If this is your first time visiting, welcome. If you are returning again, welcome back. While this blog was originally not going to be about me or my life, it seems to be morphing to include more of myself and experiences. I will still strive to add a different perspective to the news and events around the world that impact everyone's life,however, I will focus more attention on issues that relate more tangibly to our personal lives. We all live in a world that is increasingly interconnected yet it seems a lot of people are turning inwards, shying away from human interaction. Lets step away from ourselves and see what we can do to make a difference. There are ads on this page and 65 cents of every dollar earned will be donated towards helping the homeless. If you like what you are reading, please share it with your friends.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Impending Vacation

In a few days, I will be leaving for a week with my family.  There will be no computers or distractions, just a week at a rental house on the beach in Cape Cod.  I must say, the thought of Cape Cod brings back many memories for me of past vacations with my family.  Days were filled with sand, salt water, and relaxation.  There were no worries, nothing planned, and only tourists to contend with.  You see, I never really considered myself a tourist when I went to Cape Cod, and probably still won't.  For the longest time, my grandparents had a house on Cape Cod where we would retreat to between 2 and 3 times a year.  As such, I got to know the Cape like few tourists actually do.  We didn't just head out to the Cape during high tourists season, but also during the winter months, my favorite being during Thanksgiving week.  I got to know all the little hideaways, the back roads to get around traffic, the best beaches, and the best places to have ice cream.  To this day, my Uncle and Aunt still live out there, so while most people would consider me a tourist headed out to the Cape for a week, I don't.  There is a great distinction between a tourist and vacationer/traveler.  A tourist implies that someone is there to see the sights, do as much as possible, get in the way of the locals, and leave without a sense of belonging.  A vacationer/traveler goes somewhere to become one their surroundings for a time, to embed themselves in the way of life of a certain locale, and when leaving, they always take a little something with them.  Next week, my goal is to become a vacationer/local.  I may have out of state plates, but I won't be clogging the roads with my snail paced driving.  No, I will be sitting on a beach most of the week, soaking up the sun, and of course, watching our son do his thing (whatever that might be when we get there).  To be honest, we may try and sneak in a round of mini golf on one of the evenings, but even that might be a stretch.  I am not quite sure yet if I want to deal with long waits and ornery tourists just to play a round of mini golf at one of the fantastic courses that I remember from my youth.  Of course, they probably seem a tad bit different now, but all in all, mini golf used to be a passion of mine and I would love to rekindle that passion at least for one night. 
I can't honestly remember the last time I took a whole week off of work to go on vacation.  Wait, I do, it was my honeymoon over four years ago and since then, I have just had a few days here, a few days there, but nothing of substance that would have allowed me enough time to truly relax and unwind.  The thing with vacations is, you need at least a week of doing nothing to get to the full state of relaxation that we all seek to gain from a vacation.  The first day is always the travel day; leave early, waste some time, check in, unpack, get settled, and continue the next day.  It isn't until the third day usually that you can finally start relaxing, getting into the rhythm of a vacation, and forgetting about any worries that might have followed you on your trip.  By day four, all thoughts of home are slowly diminishing, releasing their tenacious hold, and allowing relaxation to creep in a little more.  Day five is when you truly feel like you are on vacation, you forget the time, you walk a little slower, you breathe a little deeper, and take more breaks to smell the flowers.  Day six is more of the same followed by packing to return home.  That, for me, is always the most depressing part; packing to go home.  After a whole week on a beach, I start thinking that I have become one with the beach and nothing can get me away from it.  I feel like I could live there, breathe the salt air all day long, and just relax for the rest of my life.  Yet, I know that none of that is possible, however, to suspend reality, to keep it at bay for a little bit, is priceless.  Some people like to fill their vacations with as many activities as possible.  Not me, my friends.  Vacation for me is about spontaneity and relaxation.  I don't like planning anything more than a day in advance.  If something is planned, it is mostly what time we should head to the beach.  If what I hear is correct about our rental house in Cape Cod, it is on a private beach and the most I'll have to do to get there is walk.  Oh, I don't know if I will be able to handle the walk, but I will do my best.  I don't care if we don't even leave the house the whole week (although I know we will at some point).  But for now, I still have work to attend to, money to make, bills to pay, the whole nine yards.  Vacation is calling me, the Cape has my name in its log book waiting for me to sign away, and its only a matter of time before I call the Cape home again for at least a week.  For now, its work...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Climber

Closing in on 22 months of age, our son is rapidly expanding his capabilities and understanding of the world around him.  This past weekend, while I was toiling away at our house, my wife and son were spending the weekend at my parents house to stay away from the demolition.   To put it simply, their house is not child proofed and as my mother put it yesterday, "a tornado came to my house this weekend and its name was (our son)".  One of the first things our son always does when he gets to my parents house is grab the watering can from their back mudroom and bring to the closest adult so that he can help water the indoor plants.  Once that is done, he gets the bird food and brings it over to make sure the bird feeder of the kitchen sink is full for the birds.  He obviously can't do it, but he hands it to either myself or my dad and we take care of it for him.  Then he likes to watch the birds come and eat their food.  This past weekend, he figured out how to operate my parents microwave.  He had figured out how to open and close the door, spin the dial, and push some buttons previously; however this weekend, he found the start/stop button.  I must say, if a microwave manufacturer is every looking for a way to test their products, all they need to do is get about a dozen toddlers in the room and let them go nuts.  The microwave door must have been opened and closed over a hundred times and once our son found the start/stop button, it was turned on and off incessantly.  There were a few times where had someone not been watching him, things could have turned out badly as he tried to cook some metal pot covers, however he was always caught in the act.  It still amazes me to see how once our son figures out how to do something, he repeats it over and over and over again until he masters it.   He may not have a full understanding of what exactly it is that he is doing, however, the actions are being perfected and the understanding will come later.  All the above, however, is nothing spectacular compared with the other things he did this weekend.  Another little "toy" that he figured out how to master is the chair that rides up and down the stairs that my grandmother used when she lived there.  I rode up and down with him in my lap a few times on Friday when I was there and witnessed him climb into the chair by himself.  The climbing into the chair seemed like nothing to him, as if he had been doing it for years, and then he figured out how to take himself up and down. 
I showed him how to use the controls while I was there, however, I didn't get to witness him utilize the controls by himself.  That happened while I was working.  Apparently, he climbed into the chair and started taking himself up the stairs with the control.  There was an adult there during his escapade, but I was amazed that after only showing him the controls twice that he was able to figure out how to use them himself.  Speaking of stairs and climbing, he also started periodically walking up the stairs without holding on to anything.  The bigger stairs that go all the way up to the second floor are a little more of a challenge, however, a single big step is no longer an obstacle.  At one point, I was told that he was carrying something from the front porch into the house and in order to get into the house, he needed to get over a big step.  I guess he just looked at the step, put his foot up while holding whatever he was holding, and just stepped up without support.  His balance has obviously increased by leaps and bounds in order for him to manage that feat at his age.   While I don't know the capabilities of many other kids his age, from what I have heard, he shouldn't be doing some of the things he is doing.  Apparently there are kindergartners who still have trouble walking up steps and here is our son at not even 2 years of age beginning to navigate them alone and without trouble.  Continuing on with events from this past weekend, he also decided that he would climb right into his high chair at my parents house.  It was time for dinner (which I had with them at my parents house so I could see our son) and I told our son that it was time to eat.  As I was bringing food into the dining room, he ran around the table and before I knew it, he was sitting in his high chair, waiting for his tray to be clipped on.  It was as if someone turned on the climbing switch inside of him that had been turned off until now.  All of a sudden, taller objects are no big deal in terms of climbing them.  I just hope that he doesn't figure out how to climb the fence around our yard yet.  In a year or two when his balance is even better, I won't mind as much, but right now, I just want him to stay away from the fence. 
So before I finish up for today, I have two more quick stories about our son.  The first happened yesterday and is directly linked to climbing, the second has to do with his understanding of the English language.  Yesterday afternoon, after I got home from work, I was hanging out with my wife and son in the living room.  As is normally the case before our son goes to bed, he gets a little scattered and crazy.  He saw the cat on a table by the couch in the living room and he wanted to go see her.  While he as been able to climb on our couch for quite some time now, his newest feat is climbing from the seat of the couch onto the back of it.  The couch in question is in front of a window.  With that little extra space, he uses mostly his arms to pull himself up high enough so he can get his legs over the top.  He then stands on the window sill (between the window and the back of the couch) before sliding back down and doing it over again.  The funny part came when he tried to get to the cat by crawling along the top of the couch.  Where the couch meets the window it isn't a problem for him as there is enough room for him to balance on top of the couch.  However, the couch extends beyond the window along part of the wall where there is almost no room to crawl.  This didn't stop him from trying though.  Laying prone on top of the couch, he tried shimmying his way along the top, keeping as close to the wall as he could so he wouldn't fall.  There just wasn't enough room, however, and time after time after time he would slide down on to the seat of the couch.  After about 2 dozen attempts, he figured out that he wasn't going to be able to reach the cat along the top of the couch and ran off to do something else.  It was really cool and funny to watch.  My favorite part was seeing the determination in his face to reach the cat.  Life is amazing.  And before I leave you to your own devices for the day, I have one last quick story.  At my parents pool, we have a little swimmy vest (the kind with a tube that hangs on your shoulders and secures between your crotch) that our son hated before.  This past weekend, my dad told him that he wouldn't be able to go into the pool unless he put it on.  Well, guess who decided that the swimmy vest wasn't so bad after all.  As soon as he heard that, he put it on and was ready to in.  I guess he understands more than he lets on sometimes.  I must say, I enjoy every minute I get to spend with our son! Till tomorrow, enjoy the beautiful weather (if your in CT that is).

