If it seems like I’m trying to avoid you …


thermostatLeaving the house lately has been a lot like being faced with the “Walk of Shame.” In fact, showing my face anywhere right now fills me with trepidation. All I want to do is put on a hat, slip on some shades, duck my head and get through it without talking to anyone.

But I can’t.

Because everyone knows I caved. At least, all my Facebook friends know. And now, if you read further, you’ll know, too. And then you’ll want to ask questions I’m ashamed to answer.

My first mistake was making public my campaign to not be the first in our house to turn on the air conditioner. But posting about it on Facebook was a small blunder compared to the most fatal, grievous, calamitous and downright crushing mistake I made.

I eventually implied in my Facebook posts that I was in a battle of wills with my ultra-competitive wife.

She just didn’t know it.

Not at first, at least.

She eventually found out last week when I informed my FB friends that it was so hot and humid inside our house that my wife appeared “close to breaking,” and that I thought I would soon “claim victory for lasting the longest without turning on the AC.”

When a mutual friend tagged her in a comment that post became my downfall. She turned to me and said, “I didn’t know we were competing.” Then she calmly told me that “if this is a contest, you know you’re going to lose.”

Actually, I’m sort of surprised she hadn’t busted me sooner. The post that ignited her competitive side was just one in a series I had been writing on Facebook.

It started innocently enough with a non-confrontational status update wondering “how long I could resist the siren call of the air conditioner.”

A few days later, I followed it up with another fairly innocuous post expressing relief that cooler temperatures were in the forecast.

A friend of mine then posted a picture of a box fan set up inside a window to encourage a cool breeze.

It went back and forth like that until I finally crossed the line. Last week, I mentioned my wife for the first time when I said I thought we were playing “a sick game of who can last the longest without turning on the AC.”

If I had just left it there, I wouldn’t be going incognito in public right now. But I had to follow it with posts and replies suggesting my wife and I were engaged in a supreme struggle that would scare even our soon-to-be teenage daughter, who is no stranger to conflict.

And then my wife discovered the “close to breaking post” and made it clear that she was anything but.

I spent the next few days gently suggesting that we put aside our contest, that if our tongues hung out of our mouths any further we might be mistaken for our thoroughly miserable dog, Rodney.

But she had a “you started it, I’m finishing it” attitude.

Even our kids were no help. Our daughter took my wife’s side and even wanted a cost analysis between running the air conditioning and all the fans I had running full blast throughout the house. Our teenage son, meanwhile, was oblivious to the whole thing. He spends most of his time at home in our comfortably cool basement pretending he doesn’t live with us.

Eventually, I caved and now I’m suffering the ignominy of having flipped the switch at a moment of craven weakness.

You might be wondering, if I’m so ashamed, why am I admitting to all this?

It’s for husbands who have ultra-competitive wives like mine.

Never let them know you’re competing with them if you want temperatures to cool down at your house.

They said it would snow …


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… but I didn’t want to believe it.

Now, I can’t deny what’s right outside my front door.

At least I don’t live in New England. The early spring snow here in West Virginia is nothing compared to what coastal Massachusetts is supposed to get. A blizzard warning is in effect for Cape Cod and the Islands.

In any case, I’m starting to think I might have spread grass seed too early.

On the other hand, maybe this latest blast of wintry weather will be just the thing to spark some actual grass to grow among the weeds I usually end up with in my yard.

Keep your fingers crossed. I know mine are.

If it’s really spring, why am I so pessimistic?


Shouldn’t I be optimistic right about now?

After all, it’s the season for optimism, for renewal, for gentle breezes and green trees.

Pardon this tired old pun, but shouldn’t I have a “spring” in my step?

For Pete’s sake, baseball’s opening day is almost upon us. I should be looking forward to the promise of a new season, of spending the next six months following the Washington Nationals with my 15-year-old son, yet here I am with a bad case of pessimism.

