Monday, July 31, 2006

All Are Home

Mom and Dad are breathing a little easier now that our family is back together. Late Saturday afternoon Evie and I arrived home from our little vacation, both counting down the hours until out boys would be home.

Josh arrived home late Sunday afternoon dragging along. His flight out of Detroit was delayed over two hours. He finally crawled into bed around 10 after being awake for just over 30 hours.

Jonathan arrived home early this afternoon after an early morning flight out of the Oklahoma. As the bus arrived at camp at 2 AM, he too had been up since Sunday 8 AM and crawled into bed this evening just after 9.

Josh has been telling us stories of his journey….his favorite stop being Switzerland and least favorite was Paris. He reports that Paris traffic makes DC rush-hour look light. He greatly enjoyed London (his hotel being just down the block from IHQ) but complained that they did not have time to do any shopping. He enjoyed Venice without any traffic and beautiful buildings.

Though Jonathan enjoyed TMI last year, he found it more enjoyable this year. Knowing some campers from last year also aided in the enjoyment by fitting in quicker. He had the opportunity to work four times one on one with Robert Redhead on composing, as well as playing under his baton in the TMI band (their top band) as the principal cornet. Again this year he received the Cornet Award for being the top cornet player in the camp.

So we are all back home…but our standard schedule. Tonight Josh had a sectional rehearsal for three hours. Tomorrow he is at the school from 8 to 4 for the start of the marching band schedule. Jonathan returns to work in the morning. Tomorrow Evie and I spend a couple of hours in the evening getting the camper ready for our friends to take to Disney this weekend, and then meet them on Wednesday to go over how to use the various systems. Busy…but normal. It is good to see each other for evening prayers before turning in.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Camping would not be true to itself without a campfire, particularly for the Sears campers. Here are a few shots of this past Friday’s fire. Of course with humid 90 F days the fire is not used as a source to keep warm in the evenings but rather merely as part of camping ambiance (though earlier we did cook to lovely steaks on this one).

I am planning on turing these and others into desk top pics and screensavers.

So hear is to all the family campers and to the Sears pyros.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Aborted Hitchhiker

A week ago Tuesday while Josh was viewing the crown jewels in London, Evie and I were on the road from our campground to Ohiopyle PA for a 7.5 mile rafting trip to tackle class III and IV rapids. You could not ask for a better day, clear blue sky, hot temperatures, and refreshingly cool water.

In our party there were a little more than a dozen rafts. Though some were experienced rafters many more were novices. Many a raft team over-steered or under-paddled at crucial moments only to find themselves lodged upon a rock. The methods for dislodging from a rock vary from rocking, to shifting from the lodged side to the stream exposed end, to when all else failed, having a crew member jump out and push the raft off. All of these methods were employed repeatedly throughout the day. Over the course of the trip all but one or two groups lost a member or more from their raft. Two crews found their rafts leaving all their crew members behind in the water. One crew had all but one member thrown out into the water.

When dislodged from the boat, most were quickly pulled back into their boat or another one passing by. Some found themselves being pulled to shore by ropes thrown to them by escort guides. A few scampered upon the boulders in the river to be rescued by a following raft for transfer back to the original raft on the calmer parts of the river.

The attached pics go with the title of the blog. One fellow fell out of his raft and scurried to a large boulder. As we shot by he attempted to hitch a ride. As you can see, his attempt misfired. He landed in the back with such momentum that he bounced back out into the river. As he did so, he almost took me and the fellow in the back of the boat with him.

Overall, it was a great trip. Evie is ready to take a class V and VI trip.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Family News and ... Its Time For A Vacation

Today Evie and I head out for a two week vacation. Getting Josh to and from rehearsals along with three out of town business trips (fortunately two were only 65 miles each way) has made it a long week.

This past week Jonathan has been on vacation, which he spent at helping out at Music Conservatory. This coming Saturday (22nd) Jonathan flies off to Oklahoma for TMI on a full scholarship. The guest this year is Robert Redhead (I think Gwen will be there as well). Dick Holtz, who was also at our Conservatory this year is arranging for Jonathan to have time each day to work one on one with Redhead on compositions.

