CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the category “Humor”

I’m Batman.

You know how some folks are afraid of things like spiders, or worms, or such? Well, to me those are clearly irrational and rather amusing.  NOT like if someone were, say, afraid of wasps and bees. That particular fear is clearly rational and understandable, because ANYTHING THAT NATURE MADE WITH A NEEDLE IN IT’S BUTT IS UNNATURAL AND NEEDS TO DIE!!!!!!!! DIE!!! DIE!!!  Ahem. Yes. Anyhow. Beth (my long-suffering and amazing wife) has one of those amusing irrational fears, and that happens to be bats.  You know, those little mousey things that fly around and eat bugs. Or rather her, um, “distaste” for bats would be amusing, but I don’t know if you ever noticed that for some reason bats tend to come out at night. So when they decide to have a friendly visit, it’s when we’re sleeping. And I hate to be awakened, except for emergencies. Like an infestation of maddened, man-killing hornets or something like that.

Since Wednesday I’ve been on day shift for the week. And on Tuesday night, we had a little visitor. At three in the morning. So I very calmly and sweetly (ok, maybe I was a tiny bit crabby and said one bad word) got up to look for the cute little rodent. Beth helped (you looked so cute all bundled up in every robe you own and three towels wrapped around your head, too), but we couldn’t find it, even after a half hour, so we went back to bed. No flying mammal issues for the rest of the night, but I couldn’t get back to sleep, resulting in a net loss of a couple hours sleep for me. Wednesday was just tough. I was tired all day, but I had lots of coffee and kept myself moving, so I got through the day.  I was just looking forward to crashing that night.

Wednesday evening, Beth and I decided to close the door to the bedroom, so if the little guy was still around, the odds were that he would not get in the bedroom. We went to bed around nine o’clock that night, and looking forward to a good night’s rest, I was ecstatic. Until 10:30. When our little visitor showed up. In our closed-in bedroom. So maybe I was a tiny bit MORE crabby and said TWO bad words. Little batty-boy had gotten himself into our wastebasket and couldn’t get out. (side note: bats can’t take off from the floor. They actually have to crawl up a wall, tree, or whatever and jump. They have to swoop into flight; they can’t lift off from a “sit”) Beth had heard something, and thought it was our dog scratching or something, so she had been snapping her fingers at Gracie to get her to stop. And then Gracie “nosed” Beth’s hand and the noise continued. What Beth heard was the little rodent scrabbling, trying to get up the sides of the plastic wastebasket.

Now, I want you to understand, I LIKE bats. They eat mosquitos. And since mosquitos usually choose me to munch on, I truly like bats; they eat about their own weight in bugs every day.  I mean every night. So I like them. Just not in the house. But I don’t go out of my way to kill them, so when the little guy found himself trapped in the wastebasket, I was able to trap him between a racquetball racquet that we keep in the bedroom for just such occurrences and a piece of cardboard. I took him outside and let him go, making some little joke to Beth about seeing him the next night. Bats are very smart, and I actually was a bit concerned that having found a way into the house, our bitty little guest would make his way back, but I wasn’t really that worried. What’re the chances, really?  We went back to bed, but once again, I had a hard time getting back to sleep, and I figure I lost another couple hours sleep.

That was Wednesday night. For me, Thursday was REALLY difficult at work. Having lost a couple hours sleep on Tuesday, and again Wednesday, I was just whupped all day. I drank tons of coffee just to stay awake. In fact, Beth was worried it would keep me up. Not a chance. I was whiny tired, and those that know me know that I don’t even know how to whine. Ahem, again.

Anyhow, we got to bed relatively early Thursday nevening, and I slept the sleep of the dead. I remember a couple things through the night, but for the most part, I was unconscious. I actually pulled an all-nighter. And at my age, that means I didn’t get up to piddle even once! In the morning, Beth got up a few minutes before me, and went downstairs, maybe a quarter to five this morning. I laid there and dozed, figuring I had a half hour to sleep before I got up.

About five-o-five, I felt Beth throw my clothes on the bed in a lump. She doesn’t usually wake me up like that, but I figured she was being playful, so I smiled and opened my eyes. However, it was dark, and no Beth. Huh! Weird. I figured the wind did something goofy, as we have an open (and screened) window at the head of the bed. Counting on sleeping another twenty minutes or so, I forgot about it. For a couple minutes. Then I felt the wind do something behind my head. I was lying on my left side, the window was above me and kind of “in front” of me, but somehow the wind had gone past me and ruffled the covers behind my head. And then I thought of the bat from Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and thought, no! Not possible! I rolled over and looked, but nothing. Whew! Ok, false alarm. I STILL have about twenty minutes, so I laid back down. And heard something scrabbling on the nightstand behind me on my side of the bed. Son of a…!!! I do NOT believe this! I rolled over, turned on the light, and started looking. On top of the nightstand. Beside and behind the nightstand. On the front of the nightstand.  In the light on top of the nightstand.  Nothing. I laid back down, on my right side this time, and the light still on. I looked over the edge of the bed and toward the floor. And what do you know! Maybe four inches below me, and kind of tucked in between the mattress and the box springs was this furry little guy with a mousy little body and leathery wings. He was looking up at me and I assume he was talking to me. I can’t hear worth a crap, so I don’t know for sure.

Anyhow, it was weird. I seriously wasn’t freaked out, more cranky about a freakin’ bat three nights running. I hollered downstairs for Beth to bring up a pair of thick leather work gloves. Beth, being really smart and intuitive, didn’t even have to ask; she figured out out little visitor was back, and happily (I think) got the gloves for me.  Meanwhile, I kept an eye on our tiny little guest until Beth brought the gloves up. After putting them on, I was able to reach down and grab him. He and I then took a one-way trip (for him) outside where I rather forcefully advised him to not come back into the house again. I doubt he will. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw a couple crows a bit later this morning invite him to their nest for breakfast.

Needless to say, I. Am. Tired… PLEASE no bats (or bees, or wormers, or anything) tonight! I just wanna sleep! *sigh* Another night like the last three and I might really start thinking I’m Batman.

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I used to LIKE roller coasters.

As usual, life has been difficult. I suppose I should understand that to be the norm, but somehow it often seems to catch me by surprise.

Part of the problem is that ever since I was a little boy, I have recognized fairness as a desired quality. My mother used to tell me that I would come home from school upset when someone suffered some unfairness. And though I tried to train my daughters to not expect life to be fair I didn’t, in the core of me, believe it. I still expect life to be fair, even though I know intellectually that it just ain’t so. Can you spell “conflict?”

I should probably make it clear that I am not complaining here. This is just a list of observations and my experiences.

We have a new President at Edinboro University. And any time there is a change like that, be it a new CEO at a corporation, a new pastor at church, or a new president at an institution of higher education, there are changes made and change should be expected. New priorities, new directions, new expectations both written and just understood. That is not to say that the process is easy. There will always be a state of flux until the water stops sloshing and reaches equilibrium (I have no idea how I could have mixed any more metaphors in this sentence). And easy it has not been.

Although my position is rather large and rather important, I am still middle management. And middle management is always getting pounded. Again, not a complaint. I recognized this fact coming in, and it is just a reality.

So work has been difficult. In addition to my normal (rather hefty plate of) responsibilities, I have had a shift in priorities and expectations. This is never easy for me. I like routine. I am comfortable with having the same tasks and expectations. Example: every morning my wife fixes me a breakfast burrito to eat in the car on the way to work. Variations on that are fine, but I am perfectly content to have the same thing every day.

