and built a big chunk of it four feet onto what is now our property. I told The Wife that if I catch him spraying again, I'm going to head over there and drill through his driveway, on my side of the line of course, and build a fence right along there.

I'm turning into a grumpy old fart. But at least I'll have a riding mower to cruise around on now!
In fact, I think for the rest of the summer anytime they are out mowing, I might just saddle up and drive in circles all over my lawn, whooping it up cowboy style!


More Later

Monday, July 21, 2008


A rare thing in my world. Well. Maybe not rare, but at least very sporadic and unpredictable.

As a night shift medic, I tend to sleep the day after a shift. But as a Daddy and Husband, I try to maintain a 'normal' schedule so that I can actually spend time with my family. The flip flopping from night sleeping to day sleeping is not easy on the body.

Not to mention the fact that shifts are not regular. ie: I don't work like on a Monday and Tuesday nights. No, my schedule looks like it has been created by the dartboard method. Not to say that our scheduler does a bad job, because for what she has to work with, she's awesome! I just don't understand why the EMS profession (and the medical profession in general) feels the need to keep their workers on their toes with random schedules.

You would think just having the tones go off and not really knowing what you're walking into would keep us nimble.

So, I sleep at random times. I eat at random times. I slept most of the day today, and have to go to bed now to get turned back into Family Man.

To add insult to injury, I keep looking at articles written about how to better structure your life so you can do things and sleep too. But they seem to be geared to the 9-5 jobbers. My apologies in advance to all of you regular shift folks, but if you really can't figure out that with a 9-5 job a regular bedtime of, say, 10:30 is needed so you don't feel like you're dragging all day... well, you're already dumber than a fencepost and chances are good those articles won't help you anyway.

I'm waiting for someone far smarter than I to come up with a solution to random shifts/day night flip flops. At least a better solution than 'quit and get a 9-5 job'. (10:30, I'd be in bed every night)

Uff Da

I'll try to be more entertaining tomorrow. Right now I'm going to go crash and hope to high heaven the Boyo doesn't wake up early and try to awaken me with

More Later

Sunday, July 20, 2008


What do you do when you are faced with a huge life change?

Sometimes we have no choice in the change. Cancer, car wreck, floods and fires. But what happens when your brain starts thinking,

'There has to be more to life than this. There has to be a better way to live. A way to enjoy time with my family without having to live on the street to do it.'

I really like my job. I really do. Every time the tones go off I know that I will be helping someone. Sometimes they really don't need much help. Sometimes they don't really want help. Sometimes it is life or death. Sometimes just death. Every call is different. Each has challenges different from the next. I'm good at it, and I have the satisfaction of helping out my fellow humans, even when the shifts are rough.

Still I am feeling like I am missing something. Adventure. Domesticity. Simplicity. The feeling of being centered. I don't know.

The Wife and I have a pretty good relationship as far as marrieds go. We are best friends. We communicate well. We make a great team when we are doing projects together. Yada, yada, yada. Our biggest and about only concern is one that the majority of people on the planet have.


Don't get me wrong. We aren't living paycheck to paycheck. We have food, clothing, shelter and such in abundance. But we have been working to live lately. Jobs take up the majority of time, followed closely by sleep. Vacations have been non existent. Little trips here and there are about all the time we have together as a family. Farmers Market. Go to the park. That sort of thing.

Now we are both starting, or ready to start, side businesses doing things we love to do. Me in my shop and garden. The Wife organizing for others. But we are playing it safe. Staying in our jobs because we have grown accustomed to our paychecks and our medical benefits.

So what sort of faith would it take to step off the ledge completely? Leave behind the comfort of the known for the seriously unknown. On this path we are on, we know we will not starve. We know we will never get rich. We know we enjoy most parts of the job. We know that the schedules stink sometimes. We know that if we get sick or injured, we're covered. If we just did our businesses, we would need to get insurance somewhere.

A life of comfortable, balanced, semi-struggle wondering what if...

Versus a life of extremely hard work and challenges, with no guarantee of success. Possible financial failure and living in the poorhouse in our old age. But possibly exceeding our wildest dreams and having money, doing something we love, and having time to live.

Do you leave a job you really like that is secure for one you love that has no givens? Are we too old to really contemplate the possibilities?

When The Wife has changed careers, she has only been successful. I tell her she's got the Midas touch with that. I have had quite a few jobs... some went well. Others... not so much. When my brother and I toured around selling our CD's and giving concerts we had some really serious fun, but not serious financial success. We made enough to get by and have insurance and eat and stuff. But we were never going to be financially secure doing it. Supporting a family would have been a struggle. And although I'm sure if my Bro had gone solo, he would have done better (he's got more musical talent in his pinkie than I've got in my whole frame) this was before the days of American Idol, which back then he could have cleaned up at.

Anyway. We are crunching numbers now. Trying to do the math of the money to make the best choices we can. If it were just the two of us, it would be an easy choice. But having three and four added on... well... we need to provide for them. Grr. To many options, dangers, rewards, possibilities both good and not good.

How do you decide when you stand at the crossroads? At some point we will just have to set out and see where the road leads... one way or the other.

More Later.

Ain't that a Kick in the Pants

Hello all.

Well, I'm nearly certain that by now you are tired of hearing about my quest to be 'read' on all seven continents. (I added South America, by the way) So... this will be the last of these vanity postings. I promise. I just get such a kick out of thinking that someone thousands of miles away is reading this. I blame the entire ego trip entirely on my friend Jen.

If she had not shown me how to hook up the ShinyStat thingy, I would not have spent so many minutes obsessing about spreading my words around the globe like the bird flu.

But I will add this aside on my friend Jen. She is one of the most creative wordsmiths I know.

Story deleted due to unwarranted HIPPA concerns. Can I still say this...?

