Luxury, Power, Technology, Comfort, Appeal and Self Respect!

As our family continued to grow, we realized we would need another vehicle that would accommodate that fact on top of many other wants and needs that we had. We find that so many families are too quick to dismiss self image and join the mini van club. As if this is the only thing that can accommodate the needs of a growing family or the gathering of groceries.

Monica and I have been looking for a vehicle over the past 2 years that would not be a mini van but also not be a huge monstrosity of an SUV. Monica being vertically challenged could only see over the dashboards of very few vehicles. She did not want anything that was excessively large but would also include enough towing capacity to pull a larger cabin cruiser (that was naturally my need LOL). Not many options fell within this criteria. You have your Yukons, Suburbans, Crew Cabs, Navigators, Escalades, Explorers and a few other super large SUV's that could pull over 7,500 lbs but unfortunately for us, they would not fit in the garage and we felt the quality just was non existent without an absurd price increase.To be open minded, we looked at all these vehicles just to make sure it was not what we wanted. We even looked into Audis, Porsche, BMW, Infinity and Lexus and the ability to tow 7,500+ lbs was not a feature that was included with these brands

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We had been eyeing the new Dodge Durango for at least 2 years since the 3rd generation new body style dropped. Specifically the 2014 - 2015 Dodge Durango RT because the rear light were (for a lack of better terminology) BAD ASS. We were looking for black on black with all the options and the Hemi. The problem we ran into was this vehicle is a unicorn. If it existed, we were not finding it anywhere. We would occasionally find a used one or new 2014 for the same price as the brand new ones.

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We were currently in a Hyndai Santa Fe Limited which we loved very much. It was in immaculate shape as this is how we took care of it. We had even customized it with an in dash DVD player with backup camera and 22" custom wheels. We could mirror our iPhones to the 7 inch in dash double din head unit and play Hulu, Netflix or whatever else was of interest. Because we traveled so much for Real Estate photography, this was an essential addition. You can see the full video tour of our 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe limited here. It was our plan to use the money as a down payment on the Dodge Durango RT.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84cU1zT6cn4&w=640&h=360]

We were on our way home from Panama City Beach when a teenager immediately pulled out from a side street  in front of us. There was no room to react fast enough to avoid the collision. We T boned the mid 80's F-150 in the rear drivers side tire. Thank the Lord that everyone was ok. Even the Hyundai (while looking quite bad) was still running smoothly. After exchanging info and having the police write up a report, we drove back to Atlanta.

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It took 2 months to go through the typical bullshit you get from an insurance company. After 2 weeks of going back and forth with GEICO, we went up to their office to get a check for $14,000. About 10 minutes into our meeting they look at us and say "we have some bad news". Apparently in Florida you only are required to have a minimum of 10,000 in property damage which would not cover the value of our vehicle. GEICO could only cut us a check for that.

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After immediately walking out we contacted our own insurance company Nationwide. Talk about being put through the ringer with GEICO, it was worse with Nationwide. They did not want to give us the value of our vehicle. They came in at $11,000 which was $3,o00 less then what GEICO was willing to pay before they realized their clients were underinsured. Long story short, I had to provided more documents to back the value until we eventually got the price up to $13,000. Lets just say it made Monica cry how evil both insurance companies were about this process. I honestly do not know how people that work in that industry sleep at night.

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But after all that, we always try to look on the bright side of any situation, and the luck of it all is we were in a position to now get our current dream vehicle! The 2015 Dodge Durango RT! We originally were looking for a Citadel, because it was chromed out and super sexy looking but came to find from our buying experience at Chrysler, Dodge Jeep of Gwinnett that we could have everything we were looking for in the RT! It was black on black leather with red stitching and red embroidered RT seats. This is the most sexy, masculine piece of SUV on the road period. It even has the black out 20" rims and sub in the trunk from the factory! The rear end looks like something out of the movie TRON.

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We were amazed at how much technology this car had. You could locate the lowest price gas station, or see what is playing at the movies with the in dash technology Uconnect system. Heated and cooled seats with heated steering wheel. You have 2 settings on the seat that would adjust the seat to each driver, but not only that, it would adjust the seat, radio, temperature settings and all that you wanted to program to match the driver! The dash is equiped with a 7inch customizable dash cluster. When you set the cruise control, you can set a 1 to 5 car length distance so when a vehicle in front begins to brake, so does the Durango. It will come to a complete stop and start back up to speed with traffic all on cruise control. You just have to hold the steering wheel! Don't forget the power lift gate, easy third row access, keyless entry and remote start.

For safety the Durango includes many aspects like blind spot warning, backup camera with sensors, front end sensors with brake assist. The brake assist is a very cool feature. Lets say that same kid pulls out in front of us again. The Durango will instantly brake faster then your brain can react to aid in avoiding a collision.

Now, I could go on and on about the technology they put in this beauty but the Dodge website does a great job already, so check out this link to see what else is included (click the image)

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Our wish list did not originally include all this technology, but it was super cool to find out it was included with the Durango. We were looking for something that would seat more than 4 to 5 people, without taking the dreaded MINI-VAN path! The Durango could seat 6 to 7 passengers. In addition to that we needed something that could tow a cabin cruiser, to continue the "dream!" The Durango has a towing capacity of 7,400 lbs. This proved to pull a 25 foot Regal Windows Express cabin cruiser quite well! With Standard Trailer Sway Control+ applies brake pressure on alternating wheels and may adjust engine throttle to help eliminate sway and maintain vehicle and trailer system stability.

