Sunday, May 31, 2009


Hey Josh, wait for us to open the box, will ya?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Back Again

I see that it's been a while, and as usual, we've been busy.

Josh is going to school from 9 til 12 now, not great, but for now the best we can hope for from our school system. They are hiring an aid to work with him one on one for next year. This is good. Josh has also decided he likes skateboards.

Ben came home last weekend for the Memorial Day weekend. Needless to say, his friends all came over as well. Then we had three nieces stayed with us for a few days, and one nephew came by to spend the night. At one point I turned to Sheila and said, "Do you realize there are 14 kids in this house right now?"

"Really?" was her only reply. She is way too calm sometimes. So I had to gather them all together for proof. Here it is.

There was no party planned or get together organized. These were just kids who decided to drop by. One of these guys was Preston's friend from across the street. His dad came by about 9 to get him and said that he was going to nominate us for that show Extreme Home Makeover. His words, if anyone deserves it, you guys do. I don't know about that. I'd settle for the same house with fewer people.

Preston's got a ball game today that we're getting ready to head out for. He's been struggling with batting recently but he got a good hit last time. We were happy, and so was he.

One of my customers in Lafayette, IN has moved. they said that it would be a lot easier to get in as their last lot was extremely tight and you had to get all the way over to the left by the fence to get turned around so you could back into the dock. This new place is much easier to turn around in although their new dock is tighter than anything I've seen so far.

If you don't get your trailer lined up exactly right you're going to rip a door off on the concrete walls.

Neither side gives you any room to play with.

But, as usual, I put my masterful skills to work and quickly had the old girl backed in to the tiny hole, to much applause and fanfare from the crowds that gathered to watch me and my skillful backing display. Next week, I have an appointment to meet with a therapist to discuss my humility. I hope he's as good as I am.

I met with an attorney yesterday to see if we could get his help when we go back for Preston's subsidy re-determination. No Help whatsoever. Seems I knew more about the law than he did, his words. That was not very comforting. So I guess we go to the meeting by ourselves and if things don't work out like we feel they should then we file for a Fair Hearing with the state department of Job and Family Services.

Our company had a driver on vacation last week and so the rest of us were covering his runs. As soon as I got back from Chicago, I climbed into our straight truck, which I HATE, that had already been loaded for a short day run to Toledo. I should have been home by about 2 or 3pm which would have given me plenty of time off between runs. But with the air valve blowing out on my dash I didn't get back to the shop til about 915. I wasn't tired so I figured it would be after 10 before I could fall asleep in the truck. If that happened I wouldn't hear the alarm and be ready to leave for Toledo by 3AM. So I figured, what the heck. Let's go to Toledo now. And off I went. Got there about midnight and figured if they didn't have anything for me to take back I would go ahead and yank of my stuff for them and head home. But alas, they had one garden window going back to our shop.

Thinking this might be the case, I had brought my pillows with me so I could curl up on the bench seat. Not very comfortable, but better than not having any pillows. And curl up I did. I awoke about 230 with another ripping headache and waited for that one to go away before laying back down again. At 340 another headache woke me up and this one was worse. I stepped out of the truck to try to walk it off. As it eased up, I headed back to the truck. For some reason I had climbed out on the passengers side, guess that's where I just sat up, and so I went back in that door since I had left it open as I walked around. I pulled the door shut but it wouldn't shut. It never gets used and the latch was pretty stiff. Guess it needs a good slam from the outside, I thought to myself.

So I stepped outside the truck and proceeded to slam the door shut. For some reason though, I reached up quickly as I slammed it and locked the door. BOOM!! Door is shut. AAAUUUUUGGGGHHHH!!!! Various words poured out of my mouth as I realized that I had locked myself out of my truck, with no extra key since it's not my usual truck, at 400 in the morning, in a dock with no one there.

My wallet, my phone, my watch, and my glasses were in the truck, laughing it up with the keys hanging from the ignition. I cursed them all for the selfish fools that they were. Luckily, I still had my shoes on, So I proceeded to walk around the truck trying to find a way in. The International company builds a truck that is very hard to break into without a hammer or a slim jim. Not the meaty snack, the long metal tool crooks use.

After trying to make my own slim jim out of metal banding straps from inside the plant, and unsuccessfully trying to jimmy the door open, I went inside, found a phone and phonebook and started calling lock-out services and towing companies. It's amazing how many people who advertise 24 hour service just don't want to get out of bed at 430 in the morning. I called more than a dozen people and found ONE person who would come to my aid. The damage, you ask? EIGHTY DOLLARS!!! Good thing I had the company credit card. Figured I'd put it on there and pay them back since it was my dumb mistake. But let's make sure this savior takes credit cards before we hang up, shall we? And the answer, Ladies and Gentlemen, is a resounding NO!! Cash only, he says. Who carries $80 in cash with them at 430 in the morning? I don't have $80 in cash, I tell him and he offers to drive me to an ATM. I tell him it wouldn't do him any good unless we went to the one he uses and got it out of his account.