Once we had a patient who was bleeding and Jen made the comment,

"I always like to look at the bright side of the call. In this case the bright red, spurty arterial blood kind!"

Medic humor... gotta love it.

So I will leave the little map thingy up there on the left, and the 'Country Count' list. Just to have a record of where people have read from. And I will send a hearty thank you to those who read. Be it once, or all. I do appreciate it.

Now, I'll head out into the wide open spaces of my brain, lasso me a big Ego, and bring it back to the corral to be tamed a bit once more. It's been running free and amok for too long now.

Yippee ki-yoh, ki-yay!

More Later

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Around the World in 80 Posts

Holy cow sports fans!

My friend Jen hooked me up with the little ShinyStat counter at the bottom of the page here. It lets me keep track of some basic info. How many visits, from which sites (thanks for bumping up my average sis!), and what countries, etc. Well, I checked it tonight and found that my blog was read by people in Belgium, Germany, the 'European Union', and even India! The counter people also tell me I have now been 'read' on three continents! Hee hee, hoo hoo!

This being my 51st post, I would like to challenge those readers out there to 'spread the love' to the other four continents (S.America, Africa, Australia and Antarctica) before I reach 80 posts. (sometime in August at this rate)

I would also like it very much if you drop me a line and let me know where you are reading from!

Here's the e-mail for that...

I'm going to get out my little world atlas at home and draw a pin into the places the e-mails come from. Someday I might even visit!

I'll try to keep the Ego in check as I imagine world-wide readership. And if someone out there who knows more about this Internet thing knows that the hits from those countries are flukes for some reason, for the love of all that is holy DO NOT TELL ME! I like the world I live in in my brain, and that just might scar me enough so as to never blog again.

(sung to the tune of "Never Gonna Dance")

I'm never gonna blog again,

flukey hits from other countries,

left me wordless in my head,

I feel like such a fool...,

No, I'm never gonna blog again,

the way I did in June, Ohh ohh oh ohhh.

So, take a moment. Drop me a line, let me know where you are. give me your honest opinion of my musings. I can take it. Until then... Thanks for the reading!

More Later

Today's Practice Pictures...

Friday, July 18, 2008


Took a great many pictures today, getting ready for the great 'Picture a Day Challenge'. My mom joined the challenge. I'm hoping my Dad does too, he takes some great shots. Also, I know my cousins can shoot. And you siblings and siblings in law. Remember, you don't have to take a shot EVERY day. Just whenever.

I'm also thinking it might be fun to have a 'theme week' each month, or a picture challenge like taking a picture of a flower in January or a snowball in July.

Anyway. I've got a file on my computer of 'favorite pictures' that I also use as a screen saver. I got to feed the Pea a little tonight, and was staring at her when the screen saver came on. It made me want to take even more pictures as I brought up memories with each picture that appeared. I want to remember holding my little girl when she's barely as long as my arm. I want to remember the Boyo playing so sweetly with his bubble wand. I want to remember even the little stuff, like the way The Wife hums to Sweet Pea while changing a nappy.

Ah yes... Life is pretty good.

More Later

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Picture of the Day

It occurs to me that the act of writing every day has become somewhat enjoyable. I like sifting through my little brain on my down time to see what comes filtering through onto the page. I can look back at these posts and see that truly, I am quite verbose. Sometimes that's not such a good thing. But I am having fun! As an aspiring writer this has been a good habit to form.

It also occurs to me that being an aspiring photographer, I could very easily do something similar along the lines of pictures. I'm giving some serious thought to starting another blog for the sole purpose of posting a picture a day, with the goal of TAKING at least one picture a day... or at least one picture that I feel comfortable posting per day.

I would, naturally, post them here as well in the side bar. But I'm not sure how to keep them organized and such like these posts are. So another photo blog seems like the right idea.

Now. Here's a challenge. I know of at least two or three of you who are also really good photographers. So I'm laying out the challenge to everyone who reads this to join me in my quest to take a picture a day. Post a comment here to accept and if you don't already have it, I'll get an e-mail address set up to send your picture to, and I'll post them in the blog! Sound like fun?

The Rules
1. I get to judge what appropriate content is and post accordingly
2. Before I post pictures of people, I need to have a signed waiver saying it's OK and legal to use their image. (I'll whip up a waiver form and make a link to it over on the side. Then have them sign it, and take a picture of it or scan it in and send it along with the photo.) (if it is a person under 18 years of age, you need to get their parent's permission)
3. Judging will be done in three categories...

A) Number of days a picture is sent in.
B) Votes for 'Best Picture' by the public.
C) A mystery 'guest judge' who will have a 50% vote on the final winning picture.

4. No photoshopping. Just take the picture and send it if you like it.

5. Be honest. Don't go digging through all of your old pictures to find the best ones. The idea behind this challenge is to get out and take more pictures.

The Challenge will start officially on August 1, 2008 and will end promptly at midnight on July 31, 2009 (or thereabouts)

Prizes are as follows...

1. The satisfaction of sending in many good pictures.
2. The joy of taking pictures every day or two or three.
3. The knowledge that your picture won.
4. People everywhere thinking to themselves 'Man, I wish I took pictures that good!'

So. I've set up the blog called John's Picture a Day Challenge. It can be found at

Any Takers?

More Later

Am I a Writer?

I've been sucked into the blogging world. This was actually an accident. When I made the commitment to myself to try and write more, to try and write every day on a blog, I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing.

But this virtual world has so much more than I ever imagined. More even than I understand. Twitter, counters, memes, and other terms that I have only just begun to grasp. And so I stay close to the poolside, not venturing too far from the edge while I swim, lest I get a cramp and sink, or some blogger bully pulls me under kicking and fighting for air.