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To pull a boat that size you need power. Well the 5.7 liter Hemi has power and an exhaust sound that will make any dude smile like a joker! As Dodge would say "So don't do it. With the Dodge Durango, you're getting the triple threat of Best-in-Class power+, towing capacity+ and standard fuel economy of 25 highway mpg+. You're getting a vehicle that doesn't wait around for anyone or anything. It's the left lane or bust."

  • 360-HP 5.7L HEMI® V8 Engine with Fuel Saver Technology and 390 LB-FT of Torque
  • Performance Steering and Sport Suspension (Lowered 20mm)
  • Class-Exclusive 20-Inch Hyper Black Aluminum Wheels+
  • Dual Rear Exhaust with Bright Tips
  • High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Headlamps with Black Bezels

The moral of the story is you no longer have to settle, sell out, ride the mainstream, lower self worth by driving a mini van. You can have your cake and eat it too. We love our new 2015 Dodge Durango RT. You need to check it out for yourself. Smiles per gallon baby! Now we are officially a Mopar family!

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Need more? This is a great video covering the Durango RT

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6nVQd4q8m8&w=640&h=360]


BABY LIAM - 260 Hours to Home

After close to 10 months of an amazing pregnancy, Liam’s due date of May 5th, 2013 was a week away. Monica was in great shape and had experienced practically no labor pains, limited hormonal complaints and was gripping strong to consistent social involvement with friends and family. At the final Dr. appointment before “D-Day”, Dr. Chua decided it was time to schedule Monica’s induction.

DAY 1: May 5, 2013

The day started pretty slow with breakfast with family, but the time to get everything packed in the car and ready to leave for the hospital seemed to come so fast. On the way to the hospital we made the decision to stop at Jimmy John’s for one last meal before we were confined to the hospital. We came fully prepared, packing enough to fill a large bodied wheelchair to the brim and then some. The nurses thought we were moving in but did say they had see worse. We settled into room 5 at the Emory Johns Creek Labor and Delivery.

img_4929 edWhile Monica was getting prepped, answering a laundry list of questions and getting blood drawn and IVs in place, I attempted setting up our Apple tv, but to my dismay the hospitals pathetic LCDs were not equipped with an HDI port nor did I bring the standard RCA connections to make this awesome setup work. Fortunately for them, the hospital did have a decent cable setup so watching TV (mostly Peachtree tv) stole our attention and was amplified well with the connection of our Bose stereo. All the nurses were very surprised with the sound quality of the portable Bose stereo system and the biscuit was able to get soothed with a true and high quality sound. I wanted her experience to be top notch. I was doing an awesome job of catering to her every desire. My main concern was her comfort and an amazing birthing experience.

So the beginning of our induction would start with cervidil to soften the cervix. Upon arrival to the hospital as well as the weeks prior, Monica had not dilated at all so we were hopeful that the medication would get the process going, and as fast as possible. The cervidil would stay in for 12 hours and Monica would be checked the next morning to see how things had progressed.

img_4965 edAfter we got settled in our good friend, photographer, and wanna-be Douala, Elaine Hoyt, made her first visit to see how we were doing and hang out for a bit. She and I began our photo documentation while Monica was all snuggled up in bed.

DAY 2: May 6, 2013

We began the day with the removal of the cervidil and a check on the cervix. Unfortunately we were still at about 1 cm with doubts on how quickly things would progress. Now it was time to start the Cytotec, another tablet with the purpose of softening/ripening the cervix. These tablets would be inserted on 4 hour intervals, so depending on how things progressed we were looking at as much as 12 or more hours before they would even consider starting the Pitocin for contractions. Dr. Anthony was on call that day and came in to check on Monica’s progress, and during her exam she felt as though she was able to “stretch” to 2 cm, but we came to find that the measuring of cervical dilation is variable based on the person doing the exam! Following the exam, Dr. Anthony did want to prepare us that a C-Section could very well be our means of delivering Liam as she felt as though Monica’s pelvis was not conducive for delivery. According to Dr. Anthony, Monica’s pelvic bone was fairly flat in an area where it should be more pointed or curved. This was something Monica was concerned about as her mother too has a small pelvis, and came to find similar issues in the delivery process of her first child.

The question of Monica’s ability to deliver vaginally came up in various appointments with Dr. Chua, and she knew both Monica and I wanted to give baby Liam the chance to come on his own and experience as natural a birthing process as possible. And on top of that, I was also extremely terrified of having the love of my life, undergoing major surgery.

After two doses of Cytotec and little to no progress, Dr. Anthony decided to hold off on the 3rd dose to consult with Dr. Chua. After consulting, they decided to stop the Cytotec and go back to the Cervidil as it was something that could be removed if necessary. So we went into another evening with little progress and were now looking and hoping for delivery on Tuesday!

DAY 3: May 7th, 2013

Tuesday morning started off with some positive results from the various cervical medications. We made it officially to “2-3 cm” and it was time to get things moving. Dr. Chua came by in the morning to check things and decided it was time to try to break Monica’s water. The cervical exams were never comfortable, but the “attempt” at breaking the water was pretty awful! Dr. Chua was able to slightly puncture the sac before she decided to give Monica a break. She was able to get some fluid so she felt as though it was a reasonable time to start antibiotics (as Monica was Group B Strep (GBS) positive). It wasn’t long before the contractions began and Monica was gradually dealing less and less well with the pain. While Monica hadn’t wanted to use the IV pain meds, it definitely seemed to be a little too early to start the epidural.

