Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Engagement

The Engagement

For a decade, Christopher Jacob Ross, known affectionately as “CJ”, had contemplated asking his beautiful girlfriend, Reena Nadler, to marry him. Paralyzed by fear, CJ could never embolden himself to utter the magic words.  The words were never just right, the situation was awkward, or the timing was off were all a part of his stone reasoning.

Meanwhile, CJ’s family got to know Reena.  Year after year, she’d stand by CJ’s side in fine times and dark times.  Each Christmas, he’d trek to his aunt and uncle’s house in Roanoke with Reena happily along for the endless banquet.  Reena, who grew up in a house without Christmas, received an education.  Wine, trashy reality TV, uncontrolled board games, bizarre letters to and from Santa, and ripped packages to the ceiling were her lessons.

It was over Christmas this past December that everyone sensed that CJ had a more determined outlook regarding his future with Reena.  Perhaps it was the fact that Reena’s identical twin had successfully married last year.  Perhaps, he was realizing that no person could put asunder their love.  All of us wondered when and how he would pop the question.

As fate would have it, CJ won an Amway promotional trip to Snowbird Resort.  His team signed up more team members than any other team in the eastern region.  So CJ and Reena dashed off to Utah, and he thought that THIS would be that magical moment.  Armed with a ring and his gumption, CJ planned the perfect romantic proposal. 

In his head, CJ played out the whole scene.  They’d take the lift to the top of one of the most remote runs and then would ski together down the slope drinking in the intoxicating beauty of the stunning vistas.  There, halfway down, CJ would motion for Reena to stop.  He’d release his bindings and drop on bended knee in presentation of the ring framed by the magical words.

Yet things didn’t go exactly as planned. 

Reena, a direct person, consumes her space from point-to-point.  CJ, the calculated one, missed this variable.  Once at the top, Reena rocketed down the mountain, leaving CJ staring at nature’s beauty and a ring in his pocket. No worries.  He figured that he’d be more ready the next time down.  So he began exploring his way down the mountain, seeking wayward cross-over paths and virgin snow.

CJ also neglected to consider one other variable.  When CJ was 14 or so, his uncle was tossing the football with him at a church vacation bible school.  A dedicated receiver, CJ dove for an errant pass and crashed into the concrete stairs of the church building, smashing his clavicle into several pieces.  Such is his athletic fortune.

It’s unclear how CJ ended up in the ravine off-trail with a wrenched knee.  Perhaps he was gazing at the pristine snow-capped peaks.  Perhaps he was consumed by proposal fear. Regardless the cause, CJ found himself alone on a seldom-used spur trail with a ring in his pocket. His dream was shattered.

Reena, meantime, had made it to the bottom and headed over to the brunch bar to await CJ’s arrival.  She figured she could sneak in an early lunch without him knowing.  Time passed.  Lunch was over. CJ had not appeared.  She knew that something must be wrong.  CJ was never late. Connected and attuned to each other as they had been for a decade, she knew that there must be trouble.

Decisively, Reena trammed back to the top to search for her love.  She made it to the point where she left him for her early lunch and brought her  focus on CJ to think like him for a moment. He most likely would have fallen into a ravine somewhere on a spur trail, she thought.  Carefully she explored each possibility, looking for spurs where only lonely tracks could be seen.  Finally, she saw promising tracks.  She veered off the main run and onto the spur through a stand of pines.  She followed.  The tracks then disappeared over the edge.  There, lying at the bottom of a shallow ravine was CJ, her love. He grimaced in pain and explained his plight.

Reena, fully understanding his dire plight, zipped away and sought help.  She returned to CJ and worked her way down the steep to be with him as they awaited medical assistance.  It was there, as they waited together in that lovely spot gazing at the beauty of the western world, that CJ asked Reena to marry him.  Of course she said, “Yes!”

When the ski patrol arrived, they really couldn’t understand why the two were laughing and crying.  It took just a moment for Reena to explain that CJ had proposed.  They placed CJ in a splint and sledded him down the mountain after taking a picture of the two of them together on the slope.

