West Virginia Update

When I awoke this morning and let the dogs out, I noticed it was snowing. Huge flakes were coming down. I stood out in the screened in room, turned the outside lights on and watched it for a few minutes. It was beautiful.
Yesterday, I brought about five loads of firewood up and put in the screened in room. Two loads were smaller pieces and three loads were chopped logs. We put a fire on about 6 PM last night. It’s been burning ever since.
We did take a short break late yesterday afternoon, gathering the dogs in the car and just going for a ride to Berkeley Springs. Nora stopped by St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church to see what time Saturday services were. Their Saturday Vigil Mass begins at 5 PM. Since the snow has stopped we hope to attend service there this afternoon.
One of the main reasons we came up here this weekend was to take a good look at the house and decide what we needed to do in order to get it ready to put up for sale in April. With the economy and house market nose diving, it didn’t sell last year. Also, the property is a special niche. It is in a weekend – resort – retirement community and, for most buyers, would be a second home (as it is for us). Therefore your perspective pool of buyers is very small.
We both love the community, surrounding area, and ammenities of the resort. However, having a second home can be quite draining financially. Instead of one house payment you have two. In fact, you have ‘two’ of everything – mortgage, taxes, insurance, electric, association & recreation dues, water, cable TV, phone, DSL, etc. Also, you must maintain two properties and keep both in good shape. I probably easily spend about $1,500 per month for the second home.
The good news is that the house in Baltimore will be paid off in slightly less than two years. I bought the second home on a 15 year mortgage. We’ve been here four years this coming June. Plus, I pay ‘every other week’ on an enhanced mortgage basis. My biggest problem with having a second home is that there just isn’t extra money to do some other things – like travel. As I fast approach 59 (less than 4 months away) and am getting older, I would like to travel more. With the second home and an existing mortgage in Baltimore, we just can’t do that. That’s really been an issue for me.
However, yesterday we started looking at everything and decided we are not selling the house in West Virginia. It is so lovely here and so quiet and peaceful. For some reason, the concerns and issues regarding the WV home have now left me. Prayer works. We are now returning to our previous dreams from seven years ago (when we bought our first cabin in the resort). We intend to stay and very possibly retire here in West Virginia. Of course, that won’t be until about nine years from now. I can retire in about 3 years, although I’ll probably work longer. Nora can go out in a little less than nine years.
We have several options upon retirement. One is selling the place in Baltimore and moving somewhere near Reb, Sara, and Jackson in Pennsylvania. I love their location, but would like to be somewhere between their area (Red Lion – Windsor) and Hershey. They live about 45 – 50 minutes from Hershey. Why Hershey? Professional, hockey in the form of the AHL Hershey Bears. I would dearly love to be able to go to ice hockey games on a regular basis.
Depending on what we would sell the house in Baltimore for we could possibly keep the house in WV, plus buy one in PA.
There is also the possibility that we would just move here to West Viriginia and only keep one house. If that is the case there would be some things we want to do to live here.
We would replace the electric baseboard heat with a heat pump. Since this house is a one level rancher with adequate accessible space under the house, we would have duct work put in place to also provide for central air conditioning.
Another thing we would do is add either one or two rooms onto the house. Currently a two-bedroom rancher, it would be nice to have a larger master bedroom with a walk in closet. We would also put a whirlpool tub into a new master bath. Or, we would expand one of the other baths (we currently have two) to include the tub. Lastly, we definately need another room as an office-den-library.
Since we have decided to keep WV there are a few things we currently need to do. The contractor that put the screened in room and expanded deck on, did a horrible job with the door in the screened room. That needs to be replaced with a secure door. Also, he re-did two steps leading from the driveway to the kitchen door. Another bad job. That needs to be replaced this year. Instead of steps, we’ve decided to put a ramp in that spot. After all, it’s only two steps, so the ramp would be short.
We also need to get the chimney cleaned out this year. We did it three years ago, but it should really be done every year or two, depending on how often you use the wood stove.
I’ve not taken care of the outside property and need to do quite a bit of yard work. I need to clean up leaves and pick up broken tree limbs. Also, we’ve had a few large limbs or even trees come down. My electric chain saw isn’t adequate for the task. Therefore, I need to buy a small gas powered chain saw. We’re even thinking about buying a small used log splitter. This would greatly help create firewood after cutting up some trees and branches. The log splitter would pay for itself in a few years as I would be saving the cost of buying cords of wood. Along that line, I need to do some repair work on the current woodshed. I might even decide to build a larger shed. We certainly have the space for it.
Another more long term plan is to replace the current wood stove with a modern more efficient unit. It’s difficult to control the tempature with this unit (which is probably close to 30 years old). Some of the newer units have all sorts of controls to assist in regulating the heat.


