Friday, May 30, 2008

Ending the madness.

I think we found a place to get married! After several months of visiting various potential venues and dealing with such issues as extremely expensive chair rentals, reception halls filled with cheesy knick-knacks, and venue-operators who seemed more interested in expressing their personal opinions versus actually listening to what we wanted for our own wedding....this is a big deal. The place is called "Deer Park Country Inn" and it's awesome. Absolutely perfect. You can check it out here: It's beautiful, it's remote without being a million miles out of the way, it's quiet, the planner/chef is very nice and accomodating, they have their own cat, Marmalade, who follows you around the place like a dog, they can do things within our budget. If this place was a person, I would kiss him/her.

An open statement to my creepy future cousins-in-law: I love that you look at my blog! I don't think you are really creepy at all! You have cool lives and wonderful families and I enjoy looking at your blogs as well. I hear about you all the time and I hear nothing but wonderful things! My only regret is that I've yet had a chance to actually meet you. But, this gives me the advantage of seeming very mysterious and sketchy, when in fact I am really very average and boring. If there were anything creepy about you at all it's that many of you look uncannily exactly like my future mother-in-law. However, being that my future mother-in-law is extremely young, attractive, intelligent, engaging, radiant, and a wonderful cook, this makes the whole "doppelganger" thing decidely less creepy. I already feel like one of the family. I feel like an honorary Arkansian...kind of like Hillary.

Several excellent, positive things occurred this past week: we got to spend the weekend in Deep Creek at the Lakehouse and while it was a skeleton crew this year (Zach and Cass are in Europe, Becky, Peter, Hannah, and Rachel have moved to New all are missed!!) I got to spend some really good time with my future brother-in-law, James. I had never had that much of an opportunity to hang out with James, especially one-on-one, as he's spent most of my and Megan's relationship dodging bullets and eating spam in Afghanistan. And although I did not wake up at 5:30 every morning to run 5 miles with him, I was delighted to get to know him better. He's a very calm, intelligent, insightful person with a great understanding of world politics and affairs (I have a bachelor's in International Studies, so these are topics of great interest to me) and I am excited that he's home safe with Tiffany and is starting what is essentially a "new" life as he will be departing the Army at some point and starting school. Maybe I can even talk him into being an International Studies major? Or sleeping in until 9:30 on weekends?

Kole has pretty much been in a good mood this week and has been in precious little trouble at school. This is a big deal and makes for an excellent week. Save for one episode where he was throwing rocks and accidentally nailed his teacher in the head, he's been pretty good. Kole also had fun at the Lake House with boat rides, bike-riding, and lots of time with Dandaddy, Nana, and the crew. That boy can't get enough of his Dandaddy and Nana and being around them always puts him in a good mood.

Tomorrow I get to toss myself into a throng of dancing pseudo-hippies at the Dave Matthews Band show in Pittsburgh. It's supposed to storm a lot tomorrow. I suppose the one good thing that might come out of it all is that the hippies will get their once-a-week bath. And Megan will be happy, unless she gets soaked. P.S.-I am not a hippie. I like guns and trucks.

My Mom has been in a great deal of pain lately. She is slated for back surgery in late July to get some discs fixed that have been giving her a great deal of physical hardship over the past several months. She's been on a lot of pain meds, pain patches, and has even received several epidural shots to keep her pain at bay until the surgery can take place. At any rate, I can hear the pain in her voice when I talk to her, see it in her face when I'm home, and I would appreciate it if you would throw a prayer or two her way. I am anxious for her to get this surgery under her belt and hopefully start feeling better and more mobile by the end of summer.

Kole has developed quite the rap with the ladies. I wish I could say that his approach ranges from the sort of subtle to the extremely smooth, but the range is more from the not-so-subtle (to the scantily-clad high school girls walking down the street in front of my house: "Hey, girls, wait for me...I want to kiss you!!!") to the downright awkward (to the babysitter: "Does your pee-pee stick out?"). Anyway, he's begun to show interest in girls who are not his mom. I don't remember being at all interested in girls when I was 4, but then again, I don't remember much at all from when I was 4. As long as he doesn't accost or attack anyone, I'm going to chalk it up to normal development. He does tickle this girl Emily in his class quite a bit, however. I am dreading the day, however, when I actually have to explain to him "how things work".