Monday, July 29, 2013

Demolition Completed

As of yesterday I have completed my fourteenth straight day of work and yes, I am getting ready for a vacation from it all, next week.  I still have 5 more days of work to go, and while it may seem like a drop in a bucket, it will be a long five days.  This past weekend luckily was not too hot and not too overly humid.  Yet, working in a second floor room without insulation, very little ventilation, and no A/C made for a sweaty weekend.  This weekend began the renovation of our son's new room to make way for our new child come February.  The room that was demolished this weekend was by far, the worst room in the house, and the oldest.  The ceiling was comprised of very old plaster with paint that practically fell off if there was even the slightest hint of a breeze and the whole ceiling was covered with sheet rock.  So there were two layers on the entire ceiling.  The walls, on the other hand, while having only the original plaster, probably held about 30 layers of wallpaper on top of which there were about 10 layers of paint.  Can anyone say lead contamination?  So to prevent any lead getting into the rest of the house, I created a hallway of plastic leading from the second floor room to the outside and right into the dumpster we rented.  It took the entire day Saturday, with my dad's help, to rip down the walls and ceiling, leaving only rafters, studs, and joists exposed, and to obviously clean it all up.  The ripping down was the fun part, the cleaning up, not so much.  All in all, we went through over 60 heavy duty contractor garbage bags in order to remove all the debris with as little dust migration as possible.  Despite the fact that I had hallways of plastic running through the house, I still wanted to keep as much dust as possible confined to the room that was being demolished.  All in all, I'd have to say we were pretty successful at doing that.  All the slats that hold the plaster to the wall were thrown out the front window into a pile in my front yard to be used as kindling for fires.  Seeing as none of the slats were exposed to paint and contained only some plaster dust, they will be perfectly suited for burning.  So, with that done, on to the cool part of what we found. 
I pretty sure I have mentioned before at some point that the original part of my house is extremely old, dating back to the 1850's.  The part that dates back that far was the part we were working in this weekend.  It was originally a barn that was moved to its current location and turned into a house.  That makes my house at this point approximately 163 years old.  A part of me can't even comprehend that my house is still standing after that period of time.   But it is, and probably due in part to the way it was originally constructed, post and beam.  For those of you that don't know what post and beam is, it is a method of construction that does not use standard studs as you would normally find in most houses.  The studs in most houses act as the supporting structure being spaced approximately 16 inches apart.  In a post and beam house or barn, like mine, you have massive corner posts, about 8"x8" with beams that connect the posts together.  Along with that, you have angled support beams that offer extra support from the posts to the beams.  With most post and beam construction, the posts are notched out so that a beam can fit tightly into the notched area, and then it is either bolted or pegged with wood to prevent it from moving.  It is really cool to see a post and beam house and at some point, I will post pictures of what it looks like.  Part of the reason that I think my house is still standing is due to the fact that almost all the wood in the house is old growth wood.  By that I mean that it came from forests that grew slowly, over time, and have a dense ring format within the wood.  The tighter rings of the tree mean that it is denser, stronger, and less likely to shrink or rot over time.  If you went to drive a nail into any of the wood in my house with a hammer, the nail would bend and probably not go in.  The only way to really drive nails in is to use a nail gun.  Even putting in screws to attach the sheet rock is a pain as half the heads of the screws snap off as you try and drive them in.  So for the sake of the room I am redoing, I will have to add some studs to the walls in order to hang the sheet rock as the supports that were used for the plaster will not be sufficient.  It will definitely require more work than I originally anticipated, however, such is the case with old houses.
So with the walls and ceiling ripped down on Saturday, yesterday began the process of ripping up the sub floor that had a lot of bounce and give to it.  I wanted to make sure that the floor joists were structurally sound and would support everything we would put into the room.  The pulling up of the sub floor was not that hard of a process, however, cleaning up all the old plaster detritus that had broken loose from the ceiling below took a while.  I probably removed about 200 pounds of plaster scrap just from in between the first and second floors of our house.  On top of that, I got a nice surprise and found some more old nob and tube wiring.  For those of you who don't know what that is, it was the original way of running electrical wiring in houses.  Instead of having one wire that had a positive, negative, and ground all wrapped up as we do today, you had only a positive and a negative, run about a foot apart, with reinforced cloth insulation, and no ground.  They were run through porcelain knobs that kept the current away from the wood, and over time, they would normally disintegrate.  Junctions in knob and tube wiring, where current was run off the main line to a light or outlet, was usually just tying two wires together and wrapping it with electrical tape, no junction boxes as we know them today.   On top of that, when they removed a fixture, they simply taped off the end of a wire and left in the wall or ceiling, as I found twice under the floor boards of the room.   In my house, luckily, the insulation around the wires is still in pretty good condition, however, it will all be replaced with new wiring for safety.   So everything got ripped out, and I even started reinforcing the floor yesterday with cross braces to reduce the bounce that the floor once had.  I just need to make sure the door to that room remains closed at all times as there currently is no floor and anyone who ventures into that room could potentially fall through to our living room.  Needless to say, I'm tired.  With that, I must sign off for today and get myself ready to do some more work for money. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

2 Year Molars & Throwing Rocks

Every day with a 21 month old son brings both new challenges and achievements.  He is a wonderful little boy, but sometimes, as my wife is finding out this summer, you need to dig deep to find the patience to deal with him.  As I am sure every parent knows, the world of a 21 month old is largely centered around him or her.  Sure they know you are there and enjoy having you read them books, but everything must be on their terms.  We have mostly made it through the hitting phase with our son, you know, the times when he walks right up to you and starts hitting you with the palm of his hand because he has figured out how to hit.  Doesn't matter where he is hitting, it all seems to be perfectly OK to him.  Yep, that was our son a few weeks ago, and despite our best efforts to curb all hitting, it lingers between him and our pets.  It came out of no where, and luckily it didn't last too long.  There was just one day when he came over pointed to one of our heads, and when we bent down so he could touch it, he started hitting instead.  He would also just randomly walk over and start hitting our legs or arms, whatever struck his fancy.  Well, there was no toleration for hitting on our part.  He obviously figured out pretty quickly that we didn't enjoy being hit because he doesn't hit us anymore.  There were a few times when I had to sit our son in my lap and just hold him still till he calmed down a bit.  I think he hated being seated and held so much that he figured hitting wasn't worth the punishment, even though it never lasted longer than about 30 seconds.  However, our one area that we are still working on is him walking up to our pets and trying to hit them.  He has gotten better, however, we are not out of the woods yet on this one.  Oh well, the joys of being a parent.  The other area that still needs some work is with throwing things at people.  While the hitting has stopped, the throwing of objects has picked up.  Our son tried throwing books at me recently in hopes that I would read them to him.  I told him since he threw the books that I wasn't going to read them.  Despite the fact that he isn't talking yet, he understood quite well and hasn't thrown a book at me since.  Yet, there have been a number of times when my wife has been watching him during the day where other objects get thrown. 
It is kind of funny to hear the stories despite the fact that it isn't really funny when it happens.  My wife will be working in the garden or sitting in a chair in the grass when all of a sudden she will get hit with rocks or dirt.  Turning around, there is our son who has just thrown a handful of rocks or a shovel full of dirt at my wife.  At his age, its exploration, testing limits, pushing boundaries, and you can tell there isn't any malicious intent behind the throwing, however I can't imagine its that much fun to deal with.  I personally have yet to be pelted in the head with a rock or dirt.  I'm kind of hoping that it doesn't happen, but we shall see.  On top of all the fun we have been having with throwing and hitting, he is getting his two year molars in.  Despite what some people might think upon hearing that, it hasn't been that bad at all.  There are few times here and there where we can tell he is in some pain, but for the most part, he is acting perfectly normal.  Of course, yesterday he went to daycare (one of his two days a week) and sparked a small fever and hives due to the teething.  Well, fever alone will send you home from day care, despite the fact that he is acting perfectly normal, and so my wife had to pick him up early, just as everyone else there was getting ready to eat lunch.  Such is life.  All in all, he is dealing with his teething exceptionally well.  So enough about all that stuff, and on to the fun things.  Our son's vocabulary, in terms of attempted words and partial words, is definitely growing.  At times he will attempt full sentences, however, there is almost none of it that makes much sense right now.  Individual words he is getting better at, but the long strings are elusive at best.  He is learning more songs and attempting to sing them which is definitely cute.  He has his favorites, Baa Baa Blacks Sheep, Twinkle Twinkle, and Old MacDonald Had a Farm.  With Old Mac, it is really cool because I can start singing it, stop when it gets to Eee I Eee I Oh and he will sing that part for me.  Consequently when we get to the part of the animals, I pause and he normally chooses the cow and does the sound when the song calls for it.  He is definitely getting to be a lot more fun. 
Perhaps my favorite part about every day is at the end when we have to clean up his toys.  He is getting really good at helping to put away his toys before going to bed.  We ask him to help and he does.  I only hopes he continues this habit for years to come.  In terms of food intake, he is keeping up with the best of them.  For breakfast, we have had to alter what we feed him a little.  He got tired of eggs so that went by the wayside.  We tried peanut butter on a toasted English muffin which lasted for maybe a couple of weeks before going by the wayside.  Now we are on to one of his all time favorites, blue berry pancakes.  We make enough batter to last a few days and every morning as I am cooking up my eggs, we cook him three pancakes.  Depending on the day, he will either eat 2 or 3, but never just one.  Simply put, he loves to eat, as long as it is on his terms and the food of his choosing.  We cut out dairy from his diet at the behest of his pediatrician because she felt he was allergic to it, at least mildly.  So without cheese or diary milk, we have switched to almond milk, which he absolutely loves.  Some days he will drink five full sippy cups full of almond milk in addition to all his water.  That does mean he pees a lot more, but at least he is staying hydrated and getting enough calcium.  And I swear he is getting taller by the minute.  But I guess that is suppossed to happen, that whole growing thing.  One last thing before I head off to start the rest of my day.  We have a window in the living room through which he can see cars go by on the road.  We also have a set of weights on a stand there.  One of his latest favorite things to do is to bring a snack over to the window, set the snack on the weights, and just eat and stare out the window at the cars driving by.  Its one of his favorite places to be and if we are ever in doubt of where he is, we just have to go to the window and 9 out of 10 times he will be there.  What a little bundle of joy!  Well, till next time, got to run. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Death and Social Media

