Welcome to the Center of the Universe

This summer my family and I visited the tiny scenic town of Wallace, Idaho. Wallace is primarily known for two things; it’s the town you see in Dante’s Peak that gets destroyed by a volcano and it’s the Center of the Universe. To be sure, you can stand in the middle of the town’s main street, right in the center of the universe and feel like you’re on a bonafide movie set.

Here’s the family selfie we shot with the famous manhole cover. I’ve wanted to come to Wallace and take this picture for years after my wife had done so on a business trip. How cool is it to say you’ve been to the center of the universe? Especially a Sci-Fi nerd like me!

Below is a close up that I think everyone takes in addition to the above selfie.

If you look down the street, this is the view you have, straight out of Dante’s Peak.

Now I’m a huge fan of Douglas Adams and it’s kind of hard to actually go to the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, but you can definitely go to Wallace and claim that you’ve been to the Center Of The Universe.

Needless to say, we had a great time in Wallace. We toured a silver mine with a retired miner, walked the Polaski Trail and had lots of Huckleberry desserts. If you ever get to Idaho, you simply have to visit Wallace. Find the Prime Minister of Wallace, Rick Shaffer, you can’t miss him, he’s the tallest human in town, and tell him Ken McConnell sent you. Oh, and get a selfie with Rick, because he’s a Hoopy Frood!



Automated Paper Shredder

My son Spencer was given the task of shredding a big box of old financial papers for us. His response was to automate the task using his Arduino microcontroller. He built an auto feeder with a stepper motor and a wheel and some cardboard. Then he put a light sensor over the jam light panel to detect a jam, which then turns off the feeder and sounds an audible alarm.

I think this kid might be an Engineer. Also, I may be raising my replacement at HP.

In Between Time

Currently, I’m in between finishing the edits for Corvette 3 and finishing the last half of a Mystery novel. I can’t really do anything on the first and I don’t have time to get into the other one before I would inevitably be dragged back to finish the first one. So what do I do with my writing time? I’m plotting and world building for the next two novellas in the Corvette series. This is proving to be way more entertaining than I would have imagined. I love making stuff up. So glad I have an outlet to do it legally.

In other news, we’re currently remodeling the homestead. The kids have newly painted rooms and new carpet. Now we’re doing the same to the master bedroom. With any luck, we will be finished in the next week or so. Right now my wife and I are living in the family room while we paint. It’s like camping out at home.

The base color is a dark blue-gray with white trim.

This is what the kid’s rooms look like now. The same carpet will be in the master bedroom.

My son Spencer got a new desk in his room. He’s pretty happy with it. There is space for his computer and a second seat for building his electronics projects.

Here’s a #WordsAndWatch picture showing my latest ideas for a new character named, Desche.

That’s about it for now. The patriotic watch band is about it for me this 4th of July. Don’t feel up to celebrating the end of my democracy right now.




Spring Break

We are back in Tennessee this week for Spring Break. My father-in-law passed away and we are attending his memorial service. Here’s a picture of a Dogwood tree in their front yard.


Back From Vacation

My family spent most of last week up at Seven Devils Lodge near Council, Idaho. We had a blast! All of us got trained up on horse riding and by our third day, were helping move cattle on the ranch. We also took in the local sights like Hell’s Canyon and Bear Creek Falls. All the while being treated to delicious ranch style meals and doing fun activities that included shooting arrows, shooting skeet and playing horse shoes. If you like that sort of thing, I can’t recommend Seven Devils Lodge enough. Go, and have fun with your family and theirs.

Many thanks DR, Teddi, Kelly-Anne and Dustin!

Backpacking in Idaho

Just back from a backpacking hike in the Payette National Forest in central Idaho. We all had fun and learned some new tricks to camping that we’ll try out next time we go. One of the great joys of living in Idaho is taking advantage of the beautiful mountains in this state. Hiking into them with a small group or even as a family is a great way to see the more remote areas.

I’ve never done much backpacking before this year and I have to say, I’m hooked. The above photo is Loon Lake, the destination of our hike.

This blog isn’t about hiking or camping, but since I do engage in these activities, I thought you’d be interested in where we’ve been.




Weekend Update

This is what the cat did all weekend. He’s the smart one. The wife and I deep cleaned and then painted our kitchen. We started painting our open design living/kitchen about nine years ago. We stopped at the kitchen. For nearly ten years we’ve done nothing to the kitchen save for upgrading the stove to a nice gas range. Next weekend we’re having our cabinets altered to install a new microwave we purchased last year. We don’t do things very fast around here.

