Friday, July 8, 2011

Poison Ivy

Last weekend I was trying to clear our backyard of sticker brush so the dogs would not get it stuck in their hair. It was all along our fenceline. My goal was to pull it so that the root and all came out. I also had some tree limbs hanging over my yard and there was a bush that was growing between my neighbor's and my yard. I got out my wood clipper, cut the low hanging limbs, and moved on to the brush. The brush was harder to get to because of the way it was growing between the fence. I had to pull some of it or twist it after cutting to get it to come off.

After I got it all done, I felt good about what all I had accomplished. A couple of days later, I noticed a rash on my arm and asked my wife what she thought it was. She said it was probably poison ivy and I believed she was right. I don't think I have ever had an allergic reaction to poison ivy or just never got into it before. I took some benadryl and went to bed that night and went to work the next day with no problems. The night after, the itching started. I scratched in my sleep and when I woke up my arms were a mess. I went to the doctor and got a steroid shot and we started cleaning and putting calamine lotion on it.

It has nearly been a week and it still looks awful. Poison Ivy ridden Arms The average time for it to clear up is about two to three weeks so I'm hoping by next week it will be gone. I did a search on poison ivy and found this site that has a "Skin Rash Hall of Fame". Mine is much nicer compared to some of those.

Read up on what poison ivy looks like. It might just save you a lot of torment. You itch constantly and it leaves a strong desire to scratch it. You have to have a strong willpower not to scratch or it will spread and/or get infected. Also read up on how to prevent it from getting under your skin within an hour of coming in contact with it. Cold water shower! Once it gets under your skin, you are in for a long ride of torment :P

Each day I take benadryl, soak each arm for 15 minutes in an alluminum-water chemical combination, use a cotton ball to alcohol the affected areas, and then another cotton ball to apply calamine lotion to the affected areas. You would think after all that the itching would go away. It does not! It lessens the desire to scratch but the itching is always in the background of your mind :P

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Timeshare 2011

We just got back from our latest vacation. It was for relaxation; we did not want a vacation we were forced to have something to do each day. In fact, we did a lot of resort activities and had a lot of fun. Marriotts Willow Ridge Lodge That's not to say we didn't go to shows and such off the resort.

We went to Branson, MO at Marriott's Willow Ridge Lodge and stayed a week. The weather was nice the entire time we were there and we swam nearly every day. We played ping pong and pool in the entertainment center and watched several free movies on the big screen in their theatre room. One night there was a wine and cheese social (the kids drank soda). Another night we ate smores by a fire.

We always go to a store the first day to get groceries for the week. Of course, we forgot something and had to return the next day to pick it up. When we entered, we were greeted by people offering us free show tickets to go to one of their presentations. By now, you know we can't help ourselves. We went and sat through the presentation. What they offered, Marriott already gave us. They were selling vacation packages and if we didn't own any timeshares, we might have been tempted to purchase. By the way, these deals always sound great. It's better to research up front who they are and what they offer. That way when you go in, you will already know what questions to ask and can make an intelligent decision.

Inspiration Tower
While we were in Branson, we went to two shows, two days at Silver Dollar City, and Inspiration Tower where we zip lined over the land at 170 feet high for a half mile at 50 mph :)

We ordered our tickets online before we left home for the following shows. When we arrived at the first show, Hamner Barber Theatre, we found ourselves on the very first row. The show was great with magic, ventriloquism, and comedy. Hamner Barber Theatre In fact, during the intermission a magician came out into the audience looking for an assistant. He handed my daughter a flower made out of balloons so naturally we thought he was going to take her up on stage. Instead, he pulled me up onto the stage. We did the introduction - name, occupation, etc. Then the real fun began. He started by placing a large magician hat on my head that fell to my shoulders. I was then taught how to take a bow after each magic trick. All of this act was done with my hands behind my back with a magicians tuxedo wrapped around my front and the true magician's arms in the sleeves. A hand came up to my mouth with a balloon requiring air. I attempted to blow it up and the magician pulled it out of my mouth and the crowd roared with laughter. The balloon was presented to my mouth again for air. I blew it up successfully and the magician started tying it when it flew out of his hand into the crowd. The next trick the magician was pulling out different colored handkerchiefs but somehow they came apart and the magic trick failed again. I reached down to try and save him and he reprimanded me saying that I should not have three arms. I was just trying to help :) The one handkerchief he was able to pull out turned into roses and I bowed. For the last trick the magician took the top hat off of my head and pulled out a real rabbit. I reached over and petted it but it was shaking nervously so I pulled my hand away. I bowed and was released from duty and went to sit back down. The rest of the show was dedicated to the United States Veterans and was very moving.

The second show was on the Branson Belle. Branson Belle The Branson Belle is a large boat ride where you are given dinner and a show. If you ever get a chance to do this, I highly recommend it. Our show contained music from five band members playing a guitar, bass guitar, drums, piano, and Tenor Saxaphone / Keyboards. They were actually background to the whole show but were great. The show had two groups. The first group was a one woman performer playing a violin or piano and singing. And if that were not enough, she performed an acrobat act where she hung around playing the violin. The second group consisted of a five member acapella group. The host of the show was a magician / comedian. He pulled a young girl from the audience and pulled a puff ball from her ear and her eyes lit up. He presented two to her and had her hold them in each hand. He did a trick saying the ball from the left hand would move to the right and had her open her hand. In her hand appeared two balls. She was amazed again. But you should have seen her face on his last trick. He had her hold two in one hand and said when she opened there would be no balls. When she opened her hand five or six balls fell out. It was the most shocked and amazed face I have ever seen. Priceless. After dinner we went out on deck and looked at the large red wheels moving the boat forward. We visited every floor and Amy and Emily met the Captain of the boat.

At Silver Dollar City Silver Dollar City we visited Marvel Cave which is really cool. Make sure you do not have to go to the bathroom before taking the tour. There are no bathrooms during the tour. In the fall, I was told that you would see bats. We did not see any during this summer visit. If you go and want to see bats, try to plan for Septemeber or October. We love roller coasters and Silver Dollar City has a couple of really good ones, Powder Keg and Wildfire. There was a third one we were going to ride but it was shut down while we were there.

All in all, it was a very relaxing and fun-filled vacation. We started our timeshare journey in 2008 and have taken advantage of its benefits for three years. We have had no problems, and after acquiring the second timeshare points, we forsee many more successful vacations in the future.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Timeshare 2009 and 2010

We returned home scared and happy about our timeshare purchase. We were worried how our friends and family would react so we told no one about it. It was 2008 and we had used it one time. We payed our first maintenance fee. We had budgeted it so it was no problem. It was hard seeing the money go but we had high hopes that it would be worth it. We decided to trade in our entire room in 2009 for vaction points and didn't take a vacation. We saved our money and took the kids to Disney World in 2010.

In early 2010, Amy booked a half room, knowing we would not spend much time at our resort, for Disney World. She found one in Marriotts Grande Vista Orlando named Marriott Grande Vista and had no problem getting it for the day after Christmas and over New Year's. Take a look at the pictures of our Disney World vacation if you are interested.

While we were at the Florida resort, we attended another timeshare presentation. We were given an opportunity to purchase another part of Marriott. We found out they changed from trading to a point system. Instead of relying on a place to be available for trade you were purchasing points to use for vacationing (these are also deeded and can be passed down), it was more like booking a stay at a hotel where you call and ask for the days you want. All the fees went away except the maintenance fee. I had to talk Amy into it again because she was still skeptical about the whole thing. She liked the new changes but told me again that I would be in big trouble if this didn't work out the way the sales person pitched it. Now we are owners of two timeshares and have more points/time for vacationing!

Amy's sister, Kendra, was working toward a nursing degree and was about to graduate. I asked Amy if she thought her sister could use the other half in time as a graduation gift. She presented the idea to her sister and they talked and decided to go to Aruba. Amy looked at the possible Marriott locations in Aruba and found a very nice place called Aruba Ocean Club Aruba Ocean Club. Amy had no problem booking the place for her sister. After Kendra graduated, she and her family headed out. When they got there, there was a little construction going on at the resort and they were offered a nicer room for a little extra money and had their room upgraded. They had a blast being right on the beach, snorkeling and playing with the fishes :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Las Vegas II

We saved our pennies to go and purchase our timeshare the following year of our wedding trip. Instead of driving, we flew from DFW to Las Vegas. When we arrived at the Marriott's Grand Chateau, we checked in and went to our room. Our mouth's just dropped open and we were speechless. We went through the tour the year prior but it somehow paled in comparison. Take a look at the pictures of this trip and you might get a feeling of how we felt.

I thought I had Amy sold the year prior but now that she had a year to think on the whole deal, she was having second thoughts. We read about the Marriott time shares other people experienced. Some were horrible and some were great. We went through the presentation / sales pitch the second time and I was still sold and Amy still argued that it was not a good thing to do. But I begged and begged, and Amy caved in and we actually bought into it. Amy told me I was dead meat if this didn't pay off and we couldn't go wherever we wanted when we wanted to. As we walked out you could almost hear the sales people saying "Suckers". That's a joke and as I tell more of our time share stories, you can decide if we were suckered or if it was a smart purchase.