I could chalk up my mood to another lottery failure. Last Tuesday night, I was gunning for the huge Mega-Millions prize. At $414 million, it was the third-largest in the game’s history. Not surprisingly, I was disappointed.

While my ticket found a home in the trash can after the drawing, it came out later that one of the two lucky winners bought theirs at a liquor store outside Washington, D.C., in suburban Maryland. The store is across the street from where a friend of mine buys his tickets.

That’s probably as close as I will ever get to lottery glory, but I don’t think that’s why I’m feeling pessimistic. It’s more likely it has something to do with the yard.

Each spring, I put myself under considerable pressure to actually grow grass. And, each spring I fail. One glance at my yard will tell you all you need to know about my green thumb.

I’ve tried everything to get grass to grow where only weeds dominate. And, when I say I’ve tried everything, I mean EVERYTHING.

Well, everything except spreading seed before a snowfall.

In an effort to spare my wife the ignominy of having the worst lawn in the neighborhood again, I took a shot in the dark and decided to see if what I’ve read on the Internet is right about snow and grass. I got home from work last Sunday afternoon, raked the yard, got my spreader out and seeded it just before it was supposed to snow.

I like the idea of using snow to my advantage. It’s supposed to hide the seed from hungry birds. And then when it melts, to encourage the seeds to snuggle into the ground, where they will hopefully germinate and make my wife happy.

I have no idea if it will work, but it’s a trick some people swear by.

Others, not so much. One friend of mine told me not to waste my time. Another flatly said the seed would wash away.

The naysayers have me worried, but only time will tell if the cold snow that fell actually bore the warm embrace of life.

With my luck though, I just wasted a $100 bag of seed.

If it’s not the uncertainty of growing grass that’s sparked my spell of pessimism, and not my long string of losing lottery numbers, then what is it?

I’m probably over-thinking this. It’s most likely something simple. And, now that I consider the possibility, the more convinced I am that my malaise is the weather’s fault.

Forecasters seem to think we’re in line for some more snow this week. If the weather headlines for the east coast are to be believed, a “Nor’easter bomb” is a possibility.

If conditions are just right, forecasters say the storm could sock parts of New England. But even though it’s supposed to largely spare the Mid-Atlantic, where I live, the mere mention of a little more snow is enough to make anyone pessimistic that spring will ever truly take hold.

Either I’ll have a luxurious lawn or I’ve just fed the birds


Actually, my efforts will probably wash away with the weather that’s moving into our neighborhood this evening, but I had to give it a shot.

And, why not?

I’ve attempted everything else to encourage grass to replace the weeds in our yard. Plus, our neighbors already think I’m a little loony, anyway. One more crazy move isn’t going to hurt my reputation.

When I arrived home from work today, I raked the yard, got my spreader out and seeded it. Image

Now, I’m waiting on the snow that’s supposed to fall tonight. We’re under a Winter Weather Advisory. Forecasters say we’re in line for up to four inches.

If the Internet is right (and it’s always right, right?), the snow expected tonight will cover the grass seed I’ve spread and keep it away from the birds. Then as it melts, the seeds will tuck themselves into the ground where they will germinate in abundance this spring and give my wife the lawn she’s always wanted, but I’ve always failed to give her.

That’s the theory, anyway.

I have no idea if it will work, but it sounds good. And, my wife is happy that I’m at least making a good faith effort at keeping our yard from becoming the embarrassment of the neighborhood … again.

No matter what happens, it is a “known known,” as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once said, that I will be dragging my clunky lawn mower out of the garage sometime this spring.

The “known unknown” is, will I be cutting more grass than weeds or the other way around?

In any case,  “you cut the lawn you have, not the lawn you want or wish to have at a later time.”

Rumsfeld said that, too, right?

I just hope I don’t have to quote him to my wife later this spring when she asks why our yard doesn’t have any grass in it.

Happy Birthday! How do you like your new snow blower?


shovelThe headline on a news story I ran across in my Twitter feed this week got me thinking.

It read “W.Va. Shovels Out of Snowstorm.”

