From the dust, it awakens.


The last post on Pug Hollow News before this one? December 2013, with some not-so-great news.

That’s quite a long time. Since then, a lot has changed:

  • Facebook picked up a lot of steam.
  • So did Twitter.
  • People got pissed at both Facebook and Twitter, and quit using them.
  • Bridegroom Technologies is very different – a big deal since it’s the nerd home for PHN.

That last item meant finding a new home for PHN. Rather than let it just ride off into the sunset (which I did consider), I decided to resurrect it on a new platform (WordPress) and maybe even start writing out here again. Who knows, maybe the other Pug Holloweenies will find as much therapeutic benefit in posting things here – that’s up to them.

The goal is to get all of the content moved from where it lived before to these new digs. That’s Pug Hollow News, Nicholas’ Place and even The Bridegroom Report archives. While I make that transition, bear with me because it’s going to take a little while. We’re talking years of posts.

Cathy and I both have a lot of sentimental attachment to the words and pictures posted at PHN. Many of you, our faithful readers (ok, friends and family), have asked about the site as well. In keeping it alive, we hope to once again make this a fun place to visit.

Check back, and let us know how we’re doing.

It’s Been a Weird Few Months

And then the radio silence ended…

I’ve struggled to find the right words that describe the last several months for those of us at Pug Hollow. Weird is the first to come to mind (coupled with a variety of adjectives), but it’s been much more than that. We could easily include eventful, exhausting, frustrating, hectic, chaotic, refreshing and memory-making in the list. There’s much more to share than one post can contain, so I’ll break it up over the coming days.

Earlier this week, we laid to rest Betty Just – Cathy’s mom. She was 83. It’s been a long, difficult road for everyone involved, but especially for Betty and her daughters. The ravages of COPD exacted their toll in what seemed to be one-inch increments. Amazingly, she was able to stay at home until only two months ago, when it was no longer safe for her to be there. The last few months were spent in home hospice care at Cathy’s sister Cindy’s house. When she passed, it was with Cathy and Cindy at her side – the way all three of them hoped it would be.

As my friend and former collegiate offensive lineman Jim said, “she’s the only 75-pound lady that could scare the bejesus out of me with just a look.” Everyone in the family got the opportunity to experience that at some point. My turn came when all I tried to do was arrange for regular pest control for their house – and when she found out how much it was going to cost, that 4’10” lady (she was taller in those days) stood toe-to-toe with me, jabbing her finger into my chest, all the while looking up at me and telling me that there was no way in hell she or anyone was going to pay that. (It should be noted that Cathy’s dad sat in his chair and laughed during the entire episode.) She made it quite clear how things were going to run in her house.

It can never be said that she didn’t raise daughters that were equally tough – they just didn’t know how tough until recently. She was able to stay at home for as long as she did because of the girls’ never-ending pharmacy, grocery, doctor and hair appointment runs. Home hospice was a bold and heroic step, particularly for Cindy. Most people can’t do it. Hospice professionals often discourage it, because of the toll it can take. Quite frankly, I don’t know that I could have done what she did. Assuming the role of round-the-clock caregiver takes extreme commitment, extreme patience and the ability to run on close to zero sleep. Cathy provided as much help as she could, quite often being at home only long enough to grab some clothes to head to her sister’s to provide a relief shift. I know heroic seems like a strong word for their efforts, but what they have done for their mother over the last several years was nothing short of it. I mean that.

Her grandchildren were the highlights of her life – and made her smile into her final days. Cathy and I both believe that Nicholas gave her years she otherwise would not have had. We’re glad, for both of them, that the opportunity to bring each other happiness was there.

Betty’s passing was the culmination of 15 years (my best guess) of declining health; she’s finally at rest, no longer struggling to breathe, and no longer angered by the fact that she was being challenged to do so. She’s with Bob again, who she’s missed terribly these last seven years. The best I can figure is that his first words to her upon arrival were “what’s for supper?” – and she’d have it no other way.

Rest in peace, Betty. And don’t worry about your girls, they’re going to be just fine. That’s the way you raised them.

