Monday, May 28, 2012

The Price Of Freedom

Memorial Day is always one to make me stop and ponder all the veterans that have willingly served and put their lives on the line for our great country over the past 225+ years. Today we watched the parade honoring them as it marched down Main Street in Waukesha. It was a short, but honoring parade, with the requisite color guards, marching bands and military vehicles. People clapped and waved to those that have earned it. The whole event made me reflect on the role the military has played in my own family. Note that none of them was killed in action, but all enlisted and served.

My grandfather Oscar W. Swanson served in WWI in the Army. I'm not sure of how much action he saw, but I think he was largely involved in building air bases as part of it. I should know this, but don't.

My father enlisted in the Air Force during WWII. Because of health issues he was honorably discharged early in his duty. It always bothered him that his twin brother was able to serve and he wasn't. His twin brother Tom was a navigator in the Air Force and has told a few stories of his having to ditch their plane on a couple of occasions during WWII. Fascinating stuff of real heroes.

Not to exclude women, my Aunt Marriette served as a nurse during WWII. I don't know many specifics about where and when but I think she served in the South Pacific. Again, I should know this.

Many of my other uncles served in the various branches as well. My uncle Harry was in the Merchant Marines during WWII. Not knowing what the Merchant Marines do, I had to look it up on Wikipedia. They gave this description:

"The Merchant Marine is responsible for transporting cargo and passengers during peace time. In time of war, the Merchant Marine is an auxiliary to the Navy, and can be called upon to deliver troops and supplies for the military."
(Source: Wikipedia)

Again, a willing servant to our country in a different capacity.

My uncle Dan reached the rank of Sargent First Class during the Korean war. I wish he was around so I was able to ask him to tell some of his old stories. That kind of history fascinates me.

I'm not sure about the rest of my uncles. I think my uncle Bill on my mom's side served in some capacity.

None of my generation has served in the the armed forces. We were lucky in that we've never seen a war as big as WWI or WWII, so have not had to enroll out of a sense of duty. Tom and I both registered for the draft, Tom for Vietnam, and me for whatever skirmish they felt needed a draft for. Fortunately, Tom's name never came up and there was never a significant war to reinstate the draft after I had registered. Nonetheless, we were both willing to do whatever was asked of us.

Both of us attended a Christian Military (paradox?) High School - Cretin, so we were both adept at knowing the specifications of an M16; that it was a gas-operated, air cooled, shoulder fired, semi-automatic weapon with a maximum effective range of 550 meters. The fact that I still remember that is a bit scary, actually.

We had military class everyday, and the option of taking Marksmanship classes. Tom was always an expert with a gun (still is). He won more medals than I could count. I, on the other hand, couldn't hit the broad side of a barn (still can't). I remember Sargent Stephens looking at my target when I was done and asking if I shot with my eyes closed. Never liked guns much.

My nephew Nick is an active serviceman for the Air Force Reserves. He just returned safely from a tour in Qatar and Afghanistan. His stint in the service has given him a new sense of purpose. Like the generations before him, he deserves accolades and recognition.

And so, to all the veterans and future veterans out there, I want to say Thank You for your service to our country. Thank you for your selflessness, your discipline and dedication. Thank you for overlooking the sometimes questionable decisions by our government to intercede when you don't necessarily agree, and just serving for serving sake. You are my personal heroes. Thank You, God Bless You and God Bless America.

Blogging off...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

For a Limited Time

We're holding a garage sale this weekend. I'm getting rid of several of my man toys from years back. The items include: my homebrewing kit, my stereo (vintage 1980's/1990's), my sports cards, and many of my albums, CD's and cassettes.

I am cleaning house, so to speak.

I have an attachment to all of this stuff; an unhealthy attachment. It is a link to my past in many respects and I am having a bit of a hard time releasing all of it at once. I don't know why I'm so attached to any of it, just a whole lot of memories. That accompanied by the fact that all of it is either in good shape, or at least still works, make it a little harder to let it go.

At the same time, I am surprising myself a little bit with how the voice of reason keeps coming into my head. I know some of it has to do with Rob's passing this past year. His illness showed me the importance of people more than things. As his wife said at one point, their whole life had come down to one room, his hospital room at Mayo. When I look at things from that perspective, that our time is short and we can take none of it with us, my fingers become easier to pry from some of the material possessions. In that sense, when I give/sell some of what I have, I get a sense of freedom.

This thinking carries into giving of yourself as well. I urge everyone to "lighten up" and downsize today. You'll be a better person for it, IMHO.

Blogging off...

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Monday Redefined

Another Monday goes in the books. Uneventful for the most part. Yoga, breakfast, work, bike ride, dinner, repeat ad infinitum.

Lost a couple of 70's icons again over the weekend in Donna Summer and Robin Gibb. These kinds of deaths always affect me more than those of the "old" stars. They were young when I was young. This, unfortunately, puts me in reach of their fate as well. Not that I wasn't always capable of dying an early death, just that seeing entertainers that I associate with my youth croak, just creeps me out a bit. Don't fret my state of mind, I'm fine actually, it's just an observation of what goes through my head - the noise in my head, so to speak.

