Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Camping? Glamping? Cramping???

This past weekend, my wife and I did something we've been talking about doing for over two years.

We went camping.

For her it was an "adventure" and reminded her, a lot, of her days in the Army. For me, it was a good opportunity to test out some of the things we've had for an emergency (hurricane) and see how they do under practical conditions.

The week before, we started taking inventory of the things we already had that could be used for a camping trip (camp stove, lanterns, first aid kit, emergency radio, mini-generator) and making a list of things we needed to buy (tent, sleeping bags, mess kits).

With our gear all set, I picked my wife up from work on Friday and we headed about a half hour North to the campgrounds. To say the weather looked ominous would be a bit of an understatement. It was cloudy and windy. The forecast called for storms that night and into Saturday morning, but we were willing to give it a shot.


We had done a few "practice runs" at home, setting up the tent, so we had it pretty down pat. About a half hour was all it took for us to get the tent up and situated.



For food, we had brought some of our "hurricane chow" we got from Wise Foods. It's dehydrated and supposed to have a 25 year shelf life, so it's perfect for emergencies. For regular consumption, not so much. Anyway, I fired up the camp stove and started cooking (boiling water). The cheesy lasagna turned out just "o.k". I mean, it was....food....and I could see it getting us through an emergency....but not something you really want to be eating unless you have to, if you know what I mean. 

As the sun went down, the wind picked up even more and it started raining. I think we hit the hay around 8:00pm, which was a good thing because at about 3:00 am, we both woke up to the howling wind and rain pelting our nylon abode. The wind was going pretty good and one side began to bow inwards, causing us enough concern that we stood and put our backs to it to make sure the poles didn't snap from the pressure. It was about that time that my wife decided that 'nature was calling (you might see where this is going). The restrooms were a couple hundred feet away, but she said she wasn't going out in that, so she decided to put a bucket we had brought to good use. I told her to just go outside, but she was having none of it. She did her business and put the lid on the bucket but, as you can make out from the picture above....we were on a slight slope. 

Guess where she put the bucket.

Guess what happened to the bucket and the lid when the wind gusted against that wall.

Guess who was madder than a hornet when he found himself standing in warm.....liquid.

'Nuff said.

Anyway, we cleaned up using some beach towels, put them in a garbage bag and decided to head for the car to ride out the storm. When we got in the car, the decision was made just to go home, get some sleep, wash the towels, and come back with some Clorox wipes.

When we returned, later that morning, I was expecting the worse. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised as the tent still stood and everything inside was safe and dry. After some cleanup I found that the bowing wall had slipped a stake, which is why it blew so badly in the wind. Unfortunately, our neighbors didn't fare near as well. Their tent had totally collapsed.

The rest of Saturday was beautiful, but still windy. We gave up on the emergency food and had lunch (and, later, dinner) at the little restaurant at the campground entrance. 
It was relaxing just sitting by the tent and basking in the sun. We had the radio on, then went into the tent to play cards. Even with a queen sized air mattress, we still had room to sit on camp chairs with a makeshift table between us. 


Later on we trekked over a small bridge to an area that I'm still not sure of its purpose....it looked pretty cool, though, so some exploration was in order. 





Saturday night was much calmer.....but cold. After a great sunset, we got a fire going and hung out for a bit before turning in. 







I think it dipped into the upper 40s (cold for us Floridians) and some snuggling was in order (as if an excuse was needed :) ).

We packed things up on Sunday morning and headed home. Even though we had some trials it was, overall, a good time and we'll definitely be going back. The only thing is, though, we're not sure what we'll be calling it.....

Glamping? Glamorous Camping. No....not really, even though we weren't "roughing" it.

Cramping? Crappy Camping. Nah, it was still fun.

Gramping? Grumpy Camping. O.k. maybe a little bit, sure....


Maybe we'll just stick with plain, ole, camping.



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Oh, The Humanity!



This morning, like just about every other morning, I was shopping at Sam's Club. I lend a hand at my wife and her sister's business, which entails....ironically enough....picking up supplies. It's ironic because I, pretty much, hate shopping. If I could, I'd order everything online and have it delivered. No muss, no fuss. It's almost to the point where I hate going out in public because people just seem to be either rude or oblivious to their surroundings.  Anyway, their business being as small as it is, there's not much (i.e. any) room to store things, which necessitates having to go to Sam's almost every morning.

