Sunday, June 30, 2013

Great Book! Thriller: A Reason to Live

**Our Trip Blog will resume tomorrow after today's blog about a great book I read**

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Matthew Iden, a local author, at the Frederick Book Festival last month, and we traded
books. He wrote a great thriller called "A Reason to Live" that I read while on vacation. It was really engaging.
  Matt's a great writer who really makes you see, feel, and hear the characters and what they're thinking.
   The characters are likeable, and the story is great. There's a great and unexpected twist in the story that will surprise everyone. I highly recommend it!  I read this book in a couple of days!!

Here's a summary of the book: 
Ex-DC cop, Marty Singer, is facing an uphill battle against cancer. When graduate student Amanda Lane, the daughter of a homicide victim from twelve years earlier approaches him, worried that her mother's killer is now stalking her, Marty decides he must, despite his own health concerns, help her. His reasons are bigger than just helping a young woman in need -- as the lead detective on the mother's case, he feels responsible for the fact that her killer went free. Soon enough, Marty agrees that someone is stalking Amanda, the question is, is the stalker her mother's killer? And if so, how can they find him before he harms or possibly kills Amanda?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

UK Trip #3: The Freaky Flights to the U.K.

BWI Terminal. Cr: facebook sn jetboy787
The flights over to Scotland were a challenge and fraught with delays and issues.
FLIGHTY FLIGHTS -   The first flight was slated to go from BWI to Heathrow Airport, London. After getting there around 6:30 p.m. the flight was supposed to leave at 9:30 p.m.. Delays and thunderstorms in the vicinity (but not visible area) caused the flight to depart at 10:30 p.m. , an hour late. I was concerned because we had a connecting flight in London to take us to Edinbugh, Scotland, but there was about 2 1/2 hours between flights.
   Once we were airborne, the pilot came on and told us that the flight was being re-routed inland over Pennsylvania to avoid some strong weather. That added about another 45 minutes to the delay...
DINNER DILEMMA - British Airways is a great airline. They really provide excellent service and take care of their passengers. However, their passengers (i.e. me (Rob)) need to be cautious about eating stuff. At midnight our time, they served dinner. It was some kind of spiced beef... Well, over the course of the next 5 hours of flight, I was up almost every hour running to the bathroom and getting sick. By the time we arrived, I was better (but wound up being sick all day) and totally exhausted.
Rob's tummy troubles
PLANE INSANITY - Changing planes at Heathrow was a lot more time consuming and challenging than I expected. First, our plane was 2 hours LATE in arriving. We had just 30 minutes to make the connecting flight when we got off the plane in Heathrow. We didn't know that we had to go through customs before boarding a connection - didn't think about it -  and that took about 20 minutes. We then had to go through security...
  When we finally got through all that mess, the signage was lacking. Signs directed people down a corridor for "connecting flights" and went to an elevator, a down escalator and split into two corridors. At that point there was NO signage of which way to go. Tom asked a flight attendant who directed us down a level and on a subway ride to another terminal. When we arrived we saw our connecting flight was closing out so we ran. We got to the gate just minutes after the door closed. It was too late. 
SUPER HELPFUL - A British Airways gate agent, Kathleen Olah at Gate A2 on June 18th at 11:40 a.m. local time was extremely accommodating. She stayed past her shift, rebooked us on the next flight to Edinburgh, Scotland, re-routed our luggage for the next flight, and let us use her phone to call the taxi service in Scotland (who would be waiting for our arrival there) and inform them we'd be late. In addition, Kathleen gave us two 5 pound (British money, btw) vouchers to buy lunch while we waited for the next flight. Wow. THAT is Customer Service!!!
- We had a light lunch of fruit and cake and took our flight to Scotland (which was delayed 15 minutes).
NEXT: Arrival in Scotland! 

Friday, June 28, 2013

UK Trip #2: Getting There

Our summer vacation this year was to the United Kingdom, starting in Scotland and traveling south to York and Windsor, England. Getting there was both easy and challenging.
  DOGGONE IT - We had a night time flight to the U.K., so after pre-bagging breakfasts and dinners for the dogs, we dropped all FOUR dogs off at daycare.  We also brought their nylabones, treats, and bottled water (because daycare has well water, and our kids won't drink it). The team at Cozy Canine Camp (‎) are awesome. Sprite, our 16 1/2 year old Dachshund is dealing with kidney failure and has been growing increasingly weak, so we hoped he would pull through. (He would up being hospitalized while we were gone- because the Cozy Canine Camp kept an eye on him)
, but is home and recovered, although his back legs are weak).
  PARKING - This was incredibly easy. I pre-made reservations on-line with PreFlight Parking. I recommend making reservations in advance to guarantee a space and get a discount on parking. The driver was timely, courteous, and he actually got out of the van and picked up our luggage and loaded them on the van! Wow!
  AIRPORT - We arrived at the International Terminal and saw a line of about 200 military men and women to go through security. We were glad we got there 3 1/2 hours ahead of time, but were startled that an entire military unit would be going through security. Tom waited in line while I went to exchange money for British pounds. When I did that, I noticed that there was another security checkpoint that went to OUR gates! So, I brought Tom over and there was no one in our security line. That was the end of the ease of getting there.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

U.K. TRIP #1: Vacation Highlights

United Kingdom from NASA's Aqua Satellite. Credit: NASA
In mid-June for 9 days we toured the U.K. starting in Edinburgh, Scotland and taking the train to York, England, and ending in Windsor. From Windsor we drove to various castles and museums. Here are some of the highlights. The coming blogs over the course of the next monthwill highlight each stop!