"I have 28 bucks," I tell him.

"I can't come out there for 28 dollars. Sorry." And I hang up. Now we're pushing 5 am and two forklift drivers walk into the office where I'm making calls. I know these guys, and so I ask without any hope whatsoever, "Either one of you have a slim jim and know how to use it?"

"Sure," the big guy replies. "People around here are always locking their keys in their cars and I'm the guy they call. Be right back." And he toodles off to the tool room, grabs the company slim jim, goes to my truck and pops the lock, quick as you please. I am ecstatic! Enthusiastic! So relieved. So I finish up my work and pull up to shut the back doors. It's then that I realize that somewhere in the process of me jerking around inside the door with my sub-par slim jim I have pulled off the rod that connects the inside door handle to the latch. So now to open the door, you have to roll down the window and reach out for the outside handle.

It's also now that I remember how much my boss HATES working inside door panels and I resolve to myself that when I get back, I will fix this problem myself. Can't be too hard, right? A few screws gets the panel off, put the rod back where it belongs and put the panel back. No big deal. HA! This I found out on Thursday when I came back in. I just couldn't get it done on Wednesday since I was way out of energy and had had some fairly lousy sleep that night.

Seems the International people don't want you fixing their doors either without a blow torch to cut off the inside panel. But after an hour and a half, I was finally able to wiggle that little puppy back where it belonged. If I'd known what I was doing to begin with it might have only taken about 30 minutes. Maybe next time.

So that's about it. The weather has been great and this makes for much easier driving. I'm off to Chicago tomorrow afternoon and I think I'll take my time.

Ya'll have fun now, ya hear?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Live from Plymouth, IN

It's a beautiful day outside today. Close to 70 and very sunny.These are the days I long for. It would be an absolutely perfect day but I'm sitting in an International truck dealer's garage while my truck is being worked on. No big deal and I shouldn't be here long, Lord willing and the creek don't rise. I passed through this little town about and hour ago and east of here is a Pilot truck stop where I made use of their facilities, grabbed a couple bananas and some Diet Pepsi, and headed back out on the road.

About a mile down the road the trailer valve on my dash starts blowing air out all around it. You know that sound you get when you blow up a balloon and then stretch the mouth of said balloon as you release the air? Multiply that about 10 times. Scared the crap out of me. Or would have had I not already made use of Pilot's facilities.

Anyway, I quickly realized what it was and also saw that my air gauges were dropping.Not super fast but dropping nonetheless. I pulled over, checked it all out, and after walking around to see what I could hear leaking outside the truck, came to the conclusion that it was probably the valve on the dash itself.

For those of you not intimately familiar with the workings of a tractor-trailers braking system, there are two knobs on the dash that set the brakes and allow air to flow through to the brakes. They are usually colored yellow and red. The yellow knob controls the air going to the brakes on the tractor portion, and the red knob controls the air going to the trailer portion. Unless I have lost a brake chamber and the air is backfeeding through the lines, then the red trailer knob on my dash has just given up the ghost. No big deal, just a swapping out of parts.

So what else? Made five stops in Chicago yesterday and got to the last one. They have one dock for semi's. I pull up and there's a trailer already there. Not the first time. But this trailer has no tractor on it. Meaning it's been dropped there. I walk in and check with the big cheese. Seems this trailer will be there for a few days. Now why would you do that? They know that I'm coming. I've been coming every other Monday for 8 years and another guy came every other Monday for 10 years before me. Like clockwork. So they drop a trailer in the only dock I can use. Big cheese's idea? Use the dock that the pickups use. I see that there are about 5 guys around and so I say sure, as long as I can get some help getting these things off. It's a little tight but I manage to get it in there without tearing anything up, always a good thing, and the deck of the trailer is about a foot higher than the dock. But they get to work and I'm unloaded in short order. It's on to Milwaukee, or more precisely, Waukesha, WI.

