Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Addition to the Family

Ok, so it's not quite a kid...yet. But it's the next crucial step before a baby enters the picture. Tara and I just purchased a 2005 Hyundai Sonata and couldn't be more thrilled after being without a car for the past month.

The prospect of buying a car was not something we thought would become a necessity for several more years. If you're not aware, our previous car was totalled last month in a scary crash that could have been much worse than it was.

For the past month, Tara and I had been doing a lot of car research and online homework in order to make sure we educated ourselves as best as we could going into the process of buying a car. We started out by visiting several dealerships in South Philly, which unfortunately meant that we also had to deal with a handful of really pushy and sometimes incompetent and/or unprofessional salespersons. One guy took us out to look at all the used cars in the lot and didn't know a thing about any of them. When he would go inside to get information on them, he'd be gone for fifteen to twenty minute intervals, only to return claiming that someone had hidden the info on him. Riiiiight! Another dealer greeted us by complaining vehemently about his previous customers (always a comforting feeling when you're the next customer). When we got into a car with him to go for a test drive, he spent about 99 percent of the time giving us way too much information about his annoyances with his friends and about 1 percent of the time talking about the car and answering our questions. To his credit, he did go down to Tampa for games 1 and 2 of last year's World Series between the Phils and Rays, so I did enjoy that part of his exhortation. When we went inside to talk numbers, he immediately switched into ultra-sleazy car dealer mode and when he refused to budge from a certain price, we walked out. It was a truly liberating feeling. I suggest you try it at least once in your lifetime.

At a certain point, we just became fed up with South Philly dealerships and expanded our search to the surrounding Philadelphia area. In one of our online searches, we saw a 2005 Hyundai Sonata listed at Keyser Miller Ford in Collegeville, PA. While the car looked great and was within our price range, we were skeptical about its availability because car dealership websites are rarely accurate, but we called and they said the car was available.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

We went up there and fell in love with the car almost immediately. After having driven a good handful of cars over the previous month, there was just something different about this car. It rode smooth as silk, had a really comfortable interior, and was silver (I like silver cars!). Keyser Miller Ford gave us a great deal and was a breath of fresh air to work with after our South Philly experiences. As a small family-owned dealership, they were courteous, patient, and not pushy at all. I highly recommend Keyser Miller Ford to anyone looking to buy a car.

Many thanks to all our great friends who let us borrow their cars repeatedly over the past month! We're happy to return the favor if ever needed!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rat Poison, Anyone?

My wife Tara and I currently have a little bit of a mouse problem in our house. We had a pretty big problem last year and after all else failed, we brought in Orkin Pest Control to handle it. And handle it, they did. Our mouse problem was pretty much taken care of until the start of this fall, when the little monsters inevitably returned. Still being under contract with Orkin, we requested their services once again last week. In addition to putting down more traps and plugging up some holes we hadn't noticed, they put some poison into a strategic location under one of our counters, out of reach of any humans or pets that may be in the house. This poison, called bromadiolone, comes in the form of little blue and red cubes. Once the mouse eats it, the poison acts as a blood thinner. Long story short, the mouse dies and there is much rejoicing.

Sounds safe enough, right?

This past Friday night, at about 10:30pm, Tara and I came home to find our dog, Bailey playing with a piece of this bromadiolone poison, and to boot, it was half eaten. Usually when one of us freaks out, the other one automatically becomes calm and rises to the occasion. Tara freaked, so that meant I was on calm and collected duty. I checked under the counter; the glue traps, which were in front of the poison, were undisturbed. If Bailey had somehow gotten in there, she would have had glue traps stuck to her fur, which would've been a whole other issue in and of itself. But as it was, there was no way she would have been able to reach the poison where the Orkin rep had placed it. The only logical possibility is that he somehow left a piece sitting out before he left. Bailey was acting completely normal and not showing any symptoms of illness, so I wasn't sure how serious the situation was, if at all.

I called Orkin's emergency number and asked them to tell me the name of the poison and how toxic it is to dogs. After a short time, I got a call from Orkin's branch manager and he told me to take Bailey to the ER and that he would cover the charges. And with that, we headed out to the only veterinary hospital that was open at 11pm, the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania.

When we got to the Penn Vet ER, they immediately took Bailey in the back and gave her a drug to induce vomiting. After that, they gave her a charcoal substance to absorb whatever might have been digested. Bailey was then brought back out to us in the waiting room, all chipper and happy as ever, without a clue as to what just happened. We were told that she would be just fine and that we just needed to be discharged. At this point, it was about 12:30am and I figured this had turned out to be a pretty quick and painless outing.

Now normally, when you think of being discharged from any place, you imagine going up to the window, collecting your bill, and heading out on your way. Well, it turns out that "discharge" at the Penn Vet ER involves continuing to sit in the waiting room until summoned by a doctor, having your pet receive a full physical, and answering tons of questions. This once-seemingly painless discharge didn't even take place until 3:30am due to the crowd that materialized in the ER that night. When all was said and done that night, we didn't get out of there until 4am, and we were told we would need to come back in 48 hours so that Bailey could have her blood tested to make sure her clotting factors were working properly (which thankfully, two days later, tested normal). We also learned that Bailey was the third dog brought into the ER that night for having ingested bromadiolone, so clearly this was a routine occurrence at this hospital. I wonder if the doctors roll their eyes behind closed doors each time this happens...