1) Great being at the Langdon house B and B again in Windsor, England.Last year we befriended Paul and Sonja, the owners and it was great to see our old/new friends again.
2) We'll take you back through Henry VIII's Hampton Court Palace- and the return of the screaming ghost.We saw different rooms that were not open last year! More on this in later blogs.
3) Cliff Richard's Concert was AWESOME!!
 Because Cliff has been singing since 1958, there were a LOT of older fans. I (Rob) LOVE Cliff Richard and have since the late 1970s.  When we were sitting in the car waiting to go to the concert we saw a woman using a walker with an oxygen tank attached to it- that should give you an idea of the concert goers... and Tom said "what have you brought me to?"
4) Edinburgh, Scotland was nice- the Apex Waterloo was great. Great room, service, clean, centrally located.
5) Edinburgh Castle- it was good, but we liked Holyrood House better. There was a special dog tribute in the Castle (more later). Holyrood is the current Queen's summer palace.  People should do both.
6) Recommend the Mercat Underground vault tour in Edinburgh-  It was very cool, and fascinating and we saw a ghostly shadow.
7) The Witchery "Murder and Mystery Tour" in Edinburgh - was fun, entertaining and informative.
8) You'll soon read about a special dog, immortalized by the people of Scotland - and the very inspirational cemetery where he's buried.
9) We got to see Rob's old friend Bob and Kristen (who moved to England from the states for work) and their three cool kids while dining and touring York
10) Took a climb to the top of a massive and ancient cathedral- built over Roman ruins from 71AD
11) Hever Castle- A must for Tudor fans... and Rob ran into a special and historic ghost that was unexpected.
12) Sudeley Castle- Original Home of  one of Henry VIII's six queens. Gardens were amazing and we'll take you on a tour. 
13) We'll also take you into a brand new museum that houses the remains of one of Henry VIII's war ships - half was preserved in sand for 500 years, brought to the surface and a museum was built around it. It opened this year!
14) Trains were great. (One thing we didn't realize was that the Train tix also worked for one connection on the Tube in London- we didn't read the ticket).
15) Flights; Delays, missed flights, and a dinner challenge NOTE for others: It took about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours to get through Customs at Heathrow and again through Security to get to the connecting flight.
16) Hertz Rental car- perfect.  *Note to GPS users- sometimes it will take you through 1 lane roads, farms, fields, and closed roads. Yeah, we experienced all that... so we finally opted to use road signs and ask directions. GPS is really great for city driving and as a map back up.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Today is Our 4th Wedding Anniversary!

Today marks four years that Tom and I have been legally married.
  On June 26, 2009, we got legally married in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Because our marriage wasn't legal in Maryland at the time, we had to go to the nearest state where it was legal. That was Connecticut. It took a little work and some good friends to make it all work out.
  My (Rob) brother Doug suggested Bridgeport as a good city to get married in, and he contacted his friend (the mayor of Bridgeport) who recommended a restaurant to have the post-vow lunch.
Mike officiating our wedding as our best man, Jeff looks on
 Our friend Jeff was our best man, and he drove up to Connecticut with us. We all remember the drive- it was a Thursday night and it took about 9 hours (instead of 6) because  of really bad traffic, lane closures, construction, etc. We got to the hotel and crashed. The next morning, our wedding day, we got up early and checked out City Hall before it opened, a nearby park where we  planned on getting married, and the restaurant  where we planned lunch.
     Our friends Mike and Amy Bettwy flew to Connecticut. Mike married us - but it wouldn't be in the park. We met Mike and Amy at City Hall where Tom and I got our official marriage license. We remember how wonderful the City Hall clerk was when we got the license. 
Friends and family at the restaurant wedding ceremony
     After getting the license, we went outside to the park. overcast skies threatened rain, so we went to the restaurant and called the small bunch of friends who insisted on driving hours from Massachusetts to be there.  It was going to be just us, Jeff, Mike and Amy - but I let some friends in New England know (since we were up there anyway). BTW-We planned a reception in the backyard in September for everyone to celebrate with us.
   The staff and manager of the restaurant were incredibly accommodating. They knew we had reservations for 12, but didn't know we'd be getting married there!  They put us in an area, and pulled a large curtain around it, giving us a large "private room." The restaurant is "Ralph and Rich's" and we urge everyone to go there: Click for Ralph and Rich's Website.
     The ceremony was short and perfect. Mike did an amazing job. Tom and I each read our own vows, and of course, we both cried during them. It was an amazing day. That was four years ago, and we continue to grow in love with each other. We have amazing canine children (we never thought we'd have 4 dogs), great family and friends.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Help Save Africa's Rhinos: Donate your old GPS Unit Now

Did you know that Rhinocerouses in Africa are still being slaughtered for their horns?  Rhinos are fast becoming extinct, and a Washington, DC area resident that we were "introduced to via facebook" is leading a charge to stop it. 
   Scott Lope (via facebook) ~  is requesting people send him their old GPS Units (now that many smart phones have built in GPS, we didn't need it anymore, so we donated it).  They are being delivered to anti-poaching rangers. Scott said, "This is a REAL chance to help save the few remaining wild rhinos in South Africa from certain death at the hands of poachers." Please  dig out those old GPS units, ask your friends for theirs. 
For the mailing address: Scott Lope c/o Animal Warriors, 206 Causeway Drive, #66, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480
Help prevent this from happening

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Short: "It's Monday" Commercial to see

I usually don't relate to commercials or promote them, but this "It must be Monday" spot for Excedrin (appropriately). Considering it's Monday, you may want to watch it to feel better about your own Monday!