I went on vacation this year from April 6 through April 15. Beth and I scheduled with our local scuba store to go to Little Cayman for a week of Caribbean diving, sun, and relaxation. Didn’t work out quite like that. Well, I need to clarify that. The diving and the sun were fantastic. Healthy reefs, coral, plenty of beautiful fish. We saw a lot of “old friends,” and a lot of “new friends,” too. I only saw one drum fish, and not one secretary blenny or flamingo tongue slug. However, we saw at least one queen triggerfish on every dive we did! Very cool. The weather was nearly perfect; hot and sunny, every single day. The resort, amazing. Great accommodations. Each of us had our own rooms, so there was no sharing of a suite. Nice. And the food! As I understand it, they have a gourmet chef, so breakfast, lunch and dinner were unbelievable. Two free drinks per day were included as well. Considering that is about my max, and Beth doesn’t drink, they didn’t lose a lot of money on us with that, but it was a great perk. And the company was fantastic. Great people to dive with and hang out with. If you ever want to go to Little Cayman, you could not do better than Little Cayman Beach Resort.

Normally, and this year was no different, I kind of depend on my vacation time to decompress and fill my tank so to speak. However, as great as all of the above was, the vacation did not help. I developed bronchitis just before we left, and was on z-pack until April 9. By evening of the 9th, I had a nasty sinus infection that I just had to push through until we got home. The dive boat we were originally on had a bad leak in the exhaust, and seven of us got violently sick on The first dive of the week on Sunday morning. On the plus side, we set a resort record for number of sick on one trip. Woo! NOT.

After I came down with the sinus infection on Tuesday, I looked at our dive itinerary.  We had signed up to dive the Capt. Keith Tibbetts on Cayman Brac on Thursday. Not wanting to miss that, I opted out of diving all day Wednesday. It was a good decision, as I was able to dive Thursday and Friday, but missing three Caribbean dives was not what I had gone there for.

The return home also proved difficult. On Little Cayman, there was a mix up with our bags that I had to work to fix. The lines at the airport on Grand Cayman were overly and unnecessarily long, and Beth and I barely got through security in time for our flight to Philadelphia. However we got to Philly, and waited a few hours for our connector to Erie. The plane was on time, and boarded on schedule. Unfortunately, Beth and I, along with four of our dive compadres, were refused boarding and had to stay the night in Philly. I have, by the way, sent this on to US Airways as a complaint, and have yet to hear from them. We will see if they are honorable about this or not. Stay tuned.

Because of the issues during vacation, I returned nearly as stressed as when I left. And last week was the “welcome back” from hell. There was an issue at work that happened while I was on vacation, and although I couldn’t have effected a change or a different outcome, I was expected to have taken care of it; I got into a shouting match on the phone with my boss (never a good career enhancer); and a couple other incidents occurred at work that I was expected to handle differently than I did (remember that “flux” I talked about?). There were seriously two or three days last week that I just wasn’t sure I would be employed at the end of the day.

And although work has been hard before throughout my various careers, I have usually had things to fall back on, things to divert me. But now my normal crutches have been taken away.

I love cigars no secret there. However, after my neck surgery (fusion of C5 to C6 and C6 to C7), my surgeon, uh, “disallowed” cigars until the fusion is complete, hopefully by the end of May. Some silliness about carbon dioxide and nicotine inhibiting oxygen absorption and bone growth or something. So cigars are out, and that is difficult. For me, there is something deeply relaxing in enjoying a quality cigar for an hour; relaxing, contemplative, nearly zen. Seriously.

In just the past few years I have discovered microbrew beer. Not the normal nasty American macros, but fine, flavorful micros. Now that is a fine topic for a future blog! For now, suffice it to say that I recognize that I need to be cautious with my new hobby. It would be easy to get lost in the beer, but that is, I am afraid, far too close to the edge for me. So, although relaxing, I have to put well-defined boundaries and limits on my beer consumption. Not always the easiest for me, but necessary.

Further, we have a small group of friends from church that we meet with almost weekly. We call this small group “Small Group.” Pretty clever, huh? And although I will deny it if you tell them, I love this group of people. We have seen each other through some pretty devastating situations, and they could not be more like family to me if we were blood. For various reasons, the past couple of months have been difficult for all of us in that group. No solace there.

Finally, I enjoy the computer game Civilization V. A couple of years ago I purchased a pretty upscale laptop specifically for Civ V, and I can get lost for hours. Beth says I am addicted, but I can quit any time I want. Really. I just choose to play as much as I do. Well, maybe I do kind of like to play it a lot. In any event, my laptop is down, and has been at the computer shop for three weeks, two days, and twelve hours. But who’s counting. No Civ.

I have been left with nothing to fall back on. No crutch, no salve. It feels like there is little but difficulty and hardship. And I wonder if that isn’t exactly where I need to be.

Beth and I were talking this morning, and her observation was that it has been hard for her as well. She didn’t sleep as well as she would have liked last night, and during one of her wakeful times, she said that she wondered just how centered her life has been on God lately. Her conclusion was, “not much.” And she recognizes that she needs to change that situation.

Hmm.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is where Peter is in prison. I think I have said in the past that I like how Paul thinks; his logic, his orderly progression. John, not so much John is, to me, a bit of a goof; circular logic (which is no logic at all in my book), mystical, squishy touchy feely. Ick. But Peter? Oh, he’s the man! Hard charging, hard-headed, willing to leap in without even wondering what such a jump will cost. Peter is 100%. You never have to wonder where you stand with Peter. Peter is me. Up to, and including denying my Christ at critical times. Thank God it isn’t about me, but instead it’s about God’s grace and love.

But in this particular Bible story, Peter is in prison. Hopeless. An angel appears to him, and tells Peter to put on his shoes, which Peter does. The angel leads him out of prison, through the doors that the angel has opened, and past the guards to freedom. Now the point of this story for me, is that the angel did what Peter couldn’t; open the gates, shut down the guards. However, he told Peter to do what Peter could. Specifically, “put on your shoes.” I have struggled with that metaphor for a long time. I feel it is incumbent on me to “do what I am able to do,” and depend on God for what I am not able to do. We are all born with abilities and talents. I believe we are to use them to the best that we are able. But where does that stop, and my dependence on God begin? How much am I to “confidently go forth,” and how much am I to “give all to God?” And how do I have “joy in the struggle?”  ‘Cause I gotta tell you, I’m not real joyful right now.

There’s a song out that does a nice job of describing where I am. This is from Tenth Avenue North’s album, “Struggle.”  Please listen to this, it says it perfectly. I’m not stuck, this too shall pass. The day will dawn, the sun shall rise, hope springs eternal. But for now,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUEy8nZvpdM.

Exclusive? Definitely. Inclusive? Even more so.

I first feel the necessity to generally highlight my views of the Bible.  I believe the Bible is logos; the Word of God made available to us through the written word.  I recognize the difficulties in logic, timeline, and seeming “contradictions,” but I believe that the Bible is a unified whole, from Genesis to Revelation.  Although no philosopher, the teachings I tend to admire are from C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Francis Schaeffer, and Ravi Zacharias, to name a few.  I style myself as evangelical and fundamental, utilizing the “classical” definition of both.  That is:

Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement. It began in the 17th century and became an organized movement with the emergence around 1730 of the Methodists in England and the Pietists among Lutherans in Germany and Scandinavia.  It continues to draw adherents globally in the 21st century, especially in the developing world.

It is a religious movement that de-emphasizes ritual and emphasizes the piety of the individual, requiring him or her to meet certain active commitments, including:

  • The need for personal conversion (or being “born again”);
  • A high regard for biblical authority;
  • An emphasis on teachings that proclaim the saving death and resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ;
  • Actively expressing and sharing the gospel.

And;

The term “fundamentalism” has its roots in the Niagara Bible Conference (1878–1897), which defined those tenets it considered fundamental to Christian belief.   The first formulation of American fundamentalist beliefs can be traced to the Niagara Bible Conference and, in 1910, to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, which distilled these into what became known as the “five fundamentals”:

  • The inspiration of the Bible and the inerrancy of scripture as a result of this.
  • The virgin birth of Christ.
  • The belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin.
  • The bodily resurrection of Christ.
  • The historical reality of Christ’s miracles,

both from Wikipedia.  Obviously there is a ton more information regarding both on Wiki and elsewhere, but for my purposes, this will suffice, as definition and identification.