Things usually aren't that bad because I get up early with my wife, take her to work, then hop on over to shop before the unwashed (i.e. rude) masses start arriving. This morning I had a few more errands to run and was later than usual (though still early for most folks), but figured I could grab the things I needed, hit the self check out, and be out before 10 am.

It was not meant to be, at least this morning. I grabbed my supplies and headed to the self check-out, only to be told that they were down.

All of them....and I knew what that meant.

Standing In Line (Ugh!)

I sighed a bit and headed over to one of the two cashiers on duty. Well, that is, behind the long line of people at one of the two cashiers on duty. Being a "business member" has it's privileges, but not so much when everyone else seems to be a "business member", as well. The place was pretty busy but, again, I was running late so it was my own fault.

As I stood in line, I started getting a bit frustrated. Couldn't they open more registers? Of course, having been a one time employee of Sam's Club (8133, Florence KY., thank you) I knew the answer...."More For Less" (at least when paying people to be there at certain times goes). I gave another, internal sigh and leaned against my cart, looking at the people in front of me. Over in the other line, I noticed a lady with a baby ( a HUGE baby...very fat and very cute) slung across her chest in a harness. She was pretty small, but her cart was loaded like she was feeding a huge family....which she might have been, who knows. Behind her was an elderly couple and I noticed he had one of those baseball caps that designated he was a Veteran of something, I couldn't quite make it out. What his cap said wasn't important...what was important, though, was what he did.

I guess he noticed her struggling, or something, and I could see him motion to her to let him help her. She smiled and stepped back, focusing on wrangling her baby while he stacked her entire cart up on the conveyor belt to be checked out....smiling all the while. It wasn't one of those "I'm Helping So You'll Get Out Of Line Quicker" type of moves either. More like "I'm Helping Because I Can See You Need It".

It was strange, but it felt like all the frustration I had at being held up in line just drained out of me. I got this goofy smile on my face as I watched and, maybe I'm just getting sentimental in my old age, but it made me feel good just to witness. I usually have a pretty cynical view of people, these days, but seeing things like this goes a long way in restoring my faith in humanity and my fellow man. It's almost like it was meant to happen.

Maybe it was.

Maybe I just needed to see this today.

Who knows, maybe I just need to keep a more optimistic eye on my surroundings. If it means seeing more acts of kindness like this, it just might be worth it.

Since I haven't posted any music in a while, I'll leave you with a fitting song by the great Glen Campbell..... Try A Little Kindness



Have a great week.

Monday, January 5, 2015

It Was 47 Years Ago, Today.....


Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play....

O.k, maybe not...

Anyway, on this day, 47 years ago, I came into this world a bouncing bundle of huge cranium, fat cheeks, and small feet. 

My feet and cheeks have proportioned themselves, though I still sport the big cranium.

Being only ten days after Christmas, my birthday has never been a big 'to-do' in my life. When I was a kid, I'd get a cake and a few presents, not much fanfare. I guess my parents started feeling a little guilty as I grew into a teen, because my mom (every year, without fail) would ask if I wanted a party. Which, for the record, I never did.

As I matured (somewhat) into adulthood, it became a time to gather with friends, eat, celebrate hanging in there another year, and stuff like that.

These days, it's about spending it with my wife. We've been together about six years and they've been six of the best in my life. Coming from a guy who, at 40 years old, was resigned to living a bachelor's life for the rest of his days, that's a pretty amazing statement. 

Not that I ever had anything against marriage, I just didn't think it was for me. I didn't think I was giving enough when, come to find out, I'm way more giving than I gave myself credit for. Now, before I blow my horn too loudly, I'll admit....I need some a bit of work. O.k, lots of work.

I'm getting there, though. 

The evening was spent having a relaxing dinner with some of my new, extended, family then back home for my only, official, birthday request. 

I wanted my wife to make me an out of the box Devil's Food cake. 

Which she did. And it was deeelicious!

Oh, those squiggly marks on the right side? I was told they were bats.

