A Precious Prayer Request

I could really use some prayer support and encouragement right now. I have an 8 year old cat Naomi who is pretty much everything that makes me happy. She got really sick last week and it looked like an infection and kidney problem. This afternoon, her blood levels didn’t change so the vet did an ultrasound. It indicated an enlarged kidney. He did a radiograph. She’s got a stone in her right kidney and the kidney itself is really small, possibly non-functional. The left kidney is huge, probably making up for it. He took a urine culture. It will take 3-4 days to get it back. He is trying to see what specific antibiotic is needed. If and once he can fix the infection, then he can determine if the kidneys will return to normal or… basically if it is over. She is currently eating and drinking and using the litter. Pretty low on energy but still exhibiting a few signs of her personality. Best case is sounding like she would have fluid treatment the rest of her life.

I’m pretty much in just full meltdown mode. If I’m just waiting for the end, I don’t know how to get through it. And I have to focus on some important work things coming up this week, which may include having to be away Thursday night/Friday. And I’m simply going to be beside myself the whole time.

So basically I’m a wreck. I don’t even know how to pet her or hold her or hear her purr without being overcome but the deepest grief. I’ve got to figure out how to deal with the enormous expenses. And after everything I’ve been through I’m just crying out to Jesus for strength. To call on the grace and faith He has given me and not run away from it again in the face of more hardship. But most of all for healing for my baby girl.

I’m sorry if you aren’t a pet person and this all seems weird to you. But thank you all the same for lifting Naomi and I up in prayer.

A Precious Prayer Request

Net Neutrality

Yesterday, the FCC rolled back some regulations that protected an open, free internet. So called “net neutrality” rules. On the outset, less government seems like a good thing, especially in the state of things these days. But sometimes we as consumers do need to be protected by some rules. The commissioner’s propaganda he’s selling that less regulation will mean more innovation is simply a farce. (Sorta like the idea of trickle down economics. Cutting corporate taxes will put more money in the pockets of the middle class because of how much companies will save? Yeah right!) Here are the three things that are going to happen now.

1. We’re going to start paying for access bundles. Take a look at this REAL service plan from an internet service provider in Portugal after their government got rid of net neutrality rules.

2. ISPs will have the ability to block content that competes with them. Here’s a hypothetical. Let’s say Comcast NBC-Universal as the big conglomerate decides to start their own streaming service (a la Netflix). They will now be able to slow down your access to, say, Disney’s streaming service. Or, more likely, block it unless you pay extra. They can also force Disney to pay a toll to access a fast lane of distribution, which they’ll do because no one will subscribe to them if the quality of their streaming is terrible.

3. Small businesses will be unable to compete. Think about it. Why haven’t the likes of Facebook or Google come along as a loud voice of advocacy for the consumer, lobbying to protect net neutrality rules? Because they can afford to pay for the fast lane! And they want to be the primary place you go. Go back to the scenario. Let’s say some innovative entrepreneurs want to start up a new streaming service. But they don’t have anywhere close to the billions–with a b–of capital in their coffers. They can’t afford to pay for a fast lane, so their content is throttled. People who check their service out get low quality content. They don’t bother subscribing and they don’t want to pay the ISP another $5 bundle. And the business is dead before it can even begin.

This is is our reality now. The telcom lobby is strong. The FCC refused to look into fraudulent comments made that supported the rollback of these regulations. They ignored the will of the people in our democracy, fooled others with the story that “deregulation is better”, and filled their campaign accounts with sweet telcom contributions. The commissioner has stated that if we don’t like what our ISP does, we can simply choose another. This is incredibly stupid, as so much of America only has one choice for an ISP. Two at best. It’s virtually an unregulated monopoly (and in my opinion, internet service deserves to be looked at as a utility. Electricity, gas, water, internet).

We can only hope the lawsuits are numerous and this ruling is tied up in litigation for a long time until someone can actually represent us and undo this tragedy.

Net Neutrality

Old Home Made New

In March, when it became clear that the Lord intended for me to stay in Little Rock–and believe me it was not from a lack of trying to find something else–I finally decided I needed to do some much needed renovations to my home.

First up came a project I really have needed to get done since converting to a gas stove, and this is an externally venting hood for my range. Any time I cook meat, it just fills the whole house with haze and smells like it for days. I had no idea who to call so I used USAA’s contractor services and got a company. Price seemed reasonable compared to a friend that had it done a few years back, so I went with it. Pleased with the end result and happy to say there’s no more lingering smoke or smell issues.

