Funny Burger Story, Wallpaper Removal & Falling Water

A bunch of sales people flew into Pittsburgh to visit my office’s headquarters. They were in town for a big business meeting to discuss the next quarter and what needs to be done to finish the year strong. After the meeting, we all went out to a bar/restaurant up the road, there was probably 15 of us. The place offers this crazy hamburger with 5 types of meat in it, I think it has Boar, Venison, Angus, Buffalo, and Lamb. I figured it was something new and I should try it, I don’t think anyone else ordered it and everyone wanted to someone to try it, I stepped up to the challenge. The waitress starts bringing out the food, 13 of the 15 people get their food and I am still waiting for my 5 types of meat burger. She finally comes back after a real long time and places the hamburger in front of me and says, “I’m so sorry about the wait, here is your burger!” The last person still hadn’t received his food yet, but by this time everyone else was already eating so I decided that I should start eating. I grab the burger and take a chomp out of it. All eyes are on me and the person across the table says, “So, what do you think of the 5 types of meat burger?”

“It tastes like every single hamburger I have ever eaten, remarkably normal.” I take a couple more bites being somewhat relieved and disappointed at the same time when the waitress comes around to the 15th person at the table and places a really strange hamburger in front of him and says “Here’s the 5 Types Of Meat burger, sorry for the wait!” The man has waited for about 40 minutes to receive his food, almost everyone is finished their meals, and he looks back at the waitress and says, “I did not order this, I just ordered the normal burger”. At this point, we all realize the my hamburger tasted normal because I had indeed consumed a normal hamburger and now this poor guy inherited my weird creation. I watched him eat it, he processed it very slowly, I do not think he enjoyed it at all, but he was a good sport about it.

Jaclyn tasked me with removing the wall paper from the living room. I tried this at my old house and it was literally the worst project I’ve ever taken on. We’re talking hours of work for very meager progress. We were optimistic that this wall paper would come off easier. We punched thousands of little holes in it and squirted some liquid chemical all over that is supposed to make it peel right off. Nope, we’re scraping away at this like a monkey trying to peel bark off a tree, fighting over a centimeter of paper at a time. I told Jaclyn that I cannot do it, my head will explode, there has to be an easier way. I head to Home Depot and purchase a steamer. The steamer is the greatest invention ever, we were able to get the entire room done in a single morning, probably 3 hours. I love the steamer, no better way to spend $50.

This weekend we took a trip to Ohiopyle State Park and Falling Water to explore and see if it is worth coming back for a longer period of time, it is gorgeous. Looks like there are a lot of things to do, but mostly rafting, kayaking, hiking, camping, fishing, biking, outdoor stuff. Falling Water is spectacular, if not at first, you have to think about the land before the home was there, how we integrated it into the environment which includes sheer rock walls, a stream, and waterfalls. Frank Lloyd Wright really made an amazing home in a beautiful place, you can usually find one or the other, but this place is both. Plus the sound of a water fall and leaves jostling was quite relaxing.

Falling Water

Power Washer

I forgot to mention that I rented a power washer this weekend to clean up the garage. I went down to Ace Hardware to rent a power washer, the guy told me to meet him out back to pick up the machine and get a basic overview on how to use it. He pointed at this black lever, “this is to open up the fuel”, he pointed at a grey lever, “this is your choke and this gray bar is the throttle, oh, and here’s the on/off switch and before you pull this, make sure the water is turned on”. He kept pointing at all kinds of things and I just kept saying, “yup, ok, sure, ok, yeh, no problem”, but inside my brain I was thinking this seems awfully complicated.

I took it back to the house and somehow got it started right away, it was a miracle. Now the fun could begin, I started spraying the garage down and sweeping out the water, might as well touch up the cement walls too! After spraying down the garage, figured I should spray off the garage door since I had another couple hours on the rental and spraying stuff with the power washer exciting!

Jaclyn came out to inspect and asked that I touch up the driveway since everything that was in the garage was now all over the driveway. I was delighted, more power washing! I called out for Winston and asked if he would like to assist, of course he obliged! I put the sprayer in his hands and told him to just point it at the ground and squeeze the trigger. The force of the spray spun him around in a circle, he did a complete 360 and sprayed me right across my legs. Later that night I noticed I had an abrasion from the incident and didn’t think too much about it. I told a work colleague and he said that some serious accidents happen with power washers and that kids should not be allowed to use them, he even said that a kids toe was cut off once! Fortunately, no toes were lost, but the kids did spend some time shooting it up in the air making rainbows.

