Extraordinary Stories

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The "I Can't Believe I Missed It" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just finished checking my datebook I keep on my desk in my office and realized I missed two pretty important dates in 2012. The first was in January and I think I missed it because someone tried to erase it. Didn't get it all and I still could make it out. January 8th was Bubble Bath Day and I had marked that on my calendar. Someone who lives in the house with me must have tried to erase it since she knows I would have bugged her about taking that bubble bath with me if I had remembered. Bubble baths in our house can get pretty wild since we have a tub with air jets and they really whip the bubbles into a frenzy. Well, maybe next year. Anyway, I just missed one of my favorite days of the year. The first Saturday in February is International Eat ice Cream For Breakfast Day. And ..... I missed it. Had it marked on the calendar also, and well, I just missed reading my calendar. Any other day would have been OK, even the bubble day, but I'm really upset I missed this one. Once upon a time there were two children in upstate New York who needed a distraction from the long, dreary days of winter. Their mother invented a holiday that delighted her two young kids, as well as big kids like me all over the globe. On that first Saturday in February she served ice cream for breakfast. And, she has become famous for it!! Over the years the stories of the day has spread until it is now celebrated all over the world. Only requirement for the day are: You have to eat Ice Cream for breakfast. Why didn't I think of that myself? In Lancaster, PA, a few days after February 4th, I read in the local paper about a Creamery in town that created special treats for this day such as: (1) Maple Walnut Bacon Supreme which is a warm, whole grain waffle with Maple Walnut Ice Cream covered with maple syrup, then covered with whipped cream, bacon sprinkles and a cherry, (2) Breakfast of Champions which is a bowl of Grape Nuts Ice Cream covered in banana, strawberries and blueberries topped with whipped cream and a cherry, (3) The WafflingTurtle which is a whole grain waffle with vanilla ice cream coated with hot fudge and caramel sauce topped with pecans, whipped cream and a cherry, and (4) Coffee and Donuts Sundae which is a cinnamon sugar donut with a scoop of coffee icecream drizzled with caramel, topped with whipped cream and a cherry. A bunch of customers evidently showed up in their pajamas, which added to the fun. And ..... I missed it! So then I checked my datebook for the rest of this month and saw I have marked February 28 as the Tooth Fairy Day. That used to be a favorite when I was a parent with very young children. Big celebration was needed for that day. And, did you know that April is Grilled Cheese Month. Wait a minute,I enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches so much I would make every month grilled cheese month. Matter of fact, Carol and I both had lobster grilled cheese sandwiches at the Chesapeake Inn in Chesapeake City, MD last weekend when we took friends to the city for lunch. My daughter is making them on the griddle as I type this. And I'm sure you won't want to miss Lima Bean Respect Day on April 20th, will you. May 14th brings Dance Like a Chicken Day and another one of my favorites the following day in National Chocolate Chip Day. Years ago I used to really be into Paper Airplane Day which is on May 26. Another one I will not miss this year is June 11th. National Roasting Ear Day, or for most of you, National Corn on the Cob Day. On that day you can eat your corn back and forth or around and around. Your choice! Then comes July 1 and International Joke Day. I'm hoping to make that last a month since I have a ton of jokes to tell. Then after my daughter's birthday on the 4th, we celebrate Cow Appreciation Day at the end of the month. This may be a day special just for our town, but it is a mooving tribute to the nation's bovine beauties. Don' have anything marked in my datebook for the following couple of months, but in October we celebrate with National Magic Week from October 25 to 31. Have to visit Ziggy's Magic Shop again in downtown Lancaster to see what I can get to amaze my grandkids. I already have reservations at my favorite sandwich shop, Issac's, for November 3 which is National Sandwich Day. And then we all know what big holiday arrives in December each year. National Fruitcake Day is on December 27 when everyone who got one for Christmas is allowed to toss it in the backyard without anyone complaining. OK, time to close the datebook, but I'm still trying to figure out how I can have another bubble bath day with my wife. Any ideas? It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary day. PS - pixs indicate the Dance Like a Chicken day, the Corn on the Cob Day and my daughter finishing a batch of grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The "50th Anniversary of the Newlyweds" Story