One thing I have done more of besides write, is read other blogs. There are a billion stories in the naked Internet. No time to read them all. So I choose a few written by friends both past and present, family members, and a couple blogs by complete strangers just for fun. I can step into their world and read all about the drama, comedy, heartache, success, like I would a good book.

The drawback to this reading is that I am made very much aware that there are a whole boatload of people out there who are better writers than me. Now, in the world inside my head, I am a writing guru. Sage and loquacious, able to pull a metaphor out of thin air for every occasion. I like to imagine, as I've said before, that this blog is being read by millions who see my words of wisdom, have their 'aha' moments where they too realize what a wordsmithing god I am, and feel so inferior that they cannot even bring themselves to comment on such an amazing writers work.

In real life, this is being read by my family and a few friends (hi gang) who are more than willing to leave comments. They are also already forced to love me because I'm family or friend. But my mind still writes as if my audience is larger. This has the pleasant effect of deluding me into believing that I am a Writer.

Now, I can hear my mother's voice clearly. "But you are a writer. And very TALENTED!"
Thanks Mom. :)

But sometimes, when I read other writing and see the talent that is out there, I am fully aware that I will always just be dabbling in writing, and photography, and my other hobbies, and probably make little - if any- money doing any of them.

One trouble almost every writer I read has is believing that their offerings are worthy of being read, so I know I am not alone or original with these thoughts. In fact, my friend Lisa (The Bird Sings over there in the 'Others' category) has written about it much more eloquently. As has an old friend from high school named Patresa, who is another really, really good writer. Both of their blogs deserve a good lingering visit because they can both put words together well, and have some darn good insight to boot.

They both also edit. Me... not so much. I'll spellcheck this before I post it, so I don't come across as a total ignoramus. But mostly blogging for me is just releasing the valve in my head and letting thoughts spew forth into the computer. Does this make me a writer? Shouldn't a writer have drafts and edits, and workshop their writings and live in some beautiful, scenic place for inspiration? I don't do any of those. Though there are some scenic spots in my town, I would not visit as a tourist if I did not live there.

I'd like to be a guest blogger some day, as that might indicate a level of success I have not currently achieved. Or be a Free Writer like Lisa and Patresa. Although, like Twitter, I'm not exactly sure what this is, and so it scares me a little.

My mind boggles. Probably because it is way early in the morning and I am thinking too much in a feeble attempt at staying awake. So, to my 'readers' (aka family and friends) thanks for your readership. I'll work on expanding the numbers of readers to satisfy my sense of accomplishment. But right now the quality of my readership is top notch.

And I'll be a happy writer, if not a famous Writer.

More Later

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Chicago Trip

We accomplished a great many things in not too many days. Here's a list, in no particular order.

1. Removed the four poster bed, old dresser, another old dresser with mirrors.

2. Deconstructed an old entertainment center.

3. Made a new headboard out of some parts from the four poster and entertainment center.

4. Reorganized the closets (The Wife)

5. Painted the headboard, two bedside tables and a patio chair to look black lacquer-ish.

6. Built new dressers (from IKEA)

7. Took pictures of her kids and used those as wall art.

8. Organized Sister in Law's oriental chachkies and used some in the room.

9. Re-wired an oriental lamp to work for the main ceiling lighting fixture.

Some other stuff too. The Wife was the main boss, and did a fantastic job with the overall look. We had fun working together and make a great team as well.

So, to explain the things from a couple of posts ago...

I was able to put one of the mirrored doors back on its tracks. Not a huge deal, but one left undone for quite some time. My Father in Law made the comment to The Wife that I was very mechanically inclined. I take some pride in my creativity and adaptability when it comes to creating new things from old (headboard from old furniture, etc) but am glad to be noticed for the little things like getting a closet door working again.

When we left for Chi-town, I took with me a little toolbox with my electric drills and their chargers. I was told we would be deconstructing some old furniture and these are pretty valuable little tools to have. The Shaffer men love their drills so much, we have given them names...courtesy of my father. My big drill is named Brutus. He's the one Dad gave me many years ago. My Father in Law gave me another a few years back, a little smaller than Brutus, so I named it Brutus Jr. They are both very hard workers and reliable. If they were people, I'd hire them. Anyway, as the plan for the room evolved, it was decided to build the headboard. I didn't have the tools I needed, but my Sister in Law went around to her neighbors and borrowed what I needed.

I think that if we go into business, I will want to buy a small trailer for a travelling shop. Borrowed tools usually have the foibles of their owners. The table saw we borrowed was no exception. The neighbor it was borrowed from was not a shop kind of guy, as the table saw was located in the laundry room and looked to have been used maybe twice in the past three years.

The blade was a bit wobbly from improper tightening, and he didn't have the wrench to tighten it. I hand tightened it once and used my wrench once. But it wasn't very effective. I used the saw as little as possible and with nobody else around should things go awry.

All went well though, and cuts were made in only the things I planned to cut. I did borrow some tools from Sister in Laws hubby too. Made re-wiring the lamp a little easier. But in all, I think I'd rather have me own tools in the future. They have MY foibles attached. and I know my foibles!

The Boyo was particularly good for the trip. Long hours, late nights, no real schedule close to what he is used to. People telling him left and right what not to do. But he stayed pretty chipper and was a very good boy. He and his cousin were playing Wii sports. Well, mostly it was the cousin playing and 'showing' the Boyo the games. This was accompanied by the cousin regaling the Boyo on how wonderfully talented the cousin is. Nine year olds are a bit prone to narcissism, so no big deal. But Boyo took it all in stride and I overheard him at one point saying "Don't worry, Cousin. That was a very good shot!"

I hope that when Boyo is nine he retains the kindness and graciousness he currently has. My Sweet Pea was a gem too. Mostly sleeping and eating and cooing and smiling.

