Thursday, September 29, 2011


For the first time as an adult, I'm going to be going on a plane very soon.  Cari's coming along with me and it makes me wonder, shouldn't we fly on separate planes in case one goes down?  Just like you would never want the President and Vice President to fly together.

I'm running out of time to talk to the people that have planned this trip and I have an important message for them. . .
I'd rather a train, thank you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One of Two

Saturday was a good day for a picnic.  That was my opinion anyway.  Just the girls and I were at home and not much was going on.  I called them into the kitchen and we packed up a lunch for a picnic.

As I described my plans to them, I realized that not everyone felt like it was a great day for a picnic.  One of my lovely daughters reminded me that we have a picnic table in the backyard.  I persisted on my plans and we soon arrived at the Hagood Mill historical site for a short hike and picnic.

One of the girls complained during much of the hike and my other young hiker was having a great time.  After the hike, we found a soft patch of grass to have lunch in the shade.
I haven't been to the mill site in a while, and a lot of work has happened there in the past year.  There is now a steel bridge over a creek.  The bridge was previously used for traffic, but was replaced over time for wider, concrete bridges.  There is also a large building being constructed to house the petroglyphs that have been found carved into rocks on the property.  The petroglyphs are thought to be carved roughly 1,000 years ago by native americans.  The building will protect the carvings and also have a display teaching about them.
Finally, there is another building on site that has a cotton gin demonstration setup and a blacksmith shop.

This soapstone boulder is thought to have been carved nearly 5,000 years ago.  Two partially formed bowls are attached to the boulder.  Carved with flint, after being roughly shaped, they would be broken off for final shaping and detail.
While we sat in the grass eating our lunch we could see all these new items and we discussed the history of some of these artifacts.  After lunch, we examined some of the buildings a little closer before heading back home.

Until we left, I was only able to please one of my two daughters with our hike and history lesson.  Guess which one was loving it. . .

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I came across these photos from earlier in the summer.   You can tell how excited the boy was to be dressed as a cow for a free meal at Chick-Fil-A.  His mom told him if he didn't do it, he wasn't eating.

Even forced to wear an embarrassing cow costume, the boy wouldn't give up a Chick-Fil-A sandwich.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Glorious Coupons!

"Look at this!", she says as she unpacks the groceries,
"They were only four cents each!"

"Looks good.", I said.  "Where's the chips?"

"They weren't on sale.", she replied.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shining Rock: The Video

On September 9 and 10 we hiked some great trails in the Shining Rock Wilderness area.  Here's a video of our trip:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Will it Blend?

Cari broke our blender with a bit of ice and some frozen fruits.  I told her we should order a Blendtec blender because it can crush a concrete block without even getting warm, but she said she only needs one that crushes ice and fruit.  She found one for $10 at Walmart.

I'm going to give it a thorough testing when she goes to bed.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Shining Rock Wilderness: Backpacked

It's not an adventure without a challenge.

The latest backpacking adventure took us into the Shining Rock Wilderness area in North Carolina.

We met on a Friday morning and headed up the Old Butt Knob trail.  I had read that this trail was going to be steep, but I ignored that warning and planned our hike up the hill.  On the map, the contour lines were so close together in this area that it was just gray on the b&w print.  Somewhere I read it was a 1500 ft climb in half a mile.  It felt like we climbed twice that.  The trail is also known as Kick Your Old Butt Knob trail and it was given a few names as we hiked it Friday that I won't repeat.

This kicked off our adventure in the wilderness.

Eventually we made it to Shining Rock, where there is a field of white rocks.
We only encountered one or two camping groups on the mountain.  One was scooping water out of small spring for their water filter, the other couldn't tell us what trail he was on.

All day Friday I was on the lookout for a bear.  Not because I was scared, but because I wanted to see one.  It never showed itself.  The only close encounter we had Friday with nature was some kind of insect that was making his way up the inside of Chip's pant leg.  When he went to swat at it, he got a sharp sting.   Good thing he didn't let the bug get any higher!

That night I was at the fire at felt something biting the top of my leg.  I looked down and saw a small, bright red bug on my pants.  It was starting to hurt and I went to brush him off my pant leg.  That's when I realized it wasn't a bug, it was FIRE.

After I confirmed I wasn't burning in the fire, I looked up to see a rabbit quietly hopping around our tent area.  We contemplated eating him, but decided to let him live another day.  He's lucky he came after we had all just eaten our crackers.

Across from our camp was a camp of a few women.  They took several hours to build some type of tower with some large logs.  It was in the form of a gateway.  Two tall towers, maybe seven feet tall, with a large piece of wood stretched across the top to form the doorway.  We had a good evening waiting for them to burn this monument but the girls never did burn it.  It turned out that they were just going to hang laundry from this structure.

Saturday morning we broke camp and headed back into the wilderness of unmarked trails.

