Definitely not your father’s Oldmobile

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Rarely am I bothered by things that the mainstream dictates as “offensive”. However, there are some occasions when it hits me – hard. For instance, I found myself truly offended a few years ago at the rodeo when two women wearing hijabs stopped by a booth to put on cowboy hats and take selfies. Considering there would be cultural ramifications for me (a non-Muslim) even trying on a hijab, I found it particularly insulting that these women would put such a culturally iconic symbol over their veiled heads for giggling pictures. If you are going to whine about Americans showing you cultural respect, then do the same in return.

But alas, this post is about a different matter. One near and dear to my heart, even more so than western attire, though just as symbolic in its own right. American muscle cars. Yes you read that right – muscle cars. Those iconic heavy metal masterpieces of horsepower, wrapped in steel and accented in chrome. Every American car company had their players in the game – Chevy had Camaro, Chevelle, Nova and of course the Corvette. Ford had the Shelby Cobra, Mustangs and the Mercury Cougar. Pontiac had the GTO and Firebird, Oldsmobile had the 442 and Dodge had the greats like the Challenger and Charger. Even their colors has amazing names like Ermine White, Plum Crazy Purple, Daytona Yellow, Fathom Green and Lemans Blue. Then, to go the extra mile, they were special editions that just set the bar higher. In 1969 a four door Chevelle with a small block 327 was a nice family car. A two door Chevelle with a small block 350 was just plain fun! A two door Chevelle SS big block 396 meant you were owning the road. But a Chevelle Yenko/SC 427 (deep sigh)…if you could get your hands on one of the 99 rare beasts made by Don Yenko and Chevrolet, well that one made life just about perfect. Powered by a 427-inch big block with 450 hp, your choice of a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission, power brakes, power steering, heavy duty springs and your choice of either Rally or Mag wheels. In 1969, this amazing ride would have set you back a whopping $5,200. Recently one of these rare beauties sold at auction for $275,000. (Hold on- I have to pause and wipe the drool off my chin).

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Ok, back to being offended.

There is so much to love about these icons. But part of what makes them legendary is that they have become rare gems. Given their age and the fact that most of these cars were raced and wrecked in their prime, very few have survived as road-worthy (or at least restorable). But like any fabled creature surrounded by tall-tales and amazing stories, there are also those who just have to ruin a good thing.

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1969 Dodge Charger – very cool and very rare

 

It was one thing when our car culture decided to go “retro”. There was the reintroduced VW Beetle, some not so successful creations like the HHR and the PT Cruiser, and revamped classics like the Camaro and Mustang*. Then Dodge decided it would be “cool” to bring back the Challenger, Charger, Avenger, and Dart. (deep breath) Why Dodge? Why pin classic names to new cars that have NOTHING in common with their iconic predecessors?

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2016 Dodge Charger – not even close!

 

 

And since we are on the subject of destroying icons, Chevy keeps circulating rumors of a new Chevelle (that looks like the bastard child of a Camaro and an Impala), and some NJ based company called SVE has licensed the rights to use the term “Yenko/SC” and is building 800 hp Camaros under this pseudonym.

NOW I’M OFFENDED!

“Gee I wish I had a Chevelle with safety features and too many electronics, that has no performance and that I can’t work on, and ultimately costs more than my first house!” SAID NO ONE EVER.

Stop screwing with these LEGENDS! Get your heads out of your corporate asses and get some damn originality in your design department. If you can’t think of something innovative then quit making cars! As for the guys licensing the Yenko moniker – you take the cake in lack of originality. You just couldn’t let that badge rest on its laurels. Not quite as bad as Ford misusing the Cobra badge on newer Mustang’s, but at least Dodge came up with a new designation when it created the Hellcat. Oh – I get that you do custom work and make super cars, but then so does Hennessey Performance, and they don’t trash vintage terms to do it.