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rob's 2 Cool Nephews

Brian as JFK
Scotty as "Gronk"
My (Rob) younger brother and his wife have 2 sons who are some of the smartest and most witty kids around. They love
   The first two are of Scotty and Brian dressed up for a "dress like a celebrity " day (something I love doing, but always as a superhero). Scotty dressed as a football player known as "Gronk" (I had to look it up). For those of you like me and Tom: "Gronk" is Robert James "Rob" Gronkowski (born May 14, 1989),is an American football tight end for the New England Patriots of the NFL.   Brian dressed as a young, casual John F. Kennedy.

The boys are into space, sports, cars, superheroes, reading, school, video games, the beach, and more. They each have their own sense of humor, and their favorite cartoon characters are "Hoops and YoYo." They introduced us to those two characters and we all send each other cards with the characters (all have funny sound recordings). Although we live 300 miles away, we keep up with their adventures through Facebook posts, emails and calls. Here are just a couple of recent pictures of the boys.
   The third picture is from the Pawtucket Red Sox game in Rhode Island. My brother, sister-in-law and the boys went to the minor league baseball game there to celebrate Father's Day. The picture is of Scotty and Brian with the PawSox mascot.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hello from Dolly

Our friend Elvina calls our Dolly, our 8 1/2 year old Weimaraner, a "classy lady." We agree. We think that Dolly is one of the most beautiful weimaraners ever, and has very dainty and lady-like facial features. She's super-smart, knows lots of vocabulary words, is loving, trustworthy, affectionate and regal! I thought that this picture I took really made her look that way, so I had to post it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hello from Franklin!

 Franklin, our 9 year old dachshund loves to sit in the sun and soak it up, so he's been enjoying the warm weather lately. Now, if he'd only catch that second mole digging up the backyard instead of barking at it! :)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

More Backyard Work!

lined the beds with small pavers
Tom continues to organize, plan, refine, construct, and beautify the backyard. Last week I put up a couple of pictures of some of the stuff that he was doing, but it wasn't completed. Here are some of the pictures of the finished projects. He lined the beds with stones that run along one fence, and around bushes and trees. He's done an amazing job!

Tom's homemade English garden

from the back fence looking toward the house

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Happy birthday to Rob's Mom

Mom still loves her coffee!
Happy birthday to my (Rob) Mom. She turns 86 years old today. Of course, she lives 400 miles away, so cards, presents, and calls have to suffice - because she won't travel. Many of you know that my mom has dementia, and she can be onery (to put it lightly). As she's grown older, the person she was isn't there a whole lot.
  She's always been very feisty- and it's the Italian in her. She comes from a Boston Italian family. She's very talented with cooking, baking, sewing, making her own drapes, clothes, etc.; painting, drawing, yard work, etc. Over time, those things have waned as she has, but she's given a lot to a lot of people. Her condition makes her moods swing from high to low, and cause her to get argumentative when there's no argument, so it's difficult to talk with her and have a lucid conversation, and not get hurt by some mean things she says. But, she's still mom underneath. Happy birthday with love,  Mom! 

Some days mom  acts like she's in outer space! :)

Dad and Mom in 2006 (dad passed in 2008)

Mom at the White House

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dog Day Photos

Every now and then I like to get a picture of each of our kids and post them all together.
Dolly, the Weimaraner always looks regal in her chair.
Sprite loves to sleep - especially since he's 16 1/2 years old. He sometimes wears tee shirts to keep him warm, since he gets cold (even in the summertime) from his kidney failure. Poor little guy.
Tyler (the black and tan) loves cuddling with all of our kids and jumped up on a chair with Franklin here.
There's nothing like the love of a dog!


Tyler and Franklin

Monday, June 17, 2013

Video Blog! - How to Tell Time in Italy

Here's a short and funny video on You Tube that our friend Cathy sent to us: How to Tell Time in Italy. Enjoy!


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Go see the Man of Steel! It's Awesome!!!!!!!

Henry Cavill- an Amazing Superman!
We saw "Man of Steel" yesterday, and in my opinion, as a superhero fan for more than 40 years - Henry Cavill is the perfect Superman. The director really captured the humanity of the character, and the emotional bonds he has with his Earth parents, the Kents, and his Krypton parents. The scenes of the young Clark Kent being bullied choked me up. He held back doing anything to his tormentors and stood his ground. In one of the first appearances of Clark, he does get back at an adult bully is a fun way.

   The LA Times said in an article: Henry Cavill trained hard. For five months before filming began, and continuously during the six-month shoot, working to turn his body into something more powerful than a locomotive, a physical specimen that looks like the work of computer enhancements but isn’t. Read the full LA Times Article
Amy Adams made the perfect Lois Lane- determined, gritty, impulsive and fearless. General Zod and Faora-Ul were convincingly evil. I thought Russell Crowe did a great job as Jor-El, too.
For the official movie website:  MAN OF STEEL OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Superman and Lois Lane (Amy Adams)
GREAT BOX OFFICE NEWS: According to ScreenDaily,  Man of Steel has done great overseas already! 
Spurred on by Wednesday’s record opening day in the Philippines, Warner Bros Pictures International’s Man Of Steel bursts into 24 markets day-and-date with North America. The Superman tale debuts in the UK, Mexico and South Korea and grossed $1.7m on its first day in the Philippines to set a new industry opening day mark. **
  IN THE U.S.:   Man of Steel Speeds to $21 Million Box-Office Debut; Superman Flick's Opening Day Looking "Staggering" 
 Clark Kent and mom Martha Kent
  I can't wait for the sequel.
For a great Behind the scenes video (13 minutes long) SEE BELOW or 


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Our Friend Maggie's Story is Published!

