Friday, October 1, 2010

Bus Boo is this weekend...

For those of you who don't know, I own a 1968 VW Campmobile.  I bought it in 1991 just after graduating from High School.  Through the years I've worked on restoring it.  In my case, I'm just keeping it running.  It is a solid Bus and one of the few things that I own that I truly love.  Several years ago, my friend Erik and I were heading up to Baldwin, MI to a friends cabin for guys weekend (usually involves a camp fire, beer, food and sleep).  On the way there, we were near Rockford, MI when my tire blew out.  The Van Van swerved hard to the left and luckily there were no cars in that lane.  I regained control of the Van Van and pulled over to the shoulder.  Not surprisingly, I didn't have a jack or an inflated spare tire.  So, I called my Dad to come and save me.

While we waited, a guy pulled up behind my bus and got out to talk and offer assistance.  His name was Brien Dews.  He offered me the jack he had in his work van and whatever else he could do for assistance.  I remember him saying, "Whenever I see a bus on the side of the road, I'll stop and help."  Brien told me about a group of VW Bus lovers that he had started called Buses By the Beach and told me to check out their website at  My Dad was on his way with everything I needed for repair so I thanked Brien he went on his way.

Brien had left his jack with me, so I made sure to bring it back to him the following week.  I stopped at his shop, All Good Time Clock Service to drop it off.  I was amazed by the work that Brien does.  He gave me a tour of the shop and showed me a bus that he had been working on.  Next to the bus I noticed a few kegs and some brewing equipment.  Brien told me that he brewed his own beer and that he usually does a tasting at a bus outing that he does in the spring.  I knew immediately that I had to check it out.

I attended my first Bus Benefit in the Spring of 2007 to raise money for the Phoenix Society.  It was a great weekend of family fun, good music, good people and good beer.  I've attended the Bus Benefit every Spring since.  My boys love camping in the Van Van and always look forward to camping with Buses By the Beach.

Tomorrow, we'll be attending our first Bus Boo with BBTB.  It is a Halloween themed campout with trick or treating, a chili cook off and costume contests.  They even decorate the buses.  Nolan, my middle son, asked me this morning if the music was going to be there.  At Bus Benefit this year, Nolan loved watching the live bands and staying up late.  I had to tell him that there might not be music this time, but he'll get to trick or treat instead.  He got a big smile on his face and said "OK!".

I'll have lots of pictures to share next week.  Talk to you soon!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

And on it goes...

After some soul searching and number crunching, I decided to drop the price of my house to the amount that a buyer had offered.  This was a day after I had said no to that same offer.  It took a lot of justification to make me do it.  I can handle living in a two bedroom apartment for a while to make up the difference.  So with high hopes, I've been waiting to hear back from the prospective buyer.  It has been the longest two days I can remember.

Finally, today, we got the news.  They decided that their offer was too high and the price had to be an additional $2,000 lower.  $2,000!  At this point I feel like we are fighting over pennies and I'm starting to get pissed off.  Not only that, but in a week or two or even a month from now, if they came back and accepted, I may not sell it to them on principal.  I hate dickering, but I hate assholes even more.  You, buyer, are an asshole.

After spending the last two days preparing myself to spend the next six months in an apartment, I'm now preparing to spend the next 5 years trying to sell my house.  Maybe come Spring time the market will have changed and things will start moving again.  Until then, we'll keep loving our lives and planning our next step.  Keep praying and we'll see what happens.  It all happens in God's time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to destroy an easy up gazebo...

Easy answer, leave it out in a thunderstorm.  I had planned on taking down our gazebo because I knew there was a batch of thunderstorms rolling through our area last night.  I started taking down the curtains after work, but then we had to go get my car from the auto shop and we decided to have a pizza at Monelli's in Byron Center.  When we got home it was time to bathe the boys and put them to bed.  By the time we were saying prayers and good night to the boys, you could see a good amount of lightning and hear the thunder rolling across the sky.  I quickly went out to finish taking down the gazebo.  I got the screws that were securing it to the deck removed and started to lower it when the storm front hit.  I held on to the frame tightly and at one point the whole thing was pulling me upward.  I tried desperately to get it to fold into itself but it would not move.  After about 30 seconds a big gust of wind blew in and the gazebo broke in half folding over the top of me.  During that  time Beth had been frantically running through the house closing windows and realized that I was out on the deck.  As I made my way out from under the tent, Beth had just closed the sliding door.  When she saw me, she opened it to let me in and I saw the whole kitchen floor covered in water.  The wind was blowing so hard we had water almost to the living room.  The news reported that there were recorded 70+ mile per hour gusts.  After seeing what it did to the gazebo, I don't doubt it for a minute.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hello Again...

