Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Amazing Skidboot

A friend emailed me this video of an amazing dog named Skidboot and his owner/trainer/friend, David Hartwig.

The video is a little more than eight minutes, but worth the investment of time to watch it through.

I have no idea how you'd go about training a dog to respond like Skidboot did (he passed away in March 2007), but it must take a combination of love, patience and a really smart dog.

My first dog, Tyler the Rottweiler, was able to pick out balls from his toy box, by color, on demand.

He had an orange ball and a yellow ball, identical in every way but color. I'd ask him to get one of his balls, mentioning the color, and, every single time, he'd pull out the ball I'd asked for.

Tyler could also open the back door by twisting the door handle with his nose.

But, his most impressive trick was what we called, "self-service automatic goodies". He liked ice cubes and we had a refrigerator with an ice/water dispenser in the door. He would walk up to the refrigerator, press his nose against the ice dispenser and catch the ice cubes as they shot out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Business Travel Nirvana

Coming home from my business trip today, on my flight from Memphis to Atlanta, my seat mate was talking to the stewardess about how he was coming down with a cold.

As I twisted away from him to breath air that was not previously in his lungs, I noticed there was nobody in the back of the plane.

I quickly moved back three rows and across the aisle.

This turned out to be my best business travel flight ever! No chatty people around me. No kids kicking the back of my chair. No babies crying.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Blizzard of 1978

The local news channels, here in Northern Indiana, have been making a big deal about the blizzard of 1978.

Apparently it was around this time of year, back in 1978. Schools here in Northern Indiana were closed for a week or more and snow was about 10 feet deep.

I have absolutely no memory of that happening in Lafayette, but Bruce did some investigating and says it was about that bad all the way down to Indianapolis.

I sent an email to several friends and family members who were in Lafayette in 1978 to see if they remembered the blizzard. Maybe some of their memories will jog loose my brain cells that are holding my memories hostage.

I'll post replies here as they come in.

From Mom:
We were snowed in the house for 5 days. The snow was up to the top of the porch. You kids thought it was great. We took cardboard and you guys thought you could sled on it; went off the porch and out across the driveway side. You got out about 5 feet and then went down, we had to make a chain to get you back in, laughing all the time.

Skipper had to pee on the tree out front. We cleared out a path, he went out and peed and got his leg wet. It froze and Mike and Dad had to go carry him in.

We played games and watched the weather reports to see when it would break.

The guy on the snowmobile (that Laura mentioned) ... I do not remember. A guy who lived down in the next block came home on the snow removal truck he had been driving for 2-3 days. Jack hollered at him -- offering him money and beer to come on down to us, so we could get out.

From Cousin Greg:
I remember it. We were living in a rental house in the town of West Point at that time. I don't remember being in school when it hit though. I thought we were in bed when it hit. It seems to me that I remember waking up and school was closed. I was attending West Point elementary then, and it could have been closed due to the boilers not working.

I do know that when we finally went back to school the piles of snow were taller than the buses and State Rd. 25 was one lane in front of the school. The time we were out of school was a blast. The snow around the house was about 3 feet deep and sometimes more. We played outside for what seemed to be the whole time we were out of school. The snow was so packed on the top 6-10 inches that you could dig tunnels through it and build block Forts, which of course we did. Kevin was small enough that he could walk on top of it and not break through.

Laura, I don't remember us ever having a snowmobile though so unless you are talking about a different Uncle Mike it wasn't Dad.

Snow is great when you are a kid. I can remember sitting by the radio each night after the blizzard waiting for them to say TSC closed tomorrow, which was always late at night and last. Then the dreaded night came and they didn't say it. BOO!!

From Friend Susan:
Oddly enough Sharon....I would have guessed I too should remember something about it if it was that big of a deal, however I don't. I don't remember being out of school for an extended time or anything. Oh well, we went to school together, maybe we should stop and see if we remember anything from High School.

From Friend Tim:
I remember it well. The snow drifts were up to the soffit of the house. Dad got stuck on the way home from work at Alcoa just down the street from home. The streets were impassable with large drifts. They finally made a path down our street with a front end loader.

