VICTOR….y?

Years ago when I bought my current home, I awaited the onslaught of the rodent menace as the outside temperature dropped. It wasn’t my first rodeo, I knew they’d get in no matter what I did, so I simply prepared to turn my home into a black hole of rodent death, only mentioned in hushed squeaks as they discussed which house had the best food.

I used to rely on those rat baits, you know the chunks of green mystery poison that was delectable to rodents. The way it works is, the mouse eats the food (which I believe is generally full of arsenic) which causes them to crap out their guts and hopefully leave the home before they die in search of water. In reality, they usually don’t make it, and it takes a long time for that smell to go away if you don’t feel like ripping up walls.

Next were tried and true neck snappers. Simple, ancient design, passed down through the generations. Bait on trap, spring loaded bar ends their life rather quickly. Still, they can be messy, and heaven forbid you forget to check them on a regular basis (raises hand). As a side note, should you use those, don’t get the plastic ones. After seeing one launch across the floor blindly with flailing legs, they’re no good.

Glue traps? No. Just no. That crap is cruel. Besides, after that scene in Nightmare on Elm Street 4, I’ll pass.

Last year I picked up a Victor M1 mouse trap. What’s so special about it? A simple black box with a hole in one end, bait in the other, and a pair of metal plates to walk across. With nothing more than 4 AA batteries, it will send 6000V of electricity through the rodent, killing it instantly. That’s not the special part. This thing goes on wifi, and you monitor it from an app on your phone. Flip the box open, toss out the mouse, and reset.

When I got 2 hits last week by the water heater in my utility room, I figured it might be a good idea to get a second one. Off to Amazon I go. Trouble is, the one I got had a busted wifi connection. Sure I can just click a few boxes at Amazon, get a refund, but usually I try to talk to the manufacturer. First things first, the login for the app doesn’t work on the website. It’s 2019 Victor, get on that.

I decided to try their live-chat feature. After a simple “bot” took some basic information, I wound up chatting with “Lauren.” Once I explained the situation, and that I went through all the troubleshooting procedures, she agreed to ship me out a new one free of charge. The old one? They don’t need it back, so I’ll probably take it apart and see if I can repair it.

The moral of the story? Victor mouse traps rule, their customer service is fantastic, and as a general rule of thumb – always talk to the manufacturer first when you need help.

When the chat ended… she said “Have a mice day!” I chuckled. 🙂

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Oh, Microsoft.

Back in 2001, when Microsoft released the original Xbox, the goal (as was with every console manufacturer) was to revolutionize things. To an extent, they did. The Xbox was really nothing more than a stripped down PC running a highly optimized OS dedicated to playing video games.

In its basic function, it’s basic goal, the Xbox was no different than the PS2, Dreamcast, Super Nintendo, and Atari 2600 that came before it. You plug a box into your television, add a game, apply electricity, and you’re on your way. Now before I go any further, I’m going to be over-simplifying things a bit here, so if I mis-state some technicality, keep reading because an accurate historical record is irrelevant to my over-arcing point here.

Now one of the great things about the original Xbox is how hackable it was. I knew several people who cracked it open, added a larger hard disk, installed Linux, and were able to not only play Xbox games, but any number of other emulated systems as well as watch downloaded movies and TV.

A light bulb must have went off at Microsoft, a green one, shaped like a $, not an X. When the 360 came out, it brought with it Xbox Live, Internet connectivity, and applications in addition to games. Not only could you shoot things, you could watch TV, listen to music, do any number of things. The Xbox was now a true media center.

The Xbox One took the same formula and turned up every metric to 11. What started as a simple gaming system could now interact with multiple devices, add external storage, download apps, games, movies, television, music, high def, etc… When it works, it’s a sight to behold, a marvel of modern technology.

Tonight I got home from a long day of work, exhausted. All I wanted to do was fire up my Xbox, maybe play some Borderlands 3, and continue catching up on Mr.Robot. I wanted to do what the console was created to do. Consider this – the games are stored on the console. The Amazon application is stored on the console. My Internet is working fine.

Borrowed this from Reddit, everyone’s seeing this right now.

Long story short, Xbox core services at some datacenter far far away from my living room are broken. My Xbox can’t talk to Microsoft, so nothing I’ve bought and paid for here is working. I know I can watch Amazon from any number of other sources, but it’s the principle of the matter.

