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.)

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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

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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/

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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

 

Come Support Minivan Morrissey (Or: This Van Will Be A-Rockin’!)

I hope you’ll join me in coming out on Friday night, March 1st, in order to support Minivan Morrissey at Legends Sports Bar and Grill in Bloomington, Illinois.

Minivan Morrissey is a local band comprised of a few good friends of mine.  This trio has been playing together for quite a while under different names.  Their latest iteration–Minivan Morrissey–will rock you garage band style with songs spanning the last 50 years.

Are they any good?  Honestly, I have no idea.  I’ve never seen them play.  But, I know for sure that they’ve been invited to perform at local fairs and venues, and I can also personally attest to the fact that one of them plays the guitar very well because I’ve seen it my own eyes.

I really like these guys.  They are good dudes.  That’s all it really takes for me to come out and show them some love.  However, I also admire that they are chasing their passion for playing live.  Like me, they are family men working full time, so it’s not a simple thing to muster up the willpower to do anything extra. The effort it takes to practice, book locations, travel, all while being loving dads and top-notch professionals … it’s not easy, I’m sure.

So come out and support Minivan Morrissey on March 1st from 7:30 to 10:30!  I know they will give you a great time.

While you’re at it, head on over to their Facebook page and click “like”: Minivan Morrissey Facebook Page

You can find the Legends Sports Bar and Grill website here: LegendsBloomington.com

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

Hanging Around With Neil Gaiman

I took my ten-year-old daughter to the Bloomington, Illinois, Barnes and Noble today so that she could use her hard-earned money to buy a Hermione Granger replica wand.  I live in Bloomington-Normal and actually did a signing at this store recently, so I thought I’d take a look in the science fiction section just to … you know.

First all, imagine my joy when I saw several copies of Andropia sitting on my local Barnes and Noble’s bookshelf.  That was pretty cool.

Then, to make it even better, I saw one of my literary heroes–Neil Gaiman–on the shelf below me.  To see my book in proximity to his work … it gave me chills.

Of course, while Neil Gaiman seems incredibly polite and genuinely kind, I’m sure his excitement regarding this occasion would not match mine.  I’m definitely getting the better deal out of all this.

Take a look at the picture below.  Cool, right?

By the way, my daughter was not impressed by any of this.

Ah, to be humbled.

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

The Polar Vortex Has Created a Unique E-Learning Opportunity

With the polar vortex hitting Central Illinois tomorrow, many schools have wisely closed for the day.  In some cases, some schools have actually preemptively closed for several days.

Incidentally, a new Illinois law now allows for “snow days” to be counted as actual “school days” as long as e-learning occurs.  This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for both educators and families.

It’s thrilling for several reasons.  The most universal and obvious reason is because it solidifies the school calendar.  If “make-up days” are now taken out of the equation, families can count on their kids getting out for the summer on a certain date, which will allow for summer plans to commence even sooner.  Of course, while that’s probably the sole reason we can all agree on, it’s not all that beneficial in terms of education.

Another reason that I’m fired up for this is because it keeps learning consistent.  Look, we all understand that students are not going to engage at home like they do in the classroom, and we recognize that teachers are not going to give work to do at home that requires their immediate presence in order to provide explanation, but as long as some kind of learning occurs, that’s a good thing.  My biggest gripe about summer vacation is that so much learning is lost.  Students come back from summer and take weeks to get back into the groove of things and remember what they learned from the previous year.  It doesn’t sound like it should happen, but trust me–it does.  On a much smaller scale, the same thing happens with “snow days.”  So much of education is routine and structure.  By asking students to initiate their education while at home, it keeps them focused, on task, and exercising their minds.

Furthermore, many schools, including my workplace, are now one-to-one.  This means that students in junior high and high school are provided a laptop.  Our district even provides internet services to families who can’t afford it.  We’ve been a one-to-one school for several years now.  I’m exhilarated by the fact that we are moving forward with our technology and encouraging students to use their laptops for explicit educational purposes at home.  Laptops mean that we no longer have to lose out on a day due to inclement weather.

I must admit, though, that I’m being a little selfish.  When our school initiated one-to-one, I created a website for each class that I teach which updates daily.  I particularly did this so that homebound students or students absent due to illness, field trips, college visits, etc., could keep up with us on a day-to-day basis.  Every audio we listen to has a link, every video we watch has a link, every activity sheet we do has a download, every website we visit has a link.  And my class site continues to evolve.  I now take advantage of the District’s educational resources such as BrainPop! and Microsoft Forms to provide even more learning opportunities.  Does it take a ton of work to update three different class websites on a daily basis?  You bet it does.  But it provides the chance for absent students to keep up and learn along with the present students, which is the whole point.  My practice is tailor made for “e-learning days,” and I’m selfishly happy that my efforts are proving fruitful.

This “alternate learning” will take time to perfect, though.  For example, the elementary teachers do not have the benefit of students with laptops.  They cannot contact their students directly via the internet.  They will have to work through their students’ parents or guardians, which complicates matters for everyone, to be sure.  As is often the case, they will have greater demands to meet.