As for 'Milly'. This is but one of the nicknames I have for my Mother in Law. Get it? Mother In Law... MIL... seemed right to call her 'Milly'. I also call her 'JB' sometimes as my father called his mother in law (Stood for 'Jackie Baby') (Mom in Law's name also starts with J) She is gracious to a fault as well, and I always feel welcome when I visit their home.

She is a bit of an enigma sometimes. Always very much a Lady, she has secret fantasies about motorcycle riding. Very much the homemaker as well, but with an adventure streak... wanting to go on RAGBRAI, still waiting for me to take her flying. She's quite the gal. I love my in-laws, and have been very much blessed that I not only get along with them, but feel like I am a respected and loved member of their family. So different than what the stereotypes are.

Anyway. That's the story of the Great Chicago Room Makeover Trip. Here's to the beginning of a new chapter for The Wife and me. I'll keep you posted.

More Later

Before and After

So we went to Chicago for a myriad of reasons, but here's the main one. We were helping The Wife's sister redo her bedroom. This was a win-win situation, as The Wife is giving serious thought to starting a career as a Professional Organizer. (which she will be fantastic as) and The Sister in Law had a room that was rather... deep.

Anyway. We organized and sorted and threw out and constructed and eventually came away happy with a job well done! Sister in Law wanted an oriental themed room, but I'm guessing that you could figure that out from the pictures! Here are a few for your 'wow' saying pleasure...

Before & After

Before & After

Before & After

Yes, those are chinese symbols above the closet. I gave myself a crash course in painting them before I put them up there. The Wife's idea. Sister in Law chose them. They mean ...






Good Fortune

And holding it all together, Harmony

Now, I'm sure to anyone who knows what these are really supposed to look like, it might seem rather elementary or just plain wrong. For that, I submit my apologies. But it has sparked an interest in oriental characters in me (oh good lord, another hobby!)

All told, we had a great time doing the work, and have some great shots for later potential publicity.

It's late now, and I'm going to bed soon to sleep the day away and prep for my night shift. I'll write more then.

More Later

Sunday, July 13, 2008


We are in the Windy City tonight.  Helping some family with some stuff.  I'll post more about all of it later, including an explanation for the title of this blog.

So, remind me to tell you about being mechanically inclined, building with borrowed tools, the cuteness that is my family, and, of course, Milly.

More Later

Friday, July 11, 2008

Take a Deep Breath

When Boyo gets upset sometimes, especially when he was younger, I would pick him up, hold him tight and say 'Take a deep breath and relax'. Pretty soon, he was telling me that when he got upset. Then he was telling me that when I got upset. So when things happen like in the last couple of posts, I go take some pictures of something pretty and hear his little voice saying 'OK Daddy. Take a deeeeep breath and relax!' He makes me smile.

After the storm, the sun comes out

and makes the flowers sparkle. Breathe

More Later

Un-insert your explative here-believable!

Just as I was finishing the last post.


Guess who walked back in?

Story Deleted. It was the patient from yesterday, who I've agreed not to describe for fear someone might identify him. Let's hear it for HIPAA!

For it is what is in our hearts that counts, not what is on our skin. After all, we all bleed red.

More Later

When Not to Play the Race Card

Racism, as you may have noticed, is a bit of a touchy subject with me. Here's why.

As a white male approaching middle age, many people assume I've never experienced the hard side of racism. Compared to some other people, I suppose I have not really. But here's a story...

When I was a Marine, fresh out of boot camp and in infantry school before I went to artillery school, we were given the weekends off for liberty, or libo as we called it. This was a time to go do whatever the heck you pleased.

Well. In boot camp, I had made a few friends. Having gone through boot together, we remained close in infantry school. So when one of my buddies invited a few of us home with him for the weekend (he lived in LA, a short hop from school) we all said sure!

So I left with Almeda, Fujita and DelaRosa and we took a bus North. It bears mentioning here that Almeda and DelaRosa were Hispanic, and Fujita was of Japanese ancestry, though he grew up in Hawaii. I was a younger white Midwesterner who had grown up with friends of every color and creed, and didn't think much of hanging out with these guys from all over.

We got to LA, found the building and walked in following DelaRosa. There were high fives with some other guys, and they were all speaking Spanish, leaving Fujita and I in the dark. But they welcomed us since we hung with D. It had been a long ride, so I asked where the bathroom was. (though in those days, we called it a 'head'.) D pointed down a hallway and gave me instructions. I set off, and walked into a living room with about ten guys watching TV. As I entered I raised my hand to say Hi.

Before I could get that out, one of them yelled 'WHITE GUY!' and before I knew it, many of them had drawn handguns and were beading in on me. D ran into the room between me and his buddies.

"Don't shoot him! He's with me!"

I stood looking befuddled and hoped I had not soiled myself too badly.

"Sorry man." D said as he turned. "Forgot you were white."

There was much talking in Spanish. Arguing, pointing at me, that sort of thing. But eventually D convinced them to let me stay.

I think, when we rehashed it back on base, that it was the first time since before boot that any of us had seen skin color. In boot the Drill Instructors (DI's) told us there were only two colors. Light Green and Dark Green. And really, anybody could choose whatever color they wanted to be. But we all bled red. So we were brothers. Bound by the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. And we didn't really think twice before hanging out together, regardless of our 'past lives'.

So. I have experienced the sharp and pointy edge of race. I'm not entirely milky white. (Though the above story is my only real 'street' story.)

Anyway. Work. A couple of nights ago. (Story deleted due to pressure from work. It's not nice to mention racists when they are patients.)

It took me the rest of my shift (about a half hour) and the hour drive home to calm down.

