A fun and challenging hobby of mine is evaluating which of my large ticket-item purchase mistakes was the worst.  The list over the years is impressive, but I am currently engaged in an epic losing streak.  I mean, how does one choose between the Khrysler Kamikaze, the Proscandal television, and the Frigiderror refrigerator?  The most valuable moving FRIGIDERRORpart on any of them turns out to be the warranty, which you can access if you disconnect the power and remove the dashboard.

We bought the fridge one year ago after an equally-inept G.E. model gave us four of the worst years of it’s entire life.  Which was a total of four.  I once blogged about its recalcitrant ice machine here.  So Sherry and I were resolved: we were never going to get suckered in and buy another G.E. fridge ever again, boy howdy!  We ended up purchasing a Frigidaire top-freezer model.  And everyone knows G.E. is certainly not an abbreviation of “Frigidaire,” right?


Our first sign of trouble came about the second month of ownership.  We started hearing funny “clunking” sounds and an eerie noise that resembled human indigestion.  So, we did the thing that every new appliance owner would do: we called G.E.  I mean, they were on speed-dial already and we were on a first-name basis with a customer darlaservice rep named “Darla.”  Then, we laughed and called Frigidaire.  And Frigidaire told us to call G.E.

I kid you not.  It turns out that Electrolux, which does have an “e” in its name but certainly no “g,” is in the process of buying G.E.  Guess which other appliance manufacturer Electrolux owns?  As part of the deal, apparently G.E. is now handling service calls for Frigidaire.

Except they aren’t.  We were told to go find a local appliance repair shop certified to handle Frigidaire products.  Ten months and four service calls later, the repair shop is on speed-dial and we are on a first-name basis with a customer service rep named “Okie.”  To call this fridge a “lemon” LEMONwould be an insult to lemons.  Especially those lemons that became rotten, smelly, moldy, and rusty because the fridge couldn’t keep them fresh.  The freezer wouldn’t freeze, then the crisper wouldn’t crisp, then the refrigerator wouldn’t refrigerate, and then even the handle wouldn’t hand.  No, really.  The plastic door handle simply snapped off.  Okie kindly informed us that the Frigidaire, er G.E., warranty simply would not cover the handle.   Since we are not prepared to send one more dime to G.E., we certainly aren’t going to buy a replacement part, so we simply don’t have a handle on things.

The last break-down nearly sent Sherry over the edge.  Okie came by and informed us that it would be a “complicated repair that requires a special kit,” which he would have to order.  With our warranty about to expire,


Not actual Sherry. Model used for demonstration purposes only

Sherry got on the horn with G.E. to demand a replacement fridge.  After they all had a big laugh, G.E. did actually agree to replace the broken handle and extend our warranty for another six months.  Which means we get another half-year of free visits by Okie.

Looking back, I am trying to figure out where it all went wrong.  The best that I can think of is when I foolishly decided that our hungry family of six actually needed a refrigerator in the first place.  But the biggest mistake was probably when I concluded that “G.E.” is not an abbreviation of “Frigidaire.”  I mean, had I been a sly one, I would have realized you can’t spell “Frigidaire” without a “g” and an “e.”




Gainesville, Florida is a small television market.  I often feel we are isolated and disconnected from the rest of the television news industry.  In fact, I sometimes refer to us as the “Witness Protection Plan” of news, where we sometimes feel like we report in a vacuum.  Our market is dwarfed by neighboring markets like Orlando and Jacksonville.  And some sad people hiding behind their websites have criticized my station as “crappy little…” and me personally as a little bit different.  Despite all that, the killing of two television journalists in Roanoke, Virginia this week changed my perspective profoundly and permanently.
Several incredibly-thoughtful and well-written blog posts have been penned by journalists about the tragedy.  They have expertly expressed the shock, grief, and anger everyone feels about the utterly-senseless murder of Alison Parker and Adam Ward.  People in newsrooms across the country are mourning, largely because everyone can relate to Alison and Adam.  Who hasn’t done a live shot?  Who hasn’t reported a run-of-the-mill story about economic development?  Every last person in every last newsroom can picture themselves in Alison and Adam’s shoes.
Additionally, writers have eloquently portrayed the sense of “family” that exists among people in television news.  Since it can be such a transient business, people routinely move from shop to shop, making friendships that these days are easily maintained on social media.  Every time a new reporter is hired, everyone goes online to check out the personnel at the new guy’s last shop to see if there is anyone they know–to get some background on the guy.  And like many professions, we experience a unique combination of pressures, tensions, and emotional trauma that only we truly understand.
Gainesville is separated from Roanoke by about 100 market sizes and nearly 900 miles.  And in my decade-plus here, only one of our reporters has moved directly there.  It is a place I visited exactly once in my 50 years, and I’m not real sure I will see it again in the next 50.