On the upside, I had a terrific weekend with the family. Friday we all watched the beginning of Rocky III, until the power went out randomly. We've been working our way through the Rocky movies, in part because of our visit to Philadelphia in 2008. At that time, we ran the steps to the Art Museum and stood on the spot where they have his footprints bronzed. Then, along with Rob's family, we stood for a family picture by the Rocky statue that is at the base of the stairs. What we found interesting was in Rocky III, that actual statue was "dedicated" in the movie, a fact none of us knew.

Saturday I had coffee at the Steaming Cup with Donna, one of my favorite things to do on a Saturday. It is a great chance to catch up on what happened through the last week as well as prep for what the day/weekend and coming week will bring. It is her chance to get my undivided attention, a rare thing around our house, as we are always coming or going or trying to shuttle kids here and there. I have your typical man/husband hearing anyways, so I do best when I'm out of the house and can listen just to her, and not be running down my list of things I need to get to.

After coffee, I managed to get out kayak fishing for about 3 hours on a nearby lake. I had a blast and some decent success, catching and releasing 7 small Bass, and narrowly missing 3 others. It was an 80+ degree day and cloudless, so conditions could have been better for fishing, but I'm not complaining. I'll take 80 in May any day. It was just good to be on the water. I did see a couple of different boats pulling in big fish, so they are in there, it's just a matter of finding them.

I built a Kayak rack for the garage in the afternoon and it came out perfect. Now the thing is up and out of the way in our garage. It only took about an hour to build.

Saturday night we spent with our good friends the Barretts as well as my brother(s) in law Mark and Jake. Patty and Brad fed us all with ribs and chicken and we laughed and laughed. We are so incredibly blessed with good friends and family. Our kids have grown up with the Barretts' kids, so they get along very well. It makes it much easier for us to talk as adults while they're off entertaining themselves. It's all good.

Sunday we did church and while Donna went to a brunch with some friends, I had the chance to take my kids out to the Steaming Cup, so I did. Again, good one-on-one time with them; a chance to connect unlike I find during our busy weeks. On the way there, in the car, we had a decent talk about some of the things going on in school. Kids with no faith or those who attack Christianity. We also had a frank talk about drugs, bullying and other school issue. I cherish these talks because I know the time is short. It won't be long and I'll be seeing them all off to college.

Sunday Night was the last Mosaic gathering of the school year. It was a fun night in the gym and later in the amphitheatre for the Talent Show. Some of these kids have a LOT of talent (and nerve). I'll miss these kids over the summer!

So there you have it. In hashing this blog out I have worked through my Monday blahs. When I started writing this, I was determined that my life was groundhog day; the same thing day in, day out. Now that I've laid it all out in writing I realize how REALLY REALLY RICH it is. I tend to get caught in a whirlpool of negativity sometimes and the best way to hash it out is WRITE (sp) HERE.

So thank you for being a part of it. Tuesday's going to be amazing! :-)

Blogging off...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Maiden Voyage

Well, I got to try out the new Kayak on Saturday and it did not disappoint. I had a good time on Lower Genesee Lake in Western Waukesha County. I went with a friend and her husband, who had a kayak and a canoe with a 5 HP motor on the back. It was nice having them show me the ropes of my first venture out on to a lake.

We got out on the water by 7:20 after a stop for bait at Dicks bait (the old Smiley Barn) in Delafield. I spent the first hour trying to find some decent cover or a place that looked like it held some promise. I ended up in a back bay and hung there for a while. While it looked good, it turned out to be a bust, so I moved on. Finally, desperate for a fish, I hooked up a bobber and a worm and started still fishing around a dock. After  a couple minutes, I started getting some action and boated 3 bluegills within 10 minutes. None of them were big, but it beat catching nothing.

Over the rest of the day, I caught a few more bluegills and had a nice strike from a largemouth that got away. As I said, it was mainly about learning the ropes of Kayak fishing, and what did and didn't work.

My Wilderness Systems Commander 120 was a dream come true. It handled extremely well, and tracks surprisingly straight for such a wide boat. I spent most of my time in the captains perch which is the coolest part about the whole boat. Sitting in the bottom seat with my legs straight out gets tiresome, so I would move up to the captains seat and life was good!

I had my milk crate with 2 rod holders in the back bay which worked out very well. It was a bit of a pain in the neck (literally) at times, reaching for what I wanted, but I figure once I've tried it out a few times, I'll get a system down for what goes where.

Other things:

1. It would be really nice to have a cup holder. I know it's "mini-vanish" to want such a luxury, but I want a place to put my stainless coffee mug when I'm fishing. I'll look into a mount of some sort.

2, Standing up and fishing was a bit trickier than I had anticipated. I did a bit more side-to-side rocking than I was comfortable with, so didn't stand for more than 5 minutes at a crack the couple of times I did it.