I had an odd thing happen yesterday.  As I was trolling the posts on Facebook after posting the link to my blog, I came across a post from a good friend of mine.  While we don't see each other nearly as much as we used to mostly due to our crazy lives, I still consider her a good friend that I have known for nearly a decade now.  Essentially, the post notified the world that her boyfriend had passed away a few days earlier and it also gave the dates and times of the wake and funeral.  To be honest, I was a little shocked that I found out about it in the manner I did.  Its not like I was one of her friends who would have immediately received a call about the death of someone close, but I guess I figured I would have found out some other way than on Facebook.  Thinking about it after the fact, I don't know if I would have known about it until I saw her next and asked how her boyfriend was, just to be awkwardly told that he had passed away.   Regardless of my feelings on the matter, it seems that everything important, or at least some of the major important events of people's lives are now only shared on Facebook.  There is an assumption made by most people that everyone around them should know the details of their lives based upon their Facebook pages.  Frankly, I don't have the time to scroll through every one of my friends' pages just to keep up with what is happening in their lives.  In addition, I prefer to be told over the phone or at least in at one to one text message about something important that happens.  But that is me.  However, I must admit that I too fall into that group at times that assumes people know details about my life based upon Facebook.  As such, I am the occasional hypocrite.  Am I happy about it?  Not exactly, but what is one to do when the lives of most of one's friends are governed and seemingly controlled by an addiction to Facebook.   I could probably tell you all the favorite eateries of certain friends just by checking Facebook.  I could tell you how often they work out, where they work out, where they travel to, and all this without having a conversation with them.  In essence, the art of conversation is dying.  Conversation is not so much anymore about the important things in one's life, those are covered by Facebook, but rather about the inconsequential details that end up boring us cutting any conversation short.  That is, unless we have worked on having conversations with others and can still maintain a conversation.
But back to my friend and her boyfriend's death.  When I saw the post on Facebook, my immediate thought was, what the hell happened?  I had only met him a few times, but he seemed like a really good kid and from what I could tell, the two of them were extremely happy together.  In fact, I think it was one of the longer relationships that my friend has actually had in a long time.  I scrolled through all the comments and I am pretty sure that every single one was offering condolences.  Well, I actually thought about leaving my own condolences online, but then thought better of it.  How trite and meaningless are those condolences?  People are already scrolling through Facebook, distracted by every single post, update, viral video, and then to post a quick condolence to a friend who lost a boyfriend seems overly trite.  I couldn't leave one online for everyone to see.  Plus, I wanted to know what happened.  So instead, I turned off the computer, went to my phone, and sent her a text offering condolences and also asking what happened.  Was it a car accident?  Alcohol related?  Terminal illness that no one knew about?  I had no clue, but with someone that young, the possibilities are endless and they all went through my mind.  It turns out it was none of the above, but rather an accident that happened while the were doing what they loved; hiking.  I don't know the details and at this point I won't press my friend for them, but from what I gather, her boyfriend was on a tricky part of a trail, lost his footing, and went over.  A horrible way to go, but at least it was while doing what they loved.  As for the whole notification on Facebook, it is what it is.  Society changes and we can either resist the change or go with it.  We may not like where it takes us, but that doesn't mean we have to change everything about the way we do things ourselves.  We can still hold on to the "old school" way of telling people good news or as it turns out bad news, or we can embrace the long reaching hand of Facebook to notify everyone.  As for myself, there are times when utilizing Facebook to notify friends and family members is a lot easier than finding everyone's number and reaching out on a personal basis with them.  Yes, it may be the easy way out, but in this day and age of little to no time to do anything, sometimes we have to take that easy way.  We may not like it, but we will be left behind if we totally turn our backs on it. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Beginning the Long Burn Out

Last week definitely took its toll on me in terms of the heat.  While at the paint store yesterday, they mentioned that they had a serious drop off in sales due to the heat.  They said that it was just too hot for painters to do much work.  Well, that wasn't the case for me.  Despite the heat and humidity, it was sunny out with very little threat of rain, and as such, I decided to take advantage of it and work even harder to get as much as possible done.   Its questionable how much extra work I got done due to the extra breaks I needed to take in order to stay hydrated, but I did actually get a significant amount of work accomplished.   Then came this past weekend with the completion of my pavilion in Vermont.  Two long days of work after a week of working outside, and yesterday it was back to work again, no break in between.  As I was thinking about when I was going to get a break (forgetting about my upcoming vacation), I realized that I am not going to get one anytime soon.  This upcoming weekend will be another work weekend at home, so again, no break.  It will be three full, solid weeks of work before I get one week off.  So what is this coming weekend that is so pressing that I won't get a break?  Well, this weekend starts the necessary project of gutting our guest room and re-making it into our son's new room so that our new child can have his old room which has the crib and everything all set.  Most people would question the necessity of gutting a room down to studs, ripping out the sub floor, raising the ceiling, and all that fun stuff.  But let me explain exactly why all that needs to be done, and done in a very careful manner during which my wife and son will be staying over at my parents house.  You see, our house, as I have mentioned before, was originally built in the 1850's.  Our guest room, which will become our son's room, has plaster walls with multiple layers of wallpaper coated with multiple layers of paint, all of which are peeling.  Yep, you guessed it, there is most likely lead somewhere in that mix.  The ceiling is a crumbling plaster that was covered with sheet rock at some point and is probably an inch taller than I am, hence the need to raise the ceiling about 6 inches. 
Continuing on, for the whole room which is about 14'x14', there is one plug, hardly enough to do much with.  Making it worse, there are no lights.  Lets move to the floor.  I am a little concerned with the floor as when I was re-doing the floor in the hallway this past winter, I noticed a distinct curve to the joists holding the floor up in the guest room.  As the joists that hold up the living room floor are tree trunks that were carved to size, I am guessing that the guest room contains the same.  On top of that, there is a lot of bounce in the floor which doesn't make me overly comfortable.   Take it one step further, while we had insulation blown into the walls, there is none in the ceiling which doesn't really make for an energy efficient room.  So that, in a nutshell is why this weekend I will be ripping everything out of there, completely, down to the studs, ceiling, and floor joists, and putting it all back together.  This weekend will solely be dedicated to demo, nothing more.  While I am hoping to get it all done on Saturday, I know how I am with estimates on time and am guessing that it will probably take longer than just one day.  And once I am done with the demo, it will be back to work next week.  Again, without a break.  I will be taking a week off with my family the first week of August to spend on the beach on Cape Cod, but despite that, my weeks and weekends will be blending into one both before and after that for the foreseeable future.  Hence, the beginning of the long burn out.  I felt the effects already on Sunday after I got home.  I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep, which I did, however, my body doesn't like to get too much sleep I have found and even with all the work I did, the lack of energy I had, with going to bed at 8, I woke up at 2 ready to go.  I did manage to sleep on and off for the next 2 hours till my alarm went off at 4, but I was tossing and turning the whole time.  I guess after about 6 hours my body starts the whole wake up process.  I just love it (sarcasm).  So for now, I will keep trucking, working days and weekends, getting paid only for the weeks, and hope that I can take some extra time off this fall or winter.  Probably not, but the hope is there.  The one week vacation will definitely be a great help and probably give me the energy I need for another 6 months or so.  Only time will tell.  But for now, at least, seeing as it is a rainy day, work will be a little bit lighter and less strenuous, hopefully.  Till tomorrow, when the sun should be shining and providing me with more tanning ability, be well. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Long Weekend