From Friend Deanna (and Dan):
I can't believe you don't remember. The storm started on Dan's birthday (it just happened to be my brother's birthday too)!

It is the only time my dad has not been able to get his truck out of our driveway. The drift across the road between our house and the neighbors was about head high! The wind shifted daily and where there were drifts one day, there would very little the next.

We had a snowmobile on order, it came in about a week after the blizzard and we rode them constantly. My parents friends all had them too. We lived on the edge of town and would somtimes have over 20 snowmobiles parked in our yard. I think we missed between 2 and 4 weeks of school that winter. It was alot of fun! The snowmobiles made the entire winter much more bearable!

From Friend TJ:
I totally remember. I got off school for my birthday! We lived on South 9th St. in Lafayette in the days when that was out in the country. There was a big cornfield across the street and the wind blew straight across making snowdrifts just about up to the roof. We thought it was great.

I was just thinking about that the other day after I was thinking about how it doesn't really snow anymore (here in Philly where I live now) due to global warming. Somewhere I'm sure I have pictures of the big blizzard, but it would probably be June before I could dig them up from the boxes in the basement.

From Cousin Jacquie:
Yes, I remember it very well. I was a sophomore at McCutcheon. We were at school when the blizzard began. They let school out in the mid morning I think around 10:00.

From the time they released us until they got the school busses loaded they decided that it was too dangerous for the busses to be on the roads due to zero visibility. However it was too late to get those of us who had driven to school back. Had I not been 16 years old and totally stupid I would have gone back inside the school.

It took me about 2 hours to drive home. I could only go about 5 miles per hour and had to feel if my tires went off the road and had to go by memory where the road was supposed to be. I could tell if I was still on the right path by the mailboxes that would practically brush the side of my car. I could literally see no more than a foot in front of the car. It was a miracle that I made it home at all.

All the kids that rode to school on the busses were snowed in at school for several days. Some parents that owned snowmobiles went and picked their kids up but everyone else was stuck there. At some point I believe they were said to have run out of food, but I don't remember how they got more food delivered to the school.

I remember that during a snow storm dad and Joe went and picked up grandma Gillis and brought her to our house, but I'm not sure if it was this time or if that happened during a different blizzard though.

From Aunt Joyce Ann:
OMG!!! We had a snow drift from the top of our garage over the street to the top of our neighbor's garage!!! The town of Clarks Hill started cleaning up the streets. When they got to our street, they just looked, turned around and left!!!! We had just purchased a new (used) car, brought it home and that is where it stayed for about 2 weeks. Charlie had a small Chevy Vega for sale and it was covered in its parking space.

Chas. was working on a farm at the time and had come home w/tractor so that was our transportation. It did not have a scoop though. About 3 days after the storm, we had a friend from Clinton Co. come over to dig us out. The town NEVER returned!

The BAR!!! Our neighbor was a bartender and opened up the town bar
and yes, my dear husband was the first customer. Bonnie called me about 2 hours after Chas and his friend arrived and said to please come up to join her. I can only imagine what those two had tormented her about! Finally got the guys out of the bar and we were invited to some friends house (all the way across town (a town of only 700) for the evening. We had so much fun.

The kids played with other starved for companion kids. Tammy was 8, Jason almost 5. One of the local fellas took Jason under his wing and played games with him all evening. They were both in heaven. Wayne was killed a few years ago in a traffic accident. Whenever we ran in to him, he always recalled that evening.

There are many stories. Like our neighbor was celebrating his birthday alone. His wife was stranded in Michigan. He came over to our house the 2nd day and brought all the beer he had (7 different flavors). It took him 1/2 hr to go across the street!!! No, he did not arrive intoxicated. Maybe when he left though.

From Cousin Tammy:
YES, it was great. We were out of school for what seemed like forever. We were at mom's this morning after church and I saw what she wrote was so fun.

Everyone gathered every night at someone's house for a party; getting there via snowmobile or tractor. I was only 8 and one of mom and dad's friend's daughter, also named Tammy, was a teenager and had her nails painted blue. It was was 1978 after all! She painted mine blue, too and I thought she was the coolest person in the world!