It’s early Saturday morning here in West Virginia. Nora and I decided to take a long weekend and come up to West Virginia. We haven’t been up since Thanksgiving. That’s way too long ago.
Nora & I both needed some time to get a few things done. She’s in the middle of an on-line course which is taking about 15-20 hours per week. She spent much of yesterday working on the course and will do the same thing today.
With the Microsoft Bootcamp certification course out of the way and off of my shoulders, I feel the weight of the world has been lifted from me. Having put genealogy research and writing, political op-ed reading and writing, and previous blog behind me, I’m much happier.
While this blog takes just as much time to create, I feel much better about what I’m doing. I’m no longer watching CNN or Fox News, listening to conservative talk radio or reading Conservative Chronicle, Human Events, or other publications.
Rather, I’m reading and studying the bible, visiting various churches, and going to a service or two along the way. I find that I’m also spending more time talking to God, praying, and listening. I’m at peace – something you can’t put a dollar amount on.
No, I haven’t changed any of my political views or moved once inch to the left in my beliefs. I still consider myself an ultra-conservative. I have however lost all interest in the news and politics.
I spent a good portion of yesterday working on blog entries. Currently, without me having to do one more thing, a minimun of one entry per day will automatically post until to May 8th – that’s three months from now. I expect that date will increase by the end of today. Once I get rolling I can create many entries in a short amount of time. Yesterday, I took paintings from various events in Christ’s life and added the appropriate scripture reference to them.
Today I’ll return to working on the Inspirational Verses that you’ve seen post. That’s where I find a nice photograph, then add a memory verse from the bible. I’ve currently read most of the psalms, Matthew, Acts, Romans, and am currently reading 1 Corinthians. I have about 100 verses pulled out to use on the blog from these few books alone. Also, I’ve collected a little over 100 nice photos. The challenge is dropping the verse on the photo within a way the beauty of the photo isn’t lost. That takes time and can be very difficult.

Yesterday & Today

We had a change of plans yesterday. Rather than go out to dinner we decided to cook dinner and have everyone come over here.
A good portion of yesterday involved me straightening and cleaning up the house, shopping, and cooking. I wasn’t able to get anything done that I had planned, BUT I didn’t care. We were able to save a few dollars and have everyone come over for dinner.
Jackson is doing well. If we were out at dinner, we would not have been able to watch him play and interact with everyone. That was what we wanted most. We were able to watch Jackson play and walk around. He is doing well with his walking and is such a sweetheart.
He is scheduled to be operated on in Wilmington, DE, on Thursday, February 28th. He is going to have drains put into his ears. He’s a little young for this surgery and will only be 15 months at the time. This should really help out with solving the ear infections. He had 8 ear infections in the first year. Due to his young age and his asthma it is a little concerning. That’s why only a few hospitals are capable of doing the surgery. This should really help out with his hearing and might also solve the acid reflux problem he has. He should be on stage 3 baby food and starting to eat some items from the table. However, his gag reflex is such that he can’t. He can handle most stage 2 and some stage 3 foods, but it behinds where he should be. The doctors seem to feel the operation will help in all areas. It should also help with his hearing and speech. He’s such a sweetheart.
My Mom, Nora, and I are going to Wilmington on the day of the operation. It’s supposed to be an outpatient proceedure with a recovery time of 3 hours in the hospital after the operation. They said if anything is to go wrong it will happen immediately after the operation.
I had a ton of stuff I wanted to do today and yesterday, but was unable to get to much of it. This morning I’m helping Nora with her online course. We’re trying to print out various articles and webpages for her course. She ran into a problem yesterday. Her email bombed containing the various things she wanted printed out. In the process she lost many hours of work. This morning I showed her a way around this. Right now she’s tire and frustrated and taking an hour nap. It hasn’t been a good day for her so far, becuase of the lost time with the course. She has a major assignment (25% of her course grade) which is due tomorrow. She’s doing to right thing – tap a nap, get refreshed, then work the rest of the day on the project.
I just uploaded about 166 photos from the Basilia (DC) and the Franciscian Monastery (DC) to her SnapFish account to have photos made for her and her Dad. The cost isn’t bad – about $48 total for double prints on each photo, plus shipping.
I have been able to download some of the latest podcasts and sermons from Jack Hayford, John Hagee, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Chuck Swindoll, and Charles Stanley. The Juice pocast software does seem to be working properly. I’m having a problem synching everything to my Creative Zen iPod, so I’ve have to go another route. I also ripped a few Christian music CDs to the hard drive and have just transferred all of the podcast plus some photos to the iPod. That takes more time than you think.
Yesterdy, while out shopping, I stopped at a craft store and picked up some 1/4 inch polyester ribbon. I’m cutting a bunch of strips about 10 inches long to use as bookmarks for my bibles. My one bible (KJV) has one ribbon sewed into the binding. While this is nice, I find that I could use a few others. While the ribbons I made aren’t sewed into the binding, they should still work nicely.
I intended to start scanning postage stamps on the Life of Christ and also start working on a Life of Christ section on the website; however, I don’t believe I’m going to get to that today. I had also intended to work on creating some more inspirational verses for the blog where I take a verse and put it on a nice photo. I don’t think I’ll be able to do much of that either. One evening last week I did create a master worksheet containing about 100 photos I have which can be used for this purpose. I need to keep track of what photos are available, when I’ve used them for the blog and what used I assigned to the photo. I still need to finish that up.
Also, I still need to go through the photos from the Basilica and Monastery from last weekend and prepare some of them for the website and blog. Everything takes so much time, therefore, I’m trying to be patient and not get frustrated with not getting everything done.