The real value in a timeshare, in my opinion, is that it forces you to take vacations and in taking vacations you get quality time with your family/friends. You are forced to take vacations because if you do not, then you are just throwing money away.

Here are the details of the timeshare purchase:
  • Trade based - trade your Marriott timeshare for another's in another location. To be able to trade to another location (Marriott to Marriott), it would have to be available before you could get it. There are high usage times where you most likely would not be able to book what you wanted. In fact the first thing we tried to do was book New York. It was impossible to get it we were later told because people who purchase in that location do not bank it for trade. Its not perfect by any means but try to get a condo in New York and see what happens.
  • Since Las Vegas is a prime location, we figured it would be easier to get what we wanted when we wanted
  • With a large amount of Vacation Club points, we could take big vacations such as London, Hawaii, etc.
  • The entire 2 bedroom condo can house eight (two families).
  • Fees: Yearly maintenance fee, a fee to trade in toward a non-Marriott location, a fee to use the company to get a non-Marriott location. Lock-off fee (splits the one week in the 2 br condo into 2 weeks - one in the main side and one in the smaller side)There are others as well but those are the main ones. Sounds horrible doesn't it. It really would be if I showed how much each fee was. By the time we took our vacation we probably could have done it with our own money for the same price but not for a resort this nice. These vacations are for a full week.
  • Points are accumulated each year based on what you have purchased. The room is big enough to split in two (lock-off). You could take 2 one week vacations by splitting the room or exchange your week for Marriott reward or vacation club points. You use the points to take vacations far away (out of the country or in tropical locations) possibly including airfare.
  • There are over 50 Marriott locations to trade for.
  • Purchased property is deeded so that it can be willed to your children or whomever you like.
  • Share with family members; they go on vacation in your place as a gift.

Chris Angel Believe show Since we had been to Las Vegas a year prior and did most everything, we took it easy this trip. We would go around gambling and having fun being together. We watched Amy's favorite magician at the Chris Angel (Mindfreak) Believe show and sat close to where his Mother was sitting in the audience. It was a cool show. We went through Madame Tussauds Madame Tussauds and laughed and had a good time taking pictures with all the different wax characters. We saw the Blue Man Group and they brought out a bowl Blue Man Group of Cap'n Crunch and handed it to me to hold along with a flashlight while they performed out in the audience. That was awesome... until they took it all back ;)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Las Vegas I

When Amy and I first started dating, we lived together for a while and got to know each other better than we already did. After about a year, we decided to get married. We planned a week long trip to Las Vegas and set a date and time to have it performed at The Little White Wedding Chapel. The vacation/marriage/honeymoon trip was packed full. Our trip would take us from Mesquite, Texas through New Mexico and Arizona to the Grand Canyon and then on to the border of Arizona and Nevada through the Hoover Dam and then into Las Vegas. We also planned a couple of shows we wanted to see and booked our stay at the Stratosphere.

We enjoyed the sights we passed along the way. It was early December and the Grand Canyon Arizona Grand Canyon was very cold. Our pictures of the trip tell a good bit of the story. After the Grand Canyon, we traveled back down and further West and drove over the Hoover Dam too late to see it. We arrived in Las Vegas around 10pm. We drove down the strip with lights in our eyes. We found where we would be staying while we were there. We could not check in this night though so we decided to stay at the cheapest place we could find. We drove away from the strip and found a Motel 6. When you are low on money its a great price but you definitely get what you pay for.

We checked in the next day at the Stratosphere Las Vegas Stratosphere and deposited our luggage in our room. I wanted to make our wedding day real romantic. I was able to step away from Amy a few minutes and went to find a good florist in the area. I asked the florist if it would be possible to deliver a 100 red roses and they said they could. I had never tried buying this many roses before and when I found out the price my hopes of making our wedding day real romantic faded so I decided I would buy a much smaller amount of roses.

On our wedding day a limousine took us to The Little White Wedding Chapel. Las Vegas The Little White Wedding Chapel Amy was dressed in a pretty blue dress and was so beautiful. When we arrived we were ushered into a room and waited for our turn to get married. A Hawaiian man performed the ceremony. Pictures were taken after we put on each other's rings and kissed. We bought Amy a real pretty Helzberg ring before coming to Las Vegas. It is a one carat Masterpiece diamond surrounded by another set of diamonds that add up to one carat. It is the prettiest ring I have ever seen. We were driven back to the Stratosphere where we went straight to our room and got comfortable...

The rest of the trip was a blur. We travelled back to the Hoover Dam to get a better look at it. Arizona/Nevada border Hoover Dam We walked until our legs hurt each day. We gambled in many places and did pretty good for ourselves. We planned to spend so much each day. On the first day we won enough to use for the next day and didn't have to use any of our gambling money to play. We were approached each day by people wanting to sell time shares. We went to a few of them and got free shows or gambling money.

One in particular was a Marriott presentation. Marriott was in the beginning stages of building their Grand Chateau. Las Vegas Marriott Grand Chateau The first tower was complete and they were working on the second tower. We were given the sales pitch and showed the property. I was sold. It would give us one week every other year that could be split so that we could vacation in many locations around the world every year. Amy fought me, fearing the horror stories of time shares. I could see the value in it though. This location was prime and we would be able to trade locations with ease. In the end she agreed to spend a little money up front to come back and stay a week in one of the condos to see if we liked it at which point we could purchase......

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tongue Biting

I was eating pizza this evening and I must have mistook the tip of my tongue for the pizza. I bit down hard on the tip of my tongue and thought I might have bit it completely off. I went to the bathroom to look at it in the mirror. Nothing was separated but a small chunk was sliced enough to flap. I usually accidentally bite the edges of my tongue. I have never bitten that hard on a solid part of the tongue before.

Now, I'm a little worried about keeping it clean and healthy. I need the flap to grow back into place as quickly as possible but how do I get it to stay put while eating and drinking? You would think after forty years of life you would have enough experience not chew on your tongue but you would be wrong.

I guess it could be worse. My wife's brother bit his tongue in two. Luckily the doctors were able to get it back together again. He doesn't even have a lisp or anything. The doctors figured he would always talk with a lisp.

Anyway, be careful eating your food and make sure your tongue has not mixed itself in the middle of it before you chew down :P

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Learning to Swim

I don't remember the first time I went swimming but I do remember the first time I think was my first time to go swimming :)

When we lived in Irving, my Mom packed towels and sun tan lotion and took us to a public swimming pool. My brother, sister, and I were excited about going. We all hopped in the car and waited impatiently to arrive.

When we arrived, there were lots of people there. Some were sitting or laying on the edge of the pool. Others were climbing a tall ladder to jump off of a board hovering over the pool. Most of the people were in the pool.

I watched the people climbing the ladder and jumping off. I really wanted to do that and told my Mom as much. She laughed and dismissed it and my brother laughed too. We all got in the pool. I waded in the shallow end and got water in my eyes. I went to where my Mom was with a towel and dried my eyes. I went back out and water got in my eyes again. I went back to my Mom for the towel. I did this several times until my Mom said, "Rub your eyes with your fingers to clear them." I tried that and was amazed it worked. My fingers were wet and so were my eyes but by rubbing my eyes with my fingers, the water in them cleared. I had much more fun after that.

I'm not sure how, but I got away from my Mom and decided to climb the tall ladder to jump into the pool from the board above. Boy afraid to jump on top of high dive It was much taller than it looked from far off. I stayed in line behind the other people. I made it to the first rung and waited to start the long climb. When I got to the middle, I began to get a little scared. I continued climbing though not wanting to be embarrassed climbing back down. I made it to the top, got on top of the board, looked down, and couldn't bring myself to do it. The people behind me were trying to get me to jump but I was so scared I couldn't. I began the long embarrassing climb back down the tall ladder.

If I had jumped off into the pool, I probably would have drowned. Sometimes fear is a good thing. I had never been taught to swim; obviously since this was probably the first time I had ever been in a swimming pool. My Mom was afraid of the water and would stay in the shallow end. My brother had witnessed me at the ladder and told Mom what I was doing. She was upset with me and didn't know whether to spank me or hug me.

My Grandfather had a boat when I was a little older and we went out onto Lake Bonham. This was my first time on a boat. We were made to put on an orange life jacket. When we got out a ways, we threw out the anchor and everyone jumped out. I jumped out and went under the water bobbing back up due to the life jacket strapped to me. I had seen people swim on television and mimicked their actions with the life jacket on and found that I was able to swim from point to point. After a while, I had my Uncle watch me with my life jacket off to see how I did without the life jacket on. I swam under the water which I like doing much more than splashing around on top of the water. I don't like my eyes getting wet so I never open them under the water unless I have a pair of goggles on. That was the day I learned to swim. Well learned enough to keep myself afloat but I doubt I would be able to save someone if I had to keep both of us afloat.

Wearing a life jacket and mimicking swim movements is a good way to learn to swim but you definitely want someone with you when you take the life jacket off. You always want a swim partner when you swim as well. Never swim alone. Never climb a tall ladder to jump into a pool if you don't know how to swim. It's a terrible idea.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Great Driver in Reverse. Not!

During my term at Altus Air Force Base, OK, a couple of years of service was under my belt and I lived in an apartment. I owned a real pretty green Ford Escort GT. Green Ford Escort GT I made lots of trips back and forth between Altus, OK and Lake Tawakoni, TX.