What this does not mean is that I am a rabid, shove it down someone’s throat kind of guy.  I do not believe it to be in the image of God to do so, and at best, I believe that approach counter-productive.  I believe that God loves me enough to be always present, an example, a guiding light, a beacon to find my way home when I have wandered.  I do not believe my God is interested in holding me at arm’s length until I get it right.  And since He is this for me, I should seek to be no less for those that do not believe as I do.  God is patient and kind, and I try to emulate Him with my friends who believe as I do, and those who may think I’m a bit of a nutter for believing this way.  I have friends all across the spectrum, and I like that.  My friends are precious to me, and for me to hit them over the head with my Bible every time we talk, well, we wouldn’t be friends for long, and I could hardly blame them.

This is background for a messaged presented by our pastor, Bob Klecan, last Sunday, August 12, 2012.  Another sidetrack: I have talked about Pastor Klecan before, and continue to have nothing but praise for him.  One of the smartest guys I know, he refuses to show off about it.  Humble and kind, Bob’s the real deal.  He’s a joy to talk to, and can converse on just about any topic one could wish.  And his approach to the Word of God is equally interesting.  He comes from blue-collar roots, and tailors his messages toward a blue-collar, get in the trenches and do this mentality.  Very refreshing.

Ok, back to his message.  It was entitled, “Contending for the Faith: Arrogant and Hateful?”  Although I am going to comment on that sermon, I need to add a disclaimer:  the original is much better than this paraphrase.  Anything that is good is clearly from Bob Klecan, and anything that doesn’t make much sense is clearly from me.  Also, I am still on oxycodone from my recent surgery, and therefore not firing on all cylinders (the number of which varies according to whom one is talking.  I, as an example, would think of my mind as an eight-cylinder muscle car, perhaps a Ford Mustang Boss 302.  Others would perhaps think that granting me a four-cylinder sub-compact would be generous).

Pastor Bob based his message on the Book of Jude, and although it may sound a bit frightening to think of going through an entire book of the Bible in church, it’s not so bad when one realizes that: A) Bob focuses on just a few verses at a time: and B) that the entire book of Jude is only twenty-five verses long.

He is actually doing a series on the Book of Jude, and it has been interesting, to say the least.  For me, Jude has always been kind of a throw-away, something to read quickly and move on.   It just never seemed like there was enough substance there to gain any traction.  But Pastor Bob has really added muscle to the book, and I have enjoyed it immensely.

This past week Pastor Bob started out with an observation from Jude that although Jesus is the fulfillment of Hebrew scriptures, the grace that was gifted to the human race by God was being distorted; that grace was being used as an excuse for license.  True, we are forgiven.  But that does not give us permission to do what we want, when we want.  Although God allows us to do so, this does not help us to grow in our faith, but takes us further from the ideal.  We are called, sanctified, and preserved (v. 2).  How then do we contend for the faith, as we are exhorted to do (v. 3)?  How do we contend for the faith “in a society that believes it is arrogant, hateful, and even dangerous to insist that your faith is the ‘right one,’ and to not only refuse to accept the validity of other faiths, but to also to attempt to convert others to your faith?”

The answer is two-fold.  First the explanation as to why we/I believe as we do.

The explanation is that the Good News as proclaimed by the Bible is uniquely exclusive.  Christianity (as represented by the Bible) makes unique claims, as compared to the world’s other major religions.  Christianity claims that God came to earth and lived among men, at the same time completely retaining His “God-ness” and yet at the same time He was completely man.  Christianity claims that Christ, the God-man lived a real life: that he suffered a real death while accepting every wrong thing that keeps us from a perfect God, and that after dying, he re-claimed His life, thereby defeating death.  Further, that since this is true, Christianity claims that accepting and giving oneself to Christ is the only means by which one can come into the presence of a Holy God (heaven).  Only through the acceptance of, and reliance on the gift of grace offered by God through the sacrifice of his only son, Jesus Christ may one obtain eternal life.  There are multiple verses in support of this exclusivity, suffice it to say that if Christianity is not the exclusive way to eternal life, then Christianity is useless.  It is not a good philosophy, it is not a good set of principles by which to live.  If Christianity is not true, it is worse than a waste of time, it is actually a terrible evil, pulling us away from any correct way to God, and dooming those that have chosen to follow.  But I believe it is true.  Can I prove that by formulae or direct observation?  Not really.  I can offer evidence of miracles that I have personally witnessed.  I can offer the Scriptures themselves as a unified whole.  And I rely on my faith.

The problem with the explanation is that many people stop right there, and basically live their lives as a bumper sticker.  “The Bible says it.  I believe it.  That settles it.”  That’s ok to live by, I suppose, but it doesn’t do much to speak to those with real questions.

Pastor Klecan stated that the best (and often only) answer to the question, “How do we then contend for the faith?”  is not in the explanation, but in the application.  And the application is that this faith is uniquely inclusive.  With the Bible, there is no Jew, no greek, no male or female, no racial divide, no favoritism.  All are equally needy before a righteous God, and all are equally accepted with reliance on Jesus’ sacrifice.  And for those of us who do rely on God’s grace, it is incumbent to present ourselves in a light that is worthy.  In our speech, in our actions, in what we post on Facebook, and in what we write.  This is not to say that we compromise on those areas of exclusivity, but that we reach out in love, always looking to the author and perfector of our faith, Jesus Christ.  Bob said something along the lines of, “Do we want to make a point, or do we want to point toward eternity?”  This is where I often personally stumble.  I have very definite ideas about nearly everything, and don’t often hesitate to share my thoughts, regardless of how harsh or pointed they may be.  I need (no, I must) change that attitude.  And that is a work in progress.  In fact, just this past week, a friend on Facebook kind of lit me up about a post I had passed on.  The accompanying photo was unflattering to the subject involved, and in retrospect, not necessary for the point to be made.  I hadn’t even noticed the photo, I liked the major point, so I passed it along.  My friend was rather relentless, and  when I understood how the poster came across, remembering Pastor Bob’s message, I saw I was wrong and apologized.  I told my friend that I should have seen the inherent nastiness in the photo.  She didn’t let me off the hook, she told me that I should have seen it prior to posting.  And you know what?  She was right.  I am trying to look at my posts ahead of time now.  The presentation is as important as is the message.  Like I said, “a work in progress.”

As Pastor Bob said, exclusivity and inclusivity is not, in the end, a “balancing act,” but a commitment to passionately embrace both the exclusive and the inclusive.  That we keep one foot firmly planted in each area.  That we embrace both with equal certainty.  And that we live both with equal passion.

May God grant me the ability to be His representative in love, and in peace.

My perspective of the 2012 Olympics

NBC, you blew it.  You are my favorite network, even if Fox is more of my political persuasion, news-wise.  I am a huge Bob Costas and Al Michaels fan.  Further, I thought the other announcers did their jobs fine.

Up front, my biggest problem walking in is that I am recovering from very recent surgery, and by the time 8:00 PM comes along, I’m toast (In fact, I am still on some pretty solid painkillers, so this blog post may be slightly ill-advised).  So, anything after that, and I may not have even seen it.  I watched during the day when I could, and usually up to bedtime.  And all day Saturday, and Sunday.  So there are the qualifiers, all out in the open and up front.

So, here’s how you blew it.  Bouncy-balls and hula hoops?  In the Olympics?  Come on!  Those women worked hard, and the movement and coordination is beautiful.  But it’s NOT a sport in any way, shape, or form.  So the Olympic committee erred and let it stay.  You do not have to show it.  Maybe put it on at midnight, if someone wants to watch.  Sand volleyball?  I almost have to give you that one, as I understand that those were the hottest tickets in the Olympics.  However, I suspect it was due to the women that were playing in it, not the sport itself.  And sand volleyball is merely a sport played by people who say, “Dude!” to make them feel like they are almost real athletes.  Dump the sand volleyball.  Handball?  I was jazzed when I heard that one, as I used to play handball.  Tough sport, and one where old guys compete better than young guys.  But what is in the Olympics is NOT handball.  It’s guys carrying a bouncy basketball and throwing it around.  Stupid.  Ditch the handball.

