So Brave

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Things are turning a corner. Last week I was informed that I got a new job at my current company, it is a promotion and its the most excited I’ve ever been about a role.

In addition to that, I’ve been stressed, busy, driving all over the place for the past couple of weeks, but this weekend, I just stayed home and did yard work, cleaned up my car, tidied up the house, and relaxed.

We did make time to sneak into Pittsburgh and visit The Strip. The kids and I love The Strip, lots of vendors, tasty food, toys, sounds, and people. On our way back to the car, I dared the kids to go into an old abandoned building filled with graffiti. Winston first agreed and when he made it to the center without consequence, his sister joined too. I told them I wanted to snap their picture and their faces convey, “I am so not scared by this.”

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We also went to Target and did reconnaissance on the Halloween section and costumes. We can have fun anywhere.

I am traveling down to DC for a couple of days this week and a big Pepper Festival in Pittsburgh this weekend. Perhaps I can goad someone into eating the Carolina Reaper pepper!

Unplugging In West Virginia

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I had once driven by Seneca Rocks (featured above) and thought, I need to climb up to the top of them. I couldn’t that day, I was in a hurry from one point to another, but filed it away for a later date.

The past couple of weeks at work have really stressed me. By Thursday, my head was beginning to hurt and I knew that I was on an unsustainable course, I suggested to Jaclyn that we take a little trip into West Virginia for a day to push the reset button. We booked a hotel room at the Canaan Valley Resort which was extremely reasonable and a great value for the money. It was well maintained, modern furnishings, had an indoor swimming pool and arcade! There were also ski lifts, bike riding, golf, cabins, and camping sites too. Before we checked into the hotel, we drove to Seneca Rocks, which were about 30-40 minutes away. On our drive to the rocks, we passed 3 cattle that escaped from a farm and were running full speed on the right lane of the highway. A couple miles later a big black bear bolted in front of our car, which gave us a fright, then we were all scared on the bear’s behalf as it narrowly avoided getting hit by a tractor trailer carrying enormous pieces of timber.

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The trail to the top of Seneca Rocks is relatively short, maybe a mile or two, but it is a barrage of switch backs that get the blood pumping in your legs. At the top, they encourage you to stop at the observation platform, which is just short of the rocky peak. More adventurous folks scale the rocks just beyond the platform to get to the top of the top. I climbed up about half way, snapped the picture above, and felt a tremendous amount of fear take over and descended back down to the safety of the platform. A half dozen more sure footed crazy people were lounging on the sunny rocks at the top, nestled on a 10-15 foot wide area with sheer cliffs dropping hundreds of feet on each side.

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The resort had tons of wildlife and the deer were fully aware that hunting was not permitted there. It was not uncommon to drive slowly feet away from half a dozen deer grazing, they were outside our hotel room balcony, and we could even see them hanging outside the window while we were taking advantage of the indoor swimming pool.

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We hiked down to the bottom of Blackwater Falls, it was a very loud waterfall, but beautiful and easy to navigate with well maintained stairs.

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The arcade had Guitar Hero and I managed to get my name on the high score list on several occasions. The image above is for my performance of La Grange by ZZ Top.

 

 

 

Summer Time

A couple pics taken from the summer that I wanted to share. Lucky enough to bump into free Pirates tickets a couple times this year. The last time, our kids and I parked about 3 miles away and rode our bikes to the game and locked them on a bike rack right in front of the stadium. The kids love baseball games because there is good food and ice cream, I do not think they know or care if anything is happening on the field.

Benny and Rosie have become huge fans of eggs, thanks to trips to my parent’s house where Dad makes them a breakfast of eggs and bacon. When Benny returned home with his cancer diagnosis, I decided to treat him to the breakfast too.

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Benny and the Dog Healthcare System

Game of Thrones was back on for its season premier of season seven on July 16, 2017. In the Deem household, this is the biggest TV event of the year and probably the only reason we subscribe to HBO (although I did watch The Wire from start to finish and think it is the greatest TV show of all time). Anyways, as the show starts up, my big black dog, Benny, pulls up to the couch and lets out a long and disgruntled groan. I chalk this up to him not getting enough attention from us and tell him to scoot away so I can pay attention to the show.

Benny collapses with a thud and makes odd noises all through the show. It was odd behavior, but it didn’t at all have me worried yet.