Never play the race card with me. Ever. And especially when I am holding an extremely sharp object that is protruding from your body. God was no dummy. Like any good mass producer he made sure that even morons come in all colors.

More Later

Thursday, July 10, 2008


One of the hardest, least respected, most underpaid, longest hour, thankless jobs to have (besides Paramedic) is being a parent.

I never believed my folks when they would say "Just wait until you have kids." This was usually said after an argument where I knew I had done something stupid, but was too proud to admit it, and they were very angry, mostly because of the underlying fear of what I had just done.

I would say that when I had kids, it would be totally different. Now that I have kids, many of the things they said make perfect sense.

Now that we have a daughter, my wife is understanding some of the pressure I have been under the past four years with a little boy. The most important parenting lesson I have learned is this...

While I can tell him something fifteen hundred times before he understands or complies,

(don't poke the table with the fork. Said two dozen times at every meal. Still we have holes appearing with each feeding.)

What he observes me doing is what he will internalize and emulate.

Case in point. We drove through Wendy's the other day for supper. (Don't judge, it had been a long day, we were tired and hungry) After noticing that the employees had not put ketchup in the bag, I stopped the car and went in to get some. As I approached the door, another gentleman was headed in, so I held the door for him to go in first. I didn't think anything of it, as I do this pretty regularly. When I returned, The Wife said that after I had entered, our observant son said "Mommy, he opened the door for that man."

And this, for those of you that need a visual.

I had been out cutting up our butchered trees. I used the instructions and little chainsaw tool to tighten the chain. After I was done, I brought these three things in out of the weather and set them in the kitchen. Boyo looked at them a bit, then went off to his room and came back with his saw, a book, and a hammer, and put them there with mine.

Without even saying anything, he taught me that my little boy wanted to be just like his daddy. At first it was one of those 'Awwww, how cute!' moments, and I swelled with pride.

Then it became an 'Oh crap.' moment. Because I know just how imperfect I am. Like my father before me, I want him to grow up and have a better life than mine. (Not easy, since life is pretty darn great) But if he is emulating me, then I need to step up and live up to not only my potential, but sort of his as well. For any limits I put on myself, he might adopt. Any laziness or procrastination, even if I don't think he sees, he will see. So I find myself now motivated to become a better man for not only my wife, but my kids as well. And that brings a whole bushel of pressure along with it.

I know I will fall short in my own eyes. I know this because I have heard my own father voice regrets about raising us kids. But I'm hoping, like my view of my dad, my kids will see all of the fun stuff we do, and lessons learned, and day to day life lived, and look back on it with awe that I made it look so easy. My dad continues to be one of my very most favorite people, and second only to my wife, it is his praise and approval that I do things for. Now I add my kids to the list. (Play the song 'Pressure' by Queen as the soundtrack to this post.)

So, to all parents out there who live to raise awesome kids, as my parents did, as I and my siblings are trying to do, keep up the good work, and try not to let the pressure squash you into a bruised, whimpering, squishy human puddle.

More Later

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Fun Continues

Before After
Today was the day we had scheduled to have our stump ground down, as per the sacred 'contract' signed by our too trusting blogger and vehemently adhered to by the owner of the tree service.

We were told the grinder guy would be out sometime after 1pm. He showed up at three. This was fine, as we've been having a lazy day here. I slept until 2pm. (night shift, you know) So I walked out to meet him and show him the stump. Either he had already talked with 'Gary' or he was just having a grumpy day. Either way, he was a pretty gruff character.

We walked around to the back to check out the stump. He took one look at the approach to the stump (shown below)

and said "Can't do it."

"What?" Asked I.

"It's too narrow. I could get the grinder up here, but that bush will scratch up my truck."

"Oh. Kay." I said. I'm sure I sounded a bit incredulous.

"You could cut that bush way back. Then I could get up here."

"No." I said. "I think we've cut enough greenery out for the time being."

"Then I won't do it. And it's gonna cost an hour, because this was a waste of my time."

"Well, I guess you'll have to take that up with Gary. And I'll go give him a call now."

He didn't say another word, just walked down to his truck and off he went, little grinder in tow.

Well. I called the tree service, got the secretary again and told him that the grinder had arrived and refused to do it.

There was a long pause.

"I'll have Gary call you." He said.

"That would be fine. I'll be here all day."

Now, I know you'll be shocked, SHOCKED, to hear that he has not yet called. So I called a very nice woman named Barbara at the Better Business Bureau who is the mediator of my complaint to tell her the above story. I told her that if Gary had offered a simple apology that would have sufficed. She said we were being much nicer than she would have been.

She asked if I had paid him anything, and I said no, as the contract clearly states that payment is due upon completion of services, and our stump has not yet been ground out. She asked a few more questions and said that basically, since the contract was vague and not itemized, there was no requirement that we pay anything until the stump was gone. She did say that he might send us a bill for services already rendered. But until then, the ball was pretty much in his court. He needs to contact us to have the stump removed or just take the loss.

Needless to say, I've been looking forward to a conversation with Gary about the stump. I'm looking forward to saying that he can send as many bills as he would like, but the 'original contract' states that payment for services is the rule, and it CLEARLY says "grind stump" on the contract. Then I might be a little snarky and tell him that he should have written the contract more clearly, or just read it more closely. No place in the Contract does it state that I have to clear a path for the grinder. No place does it state that I have to pay him for what was done and not for what was left undone. So, let the jerk call, I'm ready! As my friend Jen would say, this guy puts the F-U in FUN!

As for the big piles of brush dotting our backyard. As you can see in the first picture, they are gone. One of the cutters had offered to remove it for free. But I didn' t think he should have to take the hit and do the work, so I offered to pay him if he would take it away. He said he would just ask for the cost of dumping. So we left him a check for that and some cash for his labor. It was a more than fair amount, and well worth it for us to be rid of the brush. He did such an excellent job that there was not even a small twig or branch left in the whole yard!