It was an ordinary day. Checking the Sunday News and when I turned to the last inside page of the "Perspective" section, there was a photo of my Aunt Lois and Uncle John. Seems like they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last month ...... and I didn't know about it! Kinda feel bad, but even though we communicate all the time and I see them a couple of times a month, we don't mention anniversaries and birthdays that much. I do know that Lois celebrates her birthday the end of January, since we are only a year and a half apart in age. My mom and I lived with my Grandma and Grandpap for a couple of years when I was born, since my dad was in the Army, and I got to play with her all the time. We would visit 617 S. Prince Street in Lancaster city on a regular basis and Lois would visit with my family on the other end of town at 929 N. Queen St. from time to time. Remember the first time I met John. Lois and I were both in high school at the time and I was visiting my Grandpap when Lois and John arrived for a meal with my family. Neatest guy I thought. Had a beautiful white '59 Chevy Impala with the neatest wings in the rear. Soon as dinner was over we went for a ride in the Chevy. Headed south on Prince St. towards the south end of the Lancaster county where John lived. We seemed to be flying over the back roads. Hey, we were young and carefree and thought we were indestructible. At least John did! What a day. Over the years we got together often. I was in their wedding in 1962 when I was a senior in high school. When I started dating Carol they were some of the first relatives that we visited. I wanted to impress my new girlfriend! And, it worked. We would visit them in Mt. Nebo and one weekend John helped me rebuild my '58 Impala engine. Same engine that he had in his '59 a few years before. Get-togethers, picnics and children followed. I now get to see them often when we both visit with my mom and her sister at Moravian Manor in Lititz, PA where she is a resident. You did figure out that they are the same person, right. Well, it's hard to believe that they have been married 50 years. I can still remember the summer evenings when John and I laid under my car at midnight with trouble lights to get the engine done before the weekend was over. To celebrate their anniversary they are going to take a trip through the South to New Orleans, Florida, Kentucky (their oldest son lives in Madisonville), and finish along a couple of east coast beaches. Talked with them last night and they are excited for their travels. Told them that I often was hesitant about putting my Carol and my photo in the paper when we celebrate 50, since most photos make the people look really old. I know they really are old, but that's what I worry about. Told her her and John gave me hope when I saw their photo. Wow, they look just like they always did. Best of luck to the 50-year newlyweds. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The "Eatin' Em Roasted" Story

It was an ordinary day. Traveled with our friends from State College, Jerry and Just Sue, to the Chesapeake Inn in Chesapeake City, Maryland, along the C&D Canal, for lunch recently. The weather was beautiful and we were hoping for a few large ships to travel on the canal. The canal is 14 miles long and crosses from the Delaware River to the Chesapeake Bay through Chesapeake City. The canal provides a shortcut of about 300 miles for ship traffic between the Port of Baltimore and the northeastern US cities and Europe. It is the only major commercial canal in the US that is still in use, among those which were built during the heyday of canal building in the early 1800s. It opened for business in 1829 with 10 feet of water and four locks and was purchased by the US Government in 1919 and in 1920 was excavated and deepened to create a sea-lever facility with a channel 12 feet deep and 90 feet wide. From 1935 to 1938 it was deepened to 27 feet and widened to 250 feet. We have seen ships of all sizes in the canal from cargo ships to automobile carriers to cruise ships. We enjoy the Chesapeake Inn since it is one of two restaurants that has a good view of the canal as you eat your lunch. I always call ahead for reservations and ask for seats in front of one of their windows overlooking the canal. They always tell me they can't reserve specific tables, but over the past few years they always come through for me. I think they know my voice by now, since most greet me with Mr. LDub when they hear my voice. For lunch today Jerry
chose the lobster grilled cheese sandwich, Sue had some kind of chicken sandwich, my wife had naked fish while I chose the aphrodisiac meal. I assume you know what that is? I love oysters and they have quite a good choice at the restaurant. Besides the fried oyster meal they have a raw bar as well as roasted oysters. That is what I chose for my meal today. You have to buy at lest half a dozen, but they do have six varieties to choose from. I chose one oyster Rockefeller which has spinach, bacon, and sharp cheddar, one Manchego which has parma prosciutto and manchego cheese crust, one Parmesan which is tomato's, capers, extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan crust, and three of my favorites, Chesapeake which is the roasted oyster with crab imperial on top of it. Great variety and with some Chesapeake bay seasoning on my fries, a real aphrodisiac experience. Oysters are an excellent course of zinc, iron, calcium, selenium as well as Vitamin A and B12. They are considered the healthiest when eaten raw, but I just can't handle that. We all had an enjoyable meal talking with our server and having a great time. Only bad part of the meal was that there were no ships using the canal during lunch. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The "Starting You Own Blog" Story