This past weekend, while not long in the sense that most people might think of a long weekend (i.e. more than two days), it felt long and was physically exhausting.  Why, you might ask?  Well, it all started back on Friday with plans to leave for Vermont by myself around 4 in the afternoon.  The whole purpose of my trip this weekend was to finish the pavilion that was started a few weeks ago.  As such, I wanted to get up there on Friday while it was still a little light out so I could set a few things up, unload the van, and prepare myself for work on Saturday.  Well, as most often happens when plans are laid out, mine were foiled.  My wife wasn't feeling well on Friday, a little sick to her stomach, and was having trouble watching our son by herself.  This actually worked out a little better for me in the short term as Friday was by far the most humid and felt like the hottest day of the week.  I was going to leave early anyway, but instead I left about an hour earlier to go home and help watch our son.  So I got home, watched our son, put him down for a nap, and then ran some errands to get supplies I needed for Vermont.  Once that was done, I went back home, and got all my stuff ready to go.  He woke up, and I continued to help watch him.  My wife wasn't feeling much better through the day so I stayed home until he went to bed around 6.  During the course of the afternoon, I would make periodic trips out to the van to pack it up and get set to go.  I wasn't able to finish packing everything while he was awake, so when my wife went to put him to bed, I finished the packing.  With our son down, my wife relaxing, it was time for me to hit the road at 6:30 in the evening.  My thought was at least I would get up there and be able to get everything set up super early in the morning.  The drive wasn't horrible as I missed most of the rush hour traffic, but it still took about 3.5 hours.  I was trying to make it before it was completely dark, but that didn't quite work out.  Oh well.  On the drive up, however, I was treated to an amazing lightning show.  As I was driving up I-91 in Vermont, there was a massive cloud was ahead of me in an otherwise cloudless sky that would light up every few seconds with a bolt of lighting, sometimes a few at a time.  It was really cool to watch and at the same time, I was hoping that I wouldn't have to drive through the inevitable rain that was probably happening underneath that cloud.  As it turned out, I got to see the lightning, but no rain as the cloud was a little too far north for me to drive through. 
So when I got to Vermont, it was pitch black and sprinkling a little bit.  The drive up to the campsite is beautiful in the day time and little bit freaky at night as there are no lights, no houses, just a trail surrounded by trees that only the headlights of the van can light up.  Once I got there and unpacked just the necessities (meaning beer, pillow, clothes in that order), I tried to relax.  It took me over an hour before I was tired enough to go to bed, about 11:30, and at that point, I had to find one of my dogs.  I let both of them off the leash and free to roam when we are in Vermont as they never go that far.  The older one, Princess, wandered off for a bit and then hung out with me in the shed.  The younger one, Aspen, wandered off, and I didn't see him till I started calling for him.  Calling for him didn't even work.  So I had to go searching.  I found him at the other side of the clearing rolling a tire down the hill to occupy himself.  For those of you that don't know, Aspen is a maniac, smart, but also a little psychotic.  He has figured out how to grab a car tire, roll it down the hill to the stream, and then fetch it by himself.  So that's what I found him doing in the pitch black at 11 at night on Friday.  Once I actually got him to drop the tire and come to the shed, I wound down and passed out.  Saturday was a rough day.  I woke up and right off the bat my back started hurting.  Either I didn't have enough water to drink the day before or I pulled something.  Regardless of what it was, I knew it was going to be a long day.  Breakfast was finished by 7, I unpacked the van and set everything up by 8, and then went to get the rest of the lumber I needed at the lumber yard.  By 9 I was back and started working.  Despite my back hurting and having a severe lack of motivation to do anything, I didn't stop working till about 630/7 on Saturday evening.  I finished getting all the roof joists up but had yet to start actually installing the roof.  I physically couldn't do anymore and called it quits for the day.  I cooked up some burgers, started a fire, and began to relax.  I actually fell asleep in the chair by the fire a few times and by 9:30 I was ready to actually go to bed. 
Sunday, woke up a little before 6, cooked breakfast and was back working by 7.  I got to work putting on the roof and didn't stop till I was done, about 11:30 in the morning.  At that point, I still had to run a few errands before cleaning up the campsite and heading home.  My plan was to leave between 12:30 and 1, however, I didn't actually get on the highway till almost 2.  I just wanted to get home at that point, so I booked it.  I think I made it in record time.  I pretty much traveled the whole trip in the left lane doing about 80 mph.  The speed limit for the most part is 65, but there were plenty of cars on the road so I was hoping that by keeping up with the other speeders that I would avoid getting pulled over.  As it worked out, I only saw one police officer on my side of the highway and he already had someone pulled over, score! The whole rest of the way I didn't see any cops and I made it home in 3 hours and change.  I managed to shave a little over 25 minutes off my trip.  I am just happy that the pavilion is done and that I don't need to worry about it anymore.  On top of that, we now have a covered area to protect us from any potential rain we might get up in Vermont.  Things are slowly coming together up there.  However, my back is still acting up a little bit so today should be fun at work.  We shall see how it goes.  In any case, time to get cracking and get myself ready for another day at work.  With a working weekend, I won't be getting any days off anytime soon.  Oh well, I'm still young and can handle it right now.  We shall see how much longer that lasts for. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I Dream of Snow

Is it too early to be dreaming of snow, perhaps the blizzard we had this past winter, to try and stave off the heat?  Some people love this hot and humid weather.  I for one, will tolerate it, but will never ascribe the words "love", "like", or "enjoy" to it.   I know that I am belaboring the point of this current heat wave, and for that matter, the previous one we just got through a few weeks ago.  However, when you work outside all day, feel the fluctuations of the heat between the shade and the sun, and become drenched with sweat the moment you start working, you get the undeniable right to complain about it, at least a little bit.  Yet, I don't think I have really complained too much outside of my morning blog.  Yes, the heat is on outside, but there is nothing that I can do about it, so I work as hard and as fast as I can while pounding at least 200 ounces of water back a day.  There is something to be said about working outside in the heat as much as I have been.  To a certain extent, your body does get used to it.  I can now sit in the shade during lunch and not sweat.  The only problem with sitting down to lunch is that my body dries off, I relax, and when I stand up and feel the heat of the sun, there is absolutely no iota of my being that has a desire to start working again.  So I work, I sweat, and I make it through the day, sometimes barely.   I mentioned the heat wave at the beginning of this week and my brother, who was vacationing briefly in Las Vegas, commented that it was over a 100 there during the day, every day.   Well, that's just fine and dandy, but I don't work in Las Vegas, I work in Connecticut, and when the temperature gets over 90 in Connecticut with humidity, it feels about the same as it does in Las Vegas without humidity.  On top of that, he was vacationing, so he had the unique ability to pop into an air conditioned building should he have had the desire to, and as such, I have no sympathy for him.  No offense to anyone else who lives in an area with ridiculous hot temperatures but I don't live there, and there is probably a very good reason that I don't, namely, I wouldn't go outdoors very much. 
But back to snow.  All this heat drives my desire for a winter such as the one we had back a few years ago, I believe it was the winter of 2010/2011 when we had snow storm after snow storm that kept on dumping snow.  That is my kind of winter.  Cold, snowy, drifts everywhere, and not a spot of humidity to be found.  What could possibly be better than a blizzard?  Not much in my mind, except perhaps a beautiful spring or fall day with the temperature around 65, no humidity, and a cool breeze.  I have had people tell me that if I want to have that year round I can go live in San Diego.  They are absolutely correct, if that's what I wanted, however, I don't.  I love the changes of the seasons, even if it means getting slammed with a number of heat waves over the summer.  Getting through the heat of the summer and being able to witness the splendid fall colors that erupt come September and October makes every bit of sweat worth it.  And then the snow.  I love the snow and don't think I will ever get tired of it.  I even enjoy shoveling it.  And then spring, when the earth comes back to life, sparks up with beautiful flowers, leaves on the trees, and warmer weather.  I wouldn't trade any of it, even the heat of summer.  When you think about it, the period of time when we get the heat waves is small compared to the rest of the year, so I will suck it up and work right through it.  People ask exactly how I work through it or ponder how I can even work outside all day at all.  I know it will sound simple and stupid, but the name of the game is to not think about it and focus on the work at hand.  And of course, dream of blizzards and being surrounded by mounds of snow.  That helps as well.  For me at least, with a body that loves to sweat, I must be overly careful with how much water I drink and how many breaks I get in the shade.  There are always a few times every day when I feel my head getting a little fuzzy and need to take a breather in the shade with some ice cold water.  I know its not even good to get to that point, but sometimes its inevitable.  I know the signs, I drink my water, and I wake up the next day to do it all again.  That's all.  For now, another day in the heat begins, for now at least in the cool environs of my house.  Stay safe all you outdoor workers, and for those working inside, do me a favor and if your A/C stops working, don't complain. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Too Beautiful?