I'm hoping that word gets back to Gary that I can be quite generous if you treat me with some respect.

I did go through the brush piles and cut out anything I thought I could use. I've got plans for making some furniture from the remains. Table, chairs, a garden bench. I'll put it to good use and post the pictures here later.

Until then, I'm going to do exactly what Barbara from the BBB suggested. Put the whole thing behind me and not give it another thought.

More Later


Sometimes so much happens in a day that I don't know where to begin. Sometimes my brain works that way too. So here's a little mindburst for you...
* When we put Boyo to bed, The Wife will tell him to call us if he needs anything. Last night, while I was at work, The Wife tucked him in with a kiss and a huggle, and once again told him to call her if he needed anything. A while later she heard the following...
Boyo "Mommy... Daddy!"
The Wife "Yes Boyo?"
Boyo "I need anything!"
*I've started a business called 'Bluefeather Gardens and Workshop', mainly to sell things produced by my various hobbies. Stained glass, wooden things, metal things, knives, plants, jellies... a pretty random smattering of stuff. Since Sweat Pea was born and Boyo broke his leg around the same time as I set up shop, I have not really dedicated all the time to the new business as I would have liked. But something tells me that I will get more time here soon. More on this later.
* I've been missing my dog Shoba since she died. Lately I've been wondering if I'll ever have that connection with another dog, or animal of any sort, since whatever comes into our home will be a family type pet. Once, just after Shoba adopted me, we were hiking through some uncharted woods. A very large, very growly and grumpy Rottweiler came trotting around a bend in the path. Shoba had been with me for a week or so, and was still skin and bones from being so malnourished and sick. Yet she raised her hackles and went after the Rott. They both disappeared around the bend and there was a great scuffle and loud yelp. I was sure I would find my new dog tattered and bloody. Instead, here came Shoba back around the bend, tail wagging, ears perked, and trotting as if she had not a care in the world. She was great at protecting me. And I her.
*The Wife and I have talked a bit more about the future. my mind races with the possibilities that have opened up with these new ideas.
*My friend Jen is one of the best literary types I know outside of my family. I gave her the first installment of my book about the river to proofread and workshop. Scares the crap out of me to share my 'work'.
*Last but not least, this world/subculture of blogging is quite a bit deeper than I first imagined. There are all sorts of ways to get lost in this genre. blogs to read, blogs to write, guest blogs, mommy blogs, bloggers who are definitely attention hungry, bloggers who are creepy, bloggers who use profanity as if to say 'look how grown up I am'. It's a little surreal. I'm not sure just how blog famous (blamous?) I want to become. Like my Facebook page, I don't really want a bunch of people there just for the sake of having a bunch of people there. Just those I actually like and want to keep informed of my daily fun. Although it is sort of fun to pretend that I have a 'readership' of thousands who hang on my every word!
I should blog when I am rested, as blogs like these are random and not much of a story to read. So as an apology/thanks for reading this far, I'll finish with a story of sorts, based on my experience as a medic...
-Story deleted, sorry. Apparently the life of paramedics must be secretive.-
More Later

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


As promised, some shots from the fourth!

Boyo called them 'spiders'
I think some of them look like microbes.

Anyway, enjoy!

More Later

Dressing Up

I don't like to get dressed up. Mainly because about the only occasion I have to dress up is to go to funerals. Oh sure, there are weddings, baptisms, job interviews, or an occasional 'event' requiring such attire. But mostly I get out the ties when somebody dies.

I went to Tom's service the other day with my Wallace tartan tie on. Beautiful service, many fond memories of him, and his daughter did an outstanding job of eulogizing him. But I was uncomfortable in the shirt/tie/pants get up. It was too hot and humid to be overdressed. Add to that my basic discomfort with getting dressed up anyway, and the sweat factor increases exponentially.

Women have it easier than men in the 'dressing up' department. Women can wear light, flowy, cottony dresses - look phenomenal - and have some air circulation for tropical Iowa days. The men either wear comfortable khakis and short sleeved shirts - and look somewhat under dressed for a funeral, or wear suits (even sans jacket) and be totally cut off from air reaching any skin save that which surrounds the head and hands. Then to top it off, we tie the tie around our neck! Cutting off any transfer of air that might have happened around our neck.

What is the deal with the tie look anyway? I understand that the whims of fashion change with the season. But ties, which seemed to appear around the time women were wearing corsets and incorporating birdcages and such into elaborate headgear, have stood the test of time. Even when the corsets and ridiculously unwieldy hats fell out of vogue with the ladies, ties marched on. Do we really need an overpriced piece of fabric to hide our shirt buttons from view? Are they that unmentionable that we need to cover them up? What if we made the buttons out of gemstones or pretty rocks or something... bling them up a bit. Then do they need to be hidden? Are ties just a reminder to our bosses that the yoke of employment has us ensnared? Do we really need to wear a noose to prove we are trendy/employed/fashionable/high class?

I suppose the entire fashion world would scoff and mock me as a hopeless 'What Not To Wear' candidate. But I think that comfort should trump tradition. I think that when I die, I will make it a rule that anyone attending my funeral in anything more than comfortable clothes will be sent home to change, or given a bathrobe in the event that they have nothing else close by. In fact, perhaps bathrobes will be the uniform of the day that day. Or those white, flowy things the Muslim guys wear on their way to Mecca during the Hajj. (and sensible underwear, since I don't know how see through those are) But man, those look comfy! (they are called ihram garments, by the way, and during the hajj they are worn to represent a state of purity and equality) Or maybe just a good, old fashioned Toga dress code. No laurels allowed though.