With all of this technological advancement, all this grand connectivity where humanity can reach out and touch pretty much anything, something has been lost. Right now I can throw a copy of Duck Hunt into my NES, and within mere moments I’m shooting digital ducks and cursing at a giggling dog. Regardless of what Nintendo of America is up to, I can play my games.

I won’t lie, I haven’t bought a physical game in years. I’m a big part of the problem. The ability to point, click, and play is truly a wonder of the modern world. The sacrifice is that unless everything is working 100% at a company miles away, I’m not playing my games. If something happens to that company, I have nothing to show for my years of investment.

The era of actually owning what I buy to entertain myself is effectively over.

Maybe I should read a book.

I digress.

</end_rant>

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99 Days.

Had a long day of work today. The job I’m in, at least once a month I have an on-call shift which requires me to work all weekend. I’ve long since gotten used to it, I even enjoy the flood of things to fix. During a quiet spot I decided to test the bypass valve on my water softener. It’s a plastic valve that lets me bypass the device for maintenance, etc… Simple task that I’ve done before.

Turned the house feed to bypass, no problem. Turned the inlet to bypass, no problem. Turned the outlet to bypass.

BOOM.

Water exploded everywhere. The valve had gotten filled with silt and other…stuff which kept it from sealing properly. I killed the well pump from the breaker box (which is maybe 3 feet from the water gushing out, yes, I know)… Flushed the toilet, turned on the slop sink, turned on the kitchen sink, did my best to depressurize the system. I then hit the switch to depressurize the water softener tank.

As I ran around looking for towels, my phone started going off. Work paging me. Ok, let me put these towels down to soak up the water. I hop on the computer, take care of the problem, check a few other things, then call my plumber. Phone’s microphone isn’t working. I reset my phone and try again, I leave a message. During the gap in work and flood I go to Google to see what I can do.

Zero information on a leaking bypass valve. I look up some schematics to get an idea of what I can do. Outlet valve has a pin on the bottom to hold it together. I pull the pin, push the valve up out of the casing, a bunch more water comes rushing out (thankfully landing in the bucket I placed below). I run a towel around the casing, cleaning out the silt, cleaning off the O-Rings that are supposed to prevent this from happening, and put it all back together.

Now at no time in this mishegoss am I panicking. No worrying. It’s a problem. I troubleshoot problems. I fix problems. I turn the valve off and on a few times, it’s smooth, no more crunch of silt. I switch all the valves back and turn the water on. One or two drips, and that’s it. Disaster averted, or at least diverted (water joke, get it?). I clean everything up, call back the plumber and leave another message that I don’t need more help.

I dive back into work for the rest of the day and I start to feel it creeping up on me. Anxiety. I work through a handful of new problems. Doubt rises up in me. Work’s over. I need to hit the supermarket, but my church is having a chili cook off tonight, and nothing should ease my anxiety and doubt like the epic combination of chili and Jesus.

I think about going to church, the anxiety and doubt ramp up. I’ll go to the supermarket instead. I get in the car, but push through the resistance, I go to church. Had some chili, some good conversation and laughs, but in the back of my heart the anxiety and doubt was reaching a climax. I kept pushing back. I started praying.

I left church and halfway through Warwick a car is on my ass. Any closer and I could have read the VIN number from behind their windshield. I’m 2nd in line, I can’t speed up, and I really don’t care to. The adrenaline is pumping, and I’m starting to get angry on top of everything else. I caught a break when we both reached a yellow light at Price Chopper, I made it. They didn’t. I’ll take the win.

So I get to the supermarket with my list in hand. First item on the list is out of stock. I stood there staring at the empty shelf, confused and dismayed. Confused and dismayed over a freaking GROCERY that I didn’t really NEED yet. I message my best friend, tell her the enemy is banging around in my head like crazy right now. I go through the store, check off my list. Anxiety. Doubt. Anger. Dismay. Confusion.

The enemy was all up in my business. The louder I prayed the worst it got. I’m texting my friend. Telling her what’s going on. Telling her that I am absolutely craving a drink right now. I haven’t had such a thirst in months. I’m driving and I’m praying. I get to Edenville and I absolutely CRANK the Christian worship station on Sirius. The music is blaring, I’m praying, and then… a whisper.

A flash in my head. I’ve got a bottle of Evan Williams, a bottle of Everclear, an airplane bottle of Sambuca, 3 beers, and a hard cider in the house. The urge to drink is replaced by the impulse to dump it all out. God just commanded me and made it clear how to push the enemy back. The radio is still blaring, but all I say out loud is “I will.” Anxiety? Gone. Doubt? Gone. Anger? Gone. Dismay? Gone. Confusion? Gone. Urge to drink? Gone. Resolve? Overwhelming. Clarity? Crystal.