After a few river crossings and quick glances at our maps, we came upon a sign on the trail.  This was odd since nothing was marked in the wilderness.  We stopped to check the maps and found we had made a wrong turn after one of the river crossings.  We were only ten minutes from the river, so turning back won over hitching on the Blue Ridge Pkwy.
That would be the only time over the two days of hiking that we would make a wrong turn.  Not bad for a group of amateurs wandering around a wilderness chock full of unmarked trails.

Our Saturday lunch was on the river.  We perched ourselves on some boulders in the middle of the river and took a much needed break.   One of the things that struck me the most about the river was how incredibly clear it was.  You could see very clearly every rock sitting on the bottom of the river.
 Eventually Saturday afternoon we emerged from the woods back at the road and at the parking lot where we had left our cars on Friday.

 Before we began, I found this hand sketched map of the trails converging on a website.  I printed it out and it was extremely helpful understanding this section of the trail.  If you ever go into Shining Rock Wilderness, print this map out and keep it in your pocket.  The other thing that was really helpful in keeping us on the correct trail were several small cairns (stacks of stones) that had been built at various intersections.  I think there was twice where we had some doubt about which direction to take and a cairn answered the question.

 We had some challenges on our two days of hiking.  Challenges with the terrain and challenges with keeping pointed in the right direction.  But that's okay, because the challenges make an adventure.
As always, we had a great trip, and I can't say enough good things about the two men that suffer through each of these hikes with me.   Thanks Aaron, thanks Chip, for sharing in the adventure.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What's for Dinner?

I had the opportunity recently to stay home for a few days while Cari made a trip to see some family.  This put me in charge of the house.  I had to pick up kids from every corner of the Earth, figure out dinner, get homework done, clean up, get kids in bed on time, etc. . .  Oh yeah, I also told my boss I would be available those days, so I was working at home a bit through the day as well.

It didn't take long before I was ready to give control of the house back to my wife.

I had money and plans to eat pizza one night, so of course, the kids and I voted to do that on the first night.

The rest of the time I planned meals at the last possible second.  Nobody starved and only one kid complained.   The problem was with the day that Cari was expected home.

We anticipated her to be home close to dinner time.  I figured after a full 12 hour day in the car she would be ready to cook us a real meal!  The kids and I were tired of my quasi cooking.

When homecoming day arrived, and the hours clicked by, I realized that she wouldn't be home until hours after dinner time.  Damn.  I was out of ideas.

So on the last night of running the house I started digging in the cupboards.  I needed something quick and easy.  Mostly easy.  Food supplies were running low because I hadn't done any grocery shopping through the week.  I had used up all of my supplies based on the time I thought I had to fill.

Here's a quick scan of what I checked for:

  • Hot dogs - nope.
  • Chicken nuggets - nope. 
  • Frozen pizza - nope. 
  • cereal - yep!
  • cheese - yep!
  • ice cream - yep!
  • pickles - yep!

Here's your choice kids.  You can have a bowl of cereal and a pickle or some cheese with a piece of bread.  I thought I was going to have a mutiny on my hands so I offered up some ice cream to make peace.

It's a good thing Cari came home that night.  Those kids weren't going to allow me to serve another meal.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Tablet

I couldn't resist any longer.  I had to give in and purchase a new gadget.  I purchased the Acer A500 tablet.

Here's what I can tell you about having a tablet.  I don't need one, and I find it hard to believe anyone would really need one.  It is useful and it can be fun to play with, but it still falls strictly under luxury item in my mind.

I don't have a laptop.  I have my phone and the desktop computer.  So for me, this tablet filled the gap of electronics instead of getting a laptop.  I've had the opportunity to take it out of town with me and it was easy to have something that size tucked in my bag.  The times I find myself using the tablet are times I feel like I would use a laptop if I had one.  So, if you have a laptop you may have even less reason to purchase a tablet at this time.

If you have a smart phone running the Android operating system, then picking up a tablet running Android will be an easy transition.  For the most part, the tablet uses the same apps as the phones do.  Some developers are getting better at creating content to look good on the larger screen, and I'm seeing more come on board each week.

A few things that work really well on the tablet are reading news, watching videos, sketching / drawing, social media, reading books, and general web browsing.  I've also found a few games that work well on the tablet.  One game that works well with multiple people is Carcassonne.  Carcassonne is a digital version of a card game of the same name.  It's very convenient to play on the tablet because you eliminate setup time and clean up.  Also, the game keeps track of scoring and it's easier just to focus on playing the game.

After having the tablet for about a month, I still find myself using it pretty frequently. It still sits squarely in the luxury category, but fills the gap that existed between my phone and my desktop computer.  It never was easy to drag the desktop out to the couch while watching TV.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Nine Eleven

I was at work that morning.  Working as an assistant manager in one of the busiest stores of a major retailer.  I went up to the manager's office.  The moment in time that is frozen in my mind is the manager on his Blackberry.  I can see it very clearly.  Where everyone was standing, what pose everyone was in.  He told me that a plane crashed into a building in New York.