Shouldn’t it have read “W.Va. Snow Blows Out of Snowstorm?”

I have no real data on the popularity of snow blowers. The answer can probably be found somewhere on the Internet, but after a long morning spent shoveling, I’m simply too lazy to type a query.

However, judging from what I’ve observed in my neighborhood alone, snow blowers seem to have supplanted shovels as the gear of choice to get the car out of the garage after a snowstorm.

My house is surrounded by snow blowing neighbors. Even now as I type out this column while nursing sore muscles brought on by several hours of throwing snow around, I can hear one humming along, making short work of the snow that blanketed our region this week.

I acknowledge being somewhat envious, but here’s the truth about me and snow blowers. Up to now, I’ve simply been too cheap to buy something that’s just going to gather dust in my garage waiting for the one or two times a year that I can justifiably fire it up.

Even if I had one, I probably wouldn’t get the pleasure of using it much. That’s because I’m not usually home when huge storms hit. More often than not, I’m stuck in Washington, D.C. My employer deems me essential to day-to-day operations, a happy circumstance that generally means I get to luxuriate in the warm confines of a hotel room while my wife and kids deal with the back-breaking work of moving snow around with nothing more than a shovel. By the time I show back up, they’ve made it easy for me to slip my car into the garage.

Thanks guys!

A few years ago, my wife tried to persuade me to buy a snow blower. She brought up the possibility after I had just arrived home from some R&R work courtesy of the storm that quickly became known as “Snowmageddon.” She and the kids had spent all day clearing snow dumped by that storm. It was a nightmare and is still the standard by which our family judges storms. Apparently, though, it was not enough to move me.

We still don’t have a snow blower.

This winter, though, is different. The big storms seem to be hitting on my days off. Plus, my wife has been unable to wield a shovel because she shattered her wrist during the first big snow and ice storm of the season. So, it’s been up to me and our son. This week, we spent hours doing what a snow blower would have accomplished in only one.done

The monotony of piling snow into the huge mounds that now line our driveway was broken up only when I stopped to admire the handiwork of my neighbors. They were easily spewing snow into the air while I labored with each shovelful. I secretly hoped that one would take pity on me and at least free our mailbox so our carrier could get to it. None did, leaving me no alternative but to finish the job the old-fashioned way.

I know it’s been a few years since my wife asked for one, but her birthday is coming up this month. Maybe I’ll surprise her.

Because what says “Happy Birthday” more than a shiny, new snow blower?

Why days like today make having a teenage son worth it


I could have simply made our teenage son shovel the driveway for free.

After all, it’s not like he has much to do today. It’s a snow day from school.

Rather than impose my will, though, I decided to use his obsession with video games against him, instead.

Last night, he asked how he could earn enough money to buy the latest and greatest.

What follows is the price he paid after he got up this morning.

I may have had to open my wallet a little bit, but I got my money’s worth.

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Walking the dog in the “Polar Plunge”


I was relieved to see our huge dog Rodney’s best friend out in her backyard this morning.

They got to stretch their legs and I got warmer just watching them play in the snow in temperatures that threatened to turn the hair on my face into a block of ice.

And now that he’s burned off all that energy, it seems unlikely he’ll make me take him back out anytime soon. Well, until this evening, anyway.

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Glad To Be Out Of The Weather


I spent much of the morning warning public radio listeners about the latest winter storm that’s dumping snow and ice in the Midwest and Northeast. Then I got in my car and drove through it. This is what my vehicle looked like when I finally parked it in the garage after arriving home from work today.

I drove much of the way from my job in Washington, D.C., to my West Virginia home in freezing rain and my car showed it. Up to half-an-inch of ice coated its hood. My windshield wipers were so encased they were on the verge of being useless. By the time I got home, the added weight of the ice caused them to thump down with each swipe.

A reporter for AccuWeather.com saw that picture after I put it up on Twitter and asked if she could include it in a storm round-up story she was writing. She posted it this afternoon. Here’s the link.