I get home, and I’m on a mission. I kept the bourbon in case my dad came by. I kept the Everclear because it’s really good for cleaning electrical contacts. I kept the beers for cooking. I completely forgot about the Sambuca and cider. EXCUSES.

I’ve been sober for 99 days.

Thank you, Jesus.

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90 Days.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

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Colossians 3:12

So, as God’s own chosen people, who are holy, and well-beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, greatness, and patience.
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Thessalonians 3:12

And may the Lord cause you to increase and excel and overflow in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you.
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Say Hello to Bucket

Rust Bucket, that is.

A few months ago, I was sitting in Church on a Sunday as I do, and during a moment of silent contemplation a whisper in my mind spoke to me…

“It’s time to sell the truck, Sam.”

This truck. Fully loaded, brand new, every option box ticked off, LOVED that truck. I babied it. Thing saw maybe 300 miles a month after my commute changed.

I’d been praying for some time for an end to my sadness, my depression, and my loneliness. I even put in a prayer request at my church for just that. Someone did. Since then, God has been surgically removing things from my life that don’t make me happy. It started with this truck.

That morning when God spoke to me, the first thing I did was speak to my pastor. I asked if he knew anyone who needed a good truck. The next thing I did was put it up for sale on the Internet.

Within weeks, it was gone to a new home. I won’t lie, I wasn’t exactly sure why He told me to sell my truck, but I’m of the mind that He has a much better view of things than I do, and disobedience never crossed my mind.

Still, I’m a homeowner and I like trucks. A truck can be a handy tool, so I started looking. A brand new truck was out, God wouldn’t tell me to sell the GMC for me to go right out and buy another one. I had a price in my mind that I couldn’t exceed.

I looked at a few old trucks, but most in that price range needed much more TLC than I was ready to provide. The whole time I kept passing this 10 year old Silverado that only appeared to be moving when the owner needed to cut his grass. It looked good from a distance, so I automatically assumed it was out of my price range.

Turned out it came in just under what I was willing to spend and the condition was good enough for Government work. With a handshake and a bank check, I had myself another truck.

That night when I parked it in my driveway, the anxiety hit. What was I doing? I had a brand new truck, sold it, bought this old beater, and now there’s a laundry list of things I have to do. Doubt poured into me as my chest tightened up.

“God, I give this anxiety to you, in Jesus name I pray. Amen.”

Like a flash, the anxiety was gone. It was replaced with logic and a plan. For the big things, I’d bring it to the only mechanic I trust that isn’t a blood relative who has a strong dislike for General Motors. Everything else, I’d fix myself.

So the next day I head over to the car wash to get it inspected, and decide to fill the tank before I do. The kid tries, and repeatedly fails to do so. The tank won’t fill. I hop out and put in a few gallons, and that’s when the CEL (check engine light) came on.

After a few days with the mechanic I get it back with the big problems solved (wheel bearings and fuel leak due to a rotted out fuel pump), but I still can’t fill the tank, and that CEL is still glaring at me from the dashboard.

Yesterday morning I got up around 7am, went to Autozone to pick up a few parts, then I got down to work. Slowly and methodically, I took apart the system that had the problem, checking each component and replacing what I couldn’t fix by hand.

For 4 hours I worked, covered in rust, dirt, sweat, and grease. I was completely in my element. Smiling. Laughing to myself as I discovered something new. For the first time in years, I was alone AND I was happy. I wouldn’t trade anything for that morning fixing my old truck, my rust bucket.

I simply couldn’t find that feeling, that purpose, that joy with something brand new. As I pulled up to the pump that had previously rejected my efforts to fuel the old girl, I was nervous. Within a few minutes the tank was full, and I had an ear to ear grin. Only 3 words came to mind.

“Thank you, Jesus.”

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Thy Will Be Done

Last year I had a blowout fight with my family. After which, I didn’t speak to them for months. I really had no desire to, I had written off the people who raised me, who made me the man I am today over pent up misguided anger that I should have let go of long ago.

Then one day in a church I’d been attending for only a few months, the pastor was discussing Matthew 21:12-13, which covered Jesus entering the temple and overturning the tables to return it to being a “house of prayer” instead of a “den of robbers.”

That day everything changed.