IMG_0352Fun story about this project. The original quote was really expensive so I sat down with the estimator and looked for ways to cut back. I told him I would buy my own hood and that I didn’t need an electrician–to the tune of $250 line item–to connect two wires. As I researched hoods, Home Depot had a sale on a nice one with lots of blowing power. If I was going to spend this much on the project, I wanted to make sure I got a good enough fan to do the job. They didn’t have one in store and to order it would cost $69 to have it shipped to the store. It’s some flat fee on all appliances. I said no thanks and went to Best Buy since they price match and don’t charge delivery. They ended up having one open box in store, so I got a $300 hood for about $130. Score!

Project number two took my attention outside. My house was built in the mid-1980’s. The siding was constructed of masonite, which is some compressed cardboard looking material. The deck, fence, and flower bed edging probably were done at the same time. Frankly, all of it was falling apart. I looked iIMG_0369nto new siding possibilities and all signs pointed to vinyl siding. Started asking folks for ideas of companies, got some quotes, and away we went. I ended up using a guy my pastor recommended. I was pretty nervous about him at first because his bid came in way under the others. But as I continued to talk to him, I learned he is a man of faith and that ought to count for something. For color, I inquired to plenty of friends and most picked the same one I was thinking without knowing which first. That was nice for my OCD indecisiveness. I didn’t think about it initially, but I also ended up with a new/better/lighter garage door which is really nice.

The guys came in early May and it took about a week. Enjoyed chatting with Bobby and Jason, and I simply cannot express how much I appreciate the great work they did. The transformation is incredible. I’m so proud of my house now. Just look at these before and after photos. No words.



I also repainted my front door and shutters. This was all during the NHL playoffs and being a ravenous Dallas Stars fan, I found inspiration and chose “victory green”. Boy, did this color provide a nice pop! I also painted the concrete and electrical boxes around the exterior to match the siding.IMG_0400
Next came project three, which was unexpected. As this work was going on, one of the workers spotted a problem on the front of my roof. A really soft spot where a IMG_0418nail was sticking out. They sealed the hole but when I got up in the attic to say the lay of the land in that area, things turned real bad. This spot had been that way for a long while. Rotten, molded wood covered the whole area.IMG_0378

Fortunately, it had not gotten through to the ceiling. It was more of a seeping leak. Well, I hadn’t taken enough loan out to pay for a roof too, so I called up USAA and made a claim. After a week of stressing–shame on me, by the way–I got the confirmation that it was all deemed storm damage and they sent me a check. I used a family member of my siding guy. And really in the end, this just worked out great because I got a roof that matched my new siding tremendously.


Got a little lucky in this experience too. I was quoted $3900 but after my deductible, I got $3500. So I asked how to reduce cost to this amount. He said I could go with a 20-year rated shingle instead of 30-year. After asking a few folks, I agreed to that. The day the shingles arrived–which by the way they use a very cool conveyer to lift the packs to the roof–I noticed the packaging said 30. I called my contractor. Didn’t ever know what happened but he told me I get a 30-year roof! Nice! I also had them install a couple of turbines, which is really nice for attic heat.

Moving into June, I came at last to the final project: rebuilding my deck. It was literally crumbling in places. Nails wouldn’t stay in. Beyond power washing. Part of the deck had a 10×10 covered area, but it was built very poorly. Flat roof with shingles. I tore it down and it came apart like paper. For this project, I enlisted the help of our amazing handyman team at my church, the Good Old Boys (or GOBs). They drew up the plans and lumber need. But I was asked to do the tear out myself. Yeah, I’m not all about the physical labor and after trying a couple boards I was kinda despairing how I’d do it. IMG_0503I asked the guys doing the roof if they’d like to earn some extra cash and what they’d charge to rip out and haul off. For a mere $350 the old deck was out. It took weeks for them to haul off the lumber and there was a point I thought they were going to stick me with it. One of the guys asked if he could have it to build some accessibility ramps for his disabled wife. I was happy to donate.

Early on a Saturday, five guys came over and set to work. Now me… hammers run from me in fear. So I was a go-for and duties as assigned guy. The frame was still in good shape. Deck boards got down that day. The old deck extended as a walkway around the side of my house to the front driveway. I opted not to rebuild this part, so I took a day off, bought some sod, and laid it out. While I was at, I got some extra for a large bare area in my front yard. I realized I’d need to add sprinkler heads to the side area, so that was another little expense. But to date, all the grass is thriving!


The next Friday we–well they–got the rail and steps of the deck done. Let me tell you what champions these guys are. Not a one under 60 and hilarious to boot. I’m so pleased with the results.