Speaking of compositions, Josh is putting the finishing touches on a piece that is the length of an old festival piece….and at the same level. He has a couple of concert band items in the works and with him going into the Cap Band this fall he will have an opportunity to work with Steve Bulla on compositions….he would also continue to work with Jim Anderson on TSA items.

Evie and I had been hoping to get Jim Curnow to do a clinic at Oakton, but from what Dick noted, he is booked out two years and then some. I remember that during our Asbury days Jim would show up to rehearsals from time to time with his shoulder wrapped due to his bursitis. Apparently his bursitis has gotten much worse and Marg is encouraging him to take fewer engagements each year.

I am looking forward to relaxing for when I get back life will be a rush. There is a flight out to Denver on a Monday afternoon to visit 4 recreation centers before catching the last flight out of Denver to get in late and driving immediately to Lynchburg for a 9:30 meeting on Wednesday and then a visit to another Corps Wednesday afternoon.

The next following week, I visit two Corps 100 miles away on the Monday before flying Tuesday afternoon to Atlanta for a Kroc Center meeting at THQ on Wednesday. I am staying over to meet with a vendor so that I can do some research on their database on Thursday and Friday morning. In the first 15 business days back it appears I will only be in the office three days. Oh, in the midst of that, Evie and I are responsible for the Sunday Service at Arlington, and Josh is off with his marching band for his week at Orkney (week I am in Atlanta).

When I get back, my time will not be my own for about three weeks. Hence, I am looking forward to putting my watch in a drawer later this morning when I climb into the RV, going to bed when sleepy and rising when rested enough, eating when hungry, and lighting the campfire when it starts to get dark. The time masters will have no meaning, at least for two weeks.

All the best to one and all.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Two Lovers Caught in the Act

As we are going to be away camping, I thought I would do a second post. Today while in the park, two lovers and their PDA caught our attention.

Affection demonstrated with the whisper of desiring more.

"Not now dear!! We have bases loaded, it is a full count and we are down two runs. Not now dear!!"

Josh Departs For Europe

This afternoon Josh departed on a fifteen day European adventure. The photos include Josh with some of his high school friends. As his school has one of the strongest music programs in the northern Virginia and with broad parental means, their high school has one of the strongest contingents...they will almost be filling one bus in Europe.

The one young lady on Josh’s right is Stephanie who is his travel mate. She is a fellow trombonist (an excellent one too) and the co-section leader of the Trombone section of Oakton's marching band.

The aircraft is Josh’s flight. We were in the area when his plane was
about to leave so we waited in the park by the airport to see him depart and to get this shot. When his flight passed overhead I found myself muttering with teary eyes, “goodbye Josh, have a great time." Our baby is off on an adventure that will be cherished not only because of where they are going, but that he is doing it with his friends and no parents at hand...clearly an "aha moment" that I speak about with my students.

Following is Josh' itenerary.

Sunday 16th – London, arrive and shopping in Windsor

Monday – London, concert, Trafalgar, changing of the guards, Whitehall

Tuesday – London, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s, Buckingham Palace, Parliament and Big Ben

Wednesday – 5:00 AM breakfast before trip to Dover and channel crossing to France

Thursday 20th – Paris, two concerts, Notre Dame, Seine River trip, Eiffel Tower

Friday – French village of Montmartre, Louvre

Saturday – travel to Switzerland

Sunday 23rd – Switzerland, swimming in Lake Geneva, Castle of Chillon, Rhone Valley, concert

Monday – Zermatt Switzerland and the Matterhorn

Tuesday - Austria, concert

Wednesday 26th - Innsbruck, concert

Thursday – 4:30 wake-up for day trip to Venice Italy before returning to Austria at 11 PM

Friday – Germany, Dachau, Rottenburg

Saturday 29th – Rottenburg Germany, concert

Sunday – 3:45 AM wake-up for return flights home

Friday, July 14, 2006

Farewell Concert

At 4 PM today, VA Ambassador Band and Chorus had their farewell concert. Tomorrow, they band and chorus drawn from 19 different high schools board 4 different flights for London. Josh’s school leaves from Regan National for Minneapolis where they then board a 5 PM flight over the artic to London (their return flight goes through Detroit).