The real story from Reena

Jacob fell into a ravine and twisted his knee (but he's fine now!) I skied back to attempt to rescue him and there we were, stranded on a slope overlooking the most beautiful vista we'd ever seen. He asked me to marry him while we waited for ski patrol medics to come evacuate him :) The best laid plans of mice and men...

Monday, January 19, 2015


Let me be critical here. I had a school board member ask me recently  what is causing morale problems among our school employees.  I'm rarely good at coming up with articulate responses on the fly. Frankly, I've been hamstrung in finding words to place in writing. The writer of this piece has tapped into the stream of discontent. Her piece is not definitive, but it is something.  

Our own school system suffers from the same issues she raises. Meteoric rise in children from poverty in classroom. Check. Loss teaching and assistant positions and the struggle to squeeze more of yourself to cover for the losses.  Check.  Irrational Testing/ Data-Stream Pressure. Check. Lack of aligned and developmentally appropriate teaching materials. Check.  Grief from "excessive" paper use in response to the lack of aligned materials. Check.  Blind focus on frequently unwieldy, unreliable (weak infrastructure), or unneeded technologies (I love useful technology). Check.  Stagnant compensation and benefits. Check. 

In my estimation, it all circles back to poverty.  Poverty in funding. Poverty in training. Poverty in ideas.  These rub and grate against the compassion and intensity staff members must harness to reach today's students of poverty.  Such friction wears.

It's really past time for society to decide if they truly care.  

Sunday, November 02, 2014

My Expensive Diet Dr. Pepper

My Expensive Diet Dr. Pepper

I've grown to love large Diet Dr. Pepper from convenience store fountains.  So this afternoon, I was out picking up Warner for Senate signs for election day in the back lot at Salem's Mill Mountain Coffee and Tea.  After collecting my stuff, I decided to cruise down Main Street to the Sheetz on West Main for my Diet Dr. Pepper.  Gas prices have been tumbling, so I noted that they had their regular unleaded at $2.59 (and 9/10).  So I decided, what the heck, I'd go ahead and fill up!  Then I went inside for my fountain drink.

Drink in hand,  I pulled over to wait in line for some free Sheetz air. That's a great thing about Sheetz.  When you need air in your tires, they don't charge you.  However, the machines are quite busy.  I was the next one up, so I wouldn't have to wait long.  The guy in front of me was taking a LONG time, but I waited patiently.  No worries.  I had my Diet Doctor and the Skins were playing well on the AM radio. Sonny was being prodded every now and then to speak up, and he'd say something insightful like, "He's short (of the first down)."  Sonny talking would actually be a great drinking game if I drank, according to Carter Turner. 

While in line, I saw the Sheetz car wash and realized that my blue party van was soiled.  I made a mental appointment to drive around back after I filled up with air.  No worries.

The guy finally finished after about 15 minutes, and I waited patiently for him to get in his car, talk to his wife, start his car, talk to his wife, put his car in reverse, realize I was behind him, put his car in a forward gear, creep ahead enough so that I could almost pull up to the hose. Eventually, he was clear!

I primed the hose and began inflating.  I suspected that my air was quite low since cold air tends to lower pressure.  Sure enough, the gauge said I was about five pounds low,  but the machine was seriously laboring at inflating.  So after about five minutes of inflating one tire,  I gave up and headed for the car wash.

I love automatic car washes,  but I should have remembered that this particular wash didn't do a very good job at washing.  It was quite effective at splaying colorful suds over the entire exterior,  but as for real cleaning, it left a lot to be desired.

But that wasn't the worst problem I had.

As I pulled in to the bay,  I guess I lined up my minivan wrong,

and I mostly missed the sensor cradle that begins the wash.  So I backed up and turned my wheel to see if I would slide in.  I felt the car slide into the slot with a rough clunk.

Minutes later, when I exited the bay, it was obvious, I had popped my left front tire.  So I wobbled the car over to an empty parking area next to the Sheetz and began  switching out the deflated the Cooper CS4 Touring tire.  Sidewall punctures are not repairable.  So during this most busy week of the year for me,  I will be shopping for two new Cooper CS4 Touring tires.  At about $120 a pop, my Diet Dr. Pepper has become quite expensive.