Either way, I have given serious thought to proposing kilts as appropriate uniforms for my job. As paramedics, we could have our own EMS tartan, blue and white checks with red piping running throughout, perhaps in a normal sinus rhythm pattern. We could have special sporrans that held our trauma shears, pens, paper and what not. And the bottom hem could be lined with reflective tape for better night time visibility! It gets a bit warm wearing Teflon impregnated pants after all.

Any way I slice it, I cannot seem to justify the tie. There has to be a better way, a more comfortable way, to look sharp and professional. Hmm...

More Later

Monday, July 7, 2008

Back to Work

10 days off. I had ten whole days off. And yet, it seems that I accomplished very little. Oh, I got some welding done. Was able to blog every day thanks to my parents. Did enjoy nearly every second with the wife and kids. But really feel like I could have done a better job with the time I had.

I've been reading through the blogs of others, and have realized that through blogging people are sharing a slice of their life. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, almost always personal. The wife and I are firm believers that everyone needs someone else to bear witness to their lives. Whether or not they will admit it. Blogging is a good way to get that done. Even with good friends and a loving family. Of course, the wife says that I have some deep, ingrained desire to leave a mark on the planet. Of course, she's entirely correct though I deny it.

So it comes as a surprise to me all the time that I feel like I could get more done in a day than I actually do. (though sometimes I do little to nothing in a day, and those feelings are justified.)

But sometimes I do get some good, mark leaving stuff done. My tomato cages will outlast the cockroaches. My stained glass might have a shot at being passed down. I did donate the raw genetic material for two unbelievably cute kids, and hopefully that will be passed along. Some other things too. Yet still the desire to 'make my mark' remains. Maybe it's just a guy thing... I should go pee on a tree and be done with it.

Lately, the wife and I have been feeling like we live to work, instead of the other way around. This usually precedes some sort of change for us. Like finding new careers, painting rooms and remodeling, that sort of thing. At the very least we threaten some serious vacations or adventures of some sort. Guess we'll have to wait and see what will come of this.

All of this to say, I'm back at work. And I'm feeling like a) I want to leave something out there that people can witness as my life, b) work should not be the definition of my life, and c) something is going to happen that will change my life.

Man, it's tough to live in my head some days.

More Later

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Day of Rest

Still at the folks. Visitation for Tom is tonight, service tomorrow. But we spent the day being lazy.

It has been quite nice. After a breakfast at the Amana's (Holy Cow I'm full) we returned to the parent's place for naps and quiet times. Kids playing nicely. We'll go swimming here in a little while. Then the visitation tonight, and I'll be staying up nice and late to get ready for a night shift tomorrow night.

I like spending time here. It is comfortable and safe. I can be myself. I'd like to create a home like this for my kids. One that they can come back to over the years and feel like it is always a haven.

Ahh. Rest.

More Later

Saturday, July 5, 2008

At the Folks Place

Greetings from Cedar Rapids. Drove down today for the services for Tom tomorrow and Monday.

Boyo got to swim in the pool, which he loved. But it makes me wish we could take him swimming more often. Guess we'll have to figure out how to do that when we get home.

Good to hang out with the family again, though we always seem to get together for lousy events.

Fireworks last night were a lot of fun. Got some good shots that I'll post upon return from CR.

More Later

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fourth of July

NM Happy 232nd birthday to the US!

Signing a declaration declaring our independence from the tyrrany of King George...


Thanks to the men and women of the armed forces throughout those 232 years for keeping our country here.

Enjoy the fireworks

More Later

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Of Birch Trees and Lemonade

During the windstorms a few weeks ago, while the rest of the Midwest was getting a crash course in submarining, we had a tree blow down and land on our roof. It was one of a group of four outside behind the shop. I'm sure I posted this earlier. Well, after finally getting a call returned from a tree removal service ( I won't name names, but if someone guessed Cutting Edge Tree Service - Gary Fong, owner, they'd be pretty darn close to right) A guy came out to look at the tree and give me an estimate for what it might take to remove it. We'll call him "Gary". So Gary and I hiked into the back yard to look at the damage and he asked me,

"So, what do you want done?"

"Well," I said. "I'd like the tree removed from the roof."

"We can do that." He said. "Do you want us to haul it away?"

"No." I said. "There aren't that many branches on that tree, so I'll just toss those in the burn pile, and the trunk I'll cut up for firewood for our wood burning stove."

He looked it over again and said "400 bucks."

When we had the big oak removed last year in preparation for replacing the wall, it cost $1200, so $400 to get this tree off the roof seemed like it was in the right ball park.

"Deal" I said.

We walked back to his truck where he filled out the order form, handed it to me and told me to read it over. As I was reading the fine print about what they were and were not responsible for,

(were - taking out the tree. Were not - any other damage to buildings, yards, sod, other trees, and anything else other than the tree)

he spent the time telling me his life story. Long story short, I made the mistake of assuming he was a professional and honorable businessman, and I signed.

Today, (and here's the great news) we took the Boyo in to get his stinky cast removed. We were so overjoyed at seeing two bare legs, that we went for brunch with some friends. When we returned home around 11 am, we saw that the workers had come. They had indeed removed the tree from the roof, and were in the final stages of removing the other three trees that were just fine.

I went back to ask what on earth they were doing. They were very polite and sincerely apologized for the obvious miscommunication. I was rather saddened at the loss of those great trees, but it was obvious that the miscommunication was between Gary and me, and not these two.

Now, instead of a small birch tree to cut up for firewood and the 'brush' that was the top of that tree, I have four times as much work ahead of me. Our backyard is filled with newly killed tree. That is a bit more brush than I wanted to tangle with, and I asked the guys if they had Gary's number so I could call and try and arrange something. One of the guys felt so bad that he offered to just come and remove the brush on his own nickle over the weekend. But I figured Gary would be the one to talk with about it. So I left a message on his phone asking him to call when he got a chance.