A Hero By Any Other NameI (Rob) work with an amazing webmaster, writer, outreach person who just had a story she wrote published in a collection!  Maggie Masetti (she wrote under the pen name of Maggie Allen) wrote a story in the Anthology called "A Hero By Any Other Name."  I already ordered my copy! - Rob
What’s Maggie's story about? “A Marvelous New World” takes place in the aftermath of Janine Spendlove’s story, “He was a Marvelous Man.” Her story made me wonder how the appearance of a real, live superhero would affect the comic book geek community, and I also liked the idea of those geeks getting a chance to become a part of superhero mythology themselves.
     Here's what Maggie said:
 Silence in the Library Publishing’s special anthology called “A Hero By Any Other Name” – is all short stories about superhero sidekicks. (It’s a companion to another Origins anthology with superhero stories.)Authors who have stories in A Hero By Any Other Name include: Aaron Allston, Michael Stackpole, Maxwell Alexander Drake, Jean Rabe, Janine Spendlove, Bryan Young, more, like me! (Pen name, Maggie Allen.)
This book has a cover by Denis Loubet and also has interior art by Mark Dos Santos, which is so cool. Having art drawn of my story? Again, so cool.
As you can tell, I’m super excited about this! If you are at Origins, you can pick up a copy for 10 bucks – otherwise it’s available on Amazon right now!
     Here's a link to Silence in the Library Publishing's other project: We're working on a Kickstarter for another anthology, it's doing quite well so far and has some big names in it as well:

Friday, June 14, 2013

Reflections on Coming Out/a Creative Way/Teen Suicides

  Coming out of the closet can be a challenging process for many people.  I was reminded of  the process because June is Gay pride month. So, I feel it's important to share my personal story of how I came out to my parents. Since I was 4 years old, I've known I was gay. I was attracted to a man at church and I couldn't stop staring at him. He was so handsome, and every weekend I would look for him, but I kept quiet.
   Although a friend or two in high school knew (because they were gay, too) I kept it from my family and everyone else. It was frightening to harbor that secret in the 1970s and 80s.
   14 years ago, back in 1999, I made the decision to tell my parents and everyone else. I was tired of lying, hiding, and getting asked if I was dating a woman. I was in fact, fed up with it, because I had already dated a couple of guys and couldn't tell anyone. Telling my parents was tough... but thanks to my younger brother, it could have been much worse. I told my younger brother first and he was so supportive. He had me mail a letter to my parents (and he edited it first via email) and went to their house the day it arrived. He explained I was the same guy they've always known, but struggled to hide it for over thirty years. My dad continued talking with me, while my mother refused to speak to me for over 6 months. Then one day she called and said she just wanted me to fall in love and be happy with a partner.
  I remember the reaction of a friend's parents in Maine when he told them he's gay. They said "thank God! We thought you were hiding a terminal illness!" THOSE are great, loving parents. 
  Fortunately, it has become a little easier for some kids to tell their peers and parents today. However, there are still some that get thrown out of their house, beaten, shunned, and even murdered by their parents. Yes, it happens and if you don't believe it, research it.  There are still so many teens that take their own lives because of hateful "preachers" telling them it's evil (and those preachers should be stripped of their position and JAILED). Gay teen suicide is a serious problem..
  According to the Huffington Post: Each year, one out of every three gay, lesbian or bisexual students in the San Francisco Unified School District reportedly attempts suicide. (And that's in a city that welcomes gay people- think of the statistics in towns and cities in Kansas for example). Read this article:
   If you know a gay teen that is contemplating suicide, IMMEDIATELY CONTACT: The Trevor Project:
     The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.   If you are in crisis or thinking about suicide you deserve immediate support please callThe Trevor Lifeline1-866-488-7386

   Recently, one Facebook user wasn't afraid and he took a very clever approach. Reddit user RyanSmithN posted the following photograph, which he says he uploaded to Facebook to tell friends that he's gay: The photograph has since gone viral in the blogosphere since being posted on Reddit.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Last Night's Storms Stayed North of Balt/Wash- Not so today!

Thankfully the strong storms stayed north of the Baltimore\DC area last night. Thanks to meteorologist Justin Berk for the graphics and explanation below. 
The next line of storms is on the way this morning, though, and will be felt. Then with the atmosphere remaining unstable, we can expect another round again this afternoon.

   PER JUSTIN:  The storms overnight have mainly stayed north in central PA, while the band in Md did fall apart after crossing the mountains as seen here. *The HRRR model I have been showing had the storms overdone! Worth noting today when assessing it.
This morning's rough weather will likely ride along the mountains and into PA/NJ. The main source of energy will arrive this afternoon. I'm still evaluating how this mornings storms on the map may impact the development later...
 Severe T-storm Watch until 11am, 
Flood Watch until 8pm EDT tonight for Balt/Wash
At 8am today: There was a strong line of thunderstorms from York, PA southwest Over Route 81 (the Blue Ridge Mtns) and moving east. 
Clouds/Sun, showers/t-storms developing in the morning, breezy, humid. High 89
Some of these THUNDERSTORMS could produce DAMAGING WINDS, HEAVY RAINFALL, LARGE HAIL AND ISOLATED TORNADOES. Wind Gusts to 32 mph, Flooding Possible. (up to 1 inch of rain).
- A second round of thunderstorms is possible this afternoon.
THURSDAY NIGHT: Showers/t-storms could be Severe. Ending by 11pm. Low 62. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Puppy Love: Tyler and Sprite

Tyler, our 1 1/2 year old mini black and tan dachshund is very affectionate, and when I was taking them to daycare one day, he decided to cuddle up with our 16 1/2 year old senior dachshund, Sprite. So, Tyler laid his head on Sprite's back. Very cute! 