I started P90X, my new workout tapes, and I feel like someone beat me with a lead pipe and then ran over me with a truck. Tons of pull-ups, pushups, and an ab exercise routine that is like something straight from the inquisition. Everything hurts, but I feel good for having start it. Only 89 days to go to a slimmer, more ripped Zach Brown. I am hoping, however, that my 34-year old hips can hack it.

Alrighty. I hope all is well with everyone. More later...

Friday, May 16, 2008

You Are Here

It's been a long time since I've sat down and taken the time to update my blog. It's been a long 12 weeks. I'm not even sure where to begin.

Work: I've got no less than 9 or so projects going at one time. Maddening, but fulfilling. The one I am probably most proud of at the moment is our Transitional Housing for the Homeless and Permanent Housing for the Homeless Disabled Projects. We have named them "Next Step" which is my idea and sort of sounds like a brand of kitty litter. Nonetheless, feel free to check out some of the renderings of the project: It'll be right smack in the middle of downtown Fairmont and the look is going to elicit the same sort of effect as one could expect from asparagus or bluegrass music. People are either going to love it or hate it. We'll start building this summer, and thus will begin some very long, stressful days for me. I can't wait until it's finished. I'll probably just stand there and weep like a 7 year old girl.

Movies: I've tried to get back up to speed on movies lately. I just saw "Iron Man" last night and I really liked it. Other notable movies I've seen lately are "Into the Wild" and the entire "Comanche Moon" (Lonesome Dove series) mini-series. I seriously just took a Friday and watched the whole thing. I love the Lonesome Dove series. As far as westerns are concerned, you can't beat them. In fact, I shall rank for you my favorite Westerns of all time in order of quality.

1. Lonesome Dove Series. (not really the middle ones, but the original Lonesome Dove movie with Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones, and Comanche Moon).

2. Silverado.

3. Unforgiven.

4. 3:10 to Yuma.

5. Tombstone.

If it weren't for pesky issues like laws and the continual progression of a technological society, I would have been a fairly quirky gunslinger.

Music: Both Megan's and my Mp3 players blew up quite a while ago and not having music on the go has been like some sort of sensory deprivation. I honestly would neve have guessed how it would have affected me, but it's seriously been sort of depressing. We used to sing (all three of us) a lot in the truck, and Kole has lost the ability to listen to some of his favorites that I squirrelled away for him in my music library (Kole, like his almost-stepdad, is a man of extremes. He is just as pleased with Dora songs as he is with Led Zeppelin or Tool). Kole's a bit of a rocker, though, and his tastes tend to lean toward harder, more aggressive music.

By the way, I love this video:

Also, Megan has talked me into going to Dave Matthews. The deal was, she has to go see my favorite band, Clutch, with me this week in Morgantown and I'll go to Dave Matthews. I underestimated how busy I was going to be this week, though, and I don't even know if we'll make it to Clutch now. I've seen them about 6 times, though, and it's been quite awhile. They are incredible live performers.

I just got a new Blackberry for work. My reasoning for this was two-fold: I am getting killed on minutes with my personal cell phone due to work calls, and I thought it would be cool to be able to check my e-mail on the move without busting out my laptop every 10 minutes. So far, I really like it. It's pretty easy to use and helps me keep on top of things. I always thought I might not want to be THAT connected, but so far (for the 15 hours I've had it) I like it.

