About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Its Halloween! One of my favorite holidays. I look forward to dressing up and just having some fun as someone or something else.

Most years we host a Halloweend party, but not this year. We have found that too many people have too much going on on the actual holiday. When we have the party on a different day, we usually get a pretty good turnout of friends and neighbors.

Brandon wanted to dress up as Indiana Jones, but we waited too long and found the costume was sold out everywhere. So, we purchased a pirate costume, which he was still pretty excited about since last year his pirate costume was home made.

This afternoon Brandon and I will head downtown for the annual Downtown Trick or Treat. Its a ton of fun and it seems like every family in town shows up.

Since we are not having a party this evening, we will spend some more time Trick or Treating in the neighborhood. The Noel's are coming over for pizza and to hang out later in the evening.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ford Fairmont

I recently purchased an HO scale 1978 Ford Fairmont Sedan, Cream color. I will add this to my model train layout in the near future.

The reason I am writing about this is because it brings back many memories of the family car we had in Colorado.
I had a good laugh when I noticed that one of the model manufacturers would be making the car. I had to buy one and I had to share the news of my purchase with my family.
Here is what my Mom wrote about it:

Yes, that brings back many memories. Hoping we could get up the mountain to Vail, trying to keep warm when the heater went out. Someone having to constantly wipe the front window so the driver could see when it was all steamed up. Driving to Colorado to our new home when the car was new and following the u-haul truck that Dad was driving. Driving back to Wi to visit family with all the kids in back, no one buckled up! It was a part of our lives for a loooong time.

I have so many memories. I never did like the car. My parents traded in the Ford van for this car before we moved from Illinois to Colorado. I always thought the color was horribly ugly.

The heater eventually went out and we didn't really have the money to fix or replace it. Thats a tough thing to live without in Colorado. How do you unfog the windows in the winter without a heater? Well first off, you need a passenger. The passengers job was to constantly wipe the window clear while the driver peers through the small clear spot on the windshield just hoping to stay in the lane and on the road. Try this in a blizzard! On top of that, we always had to bundle up just to drive somewhere. Now, my family has always liked the house temp kept cold, but a frozen car was a bit rediculous.

I also remember a period during high school, probably near the end of the Fairmonts life, in which I drove it to school whenever I could. Yes, I hated the car. But I was 16 or 17 and I had a license to drive. My friends were embarrased to ride with me. No so much because of how the car looked, but because the power steering squeeled and the car would periodically die. Yes, just die. On the road, in and intersection, anywhere. I remember one day two my my friends rode with me to the Citadel mall at lunch time. We were making a left turn onto Academy Blvd (major 6 lane Blvd) and the car died right in the middle of the intersection. I could not get it started again and my friends were ready to bail on me. Finally, with a stroke of luck, it started and we were off again.

I'm sure my family has many more stories about this car. It was such a part of our lives for so many years. Its funny how excited we were to finally get rid of it, yet here I am 20+ years later talking about it with such fond memories.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Face Book

I logged onto Facebook for the first time today. Wow! Let the floodgates of friends open from so long ago. It has been absolutely crazy who has popped up from my teen years, college and elsewhere. Facebook is cool.

I never thought I was a big fan of reunions. I haven't been to any school reunions of any sort. I like my friends, past and present, but I'm not big on reliving the past. Or so I thought. Apparently it is a lot of fun and very cool to see how old friends are doing, what they are doing and see how they have grown families and careers all over the world.

I look forward to meeting everyone again and catching up.

Italian Paperwork Update

Our documents are officially translated and 'legalized' by the Italian Consulate in Portland. Katrina took them to work on Saturday to get them ready to be mailed to the relocation people in Italy. Another step completed. The consulate thought we should have our Visa's in 3-4 weeks. I guess that is how quickly it could be done. It could take as much as 90 days. Who knows?

It feels good to have one more step completed. At this time it appears we will be moving to Italy no earlier than January.

Katrina will be leaving for Milan on Nov 8th for a two week business trip. I'm a bit jealous. I really would like to visit before we move there. She plans to spend some of her free time looking at neighborhoods and visiting two potential schools for Brandon.

Weight Watchers

So, I have jumped into the world of Weight Watchers. Its not the first time,but hopefully the last. I've always been a 'big guy'. That may sound like an excuse and a little cliche, but now I look back and realize that I was a 'big guy'. Not a fat guy. I wasn't skinny by any means, but I really wasn't fat. I don't really think I began to get 'fat' until my mid to late 20's.