In Altus there was a movie rental store on the main street through town. I would visit there to rent Nintendo games and movies. The store had a small parking lot right off of the main street. There was enough room to back out without entering the street to turn around. When I drove up this particular day, I parked around the middle of the parking lot near the front door. I went into the store and got whatever I was looking for that day and then came back out. I got back into the Escort and started the engine. I looked all around the car while putting it in reverse. I pushed on the gas to back up quickly knowing that there were no cars around me. I heard a crunching and scraping noise completely surprised that I had just backed into a car that just pulled into the parking lot. To this day, I still do not know how that car was there.

I tried to open my car door but couldn't so I crawled over to the passenger side and got out there. Mobile phones were not popular back then and I didn't have a way to call anyone. After making sure the people in the car I hit were okay, I walked into the store to call the police. The woman at the desk had already called them and said she saw the guy pull up in there and was acting like it was their fault. I wanted to believe her but I knew it was my fault. I should not have backed up as fast as I did.

The police officer showed up to get everything straightened out and afterward, I went home. When you are backing your car, always keep your head turned around watching for any surprises that might show up unexpectedly.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

History of Book Reading

When I moved to Lake Tawakoni and started going to school, my friends and I would meet in the library after lunch. We would play Dungeons and Dragons or Dragonlance (D&D like game set in the Dragonlance world). My friends noticed right away that I had never played and instructed me how to play. I really enjoyed building a character from scratch and using my imagination to help him grow.

My friend Kevin was surprised I had not heard of or read the Dragonlance novels written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Dragonlance He had already read the first book and asked if I would like to read it. I thanked him and opened the book. He immediately asked me not to open the pages so far or he would take it back. From that moment on, I have always kept my book pages half open so as not to hurt the spine.

I read that first Dragonlance novel and from the first word I was mesmerized. I could not put it down. I was a slow reader and Kevin asked me many times if I was done with it yet. I said no and kept plugging along. When I finished it, i gave it back to him in the same shape I received it. I asked him for the next book which he had already completed. I read the first three novels this way and I liked the books so much, I bought my own. I still have the complete set, though the books have looked better. If you are looking for fantasy novels, and haven't read the Dragonlance Chronicles or Legends, I highly recommend them.

My friend Frank introduced me the world of Piers Anthony's Xanth. I don't remember how many books were in the series Xanth and I don't think I ever read them all but the books I did read were very good. I highly recommend these books as well. He also introduced me to Terry Brook's Shannara series and Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern later in life. Very good books.

In the Air Force, I had a friend that introduced me to David Edding's Belgariad series. Dragonlance has always been a favorite of mine but these books are just as good. I highly recommend reading these. I am currently reading these Belgariad books to my son and he can't get enough. I read all of the Dragonlance books to him as well. He ate them up and hated when we were done with them. By the way, sharing books with your children is a great bonding time. I really enjoy it and I know he does too. In a fast-paced world it is nice to slow down and read aloud. When my daughter is old enough to enjoy the books, and if she is interested (she might not like the books I like), I will read them to her. More than likely, I will read books she is interested in instead.

I branched out on my own and bought The Dark Elf Trilogy by R. A. Salvatore. I enjoyed reading about the darker side of life and this Dark Elf Trilogy author wrote a great story about evil characters. If you want to understand the phrase evil turns upon itself, these books are a must read. I looked for other books by the Dragonlance authors and read their Darksword trilogy and The Deathgate Cycle. Those are very good books by them as well.

Except for reading to my children, I rarely have time to read for pleasure. I took time to read J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black with my wife, and Eragon by Christopher Paolini.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Life vs Work

It has been a crazy week this week and we have only made it half way through. My Great-Aunt, my Grandfather's sister, passed away and her funeral was Tuesday. I planned to go to it and emailed my boss that I would.

At work on Friday, I was given a very difficult task to complete by Wednesday morning. I got everything together on Friday night and Monday. I then used what I gathered to acquire what was asked for. I found that my application would not do as much as I thought it would. I had to scale down what I would be able to give by Wednesday.

To make sure everything was completed successfully, I worked instead of going to my Great-Aunt's funeral. I finished the work late Tuesday night. I missed seeing a lot of relatives I have not seen in a long time.

Sometimes life isn't fair. My Dad instilled in me the importance of my job over most things in life. "Take care of your job and it will take care of you." If I would have gone to the funeral, I would not have finished my work on time. I chose to take care of my job over family and I definitely made the correct decision.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Family Games

I grew up playing games with my family. When I was unable to play with my family, I was playing by myself. I received a deck of cards and was taught how to shuffle them. I think it was my brother who showed me a cool way to shuffle. You shuffle normally and when the cards are mixed fold them together to shuffle them back into one pile. I played with cards so much that they would become very flimsy and eventually I would need another deck.

skip bo, 42 tricks, hoyle cards, checkers, chinese checkers

There were several people in the family that taught me everything I know about games. Way before there was Skip Bo, a card game called King Sol was played instead. It was played with two decks. The dealer would deal 30 cards to each player. The goal is to get rid of those cards. I was taught strictly how not to play. By learning how not to play, I learned to play strategically and my Aunt Noni enjoyed her games with me. She is my Dad's sister who passed away a few years ago. I lost a great playmate that day. She liked a challenge and could not stand it if you made a mistake. She would let you know if you made a mistake and it would stick in your head. I think others might not have understood her but I totally understood and enjoyed my lessons and games with her.

My Uncle Buddy taught me new Solitaire games that I did not know existed. He is my Dad's brother. I can't remember the names of all of the games but I played those games by myself. He saw me playing solitaire at his house and asked, "Would I like to learn a different solitaire game? I said, "Sure!" I absorbed every card game he threw at me and played them all the time after that. He had a lake house on Lake Tawakoni. We would fish off of his pier and other things... I will post more on Uncle Buddy in the future.

My Grandfather and my Aunt Beverly get credit for teaching me how to play a mean game of 42. 42 is a domino game. The only game that is similar that I can think of is the card game Spades. Instead of telling you the rules, I will provide a link to the game. My Grandfather who is much older than me is still as sharp as a tack when it comes to this game. My Aunt Beverly and I play a mean game when we are partners. She is as sharp as her Dad (my Grandfather). We win more than we lose.

Another game I knew nothing about and thought I did is checkers. You might think checkers is a kid's game but it is a sport similar to chess. There are tournaments like in chess but I have never played in one. My Grandfather is the best checker player I have ever played. He taught me how to keep my checkers structured. Something I did not know that he taught me was that you must always take your jumps. He taught me how to win with two kings against one king. It took me a long time to get good enough to give him a challenging game but I finally did. He beats much more than I beat him though :)

My Grandmother taught me how to play Chinese Checkers. It is a game I was never very good at. I guess I just never got into it the way I did other games. My Grandmother was very good at it though.

There is probably nothing better than playing games with your kids. I know as a kid, I was in hog heaven when I got to play with my family. Even a game as simple as Go Fish makes for great memories.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mower Extraordinaire

When I was old enough my Dad taught me how to mow. Oh how I was so excited to learn it. I wish I could have missed that lesson ;)

If you have never mowed a lawn, read this to find out how. It's good exercise and decreases your stress level unless you really hate mowing. It's not on my top list of things to do in life but once I start I enjoy it.

I grew up using all kinds of gas and oil powered mowers. Some mowers required you to prime them first before starting. All of these types of mowers required a pull string to crank the motor and cause the mower to start. I even had a mower that would move by itself when holding down a lever. Back then it was cool but it was still a chore that was not fun as a kid.

One day it was kind of late and I thought I would get out of mowing the yard but Dad made me anyway. So I threw a temper tantrum that lasted the whole time I was mowing. I was running with the mower over the grass. Dad let me finish and then told me that I went too fast and that I would need to do it again. I was livid but it was a good lesson to learn. You can't run over the grass and expect the mower to cut the grass. It takes a little more time to cut than that. Always walk when mowing. Not only does it cut better but it's safer. You don't want to slip, fall, and then the mower roll over a body part. That is never good :)

Believe it or not, mowing is the simplest part of keeping a yard. There are other parts to keeping a yard. The worst of which is weed eating. A weed eater is the worst tool mankind has ever invented. It does what it's supposed to do but it is the most frustrating piece of equipment. It doesn't matter if you are using an electric or gas powered weed eater, they all require the need to spool cord that cuts the grass. The best you can do is to learn to use it perfectly so that you never cause the cord to break off. Cord breaks off during normal use but it takes a good while before it does so. The thing that is hard is to keep the cord from hitting fences, dirt, and walls. That depletes the cord very fast. Once it is completely depleted, the spooling begins anew.

Now that I am older and have the experience of using those horrible gas powered mowers all my life, I have bought an electric mower that runs with just a rechargeable battery. It is so much nicer. All I have to do is put the battery in the mower, hook up the cable to the battery, and hold down the safety mechanisms that allow the mower to start. I don't have to buy gas or oil. I don't have to fight with pulling the cord to start the mower over and over. I can stop whenever I need to without having to fight it to start again. The best part of it is that it is quieter and there is no exhaust to have to smell. All you smell is the grass you are cutting and your ears aren't ringing from the loud engine. The vibrations of the mower are much less as well. I will never use a gas powered mower again. I have a good sized back yard and the front yard is smaller than the back but big as well. Unless I let the grass grow too high, I have plenty of battery power to mow the entire yard. I could probably go to my neighbor's house and mow their yard as well.