We just celebrated Megan's birthday. I got her a big, new grill and a bistro set of table and chairs for her patio. She loves to grill and I got tired of seeing her struggle with her broken down, dollar store charcoal grill. So, I thought it was time for a big ol' gas grill. She's yet to use it because I need to go get a propane tank and it's been raining like crazy for three days. Check the grill out at top, because I couldn't figure out how to get it down here.
I've been running around screaming "I've got the apnea!", because I do. I have felt tired all the time for years. It's better when I am exercising regularly, but it's sort of all always been there. I have snored for years, and thus I have never felt like I really get a good night's sleep. Well, despite the general distrust for the medical community that I inherited from my dad, I decided to finally do something about it and go to the sleep lab. They hook you up to about 15-20 different diodes all over your body and they watch you sleep. Not the most comfortable gig in the world, but apprently effective. I just got my results, and found out I have severe sleep apnea. I completely stop breathing about 33 times during the night, have labored breath about 155 times a night, and, on the average, my sleep is disturbed every 1.5 minutes. My jaunts into actual REM sleep are brief visits at best. So, I go back in about 2 weeks and sleep again with a CPAP. It's basically a mask that forces air into your nose and mouth and allows you to get enough oxygen during sleep. Everyone tells me you feel like a champ after you get one, so we'll see. Maybe I won't need as much coffee as I do now? :)

Alright, that's pretty much all I've got in way of an update right now.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bok, Bok, E-Bunny.

It's Easter and we ate too much! Easter is one of those holidays I always looked forward to as a kid. I got to dress up, the weather was just starting to break, I got new clothes, and I was shuttled to church with a healthy sugar buzz. I will, however, (I know, it's hard to believe that I might indeed throw some cynicism in here) think that the actual meaning of Easter gets a little overshadowed by our giant, creepy, poofy-tailed friend who hops into the living room and leaves a basket of fake grass and goodies. Not to mention (spoiler alert!!), the aforementioned friend was the one who tipped me off to the fact there was no Santa Clause. My over-developed sense of childhood logic and my grandmother's unwillingness to lie to me following direct questions, conspired to lift the ever delicate veneer of magical holiday heroes from my eyes, wrecking my carefully constructed belief in sleighs full of magical reindeer, giant rodents kicking off my spring with milk chocolate, and tiny fairies airlifting giant bags of quarters all over the world, monetarily rewarding the loss of baby teeth. My tiny brain thought "giant bunny? in my house? bringing candy? no way. what else could be a giant lie?". And thus began a new era of less magical holidays. Being around a 4-year old that still buys the magic, however, has added a new dimension of fun to the whole thing that I've been lacking for several years. It's cool to see him get excited, and allows me to vicariously feel a bit of that excitement again. And, there's always ham. Ham is exciting.

Wedding planning. I am feeling a tremendous amount of guilt over wedding planning. Contrary to popular belief (and the fact that it is literally a part of my job title) I am not much of a planner. So far, we have been about as successful at planning our wedding as Coach Rodriguez was at tactfully making a lateral job move. We looked at one venue: too expensive. We placed another venue in our sights: they would never call us back, lost their chef, and put the whole place up for sale. So, we are on the venue hunt again. Meg found a dress she really, really liked, then second-guessed it due to price, and now is looking again. I have, admittedly, not been very helpful in my suggestions: "We'll get the dress anyway!": shot down. "How about kilts?!?": shot down. "Man, a nacho bar would be cool!": as of this writing, being contemplated with a potentially positive result. I honestly would marry the woman in a tool shed if she were wearing manure-covered overalls (and in a rare moment of politcal correctness, I will apologize in advance to anyone belonging to a culture who believes in poop-covered matrimony), but in the end I want her to be happy. I view our wedding as an "us" moment, but a "her" time to shine. And a potential "nacho time" for all involved.

That's all I've got for now. Happy Easter!!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Taxation Without Representation

Good morning! I write to you from the hustling, bustling District you know as your Nation's Capital. I am literally right down the street from the Capitol Building and just about two blocks over from Union Station. As I sip my $5.00 coffee and toss the wrapper from my $4.50 cheese danish, I can't help but wonder what the week holds for me. I haven't been in DC since I was in high school, and while I tend to find a trip to the city...any city...refreshing and invigorating, the timing was just off on this one and I'm not feeling much of either.

If anyone knows me a lick, they know I don't particularly enjoy the hobbing and knobbing that goes with my job. I regard it, at best, as a necessary evil, and at worst, a complete waste of time. Like my Dad always says to me when I go to one of these things "You're certainly among them, aren't you, buddy?". And yes, I am among them. Especially this trip, as my entire day tomorrow will be spent lurking through the halls of the Congress, meeting with the staffs of Senators and Congressmen and Congresswomen (Congresspeople??), explaining our issues, our challenges, what we do, etc. as they smile blankly and act interested.

