Steve Schappell-My Blog

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It's Colored Boom Boom time

I love fireworks.   Always have since I can remember.  And we are heading for prime time.  The 4th of July.  Fireworks season normally starts around Memorial Day, usually at minor league baseball games and some carnivals.  It really ramps up for Independence Day (No, not the movie), and winds down in the fall.

This is going to bring up some memories buried in the old, and now bald, cranium.  Bear with me, as I talk about all things fireworks related.  Let's get in the way back machine and travel in time to the early 70's.

I grew up in small town Hamburg, PA.  Back then, it was on the map because we had a State Police station outside of town.  Nowadays, it is known for having a Cabela's outside town.  At one corner of the town was the local park.  The park had a ball field, band shell for music, swimming pool and playground.  When Memorial Day would roll around, the park would have a carnival, with rides, games and music.  For me, the highlight was the last night and the Fireworks.  Here is how it would work.  The band that normally played was "Crazy Elmer and the Outlaws," a group still performing today!  They featured country music and comedy, ala Hee Haw.  Anyway, the fireworks were to start at 10:00 pm, but they never did.  The band was told to milk  the crowd to buy more food, drinks and play Bingo.  Back then you could park your car in the park on the lawn and watch the Fireworks from you car, or in some cases, on the roof.  That's what I remember.  Fireworks going off overhead while sitting on the car roof.  Good stuff.

I got my first taste of "out of town" fireworks when my parents and grandmother traveled to Disney World,  They would have fireworks every night over the castle and the lagoon.  (There was no Epcot yet)  I thought they were some of the best.  But I had not seen anything yet.

During the summer growing up, we would go to the beach in Wildwood, NJ.   If we were lucky enough to be there over the 4th, I got to see fireworks from out hotel roof, being set off over the ocean.  They were not bad.  More on this later.

Also in my teen years, I would travel to Shillington, PA during the end of their annual Community Days celebration, which still goes on today.  Back then, we watched the fireworks from an open field across from the vendors and where they were set off.  These lasted a good 45 minutes and had ground displays we would never see, as we sat farther away.   What I remember most, other than the fireworks, was the long traffic jams and fireworks go together?  Oh yea, lots of other people like fireworks also.  More on this later.

Moving ahead to college, or was it after....don't get older people.  Stay young.  I remember it was after a college homecoming and football game.  There were fireworks in downtown Pittsburgh, by the Zambelli Fireworks company.  It was amazing.  Fireworks from the City rooftops, launching from barges on the rivers.  They were going off all around you.  I remember a frantic ride to get into the city and then not knowing where to park.  It was a great time.   More on this later.

After I was first married and my son was 4 years old, and my ex wife was expecting our 2nd child, we had the great idea to travel to Washington DC to see the fireworks celebration on the 4th.  This was in 1999 and on a Sunday.  We will drive down for the weekend, we thought.  We will go some sightseeing, we said.  How many people could possibly be there?  How about thousands.  Tens of thousands.  We were by the Washington Monument--with everyone else.  Oh yea, the weather was hot and muggy.  Great for pregnant mothers.  And the porta potties...I can still remember the terrible smells.  All this for a 15 minute show?  Afterwards, it takes about 2 hours to clear out the mall.  We waited and rode the Metro.  A packed Metro back to our hotel.  Never again in person.  Been there, done that.  Did not get the T-Shirt.  And no more on this later.

Now about the "more on this later."  When I was composing this, I was beginning to see parallels.  When I was young, my parents took me to the beach, and sometimes we got to see fireworks.  When I was first married, we took our kids to the beach over the week of the 4th (Where I worked, we closed for that week)  For a few summers, we stayed in Ocean City, MD at a rental home off 120th street.  The fireworks were set off 7 blocks away at a local park.  We could watch them and when done, walk back inside the house.  (Shortest commute ever)

As my kids were a little order, and after my re-marriage, we have gone back to Shillington and their fireworks.  These times; however, we have sat up close.  In the grass area not far from where they are set off.  In fact, the fireworks go off overhead and often, there are pieces of cardboard and materials floating down around you.  It's a great show, and now I know why we sat father away when I was younger.

And in Pittsburgh, my wife Shari and I celebrated New Year's eve in 2012, watching fireworks going off from building tops, like I saw in college.