I know it might sound crazy for a guy to be writing this, but sometimes I just feel sorry for females in this country.   To begin with, despite what everyone says about women making as much as men in top positions in the work place, they still haven't reached a place of equilibrium yet.  Then there is the plethora of magazines and everything else that suggests a woman needs to be a size 0 with absolutely no fat on her body in order to be beautiful.  While not overtly stated, I'm pretty sure that we all know the suggestion that the better you look, the farther you will get both in life and in work (despite the fact that its unlikely true).  To top it all off, women can't be too beautiful either, and I'll explain why.  As I was reading the NYTimes this morning, I saw an article which caught my eye.  It was an op-ed piece about a case in Iowa in which a female dental assistant was fired for being too beautiful.  Yes, you did read that correctly, and I will re-state it again, a woman was fired for being too beautiful.  It appears that the dentists felt threatened by her beauty, felt it was too much of a temptation, he might fall into a trap and have an affair, and to top it all off, his wife felt the same way and urged him to fire her.  As is the case with everything in this country, the woman filed suit by way of gender discrimination.  She lost in the lower courts, appealed to the Iowa supreme court, and lost again.   The courts upheld this dentist's reasons for firing this "too beautiful" dental assistant and she is out of a job.  The courts didn't uphold the dentists decision based upon gender discrimination, but through a subversive way that essentially skirted the main issue.  The main issue in this case is that the man apparently has a jealous wife and no apparent self control.   For every two steps forward we take as a society, we inevitably take at least one step backwards.  To me it is downright absurd.  If a man fears losing his control over his actions to the point where he might have an affair with an employee, he probably shouldn't be married.  I can hear the arguments already.  "But its natural to be attracted to beautiful people."  "But people's interests change and perhaps he doesn't find his wife attractive anymore."  The fact of the matter remains that it was his choice to hire her and, whether he likes it or not, he is in complete control of his actions and can decide whether or not to act upon his feelings. 
Lets be honest here, most men walking down a street will at least look at a beautiful woman walking the other way (unless of course they are attracted to men).   Even women, despite the fact that most won't admit it, will look at a good looking man walking down the street.  Does this mean that we should ban all good looking people from walking down the street because they might incite a person attracted to them to act upon their feelings?  I think not.  We are all in control of our actions and if we truly love the person we are married to, then it shouldn't matter if we are around beautiful people or not.  On top of that, since the dentist was married, shouldn't there be a certain level of trust between the two?  That is unless, of course, the dentists screwed up in the past and had a different affair.   Yet, all trust seems to be diminishing, not just among that dentist's marriage, but amongst other marriages as well.  We spend so little time these days focusing on the one people we are married to that we lost touch with them and begin to lose trust with them as well.  Perhaps instead of firing that dental assistant, the dentist should have gone to therapy with his wife to resolve some underlying trust issues.  No, instead he fires her for being too beautiful and gets away with it.  So much for gender equality in the work place.  And the worst part about it is that the courts upheld his decision essentially paving the way for all men in positions of power to fire beautiful female employees because they are too much of a temptation.  Talk about a load of crap. 
What we really need is to focus less on how people look and more at their capabilities of performing a certain job.  If the dental assistant was completely competent, and actually did a good job working for this specific dentist, then there should have been no grounds for firing her.  Granted, employers get away with a lot worse, I know, but what is this opening the door to?  Who knows.  Let us all focus not on how people look, but rather on who they are and the content of their character.  I have met many people over the years and I can assure you that being pretty or ugly is in absolutely no way, shape, or form and indication of high intelligence or good character.  I have met both beautiful and not so beautiful people who are both lacking in intelligence and character.  Conversely, I have people on both ends of the spectrum who are ridiculously smart and have good character.  There is no magic solution.  In the end, it can't be about the looks, even though it still is.  My only hope is that this case in Iowa doesn't create an atmosphere in which people get fired for being good looking.  Ah life, how you baffle me sometimes. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Family Matter

So my grandfather, Dziadziu in Polish, has not been doing so well lately.  Within the past couple of weeks he has been rushed to the hospital twice from his assisted living facility for issues with congestive heart failure.  This is the same issue that he dealt with last year about this time when he first had an episode where he began having chest pains and it turned out his lungs were filling up with fluid.  What it all boils down to is that his heart is tired and not functioning like it used to.  In fact, two of the valves barely work at all.  At this point, there is one option that could be utilized to help him live a little bit longer, but he doesn't like that option; surgery.  The surgery wouldn't bring him back to a hundred percent obviously, but it would give him perhaps a few more years on this earth.  But, as I said, he wants nothing to do with it.  He knew of the option last year and declined, and once again, after these two latest episodes, he is still declining to have the surgery done.  To be honest, a big part of me doesn't blame him for not wanting to undergo surgery at his age of 87.  He has lived a good life and at his age, surgery is a lot more complicated than it would be on a younger person.  The only reason that he has made it through three episodes of his heart failing in the past year is that he is at an assisted living facility that is within a minute of a hospital.  If it wasn't for those two factors, he probably wouldn't be here right now.  There is one minor hiccup in his decision not get surgery however, and that is my grandmother, Babci.  For his whole life, my grandfather has done everything for his family, and when it came down to taking care of his wife, my grandmother, there was absolutely no hesitation.  When she went blind due to diabetes over a decade ago, he did everything.  He helped wash her, helped her to the bathroom, cooked food, cleaned the house; in short, there wasn't anything he didn't do.  Yet, as time went on and his own health started to deteriorate, they needed help.  Thus, they are in an assisted living facility where he doesn't have to do as much, despite the fact that he wants to.  Even now, he cuts up her food and feeds her as she doesn't have the self confidence to do anything on her own.  Herein lies the issue. 
As much as I admire him for taking care of my grandmother to the extent that he has, part of me wonders if he hasn't created a monster in the process.  (I use monster in the best possible way and not literally obviously).  With him doing everything from washing my grandmother to feeding her, he has enabled her to get by without doing anything on her own.  As she is younger than my grandfather, she has a very good chance of outliving him.  Yet she can barely do anything on her own.  There is simply too much fear of the unknown on her part and not nearly enough self confidence to learn anything at this point.  I wonder what will happen to her if and when my grandfather passes away.  The assisted living facility where they currently reside will not permit her to stay as they require that residents be able to partially function on their own, which includes going to the bathroom by yourself, essentially taking care of the little things that pertain to life, washing, pooping, eating, peeing, walking around their apartment by themselves.  With my grandfather gone, my grandmother would have to move somewhere else, and it would be a horribly difficult transition for her, if she could even make it.  Here is yet another kicker; the doctor's are giving my grandfather a maximum of six months to live unless he gets the surgery done.  There is now an unfortunate timeline that he is on and yet he still refuses the surgery.  As I said, a big part of me agrees with him for not wanting to get the surgery done, however, a small part of me wishes he did, just so he could maybe ease my grandmother into living her life without him.  Wait, there is one more kicker, he doesn't want to tell my grandmother that unless he gets the surgery he only has six months.  I don't know what to do.  He is a stubborn Polish man, just like the rest of his family, and most likely won't listen to anything that I or anyone else says.  My only concern is that without telling my grandmother, the shock of losing him will be that much greater and consequently that much harder to deal with.  I personally don't see a good ending to any of this. 
At this point, I don't know what to do.  I pray for him, and hope that maybe he will reconsider the surgery, while at the same time hoping that he stays his course, at least for his own sake.  They have another doctor's appointment this coming Thursday during which maybe the doctor can talk some sense into him, yet, like I said, part of me agrees with him in not getting the surgery done.  My biggest desire is that he at least prepares my grandmother during the remaining time he has so that his death doesn't hit her like a brick wall.  I feel for both of them.  I only wish that my grandmother had listened to her doctor's 15 years ago when they told her that the diabetes she had would make her blind and partially deaf.  She didn't, the diabetes took its toll, and we are now left with our current situation, all of which sucks.  I could imagine things turning out differently, but it wouldn't do any good.  I could say that maybe if she had taken better care of herself than my grandfather would also be a little better off, but none of that matters.  They made their decisions and here we are now.  It sucks dealing with three grandparents with failing health, but it is what it is.  For now, I will simply pray for all of them and hope that whatever happens, they suffer the least amount of pain possible.  As long as they don't suffer, I will be happy for them.  I know that they won't be around forever, but it doesn't make watching them decline any easier.  For now, let us hope that my grandfather tells his wife exactly what is going on and doesn't create the illusion that he is doing better than he actually is.  Let us hope. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Next Heat Wave