So yes, I’m offended. Partially by the trampling of amazing memories and classic creations, but MOSTLY by the lack of originality in a billion dollar industry. Show some respect to the culture and history that you helped define and that set you apart in the first place! Instead of butchering the past, you should be shaping the future – finding cool new designs that embrace change and make driving fun again. You should be inspiring a whole new generation in the love affair with performance and design concepts, and showing them what it really means when you say “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile”.

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*While Camaros and Mustangs have changed immensely over the years, they get a pass in this rant because they have remained current and progressed with the times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, Mr. Heart-Ache, I’ve been expecting you…

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Once upon a time I was in love. Deeply, madly in love. The object of my affections was everything I wanted a man to be except he had one of those jobs where he traveled a lot so there was always distance between us. Sometimes it was a few weeks, sometimes I wouldn’t see him for nearly a year. I didn’t mind it so much because I had enough going on with my kids being younger, and when we did see each other we were so very happy together. But between his job and some health concerns, the stretches in time grew longer until my lover stopped communicating altogether – no emails or calls or texts – just disappeared. I worried about him for months – then months turned into years and life moved on and I put him behind me (not without crying and cursing, but I did it). The end.

A few years I dated another great guy, who was an addict that had been sober nearly 12 years. One day my ex came up in conversation and I was enlightened that while I may have fancied myself in love, in reality I had been used by an alcoholic. I was shocked. Sure my former flame had been a heavy drinker, but he didn’t blackout or get DUI’s or anything like that. Yeah – apparently I was too naïve to see the truth of that relationship. In hindsight, educated by someone who had been there/done that to others, it became very clear what kind of relationship I had been in and how I had been manipulated. Now, knowing this may have changed my perspective on the man, but not my feelings for him. I had known him on sober days (and nights) and there were qualities about him I still loved. I decided I would hold those memories for the comfort they brought me and not color them with regret. Besides it wasn’t like he was ever coming back. My sober friend disagreed, saying oh yeah, one day, he’ll be back – either because he’s drinking and fallen really low and needs help, or because he’s sober and making amends. I countered with possibility #3 – he’s dead – which I hoped was the case. At least then I had closure.

Well, after 6 years of radio silence from the man I fancied myself in love with, low and behold, out the blue, I got an email from him. I felt a burst of joy and giddiness! He was alive and apparently didn’t live too far away. We exchanged emails and he said he wanted to see me. YES! I was elated! He was back and coming to see me! Then logic returned with echoes of sober-friend’s warnings. I had to step back, let the joyful surprise subside, and ask more serious questions. I needed to know where he’d been and why he was reaching out now. I got a long explanation about all the drama and medical issues he’d been through, and how he hadn’t wanted to bring me down with his deep dark issues. But then I found out he had moved back and been living within 30 minutes of me for the past two years without saying a word. That hurt. And then I found out he was remarried. THAT pain has no descriptor.

Why the hell even email me when you’re married to another woman?!?! Again, sage advice from a man who’d been “this guy” came back to me. He hadn’t come back because he loved and missed me – he had come back because he needed something from me. Maybe he wanted a lover, maybe he wanted a shoulder to cry on, maybe he wanted a threesome. Whatever it is, I don’t know because I stopped asking questions. I sent him a response and with it a closure I had previously been denied. My first trip down the rabbit hole was wondrous because I didn’t know any better, but thanks, let’s not do that again.

I won’t lie and say the decision to end our reunion doesn’t hurt like hell. I deeply loved this man, some part of me probably always will. But we don’t get to be older and wiser without having learned a few lessons in the hardest, most painful, most soul-crushing ways imaginable, and at least this time I was the one who did the walking away.

Death, Taxes and Perspective

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“Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin

Early last year I lost my job at an oil & gas company due to downsizing (not a surprise in this area). I prayed for something with great pay, some challenge (not so routine), and most of all, industry security. That prayer was answered in the form of an administrative role with a tax firm. While we are busiest from 2/15 – 4/15, I have come to realize that since we handle corporate taxes, there is some sort of deadline EVERY month. Every day is a challenge, but mostly in the “how am I going to get all this done today?” kind of way. In hindsight I should have been a bit more specific when I put that prayer out to the Universe. But I did get my secure industry because nothing is more constant than taxes.

