Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Portland Nightmare

Post contributed by Noah Schmidt

My job recently sent me to Portland, Oregon for a few months. Because it was a temporary move, I lived in an apartment complex that offered corporate housing. This means that everything is basically set up for you. It’s kind of like showing up at a hotel, except without the housekeeping. Although the décor was a little sparse and strange, the apartment wasn’t too bad. I’m grateful that I didn’t have to do any of the setup, like finding Portland wireless internet, home phone, garbage collection, etc…but I was pretty annoyed at the location of my apartment. My company thought it would be great to have me in close proximity to the office, which sounds like a good idea. I didn’t think much of it when they told me that I would be five minutes away from work since I would be spending most of my time at the office anyways. Unfortunately, our office in Portland is in a terrible neighborhood and I was terrified the whole time. The neighborhood was so bad that there weren’t even any decent restaurants or groceries stores around. At night it became deserted. I’m safely back home now and have warned my boss about the dangers of staying in that area of Portland.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Curb Appeal

Authored by Raymond Whitney
My mother-in-law recently sent me an email talking about all the renovations that they are doing to their new house. I love getting email updates about important things but to be quiet honest I could careless about renovations to a house. Should I feel bad for that? I honestly can’t say that I do, I mean I’m a guy. My idea of having a good time is football, eating, going out with the boys; not curb appeal and adding a new flowerbed to the front of the house. I guess I’m happy that she likes me because I know most guys despise their mother-in-laws but for the most part I actually like mine. Plus, the one good thing she did mention in the email was the fact that she recently had satellite TV installed in her house and that she loves it. As soon as I read that I emailed her back letting her know that she had peaked my interest. She instantly told me about direct TV remote and I was instantly hooked. I actually think it was worth reading four paragraphs about home renovations.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Trey's Tris

Guest written by our friend Gladys Fuentes

Trey is a triathlete and I think that’s amazing – I can barely do thirty minutes on the treadmill without passing out! He’s constantly training and though summer is best for the swimming portion he’s still got to do the running and biking too and I worry about him when he’s out there exerting himself in this heat. I know he says he’s fine but the last thing I would want would be for something to happen to him because he pushed himself too far. I make sure he’s always got plenty of water with him and I do a lot to keep him well fed. I also keep the house really cold when I know he’s going to come back, so cold in fact that I had to go to Http:// because our AC bills were just outrageous! Anyway, Trey is my personal hero and I think the ways he pushes his body are amazing…if only I had that much energy on a daily basis. Nevermind, I wouldn’t know what to do with it!

Capital Adventure

Each year I take myself and the kids down to our nation's capital to enjoy the company of their uncles, who live in the area, and to learn and enjoy our nation's heritage.  It is a little different each year.  The focus of previous years was set on monuments, I tried hard to to have the kids enjoy this year at the Hazy Air and Space Museum, the National Zoo, and of course our annual trip to the ball park with a ride on the metro.

There has been lots of driving with a chance to see the cites surrounding the area such as Georgetown and Arlington.  The kids have enjoyed different sites such as seeing a Turkish Consulate with his Turkish translator while at the grocery store of all places, enjoying the skyline of DC from my brother's balcony and seeing the Marine Corp Marching Band at the Iwo Jima Memorial.

It is odd with all that is around the kids, that the Harry Potter movie was my oldest son's favorite activity, while my youngest son enjoyed the museum and my daughter enjoyed just being at her uncle's house.  To me the yearly vacation marks a week to enjoy my brothers who I normally only get to see around holidays. It is funny when I see them and notice how much more alike we are then I remember, from allergies we have developed, tastes in food and books, and of course the normal subject of talking about relationships.  It leads quite often to typical brotherly insults and love that I know I can't live without.

Overall it is something I wouldn't trade for the world.  If anything, it is a return to the days of my childhood where the joy of being around my brothers cannot be beat.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Over the Border

I am an avid game player as most people know.  Being one has helped me expand the amount of people I know on a global scale.  I have talked almost daily at some point to people in Japan, Mexico, Venezuela, Australia, and other countries across the globe.  Because of the tight community of gamers that I am apart of, I have gotten to know quite a few of these people on a personal level instead of just inside a virtual reality.  The few online gaming friends I have met were mostly from the US, however I have gotten to know quite a few Canadians.  With them, the added fact that we are from two different countries seems to lend us endless opportunities to make fun of each others culture.