22 Years

Wow, that’s a long time.

20111021It was 22 years ago that we were anxiously waiting for the snow to melt from the record 9″ of it that fell two days before. I picked up my best man and his wife at the airport – flying in from Phoenix, so they were dressed for fall in Indiana. Winter was not on the radar.

Mike’s first words to me when I saw him in baggage claim: “What the hell is this?”

And then there was the rehearsal dinner – we were supposed to be in a “party room”, and it didn’t work out that way. Heat was not working in the room, apparently it too was a little stunned by snow in October. So we had dinner in the main dining area, with everyone else.

Then came wedding day. I can’t speak for the bride, but the groom and the best man were sitting in front of my trusty 13″ television watching a football game eating pizza at 3:30 in the afternoon, until one of us (can’t remember who) looked at the clock and said “we should probably get ready.”

I had one thing to remember to bring with me – the now famous pina colada scented unity candle. Did I remember to bring it? Hell no. Mike jumps in my car, drives back to the apartment to get the candle in record time. Did I mentioned he lived in Phoenix, and may not have had the best grasp of the roadways in Indianapolis? Good thing he’s smart.

Nerves were starting to catch up with me. Fortunately, our good friend Jim (who had just finished playing in a Butler football game that afternoon) arrived with the gym bag that made clinking noises. My hero.

I almost won the bet during the ceremony that Cathy would pass out – she still denies it to this day, but she did a big “I’m gonna pass out swoop” about halfway through. But she survived. We should have had the pool set up for whether or not Cathy’s dad would get through it without incident. He had one line – “Her mother and I” when asked who gives this woman. He was circling another planet when the time came, and all I could hear was Cathy and her sister talking out of the sides of their mouths “Her mother and I”. When he returned from orbit, he said “Come again?”

It took us 20 minutes to get married. It took us 90 minutes (or what seemed like an eternity) to take pictures. The natives were getting restless at the reception; the wedding was at 6:30, so people were getting hungry. The food line was held until we arrived. Needless to say, we were hustled to the food.

The reception was a party. And a half. We still hear stories about how much fun people had at our wedding reception. The bar bill was an accurate reflection of that. About 90 minutes into it, my freshly-minted father-in-law checked to see where the bar tab was, and the response was “How much?!?!!” (extra punctuation is necessary and appropriate). Good thing the bride’s freshly-minted father-in-law jumped into the fray with subsidy offers. A good time was had by all. Those of you that were there and are reading this – testify.

Funny how after 22 years, I still remember all of this. Even funnier is that I remember most of the other things that have happened since, and there’s been a lot. So to my dearest Fartblossom I say this: It’s been a terrific ride so far, and I’m sure the rest of it will be just as much fun. For me, it’s been “friends with benefits” all along. Which is nice. We’re in what’s becoming an elite club – those of us still married after all of these years. Thank you for putting up with me (I know it’s not easy), and for allowing me the privilege of putting up with you.

Notice I didn’t mention anything about putting up with you being easy (or not)? It’s things like that you learn after 22 years.

Happy Anniversary, Cathy!

A Strange Place To Park

Like many who read Pug Hollow News, we’ve had a fair amount of rain in these parts over the last month or so. By fair I mean we’ve been enduring a monsoon every 3-4 days.

I’m coming home from a client site one evening a few weeks ago, and Cathy’s standing in the middle of the driveway looking up at the roof. She stops me, and tells me to get out of the car and look at this.

Sitting on the peak of the garage roof: a duck.

Now the last time I checked, ducks normally like to glide in for that soft water landing. I don’t remember seeing too many of them shooting for the pinpoint accuracy of my 12/12 roof ridge.

Needless to say, I went to fetch my camera. My only worry was he’d fly off before I could get back outside. As it turned out, it was quite the opposite. He sat there for quite a while, perfectly content to take in the surroundings from his high perch. The whole family was out in the driveway watching this, and he was not bothered at all by the attention.

He sat there for about an hour – until the next monsoon rolled in. Probably thought finding a place to land in water might be a little safer.