I didn’t get a great night’s sleep, but I didn’t get up at 4:30 AM. I was able to stay in bed until about 7:30 AM. I feel OK; not as rested as I would like, but not bad.
I have a ton of stuff to do today in my office. The last month of so has been hectic with preparing for the Microsoft Bootcamp which I attended (and completed) the week before last. Also, Nora has been taking an online course with the University of Michigan. That’s really kept her busy.
In the process of everything, I’ve put aside many things I really wanted to do in my office and around the house. I have to uppack some bags from the travel and take the suitcases to the attic. Then there’s the laundry.
Last weekend we took Nora’s Dad and went to the Franciscan Monastery and Basilica in D.C. Naturally, I took more photos. I was able to tour the grounds of the Monastery (which I wasn’t able to do last time). I took several more photos. I also had a chance to photograph a few things in the Basilica that didn’t turn out good the last time. I must now retrieve them from the digital camera and sort them out. Nora wants to get prints from several of the photos. Therefore I must upload them to her Snapfish account. Afterward, I will prepare several of them for the website and blog.
By the way, I’ve just brought my bible books spreadsheet up to date and have upload to the website. Click on the link on the right side of this blog to pull up the spreadsheet in Excel format.
I have installed the Juice Podcast software that I wrote about yesterday and have now downloaded the most recent podcasts from Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Fr. Bernard Groeschel, Charles Stanley, John Hagee, Jack Hayford, and Chuck Swindoll. The software worked fine and all shows are now on my hard drive. I only need transfer them over to my Creative Zen iPod.
Today, I need to clean off my desk. I have a lot of stuff to go through and I want to do it pretty quickly to get on to more interesting items. Hopefully, I can knock it out in about an hour. I also have to balance both Nora and my checkbook on the computer (I use Quicken). When all of that is out of the way, I’ll start working on a few different items.
I tend to do several at a time. In the past I’ve always had five or six major projects going on at the same time. Now that I’ve put genealogy, chess problems, reading and writing horror, and reading and writing political – social commentery op-ed on the side for good, I won’t be interrupted with so many things.
I’m only concentrating on religion and bible study. I only want to read and study the bible and think about what the verses say to me. That’s important and is misunderstood and ignored by many people.
I also like reading the various bible commentaries to see what the scholars have to say.
As I read through the bible I pull out different verses. I’ll use them for my memory verses and also for my inspirational verses that I put on the blog. Therefore, my one main purpose, spills over into a few smaller areas. It all ties together.
Also, I’ll post another entry later today about a project I have in mind that will be huge and will take quite a bit of time to do.
Later today, we’ll be picking up my Mom and meeting Reb, Sara, and Jackson for dinner. It will be nice to see everyone.


Just wanted to give everyone a quick update with what is going on.
Last Monday I headed down to Arlington, Virginia and took a four day Microsoft Bootcamp for Windows XP. I am really glad that is over. I’ve had it hanging over my head for a good while and now I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders.
Since I’ve stopped genealogy research and a few other activities, I’ll have a little time on my hands. No, I’m not rushing into anything else right away. In fact, I don’t see myself rushing into anything at all.
While I enjoy working on chess problems from time to time, I don’t see myself doing anything more than the website for StrateGems.org.
My horror novel is sitting on a shelve in my office. I have no intentions of pulling it down and working on it. I’ve given up on ever revising it or getting it published. I’ll read a horror novel or two from time to time, but won’t read book after book. Quite honestly, I’ve lost interest in many things.
I don’t watch news on TV any longer and do not listen to conservative talk radio. I’ve had enough.
I enjoy watching several religious shows on TV. Also, I like the History and Travel channels.
Now, for the first time in many years, perhaps decades, I’ve freed up my life to the point that I have no real worldly obligations other than work and family. I like it that way. I’ll now have the time to do some bible study. I’m looking forward to that.