But as events unfolded in Roanoke this week, I realized that I felt the same pain as the journalists who were sharing their grief on blog posts and other forms of social media.  I began hearing from former colleagues all over the country who simply wanted to touch base, and mourn together.  Then I looked around our newsroom and saw a group of talented, young journalists whose next career step likely will be to a market like Roanoke.  And I felt connected.

Gainesville, Florida is a small television market.  But we are doing exactly the same thing that the Alisons and Adams in every other market are doing.  And so we stand with the people in the WDBJ newsroom–100 markets and 900 miles away–and share their grief.  Because we are, indeed, family.


One of the many attractions North Central Florida has to offer is rush hour traffic on Archer Road.  Wait–wrong category.  I’ll try again: One of the many attractions North Central Florida has to offer is the annual love bug infestation.  No–Summer heat.  No–Sinkholes.

Hold up–obviously something seems to be wrong with The Color Wheel.  Give me a minute to make some delicate adjustments.

*Grabs hammer, whacks keyboard*

One of the many attractions North Central Florida has to offer is the abundance of beautiful springs.  And there are few pastimes more cherished here than grabbing an inner tube and floating out of the springs and along a lazy river.  For residents, it is practically a rite of passage.  For me, on the other hand, it was more like my life passaging rite before my eyes.
We had been invited to a picnic at the springs, years ago when our first three children were still fairly small.  It was a sunny, warm day with very little breeze and no chance for storms.  In other words, a perfect day to die tubing on the river.
Sarahannah was 8, Sasha was 6, and Matthew 4 the day I lightheartedly took all our lives into my hands.  The girls each had their own tube, I stacked Matt on my lap, and we coasted out in the spring.  This is the bait-and-switch part of tubing, you know, where Mother Nature lures you into thinking this will be easy.

“This will be easy!” I exclaimed, as we paddled out towards the river.  And then we got to the river.  The first thing I noticed was the water got colder.  But that was okay, because it was a warm day outside.  The next thing I noticed was that we had caught the river current.  But that was okay, because we didn’t have to paddle anymore.  The third thing I noticed was that the girls were no longer within arms’ reach.  That wasn’t okay, because they were sailing away from me faster than Darth Vader spiraling through space at the end of “Star Wars, Episode Four: A New Merchandise Bonanza.”
The current was faster and the water colder than I expected.  Matthew kept uncomfortably shifting around on top of me.  Attempting to gain some control of our direction, I dropped my legs down into the cold water to act as a tiller.  That’s when they started to cramp.  Meanwhile, other adults were floating along carelessly, laughing and light-heartedly throwing empty bottles of “Mad Dog 20/20” at each other.

5 or 45 minutes of this kind of memorable, terror-filled fun later, I spotted what looked like a boat ramp in an opening in the woods along the river and shouted for the girls to head that way.  They managed to, but I got caught in a current in the middle of the 5,000 foot wide river and was pulled along down river.  Panic nearly set in.  With “Dueling Banjos” playing in my head I screamed for the girls to come back from the scary woods and join Daddy for more jollification in the river.
The rest of our misadventures are better left forgotten.  Suffice to say we finally made landfall somewhere near the Gulf of Mexico.  And now I can always coolly say, “Yeah sure, I’ve been tubing.”  It’s a memory I will never forget, primarily because I have nightmares about it almost every night.