It was an ordinary day. Watching and listening to a seminar on blogging sponsored by Lancaster Newspapers. What is a blog? A blog is a personal journal published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete posts (stories) typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. Blogs are usually the work of a single individual, occasionally of a small group, and often are themed on a single subject. Gil Smart, a columnist for the Sunday News is leading the seminar. Gil, while a student at Manheim Township High School where I taught school, had his locker in the hall by my room. He never took any of my classes, but I got to see him everyday as I stood guard in the hall outside my room. Not sure that he even knew my name. That was years ago and as Carol and I arrived for the seminar, I stopped to talk with him to see if he remembered anything about his high school experience. Nope, not even me! Well, we decided to come to the seminar because (1) my wife loves his column in the paper, and (2) I wanted to see if I could pick up any tips to help with my stories. Blogging actually started in the 1990s. It gave people a chance to express themselves and have a voice in society. Gil talked about some of his favorite blogs he enjoys reading and how to access them. He then told us about his own blogs that he writes during the week which are sponsored by the newspaper. I found out that some people enter posts as little as once a week or month and as often as several every day. The more posts you publish, the more people will know when to look for your posts. If you decide to start a blog, you will first need a platform which is the actual set-up that you use to type your blog. You can use a Standalone platform which you have to pay for or you can use a Hosted platform such as I use for the blog you are reading. I use www.blogger.com and there is no charge for it. When you access www.blogger.com you will be given instructions as to what you must do to start your blog. You will have to choose a design such as the one you are looking at right now. When you view my blog you can see my photo, info about me, my stories, the title of the blog, and the content. The directions will tell you how to do all of this. When you type the content you will see how you can change the font of type, make things bold or italic,change the size of the type, change you justification, check spelling (I know I may forget to do this from time to time), and add photos and movies. Pretty neat! Once you get started you will want to promote your blog and you can do this on your Facebook and Twitter accounts or as I do, add my blog address to all my comments I make on my favorite forums I read and participate in. Found out that when you type content, your stories should be compelling, timely and relevant. Wow, I'm not sure my stories are any of those, but seems that people read them anyway. My reason for going to the seminar were to see if it was feasible to add advertising and to find a way to make a glossary that people could use to see all my previously entered posts. Found that the ad thing is distracting and I'm still working on the glossary. Carol actually wanted to see if she was interested in starting her own blog, but after listening to Gil for an hour, decided that it wasn't for her. She said to me, "What would I write about. You covered everything already!" It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - I assume you have noticed something different when you accessed my blog the last couple of days. I am in the process of adding story subjects for all the stories I have entered. Since there are more that 900 by now, it will take me a few weeks to re-read and decide what theme area I should place them under. Directly under my blog title you will see the topics I have picked. Next to each topic is a number in parentheses. That number tells you how many stories I have entered with the word as the subject or theme. Click on the word and all the stories will appear. To return to the latest story entered today, go back to the top of the page and click on "show all posts" which is directly next to "showing posts with label __________" Soon I will have all my stories entered into one of the topics to make it easier for me and you to see stories on a specific theme. It will be my check to make sure that I don't re-do a story that I did over the last three years. You know I could do that! Hope you enjoy the feature.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The "Compositional Sample Photos" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just putting the finishing touches on my story from yesterday. If you did not read yesterday's story, it might make these photos easier to understand. They are meant to illustrate the "Guidelines of Photo Composition" which I wrote about yesterday. Take a peak at them and them check out these photos. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Simplicity. No better way to start my samples than with a photo of my granddaughter, Camille. Keep the photo simple. Can you tell what is the subject? Too busy a background that interferes with the subject? Does it convey an emotion? Analyze what you see and decide on the strongest point-of-interest. Camille!

My friend here makes a great subject. You have to love 'em. Strong subject that everyone will recognize as soon as they see the photo. Since the background is blurry, it tends to draw more attention to the subject. Most people who have automatic cameras may not be able to change the aperature on their camera to cause the background to blur, but if shooting a close object, usually a background far enough away will automatically be blurred.
Clutter? Don't think you will find any in this photo. The strongest point-of-interest in this photo is the flower, so why not make it the subject. No one can mistake your intentions and the fact that the background is out-of-focus adds to the interest.
If you are going to show a subject which is in motion, make sure that you have the motion coming into the photo as opposed to having the subject going out of the photo. Keep the viewer interested in every aspect of the photograph.
I guess you can tell what the subject is in this photo. It's OK to fill the frame if you have a strong enough subject, but not necessary to do that to have an interesting photograph.

You will see in the next series of photos how to decide where to place the subject, but you still need to make the subject the item your viewer will go to first in the photo. Can you tell what the subject is below. Watch that you don't confuse the viewer with too many items in the photo, but you can still add elements in the photo to add interest to your subject as I did here with the paper under the subject of the glasses.