If you’ve ever tried to sell a house, you know how busy and difficult it can be just to live life each day. Over the past month, we’ve had a few showings and open houses. We’ve had one offer, counter offer and rejection. Emotions have been up and down along the way too. I haven’t slept well in a while and I wake often and can’t get back to sleep. I guess it is the stress of the situation on top of life’s other responsibilities. There is so much in limbo right now that I’ve lost track of everything, especially blogging. It has been last on my list.

So, here we are. Our house is as clean as it ever has been. We are still on the market. This week we had our first offer, which was $20K below asking price. Since I am not desperate like many other home sellers, I countered with what I believe is reasonable for our house. I don’t know if the buyer is trying to play hardball or what, but they rejected the counter offer and held with their original offer. Well, sorry Charlie, I won’t drop my pants for you. We have worked too hard to keep this house for me to throw away all that work and money just because there is a perception that the value of my house has decreased. This thinking may mean that we’ll never sell this house. That’s OK with me…

On a brighter note, the school year has started and Magnus is happily attending 2nd grade. He loves his school very much and is excited to start doing homework. (I was the same way in 2nd grade. This will all change in middle school) The fall session of karate has started too. Magnus tested for his Green Belt on Monday and passed. I love watching him kick and break boards. He is getting a lot better at sparring too. We’re 1 month and 2 days from his 8th birthday. The time is just flying…

This weekend, Beth and I are heading to the Michigan Irish Music Festival in Muskegon. We’re meeting up with some friends that we met when we attended the fest back in 2007. It is always a good time and the music is great. A night out is needed for so many reasons. I’ll be happy to spend some time with Beth away from our daily grind.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading my ramblings.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Showing and Smoke...

While on vacation last week, I received a call from my realtor that someone was interested in seeing our house. This was great news since we spent all day that Saturday cleaning and packing and cleaning just in case this happened. When we got back, we found out that the couple had been considering the communities of Byron Center and Ada / Cascade. Unfortunately, they chose Ada / Cascade. They did say that they liked our home and that the price was good. This made us happy because now we know the work has paid off and our price is in a good range for the market. Now we just continue waiting.

On the flip side, I found a house that I was interested in. It was in our school district and about 2 miles from where we now live. The lot was big at almost 1.85 acres and entirely wooded. The house was a decent size with a big deck and heated, two stall outbuilding. I had Joe schedule a showing and we visited the house on Wednesday evening. When we arrived, Joe was waiting for us in the driveway. I could tell from the look on his face that there was something wrong. We walked around the house and viewed the property and it was as I expected it to be; needed some work but nothing insurmountable. Then we opened the front door to walk in when a blast of the stale scent of cigarette smoke punched me in the face like a left hand upper cut from Mike Tyson in the early 90s. Instantly I became sad. I had such high hopes that this could be an option. I had already dreamed of playing in the woods behind the house with the boys, making bike trails and forts and camping. All those dreams now destroyed by the bad habits of the homes owners. All I could do was shake my head the rest of the time we toured the house. It was in good shape and it was decorated reasonably well. The owner had finished the basement himself. The construction was a bit shoddy and in one instance Joe grabbed onto one of the door jams and was able to wiggle it about an inch in both directions. Even with that I would have considered the home as I know those things are “fixable”. But the bowling alley stench that infiltrated our clothes, hair and nasal passages was just too much to bear.

I don’t understand how people can smoke in their home. Over time the smoke ruins everything in the house. There is no amount of money that could make me live in that house. By the time we got home, I started getting a headache from the smell. It was a horrendous experience and one I fear will not be the last on our house hunt.

On another note, I bought two of these storage closets so we could clean out our winter clothes from our closets and make them look bigger. They are working out fantastically.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back in the saddle...

Wow, it's been a whole week since my last post.  I've been on vacation and found out how hard it is to blog when you are chasing 3 young boys around and relaxing.  Anyway, we had a great time in Brasstown, NC.  We were visiting Beth's Godmother and her husband.  They retired several years ago and moved to a rural farm where they built a house and now enjoy Appalachian country living.  We enjoyed it too.  It is a much slower pace, especially in the summer when it is 95 degrees every day.