Working for an organization whose primary sources of funding start at the Federal levels makes it simply a matter of practical necessity that I deal with bureaucracy on several levels...local, state, federal. And while I do indeed like meeting all sorts of people, the more I engage these different levels, the more I lose faith regarding how our country, state, and localities work. Doesn't leave me with feelings of warm, fuzzy hope for the future.

Normally, I would simply be invigorated by being in the city. Hopping cabs from one cool shop, restaurant, and site to another. But this trip, I just want to get it done and get back home. Too much going on in my personal and work life at home to be able to relax and enjoy my $5 coffee and my $28 appetizer-sized salad and crabcake. My only saving grace this trip is a Starbucks in the lobby, and two cool, rustic Irish pubs right next to each other around the corner with good food and Guinness on tap. I'm also close to Union Station, which is really cool, beautiful, has a lot of neat shops and allows me to sit and people watch.

Somebody important was here this morning because as I walked outside to fetch a paper, there was a cop car and a very serious Police SUV sandwiching a very serious black Cadillac with a driver in front of the hotel. Not sure who it was. Maybe Hillary was coming to visit me and I wasn't available. Maybe Obama ran up to my room and I was outside reading the post. Maybe McCain wanted to chat with me before he ran over to the White House for lunch. If so, sorry guys. I was getting a paper and my $5 coffee.

On a high note, I have had the opportunity to listen to Michael Beschloss speak. He is an author and a Presidential historian and I used to watch him on Imus in the Morning quite regularly on MSNBC before it was cancelled. He was funny, and interesting, and so far it's made my trip.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Carry on, my wayward son...

What a week. A week to end all weeks. Kole finally caught the cold crud that we were hoping he would avoid, but he's better now. That being said, he has decided to go on a rampage of bad behavior that makes King Kong look like Snuggles. In the course of a week, Megan and I have experienced a degree of defiance and craziness from him that neither one of us have seen before. He has knocked his tv off its stand, knocked his lamp over, consumed marbles (which is amazing..Kole won't even eat sloppy joes or anything with gravy on it) and the coup de grace: climbed up his chest of drawers, toppling his turtle tank and the ant farm sitting next to it. By The Grace of God, he was not seriously harmed (minor cuts on his fingers), but Megan and I were needless to say, a bit rattled after plucking him out of a pile of shattered glass, turtle-tainted water, gravel, and drowning ants. Teeny Tiny Tim (The turtle formally known as Kole's) did indeed survive the ordeal, but has been whisked away to an undisclosed location (Nana's House) to convalesce and recover from post-traumatic stress disorder before being enrolled into the second grade at Blackshere Elementary School in Mannington. God Speed, Tiny Tim. Be cool and stay in school. Study hard and make us proud.

Now, I'm putting a somewhat humorous spin on a series of events that have left us stressed, exhausted, praying, thankful (that Kole wasn't injured more severely) and in tears (not necessarily in that order). Since then, our lives have been filled with two hour, screaming and crying "time outs", behavior progression charts "now, you get a smiley sticker for going to bed and a frowny face if you whine" and Kole's room has been cleared of all...well, everything...except books and a bed. It is lock-down at Windridge Manor, and we're trying to progress with wisdom, consistency, and patience.

Megan and I, being two very distinct personalities save for our unending stubbornness, have ironically dealt with this situation with much the same kind of emotion and reaction. Nothing makes you feel like more of a failure than your misbehaving child. I feel horrible, because I am the newest addition to the scene, and thus feel a great deal of responsibility, while she feels horrible because she's always been on the scene and can't figure out where this is coming from. But, we keep communicating about it and personal feelings aside, this truly isn't about us. This is about Kole. I want nothing more for him than for him to grow into a decent, caring, Christian man. A better man than I have ever or could ever be. I long for him to have the kind of love and guidance Megan and I had as kids, and far richer life experience than either one of us have ever had. I hope that with love, time, and prayer, we can get where we need to be. But right now, it feels like we're crawling through a marathon (if you haven't gotten the hint yet, please feel free to send some prayers our way). But we are trudging through, ever the stubborn trio of misfits.