 - Tyler also acts like a baby because he has the attention span of  a gnat. He'll stay put for a couple of minutes and bounce around, looking at us, like "When are we going?" Where are we going?" "Can we go now?"  - this picture of him is one of those times.

On a different note, last weekend we had a cold front and Tropical Storm Andrea come by back to back, and they brought us 3 inches of rain- that's about 2 1/2 week's worth in 36 hours! 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Franklin's Foot Injury & The living pooper scooper

Franklin and his "scooper" collar
Last week, Franklin came in from the backyard after 5 minutes and was bleeding all over the sun porch. He somehow tore one of his back paw nails out (entirely). So, of course, I took him immediately to the vet where the cauterized, cleaned and bandaged it. Because he can't leave anything alone, he's had to wear an elizabethan collar (a large plastic wrap around his head for those non-dog owners).
  His foot is healing (I clean and bandage it often) but he's still wearing his collar. He bumps into things of course, but found another use for it when he's outside. "Scooping."
 - Okay, don't read the rest if you're eating. Franklin has a tendency to crave droppings. Some dogs do, and we'll never know why. Since he's had the plastic collar on, both Tom and I have "welcomed" him back in the house to find "stuff" smeared on the bottom of the outside of the collar (he was obviously trying to snack- eeeewww). Not a fun thing to deal with cleaning.
  Of course, we pick up the back yard daily, but tend to miss one or two "presents"- but he finds them. Anyway, we can't wait to get this thing off his head, although it at least prevents him from "dining."
  See? I told you not to read it if you were eating! :)
Oh yeah, his foot continues to heal...

Monday, June 10, 2013

A great way to help Service people with their Pets: Dogs On Deployment

I came across this organization that helps provide Foster Homes to dogs and cats owned by our servicemen and women (whenever they have to on tour). This is a great way to help them keep their beloved pets, as long as people open their homes to temporarily foster during that length of duty.  This is also a great way to help our Armed Forces. - Rob
*I am a military member needing help

*I am willing to foster a military member's pet while they're on deployment
*I am a business person that supports the military and want to help

Dogs On Deployment:
Military members nation-wide confront a multitude of problems during their career. The last problem they want to worry about is what to do with their beloved family pet when it's time for them to deploy. Many service members have limited, to no options for their pets when they have to go overseas and many have relinquished their pets to shelters when they have nowhere else to go. Dogs On Deployment is a 501(c)(3) national non-profit which provides a central online database for service members to search for individuals or families who are willing to welcome a Dog On Deployment into their home for the length of their owner's deployment.  WEBSITE:   

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Another Backyard Project!

Tom lined this bed with small pavers
Tom is always looking for ways to improve the backyard and this weekend he lined one of the beds with small pavers and put larger pavers near the shed as a walkway. The other picture is just an area that he's been working on for a couple of years that has finally grown up and looks great. 

Tom added pavers near the shed- where the dogs run!

These trees and shrubs finally look good!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Presidential Proclamation -- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, 2013

I received this at work and thought this was amazing. This is definitely something that would never have been issued had the last election had a (horribly) different outcome. What amazing progress we've made.

Presidential Proclamation -- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, 2013

For more than two centuries, our Nation has struggled to transform the ideals of liberty and equality from founding promise into lasting reality. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans and their allies have been hard at work on the next great chapter of that history -- from the patrons of The Stonewall Inn who sparked a movement to service members who can finally be honest about who they love to brave young people who come out and speak out every day.

This year, we celebrate LGBT Pride Month at a moment of great hope and progress, recognizing that more needs to be done. Support for LGBT equality is growing, led by a generation which understands that, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." In the past year, for the first time, voters in multiple States affirmed marriage equality for same-sex couples. State and local governments have taken important steps to provide much-needed protections for transgender Americans.

My Administration is a proud partner in the journey toward LGBT equality. We extended hate crimes protections to include attacks based on sexual orientation or gender identity and repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." We lifted the HIV entry ban and ensured hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients. Together, we have investigated and addressed pervasive bullying faced by LGBT students, prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Federal housing, and extended benefits for same-sex domestic partners. Earlier this year, I signed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the implementation of any VAWA-funded program. And because LGBT rights are human rights, my Administration is implementing the first-ever Federal strategy to advance equality for LGBT people around the world.

We have witnessed real and lasting change, but our work is not complete. I continue to support a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as well as the Respect for Marriage Act. My Administration continues to implement the Affordable Care Act, which beginning in 2014, prohibits insurers from denying coverage to consumers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which addresses the disparate impact of the HIV epidemic among certain LGBT sub-communities. We have a long way to go, but if we continue on this path together, I am confident that one day soon, from coast to coast, all of our young people will look to the future with the same sense of promise and possibility. I am confident because I have seen the talent, passion, and commitment of LGBT advocates and their allies, and I know that when voices are joined in common purpose, they cannot be stopped.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2013 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


Stupidity in the News: NRA membership purchased for boy

8 year old Josh Welch and his pop-tart "gun"
This article appeared in the Baltimore Sun on May 30, 2013. A little boy chewed his pop tart into the shape of a gun - and the school (stupidly, in my opinion) made a big stink about it. The REALLY stupid thing is that 2 Republican officials (one was Nicholaus R. Kipke) in Anne Arundel County, Md. PAID for a lifetime membership to the National Rifle Association (NRA) for the little boy!!  
 - What kind of a message does that send? That it's perfectly okay for children to support guns? 8 year olds don't understand what guns can do (in the wrong hands) and what death means.
-   I totally agree with what Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit (a Democrat) said: "To put this [8 year old boy] up there and exploit him for the benefit of the far-right gun agenda is outrageous."
  BTW- I'm fine with people owning guns, but feel that we DO need better, more comprehensive background checks.