In hopes of not having to fight an electric corded weed eater, I bought an electric weed eater as well. Don't even bother. It is not near powerful enough to cut grass. The best you can do is pay someone to weed eat your yard. Otherwise enjoy the frustration of doing it yourself.

As I said previously, mowing is simple. Mow in rectangular areas to break up the yard. When you finish one rectangle, you get a feeling of accomplishment that you have completed a portion of the yard. Then mow the next rectangular area until you complete the job.

If you are using a mower that fans out the cut grass to the right of the mower's side, keep the right wheel to the right of the uncut grass. Never cut the grass the opposite way where the cut grass is fanned into the uncut grass. That will cause your mower to work harder by having to cut the already cut grass in addition to the uncut grass. The only exception to that rule is when you are cutting the edges of the grass near fence lines, house walls, etc. Use the side that does not fan out grass so you can get closer to the edge.

Make sure you watch the right wheel while cutting the grass so that you get a straight line. In addition to watching your right wheel, look in front of where you are cutting. You don't want to run over a rope or large rock. That will tear your mower up and possibly injure yourself or someone nearby. If someone is walking up near you, turn the mower off or, at the least, stop moving the mower. You might blow a small rock into them or fan grass onto them.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Farming Mishap

My Grandfather's red tractor he used to plow his many acres of land had two large tires on the back, about five feet apart, and two small Farming Tractor ones close together in the front. When he would go plow, sometimes he would let the kids ride with him. I remember looking behind me as he plowed watching the plow tear up the ground. It was a great experience.

The black dirt was wet from a previous day's rain and my Grandfather wanted to get the plowing done while it was wet. In some parts of the field water collected longer than others after a rain. It had been long enough that no water remained but the earth was still wet. The tractor got stuck and nothing he would do would get it going again. My Uncle got an idea to put a board under one of the back tractor tires. He placed this two by four that was about four feet long in front of the tire so the tractor would get traction for a longer period of time.

A couple of us were behind the tractor getting ready to push the tractor when my Grandfather put it in gear. As soon as he put it in gear the rear tractor tire grabbed that board and it went under the tire as expected. Unfortunately the board did not remain stationary. Like a bullet, it shot out the back of the tractor flying about five feet through the air horizontally. I believe my brother was the closest to the board's trajectory and he probably heard the board as he dodged out of the way. We were all lucky no one was hurt that day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My First Chess Tournament

After feeling good at my skill in playing chess, I joined Chess Life, a global chess club that keeps up with your ranking among all players. They would send out a magazine on chess happenings around the world. Inside it would list chess tournaments all over and I searched for clubs near me that I could compete in a chess tournament. At the time, I lived in Arlington, TX after getting out of the Air Force. I found a club in Fort Worth that would allow non-members to play in their tournament and send scores to the Chess Life organization. I called and registered to play.

It was tournament day. I arrived and signed in. I then took a seat waiting for the tournament to start. I watched people preparing wondering what they were doing. I did not know about the study of opening play. Later I learned that they were going through different openings they would play against their opponents. I looked over the room and saw many tables set up with green and white checkered boards and vanilla and black pieces set up on them.

My first opponent was a young player who played a good game. I remember this game because some club members came over and were impressed by my position. I played a very defensive game at that time. The younger player could not find a way through my defense and I was able to gobble up his pieces and eventually he resigned. My first game was won but the rest of my games were not as impressive. I was put up against tougher opponents to find my true level of play. It was a great learning experience though. I enjoyed it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Study of the Sport of Chess

One Christmas while visiting family on my Dad's side we stopped at an antique shop. Inside there was a lot of stuff I wasn't interested in; I was probably around fifteen or so. I walked around looking at all the stuff and my eyes fell on a chess set of carved wooden pieces. I have always been interested in chess so I had my Mom get it for me. It came with a checkered board made out of light and dark wood. I kept that set for many years before I lost the pieces. I still have the board.

Years later when I was in the Air Force, Play Winning Chess I bought a couple of books and studied the sport of chess. I bought two books co-authored by Yasser Seirawan and Jeremy Silman, "Play Winning Chess" and "Winning Chess Tactics." The first book taught me the history of chess, how the pieces moved, how to control the center in the opening, and keeping more space than your opponent. Space is the number of spaces your pieces can attack. Winning Chess Tatics There was more but those things are crucial in tournament play. The book had examples and I would set up my antique chess set and move the pieces along with the book. The second book focused more on tactical play. Using sacrifices and combinations to acquire a lead in piece captures, a better position, or for checkmating your opponent.

I had a Super Nintendo Entertainment System Chessmaster 2000 at this time and bought Chessmaster 2000 for it. I played that game until I could beat it at its highest level. It took me about a year of studying and playing to get real good.

Although this post is about the study of chess, you can use the same desire to learn anything you set your mind to. I thought one day that I would really like to know the ins and outs of chess so I researched it by finding material about it. In my opinion I found the best books to teach what I wanted to know. Think about what you want to do the most and research it. Maybe it's a job you want in the future or you want to learn to sew. Whatever it is, you will find that learning about it is very enjoyable.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Family Reunions

Every year our family has a reunion. We take pictures, give out prizes to the oldest and youngest attending, and relive things we have done together and apart. It is a great time.

Everyone brings enough food to feed their families and we all share what we brought. We put it all in a buffet line and pick out what we want. We then take the food to our seats and continue enjoying each other's company.

It is so interesting to listen to the elders relive their past, especially your grandparent's siblings. You learn so much about where you come from and how different things were in the past.

The kids play board games or play outside. The adults play a domino game called 42 or just sit and talk. As a kid, I liked playing basketball after the reunion was over. Everyone would come to the farm and the adults and children would play basketball. I sure miss those days. As an adult, I like to look at the old pictures, listen to the elders, and play 42. Now my children attend the reunions and they play with my cousin's children. It is a very cool experience to see how your cousin's families grow. You grow up with them as children and then poof, they are bringing wives, husbands, and children.

If your family does not have a yearly family reunion, you should try and start a family tradition. It is a good time and you learn a lot about who you are and where you came from. If it is your first time, you should do a little genealogy research on your family line(s) and bring the information you find for all to see. Your reunions may start out small, but keep throwing them every year and it should continue to get larger. Find a large building or park that can hold your family size and have everyone bring food and games.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nicotine Addiction

My Dad dipped, and for those that do not know what that is, it's where you get a pinch of tobacco and place it between the outside of your teeth and gums. I'm not sure when they tried it but my brother and uncle, who were close in age, tried it. If you've never done it, the first time will either dissuade you from ever wanting to touch the stuff again or not. If you swallow it, normally it will make you throw up. It's very unpleasant. My brother and uncle made it through the trials of the first times and kept doing it for years.

My cousin and I, who were close in age, tried it. I had eaten spaghetti a few hours before. I guess I accidentally swallowed it because I immediately threw up the entire dish I had eaten a few hours before. Spaghetti is not good a second time and so I never tried dipping again. My cousin didn't get sick but I think he might have been turned off by my throwing up and didn't keep doing it either.

My Dad could dip and he never spit it out until he was done with it. He had no problem swallowing it; it never made him sick. I don't know how that is possible but I guess he has a cast-iron stomach :)

My Grandparents, Aunt, and Mom smoked when we were young. The kids grew up around it, travelling in cars and sitting in the house. It was awful. I'm not sure when they decided to quit and I was young so I don't even know how hard it was for them. I believe it might have had something to do with my Grandfather having a heart attack. The doctor told him he needed to quit smoking and so in support of him, everyone quit. I think quitting for my Mom was very easy. She never inhaled the smoke, she would just puff on it.

Quitting is a very difficult thing to do. You not only have the addiction to the nicotine but you also have the habit of smoking after certain events such as eating. You know it's hard to quit when you spend tons of money every year to keep it up. It becomes part of the budget but if you looked at what you spent every year, it would make you want to quit immediately. It's not that simple though. You first have to really want to quit. Then you have to have a real strong willpower. It is probably the hardest addiction to quit.

To help you quit, find people that will support you. These are the people that will stand strong by taking a cigarette out of your mouth and throwing it on the ground. These are the people that will take all your cartons and packs out of your house. As the quitter, you must remember that the supporter is helping you. As the supporter you must know that the quitter is going to hate you but they will love you after the cravings have subsided. It's like any addiction though. You must fight the urge for the rest of your life to keep from picking up another cigarette.

If you are in the process of quitting, I commend you and hope you kick the habit and addiction. I hope you have strong supporters as well. If you know my wife or me, we will be glad to help in any way we can.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Learning to Dance

When I was around 10 or so I remember watching my Mom and Dad dancing or watching my Grandmother and Grandfather dancing. I would get up and try to dance, failing miserably. My Dad said, "do this" and moved his legs side to side with the song's beat. I followed his lead and found that I did pretty good. For the longest time, that is all I would do when dancing, moving my legs from side to side :)

In the eighth grade, we had a dance and I remember dancing with a cute red-headed girl named Kim. We had fun and danced the night away. I don't remember how long it took me to get up the nerve to ask her to dance but once I did it was smooth sailing afterward.