After lunch time, Monica was feeling some relief from the pain meds. Dr. Chua came back and it was now time to really break that water, and get the Pitocin pumping. It was surprising how quickly things seemed to progress at this point. Contractions were coming and Monica’s pain levels began increasing! With the IV fluids already going, the nurse prepped her for an epidural and relief was quickly on it’s way! It was amazing the relief Monica got from the epidural, barely feeling contractions at all! But what was even more exciting was the fact that Monica began dilating faster after the epidural - She thinks it may have been because she was finally able to relax a bit. While it had by no means been a fast process getting the dilation going, the most progress was made between 1PM and 10:30PM Tuesday. When Dr. Chua stopped by that evening to check Monica, she had now dilated to 7cm! It felt like we were finally getting there! Monica and I joked that Dr. Chua would probably get a call at 2 or 3AM saying it was time! In any case it was looking like Liam would be born on Monica’s Mom’s birthday! While Monica had been hoping Liam would have his “own” birthday, it is a nice little birthday gift for Grandmom, and if Liam is anything like his Grandmother, he would be a very strong person!

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The AM hours came and went without any sign of Liam, it was now onto Day 4!

DAY 4: May 8, 2013

As 9AM approached, Monica finally reached 10 cm of dilation and was fully effaced. The nurse on duty decided it was time to start pushing. I set the mood with some Zero 7 playing on Pandora, and some comfortable lighting. While by Monica’s side, I helped to hold her foot and leg as she pushed baby Liam during each contraction. Monica was surprised at how relaxed the mood was and how it didn’t feel as scary to push as she had imagined, even having pushed in 3, 1 hour intervals. And on top of that, the nurse was extremely impressed with Monica’s ability to push considering she had the epidural going!

While things were progressing, every time Liam would descend on the pushes, he would then reascend back when the pushing stopped. He just could not make it past her flat and small pelvic bone. In an effort to give Monica one last chance to birth Liam naturally, Dr. Chua decided to give a few more college tries with the aid of the vacuum. I was quite surprised just how much pressure Dr. Chua was using and yet Liam would still not yield the pelvic bone. It was then and only then that Dr. Chua made the executive decision that a C-Section was the only way this baby was going to arrive.

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Dr. Chua and her team quickly wrapped up all their shiny tools and tables and exited the room. Monica was prepped and I was given a set of hospital threads to also prepare for the unknown. I, in all his life, had never felt more terrified of what was to come. Monica was so strong and reassuring me that “they do this everyday...” but I was still shaking and literally crying like a baby. I remembered the anesthesiologist making jokes trying to calm me down. Not even the funniest comedian with the most epic punchline could have pulled a smile from me. The one thing I did respond to was the ability to bring music into the operating room. I quickly pulled together the Bose stereo and my phone with all the cables. The Dr. later instructed I that all I needed was the phone. I think either way it was an opportunity to get me thinking about something other then the major surgery about to take place. The worst part of the this particular experience was having to sign off on the paperwork that legally freed the hospital from the potential liability of Monica and/or Liam’s death.

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While I was waiting at the desk just outside the operating room, the staff were quickly adjusting and setting up the room for the C-Section. Monica had already been moved into the room. Then that fateful moment happened. They called me into the room and set me next to Monica on a black swivel stool. I began caressing her face and cheeks and with all my power, trying to maintain sanity. This was the last thing I ever wanted to happen and frankly it was the most terrifying experience I have ever had. But little did I know it was about to get worse.

Just behind Monica’s head was what appeared to be a large plastic container that slowly and then more quickly draining blood, the placement of this apparatus did not help with either my or Monica’s anxiousness. I begin to start breathing very quickly and another surgical staff member had to help calm me down. “You have to breathe slower, take slow, long and deeper breaths”. I remembered this being repeated several times. All I could focus on was how strong Monica was being. She never grimaced, cried or showed the slightest concern even though I was literally loosing my mind. It was actually quite ironic how at this given moment I recognized that the song currently playing over the room speakers was that of an episode from Grey’s Anatomy - I had been forced to watch several episodes with Monica as this was and is still her favorite show. It however was not an appropriate tune for the current situation and honestly only made things that much more emotional. And honestly with the events to precede it seemed fitting as it honestly felt like a scene from Grey’s Anatomy.

Then came a moment that I would never forget. An experience and memory that will always stay embedded in my mind. The baby was out, and Dr. Chua passed a little 5 lb and 13 oz lifeless body, over to a team of NICU staff. The team started yelling out questions like, “was there cord?” and began counting “One, Two, Three... One, Two, Three...” For what seemed like an eternity, this team worked on Liam to revive and get him breathing. Liam unfortunately had inhaled meconium and it was thick and even in his sinuses that they were not able to suction out without causing more issues. After a few endless moments, I was called over to see my little man. I remember standing over him, no color, no movements and what appeared to be no life. I began excessively hyperventilating, so much to the point where the surgical staff said “we need to get him out of here.” They quickly rolled a chair over for me to sit down. They knew I was a few breaths away from dropping to the ground. I was quickly rolled out and sat in the lobby while the doctors finished their work. I did not know what the status of Liam was nor that of my beloved life partner, Monica.