Look Out World – She’s On

Brace yourselves, everyone – Cathy’s on Facebook. Yes, the queen of social (dubbed that by not only me, but by many of her friends) has finally boarded the train.

lookoutworld Believe it or not, it was part of my Father’s Day present.

Each year, I ask for the same thing for Father’s Day (and get your heads out of the gutter – you know who you are). The request is simple: a no commitment, no visitor, no going anywhere, do-nothing day. I wish to be a slug, and to completely dictate how little I want to do.

This year I added two more things, neither of which costs a dime: sign up for Facebook (because I know she’d get a big kick out of it) and sign up for Twitter. I got Facebook – two out of three, I can live with that.

So what’s been the resistance? Fear of privacy, mostly. It’s a legitimate concern, one that I completely understand. People should value and protect such things.

Unfortunately, the media is rife with horror stories about how Facebook jeopardizes personal privacy, wrecks marriages and bestows all kinds of horrors on society. Yes, you surrender some of it when you join social media networks like Facebook, but it does not have to be the personal information free for all that so many paint it to be.

So with the helpful guidance of some info written by my friend Abby Butts (everyone should read these posts by the way, they’re full of really good info), Cathy got herself all hooked up. She’s done an excellent job of bolting down her account, revealing only the things she wants revealed. There’s no magic to it, it’s just simply taking a stroll through your Privacy Settings and setting the restrictions to a level with which you are comfortable. And if you didn’t know, the default settings are not very secure – at all. Just ask Cathy.

So if you’re interested, pop in on her here. At a minimum, you’ll at least be able to make an introduction from there. That security stuff works pretty well when you set it up the right way.

Grass Is Not My Friend

As some of you know, I’ve been fighting sinus “stuff” off and on for the last few years. A lot of it I’ve blamed on the boy, since he’s a card-carrying member of the Microbe of the Week Club (comes with going to school). But this year has been particularly brutal; on many days, I’ve considered paying someone to pick up a cordless drill and put a hole in my forehead to ease the pressure. Some people were willing to do it for free, but I digress.

After trying three or four (who’s counting) different rounds of antibiotics with no results, my doctor referred me to an ENT. After a hearing test, a few questions, and a peek in my ears and nose, I walked out of my first visit hearing three things I really hadn’t anticipated: deviated septum, CT scan and TMJ.


So before we could get too carried away with what else is going on in there, we schedule the CT scan. I think my tweets from the morning describe it pretty well:

Deviated septum, and some generally odd “architecture” going on my head – something that has most likely been there for a very long time. The CT was done at the ENT’s office, and I met with him immediately after it was one (which was handy). You know you’re in for fun when the doctor starts the conversation with “I’m glad we had the CT done, because there were a few things in there I wasn’t expecting to see.”

Double Crap.

I get the photo tour of my noodle, so I can see my deviated septum and the various other things going on in there. The word “surgery” has now crept into the discussion, as he’s telling me “we can go in there and do this and this, yada, yada” – my brain kind of fogged at “go in there”. I’ve heard tales of sinus surgery from others. I’ve seen the immediate aftermath of a few of them. Not pretty at all. And then there’s the “blood clot thing” – that part where my hematologist tells me she wants to know any time sharp instruments are involved. Then I get the part of the discussion that talks about the risks of doing sinus surgery, and all of the things that “could” go sideways during the excavation. We schedule a date for surgery for late June. That functional part of my head above the ill-functioning sinus cavities is now running at full speed, hovering somewhere between DEFCON 4 and 5.

And then he says, “I think we’ve also got some allergy things working in there too – let’s do an allergy test, so we can have as much info as possible before we start climbing around in there.”

My brain said “what a fabulous idea.”

Nine days later I go in for the allergy test, also in the ENT’s office (I’m beginning to think this is a racket). I come in, lay down on my stomach (BlackBerry in hand, of course) and they put the allergens in the pattern on my back. Again, I refer to my “thoughts of the moment”:

The full rundown of the things for which I tested positive – grasses (all of them), ragweed, three tree families (oak, maple and alder), mixed feathers. Grasses and oak trees were the real big winners in this test, with grasses showing a really strong reaction (hence the allergist’s comments).