After "The Drive", Beth and I took a day and recovered.  Short naps and wine helped and by Monday last, we were raring to go.  We spent time catching up with our hosts and got the lay of the land.  It has been 4 years since we visited them at their home and it was almost what I remembered.  Time can do many things.  I found that my memory of the place was about 90 per cent of what it actually was.  I think I was most excited to see the cows.  They have an arrangement with a local gentleman that allows him to graze his cattle and in return, he keeps up the fences in the pastures.  It's a win win.  There is nothing like waking to the soft drone of mooing cows.  Moooooooooo....

We also spent some time visiting the neighbors.  Dave, who lives down the road and lower in the canyon, has a beautiful pond that is stocked with fish.  We went to see Dave and to feed the fish on Tuesday.  I didn't expect what we saw.  As we walked up to the pond, all the fish swarmed up to us.  There were cat fish and another smaller fish that I don't know the name of.  The cat fish were about a foot long and when we threw food into the water, they would raise their whole head out of the water and gobble up their lunch.  One time Magnus dropped a whole hand full of food in the water right at the edge of the pond.  The fish swarmed the pile and splashed so much that water went flying and soaked Magnus's shirt.  It kinda scared him a little and he didn't do that again.  It was pretty amazing.

The next day, Wednesday, we went to visit Doug who lives up on the ridge to South of Dave.  Doug has some laying hens that he bought early in the spring.  There were several different  species and he let us feed them.  At first, I didn't think the boys would let the chickens eat out of their hands.  Magnus decided that he didn't want to try.  But after I did it and told them what it felt like, Nolan gave it a go.  He put some chicken feed into his hand and slowly lowered it down so Georgia the chicken would come over and take a bite.  He was very still until the first peck when he jumped back with fright and proceeded to throw the feed at the chickens.  After a minute and when the fear wore off, he thought it was funny but didn't want to try again. We also got a tour of Dave's garden.  He was growing beans, heirloom tomatoes, Okra and several other veggies.  His heirloom tomatoes were beautiful.  I think I'll grow some next year.  What really caught my eye was the Okra.  I've never seen how Okra grows.  It is a very unique plant and I'm glad I learned a little about a Southern vegetable.  The coolest thing we saw at Doug's was some bear scat.  The night before, there had been a rain storm and the wind had been blowing.  In the morning, Doug and his wife discovered that their bird feeder had been knocked off the cable it was hanging from.  Although Dave's wife insists that the wind had blown it down, Dave thinks that a bear climbed up on his deck, jumped off, and grabbed the bird feeder (about 20 feet in the air) and broke it off the cable and ate the bird seed.  I wouldn't have believed him, but when I saw the broken ring clamp, and the blackberry laden bear scat on the ground, I couldn't disagree.  We took a stick and poked around in the scat and it was blackberry all the way through.  It even turned the stick purple!  This bear had gorged himself / herself on so many blackberries that it had the blackberry revenge.  In a few days, it will have the sunflower seed revenge too.  Poor bear...

On Thursday and Friday, we visited Fires Creek picnic area.  If you ever get to the Western part of North Carolina, I highly recommend visiting Fires Creek.  We had so much fun looking at rocks, skipping stones, swimming, jumping in the small pools and walking down the creek, we just had to go back.  There was a small waterfall that we climbed up and sat under and a section of very slippery, smooth rock that we used for a slide.  The locals have moved the rocks around to create a chute down the creek where kids can ride inner tubes for about 50 yards.  At the end there is a man made pool and you can get out and run the trail back to the starting point.  I tried to float down the lower section of the chute and, while it was a good attempt, I caught about 6 rock up my rear and about 4 in my back.  Next time I'll try an inner tube.

Probably the most exciting experience was when I lost my wedding ring in the pool at the beginning of the chute.  Oh yeah, I freaked!  I had just jumped into the water and worked my way to the side to empty my sandals of sand and rocks when I notice that it was gone.

Wine timeout...  Yeah, I need more wine to calm my nerves...