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After a few moments, I was able to get up and walk outside where I met up with Elaine. It was everything that I could do not to break down again. We walked outside into the sunlight and Elaine knew that something was not right. I looked like a ghost and had no expression. It was not long before I received a text to return back to the labor and delivery room 5 where they would be returning Monica shortly.

I remember her bed being wheeled in and felt somewhat of a comfort seeing that she was ok. At the same time, while looking into each other eyes, we both knew the fear that existed in each of our hearts. What is happening with Liam? A period of about 2 hours passed before the NICU team came to the room with news about Liam. Dr Suskin, the neonatal specialist, entered the room and with a serious face and mannerism began to divulge Liam’s situation.

“Liam is a very sick little boy. During the delivery process Liam experienced a traumatic labor where at some point the flow of oxygen was cut off to his brain. Its commonly known as HIE (hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy) where lack of oxygen frequently damages not only the brain, but other organs as well. Often these include heart damage with abnormal blood pressures or heart rhythms, liver damage with elevated liver enzymes, kidney damage with low urine output and abnormal kidney function, gastrointestinal problems with abnormal feeding, low or high tone with floppy or stiff muscles and/or impaired control of breathing often requiring ventilation. Many babies will not survive these injuries. Those who do often have permanent brain injury and may be ultimately diagnosed with hypoxic brain injury or cerebral palsy. But it is possible to have severe brain injury associated with birth that does not result in cerebral palsy. The location and extent of the brain injury will dictate what your child’s future limitations may be. In an effort to avoid any possible damage Dr. Suskin stated that they need to get Liam to the Gwinnett Medical NICU where they would administer Cool Cap therapy. “

The only hospital in GA that offers this Cool Cap therapy is the Gwinnett Medical NICU. Click here to learn more about Cool Cap therapy. http://www.natus.com/index.cfm?page=products_1&crid=284

Liam had to be transported to the NICU at Gwinnett Medical Center (GM) within the first 6 hours of his life in order to receive this therapy with the best chances of success. Now keep in mind Monica had not yet seen, touched or held our new baby boy. It seemed like another eternity waiting to get the next word. I quickly signed all appropriate documentation and waited by Monica’s side. I was called next to go back to the Emory Johns Creek NICU to see Liam before he was transported to GM. Liam was hooked up to every wire, tube and cable you could imagine. He was not moving and with camera in hand, I began to take photos and video so I could show Liam to Monica. The nurse on duty walked me through all the details about Liam, there was a tube inserted in the side of his left rib cage that was allowing fluid in the lung sac to drain as it was swelling. Liam’s acidity was extremely high and they were administering several different fluids though a tube in his belly button. He was on a paralytic to keep him from moving, dopamine to regulate his heart and blood pressure, morphine for pain, sugar, antibiotics for the acidotic (base), ampicillin and a few others I am not sure of. A tube was inserted into his throat to manually respirate him.

The transport team was on their way, and there was limited time, but Monica was wheeled in (bed and all) to see Liam before he was moved to GM NICU. Monica could barely see her little man and was able to just slightly caress his little toes before the transport team arrived. I went to gather my things, and the team quickly began prepping Liam and introducing themselves to Monica as they all had a specific role in this process of moving Liam. Monica signed some final documents and they had to wheel her away to get Liam in route. I said my goodbyes to Monica and was off to follow Liam over to GM.

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I was not allowed to ride in the ambulance with Liam so my mother, Marty, drove me over in Monica’s car to GM NICU in rush hour traffic. Talk about a long and uncomfortable ride. Once arriving I quickly entered the NICU and was briefed on more information then I could ever expect to learn about HIE or cool cap therapy and what comes along with both. Dr Leigh was very informative and direct about Liam’s condition giving no ounce of assurance. Later Dr. Leigh would joke about just how many questions I asked to get an answer from him as to Liam’s rate of success. Dr. Leigh could only express to me that they would not know anything for the next 72 hours as this is how long it takes to administer the cool cap therapy.

Because Liam had possibly minor to severe brain damage, the cool cap technology was only used in the prevention of further damage. It was explained to me that when a brain cell dies, it dies in 2 ways. One it will die and that is it, the other is death with shrapnel killing all local brain cells. Its impossible to know with any baby that has HIE what the extent of the damage is, if any. Worst case scenarios include death and/or Cerebral Palsy with CP taking until the age of 2 to diagnose. Now with the multiple questions I had for Dr. Leigh, I did find out one that really put things in perspective. This technology is only 5 years old (FDA approved) and Liam is about 1 of the 8-12 babies in a year receive this treatment at GM NICU. That really identified just how serious and isolated Liam’s situation was.

Day 5: May 9, 2013

I sat by Liam’s side until 4am. The nurse on duty that evening was Vanessa and one of the most passionate, kind, caring and educated nurses I had met yet. She was very attentive to Liam and did not eat when the other nurses left to eat. She was dedicated to Liam’s success. We had to re-blood type Liam because they could not take the word of another hospital (per policy) and needed his type to order plasma and platelets from the blood bank. A normal baby has 121k platelets and Liam’s were just under 31k. His plasma was also very low and needed to be replenished. I remembered examining all the devices that were hooked up to Liam and asking Vanessa for details about each. This probably happened at least a dozen times over the course of the next few days.