Except death.

Last week my stepmother passed away. At 69 years young, this unassuming woman had been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. She never cursed (although there was that one time she said ‘shit’ instead of ‘shoot’ and we laughed because she was so embarrassed to say a curse word). She never wore makeup or jewelry either – she was simple and unadorned and we loved her more for it.   Since she came from a different generation, she had a long list of causes she had been devoted to for multiple decades:

  • 51 years at the same church. 34 of those were spent serving in the nursery. It was her ministry to take care of the children so their parents could attend worship service. She cared for babies in the nursery until they were old enough to go to Sunday school classes. And yes, she saw more than a few mature to adulthood and get married in that same church.
  • 44 years as a teacher in the same middle school (she set a district record). Most of that as a science teacher, but later as a special-ed teacher. She had taught students who were kids of former students.
  • 42 years married to my father. If you knew my dad, you’d understand what kind of amazing record that is.
  • Various clubs and organizations that she devoted time to through the years, none of which she had been in for less than a decade.
  • She always had a crochet project in hand and made countless baby blankets and afghans for any expectant mother or ill friend she knew of. We could probably cover a smaller state with the amounts of blankets she made over the years.

Her spirit was not only generous but resilient as well. She had survived multiple bouts of cancer, a severe car accident a few years ago, and open heart surgery more recently. But all of that takes a toll and she had gotten to the point where her body just stopped fighting and she succumbed to congestive heart failure. But that spirit of hers had touched so many others, as was evident by the outpouring of support during her funeral.

Her devotion to her causes also showed me that I have no sense of accomplishment, nothing like the years of giving this selfless woman amassed. There is nothing in my life that I have ever felt so passionately about that I would devote decades to it (kids and family don’t count). I fear that if I died today, my epitaph would be short and uneventful, and I really don’t like that feeling. And while taxes may be a constant, a soul-sucking, mind-numbing job is not where I want to spend my days. I’m ok working 50-60 hours a week, but I’d like that time and energy to be put towards a cause I can believe in.

I have lost the woman who was a second mother to me, a simple woman who made incredible gumbo, knew how to handle my father, always gave and never took, loved gospel and 50’s music, was the world’s biggest Audie Murphy fan, loved pansies and the color purple, and acted as a conduit to bring friends and relations closer (because even if we weren’t getting along, we WOULD get together and make it work for her sake).

As a family, and to an extent a community, our way ahead is going to be harder without her support and generous spirit. But as she has shown us, while death and taxes may be certainties in this life, so is the fact that it takes so little effort to make great changes in the lives around you.

 

Who am I?

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As 2016 draws to a close, Life seems to have kicked in to a higher gear. I’m trying to get my daughter moved out of state (which has its own set of challenges), family members are facing health concerns, the dating life is non-existent and the job is still moving at a frantic pace.  So what does my girl-brain decide to do? Get hung up on an abstract detail of course. A once benign question morphed into a life-altering conundrum just when I need it the least…let me explain.

For a few years now I’ve run across someone locally who had my same name. We had the same dentist, used the same mechanic, and shopped at a handful of other stores. It was odd and often left me wondering if I had ever stood in line with this other woman, or even if there had been identity theft.  Then a few weeks ago I gave in to the crazy urge and googled my name. Ugh! BIG MISTAKE!  So many women share my name! Even a couple have the same middle name! WTH?babygirl

Ok – so nominally I’m not as unique as I thought. But then I started looking over some of the bios and reasons they show up in internet searches. Ironically most of them are in the medical, science or mental-health fields. These ladies have very distinguished careers, working to change the world and just generally make life better across the board.