Placement of the Subject is extremely important. If a viewer cannot tell what the subject is in the photo it will lose the viewer's interest. The following eight photos will show you ways to place the subject in your photograph.
You don't always have to place the subject in the middle. Use the "Rule of Thirds" I described yesterday to help in the placement of the subject. Here the subject is in the bottom right, looking into the photo.
The subject was placed at the bottom right for a reason in this photo. It is heading into the photo and placed in the bottom right for make it more visually pleasing.
Notice how the "Rule of Thirds" is used to help draw the subjects into the photo. Try not to lead a viewer out of the photo.
The "Rule of Thirds" was used to place the subject in this photo. The circular leading lines of the water and wet sand also help guide you to the extremely simple subject.

The "Rule of Thirds" was used to draw interest from a overly-busy photo to the subject which is looking into the photo.
You can see how "leading lines" can 'drag' you into this subject. No doubt about what the subject is in this photo.
Try not to put the horizon line dead-center in the photo. It usually makes for an uninteresting photo. Here the sky out-weighs the foreground. Watch that you don't divide a photo vertically with a telephone pole, tree, etc. for the same reasons.
This photo has the horizon line in the middle of the photo. Sometimes it can break your photo into two separate units, making the photo uninteresting. Is that the case for this photo, you be the judge.

The next two photos are example of balance within a photograph. The first shows formal balance and can be used to illicit feelings of dignity and repose but does make for a very static photograph. What is on the left is on the right. Not many subjects fit into this category.
This is a good example of non-symmetrical balance. It is a less informal type of balance and good for almost any type of photograph. Large subject on the right, small object on the left.

The next eight photos illustrate different types of "Movement into the frame." Diagonal and vertical lines abound in this photo. They all tend to lead you to the windows of the Central Market building. Vertical lines are good for showing rigidity and strength.

Here diagonal leading lines help you toward the water. The tree in the left foreground adds some depth to the photo.
The vertical/diagonal lines of the menu lead you to the subject in this photo. The fact that the objects in the rear are slightly out-of-focus help keep your attention on the scrumptious croissants.
Here is an example of an "S" curve. Your eyes tend to follow the road into the photo which winds it's way from front to back, stopping in the rear of the pix.

Another good example of the "S" curve. You pick up the road in the foreground and follow it throughout the photo. Make sure that you try to end the curve inside the photo so you don't lead the viewer directly out of the photo.
Circular lines help make this an interesting photo. Your eye follows the woman's hair toward the hand and the cigarette as do the lines of the elbow to the hand. Making photos black and white can also help make photos interesting. Color sometimes will make the photo so busy that you don't see the reason that the photo was taken.
The circular lines of the dish draw your attention toward the meal as do the flow of the fingers reaching into the meal.
These circular lines which engulf the subjects keep the movement of the photo right where you want it, in the center of the pix.

The next two photos illustrate 'Perspective'. By adding something in the foreground as a frame for the photo, you can add the illusion of a third dimension, depth. In the first I have added the tree on the left and the overhanging branches, as well as the trunk help to give the photo a 3D feeling. In the second, the people in the water are framed by the overhanging palm tree.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The "Putting the Teaching Hat Back On" Story

It was an ordinary day. Getting my cameras and lenses ready for my next trip to the Caribbean. In a few months we will head back down to our favorite spot in the sun, St. Martin. Checking all my SD cards and batteries to make sure I will have enough space and juice for all the photos I have planned for this trip. Was reading recently on quite a few websites about photo tips you should consider when taking vacations photos. I read them all, and to tell you the truth, it sounds like they are reading out of the study guide I wrote years ago for the photography class that I taught for over 30 years at Manheim Township High School. Then it hit me, why not add one more site for people to go where they can get "Guidelines" for their vacation photos. Should tell you in advance that these are only 'Guidelines', not rules, and can be broken whenever you feel a need to in order to create the perfect snapshot or photo that you know will be a prizewinner. Some snapshots may turn out to have goodcomposition, but most good photographs are created. Tomorrow I will add some samples to illustrate the text. So, here are a few of LDub's guidelines of composition for capturing that perfect "Kodak Moment."

1. Simplicity. Keep the photo simple. You don't have to show your entire vacation in one photo. Pick a subject for the photo and make sure you convey that subject to your viewer. Look long and hard at the subject until you are aware of every single aspect and detail. Analyze what you see and decide on the strongest point on interest and how you can make this feature prominent. A cluttered photo distracts the eye and takes away from the subject, so avoid busy backgrounds where the subject may get lost.