And about the title, that was from my son, Drew.  When he was young, he would call fireworks, colored boom booms.  I have never heard that before, and wonder where he got that from.

I have seen many changes over the years--fireworks shows have gotten more elaborate.  The shapes are more detailed.  There are a variety of colors I don't remember seeing.  I hope you can get out and see some shows this weekend.  For me, I always become a kid again at every show.

So stay safe.  Leave your pets inside.  Enjoy the shows, and leave the fireworks to the professionals.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Musical Chairs...AKA Wack-a-Steve

When I got up on Thursday, I was well rested and ready for a day of work.  I am in the middle of Vacation Bible School and usually begin to drag now.   I also knew I had outstanding orders to enter at work and needed to get a good start.

Well, you know Murphy?  He has laws, and sometimes they affect yourself.  In this case, me.  I got into work and turned on my computer.  I got the password screen, entered it and got the next screen that says welcome.  We have Windows 7 software loaded on our computers, and are resisting going to Windows 10.  The welcome screen I got had a spinning circle that tells you something is loading.  The only problem was, that 5 minutes later it was still spinning.

First diagnosis?  Turn off the computer and start again.  This time, I got nothing past the login screen.  It was black.  Turn it off again and this time when it starts, enter it in safe mode.  That worked.  Hmmm...  Log off, turn off and restart.  This time, I got back to the Welcome screen and....nothing.

At this point, I knew there was trouble, so I go to our IT/WaterJet Operator/CAD room assistant, Shannon.  He is a guy and like the song "A Boy Named Sue," by Johnny Cash, you don't want to mess with Shannon.  He loves Star Wars, is a great family man, but you don't want to meet him in a dark alley.  Anyway, he had a migrane and intended to go home early.  (He stayed all day)

After consulting with my boss and Shannon, I began a day of musical chairs.  I work in a small office, with (7) workstations.  Today, I was at 4 of them.  To make this easy, let's diagram this out.

Let's call the workstations by the first letter of the people that sit there.  We have T, J, D and S (my desk), and we have a Copier/Printer.  Call this CP.  Normally at my desk, I enter the orders, email customers, and print everything out at my desk printer.  None of that worked today.

So, how to get orders entered, email confirmations out, and generally do my job, while not impacting everyone else.  You play musical chairs.  The day played out sort of like this.

T, CP, T, CP, T, CP, T, CP, J, CP, J, CP, J, CP, T, CP, T, CP, D, CP, D, CP, D, CP.  I started out at desk T while they took their work elsewhere.  All these desks print to the main Copier/Printer. The Work Cards that I enter are printed on yellow sheets.  Normally, I hand feed them at my desk.  Today, I have to insert them into tray #1 on the CP.  Then run back to the desk I am at, hit enter, and print before someone else is printing there.  That is why there is a CP so many times listed.  Sit at desk T.  Put yellow paper in CP, run back to desk T.  Enter another order at T, run to CP, etc.

When J was at lunch I sat there and entered orders.  After D left (he works a half day),  I stayed there for the afternoon.  So, there I went, up and down and at different desks all day, while Shannon tried to figure out what was going on.  Eventually, he backed up my mail info, desktop stuff, etc on a flash drive and he re-installed Windows.  He expects to finish tomorrow morning and have it ready for me when I arrive.

It was interesting to see our Production Supervisor that I work closely with, come in to look for me, and each time I was at a different desk.  Or my boss asking the same thing.  The funniest comment came from one of our Estimators, who said "This is like a game of Wack a Mole, you never know where Steve is going to pop up next.

(Where will Steve pop up next?)

See, just another ordinary day at work.  But I still managed to enter a large amount of orders, and leave work on time, and get to VBS in one piece.  Speaking of which, what am I still doing up?  I need some sleep.  One more day of work and night of VBS before sleeping in on Saturday.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Tonight at VBS, we learned that Jesus gives us our direction.  Sometimes in life, what we hoped would happen, or think would happen, does not.  There are detours, off ramps, diversions and sometimes, dead ends. 

Somethings things get shattered.  When these unexpected things happen, we have a choice on how to react.  This is our attitude.  Shattered + Attitude = Shattitudered

I have not always had a good attitude about things.  I have had to work, and still work on it.  I have to remember to think positive things on purpose, even when negative things can happen.