I will list the sports that cause me to look forward to the Summer Games (not in any particular order):  Wrestling, Swimming, Diving, Weightlifting, Gymnastics, Track and Field, Boxing.  Throw in Fencing, Bicycling (off-road and road), Pentathlon, Archery, Judo/Taekwando, Equestrian, Triathalon, Water Polo and Shooting, and you have a real event!  I don’t even mind the Soccer.

But what NBC decided to air was, to put it bluntly, boring.  I was bored out of my skull with this year’s coverage.  Look, I know that sports has become spectacle and entertainment, but can’t you keep a bit of the purity?  Ryan Seacrest and McEnroe (for other than tennis), and you clearly have gone in a non-sports direction.  Now, let me say this.  I think Seacrest is great.  He is charming and witty, engages his interviews well, and is entirely pleasant.  But he is not the first person one thinks of when one thinks of sports.  He was clearly chosen for the entertainment factor.

Now, another disclaimer.  I am old-fashioned enough that I pine for the amateur Olympics, even though I know there were loopholes then, as well as countries that paid their athletes a good salary.  But I believe we have lost the intent of the Olympics when we have professionals play.  And by “professional” I mean anyone that makes a living doing the event for which one is going to the Olympics to compete.  That includes Basketball.  The 1992 Dream Team was great to watch, just because each and every player was one of the best ever, anywhere.  But they should not have been playing at the Olympics.  That would be like me competing with a seven-year old  in a shooting competition.  For the most part, I can confidently say that I would win.  But would that be fair?  So anyhow, I just do not like watching professionals.  When they come on the tube (Volleyball, sand pretend volleyball, Basketball, whatever), I generally turn the channel.

So when did the good stuff air?  I saw very little of the things I like, mostly the boring stuff.  Ribbons, sand, bouncy-balls.  Boring.

In my opinion, it would have been better to show re-runs of the good stuff so more people could see them.  Even knowing the outcome, I would have watched Gabby Douglas and the team compete.  But no.  More hula-hoops.  How about Decathlon?  All NBC did was kind of mention it as an, “Oh, yeah,” kind of thing.

I understand that figuring out what to put on air is a no-win situation.  Even if you did everything exactly as I would personally wish, someone, somewhere would probably complain.  I’m not sure why, since I have the finest mind in the cosmos, but it is possible.  Maybe from the ribbon people.  Yeah, that’s probably it.

I also understand that the time difference was a difficulty, but that’s just something one has to deal with when the events are scheduled on the other side of the world, and we need to just suck it up with stuff like that.  But really, a lot of people actually work for a living, and can’t stay up late to watch the cool stuff.

So.  Put me on record for saying that although I understand how difficult the scheduling would be, this Olympics was a complete waste for me.  And I regret that.  I look forward to the Olympics, especially the Summer Games, but this time?  Dullsville.  Rats.  I was really looking forward to it, too.

Fusion. NOT the nuclear kind.

Ok, now this has been an experience.

My neck has been a sore spot with me for years.  Literally.  It got to the point that maybe twelve years or so ago, I decided to go to a Chiropractor for a consultation and adjustment.  For me that was a big step.  I always was a bit snotty about Chiropractic, but boy was I wrong!  One of the guys I worked with really talked up Dr. John Cassara (Erie, PA), so I made an appointment, and went to see him.  He first took a motion x-ray of my neck, and showed me exactly where the problem was.  He then described what he could do for me, and I decided to go for it.  My first adjustment was about as scary as anything I have ever done.  Here’s this huge guy (John is a body builder and formerly excelled at the  shot put in college) bending over me and messing with my neck.  He got me loosened up, and let me know he was about to do the adjustment, and CRACK!  My neck sounded like a stick breaking.  I remember a minor explosion of air shooting out of my mouth, and as unobtrusively as I could, I wiggled my toes and moved my hands around a little.  Ok, I guess all is well.  Whew!  But as I drove back down Peach Street, I realized that the lateral range of motion in my neck had just increased about thirty percent.  I drove down Peach Street just moving my head side to side saying, “Look at that!  Hey, look at that!”  I hadn’t been able to move my neck that well in a long time.  Well done, John.  My Chiropractor has become my friend as well, and our mutually beneficial sessions were regularly scheduled.  I have no idea how the past decade or so would have been bearable if I hadn’t had my neck adjusted as much as I have.

Further, when Chiropractic couldn’t do it on its own, I went to see Dr. Joseph Thomas, also in Erie.  Doc Thomas specializes in pain management, and I received steroid shots for the past several years.  They also have been helping control the pain.  However, a couple of years ago, Doc Thomas advised me that my neck was getting to the point that I would need more.  “Need more” is code for surgery, and he referred me to Dr. James Kang in Pittsburgh.

Beth and I travelled down to Pittsburgh a couple of years ago, and met with Dr. Kang.  He went over my x-rays, and explained what the root problem was.  I had two discs, C-4 and C-6 that were degenerative.  Basically, they were slowly melting.  This is what he does for a living, and he was pretty matter of fact about the whole thing, which I found reassuring.  What he explained was that at the time, I was in a gray area.  At some point, surgery was going to become mandatory.  I wasn’t at that point yet, but I was well within the range of “it could be done, no question.”  I opted to wait, which he supported.

This changed late last year, when I went to get a shot from Dr. Thomas again.  He realized I had not had a series of x-rays in some time, and so we x-rayed my neck.  I’ll not soon forget the appointment when he looked at the x-rays with me.

Thomas is an interesting guy, profane and funny.  But this day, he was all serious.  He looked at the x-rays, looked at me like I had just sprouted a second head, looked back at the x-rays, and then back to me.  In a totally serious voice, he said, “Do you want something for the pain?”  I answered that no, I was ok.  He said, “Are you sure?”  When I again answered in the negative, he just looked at me like I had suddenly changed form into a mutant.  Apparently, my neck had degenerated to the point that he believed I should be in major pain, or perhaps not even mobile.  I told him that no, I was in pain, pretty much always, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  Doc Thomas immediately set up a new appointment with Dr. Kang, and Beth and I went down again to Pittsburgh.  We looked over the x-rays, and although Dr. Kang felt it was no emergency, we agreed that the surgery could take place now.  Beth and I returned home, having set up a tentative date for surgery for the end of summer 2012.

It seems the timing was very good on the surgery.  I have written about my new V-Star, and how much fun it has been to ride.  But about a month and a half ago I could feel that my left hand was not gripping as well as I thought it should.  Further, when I qualified two weeks ago, we had to set up the range.  I grabbed two 4×8 sheets of fiberboard to take down range (we use these to tack the targets on).  I easily picked up one using my right hand alone,  but not so my left. I couldn’t pick it up at all.  Further, I have noticed a bit of tingling in my left arm, and my left hand has had a minor case of “the shakes” starting up as well.

My degenerative vertebrae have their genesis back to when I was a teenager, maybe 16 or 17.  My family went to Kinzua Bridge with another family, just to look around and have a nice time.  The other family had a son, Dale Shatto, that I had become good friends with; his family and mine camped in the same location for several summers.  We had gotten close, Dale called my folks “Mom and Dad,” and I did the same with his.

Well, on this day, Dale and I were ahead of the old people, and went out on the observation rock to look at the bridge.

Kinzua Bridge, near Kinzua Dam in PA,  is an old railroad bridge spanning (you guessed it) the Kinzua River.  At one time it was the world’s highest, longest wooden railroad bridge, and the view is amazing.  The railroad had largely abandoned it, and it had been renovated into a tourist attraction.  One could walk across it, and look up and down the valley.  Especially in fall when the leaves turn color, the view is stunning.  Unfortunately, a tornado has claimed half the bridge, and I have no idea what its condition is at this time.

