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Meet The Dennis Rodman of Canines In The Kitchen...

Rebounding in basketball isn't so much about jumping. It's about position. Knowing where the ball is going to end up landing. Being ready for the opportunity.

Based on those qualifications, if my dog Schnoodle had played basketball, the old girl would have made the hall of fame. No dog can read the kitchen, come up with a plan, and be where the odds are best that a mistake will be made. She doesn't look for food scraps. Food scraps fall in front of her. She is the Dennis Rodman of kitchen canines.

Today is a rainy day in Ashburn, and neither my wife nor daughter will eat leftovers (or even something twice in the same week). So since it is so dreary outside, I'm cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer of older foods coming up on an expiration date. I've turned three chicken breasts into chicken salad for sandwiches for the next few days; I have taken 1.5 pounds of ground beef and made it into a chili/taco meat mixture to go on hot dogs, baked potatoes or other assorted options over the weekend; yesterday I found this beautiful pork shoulder minding its own business in the back of the freezer. It has been appropriately bathed in a dry rub, had garlic inserted into it, and is peacefully resting until tomorrow.

Making these three dishes so there's plenty to warm up and eat on a moment's notice over the weekend involved doing a lot of chopping and mixing in various places in the kitchen. Schnoodle moved when I moved and always found the right spot. Making this more amazing is she lost her sight several years ago. But that does not hinder the pooch, as she has a nose with abilities the CIA would envy.

She's 15 years old and she unfortunately never got to play basketball. She could have been a contender. Instead, she roams the kitchen like a BOSS. And when it comes to kitchen scraps, she's the real MVP 😃

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I Guess I've Put Off Writing This Story Long Enough...

Well, it’s been about 10 days, and I guess I’ve put off writing this long enough. It’s a tough story to write, but if you’re a dog person, you’ll understand.

My wife and I have always been dog people. We both had dogs growing up, and shortly after we got married in the early 80s, I struck up a conversation with the neighbor’s golden-german shepherd mix. We had a deal. When I got out of my car (where we lived you parked on the street) “Happy” would let out an adorable half-growl, half-bark, and I in return would come to the fence and hug her head.

Over the next few months, snacks and conversation got mixed into the deal, and her owner seemed to notice. One day there was a knock on my door and the owner asked a favor. She was moving, she explained, and could not take the dog with her. Would I like to be Happy’s new Dad?

For the next six years, Happy was our dog. Her passing was one of the sadder days in our lives, but a month later, we got a call from a friend who had a fraternity brother who had just graduated college. He had a 1-year-old black lab, and he too was moving to a place that wouldn’t allow dogs. So “Butch” came to our home and quickly healed a few broken hearts.

Butch came to us well-trained. Tell him to stay, he’d not move for hours. He had been raised in a fraternity of guys, so he immediately reacted to my male voice. You could walk with him without a leash because he was so obedient, as a simple expression got him to do what you needed him to do.

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Sometimes You Have To Be Careful Not To Jump To Conclusions

It is popular these days to bash younger people. It is also easy these days – thanks to thousands of hot takes you can read on social media at any given hour – to form a mindset of quickly jumping to conclusions.

And then you meet a young man like I did today named Javier.

It occurred when I was bringing my car in for regular service at the Tysons Corner Mercedes dealership. I refer to it as my “annual hosing by Mercedes” because maintenance is not cheap and they generally find something that keeps the bill around $1,000. It comes with owning a Mercedes I’ve always thought. First world problem, just accept it and get it over with.

I’m new to the Tysons dealership, and certain things about it are unimpressive. I own three cars, with the other two being a Lexus and a Volkswagen, and the other two dealerships make waiting for maintenance as painless as possible. Lexus and Volkswagen provide coffee machines, snacks, fruit, ice cream, free wi-fi, several different televisions on different channels…all the things that can make time go by quicker.

Mercedes – one of the crown jewels of luxury brands – had a coffee machine. Period. They had areas for snacks, doughnuts, etc. but they were not stocked. The men’s bathroom was filthy. There was no wifi. The guy sitting next to me said Mercedes’ wifi was listed as Penske – why you’d use Penske when you have a brand name like Mercedes is beyond me – “but don’t bother,” he said. “It doesn’t work.”

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I Believe They Call These "A Blessing In Disguise"

Admit it. Something bad you don’t expect occurs, and you immediately think, “why did this have to happen?

This week, it happened twice to me. And the answer was “to prevent you from something even bigger happening in the future."

It started last Sunday. My daughter was visiting and realized when she came home late Saturday night that one of her headlights had burned out. That’s something you have to fix, or when you’re driving home from work the next night you run the risk of getting a ticket for not having two working headlights. And Sunday isn’t the best time to be getting repair work done.

I suggested she call our normal repair shop in the neighborhood and see if they were open. They were, from noon to 5, and were able to fix it, although for a not-so-cheap $350.

“Why did this have to happen?” may have been heard somewhere in the house.

It got worse. While fixing the light, the technician said the water pump was leaking. That’s a major repair of over $1,000, and for a millennial walking the tightrope of making ends meet, getting hit with thousands of dollars of auto repairs can be a source of significant stress. The technician did suggest that it might be covered by warranty, so call the dealer.

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In The Spirit Of Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Happiness...

On this 4th of July, I want to share a story with you about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The pursuit of happiness actually found me. And it involves the deep satisfaction I’ve been finding just trying to help people.

 It all started back in March. I’d decided I’d had enough with the working world. I checked my financials, and believed my wife and I had enough for a comfortable (although not exotic) existence the rest of our days. She was going to work for the next few years anyway, and I had been seeing far too many people I knew encounter serious health problems within days or weeks of them reaching retirement age.

So I called it quits and retired at a relatively young age.