This week Josh elected not only to play

with the band but to join the chorus.
Here are some shots from tonight’s concert.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Interesting Site

"Where's George" is the current "Interesting Site" link. I received a dollar bill the other week that had the address on the bill. It is a site where you can track bills. I entered five bills and found two of the five had been previously been posted. One first posted in Baltimore 4 months ago. The second was posted in Detroit two months ago with subsequent postings in Richmond and Hagerstown.

For the Canadians, note that there is a link to the Canadian equivalent.

Why anyone would take time to design the site and why people would take a lot of time to post bill after bill is beyond me. Yet then again, some people have a high volume of time on their hands.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Summer Homework

The picture taken on our July 4th long weekend of Joshua reading…more precisely, he is doing homework. Though school is out for the summer, as he is taking three Advanced Placement (AP) classes next year he has several books to read over the summer, two of which are over 200 pages in length.

AP classes are more demanding than the equivalent high school courses. Only students with a strong academic performance in that subject are allowed to take APs. The APs are taught at the freshman and sophomore college level so that if a student receives a high enough score they may receive college credits (final determination is left to the college to accept them APs for transfer credit). This coming year Josh is taking Music Theory AP, American History AP and English Language Composition AP.
The football conditioning programs are underway and marching band sectionals take place in July (the band already has had two rehearsals to through their music between the ending of school and 1 July). During the first week of August football and cheer leading teams practice twice a day five days a week and so does the marching band

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Little Guy

Yesterday while Josh was at a trombone sectional rehearsal (the sections get together to go over their marching band music) Evie and I visited Sudley Plantation in the McClean area of Fairfax. While walking along I noticed this little fellow hiding away.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Keeping Up With the Jones

A week ago traveling into work I passed a fender bender that involved four cars, a BMW 330, a Suburban, a Toyota Camry and a Taurus. A mile or so down the road while stopped at a set of lights I noticed the cars around me. There were two Nissan 350Z, a Ford F-150, a Ford Focus, a Corolla, a Chrysler PT Cruiser, a Sebring convertible (there are times I wish I had Evie’s car), a Chev Cavelier and a higher end Mercedes. Such a mix with higher end cars is not uncommon in Fairfax.

The accident and my observations at the light again recalled to my mind the phrase “keeping up with the Jones’s.” The phrase is often used to speak about maintaining a similar lifestyle as one’s neighbors. Even if desired, for the Fairfax branch of the Sears family, keeping up with the Jones is not a possibility.

While none of Fairfax County’s zip codes would appear on a list of the top 20 wealthiest zip codes, the average household income in Fairfax County as a whole is very high. For over 15 years the County, along with Montgomery County in MD (just north of DC), has been in the top five in the nation. The area from which Oakton High School draws its students is one of the strongest in the County.

We are reminded of this wealth in various ways. When Josh goes to a party at a home of a friend we drive down streets where homes at the low end are worth $750,000. A new townhouse development just down the street from us has a sign saying “only starting at $680,000.” When the band’s rehearsal ends it is not uncommon to see students jumping into their own SUV, BMWs, Lexus’ and Mercedes, or to see parents waiting curbside with the same.

His friends do not get together at McDonald’s, they get together at restaurants where you could easily spend $25 per person on a meal. A night out at the movies, with pre-movie meal and post movie socializing in a restaurant could run $40.

Last year several parents and the music teachers thought it would be great to take the Jazz students to New Orleans to visit jazz clubs…price for the trip $950. That was on top of the Nashville trip which cost $450 a few weeks before. The cost of having Josh in the band program at the school is about $1,000 to 1,500 a year ($550 week long band camp at Orkney Springs Resort, $150 in marching band fees, $200 for concert and jazz band tuxedo rentals, marching band shoes and white gloves $85, spring trip $500 to 1,000 depending on the trip). This does not include the cost of two instruments (students provide their own)…one older student model for Marching Band and Pep Band, and a moderate price professional trombone for Concert Band and Jazz.

Evie and I desire the best for our sons, that is, within reason. And “within reason” is the rub. We are fortunate that Jonathan and Joshua usually have sought out a good book or movie more than expensive toys and gadgets. They want tasteful and basic clothing and are not after high priced items. Hence, we have rarely felt pressure from our sons to have more things. They are content with a simpler lifestyle and give thought to how they spend their money (the standard is not as strict with Mom and Dad’s money).