I’m no stranger to religion, or God. I was raised Roman Catholic. At least every other Sunday I attended a Catholic church with my parents. I was indoctrinated in the faith via after school Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD). I can tell you that beyond the most common topics of any given Sunday, I can’t recall a single thing I learned there.

I even cut CCD. My church’s school was known for having a very holey roof (not Holy). My parents never questioned when I said CCD was cancelled due to a leaking roof. That held until I overplayed my hand and the teacher called them to ask where I had been the past few weeks. I wasn’t exactly one of God’s faithful followers.

The day I turned 18 years old was a joyous one. My parents dictated that I had to go to church until I was 18, after that – I didn’t have to. I can’t say I went often (besides Christmas and Easter) for the next 12 years. I wasn’t missing anything. Sit down. Stand up. Reading 1, Reading 2, Gospel, Sermon, Tithe, Handshake, Leave.

So clinical. So detached from God and the community. Then I experienced the Episcopal church. As a former in-law put it, Catholic-Lite. Similar, but different, it was a smaller church, a more tight-knit community, and I finally felt like I was part of something. I’m certain God was there, as he always has been, but I was still blind.

I didn’t go to church because it was God’s house. I didn’t go to worship Him. I went there because it made me feel good. It made me feel part of a community. My ex-wife’s family was heavily involved in the church, and it all just seemed to be lining up. My crooked path was being made straight, or so I thought. What was coming was a grand lesson.

As the relationship blossomed and the wedding approached, friends, family, and clergy kept pushing. Push, push, push. Blind in love, I went along with it. God had to be with me, right? All of this was happening because of a church! Oh, how wrong I was. I won’t get into the details here, but I did say “ex-wife” (who is actually one of my best friends today, but I digress).

I left that church behind in December of 2013 after we separated. The last time I would set foot in a church to worship for 5 years was March 13th, 2014, the day I filed for divorce. I walked into Saint Stephens during a daytime service, sat in the back row, and wept. My marriage had failed, I had broken my promise to God, what began in an Episcopal church ended in a Catholic church.

When asked why I refused to worship, I simply said “God and I had a difference of opinion.” I blamed the church for my failed marriage. I blamed God for my failures. After the divorce, I used to think I was an atheist, but how can a man blame God and NOT believe in Him? I was depressed and angry. I embraced as many sins as I could find in rebellion.

Middle fingers in the air, I sat back and stewed as my life crawled to a stand still. I would proclaim my hatred of church, religion, and God in anger and despair. Years went by as I watched out my window (across the way is a Church) – I laughed to myself as I saw the faithful walk in and out every Sunday. Every day angry, depressed, and alone. Friends were getting married, having kids, settling down and living the life I wanted as the bitterness ate away at me from the inside out.

Then something started to change in me. One evening I lay in bed and began to contemplate what it would be like to not exist. No heaven, no hell, no afterlife, I die and I am gone. It terrified me. Anxiety gripped my chest. In desperation, I remembered how going to church made me feel, before the divorce, before the pain. I remembered the peace and joy I would leave that building with, so I went to church.

Nothing happened. I went through the motions, I recited the creeds, I shook the hands. Maybe it’s an off week I thought, so I went again. Was God angry at me for my sin? Was He punishing me, depriving me of this joy because I took His name in vain so many times I lost count? Another week, nothing. Maybe it was the church? I crossed the field and entered the church I’d laughed at for 5 years straight. Still nothing.

I was crying out for God to forgive me, to take me back, to give me a sign that He still saw me and loved me. Every time I cried out and prayed all I heard was a busy signal. WHERE WAS MY SIGN??? I went through the motions, I checked off the boxes one by one, I did everything I knew to do. I was physically and emotionally numb, a side effect of depression is a condition called anhedonia. I was convinced that I simply would never feel joy again. Whatever I had felt before was fake, and this was my new reality.

Then one day, without planning, I got in my car and drove to a church my friend had been attending for some time. It was based out of my old elementary school. It was my last resort. I walked in the door and people who didn’t even know who I was, were friendly to me. The music was great. The people were openly filled with joy and worship, hands in the air, singing aloud. I was absolutely confused.

Where was the tradition? Where were the readings? Where was the absolutely depressing music I was used to? What were all these people feeling that they looked so joyful? The lead pastor spoke for nearly an hour, he preached the Gospel. As he spoke a feeling kept rising within me, I don’t even recall what book he discussed, but with every word the feeling grew stronger. I could feel my heart beating again.

I was feeling again.