Politics are generally avoided while remarks of "When is the US going to learn to play hockey?" and "I swore that Boston just beat the Canucks into a riot." are common remarks. One recent discussion ensued about home grown products.  "Canada doesn't export anything but snow and syrup, and they only make a profit from one of them." Which is shortly followed by "Well if you keep importing the snow from us like dummies, we will keep sending it."  Nothing is ever meant to hurt as I have enjoyed my friends from Canada.  "You know what I'm saying, eh?"

I have to say with some luck, I was able to have my friends C and T come out to visit my home in "The Middle of Nowhere, NJ".  Card games, great BBQ food, and late night s'mores roasting in the backyard made for lots of fun.  Helpful suggestions for upgrading the comforts of life made us feel like family.  C recommended to me upgrading my lawn furniture, from, while I taught his wife T how to BBQ American style. None of us slept til about four in the morning.

I was sad to see them go when they left the next day.  I can call them true friends.  I smile and laugh because of them on a near daily basis. The banter will continue, and I hope it always will, with my friends from over the border.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Storyteller

When somebody touches your life as long a grandmother does there is little you can do to pay back or pay tribute to that person.  Is this an attempt to do so?  If it is, it will fall short as all such attempts must because the measure of eighty years of life cannot be placed on one small page.
No, I can only thank her for the efforts and influence she has had in my life.  I can thank her for the example she has been to me, my thirty plus years.  So I thank her for one of the many great things she has done for me in my life.  I thank her for being my storyteller.
I try to remember the first memories I have of my grandmother and I have to say they are pretty vague.  I remember climbing into her Nova and marveling at its size, this boat on wheels, and how it rocked to the sway of asphalt waves.  And I recall a few times being in the kitchen after she had cooked me eggs before the arthritis set in on her hands that still has yet to fully limit this high functioning chef.  These very fleeting fuzzy memories are more snapshots than true memories as they exist more as faded photos that have sat out in the sun than a digital pic on the LCD screen.  
The first true memory that I have, and my mind will never let go of, is sitting in my uncle’s basement and listening to Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum”.  The basement became my dungeon as she read.  The rough wool couch I sat on was like tattered rags on a prison floor.  The low lamp light fades as my grandmother’s airy wispy telling continues, the wind of her voice seeming to snuff out the light.  The humidity of the basement reflects the rank cell’s stagnation.  Every word she read to me brought me more into the macabre world that my whole family has read before I heard this first tale of horror.  This was far from the comfort of the Hardy Boys books I was used to reading. 
And as the heat of the climax was read and the story finished, my grandmother looked up and smiled her comforting smile returning me to the basement.  The prison door that seemed locked to me as she read was now opened and I was free to walk through it.  Except as I walked through the door, I did not exit out into the free world but into my own asylum.  Chained and bound having now experienced and tasted the wonders of a true master, not wanting to enjoy anything less than literary crème.  There was no doubting the power of Poe’s written works, but my grandmother, she became the master of my desire and near insane obsession for great writing since that day. 
We talk of the books we read now, though not as regularly as we used.  I have read more of Poe, plus Shakespeare, Stoker, Card, King, Doyle and others that are too many to list. But it was that day, the day I tripped and nearly fell into the abyss, the day I felt the rush of the blade as it swooped closer to me, that changed me.  It was that day that I was gladly locked into my own prison by my “Grammy”, the key in her keeping, so that I could enjoy that new world with each turn of the page. 

Monday, May 23, 2011


I have to say I am pretty happy with my son and his choice to take care of himself.  My son suffers from asthma.  It is not an easy thing to deal with at times.  I am lucky that his acute spells are far apart.  Twice he has had to go to the hospital for it when he was younger.  Luckily for doctor's merchant accounts, I was easily able to pay off these visits.

My son's asthma kicks in most when he gets a cold or any other respiratory problem.  He knows to start his breathing treatments right away.  What really shocked me though was that when my son was given the option to have his flu shot as oppossed to being forced, he decided on his own to have it.  What kid wants a shot?

For this I am proud of my son that he chooses to take control of his health at an early age in life.  Many of us adults should follow this example.