As we all went to the master bedroom for bedtime, Benny followed us in and continued with his odd noises, walked up to my side of the bed, stared into my eyes and cried for awhile. I let him outside to go to the bathroom. I tried going back to bed, but he kept whining and crying and so I took him into the kitchen and poured food into his bowl. He did not eat the food, which could only mean one thing, he was extraordinarily sick (as this was the first documented case of him not eating something). At this point, Benny sat on the kitchen floor to block my path back to the bedroom and earnestly tried to communicate to me, “Hold up bro, you cannot go to bed, this is something serious.”

I was super exhausted and had no desire to take Benny to the 24 hour pet hospital that was sure to be expensive, but Benny pleaded with me and he is been an amazing dog, plus I would feel guilty as heck if he ended up dying and I hadn’t prevented something preventable, so off we went to the 24 hour pet hospital.

We walked up to the receptionist and explained the symptoms, they offered a $90 evaluation to check vital signs and potentially diagnose the issue. That didn’t seem too bad, so I said, “Sure, check out the pup.”

We were told to wait in the waiting area and I sat on a nice comfy couch, Benny jumped up and sat next to me and rested his head on my lap. Benny is about 100 pounds and sheds, so not the type of creature they want on their couch. I told Benny to get down, but he wouldn’t budge, it was extremely rare for him to be insubordinate. No one was hassling us, so I succumbed to his protest and allowed him to rest with me on the couch.

Benny was brought back to an exam room and he looked very uncomfortable, he refused to lay on his stomach.

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The doctor came in and was delightful, she did a whole lot of standard tests. Checked his eyes, ears, heartbeat, and poked and prodded his body to see if she could figure out what was wrong with the animal. Eventually she says, “When I push on his stomach, he winces and seems to be in extreme pain. Plus, I can feel something large inside his stomach, perhaps an obstruction.” It was now past 1AM, I was exhausted. I asked what she thought the issue was and how we can quickly remedy it. She said it could be many things, he could have eaten something like a bone or corn cob that got lodged into his intestines (extremely probable) or he could have a birth defect and his intestinal track was tangled or poorly designed (unlikely), but in either case, the only way to know for sure was to do x-rays.

“How much are x-rays?” I asked. The doctor said I need to go back to the waiting room and she will whip up a proposal. Benny and I go back to waiting room, the dog is limping around in horrible pain. I watch the clock ticking, bored, tired, and growing more agitated with my dog who probably ate something he had no business eating. The doctor returns and produces a proposal for $560 in x-rays to diagnose the situation. The situation has now escalated beyond what I initially hoped, but seemed to be guiding us towards a conclusion. I authorized the x-rays and around 2:30AM the doctor comes back and explains that there is something really unusual happening inside Benny’s stomach, but she could not yet determine if it was blockage or a physical abnormality. She proposed that the best way to figure this out once and for all is to get a surgeon here immediately to open up Benny and look around.  I ask how much this costs. The doctor said she will whip up a new proposal.

It is now close to 3AM, I am half asleep, the doctor walks me through a $5,000 to $7,000 estimate to perform emergency surgery on Benny. The range is due to them not knowing precisely what they will find when they open him up. Despite being half asleep, I fully understand that this is an amount of money that I was not prepared or planning on spending tonight. I balk at this proposal and explain that I am not in the position to make a decision like this without consulting my wife. The doctor explains that there is a credit card application and my dog could very well die this night without the surgery. To make a long story short, we decline the surgery, request that they make Benny as comfortable as possible and just watch him throughout the night and I would take him to his ordinary vet the next day on Monday.

We went to bed that night with our fingers crossed that Benny would not die.

The next day we called the 24 hour pet hospital and they said Benny was stable, we promptly retrieved Benny at 8AM and got him to his ordinary vet for surgery. The surgery at the normal vet was only $1,500, a steal by comparison, but was shocked at how much we were spending on an animal.

Around noon I got a call from the vet who said she was in the middle of surgery and it was an unexpected find, Benny did not have a bone or corn cob in his belly, he had a massive tumor! The doctor explained that the tumor was in a difficult location and it was foreseeable that it ended up chocking an artery and that could have caused it to rupture and may have been the source of Benny’s pain the previous night. In any case, it was intertwined with more arteries and the vet said this could not be done by her without severely compromising Benny. She recommended that she sew him back up and refer him to a surgeon. I agreed.