In any event, there was a large rock that kind of hung over the valley.  The Park Service had cleared brush from in front of it, and it offered a great view of the bridge.  Along the trail, and on the top of the rock was a fence, designed to keep people from falling over the edge.  Being teenagers, we were clearly smarter than the Park Service, so Dale and I jumped the fence and stood on the edge, looking out, looking down.  We couldn’t actually see the bottom, so I have no idea how high we were.  Dale had the genius idea to stand on the edge with our hands on the top, and wait for the parents to come down the trail.  He told me later he meant to go to the top beside the rock and walk down to the point where we could reach up and put our hands on top, but he didn’t say that at the time.  Thanks, Dale.  Your great idea led to my stupid decision, so naturally I’m blaming you. 🙂  Down about six feet, I saw a little ledge, probably three or four inches deep and a foot wide.  I figured I could easily get down on it, so with Dale’s suggestion still clearly ringing in my head (Thanks, Dale), I sat down, aimed for the ledge, and launched.  Well, I hit the ledge alright.  With my heels.  And I slowly, slowly toppled forward and fell off the rock.  Now a lot of people would say this explains a great deal, but I remember doing a pile driver, and landing squarely on my head, as straight as if I had planned it.  I think I blacked out for a minute, but I remember Dale screaming for the parents, that I had fallen off the rock.  I yelled up that I was ok, and climbed up beside the rock (where Dale had actually meant for us to stand), and back onto the trail.  In those days, people didn’t just dart to the Doctor, and this was no exception.  My Dad basically just called me a Dumb Ass, and told me to get in the car.  Well, I was, and I did.  In retrospect, I’m fairly certain I cracked a couple of vertebrae, as I couldn’t rotate my neck for about a year.  It finally loosened up, and all was well (not).  And then I fell on my head a second time, but we don’t need to go into that.

So here I am, fifty-five years old, needing surgery, and scheduled for it.  I got all the advance preparations done, and once again, down to Pittsburgh we went on August 6, with the surgery scheduled for August 7.  I wasn’t really worried, I knew the surgery needed done, and the pain and necessity came from the sins of my youth, so what can I say?  I was concerned, as there is always a chance of “something bad happening,”  but I trusted my surgeon, and knew I needed the procedure, so let’s get ‘er done.

The technical name for my procedure is Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF).  I went into the prep room, and when they were ready, I was wheeled into the Operating Room.  I already had an IV in, and some blood drawn, so when we went into the OR, we were pretty much ready to get the show started.  The anesthesiologist gave me a shot, and said that it would take effect soon.  They then put the oxygen mask on, and I remember saying, “Whoh!  There it is,” and that’s it.  Gone.  Lights out.  My next memory is…I don’t remember what my next memory is!  Boy, that stuff did it’s job.  However, while I was unconscious, Dr. Kang opened up my neck from the front, laterally on the left side.  After I was intubated, they then moved my trachea to the side, and exposed my vertebrae.  They then removed the spongy bone in vertebrae C-4 and C-6.  He also removed a couple of bone spurs that had conveniently decided to grow into my spinal column, and were causing pain.  He then fused C-4 to C-5, and C-5 to C-6.  Many surgeons use cadaver bone, or even artificial joints, but Dr. Kang uses bone from the patient’s hip.  It is inserted into the spot where the old spongy bone used to be, and held in place.  I now have a titanium plate in my neck that I had not had before.  Kind of like Wolverine, but without all the cool stuff that goes with it.  And from what I understand, this is what the fuss was about.  Fusing on two levels is geometrically more difficult that fusing one vertebra.  So.

The next day was kind of pain filled.  Hip, neck, upper back, shoulders.  Dr. Kang came in and explained that the discs had degenerated so badly that he had to build them back up to where they should have been.  In order to do this, they (in essence) had to push down on my shoulders and pull on my head.  I am now about a half-inch taller than I was a week ago.  Dr. Kang said this explains the pain in the muscles in the back of my neck.  They are basically confused, and spazzing, trying to get back where they think they should be.  Honestly, that was the worst of the pain.  My hip hurt, my neck hurt, but no big deal.  But the back of my neck!  Wow!!  I was more than happy for the pain meds for my neck.  I had one of those push button happy shot things that I could use to self-medicate.  I used it more for the muscles in the back of my neck than anything.

The surgery was on Tuesday, and I came home Wednesday.  The pain was manageable, and the physical therapist was satisfied that I could navigate walking and stairs as needed.  I think several people were surprised that I got out of there as quickly as I did, but I attribute this to two things.  First, I was on the City of Erie’s SWAT team for a long time, and one of the things I learned was to fight through the pain.  Too many people, I think, get all whiney about pain, but really, it’s no big thing.  The human body is capable of so much more than any single person believes.  Just gotta keep going.  And second (and most importantly), I had so many people praying for me.  Friends and family in church, on Facebook, and over the country have been lifting me up in prayer, and it shows.  My recovery is still slower than I would like, but it has been so much faster than most who have this surgery.  Many people are in the hospital for days.  Many are on huge doses of painkillers for a week or longer.  Me, I got out of the hospital the next day, and my use of painkillers even now is judicious.  I pop ’em when I really need ’em.  And that’s not so much.

Right now, Beth has taken off work to be with me for the week, and her care has been both amazing and appreciated.  I will be off work until the August 28, which is my followup appointment with Dr. Kang.  My hugest worry now is that I do nothing that will hinder the bone grafting to the vertebrae, and fusing as it should.  I do not want them to have to go back in.  I am wearing the collar as they required.  I am walking every day.  I’m taking all prescriptions as directed, and behaving as much as possible.

Already I feel better.  I think the procedure did what it was supposed to, and I am hopeful for a complete recovery.  It’s kind of exciting to think of my neck being pain-free for the first time in (twenty?  thirty?) years.  My range of motion may be somewhat limited nodding up and down, but I couldn’t touch my chest with my chin before the surgery anyhow.  I don’t wanna look at my toes, so what’s the big deal with that?  I know my scuba season is done for the year, as likely is my motorcycling, but I am hopeful that I will be up and ready to go for next season.  I am grateful to all my doctors, and to God for His benevolence.  I am grateful to friends and family, for their thoughts, prayers and support.  And I cannot tell you how grateful I am to Beth for her attention, hovering, and reminders to behave.  She’s the best.  Now I just gotta be patient for the next few weeks.  And that could be a problem…

Useless.

That’s me.  Useless.  Worthless.  Incapable of measuring up, of succeeding at…anything.

These are the thoughts and attitudes I have had nagging at me for pretty much my entire life.  I’m not sure exactly why, but I have a few ideas about that.

I am adopted.  My bio Mom approached my folks when she was pregnant to ask if they would consider the adoption.  So, not only was I “chosen” by my parents, my parents were “chosen” by my birth mother.  I grew up knowing of the adoption, and my parents always made sure I honored my mother, even if at the time I did not know who she was; that she had made some very difficult choices under very difficult circumstances in order to see me thrive in a home that I couldn’t have had otherwise.  I looked up my biological family a few years ago, and it has proven to be wonderful.  My adoption and bio family will, in all likelihood be topics of future blogs, but for now I offer it as background.

I cannot speak for all adoptees, but in my case it was difficult on only a couple of fronts.  My parents were fantastic, and I am so grateful to have been their son.  I did, however, sometimes wonder why my mother had given me up.  I knew from my folks that it was for good reasons, but still I wondered.  And part of that, I think, lead me to wonder if I somehow didn’t measure up.  If somehow, it was my fault that I wasn’t found “worthy.”

Growing up it was generally unspoken, but I knew much was expected of me.  I rather coasted through school, with mostly B’s on my report cards, with a couple C’s and A’s thrown in.  It was sufficient, if not outstanding.  My behavior was good, no real delinquency apparent, and I was kind of a “church kid.”  But for some reason I was always striving for more, better, faster, funnier (not attained by studying, are you serious?  Get real!).  I just knew that I kind of disappointed, that I didn’t quite bring home what was expected.