So I stand up, raise my arms and say "everyone stop!"  Magnus and I had been playing with 4 other kids and jumping off a big rock into a small pool of water.  The kids all looked at me with a nervous eye wondering if they had gotten in trouble.  I told them that I had lost my wedding ring and needed help finding it.  To my amazement, they all started looking for it.  It was like a treasure hunt for them.  Where I had emptied my sandals, I moved the rocks aside and the kids searched the water but found nothing.  The bigger kids were looking in the pool of water for the ring, but the water was rushing so fast that it was hard to see the bottom.  I called to Beth to let her know of my predicament.  She joined in on the hunt and quickly left to see if she left Magnus's goggles in the car.  I continued searching in the rushing water.  After finding nothing, I climbed back up on the rock to try to determine where I would have landed on my last jump.  I picked a spot and walked into the water.  It was rushing fast and I needed to figure out a way to see into it's depths.  I turned my body into the stream so that my wide back side would settle the water.  Then I put my arms on the top of the water and made an enclosed area where the water was calm.  I bent over and put my face as close to the water as I could.  The bottom of the pool was visible, but I couldn't find anything shiny.  After a bit of searching, I turned my eyes to my feet and was surprised to see a shiny circle of Gold just in front of my left toe.  I almost screamed!  Now I had to go get it.  Very slowly I submerged myself in the 65 degree water and tried to feel my way to the ring.  This didn't work and I wasn't able to grab it.  The next time, I got down under the water and opened my eyes just long enough to snatch the ring and quickly place it on my finger for safety.  I jumped out of the water and yelled "YES!!!".  All the kids were stunned at first and then they all yelled.  They were happy that they could play again.  I walked down to the car to tell Beth that I found the ring and she and I gave each other a big hug and kiss.  It was such a relief.

That night we were having dinner when it started to rain.  It was in the high 90's with high humidity so I decided that a little rain shower was in order.  I pulled off my shirt and stood on the edge of the deck to enjoy the cool shower.  Soon thereafter, Grayson was crawling his way across the deck.  He was getting soaked and I was getting a little nervous because there was lightning and thunder all over the place.  I stripped him out of his wet clothes and put him under the overhang of the house to keep him dry.  Grayson is a bit strong headed and immediately started walking back out into the rain.  I followed him and we ended up playing in the rain for the next 45 minutes.  Magnus joined us after stripping off his shirt.  It was amazing!  The rain was probably 75 degrees.  It literally was like taking a shower.  I was surprised at how Grayson had no worries and would just crawl around the deck in the rain.  He loved it!

On Friday night we took a jeep ride down into the pasture to see the cows.  This was an up close and personal trip.  There were several different species and some brand new baby calves.  At one point, we came close to a big bull.  I started mooing at it and he became irritated.  Lou reminded us not to look a bull in the eye and we quickly turned around and headed away.  After we were about 30 feet away, Magnus says to me "I looked it in the eye." and then he smiled and laughed.  One day he'll learn...

Since I grew up on a "farm", I figured that I would jump out of the jeep and try to pet the cows.  I soon found out that cows don't like the attention of unfamiliar humans.  Every time I approached a cow, they would slowly retreat and then turn and run away from me.  After about 10 minutes, I figured that I wasn't going to be able to pet a cow and jumped back into the jeep.  As we headed back up to the house, the sun was setting over the ridge and the sky was lit up with stars and a bright crescent moon.  What a beautiful way to end an evening.

I can't explain how beautiful the Appalachian mountains are.  You wake up to a foggy mess only to be relieved by a clear sight in the mid morning.  A beautiful blue sky and a slightly hazy and cool evening breaking to a black night dotted with the twinkle of diamonds in the sky.  I didn't get to spend much time outside after dark, but I bet it was a phenomenal site.

Thanks for reading.  I'll post pictures when I can.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Drive...

Saturday started early.  We were leaving for North Carolina that evening and we had plenty to do.  First was to clean and prep the house for showing.  This took the majority of the day and the boys were cooperative and let us work.  They knew that we were leaving in the evening to drive to NC and were very excited to go.

By late afternoon, we were done prepping and turned our attention to packing and bathing the boys.  No one wanted to cook so we headed out to Monellis for dinner.  By 7:30 we were on the road.  The car was packed to the brim but the boys looked comfortable.

Shortly after this picture was taken, Grayson decided he was unhappy.  He spent the next 90 minutes screaming and crying regardless of what we did to soothe him.  It was a difficult 90 minutes.  Nolan spent most of the time plugging his ears and saying "Grayson is hurting my ears Daddy."