Yes....bats.

"She may not look like much, kid..."

My gifts from the wife were presented, thusly....



It's great to have found someone who doesn't mind indulging my whimsical side.

I thought this post was going to be more about reflecting on my past 47 years but, the more I think about it, the more I'm just going to wish for another 47 just like the past six.

Blows out the candles....



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dusting The Place Off

A large, steel door opens flooding the pitch black room with white light. A large silhouette stands in the doorway, inhaling the musty smell of staleness. A switch is flipped and light fills the room, revealing what looks to be furniture draped in old sheets. The figure steps in and starts pulling the sheets off the furniture, making sure to avert his face as to not catch a snootful of dust.

He looks around, scratching at his newly grown beard, and grimaces. 

"Well....looks like it's back to square one....", he says quietly while walking over to a big, red "BLOG ON" button recessed into the wall. He presses it and stands back as the room starts humming to life....

....again.....

Sometimes, after a blog absence, it seems like I'm starting over and I guess, in a way, I am. It's been over two months since my last post and I've seemed to grow into a blogosphere recluse. Scratches beard again with long, Howard Hughes-esque, fingernails

Actually, it's not all that dramatic.....it's just a matter of life and the holidays mugging me and taking up all my time :)

I hope you've all been well and that you had a great holiday. Mine was interesting, to say the least.

Thanksgiving with my wife's family was, as always, a good time, but the source of a bit of stress. Her mom passed away two days after Christmas which, sometimes, gives my wife a melancholy feeling around the Holidays. We went to her brother's house (an hour drive South) and they had a huge feast. Good times were had, but some underlying drama stuck in my wife's craw.

So, it was decided that Christmas would be different.

We had planned on heading North, to Kentucky, to spend Christmas with my family. A mixture of worrying about the reliability of taking our vehicle on a 2k mile round trip and my wife not being able to get all the time off work needed, had us looking at other options. In the end, we opted to spend Christmas at one of our favorite places, the Cabana Bay Resort, right next to one of our favorite theme parks, Universal Orlando.

I had expected it to be pretty dead there, but it was quite the opposite. There were a ton of people who, like us, had decided to "get away from it all" and spend Christmas differently. Lots of decorations, poolside movies every night (we got to see two of my faves, It's A Wonderful Life and White Christmas) and turkey and ham on Christmas Eve and day. We even took a day to 'Christmas Shop' (for stockings that we brought with us) at the park. Granted, both of us went way overboard but that's par for the course.

If nothing else, it was very relaxing and nice to spend the holiday at our pace, not worrying about having to be at such and such place at such and such time. Don't get me wrong, we love our family, but it was also nice to do something with just our family.....the wife and myself.

Anyway, we had a great time and will definitely be doing it again, in the future.



"White Christmas", poolside

On the 'good news/bad news' front, NaNo was a bust for me (again!) this year but, on the positive side, it did give me quite a few good story kernels to work with. Now it's just a matter of digging in and getting them to take off. I'm sure I'll give it another go next year and, who knows, maybe I'll actually "win" this time.

I say that every year, though.

Besides holiday related things, there's really nothing interesting to report. My job search continues, I'm writing when the mood hits me, reading, and trying to regiment myself to be a passable CP for one of my blogger pals. I have a ways to go, but I'm working on it.

Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve and I'll see you......next year! :P



Monday, October 27, 2014

All NaNos Eve...



This Friday isn't just Halloween....or "All Hallows Eve"...it's also the day before November 1st....which is also the eve of National Novel Writing Month.

All Nanos Eve. <cue eerie music>

Sounds sort of ominous, eh?

Even though it shouldn't be something to "fear" (it's, actually, a lot of fun), it is something to prepare for. At least, for me. I've been participating since 2011 and, oddly enough, that's the only time I ever "won". In subsequent years, I've always started, but found excuses not to finish.

I'm, usually, a seat of the pants (or pantser) type of writer. I don't outline...I don't make very many notes and the ones I do make, I seem to forget about. Two years ago I found some notes for my abandoned story a few months after NaNo was over. I'm not sure how much of a difference those notes would have made, but they might have added some spark to the flame.

Who knows?