So, recently on my back patio, we bought a used patio table, umbrella and chairs that were for sale at a house close to ours.  Prior to this, we had (4) chairs on the patio that I spray painted and clear coated to be the same color.  These chairs did not match.  (2) of the chairs did--the other (2) did not.   The cushions for the chairs also were not all the same.  And prior to this, I had (2) Chairs and a small table.

So, when my wife found a table and chairs, I told her to get it sight unseen.  We brought it home over a weekend and it looked great.  It came with a new umbrella that provided shade out back.  We have had this patio set for a month now, and were starting to use it more each day.

Now today it was windy, and the umbrella was left open.  I was at work when my wife called me.  Apparently, the wind lifted the umbrella up from the stand and it landed on an angle, and doing so, shattered the glass table into many small pieces.  It looked like breakaway glass when I saw it tonight.

So, in the midst of a busy work day, I had a choice to make.  I could go to the negative side and think that we just paid for this, and now we need a new table.  Or, where am I going to find replacement glass to fit, or feel disappointed-like "why did this happen to me?" 

But this time, I first asked if anyone was hurt.  No one was outside when it happened, so that was a no.  Then I thought about keeping the glass away from the grandkids in case they went outside.  My wife was already on that.  She told me she would work on cleaning it up during her break. 

Although this example may be something simple, I had to make sure my attitude matched the situation.  No one was hurt.  The table can be replaced.  And you cannot do anything about it, because you are at work.

When I got home, I had some time to clean it up before going to VBS.  My wife cleaned the rest up this evening.  My step-daughter starting looking online for tables that anyone was selling.

Then tonight, an unexpected result from keeping a positive attitude.   After I got back from VBS, my wife arranged the chairs and moved the umbrella and stand off to one side.  It opened up the patio and will allow us to still have shade when we need it.  We can still look for a table, but don't have to do it right away.   And even if the table color is not the same as the chairs, it will still look good together. 

So, this was an unexpected turn today that will all work out.  Most things in life do.  I have to keep remembering that Jesus give us our direction.  We taught this to the kids tonight.  And I have to keep teaching it to the big kid-myself. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

It's VBS week...Vavcation Bible School or Very Busy Steve

It's that week again.  The crazy, chaotic and wonderful week of Vacation Bible School.  Or, as I call it, a Very Busy Steve.  This week follows the same basic scenario.  Get up for work.  Pack lunch.  Daily Devotional.  Go to work.  Leave work at 5 pm and get home at 5:10 (I work 2 miles from home)  Grab something to eat.  Leave at 5:30.  Experience VBS from 6:00 to 8:30.  Get home by 9:00.  Cram in everything to do before 11 pm.  Collapse in bed.  Rinse and Repeat through Friday night.

Don't get me wrong, I truly enjoy it.  This year, my stepson is helping out.  He decided he wanted to volunteer over the weekend.  He is working in the Drama room.  I am a group leader Team 12...the oldest kids who can attend VBS.    This has been my 4th year to volunteer and I plan my time around it to avoid vacation time, or other commitments.

 If you get a chance and can volunteer your time at a local VBS, I encourage it.  We have young teens to retired people coming out to spend time with over 100 kids,  We want to give them hope, sing songs, and share God with them (and some of their parents).

My plan is to work on more posts this week, if I can stay awake long enough.  Thank you for your comments and support.  Glad you are reading and enjoying the posts.  Have a good week everyone. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016


I consider myself a relatively safe person, and take a common sense measures, like locking doors, and understanding my surroundings.  Things were different when I was young.  I remember riding my bike in the summer, going to the local park in Hamburg for games, or the pool.  I was told to be home in time for dinner.  That was it.  I don't remember if we always locked our doors.  I know my parents cars were parked in a garage and the side door was locked at night.  We knew our neighbors, and looked out for each other.

Today, we live in an ever connected world, and are more disconnected than ever.  We used to sit on our front porches and talk with our neighbors.  Now we have fenced in back yards and outdoor patios for privacy.

I know that is not the case with everyone, and where we live, we know our neighbors on our town home unit.  For example, we have one set of neighbors watch our dog and cat when we are away.

This was the case when we were away last weekend at the shore for a long weekend vacation.  We took (2) vehicles and left my car behind.  Normally, I lock my car at night, but not always.  We always lock our house front and back.