2. Placement of the subject. Watch out for mergers. Object mergers are items which may sprout from your subject. A telephone pole coming out of a head is amusing, but not what you want in a great photo. Some one's ear sprouting a chair or an animal's tail is the same idea. Border mergers are items in the border of your photo which interfere with the subject. The rear end of a car speeding out of your photo of the bride and groom at your relative's wedding isn't going to make it into their scrapbook. There is one main guideline for determining the placement of the subject, orcenter-of-interest in a photo. It is called the "Golden Section" or "rule-of-thirds." Imagine looking at your viewing screen or looking into your viewfinder and dividing it both horizontally and diagonally w
ith two parallel lines. The intersection of these lines create natural points for subject placement. If you feel your subject is strong enough to be placed in the center of the photo, then place it there. When taking landscapes and cityscapes watch that the horizon line isn't always placed in the center of the photo as well as be careful you don't split the photo in half vertically by placing subjects like tall trees or poles in the center.

3. Balance. This guideline is listed by everyone who writes about composition, so I put it in my book when I composed it. Still not sure how much of a guideline to composition it is, but it certainly will help you decide what type of balance to use in certain situations. Symmetrical or formal balance is when you place the same or similar items on each side of the photo. Formal balance can be used to illicit feelings of dignity and depose, but does make for a very static photograph. Non-symmetrical balance or informal balance is placing unequal objects on either side of the photo. This tends to make a more interesting photograph and my personal opinion is that you will use this more than the symmetrical balance.

4. Movement into the frame. Movement can be accomplished by four basic line forms. Vertical, horizontal, diagonal and the "S" curve. Vertical line photos show strength, rigidity and solidarity while horizontal line photos, such as landscapes represent peacefulness and tranquility. The diagonal line represents action or movement and can create a feeling of action. The "S" curve tends to draw a viewer into a frame, but you need to be careful not to take the viewer right back out of the photo. Spiral or circular lines are variations of the "S" curve and helps guide your viewer around and to the subject. Remember, you still should make the subject easy to determine. These four basic line forms can be used as leading lines to draw your viewer in the photo. Whether they are graceful curves or dynamic diagonals, all lines should lead the viewer's eye to the focal point or subject. I will have samples in my story tomorrow for you to see.

5. Perspective. This refers to the illusion of a third dimension in a photograph. We see in length, width and depth, but creating this effect on a flat piece of photo paper or on your computer screen is difficult. Framing usually helps to add the depth dimension. An overhanging tree branch, an opening in a cement block that you shoot through, photographing through an open doorway, or shooting through grass or weeds can create the illusion of depth.

Learn to pre-visualize your photograph. As you look through the viewfinder or on the viewing screen at the rear of your camera, imagine what the result will be when you press the button or shutter release on your camera and then process and download the image or make the print. Remember again, some "snapshots" may turn out to have good composition, but most good photographs are created. Tomorrow you will see plenty of samples that my help you create that fantastic vacation photo. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The "Dad Would Be Proud Of You" Story

It was an ordinary day. Sat down in front of my iMac to check the email and some of the forums I read and when I opened Safari, there appeared Google just waitin' for me to click on the logo so I could go to the Valentine's Day "Google Doodle." So, I did, and boy was it neat. Won't tell you too much about it right now, since I have included it at the end so you can see it for yourself. Instead will tell you a few things about the creation of the doodle. About a month ago Google contacted freelance artist Michael Lipman to inquire about doing the doodle for their Valentine's Day interactive feature. It's the latest in a series of Doodles where Google positions drawings and interactive features on its logo to commemorate holidays and other special events. Lipman, 52, is a graduate of Hempfield High School and a Lancaster County native who now lives in Mill Valley, California. Michael jumped at the opportunity to have his artwork and animation viewed by hundreds of millions of people. Hey, I clicked on it right away and loved the story line that he presented. Didn't realize that he had done it until I read about it a few days later in the local paper. I knew Michael years ago when he was a young boy growing up. His dad, Stan, was a good friend and fellow teacher who has since died. I knew that Michael became an artist, but didn't have any idea he had created the doodle until I read about it. Stan and I both taught high school in the Manheim Township School District. He was a special education instructor and loved by his students. I have written about him in a previous story on my blog. Stan and I worked together doing the videos and stills for the school district. Our adventure in a military helicopter was the topic of my other story. Stan also designed the original sculpture that stood for years in the center of Park City Center in Lancaster. I'm sure that Michael was greatly influenced by his dad as to his career path. Michael spent more than 200 hours animating the doodle saying, "I'd pour some coffee and then, next thing I knew, it's 11 PM and I'm going to bed." The doodle was written by illustrator Willie Real of San Francisco, then Michael took over the animation. He said, "It's the biggest audience likely I will ever have." He also made the remark that, "Lancaster has a particular beauty that will never leave me." That young boy that I remember from years past has made it big, REALLY BIG. Dad would be proud of you, Michael. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - As part of the doodle, you will see a diver's helmet. My guess is Michael included that to remember his dad who was a great swimmer and diver. The Doodle follows:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The "Siren Was My Fvorite" Story