Disney, Anniversary, and Pics Off My Phone

I had a bunch of frequent flyer miles stored away and booked us a trip to Orlando for mid January! We will be going from January 17 to the 23. The kids don’t know it yet, so don’t tell them (it will be a present for the holidays)! Dalia is obsessed with Sea World, but Jaclyn is concerned about the treatment of the Orcas, I think we will go and Jaclyn will just have to pretend the whale is happy. Hopefully, the whale trainer does not get eaten while we’re in attendance. Winston is very interested in Legoland, so that may be a day too. We will also spend a day finding gators north of Orlando on a boat tour. We’ll definitely hit up Disney, but we have a bunch of other items on the itinerary.

Today is my 8th anniversary of being married to Jaclyn. When I got engaged, a lot of men advised that it was a bad idea. These were not close confidants, they were work colleagues, guys at the bar, or the local barber who said his wife ruined his life, in fact, she left him for another woman in New Hope. I think the thing that you have to admit is that your life changes significantly when you get married. For example, my weekends used to consist of watching 7 or 8 games of football (NCAA & NFL) and playing 2-4 games of slow pitch softball. If I wasn’t watching football or playing softball, I was fishing on the river. It was glorious, life was pretty awesome. It was quickly brought to my attention that this arrangement would not sustain a happy marriage. A compromise was necessary, so I agreed to only watch the NFL and cut out the college football on Saturdays. I also decided to retire from the coed softball league and just play in the men’s league, which cut my softball time in half. So what in the world filled up that time and was it worth it?

We moved a lot. We started our life together in the lovely village of Frenchtown, NJ (we both think we’ll end up living there again someday), then we moved to Doylestown, PA, then we stayed at Jac’s parent’s house while we scraped together money for a down payment on a home, then we moved to Hartsville, and now Pittsburgh.

We added kids & a dog to the equation. If you think marriage changes things, kids blow the whole thing up! Instead of watching the Eagles game at the sports bar sipping on a Pumpkin Beer, you’re at some farm on a hayride picking pumpkins while checking the score update on your smart phone!

We went on many adventures. I think this is something that I inherited from my father, but we’ve been everywhere that is within a day’s drive. We would go to the beach, DC, Baltimore, NYC, Philly, High Rocks, Ringing Rocks, Ithaca, Hershey, all along the Delaware River and even a couple portions of the Appalachian Trail. That’s a benefit of living in Pittsburgh, it opens a whole new set of cities, towns, and places to explore.

I think the amount of “adventure” in our life exceeds what Jaclyn would have chosen, the amount of softball and football consumption is less that I would have chosen, but I think the blend results in something so much more interesting. For example, imagine how boring this blog would have been if I just recounted my softball performances and going to Tonelli’s to watch the football games? If you go back to my August 2007 entries, you can actually see that the posts were more dominated by video games and softball (many of the images disappeared during the blog transition).

Maid of the Mist

Maid of Mist Deem Niagara

Win & Jac at a wedding

photo 1

Dalia impressed to match her pet “Pammee”

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Dalia trying to make her cheeks red

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A picture of Pittsburgh, I took this from Mt. Washington

Pittsburgh

Dalia giving me a recital

Recital

Jaclyn having fun at the Disney store

Yoda

Train Whistle

My family has a history of kidney disorders & Dalia was showing some indications that she might be suffering from an issue. Out of an abundance of caution we took her down to a specialist at the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital. I dropped Jaclyn and Dalia off at the front door and parked my car in the underground garage, I jogged through the parking lot, hopped over a couple of stairs and glided over to the elevator and pushed floor 3.

On floor 1, the door opens and a woman pushing a child in a wheelchair enters. The kid looks at me with a generous smile and happiness in her eyes, her legs are in an awkward position and she has a tube coming from her throat connected to an oxygen tank. She seems very happy to see me and I tell her how her smile brightened my day.

I got off on the third floor and there was a spectacular model train exhibit for the kids to enjoy. It was enclosed in plastic glass, but kids could push buttons to make lights flash, cars move, and another button to make the train whistle blow. An autistic boy was pushing the train whistle button about 65 times per minute, it was giving him tremendous enjoyment, I stopped and watched and wondered how long he could possibly keep this up or if someone was going to intervene. I couldn’t determine who his parent was, he just kept at. I moved on, turned the corner down the hall and the whistling gradually faded out.