Now, our campsite had wi-fi, and we were checking emails, Facebook, etc.  On Saturday, we started seeing comments about cars being broken into around our area.  One of the posts included the street we live on.

Here is where I insert that phrase, "Pride goeth before a fall."  I remember thinking that, "well, I locked the car.  And even if they get in, there are going to see some christian CD's, a booklet on the constitution.  We took our GPS and I don't leave money in the car.  I was concerned for others, but not for myself.  I though this could not happen to me.

We don't think about it for the rest of the weekend.  We drove back Monday night and got home to unload some of our items.   I got my GPS and phone charger out of our van, went to unlock the car, and "boom."  It was unlocked.  Inside, the glove box was opened, and the contents on the passenger , seat.  My center console was open also.  I checked and there was nothing missing.  I put everything back and realized that I was also one of those vehicles listed in the news.

I felt violated.  Someone was in my car and I don't know who they are.  Someone went through my items.  I was one of those people, the "It can't happen to me" person.  I realized my words over the weekend.  How I thought to myself, "Sorry for you.  That's what can happen when you leave your car unlocked."

Later on, I called the police to add my name to the list.  The officer said the MO was the same.  All victims had unlocked cars, and they were looking for money.  There was a news article online that said it was (2) 17-year olds who got into over 38 vehicles.  They were caught at Wal-Mart early Saturday morning.  They got into the cars on Friday night.

My lesson learned was not to think more of myself than I ought to.  Also, to keep my car unlocked.  Even though, it was on a small scale, I still felt violated in some way, and that stuck with me.  Next time, I will think differently and remember that it can happen to me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

School's out for-ever...

Admit it.  You read the title of the blog and started singing the song by Alice Cooper called "School's Out."  It seems to make an appearance this time of year.

For some on Tuesday, school was out forever.  High school, that is.  My stepson and 250 or so of his colleagues graduated from Palmyra High School.  They completed that rite of passage, and are moving on to bigger and better things.

I had a simple posting on Facebook Tuesday morning, and I wanted to post it here.

Dear Graduating PHS Seniors. THIS IS IT!!! Tonight will truly be the last time you are all together in one place. Enjoy the moment and take it all in. Because, even with class reunions, not everyone attends. Some of you will stay close for a lifetime, and others, you may not see again. You have worked hard and now is your time to shine. Some of you have a definite plan, but others are not sure what to do, and that's OK. You are young and have time. Thank you parents, step-parents, caregivers, teachers, coaches, pastors, mentors for helping you to arrive here. You made it. Congratulations Graduates, here's to you!

 So, to my Stepson, Noah Parker and the rest of the Class of 2016--a job well done!

(Noah with his Mom--and my wife, Shari Schappell)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Calming the storm

How many times have you read something, and then read it you are reading it for the first time?  That recently happened to me.
The story is in Mark 4: 35-41, 5:1 and is about how Jesus calms the storm.  Here is the passage:

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
 5 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.

Many of you have read this before.  Looking at this in context, Jesus and his disciples were by the lake, where a large multitude of people had arrived to hear him speak.  There were so many people that Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and faced the crowd.  They faced the sea and listened to Jesus as he taught them several Parables.  This went on all day until evening.

I can imagine after a long day, Jesus would have been tired.  While the crowds were still there, he made the decision to leave them behind and go to the other side with his disciples.   I don't know what the weather was when they left, and since they did not have an Accu-Weather app showing the area Radar, they did not know that a fierce storm was on the way.

Again, I don't know the size of the boat, but it was large enough to hold 12 Disciples and Jesus, who was in the back of the boat, sleeping on a cushion.  Now I don't know about you, but I am a fairly light sleeper, and can be woken up by Thunder or loud noise nearby.  In fact, I need a dark room and quiet to sleep.  Not Jesus.  Here in the middle of a storm, with thunder and lightning, high winds, and pounding surf, Jesus was asleep.  With water coming into the boat, Jesus slept. 

The disciples, maybe fearing for their lives, woke Jesus up.   Some were thinking of themselves, while others chided Jesus saying "Don't you care if we drown?"

I don't know what Jesus was thinking at that moment.  You wake me up from a nap, or a deep sleep, and I am not happy.  Jesus simply got up, told the wind and the waves to be still and quiet, and just like that, there was silence. 

Now, you and I understand the context and what happened after that.  How would we have reacted.  Would be be astonished and said. "It's a miracle."  Would we have not believed our eyes.  See, we can look at the New Testament and the Gospels and it seems obvious that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, the Chosen One.  We have the luxury of hindsight.  The disciples did not.  According to the Jewish beliefs, the Messiah they wanted was a warrior.  Someone to come and overthrow the ruling authorities of the day.  In this example, they witnesses an awesome display of power and authority.

Jesus asked why they were so afraid.  Here comes my first revelation.  Jesus was not afraid of the storm.  He was so calm, he slept.  He did not fear because he had power over the storm.  If Jesus was not afraid of the storm, neither should we.  This goes for all kinds of storms in our lives.

The disciples, still terrified from the storm, and probably terrified of what they witnessed Jesus do, asked each other who this person was, that even the winds and waves obey him.  Again, we can look at this now, and say "What, are they crazy?  This is Jesus, the Messiah.  The one who would change the world."  But I bet, if were were in their place, we would have asked the same thing. 

Remember, the disciples were seasoned fishermen.  Surely they faced storms like this before on the lake or sea.  Were they afraid then.  Jesus asked them to go to the other side, and they were following his order, if you will.

Here was my next revelation.  It is Chapter 5, verse 1.  It ends the story, but is easy to miss.  They went across the lake.  The storm did not deter them.  They still completed the task.  It made me realize that even when we do as the Lord says, there still may be storms in our lives.  It is unavoidable.  Yet, because Jesus was with them, the storm did not stop them from getting to the other side, which is where Jesus wanted them to go.

I believe we often let a storm stop us from getting to our destination, whatever that is.  So even if the storm you are going through is a result of an accident, divorce, job loss, or some other trial, we can remain confident.  Jesus will guide us though the storm, and get us to the other side.   He remained calm, and so can we.  Regardless of the outcome, we can trust Jesus with any storm we encounter.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

I got a lift at work

There are some advantages to where I work.  Steady weekday hours.  No nights or weekends.   You cannot take your work with you.  No phone calls or emails after hours.  Two miles from work.  We make Steel Rule Dies, and have (2) Lasers and (1) Water Jet Machine to help us with die work.  We also have a CAD room to process our die orders, and of course, a shop to make them.

If you look around our offices, you will notice that all the desk materials are make of the same materials, but each desk space is custom made.  Some of the storage and work areas in the shop are the same.  I never really noticed this until a few months ago when my work area moved so we would have a new table to lay out work on, and meet with customers. 

So, do we go online and order a table?  Do we go to Staples, cause, yeah, they got that.  No, we make our own.  First, we sketch it out, then our CAD dept designs it and saves it in the language needed for our Laser.  The Laser burns the boards into the parts needed.  Then the shop assembles the table, and finishes it.  Then, a few hours after it was designed, BOOM, we have a new table. 

That's how all our desks were made at work.  We have rolling carts to hold dies that were made in the shop.  Once, I noticed that, I see our work everywhere.

What does have to do with getting a lift at work?   Glad you asked.  I sit on your average black work desk chair with (2) arms.  These chairs have a gas canister lift system.  There is a handle on the side to raise or lower the chair.   Eventually, they stop working and the chair sags.  My chair started sagging late last week, where I was lifting it up several times a day.  Then last Tuesday, it stopped working.

I decided to show my boss and see what could be done.  Here is the timeline.

2 pm: My boss comes in the office for another reason and I call him over to show him the chair and how it will not stay raised.  I asked if there was something we could do or add so it would not sag.

2:05 pm:  My boss comes back in and looks at the chair.  Thinks he has a possible solution.

2:10 pm: CAD Designer and Water jet operator Shannon comes in.  He makes measurement and leaves.

2:20 pm: Shannon arrives with a metal donut in (2) pcs.  He checks the fit and says it looks good.  He is going to ask Bill in the shop when he can tack weld the donut to the chair.

2:22 pm:  We can go now.  I wheel my desk chair to the shop--with amused looks--and give it to Bill, one of our Die Makers.  We set the height needed and I leave. 

2: 40 pm:   Bill wheels the chair back in the office.  BOOM!  I have a fixed chair that does not sag anymore.

A simple solution and a quick fix.  We do have some ingenuity in the office at times.  Another advantage of working there, I guess.  Maybe we could expand our business into chair repairs?  Hmmmm.....