I learned last week that one customer up there moved and so I called and got directions to their new place. YUCK! One way into their lot and you have to back in off the street and then jockey around to the left, then the right to get into the dock, then the left again or else you're blocking all cars from leaving the lot. So I get it in there and get their one window off my truck. That's when I notice something. The service guy, who has been there as long as I've been going there, is calling me Mike. Again, I've seen this guy every other week for 8 years, and all that time my name has been John. He's called me John before. I've called him Brian. I've never called him Todd, or Jim, or Esther. So why am I now Mike? And you wanna know something? I didn't correct him. I got the feeling that he was pleased with himself for having "remembered" my name, and I didn't want to embarrass him in front of the other guys. So I can be Mike in Waukesha. I don't mind. My personal philosophy is if I can't remember your name, I call you Boss, or Ma'am. And why does ma'am have an apostrophe in the middle of it.

I learned something else this week. I don't like Slate Podcasts. Any of them. On one of them the sound quality stinks and on all of them they sound like a bunch of whiners. Give me the informational stuff. History, how-to, why does, that sort of thing. That's what I like. That and Meatloaf, the singer, not the dish.

My mother makes good meatloaf though. Not sure what's different about hers. Maybe when she reads this she'll comment and we'll all learn something else new for the week. Hint hint, mom.

It was a nice weekend though, other than the fact that my cluster headaches are back and I went to the ER on Saturday morning. They gave me a shot of Toradol? and put me on oxygen for about an hour and that did it. The doc also gave me some pain meds that seem to work but only if I take them before the headache gets there. So I take a couple before I go to bed at night, since the headaches only come when I'm asleep. And they work very well if you wash them down with a couple of dark beers.

And I will leave you with this thought for these tough economic times. If you want to make money, run a highway construction company in Chicago. I've been going through there for, again, you guessed it, EIGHT YEARS and the construction has not stopped yet. They finish one part and start another. I want that contract. That's almost as lucrative as a department of defense contract.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

This is Ridiculous!

Ok. I'm sitting in a dock in Chicago Ridge, IL, (can you guess what windy city that's close to?) and on the bottom of my browser is an exclamation point inside a stop sign symbol. This is from my Accuweather Add-on for Firefox and it's a sign of a Severe Weather Alert for my hometown. So I click on it wondering what sort of weather Sheila is in for while I bask in the warmth of Chicago and Milwaukee. And this is what I find...

934 PM EDT SUN MAY 17 2009





Did you see that? If not go back and look closer. I'll wait.

See it now?


I mean, come on already. We're halfway through May and June, which holds my anniversary, is right around the corner and these guys are calling for a FRIGGIN' FREEZE WARNING. And did you see the part where it says "a few locations may dip into the upper 20's"? UPPER 20's?!? Now the good thing is that we are supposed to have dry weather, as in no precipitation. If we did it would likely turn into snow!

Snow in May.

Is there anything more depressing?

Maybe it would be snow in June.

When I left the house today all the windows were open. I imagine by now they are closed. But then Sheila's hot all the time. When the rest of us are freezing our tuckus's off she's walking around in shorts and a t-shirt. So maybe the windows are still open. I know my bunk heater is running and it's only about 52 outside where I am now.

Ohio weather. Simply Ridiculous.

On to other things. Isaac went to his first dance Saturday. Three girls showed up at my house Saturday evening to pick him up and make sure he got there. The curious thing was that none of the three were his current girlfriend. Hmmm. Not sure what to make of that.

So he gets home that evening, at about 9, and I ask him how it was.

"It was alright."

"Was (girlfriend's name) there?"


"Did you dace with her?"


"Why not?"

"I don't know how to dance. Besides, she doesn't either."

"So what'd you do for two and a half hours?"

"Mostly just walked around the room."

I thought of commenting on his lack of wooing skills as far as the dance was concerned, but then I remembered that I wouldn't even go to a dance when I was his age, even after being invited by a girl. Even into high school I never would go. So I guess I had no room to talk. So...

"Did you eat?" I said.

"Yeah." And that was it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dad meets Girl

Hana and I met Isaac's girlfriend today. This is a girl that he, apparently, has been dating since December. He's never "taken her out" but she has got him getting up before noon on a Saturday to play tennis with her while her little brother is across the street playing baseball.

So we figured it was time that we met this young lady who stole my son's heart. Sheila was off with Preston and Nijal at a school program and I stayed home with Josh since he won't sit still for any of that sort of stuff. Before she left I asked Sheila where Isaac was and she said that he was playing tennis again with his girl.


I finished feeding Josh and finished my own plate and me and Hana took a walk with Josh down to the park. This was going to be fun.

Isaac saw, or heard, us coming and called out to "Joshie". So this was a good sign. No embarrassment, not yet at least. I would see what I could do to remedy that.

Isaac and his young lady were on one court and a court at the other end had two old guys playing, so I refrained from turning Josh loose to just run. We chatted a little with Isaac and forced him to introduce us to his "friend". All was well. She seemed nice and I was happy for him.