From Friend Barb:
I remember there was one but that's it.

From Sister Laura:
I recall someone driving a snowmobile onto our street on Stillwell and wanting to go for a ride. I think it might have been Uncle Mike. I also think someone brought Grandma in to stay with us as she was still working at St. E's at that time.

I don't recall anything special about being off from school - but, then we were off from school lots when we were kids.

From Brother Mike:
I remember that blizzard, and the blizzard of '76, because I had to shovel out most of the neighborhood.

From Sis-in-Law Gretchen:
During the week we were off school, I was worried about my hamster, Mortimer. He was in our science class at Grissom (Mishawaka, IN) and was all alone with no food!

When I finally got back to Mortimer. I was heartbroken. He broke out of his prison and disappeared. Weeks went by and he was finally found in the kitchen at school! Mortimer was very crafty and lived a long, long life for a hamster--3 years!

From Hubby Bruce:
I was called in to work at Park-N-Shop to help stock the shelves with bread and milk. I had a Willie's Jeep and drove it up on a huge hill of snow. My jeep was one of the last vehicles on the road that first day.

From Grandma-in-Law Iris
I was next door having dinner with my neighbor (Osceola, IN). I left, out her back door, about 8pm and got to the edge of her house when I came to a wall of snow as high as the house. I felt my way along the side of her house, where the snow wasn't quite so deep, until I felt the fence and finally made my way back to my front door.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Unlikely Suspect

I made it to work safely this morning. Still have the worthless windshield wiper arms/blades, but there was no slush on the bypass this morning so visibility wasn't an issue.

I was sitting at my desk, eating my breakfast oatmeal, answering , filling, deleting all of the overnight emails when my cell phone rang. "Hello, this is ADT, and we have an alarm event at your home. We've alerted the police, can you meet them there?"

Crap, I live 30 minutes from work. Hubby started his new job today so he couldn't run home to check it out. "Yes, I'll meet them there. Which zone alarm is going off? The family room? Oh, that can't be good." Zipped off a "my whereabouts" email to co-workers, packed up work and headed home.

Hard to concentrate on driving when you're imagining someone in your house, rooting through all your stuff. Finally made it home. Police had come and gone -- that's a good sign -- unless they were in a hurry to get the burglars behind bars.

Quick check of the doors and windows, nothing open; nothing broken. No stuff missing, nothing out of order. Just a few tufts of Spike hair on the floor. That's odd. Whole tufts of hair???

I called ADT to get the scoop. They didn't know what caused the alarm event. Do I have a dog? Yea, sure a little 30 pound dog that sleeps 99% of the time. Well, there's your answer. Your dog set off the motion detector.

That's never happened before. He must have made a jump of Olympic proportions. What the heck would get him that worked up? To not only jump high enough to set off the alarm, but to also make two tufts of hair detach from his body and thrust themselves onto the floor in an angry manner.

How in the Heck Could This Even Happen???

This morning's temperature was -7 degrees. In the 45 seconds it took me to run out and start my van, the tips of my wet hair froze.

Having read too many stories about cars being stolen as they are left running, I'm always sure to lock the doors.

In the 15 minutes it took me to dry my hair, pack my lunch and get ready to leave for work, my car doors froze shut. The spare key was useless... it wouldn't turn. I tried every door of my van and they were all hopelessly frozen shut.

Now, just 15 minutes before they were not frozen. In those 15 minutes, the van was running (generating heat), and inside the van, the heater was running. With all that heat, how could the locks have frozen???

Thank goodness for Lock De-Icer. Double thanks that it was in my garage, and not in my van.

Where'd da Barn Go... Where da Barn At???

I drove by the old homestead a few days ago and noticed it was empty. All landscaping around the house had been removed and something else was different.

I couldn't put my finger on it so I turned around and drove back and pulled into the driveway.

Well, the railroad ties were gone. Those suckers were so heavy, it took me forever to get them perfectly lined up along the driveway.

But, something else was missing... what was it.