Now, I’m an only child so I’ve never been subjected to the whole sibling rivalry/comparison thing. But reading about these women was about as close as I could have gotten.  My other namesakes are brilliant and accomplished and recognized among their peers. And I’m…well…not. Suddenly girl-brain took this once vague idea and built a glorious temple around the concept of “compared to these women, who the hell am I?” I have recently spent too many hours on the cold marble floors of meaningless self-reflection just pondering that statement.  Admittedly to little avail.

Oh the ponderings have run very deep at times, and I’ve made some interesting observations about myself and the state of my life. But there is still no definitive answer to “who am I?” Depending on the day of the week, how stressed I am, and a thousand other conditions, the answers vary from ‘an unappreciated mother who’s ready to strangle her eldest’ to ‘an old soul who’s tired of all the noise’ to ‘an imaginative writer about to burst onto the publishing scene’ to ‘a failure who just wants to go to sleep and never wake up’.  Yeah – some days are harder than others, but these pondering haven’t been all bad. They’ve helped me take stock and see where I am, to accept what I’ve done in my life and what I haven’t done with my life. Which leads me to ponder what I will do to change that.

Who am I? I wish I knew – I wish I had a concrete answer that resonated in my spirit and just leapt out in response. But maybe its good that I don’t because it allows me to be whoever I want to be, or need to be, depending on what Life has thrown my way. I have also accepted that while other ladies may share my name, that’s about as far as we go in comparison of our lives and I need to leave it as such. I wish I could say girl-brain has torn down her temple of painful contemplation and let the subject go, but she’s just not quite there yet. I had her at least add a comfy couch and some soothing music so I could reflect in peace. Those marble floors are hard on the spirit as well as the knees.

 

 

 

 

 

And so it GOES

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I have to admit I love to play on the NOAA website (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). This is likely due to my fascination with weather related things and the fact that they are THE weather people. I love looking at satellite images, or checking hurricane reports.  They have an amazingly user-friendly site.

Typically when you look at these satellite images, you have a couple different options. You can look at water vapor, infra-red, different areas of the country, visible real-time photos (great when looking at storms). But whichever view you look at, there is a satellite name with it; usually GOES West, GOES East, or Meterosat-9.

GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. There are several of these in orbit and as the name implies, they are stationary over a particular area and that’s their region to monitor. I remember there was even a GOES reference at the beginning of the movie Twister, to show how far weather imagery had advanced from the opening sequence. Most of us Earth-bound mortals don’t care that such satellites exist, but I have enjoyed their views and am thankful for their real-time streams of information that show meteorologists (and weather buffs like myself) what’s going coming and going in the air around us.

Having said that, I was playing on the NOAA site today when I found a newsletter update that GOES-3 had reached the end of its lifespan. Launched in June of 1978, this satellite has had quite the career.  In May of 1980 it managed to capture the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, which looks very different when seen from orbit. The video shows cloud cover and then poof! A massive hole appears from the force of the erupting debris, then the darker ash clouds are visible.   After 10 years GOES-3 lost its imaging ability, but was repurposed as a communication satellite for Pan-Pacific Education and Communications Experiments out of Hawaii. It was part of a fundamental link that aided the Pacific area in education, healthcare and even disaster management.   Having 2 lives it pretty good, but GOES-3 lived up to its name and had a 3rd. In 1995 it was adopted by the National Science Foundation to provide communications for the Antarctic research facility.

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Artist rendering of GOES-3

Finally, after 38 years, 3 important jobs, and countless orbits, GOES-3 was decommissioned this past June, which oddly saddens me. Don’t ask why, I guess it’s just like losing a favorite old car, or watching a familiar landmark get torn down. I know it hasn’t actually showed anyone the weather in 20 years, but that’s not the point. It served its purpose and then found new ones – tasks it was uniquely suited for and performed well.

Currently GOES-3 stands as the oldest continually operating spacecraft in history at 38 years and 13 days. So very much has changed in our world while it whirled silently around over our heads.  I tip my hat to those men and women who kept this satellite in orbit, operating and employed for such a lifespan.