3. Getting the boat on and off the roof of my 2004 Hyundai, Santa Fe was a piece of cake. The boat is light enough and, because I'm 6'5" I'm able to heft it with little effort onto my Malone Saddle Up Pro racks. They were the best $120 I spent that day at Canoecopia. Easy to install and they grip and hold the boat with no issues.

All in all it was a great day! The fishing could have been better, much better, but for a maiden voyage, I was very, very pleased with the way everything worked. The Commander 120 Kayak is a great product!

Blogging off...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Electrical Storm

So, we had our electricians come today and they were tasked with 3 things:

1. Put a new outlet on the porch.
2. Move the cable/router from the sun room to the new office, leaving a circuit in the sun room.
3. Put 2 new outlets in the new office, but run them off the "new" circuit from the back sun room, not the old wiring.

The had given us a quote a couple of weeks ago.

As it turns out, the guy who I had the very detailed discussion with about wanting the new outlets coming off the new circuit, had truck troubles and couldn't make it.

You see where this is going, right?

Yes, they hooked up the two new outlets to the "circuit over the bathroom fan," which is running off our old wiring. Donna called them on it and the guy said "well, computers don't really draw that much juice, so you should be fine." Not to be crossed, Donna stood her ground and said "It's the cause of our breakers tripping enough as it is. Fix it right"

She explained that I had talked to the lead electrician 6 weeks ago about how I wanted it, and she said she wanted it done that way. I give her a lot of credit. She played tough and they respected her.

I pictured the guy up in the attic after that cussing and kicking himself. We figure it added about 1.5 hours to their job, and no one was more upset than them I think.

When I got home it was my job to re-hook everything back up. "Everything" includes a PC Tower, mouse, keyboard, external DVD Writer, external hard drive, monitor, and printer.

Picture a tall man in a small, dimly lit space, with 3 miles of electrical cords, trying to thread said cords through a 2 inch circular hole in the back panel of the desk. Needless to say I grabbed my box cutter and widened the hole by several inches.

After several attempts to "organize" the cords using zip ties and methodical techniques of plugging into the power strip, it still ended up looking like I had organized them by running them over with the lawn mower.

For example, I bundled several cords together using zip ties, and shortening the cords up as much as I could. Then, when I went to my final adjustments of the monitor, I realized that it needed to be moved...farther than the bundle would allow. I managed to make it work, but it was nothing like you'd see in the Home Depot video.

So I got it done, but there were a few choice words and a few compromising non-yoga like poses. It was not my favorite task, but I can live with this cord pile until the next major re-work or PC upgrade.

Life is too short for organized cords.

Blogging off...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Thousand Miles in 64,800 Seconds

The trip totals are in from our trek to the Northland of NorthCentral Minnesota. We covered 1035 miles in 3 days. A total of 18 hours on the road, and 3 tanks of gas. We took the first 315 mile leg on Friday and stopped in Shoreview for the night. On Saturday we covered another 200+ miles to Lake George, MN, near Bemidji. Then, on Sunday we turned right back around and covered 500+ miles in a 9 hour jaunt back to Waukesha.

While it was a bit gruelling at times, my statement from the previous post still stands. We love to travel as a family, and we do it quite well. There were very few complaints from the kids for the whole trip. They don't even argue that much. I think I had to break up a total of one verbal battle. Otherwise, they got along well. Ben slept probably 9 of the 18 hours total, and Sarah about 5. I did probably 80% of the driving and I was fine with that too. When you break up 500 miles over 2 days, that's easy. For the 9 hour stint I needed a spell.

The trip took us to Courage North for a bench dedication in honor of my brother Rob. He was a camper, counselor and volunteer at Courage North many years ago. He helped every spring and fall with cleanup and winterizing. This weekend was cleanup weekend, so we were all there to work, and work we did. We cleaned cabins, raked, inventoried craft supplies, and a number of other things. They rely on volunteers to do this every spring, so we were glad we could help. As part of their appreciation, they fed and housed us. We ate like Kings (and Queens) and really enjoyed our time with family and friends, some old, some new.

The bench dedication was on Sunday. Jane read a beautiful poem called The Dash by Linda Ellis. It speaks of the time between life and death and what we make of it. After that she asked for stories and many people got up and told funny and heartfelt stories of Rob. I'm sure he would have loved to have been there helping us clean up. He was there in spirit though as evidenced by the sunshine breaking out right as we went to take pictures by the bench.

It was a fast and furious weekend. Some would say we were crazy to drive as far as we did for the the short amount of time we were there. We had apprehensions ourselves right before we left too, for the same reason. I am SO glad we did it, for so many reasons. Seeing family again, supporting Jane, helping Courage North staff, laughing with old friends, revisiting some great old memories of our pre-BWCA trips where we outfitted ourselves using some of Courage North's equipment, just to name a few. I sincerely feel that if I hadn't of gone, I would have regretted it.

Life is too short for regrets.

Blogging off...