ARTICLE: Md. Anne Arundel County Republicans criticized for giving lifetime membership to boy suspended in pastry incident

This #$*)% gave the 8yr old an NRA membership
May 30, 2013|By Erin Cox, The Baltimore Sun
   Criticism mounted Thursday over the gift of a National Rifle Association lifetime membership from Anne Arundel County Republicans to a boy who was suspended from school in March when he chewed a pastry into the shape of a pistol.
   "It's outrageous that elected officials in our state who don't have anywhere near all the facts of this situation would choose to exploit an 8-year-old child for political purposes in a stunt like this," Anne Arundel County schools spokesman Bob Mosier said Thursday.
  The night before, House of Delegates Minority GOP Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke presented Josh Welch with the $550 membership during a Republican fundraiser that derided Maryland's new gun law. Kipke's tongue-in-cheek presentation involved a Pop-Tart fashioned into a gun and firearm safety tips.
  After receiving the NRA membership, Josh said in an interview he didn't know what the organization was or what it meant. That comment prompted Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Democrat, to offer to buy Josh a lifetime membership to the American Civil Liberties Union.
  "No one should tolerate the attempt by Anne Arundel County's Republican leadership to indoctrinate 8-year-olds into an extreme way of thinking," Benoit said. "To put him up there and exploit him for the benefit of the far-right gun agenda is outrageous."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Heartbreaking Story that all our Christian Friends MUST READ: What Do You Do When Your Son is Gay?

This is a Heartbreaking Story that all our Christian Friends MUST READ - a true story written by the mother of a son who came out to her (and who died as a result of being told he should not ever love). PLEASE READ IT.   


What Do You Do When Your Son is Gay?

“Mom, I’m gay.” Earth-shattering words to many conservative Christian parents — tragically, many view it as right up there with, “Your child has a brain tumor.” Actually, Christians will empathize with a brain tumor, but just try telling the church your child is gay and you will find the limit of grace withheld not only from gay Christians but from their accepting families. Not only what is said but unsaid can be oppressive for a family seeking love and truth.
I do not blame the parents in these situations for one nanosecond. Lord knows, they are trying to respond, with the wind knocked out of them, in an area where the church at large allows no breathing room. Parents blame themselves and Christians blame them. Seriously. No sooner do we hear the word gay or lesbian than we brace for impact — because we know the attack is coming.
This story was posted on FB. My daughter went to school with his brother. The mother, Linda, gave me kind permission to post this  in the hope of impacting lives and preventing tragedy. This is why our response as a Christian community matters. A real person with a real story.
The photo above is of Linda and Ryan Robertson.
Just Because He Breathes
by Linda Mueller Robertson (Notes) on Monday, April 1, 2013 at 12:35am
Written on December 5th, 2012

First posted on January 14, 2013 – Ryan’s would-have-been-24 birthday

On the night of November 20, 2001, a conversation held over Instant Messenger changed our lives forever. Our twelve year old son messaged me in my office from the computer in his bedroom.
Ryan says: can i tell u something
Mom says: Yes I am listening
Ryan says: well i don’t know how to say this really but, well……, i can’t keep lying to you about myself. I have been hiding this for too long and i sorta have to tell u now. By now u probably have an idea of what i am about to say.
Ryan says: I am gay
Ryan says: i can’t believe i just told you
Mom says: Are you joking?
Ryan says: no
Ryan says: i thought you would understand because of uncle don
Mom says: of course I would
Mom says: but what makes you think you are?
Ryan says: i know i am
Ryan says: i don’t like hannah
Ryan says: it’s just a cover-up
Mom says: but that doesn’t make you gay…
Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: but u don’t understand
Ryan says: i am gay
Mom says: tell me more
Ryan says: it’s just the way i am and it’s something i know
Ryan says: u r not a lesbian and u know that it is the same thing
Mom says: what do you mean?
Ryan says: i am just gay
Ryan says: i am that
Mom says: I love you no matter what
Ryan says: i am white not black
Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: i am a boy not a girl
Ryan says: i am attracted to boys not girls
Ryan says: u know that about yourself and i know this
Mom says: what about what God thinks about acting on these desires?
Ryan says: i know
Mom says: thank you for telling me
Ryan says: and i am very confused about that right now
Mom says: I love you more for being honest
Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: thanx