OH... the barn. Where'd the barn go??? It used to be a huge two-story structure at the end of the driveway. Now, it's completely gone, along with the hill that went up the side to the second story. It was a great place to lay and stare up at the stars on a warm summer night.

When we lived there, someone came to the door and asked if he could tear down the barn for us; for free. His plan was to re-sell the barn wood. I understand there's lots of money in it.

My guess is that the current owner is planning to sell the property to the school corporation for future expansion. The middle school is just to the south of the farm house and the surrounding property would be a logical place to build a new high school.

The house is a Craftsman-style home. When I first learned that, I imagined someone turning down the corner of a page in their Sears catalog, marking the home they wanted to order.

I always appreciated the leaded glass in the tops of the windows, the built-in window seat, the woodwork throughout, the built-in wood bookcases between the living room and the family room (parlor and formal living room, most likely), and the brick exterior. I hope that someone will move the home to a new location rather than just tearing it down.

Keeping up with the Neighbors

I've written before about the differences between living in the country and a subdivision. This is just one more example of the pressure to keep up with the neighbors in suburbia.

Living in the country, there's often so much snow in your driveway that you don't even try to get through it, much less blow it off. Especially if the 100 acres around your house are farm fields... the wind blows the snow to the first obstacle which is usually the farm house. Or, if there are just a few inches of snow, you don't worry about it. We both drive big Fords that can power through a few inches of the fluffy stuff.

The only time I had a real problem was when I got stuck on top of rail road ties (our driveway was lined with them) and none of my van's tires were touching the ground. I was pulling in, off the road, and there was quite a bit of snow in the driveway... at least enough to hide the rr ties. I miscalculated the location of the driveway and, at full-speed, drove right up onto the first tie and didn't stop until I was completely on top of it, van teetering to and fro. The AAA tow truck guy made it out the next day and, after about five minutes of laughing at me, drug my van back off and onto terra firma.

Here in the 'burbs, if you don't plow, you don't get invited to the summer cookouts. Some neighbors are so anal about it, they start blowing as soon as the snow starts coming down.

Our snow blower is a huge industrial model. Much too large for a girl to handle ;-) Bruce always gets the snow blowing duties.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Driving Too Fast for Conditions

On my way to pick up my new windshield wiper arms and blades, I came across a fresh accident.

This South Bend school bus must have been driving a bit too fast along Nimtz Parkway. It looked like they may have missed the curve near Bendix and slid across all the lanes.

The bus drove into the woods about 20 yards or so and slammed into a tree.

Wiper Wiper Wiper Blades

Who knew that wiper blade replacement could be so hard???

This summer I paid nearly $50 for a set of Rain-X wiper blades and they were the best set of blades I've ever had.

I've always had an issue with wiper blades making a horrible noise rubbing against my van's windshield and the Rain-X blades were the first I've had that were quiet.

Yesterday they were a caked with ice and I pulled out the driver's side blade arm and flicked it against the windshield to clear it of ice. The ice fell off and so did the end cap that keeps the blade from slipping off.

Today the squirty blue stuff wouldn't squirt out on the driver's side and the passenger side wiper arm's spring sprung so the blade wasn't totally touching the windshield.

So, on my way to work this morning, about half way into South Bend, I got splashed with road slush and was left with two 1" strips of clean windshield. The unfortunate part was one was about 3" above my normal line of vision and the other was about 3" below.

I called around to find replacement wiper arms and NAPA was kind enough to order them in from their Ft. Wayne store and I picked them up after work. While there, I bought some new blades, too.

Tonight, we messed with the wiper arms, blades and squirty stuff for about an hour. The end result is I have squirty stuff again, but no wipers. The wiper blade arms were the wrong size, the blades had the wrong attachments and no adapters.

Tomorrow's drive to work should be fun!

Check out this ode to wiper blade replacement by Heywood Banks.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Clapton: The Autobiography

I just finished reading Eric Clapton's autobiography. I've always liked his music, but never knew anything about his life.

Much of it is what you'd expect to hear about a rock star's life, but told in a rather humble manner.