Let’s see – grass is everywhere, ragweed is a real treat in the late summer, I live in a forest and my charming and delightful wife sleeps on a feather pillow.

I found this October 2009 picture of my back yard. I thought it would be amusing to identify the offending trees. Pretty funny, isn’t it?


The worst part is that this is just the immediate back yard – the front and side yard are more densely populated with my enemies. If I had to guess, the woods at Pug Hollow is probably 25% oak, 20% beech (part of the oak family), 20% ash, 10% maple, 10 % hickory and the rest being walnut, hackberry and whatever the hell else is growing out there.

Yes, Pug Hollow is trying to kill me.  Honestly, though, I’m kind of relieved to actually know what’s causing me grief. I’ve made mention to Cathy that it seems every year gets worse, and I don’t remember having these problems at the old house.

PollenForecast1I’ve been paying a lot closer attention to conditions when I feel like my sinuses are acting up, and I read the daily pollen forecast on the The Weather Channel site. For the latter half of May and the early part of June, they’ve looked like this – and I’ve felt it. I never really noticed how much stuff gets launched into the air when I cut the grass, but I do now – and it’s a lot. Frankly, it’s no wonder I’m always packed up.

So while I know that I’m “not right in the head”, I broke the news to the ENT yesterday that I think there are other things I can do before we get all crazy and start rearranging the furniture in my sinuses. The best way for me to not have post-op complications is to not have the “op” in the first place. I think I’ll try finding ways to reduce the swelling/irritation in my sinuses so that I might breathe a little easier, rather than going the RotoRooter path. That option will always be available, so for now it will be the last resort.

I’ll wear a mask when I cut the grass, along with my ear protection. I know I’ll look like an idiot, but really don’t care. Hell, I’ll wear a full hazmat suit if necessary. And while I don’t like doing it, I’m getting more comfortable with nasal sprays and rinses. Immunotherapy is Plan B. We can be more diligent about cleaning the house and washing clothes, so enemy pollen isn’t floating around. And yes, Cathy has offered to surrender her feather pillow for the good of the cause (albeit grudgingly).

I love where I live, because of the woods. I’m not going anywhere. I’m just going to have to find a way to fight back so I can continue to enjoy the outdoors, despite the fact that most of what’s out there is not my friend.

Better living through chemistry, I say.

The Nerdification

This was one of the pieces I was holding onto for The Bridegroom Report. As promised, I’m unearthing the five or six things I had held back, just a little bit at a time. This particular item, though, has some evergreen qualities; you’ll see as you read it.

2010 was a landmark year for Cathy, at least in terms of technology.  Let’s go back about three years, when the first bit of life-simplifying technology was offered to her: the Blackberry.  Of course, she fought it, saying that she really didn’t think shed use what the blackberry a had to offer.

Fast forward to today, and she would be the first to tell you that she would be lost without it.  She probably reads 65-70% of her incoming mail on her phone (she’s on her second one), and deals with who knows how many text messages.  She’s even using the Blackberry Messenger instant messaging tools.  Simply amazing, considering her prior medieval ways.

So let go back in time a little bit to October 2010, when she asks me how much laptops cost. My first reaction was stunned silence, followed by “you really want to know?” Her phone gives her great mobility, and sitting at her desk apparently is confining.  So we do a little bit of shopping and pricing.

And then Apple starts running commercials for the new MacBook Air.  She’s smitten.

At her request (that’s the truth, it really was her idea), we make a trip to the Apple Store.  This is her first opportunity to see both the Air and an iPad.  While we escaped without buying anything, it was pretty clear she had her mind on something.

So in late October, we get her an iPod touch (her first such device).  She’s thrilled with the fact that she can take all of her music with her.  Literally all of it.  She’s also discovered that Nicholas is very aware of what can be done with an iPod touch: he loves to play Angry Birds (Dad’s fault).