 

May we all find such purpose and longevity.

Open Letter to Hollywood

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I have been a faithful lover of your product for 40+ years now. From grand sweeping epics like Gone with the Wind, to the timeless animation of most anything Disney, to adventures in space with light sabers or robots or even very scary Aliens. I have laughed with icons such as Gene Wilder, Bette Midler, and George Burns.  I’ve been terrified by Jaws, Alien, and Poltergeist.  I have been caught up in timeless romances with The Notebook, Pride & Prejudice, and oh yes, Gone with the Wind (that one really covers a lot of ground).GWTW

You have given us heroes of all shapes, sizes and colors. You have countered every one with villains of every conceivable nature. You have taught us to dream bigger, push farther, and stretch our imaginations and hearts to the breaking point. We laugh, cry, scream in fright and sometimes anger – right along with the characters you send us. Occasionally you even change our very lives because of a few hours spent in the dark, staring at that alluring silver screen.

But lately I find myself disappointed on a consistent basis. What’s the deal Hollywood?

Let’s start with this – Why do you feel it necessary to rehash timeless classics?  The Amityville Horror, Carrie, Footloose, Ghostbusters – the originals captivated us, told the story very well, and didn’t need to be remade.  If the original was a success, and no one was clamoring for a redo, why go through the trouble? All you’re doing is trivializing the epic-ness of the first one.

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Why drag out a series ad-nauseum? Nightmare on Elm Street, Saw, X-Men, Jurassic Park.   They all get to the point where they are entirely too predictable – same heroes, different villains, someone important dies to shake things up, good guys still win and we’ve set up the next movie.  We loved them in the beginning, but you drag them out to the point that it’s just no fun anymore. Stop it!

What happened to epic sagas? Again I defer to GWTW as my standby measure.  Avatar was on that scale – lord knows that movie needed an intermission. But it seems this form of grand story telling is lost and that’s a shame.

Do you ever listen to public opinion or screen movies before releasing them? My guess here is no. If you did you would not have released the monumental disappointment known as Superman vs Batman, Dawn of Justice.  I think I just threw up a little thinking about it. I won’t fault your cast choices (especially Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman). But the lack of story line, the over use of flashbacks (we ALL KNOW what’s happened with Kent and Wayne to make them who they are!), and the warped portrayal of Lex Luthor with an almost Riddler-esque quality. Not to mention that bizarre monster thing you threw in. Geez – 2 hours of setup rehashing things we already knew and swirling miscommunication to get to 5 minutes of action for everyone to kiss and make up at the end.   And the haphazard way you tossed in the future members of the Justice League – did you forget they were supposed to be included?  If you had screened it before final cutting, you could have made some serious improvements and saved the audience about 40 minutes of life-span.

I think opinion polls or test audiences would also help steer you away from failures like Winter’s Tale, Pompeii, The Single Mom’s Club, Cowboys vs Aliens, Driven, Gigli, Pixels, and Zoom. These are just a handful of the bombs that have cost far more to make than they could ever hope to bring in.  Who approves the budget for these? Who thought any of these were a good idea?

Do the people who adapt books to screenplays ever actually read the book? While The Notebook book1was phenomenal, I’m specifically referring to Starship Troopers. Other than the title and character names, NOTHING in this movie reflected the plot, ideals, or storyline of the book. It’s a fantastic book but no one wants to read it anymore because they associate it with that lame excuse for a movie. The fact that there were subsequent really really bad films to make a series only nauseates me further.  Other shameful adaptations include War of the Worlds, The Great Gatsby, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the Harry Potter books. C’mon guys! Read the book first!!

And on a personal note, for the love of little kittens, please STOP rehashing comic book characters; Spiderman, Batman, Catwoman, Superman, Fantastic Four, even the Joker!! Leave these guys alone and move on to someone else.