I went back and the feeling grew stronger. I still tried to deny it. Every service I was told that my attendance was an answered prayer. Every preaching of the Gospel connected with me, with my soul. Every couple weeks, the pastor would ask us if we were ready to give our life to Christ… Every week, I held my hand down. All along I prayed for a sign that God still saw me, He was all around me and I fought it. I couldn’t believe that what I was feeling was real.

Then came Sunday, March 24th, 2019. A week prior, I made the decision to accept Christ, to give my life to Him. When the pastor asked of us who was ready and willing to make that decision, instead of fighting to hold my hand down it shot up without a moment of hesitation. I was saved. On March 24th though would be the first time I truly heard God.

After the Gospel had completed, the pastor related Jesus’s decision to overturn the tables in the temple to those of us in the congregation. He asked us to close our eyes and take a moment to think of what tables needed to be overturned in our own lives. I closed my eyes and in a flash I had a vision of me pulling up to my parents house, and stepping out of my truck.

It had been months since I saw my parents. I was resolved to never see them again. The message was clear, go home. God commanded me to go home. When the service ended, I told my best friend that I was going home. She said “Ok cool, I’ll see you later.” Then I repeated “No, I’m going home.” She then knew what I meant, her jaw dropped, I told her what I saw, and I headed out. All this time I begged for a sign, something loud, obvious, and unmistakable. What I got was a whisper, and it changed my life.

When I got there, my Mom opened the door and didn’t look too happy to see me. She asked me why I was there, I simply told her “God told me to.” I sat with my parents and spoke, for the first time in months. They told me their side of things, of how they felt and what they’d gone through as a result of the fight. From that moment the healing began. God brought my family back together because I obeyed his command to go home.

There have been several other instances since then, and I’m sure there will be more to come. On April 28th, 2019 I was baptized at Grace Community Church, I rose out of the water born again into a life devoted to Jesus Christ. Each day since, my paths become a little more straight, and while I am still a sinner, I am doing my best to grow closer to God.

Thy will be done, Lord. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

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A good old driving rant…

It’s been a while since I had an old-school driving rant, so here we go!

At least twice a week, I have a 40 minute drive to the train station to get to work. It involves a fair amount of twisty back roads, and other drivers who aren’t quite as alert or clear thinking at 5:30am.

Today I’m heading in, haven’t even left Warwick yet and I catch up to this red Subaru doing 35mph. It’s a 55mph zone. The fastest they went was about 40mph. There’s a truck behind me who is likely also wondering why we’re traveling so slowly.

So as we reach Route 94, I make a move I rarely do, as I’m trying to avoid being stuck behind a red Subaru all the way through to Sterling Forest, I hang a left on Hathorn Rd which is a decent shortcut even if you stick to the speed limit of 30mph.

The Subaru ends up going left, the truck ends up flooring it to get ahead of me, no big deal. I pull out and there was a white Ford work van (I love aggressive drivers in clearly labelled work vehicles!) who apparently floored it the moment they had a green light and was approaching rapidly from behind.

Now State Route 94 is 45mph in Warwick, it goes into a 30mph zone when you reach the village. I pulled out, hit 45mph, and had this jackasses headlights in my rear view within seconds. This pretty much continued straight through town (I’d already aimed my rear-view in a manner so it was out of sight, out of mind) and nearly into Sterling Forest.

I’ll admit part of it may have been my fault, as I did something I normally do NOT do, I flipped the jerk off the second they were on my rear bumper. 5:30am, not everyone is thinking clearly, old reflexes kick in, but still… Wet roads, you’re in a van tailgating a sport coupe… come on.

Upside, apparently if you hang a left onto Mountain Lake Road from 17A, continue onto Old Rt 17A, then hang a right onto Old Tuxedo Road, that completely loops around Greenwood Lake, avoiding the usual bottleneck that is Greenwood Lake and dumps you back out on 17A, hopefully ahead of the slowpokes.

A Kia Stinger took that route this morning and wound up a quarter mile ahead when they pulled back out onto 17A, I never saw the taillights again since I was sandwiched between a slowpoke and the aforementioned jerk in a work fan.

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PSA: Cattle Corn is not People Corn

Visited cornfest at Wright Family Farm today, some city people packed a bag of corn from the corn maze, were trying to figure out how to cook it…

“you really don’t want to eat that”

“why not?”

“it’s cattle corn, made to feed livestock, you’ll break your teeth”

“what are you, southern? How do you know this?”

“lived here my whole life”

Good deed for the day accomplished. Southern. LMAO.

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