It’s now the day after Thanksgiving – the one day of the year that Apple runs their computers on sale. She asks for my MacBook Pro, to take it for a test drive. Done.

Now she’s got her own laptop, and we can officially declare that it’s begun: The Nerdification of Cathy.

It takes getting through the holiday rush for her to sit down and use it, but she does. The touchpad is a little foreign to her, but the more she uses it becomes less and less of an issue.  Now every time I see her with it, and it’s all over the house now, I hear these words: “I love my MacBook”.  Music to my ears.

But the nerdification was not yet complete – there was more to do. Besides, Treat Week was upon us.

(For those unfamiliar with Treat Week, it’s a tradition I started for her several years ago. It runs for seven days, starting on her birthday and ending on Valentine’s Day. Each day, there’s a treat for her. I know, I’m a fabulous husband, hold your applause please.)

Treat Week arrives, and I’m at a loss for what to do for my big finish.  A week before, we had a pretty lengthy talk about the differences between iPad, Kindle, Nook and the various readers & tablet devices.  It was a conversation she started, and she had some really great questions regarding which device did what, etc.  I took that opportunity to listen to her answers, it made my shopping easier.  I decided to go big – her own iPad.

When I handed it to her, I was in trouble for about 5 minutes; then she realized what an interesting device it can be. In all honesty, it’s absolutely perfect for her. It’s users like Cathy that Apple had in mind when the developed this thing. It’s one of the greatest consumption devices ever made – if you’re not creating a lot of content, but taking in a ton of it from other places, there’s simply nothing like it.

Her favorite app: Netflix. Go figure. Sitting anywhere in the house watching a movie. That’s Cathy.

I am very pleased to say she’s using all of them, which makes me quite happy. My concern about offering these technology “things” to her was would she use them (because I knew they’d make her life a little easier). It’s certainly no longer a concern. Does she use them to the fullest in making things easier for her to accomplish? Not yet, but she’s trying. That’s all I can ask or expect, and she’s doing great.

See? Technology can make a positive difference in our lives, even for those previously labeled “technologically challenged”.

The New Bedroom

One of the things we’ve been working on here at Pug Hollow has been Nicholas’ bedroom. As he gets older, the Froggy Tales theme that was in there since he was born just seemed to not quite fit him.

In November 2007, we took out the crib and put in a “big boy bed”, so that he’d have a normal bed to sleep in.  Actually, it was an antique bed wed had, but it worked out well.  It matched some other furniture we had, so all was well. And while it was working, we often thought that we probably needed to find a better solution for him. Something about boys jumping on a 150-year-old bed kind of made both of us shudder.

So the plan turned into two things:

  1. Paint the room.
  2. Get a new bed.

Here’s what it looked like after all the furniture was moved out in preparation for painting:

Since we didn’t know what we were going to have when she was pregnant, Froggy Tales seemed to work for either a boy or a girl.

It was very hard for Mom to part with the room, as she’s the sentimental type. I will always remember her walking out of the room while we were moving the furniture out, with tears in her eyes and saying “this is a lot harder than I thought it would be”.  It really was a cute room, but not much of a little boy’s room anymore.

I think we took care of that with the new look:

The new bed actually replaced the old bed and three other pieces of furniture – with the drawers and the headboard now a part of the bed, no longer a need for the chest, dresser and night stand that were in the room. The bonus part of the bed (at least to him) is the door on the footboard – which now gives him a secret hideout.  Mom said that would be good storage when we first looked at the bed, I told her that the boy would have other plans for that space. That’s just what boys do.

The bookcase was already in there, and we added the 9-bin storage (a very inexpensive yet functional accent). He also had a small basketball rug in the room (to match the basketball pull chain on the ceiling fan), but since he was now playing baseball, he traded those two things for the baseball rug/chain from my office.  His choice.

The whiteboard was something I contributed (it was an old one I replaced with a larger one in my office). He’s always wanting to draw on mine, now he’s got his own. He also needs to work on his writing skills, so hopefully this will provide some incentive.