While the kids played all over the neighborhood and the pets snoozed, we slaved away cleaning through grease and dust and then painted. Not a very relaxing weekend. But it sure is rewarding. Next weekend the cabinets are fixed up and baseball assessments begin for my oldest. Soon we’ll be freezing our butts on metal bleachers watching him play baseball and scheming the next weekend upgrade project. Ah, spring in Idaho.


Please Help Us Find a Solution to Kate’s Pain

A good friend of my family has been suffering through some pretty horrible medical pain and I would like to extend her bandwidth to my website in the hopes that someone reading this may be able to help her. Below are my wife’s comments from Facebook and a personal message from our friend, Kate Richardson. If you know anyone who may be able to help her please have them contact Kate. Thank you!

“I’ve known Kate and her family since she was in elementary school. She is a talented musician, a summer nanny for my boys, and an incredible, strong, loving person. She continues to fight this battle, yet manages to find some positive following every setback. Please take a look at her story, and if you have any ideas or recommendations that could help, please let Kate or I know. And please share this. The answer is out there. Thank you.” — Laurie McConnell

April 14, 2013
To Whom it May Concern,
My name is Kate Richardson. Two weeks ago today, I turned twenty-four-years-old. When I was a little girl, I would have guessed that I would be a veterinarian by the time I was this age. As I got older, I dreamed of being an English teacher. In my wildest dreams, I would never have guessed what my life at twenty-four would actually be like.
Right before I turned sixteen, it was discovered that I had a Chiari Malformation; a birth defect that causes the skull to stop stop growing before the brain does. As a result, the base of my brain was hanging twenty-two millimeters below the base of my skull. This put enough pressure on my spinal cord to cut off the flow of spinal fluid on one side as well as create a three millimeter cyst in the middle of it. After the surgery to correct the malformation, I got a severe spinal fluid leak. Another surgery was done to correct the leak and then the next eight years kind of start to blur together in my memory. I just never felt “good” again after that second surgery. It took us years, countless scans, endless medications, a trip to the Mayo Clinic and a few nerve blocks to finally discover that I had a pinched nerve between my top two cervical vertebrae. So I had another surgery to fuse C1 and C2 together. When that fusion didn’t take, we had to re-do the surgery.
After getting cut open so many times and being abused for so long, the back of my head just gave up. My occipital nerves are stuck in a pattern interpreting pain signals as “the norm.” My current diagnosis (along with fibromyalgia) is occipital neuralgia. We’ve tried to manage the chronic headache I live with by implanting an electronic stimulation device made by Boston Scientific. The spinal cord stimulator got infected the first time we implanted it. After surgical removal, I was injected with a PICC line and put on high doses of continuously infused IV antibiotics for two weeks. My latest surgery, number seven, was done to re-implant the stimulator.
For almost a year, everyone thought that this was the solution to managing my pain. But it hasn’t been working as well lately.
I have had to miss too many things in my life; graduation, events with family, numerous tours with musical groups, withdrawing from school and quitting jobs. I’ve worked really hard to fill in some of the gaps. I’ve gotten my G.E.D., I participate in music at my church (The Cathedral of the Rockies), I raise Guide Dogs for the Blind, I’m an active member of P. E.O., I’ve completed a year’s worth of classes at Boise State University and I’m a full-time nanny. These days, however, I haven’t even been able to be counted on to perform all my duties in those things that I love. As a matter of fact, I’m simply spending far too many hours in bed sobbing or in the emergency room desperately seeking enough relief to simply let me sleep.
It feels like the back of my head is going to implode and that there is a vice on my temples squeezing my skull to its breaking point. You know that headache you get from staring at a computer screen too long? Yeah, I have one of those twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. With occasional, intense stabbing pains in the occipital region and frequent bouts of dizziness accompanied by sparks shooting across my vision. I can’t walk through my own home without my cell phone in case I fall and am too weak to get up again. I’ve gotten to a point where I am missing work once a week because of pain and I am having to seriously consider not going back to school as I had originally planned.
I can’t live this way anymore.
And I can’t fix it by myself.
Generally speaking, I am not the kind of person to ask for help. I’ve just always been the bright, happy, optimistic girl that people admire for her strength. Truth be told, I’m running out of strength. And optimism. And happiness. And brightness. I need help.
I know that I am not the most critical medical situation out there. I am not dying. I still have control of all my limbs and my senses. I really do know. And that’s why it has taken me so long to ask for the help that I need. But all I need are some ideas. If you have any ideas on other options I should investigate, please let me know. If you have absolutely no ideas, please pass this on so that your friends and family and doctors have a chance to give me a lead. If all you can do is send me good thoughts and prayers, that goes a long way, too.
Thank you for your time, your consideration and for helping me get my life back.
Kate Richardson