I know I already talked about a heat wave a few weeks ago, but here we are, the middle of July, and are facing a much stronger and longer heat wave in Connecticut and other parts of the Northeast.  Most people also already know that I am not a big fan of heat and humidity.  The heat alone wouldn't be so bad, but add in humidity that hovers between 70% and 80% and being outside becomes downright miserable.  OK, so perhaps it isn't completely miserable, I guess it could be worse, but its definitely not that much fun to work in.  This morning I took my dogs on their usual morning walk.  Normally, at 4 in the morning, its much cooler than it is at any other time, and it was as usual.  However, the air felt, looked, and smelt stagnant, heavy, and loaded with moisture.  There were wisps of low lying clouds, banks of humidity, just hovering periodically above the street, largely unmoving, just poised and waiting for something to move them.  It was still a nice walk, especially since I didn't start sweating at all, but just feeling the air made me dread going to work just a little bit when I know that the forecast temperature of 90-95 will most likely be exceeded.  Its usually the case these days, the meteorologists tell us that the temperature will be 90 and it usually gets at least 2-3 degrees hotter, not that big of a difference, but enough to push out that little extra bit of sweat.  All I know is that I do have a lot to be thankful for.  In terms of my job, the work isn't excessively hard in terms of lifting and moving heavy objects or working in direct sun, so I'll not complain too much.  I could have a job as a roofer in the direct sun for the whole day, sweating buckets as a black roof heats up the air around it even more than is necessary.  I'm glad I don't work as a lineman with bulky clothes up on a lift working on electrical wires.  That would just be miserable.  And lets not forget the firemen who have to don heavy protective gear and fight fires on days where it feels like you might burn up just from being outside.  So I definitely could have it worse.  However, none of that will make the 90 degree heat feel welcome today, tomorrow, or for that matter the rest of the week.  It will be a long haul, but I'll make it through somehow. 
I am also quite glad that we have A/C units installed in our house.  With a pregnant wife and 21 month old son, I couldn't imagine leaving them in a house without A/C.  If we didn't have it, they could always go to my parents house, hang out there and cool off in the pool, but that won't be absolutely necessary.   We have discovered that our son has a response to heat and humidity much like I do, the sweat just starts oozing out of his pores.  Yesterday afternoon we ventured outside for a little bit, were out there for about half an hour, and with five minutes, it looked he had jumped in a pool and had gotten out without drying off.  He never looked miserable, he was just dripping sweat.  I would apologize to him for giving him some of my genes, but on the flip side, he will do well in the winter when it gets really cold.  Like me, I have a feeling that he will love the cold, at least when he gets older.  For now, though, we will simply dream of winter and snow and try to imagine that today and the rest of the week are cooler than it actually will be.  Needless to say, I will be taking plenty of water breaks today, time in the shade to settle down and cool off before beginning to work again and getting drenched.  I only hope that there is a little bit of a breeze today to help cool things off.  I doubt it, but I can hope.  There is one other benefit that I am looking forward to today and that is I will be working closer to the shoreline than where I live.  As is normally the case, the shoreline should be about 5 degrees cooler than it will be at my house.  I will take any little break that I can from the heat and humidity and will embrace the fact that I will be working in marginally cooler weather.  For now, I must go and prepare myself for the day, pack lots of ice and water, and of course a little bit of food.  I never eat as much on days like today, mostly because I am just not as hungry after drinking tons of water.  Oh well, bring on the sweat mother nature, I am ready for you (maybe)!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Freezing Moments

I am sure that every parent has had the feeling that they would like to freeze moments in their child's life, moments that stand out from the rest and make a parent excited and happy to be a parent.  I am no different.  I was thinking the other night as I drifted off to sleep that I would just like to capture and hold certain moments in my son's life that make me smile, laugh, get excited, and surprise me.  The list of moments that I would like to freeze is never ending as every day presents a new moment for me to remember, to hold, and to cherish.  Some of those moments are amazing in my mind, others are simply cute, and others are just downright adorable.   The list I speak of, part of which I will go through today and which by no means will be a complete one, starts with an activity that my son just figured out how to do within the past two days.  That activity, rocking himself in a rocking chair.  It is by far one of the coolest things I have seen him do yet.  We have a little rocking chair, just his size, that he can scoot into and sit in.  Well, yesterday after I got home, he got in the chair and started rocking it almost to the point of tipping it over and at times almost rocking himself right out of the seat.  He has figured out the body motion necessary and the correct timing to rock it incessantly without stopping.  He even went so far as to grab a book in his bedroom, climb into our full size rocking chair that we sit in when we are putting him to bed, and rock himself while flipping through the book.  I also want to freeze the moments when, at 21 months old, he grabs either my wife's or my hand and walks right down the stairs from our second floor, no but used, no railing, just a hand and his feet.  He has also taken to walking right up the stairs while holding our hand without using his knees at all.  Talk about progress. 
I want to freeze the moment when I come home in the afternoon, open our back door, and am greeted by my son shouting somewhere in the house, "Dada!" and running into my arms to give me a hug.  I want to freeze the moment when I am holding him and he wants to help stir whatever is cooking on the stove.  The moment when he points at the coffee maker and wants to make coffee for his daddy, pushing the button on the coffee bean grinder, bringing me to the place where the coffee filters are, opening the coffee maker, pointing to the next steps, and finally pushing the button to start the coffee making process.  The moment when he takes a small dust brush for the floor and tries brushing his hair with it.  Or the moment when he grabs the electric clippers we use to cut his hair and runs it through his hair in imitation.  The moments where we chase each other around the house, him laughing and giggling the whole time, and then just hugging each other when he gets tired.  Or the moments when in the midst of chasing, I hide around a corner, jump out, scare him a little, and all he does is smile and say, "Hi!" afterwards.  The moments in the morning when I go to get him out of bed, start rubbing his back to wake him up, and he just lays there letting me rub his back.  Or the moment like yesterday when I am hunched over on the floor petting our cat and he starts rubbing my back.  The moments when he wants to dive face first from my lap over the arm of the couch, onto the couch.  The moment when I pick him up from day care, he sees me, drops what he is doing, and runs right over into my arms.  The moment when I look over outside and he is weeding, despite the fact that he is weeding actual flowers.  The moment when I look over and see him carrying firewood over to me, almost too heavy for him to hold.  The moment when we start cleaning up his toys at the end of the day and he helps put everything back where it belongs.  The moment when he spills some water on the floor and points to the paper towel so he can clean it up.  Or the moment when I walk into the room and realize that every piece of furniture has been scribbled on with chalk, and partially wiped off by him as well.  The moment when he wants to help vacuum with the full size vacuum cleaner.  The moment when he puts on one of my hats, backwards so he can see, and wears it till he goes to bed.  Or the moment when anything can become a hat, a wipe, paper towel, box, or newspaper. 
These are just some of the moments that I would like to freeze in my son's life.  I could go on and on, probably repeating some of them because I just think they are awesome, but for now this list will suffice.  I am sure as I walk away from the computer this morning I will think of many more that I wish I had written down but didn't.  One being that despite the fact that our son has never played with one of our iPhones, seen how it works, or anything, can find one, carry it around, and say incessantly into it, "Hello?"  He is just amazing to watch grow up.  I truly can't believe that it has only been two years and that just a year ago, he wasn't even walking yet.  What progress he has made in his short life so far.  Every day, every moment, brings unexpected surprises, teaching moments, moments that require a plethora of patience, yet in the end, every little bit of it is worth it.  I wouldn't trade any moment away.  Even those moments that are trying end up teaching me more about myself and how to handle situations.  As parents, maybe we should pay a little more attention to our little ones as they too, have a lot to teach us about life.  Through learning how to be patient and deal with them on their level, perhaps we can learn more about how to deal with each other in the real world.  For now, though, I must end my writing.  It is Friday and I must be out of the house early.  To all moments that every parent wants to freeze, I raise my coffee mug and take a nice big swig!  Cheers!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Miserable Neighbors