I remember one time, my Grandmother was visiting, and she was standing by the upstairs stairway talking to my Dad.  She turned to me, and looking at me said, “If you ever go to jail, it would kill your parents.”  I laughed at the time, and made light of it, but that has stuck with me for over forty years.

I have worked hard to be approved of by authority figures as long as I can remember.  Not to suck up in an Eddie Haskell kind of way (for you children under thirty, that would be a Leave it to Beaver reference, Eddie being an insincere flatterer), but to perform so that I would be found acceptable.  And that is hard work.  In my case, I could never do well enough at any given task to satisfy my thirst for excellence.  No, that isn’t quite correct.  In truth, I could never do well enough to satisfy my need for perfection.  And therein lies the rub.

Any time that I failed at a task (and in my personal lexicon, the word fail means that I didn’t do it perfectly; I didn’t do it “right.”) the words “idiot!” and “moron!” would ring through my head like the words of a relentless, cold judge pronouncing sentence on a convicted felon.  Over and over, time after time, year after year.

And if this sounds like I’m whining, I do not intend it as such.  I am merely relating how I have lived for most of my life, and actually for as long as I can remember.

I serve a loving God, one who has sent his Son to save me from myself.  And through Christ’s sacrifice, I am whole, unspoiled, in a love relationship with my God and my King.  I think of Jesus as Boromir thought of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.  I look at Jesus and see “my brother, my Captain, my King.”  And intellectually I know that all is forgiven, all is forgotten.  I know that God has chosen to forget my failures, my imperfections.  But I seldom feel it.  Idiot!  Moron!!  FAILURE!!

Beth and I are currently on Grand Cayman for a long anticipated vacation, with some of our favorite people in the entire world.  And this is paradise.  We have relaxed (I read a book!  Due to responsibilities, I cannot tell you the last time I had a chance to read), gotten in some amazing scuba dives, and spent some fantastic time together.  But even here I have had some roadblocks.  We got a flat tire.  Idiot!  I have lost my cool a couple times.  Moron!!  I have been short with Beth once or twice.  FAILURE!! 

I love the ocean.  When we are at the shore, I customarily park myself near the shore and just experience that point where wind, water and land meet.  I feel small, and yet comforted at the same time.  It is one of the few times I feel content.

One of my favorite things to do when vacationing at the ocean shore is to have my devotional time on the sand or on a balcony where I can see the ocean, hear it, smell it.  Where I can feel the breeze and see the waves, the colors, the horizon.  I have done so this week, and devotions have been good.  However, I have felt a nagging “something” that I could not pinpoint.  I have been looking to God to help me let go of…whatever this is.  And I think today I have a clue.

I decided to not open my Bible to a particular passage to read this morning.  Instead, I really felt led to focus on a bookmark entitled “My Identity/Who I am in Christ” which contains a number of key passages under various headings.  (The bookmark is published by Freedom in Christ Ministries, and as far as I know can be obtained at www.freedominchrist.com.)

Under the first heading, “I am Accepted,” it starts out with John 1:12; I am God’s child.  Comforting, but not awe-inspiring.  Ok, next, John 15:15: I am Christ’s friend.  Huh.  That’s right, I had forgotten that.  Christ looks at me as His friend.  Friends with the creator of the universe?  Nice.  And so on for several more verses.

The next heading, “I am Secure,” was the crux of the time I spent this morning.  And it only took the first verse to shock my system like a glass of ice-cold water after mowing the lawn on a hot August day.  It came from Romans 8:1-2, and it told me that “I am forever free from condemnation.”  And I stopped dead in my tracks.  I looked at the water and the waves, the perfect blue skies with perfect white clouds, and whispered, “How can you not condemn me, Lord?  I condemn myself!”  And as I pondered that, I felt the merest touch of God’s finger deep inside me, and He answered me and He said to me, “How can you condemn yourself when I do not?”  Loved!  Cleansed!!   ACCEPTED!!  NOT condemned.  NOT  a failure.  But a child of the Master.

Useless?  Yeah, probably.  Left to oneself, one can live four score years, and by strength of will maybe a bit more.  For what?  To accomplish a bit, die, and after a time, be forgotten.  But not so in Christ.  I am not condemned.  I am loved, I am accepted, and I am paid for, purchased with the most precious commodity in the world: the priceless blood of Christ, shed for any of us who recognize our hopelessness, and who long for something more.  Christ’s blood shed for me.

I expect I will still struggle with the relentless judge, pronouncing sentence upon me, with the words “Idiot, moron, failure. Useless!!”  But I don’t have to listen to the accuser.  I can rest in the promise, and wrap myself in the truth.  I am not condemned!

What a great vacation.

WHEN does this slow down??!!??

Mea culpa mea culpa mea maxima culpa.

When does life slow down? Geez, I have been out of my mind busy for at least a month! I have missed blogging, but have seriously not had the time to sit down and give it the effort it needs. I will be busy for the next month with a class I am taking, and then I am hoping to get back into the swing of things. Until then, I will be here intermittently, but as MacArthur said, “I will return!!”

But boy do I have a lot of material for future blogs!

Looking for Adventure…

…go, Steppenwolf, go!   http://youtu.be/5UWRypqz5-o

So my Suzuki GS1100L and I have seen a lot of adventures together.  I purchased a Rifle Fairing for it, had it installed, and had the bike and fairing painted to match.  It was beautiful!  Until one spring, maybe ten years ago or so.

I have an old High School buddy that works on motorcycles in Cochranton, PA  (Professional Cycle, http://www.procycle1.com/Procycle1/Home.html.  Ask for Dell).  For quite a while I took my bikes to him to service, inspect, fix, whatever.  So on this particular day, I had gotten up early and rode down to get the 1100 inspected.  We live outside of Erie, PA, so it was always kind of a commitment to get there.  After he was done I got going, and entered Interstate 79 at Meadville to get home.  Beth and I had friends that were getting married that day, so I really cranked the throttle.  The 1100 has always had a surplus of power, and within about a nanosecond I was travelling at 90 mph (yeah, I know.  First, stupid.  Second, way above the speed limit.  Third, I’m a cop and know better.  Response?  One, I think I’m smarter now than then.  Two, I don’t drive like that now.  Three, blah, blah, blah.  Fourth, the statute of limitations is way past, so nyah! And fifth, do not try this yourselves, it’s dumb beyond belief!).

About a mile or so north of Meadville on I-79 is a curve to the right, with a “mound” separating the northbound and southbound lanes.  Just north of that is an overhead bridge.  It was just before that spot that I decided that my left mirror really needed adjusted.  As I adjusted the mirror, I drifted left to the edge of the road.  I looked up, and I was in the loose part, just entering the curve (at 90 mph).I wasn’t experienced at that point to get myself out of it, and went off the road into the median, which at that location was kind of a grass ditch between the big mound and the northbound lane.  I did a fair job of holding on, and started slowing down.  Needless to say, the word “calm” was not part of my vocabulary at this point.  Panic, terror (literal terror), oh, yeah.  But not calm.

The rear tire kicked out on me, and I did a low side spill.  Motorcycle on its side, and I on my back did a 90 mph slide down the median.  I remember my head hitting a rock and I flipped over, hitting my face shield on the motorcycle and bouncing over again onto my back until we both stopped.  I got up and looked back, only to see pieces of fairing and motorcycle as far as I could see.  Not my happiest moment.  I called Dell to come and pick up my bike, and called Beth to come and get me.  Needless to say, we didn’t get to the wedding that day (sorry, Steve and Karey).

Dell fixed the bike, and I got it home.  However, it was a couple of years before I got the guts to get back on it, and then only after taking the PA motorcycle safety course (http://www.pamsp.com/).   This is actually a great course, and I would recommend it to every rider, no matter how experienced.