Break-dancing was popular when I was in high school and Micheal Jackson dancing in Thriller video I wanted to learn to do it. Some of us would get in a circle and pop our joints in the hands, arms, shoulders, and necks to the beat of the song.

I never really danced well to the beat of a song until I went to a friend's house and listened to him play his full drum set. He played Rush's Tom Sawyer flawlessly. I believe I told that story already. Anyway, he literally drummed the beat into my head. From that moment on, I was able to dance to the beat and became a better break-dancer.

Our neighbors asked us over one time and they had a guy playing dance music. Chris and I, the guys, got up and danced together joking around. We did something we called the sumo. Left leg would go way up and then come down. Then we would raise the right leg way up and then come down. Everyone laughed and recorded it.

Now most people try to learn the dance moves to a particular kind of dance such as two-step or waltz. Not me, I just wanted to move my body to the beat of the song. To this day, I have my own moves on the dance floor. People seem impressed how I dance and some women try to follow or mimic it but there is no way because it's completely random :)

At my brother's wedding rehearsal, I got out on the dance floor alone and began grooving. My brother came out and we began grooving together all over the dance floor. Later my Grandmother asked us where we learned to dance like that? I didn't really learn it anywhere. It was just something that comes to my mind as I'm out on the dance floor. It all starts with moving the legs side to side and then adding much more attitude and flow. I didn't know at the time what I was doing and didn't have a good answer for my Grandmother.

I have had a woman walk up to me and ask me how to do it. I told her, "I don't know, I just make it up as I go." The only person that has ever kept up with me on the dance floor is my wife. She is a great dancer and we fit together on the dance floor well.

If you are young and reading this post, my advice is to learn to move to the beat of a song. Listen to the drums of a song and get the beat down. Then move your legs to get a feel for the beat of the song. Later add arm, hand, and torso movements. Then give it some attitude by moving your head around to the beat of the song.

If you ever want a good work out, try dancing. It is much more fun than running outside or standing in front of a TV going through the steps of some exercise video. There is a drawback to dancing in public. You are going to sweat and the girls, though excited at seeing your stamina, are repulsed later when they see how wet you are. My advice is to find a girl that sweats as much as you do :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Funny Money

We reward our kids with money when they make good grades and for doing weekly chores. We keep a spreadsheet of what we owe them and call it their funny money accounts. Its like a savings account we let them tap into occasionally when we have enough in the budget to spend.

In doing this, we teach the kids how to save money and not spend it as soon as they get it. My son wants to spend it as soon as he accumulates a little money. He doesn't understand why we won't let him spend it. We are very strict about it too. He wants to borrow two dollars to buy a game but we stand firm and make him wait. That really frustrates him but it's a good lesson to learn.

My daughter accumulates longer and usually has much more money than my son does. She will rarely ask us for money and we usually give it to her to spend before she ever asks. She is younger so it's easier for her to forget that it's there.

Before we got our budget set up, the kids were given anything their hearts desired. They became spoiled and now we are trying to teach them that money doesn't grow on trees. money tree We will open a bank account for our boy since he is getting to the age where he could learn from having one. It teaches how to keep a checkbook ledger and how to balance the bank account.

It is difficult to teach when others undermine what we are trying to do but there is nothing we can do about it. Hopefully the kids will learn what we are trying to teach while they are spoiled away from home. They are intelligent kids and I know they will.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Have a Kid Going into High School

My son is going to be a Freshman next year. We went to orientation this evening and it blew me away. Preston had the "I am too cool for this" attitude but I know he is somewhat excited as well.

There is way more stuff to get into than when I was in high school. I don't know if its because Preston's school is bigger or if schools are, for lack of a better word, better than they used to be. Preston's school will have around 2700 high school students. That is much larger than my graduating class of 84 students.

If you are wanting to go to a good college today, it requires a really good GPA and a very involved resume. If you are a Freshman this year, buckle down and make real good grades from now until you graduate. Slacking will really make it more difficult to get into the college you want to go to the most.

This high school has great spirit too. The students were all yelling, trying to get their club noticed and joined. Getting involved in the clubs is one of the things that can be added to the student's resume. I highly recommend joining multiple clubs if your schedule permits.

They also have dual course classes that count toward college credit. They could have two semesters of English and Math completed before they step foot on a college campus.

Most children are still a little immature their Freshman year but that is the year they need to buckle down. If they make the good habit then, the rest of their high school years will follow suit (in theory). By not buckling down their Freshman year, they will probably not get the college they want to go to the most after graduation due to a smaller GPA.

Play time is over when you get to high school. You must apply yourself to succeed. I'm not saying don't have fun but make sure its something you do after your school work is completed. High school should be the best years of your life. Use them as a stepping stone for your future!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mistakes in Anticipation

Are you the kind of person that watches the red lights change so you know when it's time to go? I am. I hate waiting :)

You have to be careful though. You might think the sequence will give you the green light next when actually the green light you see is for left turners only. When I was in driver's education and we were driving the car with the instructor, I was waiting on a red light. It turned green and I took off. The instructor had no time to stop me. My light was green but I was turning left and needed a left turn only light to go safely. Luckily no one was hurt and we made it through the intersection safely.

You definitely do not want to take off fast at a busy intersection. Lots of people run the red light at the last moment so make sure no one is coming before you start moving into the intersection. My wife's sister and her daughter were waiting on a red light at night and when they got their green light they started moving forward. When they got half way through their turn, they were smashed into by a drunk driver. The drunk driver did not stop. They were taken by ambulance to the hospital where her daughter's wrist was hurt but not broke. The police tracked the drunk driver down and found him the next day at his house.

It is better to wait until you see the proper light and not anticipate its coming. Make sure nothing is moving toward the intersection before moving. These tips will keep you safe while navigating any intersection.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Intelligence, Wisdom, and the Dexterous

I mentioned before that I graduated in the middle of my class grade wise. My two best friends and I made up a group of interesting characters.

Frank was very wise for his age. He went through a lot growing up and was forced into manhood way before his time. He took care of his siblings and his Mom when he should have been playing and enjoying life in a different way. I will always be in awe of how he overcame his childhood "woes" for lack of a better word. He had a way with words and could use them to confound teachers and principles. His wisdom and way with words kept us out of trouble plenty of times.

Dale was a genius. There is no other word to describe it. You could ask him any question and he would know the answer. Not just school work. His intelligence brewed from reading all kinds of materials: comic books, news articles, engineering articles, and whatever else he could get his eyes on. He has great parents that he definitely took after. His Dad is a great engineer and Dale definitely benefited from following his footsteps. His Mom is very caring and intelligent and he had to get her patience and caring to quell his frustrations at our ignorance.

I, on the other hand, brought nothing as cool as wisdom or intelligence. I was nothing more than comic relief I suppose. I had an uncanny way of never falling when tripped and could block most punches thrown at me. There are a few occasions where my flinching got me hit but most of the time no one could land a blow.

I watched and learned from the two of them and tried to aspire to their greatness. From Dale I learned to read and joined a computer course in high school he was in that led to my current occupation of computer scientist.

From Frank, I learned to look around at my surroundings and see things in a better light than what they might show themselves otherwise.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Sister

My sister, Nikki, and I have always been very close. We traveled with Mom and Dad on Dad's welding jobs. We played with our Dad's welding tools, visited friends together, and played games together. As we grew older, I got into books and solo games such as solitaire and electronic video games.

All my school friends lived too far away. Nikki had a friend, Lori, that lived a short driving distance. We visited a lot either at our house or Lori's. When the visit was at our house, I played with them. We played imaginary games and skated. Lori's Mom and our Mom were good friends. They would paint ceramic pots and other things. They even let us kids paint some. I painted a pink piggy bank and kept it in my room.

When we moved from Princeton, we lost contact with Lori but we missed her a lot. Lori came to see us at Lake Tawakoni, TX and spent the night years later. Her and Nikki stayed together mostly but Lori and I broke away and talked on the back of a truck bed catching up on our lives. It was short lived because it was dark and my sister called us in to go to bed. When she left we never saw her again.

Later in life a very impressive communication device was created and we found each other again. We have found we are very far away from each other. Hopefully one day we will all get together again and play with each other's kids and catch up on our lives. There is no reason friends should ever lose each other. Keep up with your friends, you will need them all of your life and they will need you. You don't want to lose track of a great friend like Lori.

I was never concerned about clothes or how I looked in school. Mom would buy me clothes and I would put them on and play with my friends at school. My sister couldn't take it any longer though and she took matters into her own hands. She forced Mom to buy me cool clothes and I found that I liked them. I think I must have been an embarrassment to Nikki in school :)

As I became a teenager, I wanted more time to myself and that was hard on her because we were always close and she didn't understand why I would want to be alone. I didn't communicate very well either. She would get mad at me and make sure I knew she was still there. Teenage hormones and my stubbornness really got the best of me one day and I blew up at her. After that she stopped but to this day I feel so bad about that. I'm so glad we are still friends because I was so awful to her back then.

After I joined the Air Force and left the house, I missed her terribly. Later in life after I started going to college at East Texas State University in Commerce, TX, I would visit her at her home and eat lunch together.