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Monica (mom) was staying at Emory Johns Creek and her parents were keeping her company while I (dad) was aside Liam praying and hoping for his speedy recovery. Miracles happen all the time right? It was not long before Facebook and both Monica’s and my phone started blowing up. People wanted to know what was going on. Monica and I were still deep in the woods of this traumatic experience with little information to ease our own minds, let alone anyone elses. We did not want to talk to anyone outside of our immediate families due to the overwhelming uncertainty and pain of our situation. Monica was very emotional and delicate and needed time to recover while I was having to be supportive and involved with Liam and his treatment.

Day 6: May 10, 2013

Liam was stable and they continued monitoring him, it was now a countdown to get through the 72 hour treatment on the Cool Cap. On the ventilator, the NICU staff were seeing that Liam was gaining more and more breathes on his own. As the day progressed we began to see Liam transform. The first huge steps that were taken happened this evening when they removed the chest tube and took Liam off the ventilator. He was now breathing 100% on his own and only with a nasal cannula that you may remember seeing an old person wear at a retirement home. It was not breathing for Liam, but rather providing additional support to the breaths he was taking on his own. Now all that was left was the Cool Cap, needle brain probes stuck in his scalp and a line inserted through his belly for supplementation.

Day 7: May 11, 2013

Everyday Liam was looking and acting like a new baby. Monica was being released today, it would be the first time she’d see her son since his birthday. Monica was so happy that she would finally be able to see our little bundle of joy. At 11:30 Monica and I headed straight to GM NICU. She got scrubbed up and entered the room where Liam was being cared for. You should have seen the joy and happiness on her face to finally truly and effectively examine her baby boy. Looking over every inch of his body even with all the tubes and surrounding equipment. The look on her face was true contentment. “He is so beautiful” she said while touching his little toes. Both Monica and I knew that Liam had come so far and done so well.

Later that evening, the NICU staff would begin the warming process where once complete they could remove the cool cap. Monica and I were very excited about this and knew that every day Liam was doing a little bit better. She was even able to pump while at the NICU, next to Liam’s bed. That night Monica and I went home and for the first time, got to relax on their sofa and take a deep breath knowing in their hearts the God had potentially saved their baby. Still uncertain of the future considering the fact that only time would tell if Liam had truly triumphed over HIE.

In my time sitting next to Liam I had done much internet research and felt very comforted that Liam had not experienced any seizures like some of the more sever cases of HIE. Also every single post of Cool Cap therapy online had shown amazing results that these little ones had no issues growing into normal children and adults.

Day 8: May 12, 2013 (Mother’s Day)

Monica and I returned to NICU Sunday morning (Mothers Day) to see Liam for the first time without the cool cap. He looked so amazing. His color was very good, he was for the first time lying on his belly all snuggled up and not shaking for once. He looked like a normal little guy sleeping soundly. It was not long before the nurse asked mom if she would like to hold him. I bet you know the answer to that one. Liam woke up and cried a little bit and before long, Monica had him sleeping in her arms. Liam was giving several good neurological signs of progress. He had good range of motion for his arms, legs, feet and hands. He was also able to suck very good on a pacifier. It was amazing to see how beautiful Liam was the more he lost all that medical crap he was hooked up to.

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I, not being a woman and 35 years old with no kids, had really enjoyed living without them. He always hated going to restaurants and seeing other kids who badly needed a spanking or just general discipline. For once in I life I loved something more then anything in the world. Just hearing him cry literally brought tears of happiness.

Day 9: May 13, 2013

On our visit to the NICU, it was now my turn to finally hold my little man. He seemed very content with daddy mad baby handling skills. Today Liam was getting a decrease today in his IV supplements so Dad got a chance to feed Liam and squeeze his little soft cheeks! Liam had also lost his nasal cannula. This was the first time that I could look at Liam and notice a difference in the shape and size of his face and facial features. His eyes were not swollen and his double chin had disappeared. I for a moment thought they had swapped him out with a new baby but he just looked too much like me. He was so alert and looking all around. Looking at me, the bottle, the biscuit and back to me. It was really a blessed sight to see.

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Day 10: May 14, 2013

Back to Monica’s turn and this time she got to give Liam some boob! He did a great job for his first time. We were extremely pleased with how much more progress our little man was making from day to day. Before we left, we dropped him in the NICU provided 4MOM Mamaroo baby swing. It was super modern looking and also had a travel path unlike any swing I have ever seen. Liam absolutely loved it and soon was passed out. Monica signed off on his “snip snip” circumcision. I was not about to have a signed concern of any penal loss risk (listed on document). Now I can confidently say that was your moms fault should anything bad happen. I am sure he will be golden though!

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Day 11: May 15, 2013

I stopped by after my dermatology appointment to find Liam all dressed up in a blue shirt and grey pants. The only connection was his heart rate monitor. I could tell he was in even better spirits not having that line in his belly. The nurses said he was a bit more fussy but I am sure that is because he is now relying 100% on his Perdue belly for all supplementation and these need excessive fuel. Monica got to breast feed and bottle feed Liam yet again today! We both found that Liam likes to sit up and be a sociable part of the conversation. We look forward to chilling with him at home.

Day 12: May 16th, 2013

HOME...

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A huge thank you to all of our family and friends that have been such a great support through this process, without you getting through this would have been impossible! We couldn't be more excited at how far Liam has come, and that our little miracle is now snuggled up at home!

P.S. Big brother Chunk, spent the night on the sofa in Liam's nursery, his first night home - he didn't want to leave his side! Chunk stay there all night to keep an eye on his little brother, Liam.