Unfortunately, I’m pretty tapped out at this point. I really want to rebuild the covered section–correctly this time–and screen it in. Would like to avoid Zika virus, don’t you know. And it’d be nice to let Naomi out without having to keep an eye on her. I asked one company what it would take, because this part was a little much for the GOBs to handle. They came back with an audacious $3500 quote. Yeah, no way. Absurd. So this little rebuild will have to wait. But we’ll see.

I feel like I have a brand new house. Before, it felt like one of the oldest looking ones in the neighborhood, but now I see it and smile. I’ve got a good home. I am blessed. I hope to use it, enjoy it, and maintain it in a God-honoring way.

Old Home Made New

Yay A New Bed, Or Wow I’m Old

This story begins at my friends making fun of me for only have one set of bed sheets. Hey, I’m a guy! I don’t need a closet full of them. And a little ashamedly, I don’t change them out all that often. But now that I’m on a strict cleaning regimen, which includes frequent hot water washing of the sheets, it would be handy to have an extra set. My goodness is it entirely more complicated than necessary! I went to five places-Bed Bath & Beyond, Marshalls, Big Lots, TJ Maxx, and Home Goods-after doing some online searching. Thread counts and fiber types galore! (If you’re interested, I settled on 600, pure cotton.)

The point is, my allergies are worst at night, and I’ve been steadily working toward the recommended changes my allergist gave me. Mostly. Not the part where Naomi can’t sleep with me anymore. That’ll never happen. Anyway, my mattress is probably about 8 years old, so getting close to end-of-life. Spurred by the purchase of new sheets, I figured I could start looking to change it out to something fresh. I listen to quite a few tech/geek podcasts and several have advertised for a company called Casper.

I heard the ad often enough I looked at them at one point and was actually really interested in the research and technology they put into their unique mattress. And they give a 100 night free trial! What! Don’t like it? They send someone to pick it up and it gets donated to charity. I was definitely intrigued and the reviews were absolutely glowing! I figured it be a good tax return-funded purchase next year.

But it is the holidays so there are some good sales going on. The Casper is made for platform beds, which I’ve never had and didn’t know anything about. So I started investigating. Basically, the mattress is supported by a solid sheet of plywood or slotted slats rather than box springs. I looked around to see how much they run and came upon a really nice looking one on Overstock.com on a doorbuster sale. Normally $550, on sale for $229. So I decided it was a good time to make the move.

I ordered the frame and immediately got an email confirmation. But interestingly, it included a 10% off code for my next order. Hmmm, I thought. I never order from this site and that’d be really fabulous to get on this big purchase. So being the crafty dealmaker, I quickly cancelled my order, made my checkout cart again, and used the code. Bam, now it’s down to $200! Score! (Don’t judge me.)

I ordered my Casper mattress and had a code there too (up front this time) from one of the podcasts. I thought I ordered such that they’d arrive the same day but no such luck. The mattress arrived first on Wednesday in a really tiny box.


You wouldn’t believe it. I saw some unboxing video reviews and it is super cool how they vacuum pack it in without any loss of material integrity. Well, I had to make my own unboxing video clip.


I was originally going to wait until the frame arrived to get the mattress out but I was too excited to try it out, so I moved my old bed out and plopped the Casper down on the floor. The first night was pretty restless. To be expected, I suppose, given it was new. But also, my allergies peaked all night, I think from being down on the floor (even though I thoroughly vacuumed).


If I haven’t lost your interest yet, the true drama of this begins to now unfold. UPS delivered the frame on Thursday, and by way of my handy video doorbell, I saw them leave two boxes. When I got home, they were clearly labeled “1 of 3” and “3 of 3”. Oh crap. I got on with UPS and they assured me the third box was coming, though I could not figure why the shipment would have been separated. Yay logistics. I put as much together as I could and waited. Thankfully, the next driver arrived. I took the box and immediately opened it. Inside… a pair of Toms shoes. For my neighbor.

I ran back out the front door and intended to head off the truck as it looped around to leave the neighborhood. Fortunately, she realized what she did about halfway down and stopped short. We exchanged boxes and had a relieved laugh. Got it inside and finished the bed.


Well, it looks great. Except one thing. I could not tell from the pictures on the site that the headboard actually had bedazzled jewels, not buttons. Major facepalm. I’ll be looking to figure out how to paint them this weekend…


Last night was pretty good. Naomi seems to love it. Honestly, if you are due for a new bed, I’d check it out! Nothing to lose with 100 nights to try it! It is very supportive yet comfortably soft and cool! Last thing for me to add is an allergen-rated mattress encasement, and Casper sent me right to their recommended one on Amazon.