Benny returned to us the next day and was in happy spirits. A month has passed and he seems to be the same old dog, happy as a clam, spoiled, and completely loved. We passed on taking him to a surgeon, I have decided that a tumor at his age is an ominous sign and more could easily follow or the surgery could go sideways. In any event, he seems happy now and has been extra affectionate. When his time comes, we will do our best to make sure we are making him comfortable, he would be the first to tell you that he has been a lucky dog.

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Pee Wee

Growing up, I was an enormous fan of Pee Wee Herman. As a grown man, I still quote from his movie, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. I watched his show, I watched his movies, he really cracked me up.

One day in college at Bloomsburg University, there was a huge block party at the Sesame Street Apartments (since been demolished). It was a crazy party and I vaguely remember as the day progressed into night, furniture being piled up and being lit on fire, culminating in a good ol’ fashioned riot. This is not a story about the riot though, this is much, much earlier in the afternoon as I was seated on a little patch of grass, no doubt sipping on a Keystone Light beer in a bottle, enjoying the sun as the afternoon unfolded.

My friends and I were just relaxing when all of the sudden, like a mirage, a man dressed exactly as Pee Wee Herman walks right into the neighborhood, completely alone, not accompanied by friends. It was magnificent, I mean, he had the outfit, the haircut, even the pale complexion, for all I know, it was the real Pee Wee Herman. I jumped up, pointed at him like a sailor at sea seeing land for the first time in years, “Look, look, it is Pee Wee Herman!” Not surprisingly, no one in my group of friends shared the same level of enthusiasm, but it did not dampen my enthusiasm. I grabbed a cold Keystone Light, called out to him, “Hey Pee Wee, it is amazing to see you, would you like a beer?”

Pee Wee sauntered over to my spot on the grass, man, he even walked liked Pee Wee. He flashed a smile, nodded appreciatively, and received the beer from me. At this very instant, I felt remarkable. This wedged a tiny opening into a world of possibilities where me and Pee Wee Herman could be friends. I began to imagine the all the amazing angles of having Pee Wee Herman as a best friend when all of the sudden, Pee Wee did something crazy.

Pee Wee twisted off the metal cap of the beer bottle, reared back like Nolan Ryan pitching his famous fastball, and threw that bottle cap as hard as possible at a young lady’s head about 3 feet away from him. The woman screamed, Pee Wee did a perfect Pee Wee laugh, and walked away.

Goodness gracious, I went from hero to zero in an instant. I went from the man who got hysterical Pee Wee to join our group to the man who got unpredictably violent Pee Wee to join our group. The woman was okay, no cuts and fortunately it didn’t hit her eye, but nonetheless, she was not happy with me.

I guess this could have two possible lessons:

  1. Don’t ever, ever, trust Pee Wee Herman
  2. Perhaps, we should all consider what we “like”, “share”, and “follow” and be careful it does not lead to harm, because you don’t want to be the person who endorsed it

In any case, I want to make it clear that I had no involvement in the riots and have always did all that was possible to reduce the likelihood of police involvement of my activities. The riots were always instigated by dumb drunks, protesting nothing, who had false confidence that they could stand up to authority and were always crying when they were taken away in handcuffs.

With that being said, I have a lot to blog about and hope to get back into the swing of things over the next couple of weeks. Did you know Pee Wee Herman was in the original Blues Brothers movie as a waiter?

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July

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After last year’s adventure through Colorado and New Mexico, Jaclyn suggested that the 2017 vacation take a more relaxing angle and just head for the beach. We decided on Corolla, NC. Corolla is at the top of of the Outer Banks, a spit of land in the ocean that will probably underwater when all the ice melts in Antarctica. The r&r at the beach was exactly what the doctor ordered, we spent our days going to the beach in the morning, heading back to the pool at our house, going back to the beach in the late afternoon and enjoying a night swim in the pool before bed. If we were feeling very adventurous, we would head back to the beach with a sliver of light coming from the moon and chase “ghost” crabs all over the beach. I am sure the experience was equally exhilarating for the crabs and my family.

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Our house was on a sandy road which added to the adventure. At night if we left the lights on, bugs would circle around the lights and windows and eventually tree frogs would climb up the windows and doors and gobble up all the insects.