As far as my house-painting qualifications go, I am a quite capable typist.  Which isn’t to say that I won’t slap on a coat of paint on any part of the house that doesn’t move.  With, well, mixed results.

If nothing else throughout the years, my paint-name vocabulary has expanded dramatically.  We have made such disastrous choices as “Cockleshell,” “Golden Oak,” and “Peppermint Leaf.”  Fortunately I was wise enough to stay away from the likes of “Skin Bruise Purple” and “Vida Blue.”

Our first foray into painting was in our first apartment, in Chesapeake, Virginia (motto: “We’re Not Actually On The Chesapeake Bay”).  Acting on the doctrine of “We don’t have any kids yet,” Sherry and I took the time to paint our bedroom.  Sherry picked the color: cockleshell pink.  As always, the color on the can always looks just a little bit less intense than when you paint all four walls.  So for two years we had the unsettling sensation of sleeping inside a large vat of Pepto-Bismol.


The next big adventure took place at our first home, in Bells Island, North Carolina.  The single-story ranch was sided with dried-out T1-11 cedar.  Sherry made the mistake of letting me shop for stain, so this one was all her fault.  After spending what seemed like several minutes searching, I came home with cans of the fabled “Golden Oak.”  And wouldn’t you know it, after all that time and trouble I went to, Sherry instantly vetoed Golden Oak as more closely resembling “Golden Shower.”  Well, those weren’t her words, just her sentiment.

When we (read: “she”) finally settled on “Smoke Blue,” six or seven months later, I quickly learned this job was going to be three times harder than I had anticipated.  Literally three, because when I applied a coat, the siding was so dry it inhaled the stain completely.  A second coat finally showed a little color but left the house looking like we had accidentally spilled a thin film of “Windex” all over it.  Only on the third coat did the true “Smoke Blue” really appear.

As for those cans of Golden Oak, I used some to paint the mailbox post and the rest as handy paper weights.
In our home in Hurricane, West Virginia, Sherry made the mistake of leaving for the weekend, so this one was her fault, also.  I planned to surprise her by painting the family room while she was away.  At Sears the “Peppermint Leaf” looked quite nice; an ode to the outdoorsy Mountain State as well as a tip of the hat to neighboring Marshall University.  Unfortunately, by the time the paint had dried on all four walls, it felt like the inside of a vat of “Simple Green” concentrate.  Boy, was Sherry surprised when she came home ha ha!

Eventually I recovered from her surprise and we moved to Gainesville.  And since we have very short memories, within a couple of years the urge to paint overcame us once more.  We took on the exterior.  And while the color-selection and painting itself were uneventful, we didn’t exactly, uh, finish.
Oh we knocked out the front of the house and one side and part of the back.  But I kind of lost interest in it one summer a few years later and just kind of let it go.  This was Sherry’s fault also, because she made me lunch and I left the painting behind to go eat.  We keep people away by telling them it is an endangered wildlife zone but what we don’t them is that it is my life that may be endangered.

By this point, though, I figure we are going to have to get a new roof sooner or later, and I’ll probably just have to paint it all over again.  But believe you me, Sherry will be picking out the color and I will be picking out the blame



Some people are concerned that one day, airborne drones could be used by rogue government agents to spy on or launch attacks on innocent God-fearing Americans or worse, fly around blaring “Gangnam Style” on an endless loop while hovering over backyard pool parties.  I am here to report that these “UAV’s” (for “Urban Assault Vehicle”) have indeed arrived.  And they eat our blueberries.

These aircraft are more-familiarly known at our house as “birds.”  They coast overhead, watching for any chance to loose an assault of bird poop on any moving object or stationary car below.  And when they get bored with that, they pick clean our blueberry bush.  Basically, the blueberry harvest at our house consists of sending out our youngest child to see if the birds accidentally left any blueberries behind on the ground.