I imagined it as a small Cessna hitting a skyscraper and I thought, "Well, that's stupid".  It never entered my mind of what was actually happening.  Within five minutes of hearing that first bit of news my phone rang.  It was Cari.  She was at home watching the events on TV. Now a second plane crashed.  I believe that's when I realized what was actually starting to happen.  It was insane.

In the store, everyone was getting calls from home and customers were starting to hear what was happening.  We didn't have a television in the store, so we were getting reports over the phone and from customers.  Everyone was whispering across the store the reports that they had heard.

The store started to empty out as time ticked on.  People were going home to get the news.
After a few hours, an employee that was scheduled later in the day came in.  He brought a small TV and a VCR.  He had recorded the news all morning and wanted to give us a chance to see for ourselves.   That was my first view of the planes and the burning buildings.

We went back out to the sales floor and there wasn't a customer in the store.  I looked outside to the empty parking lot and the busy highway in front of our store.  The highway was empty.  It was a ghost town.

I remember driving home on empty roads, but I don't remember if I left work early or not that day.  We spent the rest of the evening watching the news at home.

It wasn't long after September 11 that I picked up the Bible that had been sitting in lost and found and started reading it.

Not many events get etched into memory like that day.   This is one that all Americans share as a common memory and it's interesting to hear how we all lived those same moments.  If you would take five minutes of your time, I'd like to hear your story of that morning.  Add your story to the comments.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Carry Me. . .

On the trail.  Can't blog today.  Will someone please carry me up this hill?  1500 ft of elevation gain in 1/2 a mile.  Someone do the math.  How much elevation gain is that per step?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Moth

The Moth is a New York City based nonprofit organization that conducts live storytelling events.  They feature some fantastic story tellers.  There is a free podcast that you can download and listen to each week.  The podcast is normally around five minutes long and features a winning story teller from one of The Moth events.  You can also find them on YouTube featuring some of their story tellers.

As a sample, here is Steve Burns   .  It's Steve from the Nickelodeon show, Blue's Clues!
If you enjoy hearing a good story then you really have to start checking out The Moth.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Church Signs

I drive past a lot of churches everyday and always notice their signs.  Some do a better job than others at drawing my attention or causing me ponder on their witty words.  Here are two recent signs that got my attention and had me think about their short messages.

Be patient with others as God is with you.


We don't change the message.  The message changes us.

Church signs are the Twitter of religion. Some do a better job at holding your attention and some hold a lot of meaning. 

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Baseball Day

Some friends have a suite at the baseball stadium and invited us to use it for a recent home game.  I'm not normally terribly interested in baseball, but I have been to a few games previously.  Randy and I went with some neighbors.

First thing is when you have tickets to a suite in the stadium, you also get a VIP parking pass to park next to the stadium instead of walking thirteen blocks like everyone else.  Already I knew this would be a really cool experience.  

When we got inside and upstairs we found our room and walked in. 
 Inside were bowls of food and a small refrigerator with drinks.  A TV hung on the wall, and there was a counter to sit at and look through the windows at the field below.  There was also a telephone on the counter with an info card telling us to pick up that phone if we needed anything.  Next to the windows was a glass door leading to a balcony with about twenty seats.
 We sat outside and watched the game on a beautiful day.  Even if you don't care much about baseball, I could hardly think of a more relaxing thing than sitting up there listening to the game.

Somewhere around the fourth inning a woman came out and told us she had brought us some food and left it in the room.  This day just kept getting better and better.  Inside we found a huge tray of hamburgers, another of hot dogs, and plates of all the condiments you would want.

Randy and his friend had low interest in the game and once the food came, they stayed in the room eating and talking for the rest of the game.

I continued to sit outside and watch the game.  One of the things I liked about this field was the old time feel to the score board.  There was a guy sitting in there behind one of the zeros, the one that was half taken out. He was watching the game and updating the score board by hand as it happened.
Near the end of the game we went back into the room to find a large tray of cookies.  Thankfully I was able to get one before the kids ate them all.

Everything about the game and being in that suite made for a great day.  The suite was a new experience for me and was something great.

On top of that, I was reminded about the special sights, sounds, and smells of a baseball game.  Special even if you aren't normally a big fan of baseball.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Thank you? No! Thank Me.

I had the honor of taking Randy to the open house at school the other night.  As I parked the car, we were talking about teachers.  A lot of people like to thank the teachers for the work they do and that got me thinking.

The teacher should thank ME!  If I hadn't gone through all the trouble of making these kids and keeping them alive this long, the teacher wouldn't even have a job.  The teachers owe me thanks for their careers.  I think they owe me a dinner too.

Randy and I decided we like Olive Garden.