As you may have also noticed, we’ve got a thing for superheros right now. His Aunt Cindy gave him the posters that are now hanging on the walls, and we put the superhero peel and stick additions on the walls.

He’s taken quite well to things, as you can tell. He insisted I take his picture, so I thought I’d put them here.

He was so excited for the makeover, he’d check on me every hour or so while I was painting and tell me to keep doing a great job in his room.  Even told his mom to not get in my way, because it was slowing me down. Once the room was painted, he wanted to sleep in it on a sleeping bag, until his new bed arrived (he only had two nights on the floor). That’s dedication.

And when it was all done, I got a big, unsolicited hug from him, telling me “Thank you for my room, Dad.”

Yeah, it was worth it.

I Hate Plumbing

I’ve been know to tinker with things at home – I’m generally able to fix things that are broken, and build new things that need to be built.  There is, however, one thing that really don’t like: plumbing. No, let’s get it right, I hate plumbing. And yes, you guessed it, I spent my weekend playing plumber.

All because my washing machine was on the verge of dying.

Two weeks ago, we had a new clothes washer and dryer delivered.  We felt like we’d finally won a home appliance battle – we were looking for one, there was a great sale and it was a Consumer Reports’ Best Buy.  The stars and moons had aligned. Usually they just die with no warning. Sears brings us the stuff, they put it in, take away the old ones, all is right with the world.

Until we washed clothes.

We start to use the washer, and we notice that every time it runs it sounds like every water pipe in the house is banging around. Apparently, new washers have valves that open and close really quick, and it causes the pipes to jump every time the water shuts off at the machine.  As I watch them from the utility/furnace room, on the complete opposite end of the house, I can physically see the pipes moving. Not cool. I can just see one of the copper fittings working itself loose eventually, leading to the kind of plumbing issues that are really expensive and there’s no way I can fix.

So, here’s the plan:

  1. Check the owner’s manual, to see if there’s anything that can be adjusted on the machine. Yes, I RTFM. Remember, I build software applications, which means I write documentation in hopes that some user somewhere will actually read the documentation.  No luck finding an answer there.
  2. Climb into the crawlspace and make sure all of the pipes are secure, which turned into 5-6 hour Saturday afternoon and evening adventure. In and out, cutting and fastening mounting blocks for the pipes. Most were done ok, but there were a few that could have been done better.
  3. Climb out, put all of the tools away.
  4. Wash clothes again – same problem.
  5. Swear.
  6. Check the manual again, to see if its a water pressure issue. I’m on a well system, so the pressure’s not the same as city utility.  Checked the well pressure tank – well within normal operating range.
  7. Swear again.
  8. Start making plans to call a plumber on Monday morning.
  9. Really swearing now, because this stupid washer and dryer is really starting to get expensive.
  10. Calm down a little bit, start doing some research to see if I’m missing something.
  11. Read through about 20 different home repair how-to’s and related things, and stumble across a water heater installation that mentions something called a hammer arrester. It sounded just weird enough to dig a little further.

About five minutes later, I realized that was my answer.

The quick-close valves that supply the machine were causing a back surge in pressure every time they shut off – and the pipes moved/banged/jumped every time it did it. Apparently this is called a water hammer, and they make arresters for it. The next thought was at least there was only going to be one call on Monday, to the plumber.  I figured this was going to be an install kind of thing in the plumbing somewhere, which is the point where I get off the plumbing bus and hire out.

Upon further digging (because I usually don’t like losing to machines) I realized I could buy one with washing machine connections at {name your preferred home improvement store}.  Which really isn’t entirely true, because the only place I could find one was Menards. Of course, the store closest to me only had one, which is how I know nobody else had them.

Twenty minutes of installation time to put on two Mini-Rester Residential Water Hammer Arresters (model 660-H to be precise), move the stuff back into place, and hope this fixes it.  If it doesn’t, it’s plumber time. Fortunately, this worked.

One Saturday of crawspace fun, five different home improvement/hardware stores and a fair amount of foul language – all in the name of clean clothes.