Not too long after, I got a phone call from a young friend. She was frustrated with her job, had been sending out letters and resumes for months and not getting any calls back. Would I be willing to help?

I mean, who could say no to that?

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You Know, You Could Actually Help Someone On Social Media

I have long followed people on social media I’ve never met and probably never will. If you have similar values, or are funny, or just live in my general area, I’ll follow you.

What tends to happen is they follow back, and over the years we get to know each other’s families even though we probably wouldn’t recognize each other if we passed down the same aisle at the grocery store. Similar pictures at holidays, pics of our kids growing up, comments on how a Washington sports team let us down (except for this month)…we find out we are more the same than different.

It’s the cool part of social media. Conversely, there are times like the last few days on Twitter (and it’s now starting to bleed into Facebook) where we’re back to the “I’m going to shout out a declarative sentence that oversimplifies a complex issue and makes you look like a monster” phase.

It’s what I call the “impulse control” days of Twitter and Facebook. React to such statements from a friend and you won’t change their mind; you’ll just lose them as a friend. Debate a stranger and you’ll get dragged into an ugly circle of name-calling and snark that you swore to yourself you’d never stoop to.

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D-Day Is More Than Just A Historical Footnote To Me

To some, today is a footnote in history. A day on the beaches of Normandy 74 years ago when an event codenamed Operation Overlord was launched, beginning what many say was the beginning of the end of World War II.

D-Day.

It will always be more than history to me, because in that first wave was a 21-year-old Private First Class from Henry County, VA by the name of Allen Homer Sink. He would survive that initial wave, participate in battle until it ended in August, then come home to marry and raise a family of four, including two daughters after the war ended.

He would also become my father-in-law until his death in 2006.

His nickname for some reason was “Hank” and when I asked him how he got it, he said some guy in the Army said he “looked like a Hank.” From the time I first met him, he was a salt-of-the-earth man who was never afraid of anything. He was a carpenter by trade, and he’d stand up on the tallest roofs, grab bumblebees with his bare hands when they tried to persuade him to move elsewhere, and never be bothered by anything.

His hands were tough and leathery, but he was a softie. He spoiled his children, complained when my mother-in-law would gripe about something involving one of his alleged misdeeds, and always thought he was fooling everybody when he snuck around the back of the house and lit a cigarette, a habit everyone opposed but he could never part himself from.

He could talk your ear off for hours at a time, and I always suggested he become a greeter at Wal-Mart when he retired because then he could talk all day to strangers and none of them would – like his wife and daughters often did – tell him to be quiet for a few moments. Yet for all his love of talking, there was one subject he just wouldn’t discuss.

June 6, 1944. Omaha Beach.

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Don't Laugh, You're Probably Just As Superstitious Too

It just occurred to me that I may have to stop writing stuff for this site for another week or two.

It's because I am extremely superstitious when it comes to sports (don’t laugh, you know you are too). Around mid-April, the Caps were down 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs, every time I mentioned them something bad happened to them, and I stopped. They rebounded, won the series with Columbus, then Pittsburgh, then Tampa Bay.

So Friday, believing the curse was over, I started posting regularly again.

Then the Caps lost Monday night.

I realize the actions of one old man in Ashburn Farm should not have any effect on the play of a dozen or more professional athletes from all over the world who are doing battle 2,000 miles away. But sports fans are not always given to rational thought.

And I’m not alone in this regard.

I, for example, know whether my favorite team won or lost when I was wearing just about every shirt or jersey I own. If I eat a particular meal and one of my teams has a big win, I eat the same meal before the next big game. If I get up and go in the kitchen for a particular soft drink or snack and I come back and my team has hit a home run, scored a touchdown, gotten a goal, etc….I go back and get another when that teams needs a big play.

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On This Memorial Day, I Remember A Total Stranger. Again.

Every Memorial Day, for the last nine years, I dig up an old copy of a story I wrote on Memorial Day in 2009. It involves a young man I had never met, and who would forever be a total stranger to me.

He was a hero. A husband. A Dad. And a big fan of the Washington Capitals. If he were alive today, he’d be 35 years old and probably doing what the rest of us will be doing tonight: glued to a television set, wearing an Ovechkin jersey, and cheering on the Caps along with his two kids, who by now should be teenagers.

Here’s the story:

On this Memorial Day, I find myself thinking of a Marine I never met. And never will.

His name was James. R. McIlvaine. He grew up in Olney, Md., and his mother lives in Purcellville. He was killed in Iraq on April 30 while saving the life of another. He was 26 years old, and the father of two children.

Unfortunately, most of us see news like this every day in the newspaper. We pause, read the details, feel for the family, then turn the page and move on. We don’t dwell on it for too long, because it is inevitable that another face, another name, and another set of circumstances regarding a battlefield casualty will be in the paper in a few more days.

This one was different, because not long afterward my phone rang. McIlvaine had a rather large immediate family, including three sets of grandparents, and the local VFW wanted to make the trip from Purcellville to Arlington Cemetery as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. Four SUVs had been secured (two donated for the day by Ray Glembot at Star Pontiac GMC in Leesburg) and a police escort would be provided.

What they needed was one more driver. Could I spare the day, I was asked, to drive one of the vehicles?

The answer, obviously, was “of course.”

My SUV included McIlvaine’s grandmother, uncle and sister. During the drive to Arlington, I learned McIlvaine was a huge hockey fan and a big Redskins follower. He loved being a Marine. He had lost his own father at a young age, and as his uncles, aunts and grandparents reached out to fill that void when he was young, he had taken a similar leadership role in the lives of younger members of his extended family.

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mist

29.6°F

Ashburn

Mist

Humidity: 96%

Wind: 2.84 m/h

Sun

light rain

29/49°F

Mon

scattered clouds

30/54°F

Tue

light rain

28/44°F

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