Today we get to see each other at family functions and our hugs are always the tightest, like we haven't seen each other in years. I'm pretty sure we miss each other equally and it is always great to get to see her. She works for my Mom at her insurance company. They are expanding and Nikki enjoys the work. She has gotten her selling license and does real well for Mom and herself. I am so proud of her.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Boys Will Be Boys

In Princeton, TX, my Mom liked to hang plants along the outer edge of the house. She kept the plants in plastic or ceramic pots. She had a green thumb and her plants flourished.

Mom had gone to the store on a nice summer day and Ricky, my brother, and I were playing outside with a basket ball. We were throwing it up on the house and trying to catch it before the other did. We played hard and were competitive at sports.

I threw the ball up on the house and it started rolling back down. Ricky jumped up to get the ball that had rolled near one of Mom's ceramic plant pots. When he came back down with ball in hand, his elbow connected with the ceramic pot, shattering the pot and cutting him bad. I believe our next door neighbor saw it happen or Ricky and I went next door for help. Our neighbor mended him while we waited for Mom to come home. Afterward Ricky was taken to the emergency room and got his elbow stitched up.

You know how they say watch for power lines when playing out doors. It might be a good idea to look for other dangers in your area of play as well. :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Surprise! Not!

Most kids try to figure out what presents they are getting for their birthday or Christmas. They will try all kinds of ways to figure it out, shake it, listen to it, peel the paper on the bottom and carefully place it back down so that the tear cannot be seen.

I remember my 8th birthday. My sister was teasing me about knowing what I was getting for my birthday. I asked her what I was getting. She wouldn't tell me but she couldn't keep it from me. She took me to a closet and showed me what all I was getting. There was a watch and an Evel Knievel stunt set with motorcycle, bar, and figure. I think there were some clothes as well. I was real excited and couldn't wait until my birthday.

When my birthday came, my Mom brought out the presents and placed them on the table. She brought out the cake with the candles flaming. I made a verbal wish that I would get a watch and a Evel Knievel stunt set. Before I could blow out the candles my Mom asked me if I had looked at my presents or if anyone showed me where my presents were. I looked at Nikki which was a mistake because Mom knew what happened. She was furious and said if we ever did anything like that again we would not get our presents. After that I never looked at my presents before it was time to open them again.

I actually like being surprised and I was rarely disappointed, if ever. Mom always seemed to know what I wanted. I guess I was like most kids I pointed out what I wanted or played with it in the stores. That Evel Knievel stunt set was very cool. It had a ramp and the figure would ride the motorcycle up it with his hands up hanging onto to a hook that would catch on the overhead bar above the ramp. The motorcycle would go flying and Evel Knievel would loop around the bar from the momentum of the ride. It's the simple things in life that amuse me the most :)

My wife does not like surprises. I'm not used to that. I'm used to trying to figure out what she wants. She will take me and we will get what she wants. She is certainly never disappointed that way :) I can't complain about it. It makes it much easier on me. I did surprise her the other day though. She said she wanted a particular cookbook. I happened to be in Borders which was closing due to bankruptcy and found it. After I walked out, I sent her a text saying that I had a surprise for her. She asked, "Did you get me a cookbook?" You guessed it. I guess I no longer have a surprise for you :) She loved it nevertheless.

Unless you are my wife, do yourself a favor, don't spoil your surprise. Wait for the surprise to be revealed. It's much more enjoyable. Besides, you can't play with it until its time to get it anyway :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

You Were Dropped On Your Head as a Baby Weren't You?

When my son, Preston was a baby, I took him to the pharmacy to pick up some medicine. He was snugly strapped into a baby carrier/child seat. I think he was about one year old. I walked up to the counter and rested the lip of the carrier on it while taking out the prescription I needed to hand to the person behind the counter. While I was doing that the carrier slid down the counter, the lip slid off, and down went Preston to the floor. I was lucky that he didn't actually hit the floor. The carrier hit the floor and he bounced inside the carrier but did not fall out thanks to the straps that held him in. He didn't even cry. I was mortified though. I think I might have just walked out without getting my medicine :)

When he was a little older, I would ask him to put on his seatbelt. He fought me for some reason on that. I was in the driveway and put the car in drive and moved forward slowly and then hit the brakes. He bounced forward and from that point on he always put on his seatbelt without giving me grief. Sometimes words just aren't enough to convey why you should do something your parents ask you to. I like to demonstrate why when I can :)

No kids were hurt in the making of this blog post. They might have been scarred mentally though.

Friday, March 11, 2011

In One Ear, Out the Other

When I was young, I heard the expression "In one ear, out the other." Since I was young, I didn't really think about it. I have a 13 year old boy and I understand it perfectly now :)

He plays in the 8th grade band and has been skateboarding a couple of years. He really got into it this past year though. I tried real hard to get him into other things. I also tried real hard to make him wear protective gear. *See post title* He is really good but I can't watch him do it. I remember my Mom being like this. She hated to watch my brother, Ricky, play football. She was always afraid he was going to get hurt. I have that same feeling about watching Preston. He doesn't understand and I feel bad for not watching him.

One day he was skateboarding Preston skateboarding with his friends at a park in town and he calls me to come get him because he hurt himself. When I get there to pick him up, I found out he landed horribly, feet under him, elbow on concrete, and he could not breath for what seemed like minutes to him. His elbow had a large marble sized bump protruding from it. I took him home and examined him to make sure he didn't need to go to the emergency room. Other than his elbow, he seemed fine.

You would think that would be enough to make him stop but he is determined to master this sport. I commend him for this but it doesn't make me feel any better. A few days later he gets back on his board and he learns new things and wants to share what he knows. I watch him reluctantly at the house sometimes but not very long.

He goes to his Mom's every other weekend. One weekend while he was there, he gives me a call and says, "Something funny, well not really funny, but... well I broke my leg." I knew it was coming. It did not even shock me. I couldn't say anything. I was upset because he had already been to the emergency room and been checked out. I found out that she did not take him until the next day. She had her Dad take him actually. When they bring him home Sunday night, he is on crutches and has a brace on. I hug him and feel some relief that he is home where I can get him checked out.

My wife sets up an appointment the next day and we get him a cast. All Preston can ask is, "When can I skate again?" I shake my head and laugh. I ask the doctor to tell him never jokingly (but not really) :) The doctor tells us the cast cannot get wet. When we get him home, everyone signs it and at school they sign some more.

Giving him a bath was a big ordeal in the beginning. He would use his arms to get into the bathtub I had run water in previously and sink his butt in first. His legs he would leave over the edge of the tub until he could bring in the good leg. I washed his hair for him since he couldn't rinse his hair very well. After his bath, I would pull on his arm to help him sit on the edge of the tub before standing to dry off. This went on for several weeks. On the bright side though, he was not skating :)

The day came to get his cast off and we went back to the doctor. They bring out a miniature saw and get to grinding on the cast. My son is nervous as hell. He thinks they might slip and cut his leg. They finally get into it and he starts pulling his leg away to try to get out of it so they don't have to saw at it anymore. It was hilarious but you would have had to be there. In a way, that feeling he was having about his leg getting sawed on, is the same kind of feeling I have when I watch him skate. The cast and his leg stunk but he didn't care. He wanted to take the stinky cast home anyway.

I didn't say how he broke his leg because it was such a simple thing. His leg went under the skateboard somehow and caused his ankle to bend too much and the bone above his ankle broke. He was in serious pain. I would have taken him right away to the emergency room. I would have also gone to the emergency room if I had been given a call.

I really want to throw the skateboards away but he will find a way to skate. There is nothing I can do to stop him completely. All I can do is talk to him and watch the sound enter one side of his head and exit the other unobserved. Guess I can't tie him down for the rest of his teenage years huh? Oh well. This is what youth is about. Learning lessons the hard way. As a parent you you want them to learn from your mistakes but when they ignore you *see title* you might as well not even say anything at all :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Welder's Helper

When I was about 15, my brother, Ricky, and I worked in Farmersville during the summer with my Dad.

I started out sweeping the floor of the large building. I found that there was a good way to cover every inch of ground with the shop broom. Dad told me to start on one side and sweep down and toward where I will be sweeping next. Do that until you get to the other side and make sweeping motions with the broom so no dirt remains. I actually got enjoyment out of doing it and it was a great feeling when it was done.

As the days of summer progressed, I was able to learn new things. I learned to pull the hoses and chords off of the truck so my Dad had plenty of slack to work. I would unroll them and turn the bottles on so the torch would light or turn on the welding machine so he could get an arc started. Dad had a tool that would roll on a track and cut large pieces of metal. I learned to use that. It was really cool.

We built lots of beds for trucks. We would weld together, on both sides of the bed, a large toolbox. One day we were putting the toolboxes on a jack to help keep it in place while he welded it in place when it somehow came down on my hand and squished my fingers. That hurt real bad but I learned that if you put water in a coffee can and put a squished hand inside of it that the pain subsides somewhat. The pain was still there but hurt less. If I brought my hand out of the water, it would start hurting worse.

One day I was waiting for my next task while Dad was welding. I was told that looking at the bright welding light would hurt my eyes so I always avoided looking at it. I did not know that it would hurt my eyes if it was in my peripheral vision. My eyes stung for days. It was awful.