As my blog description states, 40 has made me take a look at my life. Where I have been and where do I want to be in the next 40 years. What do I want more than anything in my life? I want to be healthy and live a long life as free of sickness, aches, pains and a long list of medications. I want to be healthy, not only for myself, but for Katrina. I want to see Brandon grow up and live his life.

Its been a long slow journey to my present weight. It didn't appear overnight and unfortunately it won't dissappear overnight.

I've been riding my bike 4-5 times a week since mid September. I ride 15-30 miles depending on the day. I have gained strength and some conditioning from the bike rides. What hurt at 15 miles a month ago, doesn't start hurting until I hit 25-30 miles now. Unfortunately, with all this extra exercise, I have not lost any weight. So, I guess I can call this stage 2 of my plan - getting my eating under control.

Yes, I find this tough to share with whomever may be reading my blog. I hope my friends and family will get a better glimpse of who I am through my struggles and my successes.

Well, I had my first Weight Watchers meeting this morning and weighed in. I am at an alltime high. I am not ready or willing to share my weight. BUT....I have a plan. I will continue to ride and walk on the treadmill. I will go to my weekly weigh in and meeting. I will limit my soda intake to eat outs only. I will share my weekly progress.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Katrina

I wish my beautiful wife Katrina a wonderful 38th birthday. I love you. For always, in all ways.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Arizona Weekend

Katrina's Mom, Carolyn, has wanted us to visit her new home in Arizona since she moved down there 2 years ago. It just never happened until this past weekend.

Carolyn informed us of a new airline offerning twice a week flights from Eugene to Phoenix - Mesa airport. We really wanted to visit her since we hadn't been yet and because of our future move to Italy. We were able to get pretty good airfare with Allegiant Airlines....about $400 for all three of us roundtrip.

Allegiant only flies this route twice a week, on Thursday and Sunday afternoons. They basically fly from Phoenix to Eugene then fly right back. We caught the Thursday evening flight and arrived in Mesa at 8:30pm. This airport is only a 45 minute drive from Carolyn's home and the Eugene airport is only 45 minutes from our home. It doesn't get much more convenient than that.

We had a great time visiting. The change in weather was actually very nice. We left a warm 60 degree day in Oregon and arrived in a warmer 80 degree evening in Arizona. The daytime highs over the weekend were sunny and 90's.

On Friday we drove down to Tuscon to have lunch with some of the family. Of course we had to stop for some 'photography moments' while driving each way. These 'moments' were trying on my patience several years ago, but over time I have come to appreciate Katrina's skill and knack for photograhy. I understand the need to the right lighting and setting up the right shot. Even Brandon is much more patient these days.

On Saturday we visited more of the relatives. Most of them live in Anthem, a preplanned community in Florence. They all have beautiful homes of various sizes. All are built with a stucco southwest look to them. I loved the neighborhoods and was amazed at how many trees and plants there were. In the afternoon we visited the community center. They were having an open house with a BBQ, swimming and kids games. It was pretty hot, so we hung out with family in the lifeguard office.

Carolyn had let us drive her golf cart to the community center. Brandon thought that was just too cool. After hanging out at the open house for about an hour, we decided to explore the neighborhoods in the golf cart. Several family members suggested we drive around the golf course since it was closed for the day. Katrina drove as we whizzed around the golf course paths getting wet from the sprinklers. Most of the sprinklers were on my side of the cart which made Katrina slow down and try and get me even more wet. Brandon thought this was very funny. We ended up driving around the entire 18 hole course before heading back to the house. I think this ended up being the highlight of the weekend for Brandon.

Saturday evening Carolyn hosted a family BBQ. Lots of good food and birthday cake for the second day in a row. Katrina turned 38 on Friday. It was great to see so many of the Katrina's extended family. They are always fun to hang out with.

Our visit ended on Sunday. Carolyn took us out to a Mexican restaurant for lunch before dropping us off at the airport. We said our goodbyes. We arrived home in Corvallis by 8pm. It was a quick and efficient weekend visit to the desert of Arizona.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I am learning patience. It seems I have always been learning patience. Is it a lifelong quest or do some learn it more quickly than others.

What is teaching me this patience? Its our impending move to Italy. Its hard to understand how a modest amount of paperwork can take soooooo long to complete.

This is the timeline as I have perceived it:

June - Katrina visits Italy and comes home with the idea that maybe she (we) should apply for the job in Italy. We could move as soon as October. We do a marathon weekend of research and decide to apply. Applications should be due by the end of June.