One year, however, we determined to strike back.  Passive-aggressively, of course.  Early in the season we coated the bush with special white netting with a tiny mesh designed to keep drones (birds) away.  It works by cleverly disguising the bush as Albert Einstein’s hair.  In any case, for a while it worked quite nicely as the fruit ripened.  But then we learned it worked a little too well in other respects.

One morning I found that our blueberries had ripened to the familiar “green pink” stage, which of course is the stage where the fruit hasn’t made up its mind.  But I didn’t spend much time contemplating this, because I was too busy running away from a three foot long black snake caught up in the mesh.

You might consider me a kind of an expert on snakes, since I had actually encountered one earlier in life (see  This explains why I ran away.  Until I told the kids about it and they immediately ran out to see it.  We found the snake with it’s mouth firmly fixed on some unfortunate squirrel while it’s middle was firmly fixed by the mesh.  It wasn’t going anywhere, so I developed a plan.  Which was to retire into the house for the night.  Hey, the snake wasn’t being hurt by the mesh, and it did have a snack on hand, so I left the snake to get itself out of it’s own mess.

Next day, I checked on the snake to see if it had gotten free.  And, in a way it had, I suppose.  One of the drones (a “red tail hawk,” which if that title doesn’t have “military” written all over it, I don’t know what does) had spotted it, swooped down, and killed it.  The reason I knew the killer drone was a red tail hawk was because it had a red tail and looked like a hawk.  Oh, and it was now caught in the netting along with half a snake and half a squirrel.
I now faced a dilemma.  On one hand, I had inadvertently captured one of the enemy drones and might consider using it as a bargaining chip to make the others go away.  On the other hand, this hawk had razor-sharp claws that could damage either one of my hands if I attempted to free it.  But I had to do something or else an even bigger predator (an owl? a leopard? Maury Povich?) was going to show up to eat the hawk that ate the snake that ate the squirrel that ate some blueberries.  So I turned to an expert: my wife.  Sherry is FDA-certified 25% smarter than me, and figured there must be someone out there who could put an end to this wild animal death trap of a blueberry bush.

It only took a couple of phone calls to find a true expert, who came out, freed the bird, and took it for observation before coming back to release it into its familiar habitat.  So we are now back to our familiar routine of watching the drones steal the blueberries and then poop the results all over our yard.  Oh, and now we have the exquisitely-painful pleasure of wondering where the snake had come from and how many friends he had left behind.


   When Sherry and I got married on May 20th, 1995, I asked her to commit to two things: that my wedding ring be brushed gold and to please close the cupboard doors in the kitchen.  I’m still following up on the second request.
I wanted brushed gold for the simple reason that I knew that it would only take me about six hours to scratch up the soft metal anyways.  So why not make it look intentional?  Same thought process as “distressed” wood furniture and ripped jeans, right?  In any case, LITTLE DID I KNOW the adventures that this ring and I would have over the years.
When Sherry slid the ring on my finger, I imagined that it would never come off.  And I don’t think it did for the first 10-11 years–until I took on my first lifetime exercise regimen and lost a little weight.  Since then the little devil has acquired a mind of it’s own, flying off my hand like it was on fire, leading to multiple heart-stopping searches.  Yes, I know I might have re-sized it, or added interior stubs, or super-glued it in place.  But I’ve been, you know, busy.  Closing the cupboards.
Not too busy, though, to recall the first time it slipped off–in the YMCA pool.  I was minding my own business, dunking one of the kids, and the ring dropped off in the ruckus.  Thankfully not in the deep end, but deep enough to disappear from sight.  Fortunately the kids are all used to spending time underwater due to that whole dunking thing I mentioned, and five minutes later the ring was returned to my finger.
Another memorable moment was when the ring famously fell off when our Chinook helicopter was hit by an RPG over Iraq and we had to make a hard landing…oh wait.  That’s someone else’s story.
Once we were all shooting baskets and I made a rare double: basketball through the hoop followed by ring.  But I wasn’t high-fiving anyone at a later time when it slipped off into the toilet.  In fact, most of these misadventures have involved water.  Sherry and I were at a resort a that featured a really nice pool and huge slide.  Now, I become quite giddy over things like pool slides and roller coasters and muscle cars and purple dancing shoes and unicorns.  So I joined all the other ten year olds and headed up the steps.  What a rush!  A tall slide…the rushing water…the work of Mister Gravity, pulling me down, down, down!
And that nasty old Mister Gravity also pulled off the ring.  Halfway down the tall, nasty slide.  In all that evil rushing water.  So, here’s me, flopping and thrashing around like a halibut in a net, frantically attempting to find the ring.  Let’s just say that if there had been judges at the bottom, I would have earned an “8” for originality and a “-4” for style.  Ultimately, it took a general poolside announcement of a $5 reward for the kid who found the ring, and eventually that brought it back to papa.  Ha ha–what a bargain!  Except the kid then extorted me for another $50 and two tickets for drinks at the pool bar.
The closest I came to losing it forever was on the beach in Cedar Key.  Sasha and I were playing catch and the ring jumped off my finger as I threw the ball.  It flew upwards and behind me, so I couldn’t see where it landed.  But I sure did hear the “thunk” as it made impact on the powder sand.  Next thing you know, all six of us (even the teenager) were on our hands and knees scouring the entire beach.  Hours went by.  People went by.  I thought my marriage was going to go “bye.”  But as the sun went down, while I was making plans to spend a few nights in the doghouse, Sherry said a last-ditch prayer and just then found the ring.
Oh, I spent the night in the doghouse anyways.  But that scratched-up ring was back on my finger.  And I didn’t have to look at all those open cupboards in the kitchen for one night.