Happy Birthday

Yesterday was supposed to be a birthday party for my Mom, my son, my Aunt Mary, and my Uncle Richard. Mary and Richard are my father’s siblings.
My son already had something to do and couldn’t make it down from PA. Aunt Catherine was sick and Uncle Richard wasn’t able to come.
Below are two photos. The first is a photo of my Mom, Paulie, and Aunt Mary. Paulie is Aunt Mary’s grandson.
The second is a photo of Mary Lynn and I. Mary Lynn is Paulie’s mother. She’s also my favorite cousin (don’t tell Phyllis !).

New Checks

I found myself running a little low on my current set of personal checks. I also found the current set to be a bit to dark on some of the images.
I decided to find if I could find new checks with a religious theme. I was able to find a few companies that sold them; but surprisingly, there were very few checks available with Jesus on them. I found that disappointing. Possibly it might be because you don’t want to offend anyone by sending them a check like that. I look at it as witnessing and find nothing wrong with it.
I purchased the checks from Bradford Exchange Checks. Details for the check I ordered may be found here.
The checks were called “Jesus, Light of the World” and are part of Greg Olsen’s Christian Art Series. Greg Olsen has created biblical-themed paintings that can be seen in more than 20 countries around the world. His subjects range from incredibly lifelike children to profoundly moving portraits of Jesus Christ in quiet moments of contemplation with God. Winner of numerous awards and accolades, Greg Olsen is renowned for his unique ability to capture not only a subject’s likeness on canvas, but to illuminate the subject’s soul and spirit as well.
Below are the four checks in the series.
I’ll try to locate some of Greg Olson’s other works. I really like his style.

Crucifix From Nora

CrucifixChristmas2007.jpgHere’s a photo of the crucifix Nora bought me for Christmas. It was made in Medjugorje.
While you can see some of the detail from the photo, it still doesn’t do justice.
This is not a lightweight piece of jewelry. It is rather heavy. The cord necklace works much better than a gold chain, considering the weight and size of the crucifix.
This was by far, my favorite Christmas present this year.

Busy Day

This has been a busy day. I went through all of the photos taken on Saturday. I added a few more Basilica (DC) photos to the series that is currently posting. When we were having breakfast there, I noticed some outstanding stained glass. I grabbed my camera and took about five shots. They will be posting at the end of the Basilica series which began on December 26th and will now run until February 22nd.
I also had quite a few photos from the Franciscan Monastery (DC), National Cathedral (DC), Basilica (DC) St. Phillip & James Catholic Church (Baltimore), and Baltimore Basilica to get ready for the internet. It takes quite a bit of time to go through and weed out poor or duplicate shots. Then I have to resize for the blog, along with adjusting the color of each photo. Finally, I must ‘save in web format’ to provide for faster loading.
It took a long time to prepare the various blog entries which will post in the future. In all, I probably did close to 70 blog entries today.
I’ve spent about six – seven hours today working on everything. I’m about finished. I only have to do another shot series on the Baltimore Basilica and I’ll be finished.


Yesterday’s trip to the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, D.C., didn’t go exactly as planned. We left about 5:40 AM in the morning, which should have provided plenty of time to arrive for 7 AM Mass. However, the Baltimore – Washington Parkway was blocked at one point. We jumped off and followed the cars, figuring they knew a short cut how to get down to the next exit to jump back on. We were wrong.
After wasting about 1/2 hour, we got back on track, but didn’t arrive until about 7:30 AM. The Mass was letting out. I took some photos of the grounds and also some inside shots. We left about 7:55 and drove to the Basilica arriving just in time for their 8 AM Mass. Afterwards, we had breakfast at the Basilica, then headed back to the Monastery.
I was able to get some excellent photos of the inside and outside. Along the outside wall are the Stations of the Cross. The light wasn’t that great, but I did manager to get some good photos. Unfortunately, I didn’t record exactly what each station was.
We took a wonderful tour of the Monastery and saw both the upper floor (main church) and the catacombs. The lower level (catacombs) was not well lit and it was difficult to get many photos
The series of 52 photos begin on February 22, 2008 and end on April 13, 2008.
We intend to go back. I need to remember to grab my tripod the next time we go to WV and bring it home. It would have helped on several shots. Also, I need to remember to bring my cane. I think that might also help. My hip, lower back, and left knee were hurting by the time we left. On our next visit I intend to photograph the outside gardens. We will change our schedule and go in the afternoon being there for the 5 PM Saturday Mass.
Also, I neglected to purchase a book about the Monastery that would have helped describe the photos I’m putting on the blog and website. I also need to revisit the Basilica to get their book.
We left D.C. and drove back to Baltimore.
Other entries this week will describe what we then did. We had a very full day.