So there’s my long winded story about getting a new bed. Yup, you know you’re old when this is the kind of thing that excites you.


Oh and hey, if you do somehow decide to try, let me know. We both get $50.

Yay A New Bed, Or Wow I’m Old

West Coast Baseball Parks: Arizona Diamondbacks

The last ballpark on our list this trip was also probably the most unique. It was the first indoor (AC cooled) baseball stadium I have been to, and it was a beauty! They opened the roof right before the game and I dreaded the 105 degree Phoenix heat bearing down on us, but they kept right on blasting the AC. Great seats once again. I also stumbled across a $25 18″ jumbo corn dog stuffed with cheese, peppers, and mustard. No, I did not get one. My goal is to see every park, not die from the food they serve.

I write this last post from the comfort of my home. We were up at 4 am Arizona time (Mountain zone sans daylight savings). That’s really like 6 am at home, which isn’t so bad, but psychologically it feels worse. The tiredness was all worth it. With this trip plus the last one, and a couple parks I’ve been to individually, I have now seen half of the major league stadiums! 15 to go!






West Coast Baseball Parks: Arizona Diamondbacks

How Puzzling!

Back in January on my trip to Las Vegas, I visited the Coca-Cola store.  I could’ve bought almost everything there and wanted to, but I restrained myself and left with just a puzzle.  I say “just a puzzle” but it is a doozy.  It’s 2000 pieces and measure about 3 feet by 4 feet.  And it is mostly red.  So I knew it was going to be a challenge.  The goal was to add it to my kitchen decor.

Didn’t exactly have a big enough space to do it, so I cut up some cardboard pieces and tried on my guest bed.  I started out trying to put the edge together.  Took a good couple hours to systematically sort through 2000 pieces.  And let me tell you there are some funky shapes in this thing.

After 6 hours:

And a few more hours after that:

The bed ended up being too low and proved too painful on the back for long periods of time.  I was also frustrated by how slow it was going.  So it sat in that bedroom from January until August, untouched.  I finally decided to get it done and went to Home Depot and found the cheapest wooden panel I could find that would fit the whole thing.  Brought it to my kitchen table and there I worked on it.  But I was nervous…an edge piece was missing.  I decided to push forward and hope it either turned up in the box or in the room.  And I tore that room apart, believe you me.  For three solid days, I worked.  And I literally mean dawn to dusk.  (The edge piece ended up being in the box.)  These were the days my trees were getting cut down, so it gave me something to do since I wanted to be home while they worked.  I would sort through the box and pick out the pieces for 2-3 different sections of the puzzle at a time.  Put them together, sort again, and so on.

End of Day 1.  What I called the “most obvious” sections were done.

End of Day 2.  The red sections that were different enough for me to pick out were done.

End of Day 3.  The final red sections and their logos came together.  The remaining holes were the solid red pieces.
The red color didn’t end up being the biggest challenge.  Each sign was different enough, however subtle, to pick out.  What ended up being the headache was actually the words in the logos: the Coca-Cola.  Each piece had such a small portion of each letter, it was impossible to tell where it belonged at times.  I would stare at the pile and have to get up for a bit, frustrated.  Several times it came down to a matter of just seeing what fit, rather than trying to put it together by mentally seeing the image being pieced together.

Of course, Naomi was a big help during the whole process.  I had to keep the puzzle covered with the cardboard I originally was using underneath.  She also had a fondness for frolicking in the box of pieces.  At one point, she jumped in it and it scooted off the table, dumping the hundreds of pieces all over the floor.  I just knew I’d lose one, but I lucked out.

Got that puppy done and glued together.  Waited for a great framing deal–which was still hard to swallow–but it is done and I’m pretty proud of it.  Looks great on the wall and I was able to spread the rest of my trinkets out along the wall.


So if you are one of those who occasionally or regularly comes to my house, be sure to step into the kitchen and see it in person!

Framed and hanging nicely on my wall.
How Puzzling!

What’s It Take to Get a Friggin’ Tree Cut Down?