We were completely shocked. Not that we didn’t know and love gay people – my only brother had come out to us several years before, and we adored him. But Ryan? He was unafraid of anything, tough as nails, and ALL boy. We had not seen this coming, and the emotion that overwhelmed us, kept us awake at night and, sadly, influenced all of our reactions over the next six years, was FEAR.
We said all the things that we thought loving Christian parents who believed the Bible to be the Word of God should say:
We love you. We will ALWAYS love you. And this is hard. REALLY hard. But we know what God says about this, and so you are going to have to make some really difficult choices.
We love you. But there are other men who have faced this same struggle, and God has worked in them to change their desires. We’ll get you their books…you can listen to their testimonies. And we will trust God with this.
We love you. But you are young, and your sexual orientation is still developing. The feelings you’ve had for other guys don’t make you gay. So please don’t tell anyone that you ARE gay. You don’t know who you are yet. Your identity is not that you are gay – it is that you are a child of God.
We love you. We will ALWAYS love you. But if you are going to follow Jesus, holiness is your only option. You are going to have to choose to follow Jesus, no matter what. And since you know what the Bible says, and since you want to follow God, embracing your sexuality is NOT an option.
Basically, we told our son that he had to choose between Jesus and his sexuality. We forced him to make a choice between God and being a sexual person. Choosing God, practically, meant living a lifetime of loneliness (never to fall in love, have his first kiss, hold hands, share intimacy companionship, experience romance), but it also meant the abundant life, perfect peace and eternal rewards.  So, for the first six years, he tried to choose Jesus. Like so many others before him, he pleaded with God to help him be attracted to girls. He memorized Scripture, met with his youth pastor weekly, enthusiastically participated in all the church youth group events and Bible Studies, got baptized, read all the books that claimed to know where his gay feelings came from, dove into counseling to further discover the “why’s” of his unwanted attraction to other guys, worked through painful conflict resolution with my husband and I, and built strong friendships with other guys – straight guys – just like he was told to. He even came out to his entire youth group, giving his testimony of how God had rescued him from the traps of the enemy, and sharing – by memory – verse after verse that God had used to draw Ryan to Himself.
But nothing changed. God didn’t answer his prayer – or ours – though we were all believing with faith that the God of the Universe – the God for whom NOTHING is impossible – could easily make Ryan straight. But He did not.
Though our hearts may have been good (we truly thought what we were doing was loving), we did not even give Ryan a chance to wrestle with God, to figure out what HE believed God was telling him through scripture about his sexuality. We had believed firmly in giving each of our four children the space to question Christianity, to decide for themselves if they wanted to follow Jesus, to truly OWN their own faith. But we were too afraid to give Ryan that room when it came to his sexuality, for fear that he’d make the wrong choice.
And so, just before his 18th birthday, Ryan, depressed, suicidal, disillusioned and convinced that he would never be able to be loved by God, made a new choice. He decided to throw out his Bible and his faith at the same time, and to try searching for what he desperately wanted – peace – another way. And the way he chose to try first was drugs.
We had – unintentionally – taught Ryan to hate his sexuality. And since sexuality cannot be separated from the self, we had taught Ryan to hate himself. So as he began to use drugs, he did so with a recklessness and a lack of caution for his own safety that was alarming to everyone who knew him.
Suddenly our fear of Ryan someday having a boyfriend (a possibility that honestly terrified me) seemed trivial in contrast to our fear of Ryan’s death, especially in light of his recent rejection of Christianity, and his mounting anger at God.
Ryan started with weed and beer…but in six short months was using cocaine, crack and heroin. He was hooked from the beginning, and his self-loathing and rage at God only fueled his addiction. Shortly after, we lost contact with him. For the next year and a half we didn’t know where he was, or even if he was dead or alive. And during that horrific time, God had our full attention. We stopped praying for Ryan to become straight. We started praying for him to know that God loved him. We stopped praying for him never to have a boyfriend. We started praying that someday he’d come back to Jesus. We even stopped praying for him to come home to us…we only wanted him to come home to God.
By the time our son called us, after 18 long months of silence, God had completely changed our perspective. Because Ryan had done some pretty terrible things while using drugs, the first thing he asked me was this:
Do you think you can ever forgive me? (I told him of course, he was already forgiven. He had ALWAYS been forgiven.)
Do you think you could ever love me again? (I told him that we had never stopped loving him, not for one second. We loved him then more than we had ever loved him.)
Do you think you could even love me with a boyfriend? (Crying, I told him that we could love him with fifteen boyfriends. We just wanted him back in our lives. We just wanted to have a relationship with him again…AND with his boyfriend.)
And a new journey was begun. One of healing, restoration, open communication and grace. LOTS of grace. And God was present every step of the way, leading and guiding us, gently reminding us simply to love our son, and leave the rest up to Him.
Over the next ten months, we learned to love our son. Period. No buts. No conditions. Just because he breathes. We learned to love whoever our son loved. And it was easy. What I had been so afraid of became a blessing. The journey wasn’t without mistakes, but we had grace for each other, and the language of apology and forgiveness became a natural part of our relationship. As our son pursued recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, we pursued him. God taught us how to love him, to rejoice over him, to be proud of the man he was becoming. We were all healing…and most importantly, Ryan began to think that if WE could forgive him and love him, then maybe God could, too.
And then Ryan made the classic mistake of a recovering addict…he got back together with his old friends…his using friends. And one evening that was supposed to simply be a night at the movies turned out to be the first time he had shot up in ten months…and the last time. Ryan died on July 16, 2009. And we lost the ability to love our gay son…because we no longer had a gay son. What we had wished for…prayed for…hoped for…that we would NOT have a gay son, came true. But not at all in the way we used to envision.
Now, when I think back on the fear that governed all my reactions during those first six years after Ryan told us he was gay, I cringe as I realize how foolish I was. I was afraid of all the wrong things. And I grieve, not only for my oldest son, who I will miss every day for the rest of my life, but for the mistakes I made. I grieve for what could have been, had we been walking by FAITH instead of by FEAR. Now, whenever Rob and I join our gay friends for an evening, I think about how much I would love to be visiting with Ryan and his partner over dinner. But instead, we visit Ryan’s gravestone. We celebrate anniversaries: the would-have-been birthdays and the unforgettable day of his death. We wear orange – his color. We hoard memories: pictures, clothing he wore, handwritten notes, lists of things he loved, tokens of his passions, recollections of the funny songs he invented, his Curious George and baseball blankey, anything, really, that reminds us of our beautiful boy…for that is all we have left, and there will be no new memories.  We rejoice in our adult children, and in our growing family as they marry…but ache for the one of our “gang of four” who is missing. We mark life by the days BC (before coma) and AD (after death), because we are different people now; our life was irrevocably changed – in a million ways – by his death. We treasure friendships with others who “get it”…because they, too, have lost a child.
We weep. We seek Heaven for grace and mercy and redemption as we try – not to get better but to be better. And we pray that God can somehow use our story to help other parents learn to truly love their children. Just because they breathe.
Linda Diane Robertson
Written on December 5th, 2012
Posted on January 14, 2013 – Ryan’s would-have-been-24 birthday