I appreciated that he didn't boast of his many conquests, drug-taking, and boozing, but chose instead to include a few stories that included these things in almost an apologetic manner. I'd have to guess his motivation for that was knowing, eventually, his daughters will read the book.

He seems to be in a good place in life now; content with his family and sobriety, and helping others struggling with addictions through his Crossroads Centre facility in Antigua.

Here's an excerpt of the book that I came across tonight.

If you're thinking about reading this, I'd recommend the audio version instead. It's read by an Englishman so it seems like you're listening to EC tell his own story.

Check out the video below for a reminder of how awesome his music was, and still is today.

Got Milk?

I saw this cute, fat squirrel at Pinhook Park in South Bend yesterday. He came right up to my car looking for a handout. I didn't have anything for him, but returned today with an ear of corn from the stash we have for the squirrels that raid our bird feeder. But, he didn't show today.

Ever Had One of Those Days?

We're Brothers Forever - The Video

"We're Brothers Forever."
Lyrics By: Renaldo Lapuz

I am your brother
Your best friend forever
Singing the songs, the music that you love.

We're brothers 'till the end of time
Together or not, you're always in my heart
Your hurt, your feelings in you will worry no more.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Next American Idol

Can't wait for the video to show up on YouTube. This guy ROCKS! The judges loved him so much they got up and danced with him.

The song went something like this...

I am your brother. Your best friend forever. Singing the songs that you love.

I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thawing Snow Leads to Flooding

Our New Year's Day 12" of snow quickly melted early this week when the warm front came through. We had 60-degree temperatures two days in a row.

Now, their is wide-spread flooding throughout the Michiana area.

Friday, January 11, 2008

What's Wrong With That Duck's Neck???

I came across this group of napping geese and ducks. Notice how the geese sleep with their necks turned sideways, laying their heads on their backs. The ducks sleep with their heads scrunched down.

But, look at the duck on the far right, in the back. What the heck is going on there? His neck is flopped back and his head is laying on his back with his beak straight up in the air. That can't be comfortable!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Take the Picture Already!

I always have my camera with me, but it's pretty rare that someone uses it to take a photo of me.

At dinner Thursday, several friends ended up at our table and we started snapping photos.

Someone grabbed my camera and tried to take a photo. Not being particularly familiar with my camera, it took quite a bit of time to get the picture. And, it's hard to hold a smile indefinitely ... as evidenced by this photo.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Birthday Celebration

Happy Birthday to me! I don't get very excited about my birthday, but as far as getting another year older goes, today was a nice transition into the next year of my life.

I enjoyed lunch with the girls, low-fat birthday cake at work, lots of birthday cards and e-cards, and dinner out with my hubby.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Nature, Up Close and Personal

While walking through the art department at work today, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed some movement out the window.

I took a closer look at saw this deer scrounging for food. I walked upstairs to get a better view and saw a second deer laying down by the pond.

It was a nice change-of-pace from the stress of everyday work life.

Monday, January 7, 2008

So Spoiled

How many dogs do you know that sleep on five pillows???

As the thunderstorm started rolling in tonight, Spike ran upstairs and hid under the bed. We talked him out and got him to come back downstairs and now, as I type this, he's laying on my lap... between me and the keyboard.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Spike Loves Popcorn

As I was enjoying a large bag of popcorn, watching a movie on TV, Spike was right there, waiting for his handout.

Back when we had two dogs, Spike and Tyler, I used to play the popcorn game with them.

Both of them would stand in front of me and I'd throw one kernel of popcorn at each dog and continue until one of them missed. Sometimes they could keep it up until they ate all of the popcorn, leaving none for me.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

World's Best Hand Dryer

I think most people avoid the hand dryers in public rest rooms because nobody has a spare 5-6 minutes to stand there waiting for their hands to dry. The air pressure in normal hand dryers just isn't strong enough to do the job.

Now, when I come across the mighty Xlerator hand dryer, I actually enjoy drying my hands with it. This thing is like a little tornado that dries your hands in about 3 seconds.