Taking attendance is also an imperfect enterprise at this point.  I won’t go into our district’s plan, but it relies heavily on the “honor code.”  I wish I could tell you that 100% of our students, students’ families, and even educators are honor-bound, but we all know that’s not true.  It’s hard for anything to be 100%.

I also understand that it could prove burdensome for families in terms of childcare.  With this option now legally viable, more and more districts are going to utilize it.  This could result in families having to figure out childcare more often.  I recognize that for some, this is a serious issue and not one to be taken lightly.

Consequently, I’ve heard some educators say that this begins the end of our profession as we know it.  To that I say … maybe?

On the one hand, I don’t believe that “brick and mortar” schools will ever disappear.  As stated above, we provide an invaluable service.  Look, I’m a career educator.  I take this field very seriously.  I take education and learning very seriously.  I have two college degrees.  But, if I’m being perfectly honest, if nothing else, we provide a safe, structured, stable environment where people can send their children while they go to work.  People need “brick and mortar” schools so they have somewhere to send their kids during their shift.  I’m loathe to admit that, but it’s true.  Heck, I praised God the day both of my kids were out of daycare and at the local public school because it freed up a LOT of money that could go elsewhere.

Will our profession change as a result of e-learning at home?  Yes, it probably will.  While common sense dictates smaller classes are better, and while no one should argue against the benefit of an actual, present human being teaching impressionable youth, e-learning could result in larger classrooms with fewer teachers.  Research leads us to believe this would be detrimental to kids, but it’s a likely scenario.

Truthfully, though, I’m a big believer in necessity driving innovation.  We often don’t come up with new ideas unless we have to.  While our district’s educators didn’t get much notice that this would be enacted, and that rightfully proved stressful for some, I personally would much prefer that we dive into the deep end rather than endlessly discuss it for years and years.  Oftentimes, when lives and livelihoods are not at stake, the best way to start something is to simply do it and figure it out as you go.

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 (Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

 

 

My New Favorite Mexican Restaurant In Bloomington-Normal

My wife and I have been searching for a new Mexican restaurant ever since Carlos O’Kelly’s closed its doors.  Yes, that was five years ago.

We’ve tried a few local establishments over time, but nothing really won us over.  In the interim, we’ve made due with Mexican dishes at Chile’s, Applebee’s–you know, those kinds of places.  That’s fine, but we missed an actual authentic Mexican restaurant.  Actually, I don’t know how authentic Carlos O’Kelly’s was, but you get my meaning.

A few week’s ago, on New Year’s Eve, my wife suggested a relatively new Mexican restaurant in town called Hacienda Leon.  We were going out as an entire family to see Mary Poppins Returns, and we wanted to eat together afterward in order to celebrate the holiday.

As we walked in, the size and open layout of the restaurant immediately struck me.  I loved the roominess of the place.  I also really liked the decor and general style.  I’m no expert at that kind of thing, so I’ll simply say everything pleased the eye.

We’ve been back since, and on both occasions the service proved friendly and capable.  The menu is very diverse with a wide range of rates.  You will be able to eat quite affordably if you wish, but there are also some more expensive and elaborate dishes available.  The drink menu also has a lot to offer with some very fair prices.  Both of my children were happy with the kids’ menu and were glad that they could substitute the rice and beans with fries.  By the way, my ten-year-old daughter just told me to tell you that their fries are “delicious.”

I don’t know how “authentic” Hacienda Leon is in terms of cuisine, but as far as I’m concerned, the two meals I ate there were wonderful.  It has instantly become my favorite Mexican restaurant in the area, and probably my second favorite restaurant around here in general.

If you live in the Bloomington-Normal region and crave Mexican fare, I urge you to give Hacienda Leon a chance.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Visit their website to see a photo gallery, their location, and the menu: Hacienda Leon

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Thanks To Dayna Schickedanz and Barnes and Noble

I wanted to take a moment and thank Dayna Schickedanz and Barnes and Noble for the wonderful event they organized.  I had a fantastic time, met several new people, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Dayna and the employees at Barnes and Noble were extremely accommodating and  truly went above and beyond, especially in regards to promoting the experience.  As you can see in the pictures below, they gave it their all!

Thanks also to the friends and family who came out to support me.  Seeing your kind, familiar faces set my nervous heart at ease.  I especially appreciate my in-laws who stayed home with my youngest child who was getting over the croup.  This allowed my wife and other daughter to attend, which meant the world to me.

If you couldn’t make it, no worries.  I received so many well-wishes via social media and regrets — I didn’t expect anyone to personally explain why they couldn’t attend, but I still appreciated the gesture!  There will always be another event, and you will always be invited to attend … whether you like it or not!

To those of you reading Andropia for the first time, I hope it resonates with you.  I hope it speaks to you the way it spoke to me as it demanded to be written.  I hope it inspires you to never stop asking questions, to cherish your independence, to celebrate your identity, and to demand answers from those who would prefer you remain uninformed.

By the way, if you think the poster they made for the event is awesome, that makes two us.  I said as much, so they let me take it home.  Pretty cool, right?

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