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Watch this: NASA Johnson Space Center "It Gets Better video

NASA is an amazing agency to work for - the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas produced this amazing video: NASA's version of "It Gets Better" on YouTube
Makes me proud to be  part of it.
The NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) "It Gets Better video" is a video project created by the "Out & Allied @ JSC Employee Resource Group" of NASA's Johnson Space Center. It was created as an outreach tool primarily directed at high school and college-aged lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals who are victims of bullying and/or have been affected by bullying. This video sends the message to current and future NASA employees that it is OK to be LGBTQ, and that NASA JSC management supports and encourages an inclusive, diverse workforce in our workplace.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mutts and Merlot with Whitney and Mike

Mike, Whitney, Chance and Schatzi
Sunday was a doggone great day, literally. Our friends Whitney and Mike (whom adopted our former foster dog, Chance the Weimaraner) asked us to meet them at the Hauser's Winery near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for a "Mutts and Merlot" dog event. So, we asked our friends and neighbors Will and Cristina to watch our senior dachshund Sprite (he couldn't handle walking around and the drive) and we drove to the event with Dolly, Franklin and Tyler.
Rob, Tom, Chance, Tyler- Franklin and Dolly (behind)
  There were many dog-related vendors there, and the thunderstorms held off during the day. We walked around, met lots of other dogs, including two women that were dachshund owners. One had 6 Dachshunds, the other had three. The woman with three dachshunds noticed that our little mini-dachshund "Tyler the Terror" was barking non-stop at all the other dogs, and she gave us a water bottle with a trigger to squirt at him whenever he mis-behaved. Over the course of an hour, it worked!!! Water training!!! What a really kind gesture to give us that squirt bottle and tell us about the training she uses.
Dolly and Franklin
Dachshund Crossing and Chance in the Middle!
  Chance looked incredible. It teared me (Rob) up to see how he's walking so well, and is so, so happy with his mom and dad and sister Schatzi (a mini-dachshund). Chance was the weimaraner that we rescued from a shelter and got him surgery to fix a dislocated back leg last summer.  All our kids got along well, and we enjoyed a BBQ lunch outside with a mountain view. A perfect afternoon.
Chance, Whitney, Schatzi, Tom, Tyler, Mike
  There were raffle tickets being sold to help the local county rescue, so I bought a bunch of them. I wound up winning about 13 dollars, so I bought 13 more tickets, only to win another $23.00- which I used to buy dog toys to benefit "blind dog rescue." I also had 3 tickets in for the "grand prize" of $100 but had to leave so I put my name and phone on them. They called me while we were enroute home and told me I won!  WOW.  So, I called Whitney and Mike and asked them to get it, and we split it to use on all of our canine kids. What a great day.

Chance, Whitney, Tom, Tyler, Mike

Chance and Schatzi

Monday, June 3, 2013

Jake's Graduation!

Rob, Jake and Tom
Heidi, Mike, Rob and Tom
My (Rob) godson Jake graduated from high school (I remember when he was born!) and his family threw him a huge cookout/party this weekend. Mike, Heidi and I have known each other since the 1990 when I first moved to Maryland. It's amazing to think how fast time flies.
 Anyway, the party was really wonderful, and there was enough food and variety for an army!  Jake and his friends played volleyball despite the 90F heat. Mike and Heidi prepared the immense feast and manned the grill. Callie ran a lot of errands, but sister Sadie couldn't make it (she's in Boston for school). Here are some fun pictures from the great event.

Tom and Rob

Being goofy as usual! :)

Jake and friends playing Volleyball

More partygoers!

Gift/Memorial Suggestions

Several of our friends have lost loved ones (human and pets) and we found that one of the best ways to honor their memory is to give to an animal charity.
What better way to recognize a life of love, than by giving another life a chance for love?
We donate to many animal rescues, but because we volunteer with
DC Weimaraner Rescue and Coast-to-Coast Dachshund Rescue, those are our 2 favorites.
Consider giving the chance of life to a dog or cat.

About us

We're two married guys who enjoy the simple things in life, especially our dogs. We volunteer for dog rescues, enjoy splitting dinners, exercising, blogging, helping friends and neighbors, ghost investigations, coffee and tea, Tudor history, weather, superheroes, comic books, mystery novels, traveling, 70s and 80s music, classic country, piano, gardening, writing books on ghosts and spirits, architecture, keeping a clean house, cooking simply, and keeping in shape. You'll find tidbits of all of these things on this blog and more.

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!
Wondering what home project to do next