I never did get another Rifle Fairing.  My brother-in-law gave me his old windshield, and I have used it for several years.  It’s cheesy, but I appreciated it.  Like I said, I hate riding without a windshield.  Here’s the bike as it looks today:

LOVED this bike!

I continued to ride the 1100 for several years, but she just continued to deteriorate.  I continued to ride, last year I figured out that I was saving five dollars a day riding it to work versus driving my Chevy Silverado.   I was a bit embarrassed to ride her last year and this year; she just was not the beautiful lady she had been.  It culminated last year when I took it to Crolli, Inc. to get some work done (Crolli’s location: http://mapq.st/IFdPJr).  After the work was done, I’m standing beside the 1100, just looking at it, looking at the other bikes around it, and thinking about how it kind of looks a bit worn.  Some guy was also there to pick up his bike, I guess, and looking down at my bike, the love of my life, says, “Now that’s a beater!”  Well!  The nerve!  Except that he’s right.  I just said, “Yep, she get’s me where I’m going, and she’s paid for.”  He did a major back pedal, but it still kind of stung.  But what could I say?  The poor thing is really pounded.  *sigh*

This year, I was just “window shopping” online, and looking at bikes.  Not seriously shopping, just looking.  I got to the point that I figured that if I ever got another two-wheeler, it would likely be a Yamaha V-Star.  Understand, I have always hated Harleys mostly on principle.  So for a long time, V-stars were kind of out, as they had (I thought) a Harley look to them.  But this year I changed my mind.  I think that instead of a “Harley look-alike” they’re more of a “retro” look, back to the motorcycles of the ’30’s and ’40’s, and I kind of got to like the look.

But like I said, I was just window shopping.  Until Beth told me that she thought I should get a new bike.  What?  “Look, Beth, I appreciate that, but really, I don’t think we can afford it.”  “No, I’ve looked at the numbers, and I think we can.”  Wow!  Well so much for “just window shopping!”  At that point it became a serious hunt.

I narrowed it down to two.  Both were V-Stars, both 1300 cc’s, both local, both 2008 models.  One was privately owned and kind of stripped down with very low mileage and a bit cheaper.  The other was a bit pricier with slightly higher mileage, around 12,000 miles, but dressed out.  The second one was being sold by Precision Bike Works in Erie (http://www.precisionbike.com/), and was the Tourer model, dressed out with windshield, engine guard, and backrest.  I took a couple of hours on a Friday afternoon and looked at both of them.  Beth, to my surprise, also took time off work, and went with me.

We stopped at Precision Bike Works first and talked to Rich. The Tourer was beautiful and dressed up just as I would like.  I couldn’t ride it as it was buried in the back by several other bikes, but she was a beaut!

The privately owned ‘Star was just as beautiful, and I got to take her out for a short spin.  BOY was that a sweet ride!  A bit less expensive, only around 1,400 miles, it was pristine!

Since it was close to dinnertime, Beth and I went to the Tap House in Erie (http://www.upick6.com/).  We sat down, got an appetizer and I got a beer.  We talked over the two bikes, compared them, pluses and minuses.  I described the less expensive one, and how it had low miles, and I could build it up over time with a windshield, backrest, and so on.  Beth said, “You’re not getting that one.  You’re getting the Tourer.”  Now, I don’t normally take orders well, but when she said that, I immediately (after picking my jaw off the floor) called Precision Bike works and told Rich I was buying it, while simultaneously calling for the check and paying the bill.  I didn’t even finish my beer!  We paid up and were on the way back to put money down on the bike in record time.

The next day we went back and paid off the rest, did all the paperwork, and I got to ride it home.  I cannot tell you how jazzed I am with this machine!  Here she is:

Screaming Thunder

Nah, just kidding, here’s  the real deal!

And what a sweet machine to ride!  Comfortable, strong, classy, and beautiful!  Beth and I got a ride on it before the weather got freezing cold again, and she loves it as much as I do.  I think I can see a long future with this bike!  And for safety’s sake I took it to Crolli and had him install a headlight modulator, a brake light modulator, a 132 dB airhorn, and new rubber on the back.  I figured out that this year I’m saving a ten-dollar bill every day that I ride it to work.  So, look out highway, here I come!  Looking for adventure

Cleaning out the Garage

Ahh, Spring!  For young men, that means love.  To Sun Worshippers it means warm air, hot sun.  To Seasonal Affect Disorder sufferers, it means happiness after a long, dreary winter.  Me?  It means I Gotta Clean Out the Garage.

Objectively, Beth and I have been crazy busy for about five years (or longer), and our “stuff” has piled up to dangerous proportions.  When the A&E television show “Hoarders” contacted us last month to do not just an episode but an entire season starring us, we figured it was time to change our lifestyle.

It has been some time since we have de-cluttered, and after my Mother died last fall, we had to store her stuff along with ours.  We no longer have a usable front porch, and our unattached garage was barely available for a car.  And that doesn’t count the stuff we have in a storage unit a mile or so away.

Although we are far from professionals, we have done yard sales in the past.  It’s been kind of fun, although we have discovered an entirely new category of disagreements.  And that is the “How Much Do We Ask For This” category.

We did a yard sale several years ago, and  we put out an old lawn mower.  I cleaned it up and made it look all pretty.  Beth wanted to put a price of twenty-five bucks on it.  I said forty.  What?  No.  Yes.  No.  Yes.  NO.  YES!!!  We finally put the $40.00 price tag on it, and Beth was convinced we would never sell it.  I told the first guy that looked at it that it was blowing oil, and he didn’t care.  Not only did we sell in the first hour, we could have sold it about a dozen times throughout the course of the day!

I think it was the same yard sale that we put out a record player/FM stereo combo unit that the record player was non-functional.  I put a price of $5.00 on it, and a sign that the record player didn’t work.  Sold!

So a few months ago, recognizing that we needed to, uh, downsize, we decided to do a yard sale.  And to start the process we settled on this past Saturday to start.  We developed a strategy:  Garage first.  Front porch second.  Storage unit last.  Store all the stuff in the garage if possible, but utilize the front porch if necessary.  Good plan, very workable.

So bright and early we got started (ok, actually we sat around and looked at the walls trying to wake up for a while).  The first step was to create space.  I had an old cabinet in the garage that I used to store all my cans of half-used oil, carb cleaner, Sta-bil, and so on.  I assembled a set of shelves that Beth had purchased, and we got it against the wall.  We then pulled the drawers out of the cabinet o move it out of the way.  I downloaded what remained in the cabinet, until there was only one item left way in the back.  As I reached for it, I thought something moved.  It was kind of dark clear in the back, so I looked closer.  And a mouse ran full-tilt toward me, jumped off the edge of the shelf, and took off for safer locales.  I won’t say I was startled, but I might have yelled a little.  Just to alert Beth, of course.  Ahem.

Anyhow, we were thereby alerted that we had mice.  As we sorted, we found a nest or two, and actually found a couple trying to hide.  They were kind of cute little critters, just a couple of inches long, gray and furry.  Beth actually just stood and watched them for a couple of minutes, doing the feminine “Awww” thing.  I suggested that she not try to pet them, and got a nasty look for the comment.  Here I am, trying to offer a helpful hint, and I am totally unappreciated for it.  I guess it’s my lot in life.

As we were sorting, Beth was holding a box of something, and she was sorting through it.  I never saw anything like this, I saw a mouse jump out of the box, run up the front of her sweatshirt, and launch off of her shoulder like it was aiming for outer space.  It was actually pretty cool, but when I told Beth, she shuddered.  Hmm.  Maybe after that episode I should have taken the hint that Beth was not excited at the prospect of physical contact with a mouse.  However, although I know how to spell “obtuse,”  I clearly have not embraced the idea that it’s a really, really bad thing.