Out of all of this, however, have sprung some good things for me. Some "silver linings" per se. I first will say publicly, that Megan is an amazing woman and wonderful mother. I would have never had the strength, selflessness, and presence of mind to have done as good a job raising Kole as she's done up to this point on her own. I think it's a testament to her character, her strength, and her sheer will that she hasn't mentally crumbled before now. She is a guide to me in how I should parent, and a constant supporter of my place in this situation. I waited a very long time to get married (I am a fresh, precocious 34), and it is precisely for this reason: I have waited my entire life to marry a woman like Megan. She was well worth the long trek of crappy, confusing relationships and more than worth the wait. My love has waited a long time for a place to land, and it couldn't have landed in a finer spot than Ms. Haugh.

I have responded to the stress of the week's events in an extremely forward-thinking manner that befits my advanced age: I spent a bunch of money. We are now officially owners of an X-Box 360, and 4 games: Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare (mine), Cars, Maternational (Koleman's), Sonic the Hedgehog, and American Idol (Both Megan's). We're not obsessed yet, but it's giving us something we can do as a family during bad weather that's a little different. I went looking for a Wii (and still want one) but got the X-Box 360 anyway. To balance out the laziness of sitting on the couch and executing precise, military, special operations missions all over the virtual globe, I have also order the workout package P90X. I used to work out pretty vigorously via running and weights, but life, love, and work have conspired to make me more sedentary than I've been in some time. I was not blessed with the genes of Megan's family in that I cannot eat all the time and still remain trim, so lest I turn into "Oh, look at Megan's new husband..he's so cute...he's like a little bowling ball with a beard!", I need to take matters into my own hands and start up again. The premise behind P90X is "muscle confusion". Lots of different routines that keep your muscles shocked and your brain from being bored. The success stories I've seen have been very impressive, so we'll see. I'm not afraid to work out hard, and never have been, and I hope this is a routine I can stick to. Perhaps I'll take some "before" and "after" pictures. We need some new photos for this year's Christmas card anyway.

Over and out....

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's Alive!!!

We have been sick. Incredibly sick. First, Megan was really sick and then I got it. Kole is the only one who's been spared (knock on wood). I feel like I've awaken from some sort of zombiesque nightmare after almost a week of total sickness. Megan was really, really bad for several days. To the point I was getting really concerned; dark spots under her eyes, horrible fever, she just lay on the couch feeling miserable. Then, wham! I got it as well. Monday was the first day I haven't had a fever in almost a week, and Tuesday was the first day I actually felt somewhat normal. We are all much healthier now, and a lot less cranky. But it's been like some sort of exile. We haven't seen our friends, parents.....anyone in probably over two weeks. That's depressing. And a bit maddening. And poor Kole...he's been BORED. I don't blame him. Watching us sweat and drink Gatorade between shots of NyQuil couldn't have been very exciting. I made some passable chicken noodle soup in the midst of it all, though. And it healed us. With its magic carrots.

We are addicted to HGTV. We are addicted to house-flipping shows, property virgin shows, that "sleep on it" sleep overnight-in-the-house you're going to-buy show, that "redesign to sell" show. I now can match throw pillows with drapes and understand what sort of tile and countertops sell the best and hold anti-microbial properties. I am hoping all this knowledge will be helpful as we start our house hunt within the year. I can't wait! It will be awesome to have a space of our own. It will be awesome to go home to anything that isn't my cramped house or Megan's cramped apartment. It will be awesome for Kole to have a yard to play in. It will be awesome to have a fire pit for outside campfires. It will be awesome to have Megan, Kole, my cats, and all my stuff located in one convenient space that is ours. I am also looking forward to the tactical handgun range my friends, my future brother-in-law, and I will construct in our backyard just adjacent to the firepit (hoping to slip this one in without Megan seeing it).

Happy Valentine's Day! This is the first of many for Megan and I and we all exchanged gifts last night. Kole got his Mom a huge card and a candle, and I got her a card, made her a Mind Map, and am taking her on a fancy date. Kole got a Diego card, a dinosaur puzzle, and a whole box of powdered donuts (Kole holds the sort of regard for small, powdered donuts that most of us reserve for religious icons, celebrities, or sports heroes). Megan got me a card and made an awesome frame with pictures of her and I in it. I even liked all the pictures. My head didn't look overly pumpkin-like in any of them.