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Hundreds of years ago, boats traveling along the coast transporting people, goods, and horses would over get their boats stranded on this spit of land out in the ocean. In an effort to lighten the boat and get it off the bottom of the ocean, they would coerce horses to jump off the boat and into the ocean. Over the course of time, several of these horses made it to the Outer Banks and formed a rather large herd. As the land became more developed and roads were established, automobiles were more and more frequently crashing into and killing these beautiful creatures. In an effort to preserve the herd and perhaps lower auto insurance premiums, the horse herd was corralled just north of Corolla in an area with no roads, it is completely fenced in for the horses to live in about a 15 mile area. You are allowed to access this area by driving onto the beach. I have never driven my car on the beach before and had a lot of anxiety doing it. My dad has done it before, but my dad is a bad ass Vietnam Vet who can fix cars, make electrical repairs, and can easily back up a trailer (watching me back up a trailer is like watching a blind dyslexic person having a seizure while driving a car). So, I did a bunch of research about driving on the beach and our car is 4 wheel drive, I grabbed a local tow guy’s contact info in the event I screwed up, and gave it a chance. Amazingly, we made it onto the beach and saw the horses, it was majestic. I just loved driving on the beach with the windows down, pointing to things along the way (like a horseshoe crab) and feeling like a manly man for just a moment.

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We rode our bikes all over the place. The kids are getting somewhat proficient at bike riding and I’m only worried about them crashing into someone about 5% of the time now (about 4 weeks ago, it was about 75%). I discovered a little beer garden across the street, it was a ramshackle place that seemed to be constructed of fishing rods, car doors, driftwood, and various nautical equipment. I said to the bartender, “It must have taken the owner a long time to figure out how to pick out the right stuff to piece this place together so perfectly…or maybe he/she just gathered whatever they had laying around and just nailed it all together to make this place.” The bartender smiled and said he was pretty sure it was the latter.

We came home on Saturday, I still had Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday off due to the July 4th holiday. We went to the town’s local fireworks, here’s the grand finale.

 

June, June, June, June

I have been looking forward to June for a long time.

The beginning of June meant  a trip to Palm Beach with Jaclyn. It was a trip for work, but I had been begging her to come along as it is a very nice spot to be away from kids and dogs. Palm Beach is a lovely town, tropical, ocean, breezes, and lizards everywhere. The only problem with Palm Beach is that it is a fortune for anything, so we just sipped on strong drinks and snacked at the time melted all stress away. The lizards were very frightened of us at the beginning of the trip, but Jaclyn began establishing trust with them throughout the vacation and I consider myself lucky that we did not adopt a family of them to be new residents in our Pennsylvania home. We wanted to see an alligator and there was an Everglades park nearby, so we grabbed an Uber and had them drop us off at the swamp and we hiked along beautiful trails until we got stuck in a rain storm. Fortunately, there was a thatch hut with chairs underneath, I could have stayed in there watching the rain all day (video below).

Jaclyn looking beautiful at one of the less fancy Palm Beach establishments. A kid was sitting behind us with a helium balloon, a bird dive bombed the balloon and popped it, it scared the hell out of all of us.

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Later in June we head to the Outer Banks, without the dogs. We will be near the beach and have a little pool. I have created 3 playlists for the occasion: POP, Mellow Out, and Tiki. My daily routine will go something like this:

  1. Wake up early and hike far up the beach to try to find wildlife and cool shells
  2. Go back to pool and lay on float until I get unbearably hot, roll off float and submerge myself in pool water
  3. Mini golf
  4. Fishing at twilight
  5. Eat fresh seafood
  6. Rum
  7. Sleep
  8. Repeat

Rosie, Benny and I have been hiking when time permits, another neat location at Ohiopyle.

This weekend, the entire family went on a bike ride along a railroad track that has since been converted into a smooth flat trail for walking and bike riding. It is called the Great Allegheny Passage and it goes from Pittsburgh to Washington DC (189 miles), we just did 6 miles, 3 miles in each direction. It was extremely gratifying because it was something that the entire family enjoyed and the kids improved significantly throughout the day. In the beginning, Winston crashed his bike every 25 feet, but by the end of the day, he was passing people and showing off his marvelous dare devil skills of riding his bike with one hand. In most parts of Pittsburgh, the roads are incredibly steep and challenging for bike riding, this trail was perfect and I cannot wait to do it again. On our way back from the bike ride, we stopped at a hot dog shop and Winston started asking me all kinds of questions about blizzard in Arkansas, I had no idea what the heck he was talking about, he pointed at a newspaper on the wall and said it was in the newspaper…I doubt that was the article the hot dog shop owner wanted the customers to read about, but Winston filtered out everything else.

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