Later on, she was concentrating on something, and I guess I had no idea she was as focused as she was.  When I did this, I swear I thought she would just turn around and say something kind of snide about my intelligence.  You know, the usual stuff.  But that’s not exactly what transpired.  I came up behind her, and “walked” my fingers up her arm, like you do with “Eensy Weensy Spider” with little kids.  And as I did this, I said, “Mouse!”  Honest, I thought she’d know I was there.  But no, she had no idea.  She shrieked and jumped about a foot in the air.  I couldn’t help laughing, although I sure tried.  And the look I got!  One would think that I would be used to the “wife look” by now, but my blood still froze.  It probably didn’t help that I couldn’t stop giggling.  I tried to give her a hug and apologize (while still giggling), but I was let to understand that if I touched her I would suffer physical injury of a nature that would severely affect my ability to walk normally.  This time I heeded the warning signs, and escaped with my body intact.  It was strangely chilly in the garage for a while, though.

Well, we got ‘er done.  Garage is cleaned out, old cabinet gone, and stuff stacked and sorted.  We have a “keep” section, and a “sell” section.  Today, I take a day off and we’ll get the front porch done, and hopefully the storage unit done, or at least started.  The attic and basement are last, and then we get to clean stuff.  And then put prices on everything.  Now that will be fun.

MOUSE!!!

Head out on the Highway

…sing it, Steppenwolf!   http://youtu.be/5UWRypqz5-o

I know, I know.  It has been established that I am not a “biker.”  I just like the song, ok?

The “bike of my life,” the one that I loved more than all others (at least to this point), was a Suzuki GS 1100L.  Although I refer to it in the past tense, I am still  the owner of title; it’s just that I now have a new bike.

I bought the 1100 about 20 years ago, and she was a beauty.  Great lines, classy, and strong!  Shaft drive, and a speedometer that went to 120 mph. I will confess that it took some time for me to figure out the difference between a chain drive and a shaft drive.  For example, one doesn’t slam the accelerator from a dead stop into a right turn.  The bike will just torque sideways and slide down the street while the rider just kind of watches the blacktop grind bits of metal away.  But I soon learned how to ride the 1100, and I just loved it.  Beth, although a bit of a reluctant motorcycle owner at the beginning, learned to enjoy riding with me, and we did a lot of stuff together.

That probably started when I got the Honda 750 (see my post, “Get your Motor Running”).  Once I got a bit more confident on the bike, Beth got on the back and we learned to ride together.  Mostly we did day trips, short rides, that kind of thing.  That continued with the Suzuki 750.  We would ride to small group on Sunday night perhaps, or pick an afternoon when the kids were elsewhere and go for a bit of a ride.  The problem was that although the 750’s were strong enough to take us both, they were just about at their limit.  With the two of us on, they didn’t have a lot left to really jump when I asked them to.  But, we were young, and it was just great to ride together.

I had learned through the earlier years of riding that I really like a windshield.  I can ride without one, and I love to ride, but I much prefer having a bit of plexiglas in front of me.  I like that bit of a break from the wind, and having it catching most of the bugs that decide to splat on something.  And I would rather they went splat on the windshield than on my face shield, my sunglasses, or my teeth.  Although, even with a windshield they can still manage to find their creepy little way to your face.

Since owning my own bike, I have always ridden with a full face helmet.  Yep, I have heard the arguments regarding full-face vs. three-quarters helmets.  For the proponents of a three-quarters helmet, it usually amounts to something like, “If you’re in a crash with a full-face helmet, it could break your neck if you land on the chin.”  My reply?  If you are in a motorcycle accident with a three-quarters helmet and land on your chin, chances are you’re gonna be DOA (Dead On Arrival) anyhow, and your chin, jaw and half of your face will still be back with the pieces of motorcycle on the road.  At least if I break my neck with a full-face helmet, I’ll look good in the casket.  A touch morbid perhaps, but that ain’t nothin’ compared to the stuff I have seen and heard with thirty years of police work behind me.  And I would rather look good than be chinless…

Anyhow, back to the bugs.  I’m riding along one day on one of the 750’s, can’t remember which one.  In one heartbeat, I clearly saw this wasp come at the windshield, ride the air current over the top of if, and flow right into my helmet.  My face shield was up, and up to that point I was enjoying the fresh air flowing through the helmet.

And it had to be a wasp.  I hate them all!  Bees, wasps, hornets, doesn’t matter.  I call them stingy-things, and I!  Hate!!  Them!!!  The bottom line is that I have loathed stingy-things since I was a young teen.  My theory is that anything with a needle in its butt is an unnatural object, and it needs to die.

That’s a story for another day, but…ah, why not.  Growing up, my family lived a few miles outside of Meadville, PA, in a rural area.  Pop was pretty good with fixing things, but not such a good teacher.  Ergo, I was the I-need-a-wrench-fetch-it kid, the “hold the light right there;  no, stop moving!” kid, the “hold this tight while I whack it with a hammer” kid.  If it sounds like I’m griping, I’m not.  My Pop was the best in the world, and I would give anything in the world to be one of those things for him again.

So on this one day, he was making fence posts out of 4×4’s, and he did this by sharpening one end of the 4×4 with a double-bitted ax we had.  My job?  Hold the 4×4 against the side of the garage so it doesn’t shift while he whacked away with the ax.  It was a beautiful summer day, and I was a young teen, bored out of my mind.  I had gotten to where I was pretty good at being invisible when Pop had a project, but I guess I wasn’t quick enough this time.  Anyhow, here I am holding this stupid 4×4 while Pop was whittling away with the stupid ax.  I’m looking around for something interesting, and I saw a wasp nest hanging under the eaves of the garage, probably about three-quarters of the way down the garage.  I remember seeing this one wasp drop out of it and start flying.  It was pretty cool, it just dropped, and then picked up the pace.  It made a slow, lazy loop, coming right toward me.  And then the little #$*&!! landed on my left eyelid and hammered me three times, bam, bam, bam!!  I started howling, and holding my eye.  Man did that hurt!  Three pops from a wasp right on my eyelid.  Dad went nuts, trying to peel my hands off my eye and yelling to find out what had happened.  I later found out that he thought he had hit me with this double-bitted ax, but at the time, I had no idea this was in his mind.  When he found out that he had not hit me with the ax, and that I was “only” stung, he called me all kind of names.  Yeah, Dad, I might be dumb, here I am holding this stupid fence post, but Pop, I am not a son of a bitch, and when Mom hears what you called her you’re gonna be in big trouble, mister!

So, back to the wasp in my helmet.  Imagine that which you hold in an unreasonable fear.  Now imagine that it’s happening right now.  And that you’re moving on a two-wheeled machine at about, uh, the speed limit, and you can’t do anything about the situation.  Since this is my story, I’ll tell you what I did.  I pulled over to the side of the road, slowing down just as quickly as I safely could, and pulled off the road.  When I stopped the bike, I put it in neutral, put the kick stand down, and got off the bike.  So far so good.  I can still feel the wasp inside my helmet, and have been able to feel it this entire time.  It’s little stingy-thing feet are crawling on my face, and it feels like it’s searching patiently, looking for my eyelid (do they go to wasp school for this?  What the hey!).   I then had to get my gloves off (come on, come on).  Next, I undid my chin strap (this is taking forever).  The wasp was on the right side of my face, around my ear, on my cheek, just crawling around.  Apparently the impact made it’s little stingy-thing mind go blank for a minute, because it hasn’t been able to find my eyelid yet.  I pushed the helmet as far as I could to the right, and then slowly, slowly I lifted my helmet up.  Did I mention that this seemed like about twenty minutes to this point?  I finally got the helmet up far enough that the wasp found the opening, and without ever stinging me even once, it just flew away.  Then I did St. Vitus’ Dance all over the highway.  I ripped my helmet the rest of the way off, and if a football coach had seen how far I flung it, I would have probably been immediately recruited for the pros.  Hollering, dancing all over, waiving my arms around, it seemed like the thing to do at the time, but looking back, I’m kind of glad no one had video cameras then.

Man I hate stingy-things!!!

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