Another Apple Experience: Restoring the Faith

So I would like to preface this with a little history on my relationship with Apple. After college I got my first Power Book, and it was amazing! It was my first step into total conversion, even rebirth of belief about what a computer should be capable of, and what it is capable of! I was used to a PC and the pains of crashing, slow processing and your typical viruses. It seemed as if every year my PC needed a doctor's appointment.

I am a photographer and graphic and web designer, and I need a machine that works the way I do, with precision, determination and generally like a WORK HORSE!

After running my PowerBook for ten years I was faced with an issue on the hard drive not responding. I went to Apple to see what they could do, and since it was such an old computer we (the consultant and I) came to the ultimate decision that it didn't owe me anything, I had gotten everything out of it I could and the best option at that point was to upgrade to the Macbook Pro

I was excited about this new machine and how it would allow me to progress in my work, so I jumped in like an excited child into the ball pen at McDonald's! I brought both my new and old laptops home, and was getting myself acclimated to the new system. While I was working on the new machine, I was also playing around with the old one in an effort to pull information from it, as no one wants to lose what they have on their old computer. Low and behold, my old PowerBook started up! It was a miracle and I contemplated returning the new machine, but this new piece of equipment was so beautiful and extremely fast. I just couldn't let it go! From a cost analysis standpoint, the amount of time the new Mac was able to save me would essentially be a pay raise on the time I lost from outdated technology. But in any case it's always good to have two machines... best to have a backup for anything that is important in life (including my work!).

In addition to the two Mac laptops I now had, I decided to purchase an old tower from the AJC where I was working. Because oddly they were transitioning away from Apple, the first in what I consider many of the AJC's BAD decisions. But in any case it worked out cause I now had another machine to use for backup needs. It was a Mac G4 dual 500 that needed a little tender loving care, i.e. a new hard drive, memory and a few other updates. But luckily I had a good friend, and Apple tech from the AJC that pimped the machine.

From this point, we then added the Time Capsule as storage was going to be a MUST! With the Time Capsule I was able to network all the computers in the house in addition to utilizing a 2.5 terabytes of wireless external storage while at home or in my office. A beautiful thing!

But this is not it! Both my wife and I have iPhones as well. Monica started with the first generation iPhone (I was unsure about it, as anyone would be with the first model of any product), so we tested it out. It was awesome! It wasn't long before I got one myself. And of course we have both since upgraded to newer versions.

The Apple obsession doesn't end there, I decided to turn it into a cool collection of Mac products. I was able to barter for an old school iMac lamp shade. We had to upgrade it with a WiFi card, yes it's that old! But once we installed that, this puppy is another great machine we use in our kitchen and sometimes living room where we can access iTunes from the Time Capsule, and surf the web for recipes and anything we have questions about!

And the history continues as we just purchased a new 13'' MacBook Pro for Monica a few months ago! So currently we own 3 Mac Laptops, one tower, one old school iMac, and two iPhones. I know we aren't the only ones with this many Apple products, but its become like an obsession, and a true collection of amazing products.

Anyway, the point of this post is coming I promise! My wife and I have truly become loyal customers of Apple, and when you develop that kind of investment into a company there is a relationship that builds. And both sides need to invest at least somewhat equally into that relationship!

So, when my MacBook's logic board pooped out on me a second time (this computer is only 2 years old), I immediately went to Apple with a high expectation of quality service. As many of you may already know, you have to schedule an appointment to work with the "Geniuses" in the Apple store and I did exactly that. And as I predicted, they diagnosed the computer and the Logic Board was done. Now I worked this computer hard as I have with all of my Mac's and it was plausible that I could have just run it out. 80 hours a week is not a rare expectation of time spent on this computer. But a resolution needed to be found, as this is my work we were talking about.

Initially I was being quoted for service on the MacBook to be about $400 to $500 to transfer the data and replace the logic board. I was prepared to do this as what are my options really? I have to have this computer for work!? Well I started to think about this and how much money we have already invested in Apple and all their products and the fact that it has to be a give and take situation! So I continued to discuss the issue with the consultants at the store and we came to the conclusion that I might get a little further with the Apple Care Customer Relations. So I sat in the store and called Apple Care Customer Relations and was on the phone with them for about an hour. I spoke with one girl, who like all the employees of Apple, was super genuine and as sweet as the next. Always understanding and trying to do all they can to help make the situation right.

I think Apple does a spectacular job when it comes to hiring highly trained, qualified, passionate about mac, people who are there to help you. They genuinely care about you and that you leave satisfied. If one person was not able to help me, the service did not stop there. That person would direct me to another person who had more power and vise versa. Eventually after dealing with 3 people and 2 hours total time invested, I was able to save myself $500 and re-instill my faith in APPLE because they were giving me a 100% warranty on the product.

They decided the right thing to do was to provide me service under warranty, and so they were going to be sending me a box with instructions to ship my Macbook to them! I was surprised just how nice the box was with detailed instructions on how to place the computer into the box. It came with pre cut tape and custom sized padding to hold the computer. For a minute I almost thought the box would make for a great new brief case but I felt the cardboard was a bit less to be desired, lol.

I connected with Gary Dailey, of Daystar Technology, who migrated the data to Monica's computer as I would need a computer to work on in the meantime.

I shipped the computer with full details about what needed to be fixed and not only did they fix those necessary things, they did more! And at no cost to me, but a little time!

Check out this wrap sheet of issues that they resolved! No questions, just fix it up and get it back to the customer!