When we finished some trucks, we would travel to Dallas to deliver them. Most of the time we would stop at the Circle Grill Restaurant and eat yummy burgers, fries, and a desert.

I really enjoyed working with my Dad. I learned so much. He has always said "Take care of your job and it will take care of you." I took that to heart and I give 110% in whatever I do.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Addicted To...

There are many types of addiction. Many are terrible to have and can kill you or impair you in some way to make it possible for you to kill someone else. Most people think of drugs when they think of addiction. Here are few that you may not have known were addictions: alcoholism, smoking, gambling, gaming, sugar, blogging :) There are many more but you get the picture.

There are a couple of alcoholics that I know of. It's really sad especially when you have known the person for a long time. There is nothing that I have seen that helps. Tough love and being their friend leads to resentment on both sides. The alcoholic will find a way to feed their addiction. The alcoholic, like most addicted people, have to realize they are addicted and help themselves. They are really good liars too. It's hard to trust them and your lack of trust in them is a good thing. There are many signs to look for. If they seem to do their day to day tasks good, they may truly be on the mend. If they are sleeping more and look haggard, they are more than likely still drinking. Going by breath alone is no good. They are experts at hiding it. Even if they seem to be on the mend there is always the chance they will relapse.

Druggies and smokers have it bad because the side-effect of what they are doing causes the addiction. I've seen many smokers quit but I have seen many fail as well. You know you are addicted to something when you have to pay over $40 for a carton of cigarettes that probably only last a week. That's $120/month! A non-addicted person would quit real quick just for that fact alone.

It would be an easy thing for me to become addicted to gambling. I've been to Las Vegas a couple of times and to Shreveport a couple of times. In Shreveport I got a hot streak in craps and won about $450. If my wife would not have been there I probably would have lost it all back. I would bet $20 each dice roll and she would take the winnings. I would use the same $20 if I won. I did that with $100 (5 losing rolls, many winning rolls). She kept pocketing the winnings and her pocket was bulging. It was hilarious.

If you want to know if you are addicted to something, look around you. Are you neglecting anyone or anything? Is your budget busted for buying too much of something? If you find you are and you realize you need help, seek it out. Ask your family and friends to get you help. Don't continue because it will only get worse.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Passing Out

Have you ever passed out or watched someone pass out? I have passed out twice in my life and watched my cousin, Kevin, pass out. Actually it was more like I heard him pass out when he hit the floor.

My cousin and I were playing and we did something that Grandmomma didn't like. She got on to us and it made Kevin mad. I can't remember exactly what happened but somehow the three inch thick front door slammed shut squishing his finger. Grandmomma took him to the kitchen to put water on it. He was in a lot of pain (obviously) but he wasn't making any noise. I turned away from him for a second and heard a loud thud behind me. He lay sprawled out on the floor. It was a very scary experience. I thought he had died. Grandmomma revived him and put ice on his hand after sitting him down.

In the fifth grade, at recess, I played basketball with my friends. There was a pole near the basketball goal. The ball started getting away and went toward the pole. A kid and I went for the ball and the kid hit me on the left and the pole hit me on the right. It knocked the breath out of me and I ended up passing out. I woke up a little later and my head had a bump on it from where it hit the ground when I fell. I got up and we started playing again.

In high school, we had our own lockers. The lockers had a handle that you lifted up to open, and they were stacked in two long rows down the hall. A kid and I were horsing around just playing but I ended up getting shoved backward into a locker. The handle must have hit me just right. I remember it hurting real bad and closed my eyes trying to get the pain under control. I must have stopped breathing to control the pain because when I woke up, people were standing around me looking down at me on the floor. This time I noticed that darkness passed over my eyes before I blacked out.

There are times when I get up from crouching on the floor petting the dogs that I get those same dark patches. I am in no pain so what causes the feeling of nearly passing out?

In both situations, I noticed that breathing or the lack there of was the cause of my passing out. If you get hurt and try to control your pain by not breathing, you may pass out. Also, when I am in a crouch and come up, if I take a deep breath, the darkness is not present.

Not long ago, my Dad who is close to 80 years old, was sleeping and thought he heard my Mom screaming. He hurried to get up and ran to the bathroom. As he entered the bathroom he passed out and fell into the glass door of the shower. He woke up with his hand bleeding bad. He called Mom and she went home and took care of him. Be careful not to get out of bed too fast because your oxygen level may be lower while sleeping or your blood sugar level may be out of whack.

Always take a deep breath before getting up. If you get the breath knocked out of you, there is really not much you can do but wait for your breathing to return to normal. Hopefully it happens before you pass out.

Monday, March 7, 2011


... so we get the puppies home (see previous post, The Spare Tire That Should'a Been) and get everything set up. The kids did not know they were getting a dog, let alone two dogs. They were staying with my Mom so I went to get them while Amy prepared the surprise. After I picked them up and brought them back, the kids walked in the door. They see these puppies but think they are Amy's sisters who arrived while I was gone. The kids' curiosity gets the best of them and they ask who's puppies they are. Amy says they are yours. The kids said, "Both of them? Nuh uh, you are messing with us. Really?!?!" We all agree with Amy and the kids were in shock. When you have children, get them a pet. It is really good for them. The kids had been asking for a dog for some time and we kept putting it off by saying we needed to purchase a fence first. Now they play together and it's too cute.

We started saving for a fence and played with the puppies inside and leashing them outside. We found a vet at the Pet Smart and lucked out with a doctor that has a standard dachshund. All the people there made over the puppies and the puppies got their immunizations.

We had a chain link fence built in the back of our house and when the job was completed we let the puppies out and found that there were a few open places the puppies could fit through. We still had to watch them but we could take the leashes off. After a few weeks the puppies were getting large enough that they could no longer fit through the gaps. Now all that was left was getting them potty trained.

Ugh... what an ordeal. The kids once said they would take care of a dog by cleaning up after it. Lies! They never clean up after them. It is somehow my job now :) That's not entirely true. The kids do help sometimes but Amy and I clean up after the puppies most of the time.

I'm pretty sure the puppies are for Amy and the children. They follow them around everywhere they go. The only time I can get any time with them is when no one is home :) We all enjoy the puppies. They are funny to watch play with each other. Check out the video in this post. I created a youtube account that you can check out periodically when I add more videos. I will let you know when new videos are available. You can check out our home page at Poland Family Videos.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Spare Tire that Should'a Been

Amy and I used to travel to work together to downtown Dallas and we owned one car. I got a new job and it was not close to Dallas so we had to get a new car. We decided a used car would be fine and got a 2008 Kia Sorento. It was a rental car before we got it and Amy loved it.

We started looking for a standard dachshund and found a place that was having some puppies. We put a deposit down to hold one of them. After they were born, three were available for choosing. The breeder sent pictures of them and when we picked the one we wanted, she wrote back and said that one was not available so we gave her the big fat finger and got our deposit back. We began to look again for another breeder. Amy found a site with some miniature dachshund puppies. There were two that were too cute. Amy decided she wanted both so they would have a friend and not be lonely when we were away from home. As an added bonus, the two puppies together cost much less than the standard dachshund by itself.

When the puppies were old enough, we planned a trip to the middle of no where in Southwest Texas. The trip was to take us four hours one way. We started out and made good time. We started up a road that led to the breeder. We had about ten miles to go when the left rear tire blew out. Amy pulled over, we got out, and pulled out the tools to change the tire. After we got it all out, we started searching for the spare tire. It wasn't in the back of the Kia so I looked under the car and there was a place for a tire but there was no tire! We were very upset about that but there was nothing we could do about it. We were in the middle of nowhere and called the number on the back of her driver's license. They found a place about thirty miles away and gave us the number. We called them and found that they would bring a tire and fix the flat on the spot. We waited, a guy showed up and fixed the tire, we paid the hefty price, and we were on our way again. Another tire blew out! Just kidding. our dachshund puppies We made it to the breeder's house and the puppies melted away the frustrations of the past hour. We got our puppies, put them in the kennel we bought earlier, and started the long trip back home. We pulled over several times to let the puppies out. We put on their new leashes we got when we bought the kennel. We finally got home and ... (more on the puppies later)

The moral of this story is to always look for things you assume should be a part of the whole package :P

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Piggin' Out

In a previous post, Losing Weight Without a Diet, I wrote about losing weight while eating whatever you want. In following this lifestyle, I have reached my goal weight and maintain it. I will sometimes test out the waters to see what causes me to gain weight and how much.

When we first started, we walked maybe two weeks in a row every day for about fifteen minutes. We even used a walking video to exercise early on, but for most of the 20 weeks I lost weight I did not exercise. It was just from learning to eat until I was comfortably full and eating much less sugar. At work Amy goes up and down stairs all day going from one office to another. She gets a good amount of exercise each work day. In 20 weeks I went from 185 lbs. to 150 lbs.

It's an easy thing to gain weight. Eat sugar and you will find you will gain about 2 to 3 pounds in a day depending on how much you eat. Dark Chocolate Candy BarsWe buy Kashi cookies that have been sweetened with natural sugars such as honey, cane juice, etc., ice cream made with Splenda, dark chocolate bars and bite sized Hershey's dark chocolate candy. We do not eat the entire candy bar which is usually measured as one serving. That serving has a lot of sugar and you do not want to eat that in one sitting. We break it up into 4 grams of sugar bites (remember 4 grams of sugar is 1 teaspoon of sugar). Kashi Cookies We usually eat this with dinner so that the protein counteracts the sugar. When I eat these items correctly I do not gain weight. If I pig out on them, I will gain weight easily.