July - Applications are due on the 11th and interviews will probably happen in a week or two. We are still thinking a move could take place in October. Katrina finally interviews in late July. A decision should be made by the end of July.

August - A final decision is not made until a week or two into August. Katrina gets one of the two positions. We are not looking at a potential November move date. We go on our cruise thinking that the paperwork process will begin while we are gone.

September - We arrive home from our cruise on the 1st of the month to find that no paperwork has been started. Our benefits package and a budget must be approved. I believe we are still looking at a November move date but Katrina begins to talk about mid December to early January.

October - Paperwork is being 'officially' translated into Italian before it can be 'legalized' by the Italian consulate in Portland then mailed to Italy for processing. The benefits package has been agreed upon but the budget approval for the move is still pending. I've now come to the realization that Katrina may be right. She now thinks that the move will take place in January at the earliest.

Patience. It's sometimes a difficult thing to grasp. Katrina tells me that this is just a beginners lesson for living in Italy, where daily life moves at a much slower pace.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Matt Chesaux

I learned this week that a college friend from long ago died in a skiing accident in Estes Park CO. Although I haven't seen Matt since college, I have fond memories of him and his unique personality. Matt seemed to swim against the flow, especially for the conservative Bible college in which we attended. He was a 'rebel' at that time. He loved adventure and was not afraid to express his ideas and opinions, no matter what others said or felt.

I may not have agreed with all his ideas at that time, but looking back I admire him for being himself. For not fitting the mold. He seems to have lived a life of adventure and a life lived to the fullest.

Matt, you will be missed........Matt Chesaux 1968-2008.

Train Guy

Why is my blog called 'Train Guy Turns 40'?

Well, as my earlier posts mention, I turned 40 in September. Thats the obvious part.
I have been facinated with trains as far back as I can remember. I remember having a 'ride on' train when I was just a few years old. It was at my grandparents house. Apparently it was a quality train because my Aunts and Uncles could ride on it with me.
I also remember my parents and grandparents would sometimes drive out of the way so that we could purposely be stopped at a railroad crossing so I could see the trains. I remember my Dad riding the train from Elgin into Chicago for work.
I remember some of my earliest model train layouts. Most were only a circle of track, but I loved being in control of and building my own little world. I also remember receiving many model train related presents on my birthdays, and my great grandmother baking several cakes in the form of a train.
I grew out of model railroading when I went to college. After college I didn't really have the time, space or money for model trains. I do remember visiting some of the local model train shows.
My enthusiasm and interest in model trains was renewed when, after a couple of years of marriage, Katrina bought me a train set for one of my birthdays. I began to build a train layotu in our basement, only to tear it down for our move to Oregon. Once in Oregon I visited a few train shows and met Andy Epperly. He invited me to the local Corvallis Society of Model Engineers club.
Soon after that I joined the Pacific Northwest Modular RR Club. I built my first module, which quickly became four, which soon became 12. I was soon traveling to shows all over the northwest, displaying my model train layout and sharing my hobby with others. Going to shows has been the highlight of my model railroading. Sharing my layout with seasoned model railroaders and with newbies is the best.
I look forward to our new adventures in Italy. Milan is full of subways, streetcars and commuter trains. Europe has many passenger trains that can take you anywhere in a matter of hours. I plan to visit and probably join a local model railroad club.
So, as you can see, railroads and model railroading are my hobby and play are large role in my life. All aboard!......

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Counting in Italian

This past weekend Katrina had Brandon and I sit down and do her Italian lesson 5 with her (I am still on lesson 1). We learned to count to 20.

As I predicted, Katrina is very intent on learning as much Italian as she can before we move there. I think she is learning the language due to her sheer drive and ambition. Brandon picked it up pretty naturally and just flew through the lesson. I worked through it with enthusiasm, but picked it up much slower. All this seems to justify my prediction that the entire process of learning Italian will be just like this.

Brandn and I have been practicing the numbers each day. I get stuck occasionally and he helps me out. Its a little humbling, but I am also very proud of him. When he is interested, he soaks things up like a sponge.

Sinus Pain

I went to the Dr. today. This was the second time in a month. I went a couple of days after we arrived home from our cruise. I am still fighting a sinus infection. I don't think I've ever suffered from one before. I have allergies, but this takes it to a whole new level: my eyes hurt, my head hurts, my face hurts, my teeth hurt. Everything from the neck up hurts!