He called about twenty minutes later. Now, at this point, I was disappointed about the trees. I had re-read the contract, which stated "put on ground birch cluster behind garage. grind stump"

I could see where the four trees could be called a cluster, and could plainly see where the miscommunication had been. In hindsight, I should have told him to shut up when I was trying to read through the contract and made him explain out loud exactly what he was going to do.

But I still wasn't mad. Then he called.

I told him what had happened and was about to ask him what we could arrange for all of the extra brush when he said,

"Well, the contract clearly says cluster, and that's what we did. There's nothing we can do about that."

I replied "Yes, I know what the contract says. But while we were standing there looking at the tree on the roof, and I said 'I want the tree off my roof', I sort of figured that would mean your guys would take the tree off my roof."

"They did that." He said...with a chuckle.

"Yes." I said. "And took out the three other good trees.

"Well, the contract says birch cluster. Read it for yourself. That's why I told you to read the contract through before you signed. And you signed it, so there's nothing we can do." This too was said with a laugh. And not an "Oh man I'm sorry this happened" sort of laugh. But a "well, too bad for you, but you have to pay me...Ha ha" sort of laugh. It began to get my ire up.

"So when I said there weren't many branches on that tree, and I'd just burn them, you thought I wanted to keep all four trees?" I said.

He laughed again "Well, other people have kept bigger trees than that."

"What?" I said. But he continued.

"You had to know that to grind the stump out we would have to remove the entire tree."

By this point, I was openly pissed.

"How would I know that? Unless I was a professional tree removal service. In which case I would not have needed to hire you to come and do it!"

He laughed again. "Sounds like you're getting all worked up about nothing here."

"What I'm getting worked up at," I said "is the fact that you keep laughing as if this were no big deal!"

"I'm not laughing." He said. "I'm chuckling."

Now I was seeing red.

"Besides. It's not my fault. You should have read the contract. You signed it. There's nothing you can do about it."

"I'll tell you what I'll do about it." I said. "I'm going to hire someone else to clear the brush away, and I'm going to tell as many people as I can what a lousy person you are to do business with, and I'm going to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau."

But he hung up on me at about the 'lousy person' part.

So I filed my complaint with the BBB, and have been chatting with my neighbors about his service. We also told our insurance guy, and he will recommend to his other clients to avoid this guy if they need trees removed. And we'll be waiting for a response from him and the BBB.

Also, they didn't grind the stump out. The workers came back and told me that their boss had sent them back to collect the check.

I told them to call him back and tell him that according to the contract I signed, payment was not due until services had been provided, and the stump was not yet ground. I said that if he had a problem with that to give me a call, as I would be here all day.

One of the best things about my wife is her ability to stay positive, even in the midst of rage. She too was outraged by his behavior, but as we got to brainstorming about what to do next, she came up with a number of ideas for our now tree free area. My favorite so far is to plant an apple tree there. I've always wanted an apple tree so I can make apple butter, apple sauce, apple pies, spiced apples, etc. etc. Now we have a space for it. It is as I told my folks when venting to them, we are making lemonade out of our lemons. (She makes phenomenal homemade lemonade by the by... perhaps we'll plant a lemon tree!)

The thing that irks me about the whole thing is this. If he had just apologized sincerely and acted professional, then this would have been no big deal. But the fact that he was so rude and so defensive and arrogant really torqued me off. It is good he did not come out personally for that conversation, as I would most likely have removed him from my property... piece by piece...just like my trees.

BUT... the cast came off, the kid is walking like a champ already, and we remain considerably upbeat despite the jerky Gary. So... More Later.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008



I've been welding the past few days. It is a new skill, and I'm not very good yet. But I am improving! I think.

I'm making tomato cages out of rebar. It has been actually quite rewarding to weld together a jig for bending the bar and cutting and welding the various parts together into something functional.

Of course there are lessons I've learned along the way. Mostly common sense stuff. So here's a list, for any other wanna be self taught welders.

1. A class in welding may not be a bad idea. I have not done this yet, save for welding workshops at the EAA Oshkosh Airventure air show.

2. No matter how hot a day it is, do not weld barefoot. Or in sandals. Or in shorts. The only problem with shorts is having little spatters of molten metal slip in between your shoe and skin. I'd say sock, but it melts through that like butter, and BAM, right into your skin. long jeans, leather apron and big welders gloves are a must.

3. When making a jig to hold parts to weld together, think twice before using wood. As I weld, the wood tends to catch fire. Fortunately I have learned to have a bucket of water on hand filled from my rain barrels.

4. (This is from my blacksmithing days) Even if the metal is black, it is NOT cooled off.

5. Always wear the helmet thingy that blocks the light. I have not messed up on this yet, but had a guy in the ER a while back that did. Really messed up his eyes.

I've been having a really fun time with it, although it is hot and sweaty work. Makes me wish I had a forge so I could do some smithing again. That was fun too. Someday maybe.

More Later

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Good Day

Another cute Boyo moment. We had corn dogs for supper tonight, and after squirting a blob of ketchup on his plate, I garnished it with a mustard smiley face. He's big into smiley faces right now as he just learned to draw them pretty well. I set the plate down on his little table, and he said "Wow! Look at that! A smiley face!"

Then he turned to his mom.

"Look mommy! A smiley face!"

Then his little brow furrowed a bit as he looked from his plate to her then the plate to her, and he said,

"Can I eat that smiley face?"

Got a lot of work done today. Made tomato cages (I'm still behind, but they are coming along nicely) Cleared out some brush, a good start on the re-landscaping process.

Boyo is climbing on my lap, wanting to cuddle in and watch a movie. Who am I to deny such a request?

More Later