If you are still on a PC, it is my personal experience and professional recommendation you switch to Apple. You will understand why, only after you do so. Here is a quote from the biography of Steve Jobs that I am presently reading. Apply to this theory, the amount of times your PC has crashed, not booted up, blue screened, gotten a virus, froze up or just broke. Imagine the lives we could save in time!


Thankful for Turkey Noodle Soup!

Everything these days seems to be GO GREEN and I have also adapted this methodology in just about everything I do. From the Wal-Mart plastic bags, to the empty soup cans and milk cartons. What about left-over food items? Well I am always combining left overs in the fridge to make custom casseroles and this years Thanksgiving turkey carcass was no exception. One thing I have been doing more of recently in the kitchen is my homemade chicken soup. I really feel like I have perfected the recipe and decided to use the leftover turkey carcass just for this application. Here is my personal home-made recipe for you. It literally is the best home-made turkey soup I have ever had. You can make this same soup using a rotisserie chicken carcass should you choose.


Before you go to bed take your turkey or chicken carcass and remove any meat you can get off the bones and put those aside with your other leftover turkey meat. This is good for turkey or chicken sandwiches you can eat while making this soup. The entire process can be up to 24 hours so you will get hungry along the way. Place the carcass in the crock pot and fill the pot about an inch from the top with chicken broth. Make sure the entire carcass is submerged in the liquid. Leave for the night to cook on low heat and covered.

The next day you will get a large bowl big enough to hold all the liquid from the crock pot. Use a strainer to pour the liquid into the bowl and catch-all the meat and bones. When this cools you will have to go through the strainer to pick out the meat and put back into the crock pot with the liquid while tossing the bones into the trash. Cut up 2 bundles of celery into your size of preference and toss into crock pot. Cut up 4 small/medium-sized onions (white and yellow) and toss these into the mix. Cut up a quarter of a cabbage and toss that into the mix too. Personally I like to get the vegetables smaller so they mix well together. I like tasting a bit of everything in every bite. Add a can of Original Rotel and some salt and pepper to taste and slow cook for another 4-6 hours.

Pick up a pasta of your preference and add this to the mix. I used gluten-free rice noodles because not only are they good for you, contain no wheat but they also do not soften up in the soup like flour noodles. You must be careful here though because if you cook it too long they can turn to mush and ruin your soup. Test the noodles often. Once the noodles have reached an "Al dente" feel and taste turn the crock-pot or stove off and move the soup to a cool. While the soup cools the noodles will soften up even more but not too much.

Ingredients:
Turkey Carcass
Extra Leftover Turkey Meat
Celery
Onions
Original Rotel
Salt & Pepper
Gluten-Free Rice Noodles
 

I hope this soup will blow your mind as it did my own. It's a great way to use the left over turkey carcass and you will make so much of this you will have leftovers for days that do not get old. Also, this soup is a very healthy option, low in calories so you can eat it all week and not worry about gaining a pound. In fact you just may lose some weight!

To make it even thicker and healthier, cut up more cabbage and toss it in. I always find cabbage to be a good soup filler! If you have any questions feel free to call Paul comment!


An EPIC Experience - GNR at Phillips Arena, Atlanta

So finally Guns n Roses came to Atlanta and you best believe I had my ticket as soon as they went on sale.

Guns n Roses is one of the most epic bands formed in the mid 80s out of Hollywood Los Angeles California. Axl Rose is the man behind what today holds the name GNR. 

An american singer songwriter and musician and only remaining original member of the band Guns N' Roses, with whom he enjoyed great success and recognition in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before disappearing from the public eye for several years. In 2001, he resurfaced with a new line-up of Guns N' Roses at Rock in Rio 3, and subsequently played periodic concert tours, before releasing the long-delayed album Chinese Democracy in 2008. Axl has been named one of the greatest singers of all time by various media outlets, including Rolling Stone and NME.

I could not believe that I was finally going to see GNR in concert. GNR has not played in Atlanta since 1987. I had attempted to  This was not going to be just another concert but a once in a life time opportunity to see one of the greatest bands that ever lived. I had to make this experience one we would never forget.

I booked my good buddy James Garland of www.LimoJoy.com. I have been using James for several years now and he is an awesome guy as well as an amazing limo driver. It was our plan to dress up like Axl Rose and have James drop us off at the venue. Well we did not dress up but did bring a very recognizable bandana to add that essence of Axl to the accoutrement.

James outfitted us with Champaign and we brought our own various mixed beverages and classic american beers (Coors and Blue Moon). We were ready for this event and by God we were going to get right, before wading though the massive crowd of followers GNR would bring. I was joined by two of my best friends who asked to remain anonymous due to having corporate jobs and for some reason this always getting back to the wrong people. The other two friends who I should not even mention because they did not go, but am anyway because they, like me have a crazy love for the band. I was so pissed at them for not getting a ticket to potentially the one time opportunity to see this epic band.

If you know anything about GNR, they disappeared for several years and the last time they went on tour in the US, it

just so happened they canceled that tour just before we were supposed to see them. We were not sure that opportunity would ever present itself again. Well it did and I was not about to let anyone or anything stand in my way of being front and center stage with Axl Rose screaming his ass off.

James pulled the limo up to Phillips Arena where we jumped out and proceeded inside the venue. We were early because we did not want to miss a second of the show. We grabbed some beers and a slice of pizza and proceeded to talk about what they would open and close the night out with. It was our thoughts that "Welcome to the Jungle" would be the first song and then perhaps "Paradise City" for a closure. My "mystery friend" had looked at the previous song sets from other tours for GNR and these songs sounded like a safe bet. Either way I did not care because I knew whatever song they played, I would not have a voice the next day because I would be singing along to every word.