We were close to Ohio when most everyone was sleeping.  Magnus was still awake and wanted to stay awake until we were in Ohio.  After that, he was out like a light.  When we stopped for gas in Ohio, all the boys woke up.  Unfortunately, the bathrooms were in less the desireable conditions and, if you know what it's like to take a child to the bathroom in a public toilet, it was a horrible experience.  I don't know about you, but my children tend to touch everything despite my warnings of germs, disease, etc...  After a thorough washing in the sink, we were ready to forge on.  I continued driving the sleeping beauties all the way to Lexington, KY.   The last hour or so was touch and go.  I was very tired at that point.  Beth took over so I could try to get some rest.

If you've ever ridden in a Mazda 5, you know that there isn't a whole lot of room.  My knees were touching the dash board because we had to stow some stuff behind the seat.  I couldn't put the seat back because Nolan was behind me in his car seat.  I did fall asleep, but it was an uneasy rest.  After about two hours I came to with a sore back and neck.  The boys were still sleeping comfortably and that made me happy.

Beth was doing well despite an uneasy sleep in the car.  We decided to stop at Hardees for breakfast in a small town called Tellico.  It was about 6:30 AM.  I have never been so disappointed in a breakfast.  Fortunately, we don't eat fast food on a regular basis.  We choked down our biscuits and hit the road.  We were now on the Cherohala Skyway.  This is a scenic mountain road and there are may switchbacks as it winds along the tops of the smokey mountains.  Unfortunately, it was still quite early in the morning and we couldn't see very well through the fog.  Magnus was sitting in the back and he started to get motion sick.  We stopped briefly and let him get out and walk around.  I decided to switch places with him so he could watch out the front window and get some fresh air.  For the next hour and a half we drove and stopped, drove and stopped and finally when we were about 2 miles to our destination, Magnus emptied his stomach on the side of the road.  Fortunately, this made him feel better and he didn't cry or complain.

So, we arrived at Barb and Lou's home and unpacked the car.  It was 8:30 AM.  13 hours of driving through the night had come to an end.  Beth and I took turns napping during the day and called it an early night.  More fun and excitement on Monday.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Garden Fresh Inspiration and mini Soutapalooza...

So my garden is really producing a LOT of food.  My tomatoes are abundant and bursting with flavor!  I've been giving away about a pound of tomatoes per day.  When I came home from work yesterday, my neighbor Brenda had made some salsa with the tomatoes that I had given her the day before.  It was delicious!  That evening my cousin Tim, who is visiting from Switzerland and is on his way to Japan for the next two years, came over for a night of beer tasting (more on that later) and good food.  He brought over a pot of red beans that he had made with andouille sausage and beans from Louisiana.   I put some rice in the cooker and we feasted on red beans and rice topped with fresh garden salsa.  I was extremely close to food coma.

Brenda had explained how she made the salsa and how easy it was to make, so tonight I decided to give it a go.  I picked up some cilantro and a lime from the grocery store and proceeded to make my version of salsa.  It went a lot like this:  Chop a bunch of Roma tomatoes, finely dice any peppers that I had pulled from the garden (only 1 jalapeño, 2 green peppers and 2 of another kind that I don't know the name of), finely dice a small onion from the garden, squeeze the juice of one lime, coarse chop the cilantro, a dash of vinegar and olive oil, add some sea salt and pepper and stir.  I tasted it right away and it was good.

We had plans for dinner with our other neighbors, the Fielders, and I brought the salsa and some El Matador tortilla chips (The best chips ever!) over to their house for us to enjoy.  I was pleasantly surprised when I took another bite and the flavor had gotten even better!  Everyone loved it and I was forced to leave the leftovers for our friends to enjoy.  Good thing I've got more veggies growing.  Next year I think I'll do a salsa garden with different kinds of tomatoes (think heirloom varieties), assorted peppers, cilantro, onions, etc...  That would make for an interesting summer.

Back to the beer tasting.  My cousin Tim and I are both beer connoisseurs and every time he comes to visit we make a journey to Founders Brewing so Tim can experience what the West Michigan beer scene is all about.  Sunday night we did just that.  After enjoying their new IPA, Endurance Ale and a few Bourbon Apple Cream Ales, we were ready to get some food.  Unfortunately, there isn't much open late on a Sunday night.  We ended up at Steak and Shake for a Guacamole Burger and fries.  