I could add another page on remakes and rehashing that is Star Wars, but I digress. I could ask why we no longer expect our actors to be gentleman with style or ladies of elegance and wit. Seriously, name me one A-list actress now that can act, sing, and dance backwards in high heels?

Dearest Hollywood, I still want to be captivated, terrified, enraptured, romanced, and taken for a white-knuckled ride. I still have faith in your ability to do all this and more. You have shown me greatness, sent me home laughing, put me on the edge of my chair, or other times left me too stunned to leave my seat.  Maybe it’s time for some house cleaning – obviously you have some non-movie lovers making the decisions out there. I’m tired of wasting my time and money watching substandard actors making banal and clichéd films. You are the Motion-Picture Industry – it’s high time you started acting like it again.

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Resolution

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I resolve to evolve as my resolutions are more self-revolution.
No more self-recrimination or unplanned deviation.
No more sloth or gluttony or prideful mutiny.
No more financial panic or moments of shopping manic.
To be more than I have been and to be my own self-less friend.
To be genuine to my soul and make my own future my goal.
To plan my work and work my plan. To learn and do and take a stand.
To give my experience the wings to fly. To embrace my life before it slips by.
Evolution takes revolution, so I evolve.
I am resolute, I am my own Fate, and I am my own resolve.

Where’s the future?

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2015 ends tomorrow and I confess I’m not quite ready for that. It’s not for things left undone, but rather I don’t want to see this one go.  2015 in of itself seemed significant – well established into the second decade of the 21st century, it was a year when more futuristic adventures were expected thanks to Marty McFly (and the Jetsons, Space Odyssey, Star Trek, and countless others). Don’t even get me started on my expectations for space travel and living on other planets!A Spaceship

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sure, we’ve made progress with electronics and gadgets and to some extent privatized space flight, but we’re still not there. Where? THERE – THE FUTURE!!!   You know, the time of flying cars and automated kitchens that can cook for us. Ok – we have Roombas, but they aren’t exactly Rosie the robot maid.  We are just in the infancy of gadgets we can talk to that can control nearly every aspect of our house (thanks to guys who are far too envious of Tony Stark’s JARVIS).  But then with all the hackers out there, who wants to take that chance?  If your smart thermostat gets too much attitude, you could find yourself living in a sauna, hostage to its demands of better HEPA filters and a cute new humidifier to talk to.

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Alas, our visions of the future have too many variables. We want progress, convenience, technology and less burden on ourselves (lazy creatures that we are). But at what point do we cap the capacity of machines to assist us? Will Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics be enough of a safeguard? Consequently, he envisioned them being commonplace and advanced enough to need those three laws by 2058 – a mere 43 years away.  Yet between hackers, dependence on fossil-fuels, and movie-induced fears of the machines taking over, I suspect our growing pains into Techtopia will be long and fraught with setbacks.

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Ok, in all fairness and with respect to the last century, we ARE living in a world our great-grandparents could barely imagine, one that sees brilliant advances daily. Do you realize that cameras, books, calculators, calendars, credit cards, house phones, and desktop computers (all very cool even 10 years ago) have all been replaced by a single device that fits in your pocket? Am I wrong to be unimpressed with the fact blue-tooth (cordless) earbuds will be the rage at the January Consumer Electronics Show? Have I become jaded ? Perhaps a little. But more likely, these things have just become commonplace and I expect more (that feeling is not just confined to the kids born after 2000 who have no idea what a landline is or how to work a tv without a remote).

I could ponder the potential achievements of the next 40 years for several hours, if not days. I mean, look how much tech has inundated our lives in that last 40 years alone! HOPEFULLY, by the time I’m 80 (ish), I’ll be telling my car its flying too high and to slow the hell down, or arguing with my smart-ass house because it can’t keep the temperature adjusted to match my hot-flashes, and definitely telling my great-grandkids about how I remember the days when we used smartphones to actually talk to each other.