Let me tell you, this baby has some major power! According to the specs on their website, it has air velocity of 16,000 LFM (linear feet per minute). Check out how it actually bends the skin on my hand.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Goals, I Haz Dem

funny pictures
more LOL Cats

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Passive Aggressive Snow Plow Driver

Yesterday I worked from home because the snow in our cul-de-sac had not been plowed.

My neighbor got her car stuck in it. I wasn't willing to risk getting my huge van stuck because it would be too hard to get it un-stuck.

Late in the afternoon I called the highway department to remind them that, although they plowed the main road through our subdivision, they neglected to plow out the cul-de-sac.

Bruce spent several hours last night plowing me a path from our driveway to the main road so I could go into the office today.

Tonight when I arrived home, I was greeted by this 10-foot-high mound of snow, neatly piled at the end of my driveway by the passive aggressive snow plow driver.

Luckily, there's just enough room to drive around this pile to get into my driveway. But, the second pile of snow that he pushed in front of my mail box will surely tick off the mail lady. Last year she got out of her car to put a note in our mail box that she wouldn't deliver the mail until we cleared the snow from in front of the mail box. Another passive aggressive service person. Nothing of much importance comes via snail mail anyway, now that Christmas card season is over.

This happened once last winter -- a huge pile of snow appearing in the middle of our cul-de-sac. The plow driver had come through overnight sometime because when I went to bed there wasn't a big pile of snow in the middle of the cul-de-sac, but when I backed my van out of the driveway the next morning, I drove right into it.

It was early morning, still dark, and my van's rear windows were caked with road salt. The white snow around the yard and in the road all blended together so I didn't even notice the snow pile. I was going faster than normal backing up because I expected I'd need to be going pretty fast to drive through the cul-de-sac and get to the main road. So, I ended up pretty deep into the snow pile by the time my van came to a stop. It took me, one of my neighbors and two of his kids a long time to dig me out. That evening I baked them some cookies as a thank you. Without their help, I would have had a hard time of it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Biggest Loser Million Pound Match Up Challenge

Bruce and I joined the Biggest Loser Million Pound Match Up Challenge today. Part of the challenge requires blogging weekly about our progress. So, my new blog, specifically to track our journey to health, is at

Stop by that blog for a visit and cheer us on!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

1. Lose Weight
I've done it before... but since July have gained quite a bit back. I'm pre-paid for Weight Watchers and tonight I'm joining the Biggest Loser Million Pound Challenge. My goal is to lose 30 pounds.

2. Save Money
Last March I got completely out of debt, except for my house. I started listening to the Dave Ramsey show last year and his big idea is to stop using credit and pay cash for everything. I closed all of my credit card accounts except for AmEx (they require full payment each month). But, I haven't done much to put money away into savings or investments. I plan to learn about investing this year and really put it to work. I'd love to have my house paid off in five years.

11" of Snow and It's Still Coming Down

Tennis Anyone?

Spike had fun playing with his new tennis ball in the snow today.

When the ball disappeared, Spike found he really likes the taste of fresh snow.

The Forecast Says "Stay Home"

We woke to 9" of snow this morning and decided we weren't going anywhere today.

A quick check of the snow supplies revealed we'd be fine spending the day at home.

  • Milk. Check.
  • Bread. Check.
  • Firewood. Check.
  • Diet Coke. Check.
  • Frozen Pizza. Check.
  • Internet Access. Check.

Now, eventually we'll have to get the snowblower out and dig out of this mess. But, looking at the forecast of 15" to 25" of snow accumulation, that might be a couple of days away.

3, 2, 1... Happy New Year

Why does Dick Clark think that we can't ring in the New Year without him?

Maybe he's trying to demonstrate that stoke victims can still provide a valuable service to society.

Maybe he's trying to prove to himself that he still has purpose.

Maybe he doesn't think anyone will notice the speech problem.

Maybe he doesn't trust Ryan Seacrest to do the countdown.

I give him a lot of credit for putting himself out there. After being known as "forever young" it must be incredibly hard for him to be in public in less-than-perfect form.

Happy New Year Dick Clark!