Last night, along with our red beans and rice, we whipped together a mini Stoutapalooza.  The original Stoutapalooza happened over three days this past December.  We tasted about 55 beers over the course and it was an amazing experience.  Last night I tasted my first World Wide Stout by Dogfish Head brewing.  It was full of flavor and has definitely landed in my top 10 favorite beers.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and at 18% it really hit home! I knew it was good when I started having trouble seeing the ball on Wii baseball.  What a successful and wonderful evening.

Note:  My new camera should arrive tomorrow!!!  Then I can take pictures of all the good things I eat and drink.  Also, coming up next week, we'll be in North Carolina visiting family so look for some good stories to come.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The New Camera Is On Its Way!

I finally did it! I was able to sell enough of my stuff on Craigslist to buy a new camera. This has been a goal of mine since returning from our vacation in Mexico. While we were there, we went to Xplor! which is a zip line park. It was very fun flying down the zip lines and taking some fun videos. I knew that there were a few water landings at the end of some of the zip lines so I made sure to put the camera in a ziploc baggy to protect it from getting wet. It worked great during those short water landings. There was also an underground river that you could swim through. It was like spelunking in a cave but you got to swim through it. There were a lot of stalactites hanging from the ceiling. I had put my camera in my pocket, secured nicely in the ziploc bag before going into the river. It had worked in the water landings so I was sure it would be OK in the river too. Well, the ziploc bag leaked when it was submerged for so long. a few drops of water got in and ruined the camera. I tried everything to dry it out and save the camera but I was unsuccessful.

More background info: When Beth and I got married in 2001, we vacationed in Jamaica. We were given a nice panoramic camera as a wedding gift and we made sure to bring it with us. We took some great pictures with it and also some very tasteful, artistic nude photos on the clothing optional island. I couldn't wait to get them developed! On about the third day, we decided to go for a kayak ride in the ocean. I had the option to leave the camera at the sports desk, but I decided to bring it along in the kayak with me. I didn't think that the waves would be enough to break over the top of the kayak, so I put the camera in the back compartment on top of the kayak. We were about 50 yards off shore when Beth started yelling at me that the camera was swimming in a pool of water! I turned around and, sure enough, the bag the camera was in was floating around and soaked completely through. I was devastated. Beth was PISSED! She had told me not to bring the camera along. Now the pictures were destroyed, memories were gone forever and I thought she would renounce he wedding vows. The rest of the week I was walking on egg shells, but we worked it out.

Fast forward back to Mexico; Beth had also told me not to bring the camera in the water and that if I had to, use two ziplocs to keep it safe. Again I didn't listen and figured one ziploc would do the trick. You'd think that I would learn my lesson and I think I have. I was once again walking on egg shells. This is when I set a goal to purge some unused items to pay for the replacement of the camera.

So in a few short days, I'll have the new camera and I can start including pictures on this Blog! I hope it makes things a little more exciting for the 3 followers of my little Blog. Thanks for following my blog, I hope you like it so far. It will only get better. For anyone of you anonymous readers, feel free to follow along. There's a lot more good stuff coming.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Uncle Don...

This evening, I found out that my Uncle Don passed away. I found out late last week that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At the time the Doc gave him 3 months. His cancer must have been more advanced than the Doc had realized.

Uncle Don was married to my Aunt Irene. She was my Dad's sister. Aunt Irene passed away of cancer in the late 1990's. I think it was 1998, but might have been 1999. Aunt Irene was my Dad's first sibling to pass away and it was a very sad time. I remember hugging my Dad after the funeral service and crying uncontrollably with him. It was the first time I've had to console my Dad.

I didn't know my Aunt Irene or Uncle Don very well. Don and Irene had three children; Doreen, Mike and Dale. Doreen and Mike were quite a bit older than me so I didn't get to know them very well. I saw them at family reunions and always had a great respect for them. They were always nice to me my brother Phil. My cousin Dale was fun to be around. He was the first person to introduce me to "dubbing" CDs to tape. I also remember when I turned 18, Phil, Dale and I went to Déjà vu for a night of looking at strippers and getting lap dances. It was a great time that I won't forget.

Random Story: This is where I learned that strippers don't want anything but your money. Other than bachelor parties, I've never been back to a strip joint. Except for that time in Key West when the "performer" grabbed my ears with her long finger nails and began to thrust my face into her robust cleavage while digging said finger nails into my scalp. Needless to say that it hurt like hell. I'd never forcefully thrown dollar bills at anyone prior to that night. I have not purposely darkened the door of a strip joint since that day.