I have approximately 36 hours as of this writing before 2015 quietly fades away. I guess I am harboring hope for some amazing breakthrough that will revolutionize living as we know it. Something so colossal it makes the last decade look mundane. I’m praying the geeks have been saving something for the 11th hour, and we’re going to open 2016 with a bang that has nothing to do with champagne corks.  Here’s to waking up on January 2, 2016 and thinking WOW! Now we’re in The Future!

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Giraffes, Airplanes and Extreme Volunteers

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To close out year #45, the daughter and I had a busy weekend. On Saturday we went to the zoo for my company’s annual picnic. Since I’ve only been at this job a week, it was a rather awkward event because I only recognized about 7 people. But after lunch we were able to see the zoo and that was really fun. I haven’t been in ages and they have really expanded and upgraded the exhibits.   My daughter Chelsie turns 21 in a few weeks and her favorite animal is the giraffe, so of course we had to go see them. In addition to seeing the new baby in the group, she was able to feed them. The look of unbridled joy on her face was priceless! That was an early birthday present for both of us, though for different reasons.Excited Chelsie

On Sunday, we had a volunteer opportunity at the local airshow. I’m NOT a morning person, but I dragged myself out of bed for the hour (ish) drive south to Ellington AFB to get there at 5:30am (do the reverse math and you realize I was up very early). Upon arrival I was met with a considerable bit of confusion from the other volunteers but more on that in a moment.

During my shift I met some great people from the Houston Police Dept, the Texas Guard, and of course the pilots for the actual planes. The pre-dawn hours were chilly and windy, but the sunrise was amazing and the day was clear and perfect for flying. It was great to watch the vintage planes take flight, knowing people care enough to maintain them and keep their colorful history alive. The precision of the Breitling air team from France was amazing – these jets fly with less than 10 feet of space between planes – that’s crazy precise! And of course the Thunderbirds are always an outstanding close to the show. My face is sunburned from a day spent staring up in the sky (even with a hat on), but Chelsie and I had so much fun- it was definitely worth it.

Now, about those volunteers. I’ve been a part of our local CERT group for many years (Community Emergency Response Team – organized by Dept of Homeland Security and the local OEM). They’re a good group that teach valuable skills and produce some well trained volunteers. But, how can I put this…they also host some nut jobs. I understand that in volunteer based organizations, beggars can’t be choosers, but there comes a point where certain volunteers may not support an organization’s best interests.

CERT teaches disaster preparedness – if poo hits the fan, the first responders may not be able to get to you or your neighborhood. CERT teams are established to be able to respond and contain most situations until the cavalry arrives. They are trained to handle the basics of triage/medical, search and rescue, communications, and fire suppression. They teach you to work in teams, methodically and in a government approved format, to minimize risk while maximizing effort. It’s a great program, its free, and again, entirely volunteer driven.

While taking the class, CERT provides you basic gear, like hard hats, gloves, goggles, medical supplies, etc.- the basics to get you started with emergency response. You are free to add to it as you like. This tends to bring out the extreme preppers in your neighborhood. By the 2nd class McPrepster is hauling in his military grade pack with enough gear to face the zombie hordes while you are still trying to figure out basic acronyms . Versions of this extremist are found in other roles throughout CERT – the over organizer who wants every drill or event to be perfect, the radio specialist who takes over all communications, and the ones who know just enough to be dangerous. Yes, they mean well, but they tend to not play well with others. Group members stop wanting to participate because these guys take over the show and suck all the joy out of doing a good deed. This also means that when they get all jacked up for an event in mil-spec BDU’s and their official CERT gear, they can be overbearing to the public, which casts a disparaging pallor over the organization and makes recruiting other volunteers a lot harder to do.