Overall, I am very grateful to the Ryan Hospital at Penn Vet for their great work and to Orkin's branch manager for being willing to cover the vet bill for us. I explained to the Orkin manager that we are not angry at the rep who may have left a piece of bromadiolone poison out and that we are not interested in seeking any sort of legal action against him or Orkin. Even though this was a serious situation, mistakes do happen and the fact that they are covering the bill and that Bailey is healthy is good enough for us. I would still recommend Orkin to anyone having pest control problems.

With that, my work here is done. When the next emergency situation arises, it will be my turn to freak out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Newly Crowned, Justin & Christine Matulewicz

On September 12th, I took part in the wedding of my two good friends, Justin Matulewicz & Christine Rabe. They're a wonderful couple that my wife Tara and I are very close to and I'm really excited to see them begin their new lives together.

I first met Justin sometime in the fall of 2006, shortly after I had gotten married and moved into the city. I was first introduced to Justin while he was a student at Temple University, where Tara is the Director of Campus Ministry. Back in '06, his hair was a little out of control and his goatee was about a foot long. Sometime during Justin's college career, he joined my church, liberti, so I started seeing him around regularly.

In the spring of 2007, I took part in a liberti seminar that was designed to help the congregation determine where we might be best suited to serve our community and our neighbors. I recall that one of the needs mentioned among the many was the discipleship of younger people, specifically college students. At one point, we broke up into groups of about ten and went around the circle, discussing where we felt God might be calling each of us to serve. I really didn't have much of a clue at the time so when it was my turn to share, I turned to the guy at my left, who randomly happened to be Justin, and sarcastically said, "I want to disciple that guy!" I went home afterward and thought nothing of it. Two days later I got a phone call. It was Justin. The first thing he said to me in his typically excited Justin inflection was, "So yeah man, let's do this!" I didn't have any idea what he was talking about. He said, "Discipleship!" Only then did I remember my little remark from the seminar a few days before. Totally caught off guard, I responded with, "Um sure, why not?"

What followed over the next two years turned out to be an amazing time of dual-discipleship as we both ministered to each others' needs and struggles in a number of encouraging and sometimes difficult ways, thereby pushing each other to grow as men of God and men of character. We both realized we had a lot in common and a lot not in common, which helped us form the foundation of a tremendous friendship and brotherhood.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, Justin began pursuing a few different girls. At the time, I started getting a little bit of that big brother fear that he'd end up with the wrong woman. One day, he started telling me all about this girl named Christine, who he'd met through some friends. The thing that seemed to excite him most -- other than the fact that he found her really attractive -- was that she really helped him address his struggles head on and wouldn't dance around important issues. She was lovingly blunt to his face when necessary, which I think Justin found rather hot. Not only that, but she appeared to really want to get to know the many layers and facets that make up Justin's unique personality. Clearly, this was no surfacy girl. Long story short, I approved!

After Justin and Christine got engaged in late 2008, I was humbled and floored when Justin asked me to be his Best Man. Their wedding and reception were to be outdoors at Bartram's Garden, a beautiful botanical setting in Southwest Philadelphia that overlooks the city's skyline. On the day of the wedding rehearsal, the rain poured down on us as we walked through the details of the ceremony. Needless to say, there was a little tension about whether or not we would all have to cram into the nearby barn the next day in order to keep the bride, her bridesmaids, and the guests from getting drenched. I can speak for the groom's party in that we didn't really care much about the rain. We're men. We shower, shave, get dressed, and we're good to go!

The boys...

The day of the wedding, it lightly drizzled right up to the start of the ceremony and then completely cleared up! I was honored and excited to stand up front with Justin and the rest of the boys to witness not just a culmination, but the start of a new beginning. The day before, Justin had given me the two wedding rings to keep on me until they were to be needed during the ceremony. I can honestly say I've never been more nervous to hold onto anyone's possessions than I was to be in charge of those freaking rings! I checked my pockets about fifty times before even leaving the house that afternoon, and at least another hundred when we got to the wedding location. It didn't matter that I could clearly feel the rings in my that point, full OCD had taken over. When our pastor, Steve Huber, got to the part in the ceremony about the rings being a sign of Justin and Christine's commitment to each other, I had never been more relieved than to get those two little objects out of my pocket and into their hands.

The whole crew...

And with that, Justin and Christine were husband and wife and the celebration officially began! I gave my Best Man speech at the reception, and even though I was pretty nervous about speaking in front of a crowd, I think it went over well. I spent the rest of the night in great company and ate a lot of good food. The wedding cake, in particular, was exceptional! Before Justin and Christine departed the reception to the farewell tune of Queen's "We Are The Champions," I took part, along with the rest of the bridesmaids and groomsmen, in the age old tradition of "decorating" the bride and groom's car.

One of the most exciting things about Justin and Christine getting married is that they are now both officially my neighbors, having just bought a house right down the street from mine! I'm looking forward to all the great years ahead as we live in community together.

Congratulations to the newly crowned, Justin & Christine Matulewicz!