So now I pray that my Uncle Don's soul is accepted into heaven. I pray for safe passage and a short time in purgatory. I pray for Mike, Doreen and Dale and all of Uncle Don's Grandchildren that their suffering be eased knowing that Uncle Don is now in Heaven with Aunt Irene.

Until I see you again, Uncle Don, May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. May the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, May the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On the Market...

Our home is officially on the market! Go to and do a residential property search for listing number 10034700. Now the waiting begins.

Monday, July 26, 2010

3... 2... 1... JUMP!!!!

So here I sit, drinking rum and coke and listening to the Cubs beat up on the Astros. It's 5 to 2 in the top of the ninth. I have a feeling that the Cubs will pull this one off. It's been a rough season, but I feel good about it. Good things are going to happen to this ball club.

It's been a whirlwind couple of days. Beth and I have been busting our butts cleaning and organizing our house. Tonight we met with a good friend and realtor, Joe Siereveld. I've known Joe since we moved to Byron Center in 2004. He was building a house two doors down from ours and doing it fast. He and his wife Kerry had one child at the time and so did we. Joe is a home builder and specializes in high end homes. I'm amazed at what he can build and wish I had that ability. He is also a realtor and I trust him with my most expensive purchase. Joe has agreed to list our home and help us move forward with our plan. Walking through the house with Joe while he was taking pictures, I kept thinking about our next step and how exciting it will be. We are downsizing! We will live a smaller life, but it will be an exponentially better and happier existence. I can't wait to eliminate the worry of our big mortgage and focus more on my family.

Random comment: The Cubs just won! Final score: Cubs 5, Astros 2.

I am hopeful that this process is quick. From what Joe told me, the market is good now and being in the Byron Center school district is a big plus going into the school year. I hope he is right. I would love to have the house sold and be in buying mode in a few weeks. Keep your fingers crossed. I'll post a link to our listing when it is available.

So here I sit. On the cusp of a great adventure in simpleness. Back to the basics. Minimize everything. Enjoy life. Am I excited? Heck yeah I'm excited! The best is coming and I'm jumping on the train.

Random quote: "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose, Nothin', don't mean nothin', hon' if it ain't free."

Freedom. No more weight to bear. No more worries. No more wondering if we're spending enough time with our boys. No more missing out on those moments when they say the funny thing or do something silly. No more sadness of dropping off the boys at day care. (Note: We love our day care. The staff there is fantastic and we appreciate all the love and care they have given to our boys. Nothing could replace that, except for us being home for our boys.)

So, as for tomorrow, 3... 2... 1... JUMP!!!!

Shine Brilliantly...

I read this on Rachel Elabeth's Facebook page and thought it was worth sharing.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

A quote from Marianne Williamson

Saturday, July 24, 2010

One Red Arm

So you may be wondering what this One Red Arm thing is all about. Back in 1997 I was a senior at Central Michigan University. I was in my last year and was living in the Alpha Kappa Psi Fraternity house. Knowing that this would be my last year in college, it only seemed right to go on Spring Break and enjoy my last hurrah. The Van Van was in running order and three other fraternity brothers were willing to take the trip with me to Key West, FL. After classes on a Thursday we left Mt. Pleasant bound for Key West. We drove through the night in hopes that we would get to warmer weather by morning. It was incredibly cold that first night. The mountains of West Virginia are just high enough to get below freezing in the Spring. With Frozen hands attached to the steering wheel, we forged on and made it to North Carolina by mid-day. We spent the night at Eric Kalamaras’ parents’ home before continuing on to Florida.

We pulled another all nighter and made it to Miami the next day where we stopped in the Everglades for an air boat ride. I was also making a point to try to find and talk to some Cubans that had made it to FL by boat. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any. Anyway, we headed south from Miami and entered Highway 1, the Overseas Highway that takes you through the keys and ends in Key West. We got about half way there and I noticed that my “lap” area was getting very hot. After a few moments I realized that the sun was shining directly on my “lap” area and I was wearing black shorts! Wow was it hot. I covered my lap with my hat and that seemed to resolve the issue for the time being.

Anyone who drives a VW bus knows that the most comfortable place to rest your left arm is on the door with the window rolled down. Unfortunately, I wasn’t wearing any sunscreen on our trip and my arm became very sunburned.