Naturally, being sick made time for the viewing of several movies. Since Megan and I watched most of them together, I tended to err on the side of picking out the sort of movies she would like. "The Heartbreak Kid" was pretty funny and we enjoyed "Stardust". I did happen to slip in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" while I was sick at home and Megan was at school. It was interesting, but very bleak. I don't recommend watching it while you have a fever. Not a very action-packed Western, either. But excellent acting by Brad Pitt.

I am echoing Zach Haugh's latest blog mention regarding the weather. I am officially sick of this weather. I used to love winter, especially when I was a kid. It was so much fun, so beautiful. But lately, it's done nothing but get on my nerves. The cold, the wind, the ice. I think I'm just getting old. I find no joy in 5 degree wind traveling 45 mph into my face, beard or no beard.

That's all I have for now, kids...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Take this job and love it...

Another crazy week on Brown/Haugh world. Megan's student teaching is soon in full swing, and I'm living on coffee and working early/late a lot. NOT looking forward to a week spent in Charleston pandering to legislators, then the Feds, then legislators again, only to rush back so Megan can get to Zumba class on Thursday and prep for the Grant Class I'm teaching at WVU Friday morning. But such is our life, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Kole Greyson never ceases to amaze me. The parenting thing, for me (and I imagine for most people), is a constant act of self-doubting and second guessing. Am I being too hard on him? Too soft? Is he picking up my bad habits and ill manners? Is it necessarily good to request from a child that he, at some point, scream "China!" in some place in Arkansas, just because I want him too? I have spent a life of saying what I want, doing what I want (for the most part), and acting generally as crazy and idiotic as I pleased. Now, the consequences are always there...waiting to bite me in the butt. His mother neither appreciates it, nor finds it cute when she takes him to a store and he makes "asian" eyes at passers-by screaming "pingy pang chang chaw!!" and I don't blame her. That's embarrassing, fairly racist, and generally not nice. And I am 110% to blame. But it's these sorts of things that require us to make choices: While something may make he and I laugh so hard we squirt juice out our noses when we do it at home, it may not be the best activity for public consumption. On the other hand, maybe I feel the world is too overly-sensitive and I am subconsciously sending him out into the world, with four-year old immunity, to grate against the societal "norms". Like my personal little ambassador with diplomatic immunity. But that, most likely, is probably all BS. Probably more to the point is the fact that I am still learning, always learning, what being a parent means. It is easily the most difficult job I've ever had. I lead people, I make decisions, I deal with millions of dollars, but daily being part of a two-person unit trying to turn a tiny person into a good human being is far more difficult. I am lucky, however, in that I had great parents who gave me a good template to apply to parenthood. I am still often scared to death about what kind of "father" I am being, but at least I have the benefit of being given the kind of guidance that, at the time, I didn't respect very much, but now, is easily the greatest gift my parents ever gave me.

I love movies. I love the story arcs (3:10 to Yuma), I love the visuals (Lord of the Rings), I love when they make me think (No Country For Old Men), and I love when they allow me to not think at all (Predator). Nothing in this world beats the first time I watched "Open Range" and in the intial gun fight, Kevin Costner's character just walks up to the one "real killer" in the line of men facing him and pegs him squarely in the head. I love it when movies, good movies, shock me for that split second. Nothing beats TRULY being surprised by a movie on that first viewing (Fight Club, The Usual Suspects). And few things are more gratifying when a movie makes you feel like "wow, they really captured my viewpoint on life a little, or at least what I wished my viewpoint was.."(Happy Feet...just kidding....Braveheart).

Kole Greyson Haughis officially a Daft Punk fan. Kole loves robots and he loves louder, repetitive music, so a band made up of two guys who pretend to be robots and play loud, repetitive electronica are very much up his alley. They're also about the only good thing coming out of France at the moment, other than cheese. Come, enjoy one of Kole's favorite videos,Robot Rock: