The Pergola Project: Our Experience With LKM Landscaping

We worked with LKM several years ago on an outdoor lighting project that made us very happy, so when it came time to renovate our backyard patio, they were the only company we called.

The primary reason we called LKM focused around two issues. Firstly, we have three trees that outgrew the brick circles LKM laid around them. It should be noted that LKM initially told us our circles would be too small due to the impending growth of the trees, and they were right.  The roots eventually pushed the bricks up, making them uneven.  The diameter of the circles needed to be increased. Secondly, the nine-year-old back patio settled incorrectly which resulted in a large crack. (It should be mentioned that LKM did not lay this patio—our builder did.) We asked LKM if they could enlarge the patio area in such a way that it could comfortably accommodate eight to ten people. I also floated the idea of a pergola because the sun beats down on our backyard as it sets.

LKM sent Daniel McClure, whom we’ve worked with before, and he took into account our needs and ideas. He soon drew up a set of plans that we absolutely fell in love with. Now, to be honest, he gave us the Cadillac of plans. He probably assumed that we would scale back certain aspects. For the most part, though, we kept everything he designed. We plan to raise our kids in our current house, as well as to retire in our current house, and so we looked at it as a worthwhile investment that would increase the quality of our lives.

From start to finish, it took LKM about two weeks to complete the project. This pace amazed us because they took down an old tree and removed its stump; planted five pine trees; tore out and replaced the brick surrounding three Autumn Blazes; broke up our small concrete patio and replaced it with one about four times its size; cut a pattern into the concrete of the new patio; installed new lighting around the new patio; wired that lighting; carried in the pieces of the pergola, stained the pergola, and constructed the pergola from the ground up; regraded a low spot; and planted dozens of new plants. Most amazingly, the same crew did all of this work. The guys planting the prairie grass were the same guys cutting the wood for the pergola and putting it together!

Furthermore, the LKM crew worked relentlessly. They’d start at about 7:30 a.m. and work to 5:00 p.m. Other than a lunch break, they pretty much powered through the day, every day. And though we didn’t interact with the crew very much, they were perfectly friendly when we did. We found them all to be pleasant, accommodating, and respectful of the property.

Now, just to be clear, this project proved very expensive. However, we knew the work would be done correctly, we knew LKM guarantees their efforts, and, frankly, we like working with LKM. This is a company that takes pride in its projects, its quality, and its customer service.

If you’re thinking of completing an outdoor project, I completely recommend LKM. You can pay their website a visit by clicking HERE, and you can also contact our project manager, Daniel McClure, by calling this number: (309) 454-3600

Here are a few before and after photographs. Let me know what you think! (The fire pit and furniture are from Sam’s.)

20190530_080222

20190628_192132

20190630_115947

Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2X3S7vO or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

Advertisements

Looking For a Barber In Bloomington, Illinois? Try Bold & Barber

If you’re looking for a barber in the Bloomington-Normal area, I’d like to recommend Bold & Barber.  This new establishment is owned and operated by Mike Epley, a lifelong resident of the community.

Mike has cut my hair for many years while he worked at Shorty’s Barbershop in Uptown Normal.  He recently struck out on his own with Bold & Barber.

I’ve always found Mike to be a friendly, even-tempered person who is quick to laugh and easy to talk with.  He’s a family man, so we have that in common, but he’s also a sports fan and knows his movies and  TV.  In short, you’ll have no trouble finding a topic of conversation.

His new shop is very clean with super cool decor.  The front is made up almost entirely of windows, which allows ample natural light.  It’s also got high ceilings and plenty of room to move.  It’s the kind of place I wouldn’t mind hanging out!  Take a look at it by clicking HERE.

Furthermore, he takes online appointments through his Facebook page.  This may not seem like a big deal, but I find it incredibly convenient.  I don’t know why, but it’s always hard for me to find time to call.  Check out the Bold & Barber Facebook page HERE.

If you’re in need of a haircut, give Bold & Barber a try.  You can visit the Bold & Barber website by clicking this link: https://www.boldandbarber.com/

60599193_454458441995016_2385976937064431616_n.jpg

Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2X3S7vO or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

 

The Main Reason I Love HBO’s Game of Thrones

I’ve been thinking a great deal about Game of Thrones since its conclusion.  Specifically, I’ve been trying to pinpoint its most captivating quality.  I love it.  You love it.  Most of the world loves it.  But why?  Is it the characters?  The actors?  The fights?  The special effects?  The plot?  Maybe even the dialogue?

It’s only since I started reading the first book a few days ago that I’ve been able to determine what I actually love best about it.

Of course, it must be said that I love books first and foremost.  TV and movies are wonderful, but literature is where my imagination gets to run wild.  My job is to envision whatever the author puts down on the page.  I have no budgetary limits set upon my special effects.  I have no location concerns or production issues.  I read what the author wrote, and then my imagination is off to the races.

However, in some cases, such as with Game of Thrones, the author is writing details about a reality so foreign, so extraordinary, that my imagination has no context from which to draw upon in order to formulate an image.  Yes, I can generally come up with something, but nothing that does the text justice.  Sure, I know what a wolf is, but is that the same as a dire wolf?  (Turns out … yup, it pretty much is the same.)

The creatives behind the Game of Thrones program have to show us these details, though, and so they must work out the nuances of clothing, castles, armor, weaponry, magical creatures–even chambers and cutlery!  They must take into account the climate of the various settings and depict an environment suitable to the source material.  They have to actually work out the cadence of languages and the visual practices of religions.

Game of Thrones has essentially created an alternate reality for us to behold.  They don’t just give us a single castle, or a lone homestead, they grant us an entire world.  And though the scope of the show constricted quite a bit during the last two seasons, we were previously offered a planetary civilization made up of unique elements specific to the culture and customs of its local inhabitants.

In this rare case, the show outperformed my own imagination in such a way that I felt as though I embarked upon a new realm, and I love that about it.

10-best-Game-of-Thrones-wallpaper-HD-for-your-Android-device.jpg-12

Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-Files. Kindle: https://amzn.to/2X3S7vOor NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

Here Are Eleven General Items That I Hope Happen During the Final Game Of Thrones Episode

Be warned, spoilers abound …

I know this final season of Game Of Thrones has been controversial to some, but I’ve been perfectly happy with it thus far.  I will ultimately reserve my final judgement until the last episode’s conclusion, which I think is only fair.  If anything, this concluding season has been one giant episode rather than a series of installments.  I will wait and assess it as a whole.

However, there are a eleven items that I hope will be addressed tomorrow night.  I won’t be so bold as to suggest specifics, but, generally speaking, here they are, in no particular order …

  • Daenerys actually rules from the Iron Throne
  • Sansa claims Winterfell as an independent kingdom, which she rules
  •  Jon Snow’s resurrection is given ample explanation
  • Ghost and Nymeria return with a pack of direwolves to protect Winterfell from dragons–yes, dragons
  • Jamie and Cersie survive, but must live in squalor and anonymity
  • Bran becomes the Night King, but alters the Night King’s course
  • Arya and Brienne wander the world, committing acts of heroism wherever needed
  • Jon Snow returns to the Free Folk and lives among them
  • Drogon survives and gives birth to more dragons
  • Magic significantly reveals itself again in the Lord of Light, Children Of the Forest, Three-Eyed Ravens, Wargs, Shadows, etc.
  • Tyrion dies a good death

gt8-key-fb-9x16-dani-1551376577

Did you enjoy this article?  Listen to my podcast, Stories By Scott William Foley, HERE!

In Honor Of the Greatest Educator I Know

As Teacher Appreciation Week draws to a close, I wanted to take a moment and recognize the greatest educator I know.  Her name is Kristen Foley, and she happens to be my wife.

This is not favoritism, though.  If I only knew Kristen on a professional basis, my opinion of her teaching would not change.

I’ve known Kristen for seventeen years.  In that time, her commitment and dedication to teaching has not wavered–not once.  She has never compromised her standards, and she has not once taken the easy way out.

Kristen is quite demanding of her third grade students.  She expects the best that they can individually offer and she wants it on a daily basis.  She holds them accountable for both their academic performance and their personal actions.  However, I guarantee you that every single one of her students, year after year, comes out of her class both an improved student and person.

That’s not to say she’s a taskmaster, though.  I’m often amazed at how silly she’s willing to be in front of them.  It’s not unusual to find her dancing with them during brain breaks or to catch her singing like a rock star.  She is constantly striving to make her classes fun with innovative lessons, dramatic performances, cutting-edge technology, creative activities, and special keepsakes.

And while she asks for the best from her students and her school, she expects even more from herself.  Kristen demands 100% effort from herself all of the time.  She’s been that way from the day I met her, and she’ll be that way until the day she retires.

Once we put the kids to bed, she’s instantly back to work.  She is always grading papers, developing lesson plans, writing newsletters, returning emails–I don’t know anyone who puts in more time than she does.

As a fellow teacher, I sometimes suggest she ease off the accelerator a bit.  I’ve often worried that she’ll burn herself out.  But that’s the difference between Kristen and most other teachers–she literally cannot burn herself out on this.  She loves it.  She loves teaching.  She loves being an educator.  She loves her students.  She loves it in a way most of us cannot understand.

I’m thankful we still have teachers like Kristen Foley.  She is, without question, the best of the best.

Mrs. Foley Classroom

 

The New Joker Trailer Proved Me Wrong

Did you know they are making a standalone Joker movie?

Truthfully, when I first heard about this film, it sparked not one bit of interest from me for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I believe the Joker is one of those characters that exists best on the fringes.  The less we know about him, the better.  The Dark Knight nailed his character by telling us virtually nothing about him.  To devote an entire movie to his origin, I thought, would weaken his character and provide too little content.

Secondly, I’m one of the few people who really enjoyed Jared Leto’s take on the Joker.  I’m not yet ready to cast that Joker aside in favor of this new one.  I appreciated Leto’s Joker because it was both classic and unique at the same time.  I’ve never encountered a Joker quite like that, yet his look struck me as comfortably familiar as well.  The contradictory interpretation suited Joker nicely.

Furthermore, I heard rumors that this Joker would not connect to any of the other DC movies and would, for all intents and purposes, be a standalone in an alternate reality.  Now listen, I’m a fan of the DC Multiverse.  I’ve often said that Warner Brothers needs to lean into this concept and really play up the Earth 1, Earth 2, etc. concept.  Fans would easily be able to grasp it.  However, the initial description of the movie didn’t sound like the Joker at all.  For example, they gave him a name, Arthur Fleck, and placed him in the 1980s.  Worst of all, it was said he would just be a failed comedian who loses his mind and dons the makeup.  No mention of Batman.  It’s been argued that Batman is the driving motivator of Joker’s mayhem, especially because it was partly Batman’s fault that the Joker fell into the vat of chemicals resulting in his madness.

All of these things deterred me from thinking I would like this movie.

And then, this morning, the first trailer dropped.  If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look …

I was wrong.

Totally.

Utterly.

Completely.

Wrong.

They are doing everything it takes to completely win over my interest, and that’s by giving me the totally unexpected.  I did not anticipate the unsettling tone regarding Fleck’s descent into madness.  And though I knew Joaquin Phoenix could act, I did not think he’d deliver such a disturbed character.  I could not predict changing the Joker’s “look,” though ever so subtly,  would render him even more terrifying.  They have captured something with Joker, something profoundly … creepy.

This trailer validates taking the film into a remote part of the DC Universe.  While you could argue the fact that this movie doesn’t even have to be the Joker, it could be any clown-based criminal, the fact that it is an iteration of the classic villain makes it all the more ominous.

After all, we know just how awful the Joker really is.  We know that this Fleck character is destined to become one of the most evil fictional villains in pop culture.  Watching him get beaten up and kicked by life time after time after time in the trailer’s short time span really strikes a nerve because we know that many of our mass murderers were similarly bullied in life.

Which leads me to my only real concern about Joker.  Because it’s so clearly detached from the other DC movies, I don’t mind the thorough exploration of his origin.  I actually think it’s totally appropriate to display every single life-altering tragedy that drives a man into criminal insanity in this context.  However, I am worried that they are going to make him sympathetic or even an anti-hero.  I don’t want to feel bad for the Joker, and I say this because he is so heinous.  Mind you, I’m generally not against villains being sympathetic.  But Joker?  No, we can never feel sad for the Joker.  (Of course, Joker has proven me wrong in every other facet, so it will probably do so again in this case as well.)

Joker seems to have tapped into something very special.  It’s unafraid, primal treatment of such a visceral character appears to be creating a film full of raw, unflinching emotion.  I know it certainly struck a nerve with me.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments.

joker-movie-poster-480x600

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE

A Close Call

~The car crossed the center line and headed right for me.  There was nothing I could do but wait and see what happened next.~

I had a close call this morning.  If you live in the Bloomington-Normal area, you’re probably familiar with Linden Street.  It isn’t especially busy, and it’s a straight shot for me to work.  I’ve taken it everyday for pretty much sixteen years.  Most of it is a basic two-lane road, but it widens out to four lanes in the Illinois State University area.

This morning, I’m driving along, listening to WGLT (89.1 FM) like I always do.  Some cars were heading towards me from the opposite direction, but this isn’t an unusual occurrence.  All of a sudden, I noticed one of the oncoming cars start to cross the center line.  Time slowed down as I watched it creep more and more over that line.  Before I knew it, it was three-fourths in my lane and showing no signs of correcting course.  The car crossed the center line and headed right for me.  There was nothing I could do but wait and see what happened next.  I hit my horn, hard, and got over to the edge of my lane as far as I could while applying my brakes.  I continued pressing my horn.  For a moment, I considered jumping the curb.  At the last second, I saw the driver’s head whip up and then they veered back into their lane.  I continued pushing my horn long after they were past me.

I got lucky.

In that moment, I realized that my morning could have gone very differently.  While neither of us were going fast enough to likely cause any serious injury, you never know.  It absolutely would have been a practical head-on collision, though.  My car would have been seriously damaged.  I would have been very late for work.  I could have been hurt–maybe seriously.

My imagination works overtime, one of the perks of being a writer, so naturally my mind raced with all of the possibilities.  I soon felt the adrenaline flowing through my body.  I made myself calm down, told myself all’s well that ends well, but, even ten hours later, it still leaves me a little rattled.

It shook me up because there was literally nothing I could do but wait.  I honked.  I slowed way down, almost to a stop.  Beyond that … nothing.  Powerless.  Accidents can happen that randomly, that quickly, that drastically.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been an accident.  The other driver was clearly looking down at their phone.  The collision would have been due to negligence, recklessness, and very likely a healthy amount of ignorance.

Oh, the other driver?  I’m sure you’re assuming a teenager drove the errant vehicle, but that would be incorrect.  I saw a head full of short, white hair.  I don’t know if it was a man or a woman, but it was certainly an older person.

Please, please, please, whether your are old or young, man or woman, please stay off of your phones while driving. car accident

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)