Such was the case Sunday. The team was small, but comprised of people who just felt the need to be overly in charge of their assigned tasks. In an emergency where you may be saving lives, I get that mentality and we would all be in that mode. But this was a family friendly event, where our primary goals were checking gate passes and redirecting traffic. Have fun, smile at people, be courteous as you tell them they are at the wrong entrance, and when they feel the need to vent about lack of signage, smile and be sympathetic. Anything else is just unwarranted. There was no need for you to bring tactical gear, a trunkload of equipment, or a smartass attitude. We’re volunteers trying to do a public service – if you have to ruin that for the public and the rest of the volunteers, then what’s the point? While I see this currently in CERT, I’ve seen it elsewhere, and I just hope we can all remember (and maybe remind our volunteering cohorts) that we’re all working for the same cause, and none of us are getting paid for it. We learned it as kids, but sometimes we need to remind each other as adults: play nice or else pretty soon there won’t be anyone else to play with!

Personal Growth – the gift that keeps on giving

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Dear readers, it’s almost my birthday. Again.  Can you believe how this last year has flown by? As some of you may remember, I was fortunate enough to have a 2nd year at being “45” (you can read about that here). But after two years, it’s time to move on to 46. I’ve been dreading it because it seems so much closer to the ominous 5-0. Blech– not looking forward to that one. That means I must squeeze the joy and happiness out of the remainder of my 40’s while I can.

I don’t know if I feel any great sense of accomplishment over this past year, but I did make some bigger and harder decisions, and if nothing else there has been personal growth.

In January I had to put two beloved dogs to sleep. Not a day has passed where I don’t think of them, though now its easier to talk about how amazing they were. Pepper’s picture sits on my desk and is very comforting on my rougher days.  Since then I have met a few people who have older dogs with health issues who absolutely will not put them down and I feel my heart ache for their pain even as I pray for them to have strength. Its not an easy choice, but I still think its selfish to let an animal suffer because we don’t want to face the world without them. They love us unconditionally and we must do the same.

Before the weather turned too warm, my mom came to visit from Oregon. It was a whirlwind visit, as usual, but so good to see her. Its so great to see how many friends she still has here that all vie for her attention when she’s in town. I realize I want to be that loved and that funny when I’m her age.

Somewhere around June I ended a year-long relationship. It hurt like hell. Being older and wiser doesn’t make heartbreak and betrayal hurt any less.

In July my son moved out of state to live with his dad. This was a case of picking my battles. It hurt to send him off, but I couldn’t keep hounding him for, well, everything. (What is it with boys not bathing?!) Thankfully I have an excellent relationship with my ex, so there wasn’t any custody drama or anything like that. My son is doing well in his new school and has a new bunch of friends and for that I am grateful.

In August I cut my hair really short. Something I said I wouldn’t do again. Amazingly I love it!

Finally there is the biggest change of the year, I started a new job this week. I’m relieved to be out of that last hell, but this new gig isn’t really eliciting any enthusiasm yet. The pay is considerably more, but then so is the commute. But my boss is much easier to get along with, and surprisingly we have the same birthday! Maybe that’s why I don’t see his tendency to be a smart ass as a problem – because I understand it too well. It’s the new opportunity I’ve wanted for the last 2 years – I will make the most of it.

This is the last weekend before my birthday. Saturday is the new company picnic at the zoo, so my daughter and I will be out there enjoying festivities and seeing the giraffes – yes at 20 she is excited to see giraffes of all things. Then Sunday we are volunteering at the Air Show. My daughter has never been and I haven’t been in years so that will be a full day. The bonus is I get to use the “but its my birthday” excuse all weekend so THAT will be fun! I’m turning 46 – I take my cheap thrills where I can get them.

Enough of the retrospect. The next year-long adventure starts in a matter of days. I’m kicking it off with two adventures…first, there is a weekend getaway to visit my son and ex in Iowa. I know, it’s not epic, but it’s a place I’ve never been to and I really miss my son. The second is guitar lessons – electric guitar at that. Those of you who know me are re-reading that statement. I fully understand, but its different and it was either that or hang-gliding. Who knows, maybe I’ll fit that into this year’s adventures too.