We got called back to see the doctor, a mother with a beautiful healthy looking girl was in the room next to us. Our appointment went very well and we left feeling confident about the plan moving forward to monitor the situation, but were reassured that there was not an immediate danger. As we were leaving, the mother of the beautiful healthy child was visibly upset, her appointment was obviously more complicated.

We were able to leave the hospital and all the people and problems were able to fade out like the train whistle, but I have since felt overcome with good fortune. It is easy to get fixated on the things I do not have or the challenges of replacing a sewer pipe, but we are very, very, very lucky people.

We’re really enjoying the company of my Father-In-Law Jim, sister-in-law Laurie, and her magnificent baby Sidney. We rode the incline up to the top of Mount Washington (which used to be known as Coal Hill). Afterwards, we enjoyed a lively meal at the Hofbrauhaus (pics below). We listened to the Mad Bavarian (an older gentlemen dressed in traditional German garb with a keyboard) crank out the hits of German yesteryear with plenty of yodeling sprinkled in the mix!

Hobrauhaus-Pittsburgh-Location2-225x300 pretzelgirl2-200x300

We wrapped up the night with a quick driving tour through the Oakland section of town where the University of Pittsburgh & Carnegie Mellon are situated.

Two nights ago, we let our dog Toby out late at night and he took longer than normal to come back inside. Jaclyn grabbed the flashlight and pointed it at the back yard and saw a large buck with a big set of antlers standing there, Toby was 6 feet away from it staring right at him. There are a million different scenarios that could have happened at this moment, but fortunately, the best one occurred. Toby finally responded to Jaclyn’s call and ran inside, the buck just continued to hang out like nothing happened.

Cold Turkey

Garage1

A couple weeks ago I posted about the washer & dryer taking us down a sad path of plumbing issues, the path ultimately led to the image above. The picture is of my garage. Plumbers and contractors came out and jackhammered the valley through the garage (and basement) to expose an old corroded broken pipe. The next day they replaced the pipes and on the third day they cemented everything over and we’re back in business. Roto Rooter estimated the job at over $10,000, fortunately, another plumbing company came out and estimated it around $6,600 + our insurance company gave us a decent check that covered about half the costs. We’re now all good to go, the house is in great shape and things are falling into place. So much so, I recently made a big change in my life.

For the past 9 months, I was working crazy hours, driving 10 hours each weekend to commute home, and just overdoing it in all aspects of my life. All this stress to the system resulted in an increased reliance on caffeine and I was often amping up on soda on the long car rides through the middle of the night or stopping at the Starbucks at 6AM before going into work. Now that life is settling down and I’m making an effort to get home each night to enjoy dinner with my family, I decided that caffeine is no longer necessary for a bit, I was going to quit cold turkey.

I quit last Tuesday, in it’s place, I drank seltzer water and regular water. The day went by without any issues, in fact, Wednesday was a piece of cake too. Thursday was a different story, at 2PM on Thursday, my head started to throb, I was exhausted, and I couldn’t do a single thing. I was at work, but barely more than that. I made it home that night, ate dinner, and went to sleep. Friday was no better, in fact, I think a new stage of withdrawal kicked in…anger. I was a grump SOB on Friday and even alerted Jaclyn, I said that I could bring home some takeout, put on a movie for the kids and then try to get some sleep, but I was in a horrible mood. On Saturday, my headache symptoms started to abate, but I had this weird fuzzy feeling in my head and basic activities were still challenging, I was still cantankerous. I bought a Rubbermade Storage thing for our garage to help organize tools and I couldn’t figure out how to put it together, Jaclyn came over and with a kind suggestion, “try flipping that piece over and slide it in there”, I looked at her in disgust and said, “That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard.”, I am not sure how she did it, perhaps from her years as a drug counselor, but she remained calm and said, “can you just give it a shot?”. I tried it and it worked, wow, I am an a-hole. My mood slowly improved over the weekend, but it was never was good.

Today is Tuesday and a week later, I am back in business, I feel really good. The kids have really made me proud over the past couple of days. Winston studied very hard for his spelling test and he got 14 out of 15 correct (he spelled lettuce incorrectly, he spelled it “lettus”). He has shown evidence of taking school somewhat seriously this year, he even received a nice note from his teacher saying he had a great day.

Dalia is now in Kindergarten and she loves it, she even is disappointed when they don’t give her homework. She’s off to a great start and each night she tells us about every aspect of her school day, seriously, she takes us through a minute by minute account of her entire day. She’s made tons of friends too, she sounds remarkably happy. We took her to Allegheny Childrens Hospital for a series of tests and examinations, the doctors said she was a strong and healthy kid, I couldn’t agree more!