The Florida Chainsaw Massacre


I swear, all I wanted to do was take down some wild vines and saplings that were damaging our fence.  Oh, I took them down, all right.  And now I’m writing a blog post about it, so you know it became, er, a little unreal.

The fence line on the east side of our property was covered with a jungle of vines so thick that it looked like Tarzan’s practice facility.  It was so impenetrable that we couldn’t see our neighbor’s place.  Considering some of the antics that go on at our house, our neighbor was probably very happy about that.  Anyhoo, other things were hidden in that jungle growth.  Things like young trees, poison ivy, snakes, lost children, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370…


Two of the saplings were getting kind of big and heavy, leaning on and damaging the chain link fence.  So I thought it would be a grand idea to clear out everything in that corner, fix the fence, and maybe even charge the neighbor a small fee.

Considering how dense the growth was and the enormity of the task, I decided on the simplest course of action: napalm.  See, I know a guy who runs a lucrative trade in military incendiaries out of a truck in the parking lot of the Dollar Store.  But I made the mistake of mentioning it to my neighbor, Kevin, who asked me kindly and behind the barrel of a gun not to do it.

He didn’t like my alternative idea of using Agent Orange any better, so I was forced to take a more conventional approach: a chainsaw and actual hard work.

After the kids spent a good six hours on it, the corner was cleaned up, the saplings removed, and the fence repaired.  Oh, and about 40 nasty vines that had grown up along the fence line and had attached themselves to my neighbor’s water oak.  Yup, like good neighbors, we trimmed those up, too.  That water oak never looked so good.

Until two weeks later, when it fell over.


The trunk of the water oak was rotted pretty thoroughly, and evidently those nasty vines we so thoughtfully trimmed up had been acting like guy-wires, holding it in place. Once they were gone, apparently it was only a matter of time before it went over.

Thankfully, no one was hurt, and nothing was damaged except a couple of smaller trees.  Even better, it didn’t land on my property, so I didn’t have to deal with it.

Eventually, the professionals with chainsaws removed it, which–along with our kids’ previous work–suddenly changed the landscape pretty dramatically.  Coming home the other day, I noticed this.  Particularly the fact that I can now see the east side of my house now.  I found that interesting, because it just so happens that side of the house needs a coat of paint.  Or three.  And the kids are refusing to do it.

Maybe I’ll ask the neighbor if she’d like to paint it.  Because, you know, she kind of owes me.