The first time I visited the Dr. he prescribed 10 days of antibiotics. They seemed to help, but the symptoms never really went away. This time I have been prescribed different antibiotics and some decongestant. I hope it works. My head and left eye feel like they are going to explode.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Jury Duty

It's Monday afternoon and I am home from a morning at the Benton County Courthouse in downtown Corvallis. About a month ago I received a letter stating that I was being called for jury duty during the months of October and November. This is my second call for jury duty in 2008. Its kind of a funny story....

Earlier this year I received a jury duty summons from the city of Corvallis. I filled out the necessary paperwork which consisted of personal imformation and potential dates I needed to be free of duty due to vacations or other circumstances. I mailed it in and figured all I had to do was call the jury duty line to see if I my number was called. Then, about 3 weeks later I receive a jury duty summons again. I opened it up to find more paperwork to be filled out with personal information, etc. This ticked me off a bit because I had already mailed my paperwork in. Later that evening I showed it to Katrina when she arrived home from work. She quickly pointed out that the jury summons was for Benton County, not the city of Corvallis. So, I was being summoned for two jury duty assigments at the same time! I have never been called for jury duty in my life and now I am being called upon by two different courts at the very same time.

Long story short, I called the county office and told them what had happened. The jury director told me I couldn't serve two different courts at the same time so I would have to defer my county summons to later in the year.

This takes us to this morning. I had to meet at the courthouse at 7:40am to check in for jury orientation from 8 - 9 am. When that was over, 32 of us had our numbers chosen for a jury trial that started today. My number was called. We waited for the court to begin session then the judge called us into the courtroom. We all sat in the gallery and waited for 18 of us to randomly have our juror numbers called. Mine was not called. Those who were chosen had to sit in the jury box and in front of it (the jurors box only holds 12 seats). The judge asked them some general questions and let 3 people go home. So, three more random numbers were chosen to fill those seats. Not me. Both attorneys were now able to ask the jurors questions. After about 20 minutes, all of us were released back to the jurors room to wait for the attorney's to pick the jury. When we were called back into the courtroom, 12 were chosen to sit on the jury and the rest of us were sent home.

I must say, its an interesting process and I understand our civic duty to be jurors, but everything moves very slowly. I'm glad I had my book with me.

I am free for this week but must call the jury line each Friday night to see if my number is picked for the next week. I have to do this each week through Nov 28th. Who knows, maybe I have more insight into the judicial process yet to come.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Camp Baker

Its Sunday. Brandon and I are home from Fun with Son at Camp Baker.

It was an interesting weekend. Terry, Chase and Spencer picked us up at about 3:45 on Friday afternoon. We headed southwest to Florence. The trip was going pretty well for about the first hour. The boys were talking and having fun. Terry and I were chatting while he drove. Our goal was to get to Florence early, eat some dinner then head to Camp Baker to get a good spot. After about an hour of driving Spencer began to feel sick. To make a long story (drive) short, we stopped 4 times for Spencer to take a break and get some fresh air. On the 5th time, only about 6 miles from Florence, Spencer 'spewed'. I say spewed because that is how Spencer and the other boys tell the story. After this exciting event, the rest of the drive went rather smoothly. We had a fine dinner at the Golden Arches and finally arrived at camp around 6pm.

We checked in at the camp office then gathered our gear and headed to our assigned camp site, Jason Lee. As mentioned in a previous post, sleeping takes place in Adirondacks - 3 sided huts with two bunks each, 4 beds. Jason Lee has 6 Adirondacks. Since we were the first there, we had to check out each one and find the best. Terry and his boys took the first one. Brandon and I took the one farthest down the hill.

Friday nights activities: Orientation at 8pm, Cracker Barrel (snack) at 9pm, lights (actually flashlights) out at 10pm.

Did I mention the rain. It started raining during our dinner at McDonalds and didn't stop until about 8am on Saturday. We were all pretty wet by bedtime on Friday night.

Its funny how camping, even in plywood bunks, is so much harder at 40 than it was just 10 years ago. I slept pretty well, but woke up many times during the night with aches and pains from the hard beds. Most of all, I didn't prepare well for a pillow. We brought Brandon's pillows from his bed. Not the worst, but not enough support for me and my big shoulders. Of course, once Brandon was out he didn't make a sound until I woke him in the morning. What I didn enjoy was the sound of rain on the Adirondack roof all night long. And, it was very pleasant. Not too cold at all.