Anyway, I'm a bit (not too much...just a little) more prepared this year.

I decided I would work on some notes and see where that might get me. I wound up coming up with ten good story ideas that could carry me through to the finish line and, hopefully, to a completed book.

I also decided to do things a bit differently this year. Instead of one story, I'm going to work on a compilation of short stories. Hopefully ten. That way, I only need to do five thousand words per story. Now, should one story take over and I go to town, all the better.

If you're doing NaNo, this year, I wish you luck and let me know how your progress goes. If you'd like to 'buddy up', you can find me here.

If you're not participating this year, say a little prayer for those of us who are :)





Monday, October 20, 2014

Survivin' and Thrivin'!



There a lot of ways we can make our stay on this Earth better. One of the most important and one that contributes to the amount of time we're here is taking care of ourselves.

Hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh, Stephen Tremp, Michael Di Gesu, and Diane Wolf  the focus of this blog hop is to bring awareness to disease prevention and early detection, as well as touching on things we can do to improve our overall health.

I don't really have a "cause" to discuss, per se', but I do want to talk about one of the greatest means of preventative medicine.

Eating right and exercising.

About a year ago, my wife and I watched Hungry for Change on Netflix and it really changed our life. For the first time we really started paying attention to what we were eating. This was just the start of our journey, though. We then checked out Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead , which was another eye opener. The success stories we saw motivated us to give juicing a try and, while we could never get the full grasp of the "juice cleanse" (the furthest we got was four days), we still gave it a shot and it helped build on the foundation of getting healthy.

Then, about two months ago, my wife's job hosted a health fare for their employees (and spouses...which would be me), so we went. They gave us a battery of tests from circulation to cholesterol, to heart and stomach screening. We also talked to nutritionists and health coaches about diet and exercise.

All in all it was a good experience....until we got our test results. Most of the results were within 'normal' ranges, but there were some high numbers there. Cholesterol and blood pressure, which was deemed "pre hyper tension" and something to keep an eye on. While my wife's numbers were better, we decided to make some drastic changes....starting with how we eat.

We had flirted with the "Paleo" diet in the past, but it was a short romance and all that meat wasn't settling well with our digestion. After some more discussing and research, we decided to go with what I can only describe as "Vegan-esque". True vegans abstain from all animal products. If it comes from an animal, they don't eat it. For us, though, this means no red meat or chicken and no diary products. We're still eating fish and eggs, but the staple of our diet is fruits and vegetables. I've found that I don't really miss meat and there are tons of great alternatives for dairy...from coconut milk to Natural Balance butter. We're wanting to get to the point where we can ditch the processed substitutes and all that sodium, but that's further down the road.

Right now, we're transitioning nicely and losing weight as we go.

They say that the key to being healthy is "80% what you eat and 20% exercising", so you can't really talk about getting (and staying) healthy without discussing exercising. On that front, we've been doing a lot of walking (neither one of us have ever been big on running) and we bought Fitbits to help us track our progress. We've also been working with kettlebells and our Total Body gym to help cover the 'weights' portion of our regimen.

In my mind, enough cannot be said about eating right and exercising as preventative measures for getting and staying healthy.

So, I wish you all good health and I'll leave you with a couple of things that have really helped me in my journey for wellness: (I know I've mentioned these before, but they bear repeating)

1. MyFitnessPal: Experts are always saying that you should keep a 'food diary' if you want to lose weight, and they're right. MFP is an excellent tool to not only help you keep track of what you're eating (calories, sodium, etc.), but it's also a great way to keep track of your progress. You can also have 'friends' to help you along. I know I've posted this before, but you can find me here.

2. After researching a few of the 'smart pedometers', we decided to go with the FitBit to help us keep tabs on how far we're walking and being active each day. I also like it because it can track your sleep patterns. You can also link it up with MyFitnessPal to get a bigger picture of your goals and progress.

3. If you don't feel like putting a ton of money into weights or just don't have a lot of room for a bench and bar, kettlebells are a good alternative. We've been starting slow with the below video:



 It's a nice primer and even includes warm-ups and cool-downs. I've also mentioned the kettlebells a few posts ago, if you want to check that out, as well.

Best of luck and stay healthy!


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