For the Fairfax branch of the Sears family, keeping up with the Jones’s is out of the question. We are not going to have the type of homes and vehicles, dine weekly at restaurants where meals cost $100 for two, have the latest designer items that one discards at the end of the season, and fly two or three times a winter to the Caribbean or Florida for a weekend. For Evie and I, our goal is to allow Josh to be on the same track as the Jones’s even if it be few laps behind.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What A Difference A Few Inches Can Make

Yesterday mid afternoon we had
a short yet intense rainstorm.
We were without power for six
hours – well past 10. One advantage is that wide spread power
outages eliminated light clutter
for firework viewing.

Whole trees or large portions of trees were down across the area…including several trees in our complex. Two large trees when down pulling their roots out while about a dozen others had major limbs snapped off like twigs. Beside are some pictures of how several large branches fell around Jonathan’s car. He has one small dent, that’s it. As you can see, if he parked a few inches further into the space or to the right even three inches his car would have been hit. The space he normally parks in is the one where the tree landed and it would have totaled any car parked in that space.

The new white car (still has the temporary plates on it) was not as fortunate. The back window is gone. The trunk, roof and side panel are well impacted.

Watch for Evie's blog...she is looking at posting shots of downed trees in our complex.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

For Bruce

For Bruce

It was great to speak to Mom and Dad, as well as Joanne on Canada Day. Sorry we missed connecting with others as they were away. We hope all enjoyed their Canada activities and the long weekend. We were off in our camper at a lovely campground just outside the DC area…it allowed Evie and Jonathan to travel into work on Monday.

We extend our sympathy to Stephen and Gayle for having to attend a Congress on Canada Day….been there done that for Thanksgiving Congresses (including Officers Councils on Thanksgiving Day). Evie and I are glad not to have to attend them, ‘nuff said. It was good to talk with Stephen on the 3rd as he cooked on his barbeque and we sat by a campfire thanks to modern technology. Only regret is our cell battery died just as we were starting to say our goodbyes (give our love to Gayle and the kids).

We understood that we missed Cathy and Don as they were heading back from spending the day with Mom and Dad.

During our call with Mom and Dad I asked Mom if she has been reading the blogs…as expected her answer was “no,” but Dad does. She says he does not really tell her what is on the blogs. I encouraged to her read them and keep up on what is happening in the lives and minds of her family.

I joked with her that if they did not start one that I may just start one for her and make stuff up. Mom said that was “fine if they were creative lies.” Well, I did not get anywhere even when I told her that my first creative activity on her behalf would be an announcement that arrival of “Isaac” after she did her Sarah impersonation. Dad said he may start a blog one day. In the meantime we will wait and see if he starts…or we maybe we should just start and announce he is Abraham.

To all we missed, a belated Happy Canada Day.

Now, on to why this blog is called “For Bruce”. While talking to Joanne, she mentioned that Bruce was interested seeing pictures of our toy. The Chateau is made by Four Winds and is their upscale version of the Four Winds C class line.

The first picture is of the external curbside from the front. The second is from the back looking at the street side. The third is the view from the hallway toward the front. The fourth is from the cab looking toward the galley…stove, microwave and oven on the right while the refrigerator and freezer are on the left. Off the hallway is the washroom that includes a ¾ bathtub. The last is of the master bedroom (queen short).

Some basic figures….sleeping capacity for five adults and two kids under 5’2”, length of 31’7’ bumper to bumper and 11’2’’ high including AC on roof, single axle drive train with dual tires, 55 gallon gas tank (plus 4-5 up the tube), Ford V-10 engine, 7 to 9 mpg depending upon terrain and weather (running the generator at the same time drops mpg by a mile), 38 gallon fresh water tank, 31 grey water tank and 27 black water tank. XM Radio. Stereo speakers in the master bedroom play from the cab system. The television has a roof antenna or it can be hooked up to cable via the cable connector on the street side. Cable hook-up and television shelf in the master bedroom. The AC vents are in the roof and the furnace ducts are in the floor…both systems run off a common thermostat (AC 13,500 BTU and furnace is 31,000 BTU). Total maximum weight (vehicle, equipment, passengers, clothing and supplies) is 10 tons.