It was an ordinary day. Had to take my grandson Caden to the Manheim Township Police Station. His Cub Scout Pack made a visit to the Lancaster Police Station a few weeks ago, but Caden was sick at the time and missed the trip. His den meeting is soon and all the other scouts will be getting badges for their visit to the police station. My son Derek called and asked if Wayne, my friend from our old neighborhood who coached baseball with me for years, wouldbe able to help arrange a trip for Caden to see the MTPD. Wayne worked for the MTPD for years and was a Detective when he retired a few years ago. He gave me a Lt. Baldwin's number and told me to give him a call. We set up a time and date and at 10:00 AM on Sunday morning, met with Officer Keenan who spent an hour taking us on a tour of the station. Officer Keenan first showed Caden and me his uniform and all the items that he must carry while on duty. His service revolver with two extra clips of ammo, his handcuffs, collapsible baton,and taser gun. Told us a story about a recent criminal arrest where they had to threaten to use the taser on the person if he wouldn't cooperate. We then took a tour with stops to see the dispatcher's station, photo ID station, fingerprint unit, and jail cells. We then went out to the parking lot to see what is necessary items in the police cruiser. Every cruiser is equipped with a computer station, radio for communication, unit to activate the lights on the roof and to sound the siren and a sub-machine gun for protection. The front seat officer is protected from the rear seat with a Plexiglas shield, needed when transporting a suspect in the back seat. The rear door handles have been disengaged so you can only open the doors from the outside. Caden was able to sit in the driver's seat and allowed to push the button to activate the lights on the top. Then he pushed another button and the siren started. This scared him when it didn't stop right away and he asked what you do to stop it. He was told to push it again and the noise stopped. Next button was also for the siren, but a different sound and pattern. Caden then tried on the riot helmet that is carried in the trunk of the car. Officer Keenan did a fantastic job describing the life and job of a police officer. I only wish I could be with Caden when he tells about his trip to the MTPD. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Photos from the top are: Caden in one of the 4 jail cells, taser gun, lights on roof of cruiser, Caden sitting in the driver's side of the police cruiser, Caden trying on Officer Keenan's riot helmet.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The "Tree Trimmer" Story