Last spring, I had my fence repaired and the guys helping me out noticed that a couple of the tall pines in my backyard were growing into my shed.  We started looking around at them and noticed that another was rotting at the base, and yet another was growing into the fence.  (Click the pic above to see bigger panorama.)  Well great.  One of the guys knew a reputable tree cutting service, so I had them come out and give me a bid.  This was Quality Tree Service.  Quality told me for as much it would be to cut down the four, I should just do all eight, and quoted me $2,500.  Ouch.  He actually called back on his own accord and lowered the price to $2000.  I told him I’d have to save for a bit, but that it sounded like a good deal.  Considering that would be $250/tree when they are normally $400-600 each, it was a GREAT deal.  Just a lot to swallow at once.

I ended up with all those extra classes this fall so I knew I could get the job done.  Gave Quality a call and scheduled him to come on a Friday so that I could be home while they did it.  Enter the drama.  He called me that morning to say he was broke down on the highway and wouldn’t be able to make it.  So we postponed to the following Friday.  I had already told my neighbors, so I stopped by the older couple (don’t really care about the rednecks on the other side) to let them know.  She really didn’t like the fact I am cutting them down, but I told her why I had to.  The night before that, I called him to make sure we were good to go, but he told me his wife went into labor so he had to subcontract the job to another company.  He asked me to make a check for $500 to him and $1500 for the company coming out.

The new guys, from Arbor Care, arrive.  They looked like they would do a good job and had quite a bit more equipment to boot.  Not to mention the owner is the four time state tree climbing champion.  Whaaaat?!?  Now it was my understanding at that point that a guy from Quality would be helping them and that’s why he was getting $500.  No one showed until 2 pm and that was just to pick up the check.  Which I stupidly gave him.  I asked the Arbor Care guy why Quality gets $500 and he basically said he shouldn’t have.  So now I’ve got a company doing a $2,500 job for $1,500.  That doesn’t sound very fair to me.

They bring down 4 trees and start grinding the stumps.  He actually gets a few bids on jobs in my neighborhood while he works.  My neighbor lady came out at one point and was apparently pretty huffy about limbs falling in her yard.  They told her they’d clean it up, but she proceeded to inform them she didn’t want them over there and started pitching the limbs over the fence.  she seems so sweet and meek before this!

They work until about 4 pm.  The pile of limbs is enormous out front.  I call the city to schedule a pick up.  They said they’d come Tuesday.  I told them to be sure to bring the dump truck and crane.  You can see why.  The Arbor Care guy said he’d be back on Monday–in fact he said it several times–so even though it was Labor Day, I was thusly expecting him.  Monday rolls around and no one shows.  I try to call both Quality and Arbor Care.  No one is answering.  By 11 am, it is clear no one is coming.  Mildly frustrating.

Tuesday arrives and it begins to rain.  But I’m actually not too sad about it because the city is coming and since there is no more room to put limbs, they can clear it out and make room for more.  Except they never came.  I called them up and asked what was up.  Turns out the crane/dump truck service take 2 weeks to come out!  Good-bye nice lawn.  Glad I wasted $200 on fertilizing service this year just to have you killed.  I seriously have no idea where more limbs will go.

The rain continues today.  So we can’t get any work done because their tractor thingy would tear up my yard and my neighbor’s side yard.  In the meantime, I still can’t get ahold of Quality.  The phone is off…it goes straight to a “this number is not accepting calls” message.  So I had called my bank on Tuesday and had them issue a stop payment on the $500 check.  My intent was to make my message clear…I wanted him to call me.  I finally got through to at least leave a voicemail this morning.  Well lo and behold!  His phone was miraculously working again, because he had called back within 15 minutes.  I had just stepped out of my office so he left a voicemail.  In it, he threatened to take legal action against me which would result in me being evicted from my home.  He said he never intended to supply a worker and that the $500 was what the two companies had agreed to.

I immediately called him back but (surprise!) got a voicemail.  I told him that his threat was baseless and completely out of line.  My purpose in doing the stop payment proved to be very beneficial, because it had the effect I wanted–for him to call me back.  I told him I found his business practices highly questionable and unethical and would be informing the 3-4 people waiting to hear how this job went that his company could not be counted on.  The fact is Quality did not provide one minute of service to me!  I told him I would release the check and the two companies could argue it out; I just wanted the job done.

I feel bad for Arbor Care, but that’s all I can do…feel bad.  I tried.  It’s not my place to intervene anymore.  I filed a complaint the Better Business Bureau, but who knows what will come of that.  Arbor Care will hopefully be back Friday to finish up.  The yard is looking so much bigger already and I can’t wait to have a nice grassy backyard!

Wanna see more pics of the process, including a short video clip of the four time state tree climbing champ doing his thing, go here.

What’s It Take to Get a Friggin’ Tree Cut Down?