The next day, I looked in the mirror and was astonished at how unbalanced I looked with my One Red Arm. I kept sunscreen on my left arm all week but the rest of my body just couldn’t get tan / burnt enough to match the color of my left arm. I was known for the rest of the week as One Red Arm. I was also known as bald fat guy too but that story isn’t as interesting as this one. J

Monday, July 19, 2010

DownSizing or RightSizing

With all that is going on in our lives, we find that it is hard to just relax and enjoy the time that we're in. Every day there is something to do, somewhere to go, etc, etc... Eventually people come to a point where you make a decision. Is life about what you want / have or is life about enjoying time, family, friends and faith?

This has been a life long debate for me. I've always wanted to live life so I have fun all the time. When I was growing up, all I wanted to do was have fun, travel, be with friends, play volleyball, ski and enjoy doing stuff that most people don't get to do. I followed the intended path and went to college. In college I continued to enjoy life the way I wanted and it was fun. Never did I question where I was going or what I was doing. I was free to do what I wanted and when I wanted. During college I talked about going on a one year hiatus after graduation. I would move out West in my Van Van and settle somewhere amongst the mountains. Somewhere along the line, I was persuaded to take the road more traveled. I graduated and got a job and started losing my ambition to live a funfilled life with no regrets.

Money is a big factor in choices like these. I had a student loan that I needed to pay back, $3,000 plus of credit card debt (mostly from Spring Break 1997, but also from a new mountain bike), rent and a car payment. My monthly pay covered these with little to spare. From then on, I was stuck. All I could think about was working, advancing and trying to pay off that debt. Life would have been a LOT different had I not followed this path.

Make no mistake, I have no regrets for the decisions that I've made. I've learned a Lot. I've been married now for over 9 years, I've got three beautiful boys that I adore and a wife that is a handful but in a good way. I love her deeply and that will last forever.

This brings me to the next phase in my life. We've all got choices to make. We can choose to do what everyone else does or we can make a new path through the forest. With much discussion and thought, we've made a choice to break free from the norm. I no longer have an interest in having a nice house, nice lawn, or 3 bathrooms. I don't care what neighborhood I live in. I don't care if my car is a certain horse power or has the latest stereo system. I don't care about what society thinks of me. I am going to live my life the way I want to and on my terms. I should probably say that we are going to do this, as a family, to make the most of our lives and our time together. On September 1st, we will start the process of downsizing. Maybe rightsizing is a better term. A big mortgage doesn't have a place in our lives any more. Yes, we are going to put the house up for sale. I don't know how long this will take, but we are going to try. I am hopeful that it will be less than a year before we sell it.

This is a big change for my family. The boys are on board, so that will make is easier. This is only step one of the process. Once the house is gone, we'll make some other choices that will better our lives by decreasing the burden on our collective wallet. For now, that is all I can tell you. I'll keep this blog updated on our progress and hopefully our success. God is good and we are doing this in his name. I pray that we can keep true to ourselves and our God and make this happen. Living life to its fullest to the glory of God; what could be better than that? I know He will help us achieve this dream. Thanks for reading...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tour De France 2010

I have been trying to follow the TDF this year. So far, Lance has given up and there have been some good rivalries. I am pulling for Andy Schleck and I hope that Levi can pull up to the 3rd spot for The Shack. It is sad for me to watch knowing that this is Lance's last tour. The official end of an era. I'm sure he'll still keep riding and I hope to see him win the Leadville 100 in person some day.

I have a very limited TV Channel lineup and it doesn't include the Versus channel. So, at lunch time, I head over to the Excercise room at work and ride a stationary bike while watching the tour on one of the many TVs there. It is actually quite fun riding while watching others race on the TV. I find that during the last 20 KM I tend to ride faster as I anticipate who will win the stage. It's a great workout.

Has anyone else been keeping up on the tour?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Here I am...

This is my first blog entry. I've wanted to do this for a while so, here she goes. I am 37 years old, married and have three children (all boys). We live in a nice house, my wife and I have good jobs and we can't find enough time to spend with our boys. I think this is probably typical of dual income families living in the Midwest. I would say that we are very middle class. Although sometimes we walk the line of being rednecks. Case in point; we spent the day two Saturdays ago in the kiddy pool in the driveway. Not sure what the neighbors thought about that...

Anyway, we have the same struggles as anyone else and I intend to use this forum to share my life as a married, middle class Father of three bright young boys. More about my history in later posts. If you decide to follow my blog, you won't be disappointed. There is always something odd going on... Slainte!