So, yes, I do have one seemingly miserable neighbor, but I never talk to her and she mostly keeps to herself and her small cadre of friends.  That is not the miserable neighbor I am referring to today.  Rather, today I am talking about a neighbor of a customer of mine that I am currently working for.  The job is an exterior paint job so naturally, every day that it is nice out, I am outside working on that house.  Almost every day that I am working on that house, I hear yelling from the house next door.  In almost every instance I hear yelling, whether or not I can hear what the actual words are, I can hear the anger and frustration in the tone of the yelling.  I am sure that we all know the difference between someone merely shouting to be heard across a great distance and someone yelling in anger or frustration.  There is a distinct difference in the tone and pitch of a person's voice when they are yelling in anger or yelling to be heard.  This couple next door, almost every day, yells at each other in anger.  The more I work at this house, the more I have come to see that this is not a one time ordeal, not the small argument that happens to blossom into an all out tirade and blow out.  Rather, this is the way these people are, ingrained probably from birth, and now passing it along to their future generations.  You see, the couple I am referring to is probably in their 60's if I would have to guess as they have children, and their children have young children.  As if it wasn't bad enough that the older couple likes to yell at each other over seemingly everything, their children yell at each other, and their children's children yell at each other.  It is one miserable family that, unless I have my music turned up on my iPhone, starts to make me miserable and contemplate actually going over there and asking if they would like me to call a therapist for them, or maybe the police to simply quiet them down.  They are belligerent and have seemingly no concern for anyone else around them.  Granted, they are yelling during the middle of the day when, for the most part, people are at work, but guess what, I am at work and have to listen to the yelling.  I swear, one of these days on the job, probably towards the end when I am finishing up, I am going to yell at the top of my voice "Shut Up!"
The yelling isn't simply reserved for when they are outside as I have seen them drive away in their car with the windows down, yelling at the top of their lungs as if the were in an arena or something.  The few conversations that I have managed to overhear have been over the most mundane and stupid things.  Part of me thinks that they just like to get made and yell, that's it.  The other day, the wife went out for a bit while the husband was working in the yard.  It was a hot day and as such, when she returned, she parked halfway down the driveway under the shade of a tree.  When she walked the rest of the way down the driveway and started talking to her husband, he yelled, "Where did you park!"  Her response, shouted of course, was, "In the shade, its hot out!"  Not letting her get the last word in and probably trying to just to be a thorn in her side, he shouted back, "It's not hot, its beautiful out!"  Mind you, this was ten in the morning and the temperature was already in the upper 80's with stifling humidity.   There was nothing beautiful about the day.  I can reassure you that the husband didn't really think so either because when I first saw him in the morning at about 8, he was already sweating.  To make it even worse, the older irate man even yells at his grandchildren.  The whole family was preparing for an outing the other day and as they were getting everything into the car and ready to go, the grand kids couldn't do anything right.  They were in the way, they weren't helping, they wouldn't sit in their seats, they were complaining, they were...whatever.  Mind you, its not like the grand kids are tiny as both are probably over the age of 8, but the grand father is just a miserable old man who isn't happy about anything.  How a person or couple gets that way, I have no idea, but I could always surmise.  There are two options that I can think of that would lead a couple to the point where they are at.  Either they have been that way their whole lives and this is just the way they are so it seems normal to them or communication has never really been a strong point in their relationship and as such everything gets resolved with yelling.  Part of me wonders how they have stayed together for so long. 
Well, that is now off my chest and I can get back to normal, at least until I hear them start yelling at each other again.  I am only glad that I don't have those type of people in my life.  I was even thinking yesterday that if they did call me to work for them (which they probably won't), I don't think I would be able to.  Knowing how they act around each other, I would either tell them that I didn't want to work for them (which wouldn't be proper business etiquette) or I would give them such a ridiculously high price that they probably wouldn't hire me.  In any case, I am moving along at the house next to theirs' so hopefully I won't have to listen to them for too much longer.  That's my little rant for today.  Tomorrow, on to brighter and lighter topics other than irate, vengeful, miserable neighbors. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Tougher Pregnancy

So far, this second go around at having a child is taking a much greater toll than the first one did.  The first one, obviously resulting in our currently 21 month old son, was a breeze compared to this current one.  When my wife was pregnant with our son, morning sickness seemed to last only about 2 weeks after which there was just the perpetual tiredness.  There were a few tough times when she tried to do too much and hurt her back a little bit, however, for the most part, she blew right through the pregnancy with ease.  This time around, things are a little bit different.  The most notable and obvious difference is that we already have one child, an almost 2 year old who is running straight into the terrible twos (which really aren't that bad unless you add in a pregnancy).  Aside from the fact that we already have a son who demands our attention, morning sickness doubled in duration and was much more debilitating than the first time around.  That has past, but it required extra doses of the vitamin B-6 to alleviate the nausea.  Even now, if my wife doesn't eat at least every 2 hours, the nausea returns.  But the worst of that has past and life is returning to as close to normal as we can get, which with a pregnancy and a son, isn't quite so normal.  Yes, there is the benefit that both our children will be close in age, but the times right now are trying on both of us.  My wife, who thought that she got tired quickly with the last pregnancy, is now exhausted by 7-730 and usually in bed between 830 and 9.  There is so much that needs to get done around the house and seemingly no time to get it all done.  My wife has even taken to napping while our son naps (she is a teacher who is off for the summer and can luckily do that).  On the days that she doesn't get the ability to nap, I can usually tell the difference as soon as I walk in the door in the evening.   My wife will be exhausted whether or not she gets a nap, but when she doesn't, her whole demeanor is completely different.  Such is life, however, and it is only 9 months, not a lifetime. 
This pregnancy has also had a greater impact on me.  I have heard it said that when a woman gets pregnant, her husband does as well.  I couldn't agree more with that statement in relation to this current pregnancy.  No, I am not growing a belly to make my wife feel better, I am just going a little batty trying to keep up with what needs to get done around the house.  I can't honestly expect my wife to maintain her involvement in the house when she feels the way she does, so I have taken on extra in the mornings and evenings when I am home.  The summer has alleviated it somewhat since she isn't going to work and getting super exhausted, however, there is still a lot to do and not quite enough time to get it all done.  While I used to have a few crazy days here and there, it seems like every day now is completely crazy.  My life has gone to warp speed with the only break being the sleep I get at night.  (Trust me, while I am writing this I know that some may take it as complaining, but it isn't, its just a story of my life and how crazy it currently is.)  I usually do some extra dishes in the morning to help keep up, then comes my crazy work day in the heat and humidity.  Despite the fact that I have a plethora of work that needs to get done and could probably work till 8 p.m. every day, I usually try to make it home by 6 so I can see my son before he goes to bed.  The increased money from getting the work done quicker would be nice, but I would miss seeing my son and that is more important than the money.  So after I get home, spend at most an hour with my son, and put him to bed, its time to make dinner, do some more dishes, clean up a little bit, and then actually eat dinner with my wife.  By the time we are done eating dinner, she has gone from sitting up right on the couch to a reclined "on the verge of sleep" position.  Depending on when we are done eating, I usually head outside to take care of some yard work that never seems to go away.  There were a few weeks where nothing got done outside and it got to be extremely over whelming.  So I try and chip away at it a little bit every evening.  By the time it is getting dark, I then head into the garage to work on some project for the house, either building a shelf to keep electronics up and out of reach of our son, or simply fixing the toilet paper holder for our bathroom.  By 930, I'm done, exhausted myself, and usually head inside to bed.  So that's my day living with a pregnant wife, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 
Sure, I could refuse to help out as much as I am, but that's not who I am.  Plus, if I didn't help out, there would be a lot more that just wouldn't get done around the house.  Such is my life currently, a blur that I am trying to keep pace with.  The unfortunate side effect is that I haven't felt like doing much in terms of keeping up with my business.  There are phone calls to be made, estimates to be written, all the other B.S. that comes with owning your own business, I just don't feel like doing any of it.  When my life is crammed as full as it is, I need a little down time.  That down time comes in the evening before I got to bed and in the morning with my daily dog walk and my writing of this blog.  That's my down time, the rest is crammed full.  I know I just need to get used to it and start keeping up with my business a little more, I just can't do it right now.  Perhaps its just the heat and humidity that's doing it to me.  I can hope at least.  So for now, my crazy morning must get started and my writing must come to an end for the day.  Would I change any of this?  No, while it may be tough, its my life and I am loving living it. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My Little Swimmer

This fourth of July weekend, despite being incredibly hot and humid, has also been a lot of fun.  No, I didn't enjoy the excessive heat.  But yes, I did get outside, work on Friday, work around the house Saturday morning, and probably lost about 10 pounds in the process.  The fun I am referring to is the time spent with family, both my side of the family and my wife's yesterday.  Most of all, I enjoyed watching my son run around like a little nutcase, go swimming three of the days, and discover his first hot dog which turned into three in one sitting.  First off, the hot dogs.  (I actually saw a commercial yesterday, what for I don't know, in which one of those skinny, thin, small, dogs jumps through a burning hoop, sizzles, and turns into an edible hot dog on the other side.  I couldn't stop laughing)  Anyway, our son is a picky eater.  He doesn't like any type of beef, pork is OK some of the time, he loves bacon, and chicken is a crap shoot.  Vegetables are slowly growing on him but mostly we have to hide them in other food in order to get him to eat them.  Mostly, though, our concern is with getting him to eat protein.  He loves peanut butter, he did love eggs, but then he didn't, so we have no idea on any given day what exactly he will eat.  Well, on the fourth of July, we found out that he loves hot dogs.  He had tried one earlier in the year and refused to even let it touch his mouth.  So on the fourth we were skeptical as to what would actually happen when we tried giving him a cut up hot dog.  He actually tried it and subsequently couldn't get enough of it.  He went through one hot dog very quickly, progressed to a second hot dog which he downed, and then we had to cook him a third in order to satiate his hunger.  Once the third was done cooking, he polished that one off as well.  Talk about a ravenous 21 month old!  It wasn't just the hot dogs that he was downing, but all of his favorite foods.  The following morning he proceeded to eat three regular sized pancakes.  And then for dinner he had another three hot dogs.  Then there were three hot dogs on Saturday as well.  Throw into the mix a plethora of fruit which he absolutely loves and I think we have a growth spurt coming on.  Perhaps the cutest is his new found love of plums which he just grabs out of the refrigerator and starts eating, the juices covering his shirt, arms, and floor.  Maybe he is turning a new leaf in terms of eating.  We can only hope. 
So enough about food and on to swimming.  Last year we got him in my parents pool and he absolutely loved it.  We had a little floating island for him to sit in and that's all he did.  This year we tried putting him in one of those tubes that hang on your shoulders and gets secured through your legs to allow a toddler to float, however, he wanted nothing to do with it.  We tried the floating island with no success either.  He just wanted to be held in the water, so that's what we did.  While he loved being in the water, splashing, and giggling while splashing, I think he had more fun running around the patio surrounding the pool.  Every so often he would want to come back in for a bit, but soon after getting in, he would want to get out and run around again.  The good news is that when we were holding him in the water, he would start kicking his legs, a good sign that he will be a quick study when it actually comes time to learn how to swim.  As much as we would tell him not to run around the pool area, he is only 21 months and has a mind of his own.  So, instead of listening, he ran, and the cement patio took a toll on his knees as he would trip every so often and scrape them.  Almost every time he fell and scraped his knees, however, he would be right back up within seconds running again.  Talk about a resilient little boy.  Then came yesterday and a little kiddy pool at my wife's Aunt's house.  We went up there for an afternoon BBQ with a bunch of her family.  They had a little pool set up with about a foot of water in the bottom of it.  Over the side of the pool there was a little plastic slide that one of our son's cousins was using to slide into the pool.  He saw that and wanted to climb up fully clothed and go in.  Well, that wasn't happening, so we went inside and changed him into his bathing suit.  After that happened, all bets were off; he wanted in that pool.  He climbed right up by himself and for the first few times we helped him down the slide into the water.  A couple of times he went completely under but we were right there to pull him up coughing and spluttering, and he went right back to the slide.  The water didn't phase him at all.  After a few times, he was on his own going down the slide.  He would climb right up, slide down, get out of the pool and repeat.  Needless to say, it was a lot of fun to watch.  If only the pool was a little bigger, I probably would have joined him in the water just to cool off from the heat.