As I was leaving I hollered over my shoulder, "Isaac?"

"Yeah, Dad?"

"I wouldn't stay out too long. Mom finished cooking dinner and you know how much she just loves barbecued cat so there might not be much left if you don't come home soon."

His quick-witted response, "I hope she used the kittens this time. You know how tough they get when they get old. You can't hardly chew them."

That's my boy.

Heh heh.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's, Mileage, and Menus

It's not Mother's Day anymore, by about 28 minutes, but I'm thankful that my kids have a mother such as they do to celebrate that day with. She is an amazing lady who deserves a better husband than she has. So in honor of her on this special day, I ran by Subway after church, picked up sandwiches for everyone, and we had lunch around the table, all 8 of us plus Ben's sweetie, and afterwards we played a rousing game of Uno. This is what she wanted. So this is what she got. We had a blast. A nap followed and after I woke up, I called my own mother and wished her a Happy Mother's Day as well.

I would not be who I am today were it not for these two women. For them both, I am extremely grateful.

So how's life this week, you ask? Great. We had what I hope is the last IEP meeting for a while and it went well. I felt better prepared and I felt that I was heard this time. I see a great improvement in both these kids, even after just being with us for three months. It's encouraging.

I have a very short run this week. Seven windows in four stops and I'm not going any farther, further? farther? than Lafayette, IN. I could even be back home tomorrow night. Sheila would be happy, I think. But the week following looks to be quite busy. We've got a driver going on vacation and so I'll be helping to cover his runs. One thing about a light load like this is that the fuel mileage is great. 9.37 for a semi is great. But then I might as well be empty for what little weight I have on here. I recently had some issues with injectors and the intake gasket on this thing which dropped my mileage quite a bit, but that seems to be all taken care of now. She goes in later this week for an acid bath to get the winter crud off the aluminum parts. Then I'll probably spend some time polishing this week since I'll have the extra time anyway.

Preston and Nijal have been playing Coach Pitch baseball and loving it. They are both excellent players even if it is a bit of a chore to get them out the door and actually to the practices on time. But they're having fun and that's all that counts.

One of the great, if infrequent, pleasures of this lifestyle that we call trucking, is that we sometimes run across something interesting. Several months back I found such a place. Al & Joe's Delicatessen. It's a little corner store that was run by two Italian men who really know what subs are supposed to be. I believe one of the owners has passed away. I found this place after our company started with a new customer. Al & Joe's is in Franklin Park, IL, a suburb of Chicago, next to the railroad tracks, overlooked by the highway which passes by about 50 feet away, and I have to go right by them to get out of this industrial area in which I deliver. There is just enough room next to the highway retaining wall for me to park my truck and run in and grab an 8 inch Italian sub. They are fabulous, made with real Italian bread and I don't know what all else. Seems like maybe salami, ham, or capricola, lettuce, tomato, onion, Italian dressing, (and not that sweet crap), and some spicy relish mix. I love them. It's not that big of a place and it looks like it hasn't been remodeled since they opened in the 60's, but I have never had a better sub that at Al & Joe's. If you ever find yourself near or at O'hare Airport, see if you can't get a ride over there. It's not far and I promise you won't regret it.

Well, that's about it. I better head off now. Ya'll have a good evening and we'll talk again later.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The weak in revue

It's Sunday night again and I'm in Burns Harbor, IN at a Pilot truck stop. They wanna call them Travel Centers now. Guess it sounds better.

After rereading my last post I thought some of you may be wondering how m Monday worked out. Well, it worked out fairly well. It was just barely past 5pm when I got to Indianapolis, and they were kind enough to have a fellow wait for me (they are usually gone by 430). And then it was on to Lafayette, IN where I had called ahead and it the man there said if his salesman was gone by 7 he would come back to the shop and meet me so I could get his one window off the truck and be on my way. I pulled in about 645 and all was well. Interesting though since they had moved since the last time I was there. Not very far, and it was easy to find, but that was the narrowest dock I have ever seen. It's got concrete walls on both sides and if you are crooked in the dock you're hitting one wall or another. TIGHT, TIGHT, TIGHT! But there's enough room to get it in straight so no big deal. Just interesting.