Which reminds me,  please vote Tuesday.  Don't let my financial loss be in vain.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What's In My Trap?

What's In My Trap?

I've managed to thwart several local critters from terrorizing my garden so far this month.  Here's the tally:  1 groundhog, 2 raccoons, 1 turtle. 

The box turtle was my most curious catch.  He appeared in my live animal trap yesterday.  I had moved the trap out of the grass beside my garden so I could mow.  The trap hadn't been baited with cantaloupe for over a week.  I had stowed the trap between two rows of tomato plants until I got around to repositioning it to the terror zone.  But yesterday morning, I was surprised to see a cute box turtle happily chomping on a dried cantaloupe rind.  I picked him up and showed him to my wife before releasing him to go on his merry way right beside the sprung trap. 

Later in the afternoon, I decided to go back to my garden to see if he was still hanging around.  I wandered through my garden but didn't spot him. A few rows away from where I left him, I found a low-growing, half-eaten Tigerella tomato.  The bottom had been devoured, leaving the top half still on the vine.  I cursed the raccoon or groundhog that sneaked past my trap and my fishing line perimeter and my heat sensitive water cannon (The Scarecrow).  I continued past my garden to my unruly compost pile.  I had forgotten to collect bowl I had used that morning to dump today's fresh cantaloupe and watermelon rinds. As I reached down for it, who should I see smiling up at me?  The box turtle.  That's when it occurred to me.  That thieving turtle had robbed me of one of my first Tigerella tomatoes before sprinting to the rich compost pile.  I shook my head sadly and turned away, leaving him to his feast.  Maybe he will just stay there and eat his golden treats.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


A friend of mine encountered this man on a recent trip to NYC.  It turns out that he is quite well-known in the city and has an inspiring perspective on life.   If you look through the glazed madness, you'll glimpse truth.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ryder Curse

The Ryder Septic/Sewer Curse is a real thing.  Many Ryder’s have dealt with one septic or sewer issue after another for years and years.  My Ryder household is no exception.  12 years ago, we had to dig up our whole front yard and replace our house's connection to the municipal sewer line.  For the past couple of years, we've battled periodic chunky basement back-ups.  I've become quite adept at utilizing a twin plunging suction system to coax the blockage free.  Over Christmas break, as is Ryder Curse custom, I determined that the back-up was being triggered by a deteriorated basement sewer drain line.  Of course, this line is under concrete in my basement. 

So, I'm searching for a company to come in and chunk (favorite word of the day) out the concrete and lay a new line.  It's a pretty straight-forward job, but labor intensive. 

I've called a few companies and most will send out their estimator without a quibble and with a smile on his face.  However, one local company was impossible. 

I had prior back-up relations with this company as they bailed me out last Thanksgiving when I needed help in a holiday crunch.  My suction technique needed the big guns.  So I know these guys.  In fact, they were the first ones I called to get a quote for this job.  The receptionist was delightful and promised that "Steve" would call me back. 

He did.

I explained the problem and what I wanted done.  That's when Steve interjected. "Well, we really can't know what the problem is unless we take a peek in there with our camera."  I thought that sounded reasonable, but I already know where the problem is, and I already know that I want the whole line replaced.  Steve went on and told me that  "...the camera will cost $85." 

That caused me to pause...

Steve went on, "...plus you got the standard $100 an hour fee for our crew which includes travel time from the shop to your house plus a mileage charge."  Now my pause became silence.  Finally,  I told Steve that I really hadn't counted on spending that kind of money just for an estimate.  "I mean $185 is a lot of money." 

"Well, it could be more than that.  If it takes more than an hour, we bill you for the full next hour. Oh wait,  I was wrong.  You said this is a basement accessible by a staircase, right?"


"There's an additional $50 fee for hauling equipment downstairs.


"I just want you to know what the costs are up front.  Of course, there's the standard system check $50 dollars for a liquids assessment (piss...heh-heh) and $75 solids evaluation (poop...heh-heh...that one gets me every time!)."

I ended the call before Steve could tack on any additional fees.  I was afraid that he was going to tack on a feminine products test.  So I told him that I'd call him back after I think about it some more.

I lied. 

I'm not really calling Steve back.