One thing is definitely for certain in regards to swimming; it tires him out completely.  He has been sleeping extremely well after his time swimming and we definitely aren't complaining.  Its not that he was not a good sleeper without the swimming, he just sleeps even longer than before after an afternoon of swimming and running around.  It will definitely be interesting to see what happens when we bring him to the beach in Cape Cod during our family vacation in August.  For now, he will just have to wait and be content with running around like the little lovable nutcase that he is.  In terms of being a little lovable nutcase, my favorite part of every day is when I get home from work.  It doesn't matter where he is, as soon as he sees me, he starts saying, "Dada, dada, dada" and runs over to give me a hug.  I cherish every hug I get from him as I know that one day, about 11 years down the road when he becomes a teenager, he will probably run the other way when I try to give him a hug.  So these early years will be my favorite I am sure.  They already are.  Just watching him explore, figure out exactly what he is capable of, and learn how to use different objects is amazing.  Even now, I let him figure out most things on his own unless he brings them to me at which point I will show him how to use something.  This past Saturday morning we went outside nice and early.  I had some weeding to do around the yard and he had some playing to do with various objects lying around.  Once outside, we went our separate ways in the backyard.  Wherever he went, I made sure I was weeding in such a place where I could keep my eye on him.  Every so often I would glance over to make sure he was OK and not about to injure himself, and 99% of the time, he was completely self absorbed.  A few times he came over to me, sat in my lap, and just leaned back.  I kept on weeding, talking to him, and after a few minutes he would get up and go back to whatever he was involved in.  I absolutely love it.  Perhaps my favorite part of that morning was when I glanced over to see him carrying a piece of fire wood half the size of him in both hands.  He was coming over with the wood to obviously give me a present or have me do something with it.  Not sure of his intention, I thanked him for the wood and told him I was going to put it on the wood pile.  He nodded his head yes, so that's what I did.  I just love the fact that he is independent yet also enjoys just cuddling from time to time.  To me, its the best of both worlds. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

The First Transcontinental Roadway

As I sit at my dining room table, pondering, my mind wanders away from me.  Glancing out the window, a thin sliver of moon gracing the early morning sky slowly changing colors from black to deep blue, to a pale turquoise; I begin to envision a drive along our nation's first transcontinental roadway.  That roadway, the Lincoln Highway, turns a hundred years old this year and I first heard about it today as I read an article in the Travel section of the New York Times.  This would be the perfect morning to head out on a cross country road trip.  Humid with heavy oppressive air, sitting in a car with the windows down and the sun climbing its way into a cloudless sky would be the perfect remedy.  While I would need to travel a bit to the start of the roadway near Times Square in New York, that drive alone could be made traveling Route 1, the Post Road, another transcontinental roadway going north to south instead of east to west.  But I digress.  The original transcontinental roadway, the Lincoln Highway, was originally a gravel roadway that traversed our country from San Francisco to New York City, over 3,000 miles.  Today, the drive can be done in 1-2 weeks, a far cry from the gravel roadway that I am sure took at least a month to travel.  That roadway I am sure, began our nation's passion for the open road, the drive into the horizon with no clue of where we are heading or where we will end up.  Its a fascination that has gripped me since I was little and I used to travel with my parents by car everywhere.  While I have never made a transcontinental road trip either with my parents or by myself, it is on my bucket list of things to do in my life.  (Speaking of bucket lists, perhaps it is time to begin one for myself).  I could always hop on one of the Interstate highways and make it across country in under a week, but I would miss the foundation of the United States, the small towns, the winding roads through hills of the east and mountains in the west, and of course, the straight as an arrow roads that cross our mighty plains.  For myself, small towns are the backbone of our country, no two the same, and every population containing its own micro-culture.  Perhaps that is part of the allure of traveling through those small towns, the not knowing what you will find.  For the most part, unless you are entering a tourist town, most small towns welcome you with open arms and an inquisitive glance.  And lets not forget the ghost towns that dot our landscape, testaments to a bygone era. 
Even greater than the allure of the small towns are the ghost towns, not always on the main road, but sometimes down a dirt side road that used to be the center or hub of mining and industry in an area.  With the land drained and opportunity dried up, people left and those towns remained, slowly rotting, yet still holding those memories of people who once walked their streets.  If ever there was a way to step back in time, it is to walk the streets of a ghost town, close your eyes, and imagine the sound of horse's hooves pounding the packed dirt roads people mingling outside the general store and saloon.  Not that I would ever wish that type of life upon myself, but it tickles one's imagination to think of what it must have been like.  In our hustle and bustle these days to get everywhere as quick as possible, we never take the time anymore to simply take the back roads, drive a little bit slower, and see the landscape that holds the true beauty in our country.  We can fly by some of it on the highways, but we never get to appreciate it the way we could from the back roads where at a moments notice we could pull over and linger for a bit.  I too get caught up in the hustle and bustle of modern day life, but there are still times even in my short trips from work to home, where I will take the back roads, just to enjoy the drive, get away from the insane people flying on the roads, and enjoy the gentle breeze blowing through the window.  I remember a few trips that I took when I was younger where the only roads I took for hours were back roads.  One such trip was from the Canadian border with Vermont all the way home by back roads.  The trip took over 7 hours, but it was damn well worth it.  On that trip alone, we passed through many small towns that I never would have known existed if I had taken the highway.  Passing by sprawling farms in the valleys of Vermont, traversing small mountain passes, searching for those elusive signs that tell you where the road takes a sharp left turn; I would have missed it all from the highway and the wall of trees that blocks the view of almost everything except for distant mountains.  Its trips like those that I will remember for a lifetime, perhaps in great detail, but I can remember that trip taken 10 years ago better than all the trips I have taken up to Vermont on I-91 over the past few years. 
There was another trip I made around the same time that was similar in nature albeit this one was made solo.  I was traveling up to New Hampshire to visit a few friends at college and instead of taking the highway, I decided to map my route taking only back roads.  Once again, I don't regret a second of it.  Both there and back, the back roads were my mode of transportation.  Going there, I used a map to find my way, but the way back was a little different.  I decided to wing it, just start driving and see if I could find my way from New Hampshire home to Connecticut.  Its not like I was going that far overall and I knew that once I got back to Connecticut that I would be able to figure out how to get home, but driving without directions, without a map, without a GPS, is something that I love doing.  There are no specific turns to make, no correct route home, only roads and directional markers telling you approximately where you are headed.  For all I knew at the time, I could have ended up in Rhode Island, still not that far away, but a minor deviation none the less.  However, I didn't end up in Rhode Island, but I did manage to find some really cool roads along the way.  To this day I still remember one section of the trip back through Connecticut.  I was traveling route 66 in northern Connecticut and it was foggy as hell.  As I came up a larger hill, the trees parted, a farm enveloped the roadway on both sides, and the fog hung daintily in the few trees that lingered by the roadway.  I passed a large red barn and all I could think of was that I was lucky to be there.  The fog held me and my car, I slowed a little to drink in the sight with my eyes, and held that there as long as I could.  I can still draw up that picture in my mind and bring myself back there at will.  I can never do that when I have been driving on a highway unless I see something truly spectacular.  Yet a farm with a barn and some trees is relatively unspectacular; unless your meant to see it at a certain point in time, which I obviously was ten years ago.  So one day, I hope to drive that first transcontinental roadway across our mighty nation, drink in the sights and sounds of a mostly rural life forgotten, and bring myself back to the beginning of our love affair with cars and open road.  Regardless of how high the price of gas climbs, my love affair with the open road will never diminish, never.