It was an ordinary day. Waitin' on the tree trimmer. Carol and I have two large maple trees in the front of our house. Neither one has ever been trimmed. One of the trees is very close to a large spruce tree and has several branches that touch the spruce. Both maple trees have branches that I hit my head on when riding my mower. Since I no longer have hair, it makes for some pretty vicious scrapes on my scalp when I mow the grass. So, recently when I was working on the middle school yearbook that I design yearly, and telling the yearbook rep about my trees, he suggested I hire his son to trim the branches. Kevin is a graduate of Delaware Valley College with a Bachelor's degree in Landscape Contracting and Management as well as having a minor in Business. He started Immaculate Landscape Specialists, LLC after graduation and is trying to develop his business in the Lancaster area. I made a phone call to him the following day and he stopped and looked at the trees and emailed me an estimate for the pruning and trimming. His estimate also included hauling all the debris from my property. Price was fair so I thought I would give him a try. He told me that he had secured a position working for Lime Spring Farm in Lancaster which is the 2nd oldest working farm in the county. They have facilities for banquets, weddings and parties. Kevin is responsible for keeping the ground's shrubs and trees trimmed and pruned. Quite a few acres to be responsible for. Well, at 9:00 AM sharp, the time we agreed upon, I greeted Kevin at my front door. A very polite, upbeat guy who resembled his dad. We spent some time reviewing what he was going to remove from the trees and I suspect that I asked for more than he had planned, but he agreed with every thing I said. I had to leave for a few hours and when I returned he had just about finished. I was amazed at the amount of lumber sitting on my lawn. The trees looked great, but I did ask if he could remove just a few more branches which, when laden with leaves, would probably still touch the spruce tree. Grabbed his hat, and climbing gear and up the tree he went. Half an hour later I walked out to see that the final bill would be and he said what we agreed to. I took a check out to him as he finished putting all the debris in his truck and trailer. We talked some more and I told him I would have him back again to trim other shrubs and trees. Carol and I had found our new tree trimmer. If you want a recommendation, you have one from me. You can reach Kevin at kevin@immaculatelandscapespecialists.com or call him at 717-422-3849. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The "Polar Bare Plunge" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just finished talking with my daughter-in-law, Barb, about a photo that I had found among the rest of the family photos. Picture of her and our oldest son, Derek, before they were married along with a few of Derek's friends and ...... yep, that looks like Etta, Barb's mother. And after examining the photo some more, it looks like they have bathing suits on. I see a big smile cross Barb's face as she looks at the photo. Date on the bottom of the photo is 01/01/02. Barb told me, "That's our New Year's Day polar bear swim at Myerstown Quarry. It was the year before we got married. It was the first time that I joined Derek and his friends for the annual dip on New Year's Day. We had such a good time. It was very cold and a little snowy that day, but the sun finally came out. Lots of people gathered. We all arrived with out bathing suits under our colthes and close to noon we all removed our clothes, stood on our towels in our suits, and at noon someone blew a horn and we all ran for the water. We were supposed to swim to the wooden platform that was about 50 feet out in the quarry. There were so many peoplethat you couldn't swim, just wade out to the platform. Water was up to your chest." She then started to laugh again and continued the story. "After we got out of the water everyone grabbed their towel since it was freezing cold. If you notice my mom is in the picture. She decided she was going to try it with me. Well, we all were drying off when Jimmy D. said to Derek, 'Dude, I just saw your future mother-in-law's rack.'" Seems that Barb's mom, Etta, was sooooo cold that as she was drying off her top fell down and she didn't even notice it. She must have heard Jimmy yelling to Derek and looked at herself and realized that her "rack" really was exposed. Quickly pulled her top up as the photo was being taken. Evidently made for a good laugh for everyone and Etta, being a good sport, laughed with them. After the plunge they made hot dogs, burgers and had a great time eating and drinking while they regained their body temperature. Barb told me it was the last time they attended the event, but definitely will never forget the excitement it created that New Year's Day. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - photo shows Johnny, Jimmy and Derek in the back left with Etta and Barb (in sunglasses) in the front. Looks like Etta is still trying to get her top back on.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The "Wild Tiger" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just finished eating my Valentine's Day present. Carol bought me exactly what I wanted for the special day for lovers. A half dozen Dunkin Donuts heart-shaped donuts. 2 with cream filling and chocolate covered, 2 filled with jelly and 2 filled with custard and chocolate on top. As soon as I opened the gift I devoured 2 of them, then remembered I needed to take a photo of them before I ate anymore. The photo you see here was taken about 5 minutes before the box was empty. I know they aren't heart-healthy, but it's Valentine's Day for heaven's sake. Now, if you are wondering what I bought for my lovely wife, it was something pretty neat. Bet most other husbands didn't think to buy their wife what I did. Matter-of-fact, I would bet that no other readers of my blog bought their spouse what I did. I got her an orchid! She loves flowers and has had a few orchids over the years, but only one has survived. We keep it in our living room and it has grown and bloomed for quite a few years now. Usually only blooms one time a year, but the blooms last for weeks. The photo of it shows another bud that will open in maybe a month and will be with us until the end of the spring. I visited Little Brook Orchids in Lancaster a few days ago. They have literally hundreds of orchids or all colors. Everyone is so different and so neat. I picked out a Phalaenopsis variety that was called "Wild Tiger." "Yep, that's her," I told the guy that was working with me. Little Brook Orchids is located at 25 Rider Ave. in Lancaster, PA. The owner used to be the President of the Board of Directors of the Parish Resource Center where my wife works. We have visited the greenhouse before and the green orchid she now has came from there. Purchased for her by her former boss as the PRC. They not only raise and sell orchids, they board them for you if you go away for vacation or on an extended trip. I was so excited when I go it home, I just had to tell her about it, even though it wasn't Valentine's Day. We placed it next to the other one so it had some companionship. I know, orchids don't need companionship, or do they? Anyway, it was Valentine's day and they looked good together. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - pixs from the top are: my Valentine's donuts, orchid that we currently have in our living room, sign in front of Little Brook Orchids, interior of the greenhouse filled with orchids, and "Wild Tiger", Carol's new addition.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The "Cousins by the Dozens - Part 2" Story