But it was very nice of these folks to wait for me. This allowed me to get further on to Oakwood, IL that night before I ran out of time, and I wish I had run out of time earlier. This place was a dump. Two trucks stop, certainly not good enough to be called travel centers, and both of them had lots that were so full of holes I was afraid I'd lose the truck in one of them. Add to that the fact that it's been raining all day and the holes are full of water so you can't see how deep they are. Turns out a couple were a little deeper than I would have liked had I known. What a mess. Really muddied my floor up good that night. But sleep soon came and the next day was on to St Louis. This was the place I always try to get to in the middle of the night due to the size of the lot and the fact that once cars get in there and park, you can't get a truck turned around in the lot. Alas, this was the case come Tuesday. It was about noon when I got there and this meant backing in off the street, which was not a truck friendly street, and then all the way down the building to the last two dock available. When I was finished, my truck was 90 degrees in relation to my trailer and it was not pretty. I did have one lady stand there and watch me maneuver. When I was done and stepping out she said, "Don't know how you guys do it." All I said was "Very slowly. And some days you feel like you know what you're doing and some days you don't."

So overall, all went well on that trip. Now I'm waiting to get into Chicago in the morning and then on to Waukesha, WI. I've got 33 windows on this load which is a pretty good sized load. The most I've ever had on here was 37. My only concern was that when I loaded it on Friday I anticipated having to put windows up on load bars from the front of the trailer all the way to the back. But I only had to put up three, rather than 5 or 6. The problem is the three I put up go to a customer that sometimes does not have anyone there to help me unload. I think I will call ahead tomorrow and let them know what's what. Being up on load bars means that I've got window frames standing up on the floor and then bars stretched across the trailer at a height of six feet from the floor. We put up three bars and then lay a window frame on it's inside face and lay it across those three bars. So there's a 200 to 300 pound window up in the air that has to come down. Without a couple people helping, it can be a chore. And the worst part is that we put the bigger ones up because it saves more room on the floor to squeeze in the smaller windows. Sometimes loading these things is like working a puzzle, trying to use as much floor space as possible. But it's what we do so...

Thursday we had another IEP meeting for our two boys and all I can say is I hate school bureaucracies. I can understand there position but I think it's a sucky position. Josh is going to school, being educated, getting his life's training, for one and one half hour per day. That's it. All because our school system feels that he needs a one on one aide to be with him, and since they are not "fiscally responsible" for this child, they will not hire an aide until his "county of residence" forks over the money to do so. That county has since agreed to an aide, and our school is interviewing said aide possibility peoples, but the word that came down Thursday was that even when they hire this aid Josh will only be allowed to go to school for three hours a day.

I laid in bed that night, six hours after the meeting, and I still could not get my heart rate down. I was furious at the injustice of it all. Here is a little guy who's psychiatrist says that he needs at least 30 to 35 hours a week of schooling to keep him on track and our school says, sounds great, but we're not paying for it. Let him spend the rest of his life in institutional care. We could care less. If I here the term "Fiscally Responsible" one more time I'm liable to smack someone. I know there is not an endless supply of money in our county, although there appears to be in other places. And I know that he needs intensive support and help and that this costs money. But it would seem to me that when a need arises like this that there should be someplace a school can go to for resources. They should be able to say, "We have a child here who needs more than we have funds to provide for him. Send us some help." This would allow that child to be in school and get what he needs. The county may have to wait a bit until the money gets there, but if they knew it was coming then they could start him and play catch up with the funding later.

It just does not seem right that a school should be able to say, "We won't take this child because we don't have room for him." But then our school system seems to have a reputation for not wanting to deal with any children that have special needs. This coming from nurses and doctors in the area that have had troubles with the school supporting children diagnosed with learning difficulties and other needs. But I will say that this whole situation has caused us learn quite a bit. We are doing more and more research every day on autism and the help that is available out there. So we will see. There is another IEP meeting scheduled for this Thursday in hopes that a person from his "county of residence" can be there and that we can finish this whole thing once and for all. But somehow, I think not. Three hours a day is not enough for this little guy and he's falling further and further behind.

Enough ranting. My heart won't take a whole lot of this. By the way, IEP stands for Individual Education something, Program I think.

But we had a good weekend, Sheila and I. Both the boys went on respite this weekend, Josh for the first time overnight, and it was sure quiet around the house. We went to Preston and Nijal's ball games on Saturday, a double header, and I finally got some sun on the top of my head. Not enough to burn but enough so that that I don't look like I'm wearing a bathing cap. I don't know about you, but I think it's sexy. Then we went home, got Preston and Isaac to mow the lawn, ordered Chinese food and watched "Australia". Not the best movie out there but fairly good. Visual effects weren't that great and parts of the story were a little cheesy, but my wife and daughter enjoyed watching Hugh Jackman pour a bucket of water over himself. I think I heard my daughter moan at that point. Maybe it was the dog. But overall, an interesting movie and I'd give it a bit over three stars.

Ya'll have fun. I think I'm going to bed.