Saturday was filled with the usual scout activities: flag ceremony, bb guns, archery, slingshots, leather craft, candle making, engineering (we built a bridge with popsicle sticks), outdoor skills, boating and several activities we didn't get to (knots, first aid, and the climbing wall). Brandon and I had a great time. Brandon is getting to be a pretty good shot with the bb gun. We both agreed that our favorite activity was boating. It was fun to just skim across the water in the row boat and just talk and look at the scenery. Some of my favorite moments with Brandon are those times when its just the two of us doing a fun outdoor activity.

In the afternoon Brandon took the test for his Whittling Chip, the card he needs to carry a pocketknife at scouting events. He got 90% on the test and can now carry the knife his Grandma bought him several years ago.

After the evening campfire event, we headed home. Camp was over and we (Terry and I) decided we would like to sleep in our own beds at home, so we gathered up our gear and drove home, arriving at 11:30.

The icing on the cake after a weekend at camp.....a hot shower and a soft warm bed.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Rain and Cub Scouts

Brandon and I will be heading to Camp Baker for Fun with Son this weekend. Its a two night campout for Cub Scouts with the usual array of scout activities: bb guns, archery, knot tying, leather craft, sling shots, boating, a treasure hunt and so much more.

We went to Fun with Son for the first time last year. It was held in October on a weekend much like this one - wet and chilly. I must admit I was skeptical about how much fun it would be. Brandon and I drove down to camp, about 10 miles south of Florence on the coast, late on Friday evening. It was dark by the time we arrived. I had no idea how primitive the campsites would be. All the campsites I have been to have had some lightposts to guide the way. Luckily we were guided to our campsite by fellow scout leader Tom. It was DARK in the forest. Although our campsite had Adirondacks (3 walled huts with bunks), Brandon and I had decided to bring out 4 man tent. The first challenge was finding a flat spot to setup a large 4 man tent. The second challenge was remembering how to setup a tent we hadn't used in quite a few years. We managed, although we would later find out that our location choice was not the best - not the worst - but not the best. On the second night it rained pretty heavily and we apparently setup the tent where the rain water flowed down the hill. I woke up very early in the morning to find our entire floor soaked with flowing water. Brandon and I were ok. We had sleeping pads underneath us that supplied a barrier between our sleeping bags and the water. I, however, had to keep waking up to make sure Brandon stayed on his mat. He has a tendency to move around a lot. It did not help that our tent is quite old now and is not the most water resistant anymore. After a morning filled with rain showers while we packed up the soaking wet tent, Brandon and I decided that we would sleep in the Adirondacks at the next Fun with Son.

Brandon had a blast doing all the activities. He was exposed to most of them for the first time and loved it. We came away from the weekend with the insight that Brandon was a natural at archery but not so much at bb guns. Overall, the weekend was a blast. We left camp on Sunday morning knowing that Fun with Son would definitely be on our calendar in 2008.

Which brings us to this blog post. The forecast and the current conditions say one thing - RAIN. We don't care. We know that Fun with Son will be a blast. This time we will sleep in the Adirodacks. Brandon has come a long way in one year. He attended Scout Day Camp this summer and had improved greatly with his archery and especially his bb gun skills.

Scouting has opened up new opportunities for Brandon since he joined. He's excited each time he puts his uniform on and he really looks sharp. It has given him a sense of belonging. He's pretty proud of scouts and his accomplishments and so are we.

First Blog

Here I am working on my first blog. I'm was inspired by my wife who started her own blog a couple of months ago.

I've been thinking about my life quite a bit lately. You see, I just turned 40 in September. No, I am not panicking and I'm not sad or upset. I just never saw it coming! I still remember being a teenager and looking at people in their 40's and thinking about how 40 was a lifetime away. Well, here I am. 40 has been a lifetime of experiences. I've been lucky to experience so many wonderful and interesting things in my life. I've also had to deal with many issues that have affected my life and how I have lived it. Some of these issues I have overcome and some I am still struggling with.

I guess I decided to write this blog for a couple of reasons: 1) Its been a big year for me. My family (my wife, my son and myself) are getting ready to move to Milan Italy for two years. In late July we found out we wil be moving sometime in late December. In August we took at two week Panama Canal cruise, the trip of a lifetime. And, as mentioned above, I turned 40 in September. Its been a busy year. This blog is a way for me to share our adventures with friends and family. And 2) I have experienced so many things in 40 years. I wanted to have a place to capture past experiences and see how they have made me the person I am today.

I hope those who read this blog find it interesting. My mind is already racing through memories of experiences I want to write about.