Each Friday, at work, a guy will bring a load of donuts that we eat during the day. Last Friday, I pigged out and had two glazed donuts, a six inch tuna fish sandwich from Subway for lunch and two more glazed donuts after lunch. When I got home, I pigged out on ice cream (a little less than half the container) and when Amy came home, she cooked us some beans. I crumbled crackers up in the beans and added ketchup. For those that don't know it, I eat ketchup on most any food :) I have no idea how many calories I ate last Friday but it was way more than I should have eaten. The next morning around 9 am, I weighed myself and had actually lost weight! How is that possible?? I did not exercise. I did not do anything different except eat more. If I kept it up I surely would gain weight but I actually lost weight. It still baffles my mind.

A day or two before last Friday, I had a Hostess cherry pie (tons of sugar) and ate normally the whole day. When I got on the scale the next morning I had gained nearly 3 pounds! The human body is very confusing. How can I gain weight one day eating somewhat good and pig out another day and lose weight??

Although I am at my goal weight, I still have a small fat belly. Although I have lost weight without exercising, exercise is very important. Without it, you become a lump of flab. I haven't started yet but I would like to get a pull up bar and a bicycle. I think with those two things I would have all I needed to stay fit. Amy wants to get a Zumba Wii game and start dancing. I love to dance and it is a great way to exercise and have fun at the same time. I think I might go try to get that game today :)

When you reach your goal weight, play around with eating poorly and see if you get odd weight fluctuations. Make sure you bounce back to the right way to eat though, or you will find yourself 10 lbs. heavier because good habits are easy to form, and bad habits are even easier to fall back into...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Great Man

Mom met a great man that came in and took care of all of us. He was a welder and we traveled everywhere with him. His hobby, besides his passion for his work, was showing horses at competitions. He was successful with a blue ribbon with one horse. He had been married previously and had two boys and a girl. They were all older than my brother.

Our Dad loved us like we were his own. He worked hard and there were times when he was off on a job without us. When we could, we were there with him though. A previous post details all of our travels. My Dad started his own business and had a place in Farmersville, TX where he built metal beds for trucks. When I was old enough I had the privilege of working with him. He taught me how to be helpful and to take pride in my work. He always instilled in us the importance of giving 110% to anything we did but especially our job.

My Dad grew up with a sister and a brother who were both older than he was. The sister was the oldest. Dad joined the US Army when he was young and served during the Korean war.

Dad's sister, I knew her as Aunt Noni, lived with their Mom, my Granny, in East Tawakoni not too far from where we lived. I would mow their yard in the summer. My Dad's brother, I knew him as Uncle Buddy, and his wife Frankie, also lived in East Tawakoni. They had a lake house with a boat house and pier. We would go to his house and fish, ride his boat, have cookouts, and play games.

This post is about our real Dad. The one that stuck with us through thick and thin. Taught us all he knew and made us better human beings. My Dad is a great man.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Christmas 2010

My wife, Amy, and I planned a vacation from the beginning of 2009 for the children and us. We have two wonderful children, a boy, Preston, age 13 and a girl, Emily, age 9. When the Christmas of 2010 came, we had gotten the children their own laptops, and we changed phone carriers so we were able to get everyone new Android phones (best phone I have ever owned). They opened these things at home before going to Amy's sister's house.

After arriving at Amy's sister's house, we ate a wonderful dinner and then sat down for the opening of gifts. All gifts were passed out and opened but Amy's sister, Kendra, said "Wait! We forgot a present!" She had it retrieved and handed it to our children. It was a large box we had wrapped and brought over earlier. The kids started opening it and when the Christmas wrapping was torn off they could see an alien head that they knew was a computer logo (Alienware). The box was too light to have a computer in it though so they started digging in the box. There was a lot of shredded brown packing paper and we had taped a piece of paper to the bottom of the box. When they finally were able to see the paper they read it but it didn't really dawn on them what they saw. We asked them what the paper said and they read it: "Surprise, we're going to Disney World! Merry Christmas, Love Dad and Amy." Amy said "Yea, we're leaving tonight!" The kids couldn't believe it. Emily high-fived Preston and we finished our visit and then took off.

We drove the whole way, I would drive an hour and Amy would drive seven hours. We swapped like that the whole way. hehe yep, I can't drive very long without losing consciousness. We made good time though and got there sometime in the evening of the next day. We got unloaded and crashed for the night.

The next day we woke up, got ready, and went straight to Magic Kingdom. I have never been to any of the Disney parks and was very impressed with it all. My favorite character is Goofy and I looked for him the whole day but never caught him. We watched several shows, rode some fun rides, and at night watched the fireworks show. We were exhausted by the time we left that night. We went back home (our home away from home) and planned the next day.

We decided we would go to the mall and we walked around looking in all the shops. We just took this day easy as there were no rides or anything in this part of Disney. There was no Goofy here either. Next time we will skip the mall. It was nice to take an easy day and rest up for the rest of our time. We went back home and cooked a yummy dinner and then planned our next day.

On our third day we went to Epcot! This is the place to go. Get to this place as early as you can. We rode several rides and watched several shows. We stood in line to greet and meet the Disney characters. It was a long wait but worth it. Emily got her picture taken with Minnie Mouse and got her signature first. Then we moved on to Donald Duck where I greeted him in his own tongue. He was impressed and after the picture and signature I said goodbye in his tongue. Mickey Mouse was next and Amy got her picture taken with him (I was very jealous ;) After Mickey, I looked up and there he was. A tall and lanky dog faced man waving me over. I walk over and give him a big hug. We posed manly and got our picture taken, hugged again, and I had to make way for the rest of the people in line. That was the best day at Disney in my opinion. After that we went around the world checking out the foods and cultural differences. We ate in Morocco and the food was delicious. While we were eating a couple of guys came and and played some small guitars. A lady followed later and belly danced around the floor. She called some girls out and Emily went and danced with her. We had a great time eating, listening, watching the show. We found other Disney characters and Emily got more pictures and signatures. Before we left, we looked for souvenirs. Emily got a really cool Disney jacket, Preston could not decide on anything and ended up with a mug, Amy got a Disney jacket, and I got a bright orange Goofy sweater pullover with hood. We went back home with our loot and crashed. Another exhausting day.

On our last day, we went to the Animal Kingdom. When we walked in we started looking around and noticed a real tall tree lady. We walked up to her and got pictures with her. We walked around looking at all the animals. There is a large tree (tree of life) with all kinds of animal shapes carved in it. It's very cool. You could probably stare at it for hours and still not make out all of the different creatures portrayed. This is a cool park but we left early because it was New Year's Eve and we wanted to get back to The Magic Kingom before it got too crowded. We did not make it early enough because the place was packed. I ran ahead to try to get us a place to see the show but there just wasn't any place that wasn't taken up. I found one place under a tree and waited while they attempted to ride some rides before coming to wait for the show. They had no luck though. The wait time was atrocious. They started the arduous task of trying to get to where I was. They would get detoured outside the park to get to parts of the park that allowed for movement to where I was. It was crazy. We finally were all together again and the show finally started. We started recording everything with our new phones. I recorded the kids faces as best I could but it was so dark it was hard to see. Fireworks went off over and over and when midnight arrived we were given a great fireworks show. We waited for people to disperse and started our way out of the park. A lady in front of one of the shops stops us and says they have free hot chocolate and cookies inside. I thought to myself, uh huh. You are just going to put us in a cage and get us fat so you can throw us in a stove and eat us ;) We went in and actually found a table we could all sit around. We sat and ate the cookies and drank the hot chocolate. I called my brother, sister, and parents to wish them a happy new year. I think we ended up getting home around 3am that night.

Although that was our last Disney day, we still had two days at Universal Studios. There are two sides to the Universal Studios park. I can't remember which one we went to first. We got there early though and headed straight for the Harry Potter area. They really did a great job on that area. It looked just like the movie. We rode some fun rides, avoiding Dementors and flying a dragon. Before we left that area we were asked are we truly done because they were handing out numbers to get into this area. It was good we came early or we would have had a long wait. We left that area and watched the Indian Jones show and walked the shops.

The final day of our vacation we went to the opposite part of the Universal Studios park. We rode the Tower of Terror and the best roller coaster ride I have ever been on, Aerosmith Rock and Roller Coaster. We got Preston on that one because he could not see the twists and turns it makes. He gets very motion sick so we had dramamine on hand to help with that but it still makes him uncomfortable. You should have seen his picture after we got off the ride. His bushy hair was forced back by the wind and his face was one of complete terror. I felt bad but couldn't help but laugh. It was so funny looking. We rode another roller coaster ride that plays music you select as you ride. I selected Sabotage by the Beastie Boys because of the beginning of the new Star Trek movie. We left reluctantly and had already packed up for the trip home. We drove the long ride back to our home. I drove an hour and Amy drove seven :)

If you ever get the chance to go to Disney, and it's something you like, I highly advise going. We had a blast. I might have had more fun than the kids :)