It was an ordinary day. Finishing the second and final part of my story about the cousins in my life. Today's story vignettes deal with my dad's side of the family as well as my inherited cousins due to marriage. My nannan (grandmother) had 4 children. Two boys and two girls. My Aunt Doris was the oldest with Uncle Clair, Aunt Lillian, and my dad following, in that order. Clair died in an automobile accident while in high school when he was riding in the rumble seat of a car that was heading to a basketball game in York, PA. Clair was the manager of the team. My Aunt Doris didn't marry until late. I was so upset when I found out she was going to get married since she was my favorite Aunt because she had no children of her own and usually bought me really neat gifts. I knew that that would all end when she got married. Never did though. I was in my first year of high school when she got married and I instantly gained three cousins. Uncle Paul, her husband, lived around the corner from where she had lived with my nannan. She would wait on the bus to go to work in front of his house. His first wife had died and he slowly began to talk to her as she stood waiting for the bus. Well, one thing led to another and now I had three new cousins. Paulie, Mary Ann, and Robert became Aunt Doris' new family along with Uncle Paul. He was a CPA and worked out of his house, so Aunt Doris stilled lived close to her mother, my nannan. Uncle Paul and his brothers jointly owned a water-front house on the Elk River near Locust Point. Neatest thing about having my Aunt marry was the fact that we now had a new vacation spot in the summer. We would always be invited for a free week at the bay to swim, fish, and water-ski. They had a ski-jump on the water in front of their property and I had the chance to use it. Was scared half to death of the darn thing, but did enjoy watching my instant cousins jump it. Aunt Doris eventually sold her part of the property when Uncle Paul died and purchased another, larger house on the part of the bay where the large ships enter the C&D canal. My cousins Paulie and Robert would always take the family for rides in their boats. They were great guys, but as time rolled on we stopped going to the bay house. My cousin Mary Ann married and moved near Baltimore while both boys married and we kind of went our separate ways. Seems the only time we get together is when someone dies. My Aunt Lillian had two children. She had my cousin Judy to her first husband and my cousin George to her second cousin. For years, before Aunt Doris was married and had the place on the Elk river, we would go to Crystal Beach. Crystal Beach was at the mouth of the Elk River, right before it emptied into the Chesapeake Bay. Neat sandy beach with a small amusement park and store. Even had a lifeguard stand. There were row after row of summer cottages that you could rent and mom and dad would always rent one and have my Aunt Lillian and cousins Judy and George join us. Uncle Bud, their dad, worked 365 days a year and never came with us on vacation. That was OK, since he was always grumpy and
never could take a joke. For years I was best friends with Judy and George. Mostly Judy, since she was only one year younger than me and George was one year younger than my brother Steve, who was 5 years younger than me. Got all that? I became good friends with Judy over the years and we would double date at times as we went through high school. She had an older boy friend, Lance, who had a car, so that worked out well. Then, as always happens, time flies and we grew apart. Our lives became so involved with our own families that we only saw each other a few times a year. Last summer, after not seeing cousin Judy for almost two years, Carol and I invited her and her husband Buzz over for a meal on our
rear deck. Had a great time reminiscing about the old times at Crystal Beach. Now for the inherited cousins. Carol had three Aunts and they each had one son. Bobby was her oldest cousin, Ronnie her middle cousin and Gary her youngest. I got to know Bobby quite well after we were married, since he helped me coach little league baseball. Bobby was a few years older than both Carol and me and played professional baseball for 11 years. Most of it was spent in the minors, but he did make it to the Detroit Tigers for a short time before he injured his arm and had to call it quits. Big lefty was loved by all the kids on the team. I asked him to handle the pitchers and needless to say he did it in great fashion. One of the boys on the team eventually got drafted by the Twins out of high school. I saw Bobby last year at Walmart and he still looks the same as ever; tall, tan, and handsome. Ronnie was a quiet kid. Only met him a couple of times. Carol never was close to him and therefore we never got together with his family. Gary is a different story. I actually had Gary as a student in my metal shop class in high school. This was before I ever met Carol. Gary lived his mom and day, Carol's Aunt Bea and Uncle Albert, on Roseville Road in Manheim Township. After graduation Gary decided that he wanted to work on the railroad so he became a conductor. A few years of that and he became a hair dresser like his mom. That didn't work so well so he went to college and became a Doctor. Did his residency in Hawaii and never left the islands. Twice Carol and I have traveled to Honolulu to meet him and hash over old times. First year I got to see his car collection and take a ride in his 600 hp Camaro. Quite a ride through the hills overlooking the city. He has a reputation as one of the biggest supporters of medicinal marijuana on the island. Great host both times we visited and treated us to meals at Roy's on the Beach each time. Well, there you have a look at my cousins. Not as many as some families, but just as varied and different as most. Consider all of them family and hope to regain acquaintances with all of them sometime in my life. I guess I better get busy on it soon before something happens to them. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - photos from the top are: I'm taking my cousin Judy for a bike ride; vacation at Crystal Beach with Judy, Georgie, LDub in the middle and my brother Steve studying a stick; Judy and me on our back deck taken last year; The Hamilton Watch Baseball team with coaches in the rear of LDub, Bobby N. in the middle, and my cousin Judy's first husband Lance on the right; photo of Carol and cousin Gary taken in Hawaii.