The only problem I foresaw was that "mystery friend" had purchased seats and we were not able to access the ground floor where you could genuinely get front and center. We had time though to plot our invasion and it was not long before we had accomplished said invasion, gained entry and blended into the ground floor crowd. There were 2 older black men guarding the access point and we had to time our entry with exact precision. We waited until both men were talking to other patrons of the event and simply walked with purpose right by them. Wow that was easy I thought and we were onto the next challenge of wading though thousands of people to make our way to that front and center stage where you could literally see the pattern on Axl's head bandana and DJ Ashba's swift finger guitar mastery.

When it comes to Guns N' Roses guitarists, Slash's iconic top hat and black curly hair will always be the first image that comes to mind. But in a Guns N' Roses lineup that has revolved around Axl Rose and a rotating cast of other musicians since the late '90s, that position has since been filled by such luminary axe men as Nine Inch NailsRobin FinckBuckethead and Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal. The most recent Guns' guitarist is DJ Ashba, whose previous credits include the BulletBoys, Beautiful Creatures and Sixx: A.M. with Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue (Click here for more about DJ Ashba). Most likely though if you are reading this, you already know a good bit about GNR. I just feel its necessary to fill you in on a bit of the details just in case.

After what seemed like an eternity (10 minutes or so) the lights dropped out and we knew Phillips Arena was about to explode with one of the finest bands to ever hit the stage. Axl Rose came in with a thunder that rocked the crowd like I had never seen. The music enveloped through my body and I felt as if I had no control over the direction I looked or the words that came out of my mouth. I was in a GNR trance. Suddenly everyone around me was like my best friend, all singing to the greatest written songs of our time. We would exchange nods of just pure mind blowing music mayhem. Axl Rose and DJ Ashba had everyone in their grasps and they did not let go for a second. We were in the jungle baby! Here is a few clips I was able to get on my phone. Sorry they suck but its all I have. The music was so loud, I am not sure any phone could process the amount of awesomeness that was emitting from the speakers

The show was a great one and not only that but they played for about 3 hours straight, over 30 songs! It was an incredible experience that I am not capable of describing to you in words because I literally do not have the vocabulary to break down verbally what had taken place that night. It was by far the best experience I have ever had.

 [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTBMDj_TdQ0&w=732&h=600]

My favorite song of the evening and of all time was November Rain. Not only was this song one I held dear to heart ever since I had purchased the album back in 1993 but it was also what my groomsmen and I entered to at the ceremony of my wedding. I literally could not hold back the emotion when the combination of my love for the greatest band of all time coupled with the love for my wife and that incredible moment we shared tying the knot. The song sounded better then I have ever heard it and I just could not hold back a few tears of joy.

I really have to say that if you are reading this and were not at this concert, you will never know what you missed out on. I personally feel sorry for those who did not get to experience this event. I would have to say if you wanted a religious experience you will never get from any church or miraculous event, this was that event and you missed it! Thank God I was there and it was better than anything I ever imagined it could be.  Sorry bout your luck but there is no going back or undoing what is done. Its over now and I hate that you missed it.

I will forever remember this experience and when I am 80 years old and my grand kids are asking me about my life and what I did with it, you better believe this old man will tell them about getting to see Guns and Roses in concert and its nothing like that flim flam garbage music that they are listening to today. Its real music, music with heart, soul, and as Axl would put it, "the best fucking rock band that ever walked the earth"!


Sushi and Laughs for Biscuit's Birthday

For my Biscuit's (Monica's) birthday, we did it up with a fun-filled day and evening of good eats and laughs.

We started out the day with a trip to the Home Show with my Mother, Trey (my nephew) and Desi! It was a pretty good time once we got over to Cobb Galleria. We stopped into Buckhead Pizza Co. and Monica and I tried their Gluten Free Pizza - It was AWESOME!

Then we headed into the Home Show, and Desi got to meet her  HGTV Curb Appeal Idol, John Gidding, as you can tell she was very happy and excited!

Then onto the evening at Zest Sushi and Tapas Bar in Roswell, GA. Monica LOVES sushi and made a point to me that she will have sushi for her birthday. It was actually a great place to start the evening as it had a great atmosphere, Tapas for those whom aren't fans of sushi, and awesome sushi! Everything was cooked, and seasoned to perfection, the presentation was top-notch! The atmosphere was warm and contemporary trendy. The entire package was amazing! Our meal started with calamari, pan seared scallops, lamb lollipops, spicy shrimp over mashed potatoes, dinner consisted of several delectable rolls of sushi, and we ended it with a chocolate soufflé and cheesecake! Don't worry we shared it with 8 super cool people!  Everything was absolutely phenomenal! We were all very satisfied with this great restaurant.

From the restaurant we moved to Andretti,  unfortunately not for racing, but for a comedy show! Funny Farm Comedy Club has moved their shows to Andretti, and the new location was not quite what I expected, but the comedians and show more than made up for that! We saw Pat Dixon, someone we haven't seen before, but definitely would check out again. He was hilarious, with his dry humor and wit! You should definitely check him out!

Overall I think the Biscuit Birthday was a success, doesn't she look happy? Awww I love my Biscuit! Happy Birthday baby