Category Archives: General

Rainy Days and Turtles

Last weekend I caught a break in the torrential downpours  occurring for days on end and wandered into a nearby woodland.  The quest was simple, to see what I could see.  I was not disappointed!  All the rain had kept the general public away for the weekend and the woods were a vibrant green.  On top of that, the birds and wildlife were taking advantage of the break in the weather as well.  Still looking for my first snake of the year but this was a solid trip.

It was a good little adventure.  Come on along with me on a bit of a wet and slick ridge climb!

Next weekend, I’m heading into the woods on my first bushcraft/minimalist camping trip of the season.  I’ll be taking the camera with me to be sure.  I’m super excited about the trip as I’ve had to cancel three times previously.  If all goes well, I’ll be in the woods for two straight days.

More to come!

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Where I’ve Been : Part 2

(Continued from Part 1 here.)

About ten days after the neurologist’s appointment, I had one more appointment to do in regards to my Post Concussive Syndrome.  I was to meet with a local TBI Clinic to do a assessment of my memory and executive functions.  Right after the incident in May  I gave them a call and we coordinated an appointment to follow the visit to the neurologist.

My appointment was the entire morning and it was, in essence, a stress test for my brain.  During it I had dizzy spells, some confusion and I fogged out at least once but I kept going.  I knew that the only way to know my limitations was to push them.  After the testing, we had a sit down chat regarding the levels of my different types of memory they had found from the test.  Key issues were pinpointed as well as strengths.  One of the positives that came out of the appointment was learning my executive functions were really not that bad.  This was a huge relief to me because I had been feeling for years that they were degrading.

However, the results were showing my executive functions were good but they were being drained by two other issues that had been spotted.  There was proof positive that yes, the PCS was real and it was definitely effecting my day to day life.  All in all, it was an exhausting and informative appointment.  The plus side being I start with them in September on therapy regarding those issues.  The plan will be to take the strengths to help shore up the minuses.  The down side?  I was so wiped out I couldn’t make it back into work, went home and fell over for several hours.  The rest of the day was out of the question.  A small price to pay, really, for knowing more about my issues.

The next day I found I was carrying around the results of that test in my head.  The weight of the findings, plus the neurologist appointment, were all adding up and I went through the next few days with that extra weight.  (Let’s not forget, I was still trying to quit caffeine as well!)  And this is where, I know, I should have been writing!  It’s how I process things.  However, somewhere I just wasn’t ready to start writing.

Last weekend, as I was finally coming out of the fog of caffeine withdrawal, I started having ideas again.  I started thinking about the blog, some new ideas with exercise, nature and  about how I could help present TBI and PCS issues, other ideas.  Unfortunately, nothing seemed to solidify and I went on about my weekend dealing with weekend-like things.

Then, on Monday, Fate intervened.  My phone pinged and I thought, “Oh, an email.”  It was not an email.  It was good news.  It was WordPress letting me know that this blog had received it’s 200th Like.  A funny thing happened when I looked at the notification.  The ideas which had been swimming around in my brain solidified and I knew what I wanted to do.

And, here we are.  We’re all caught up.

Hopefully, more to come as the year goes along.

 

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As The Muse Commands

I’m not sure why I’m writing this.

My muse has been quite certain about the fact I’m supposed to write something here and has been very annoyed I’ve not been listening.  You can tell your muse is annoyed when the idea she’s sent you becomes a constant, nagging and repetitive thought in your mind no matter how much you try to ignore it.  Matter of fact, the more you ignore it, the worse it gets!  At this point, I’m only really writing this in the hopes of getting some sleep.  (Don’t tell my muse!)

Read the rest of this entry

What Are You Going to Do With It? Part Three

So, this is my final post in this particular series.  As  I mentioned in Part One, and with a direct reference to the amazing movie “Hook”, back in June I had a bit of an apostrophe.

 

 

The first goal that came out of that was to be stronger and more healthy than I had ever been before in my life.  The second goal was to get in shape and to run obstacle races.  Those are now in full swing.  Now, it’s time for me to go over the third, and possibly the most important, goal which came through that little “lightning to the top of my brain” experience.

I’m returning to being a writer.

You see, Life came around a little while ago and I kind of forgot I was a writer.   Like Peter in Hook, I got spun around in the world and forgot.  In this world of finances and internet and fun computer games and laundry and hiking and children and, well, all of that, it’s an easy thing to do.  I think it happens to all of us.  You forget your passion.  Like anything else, you get your hands full with everything else and, in haste, you set it down and forget it.

It seems odd you would treat your passion with such abandon but we do it, don’t we?  Your passion is important!  It’s what makes you YOU.  But, it’s easy to do.  We all have done it for one reason or another.  We do it out of Love, out of Survival and, yes, out of fear.  (I think it happens mostly out of fear but we’ll talk about that later.)

You passion comes whispering back to you in quiet moments.  For me it is always, “Hey, this would be a fun story.” or “You know that epic fantasy story you’ve had in your head.  You want to get back to that sometime?  If so, here’s a cool scene to write out.”

They come in during the half-asleep times or when I’m running or in the shower.  (My creative muse, for some reason, lives in the shower.  I really need her to show up more while I’m running…)  They come back and you wave your hand at them, sending them away.  “Not now!  I’ve got this THING to do.”

And they flitter away, flying off into the bushes.  But…

“Listen to us,” they pleadingly whisper.  “You’re supposed to do this, you know?”

They always come back.

I actually made the decision to do this back in July.  However, I wanted to have a month or so to get focused on my workouts, on being with family as we got through a transitional August and I wanted to get the rest of my RPG rules written.  However, I quietly made a very fierce goal with myself.  September.  Regardless of anything else going on, I’m starting this in September.

And so, I am.

Today.

I have several goals in this but most important is just the simple one of focus.  Like my workouts, I started slow.  I’ll start by looking at a few old stories of mine and starting edits.  I’ll start small batch writing on projects that interest me.  I’m not worried about the fire coming back and pounding out 3000 words.  That will come of it’s own.

I’m just going to, every day, turn my head to the writer’s block.

I know the momentum will build from there because that is what happens when you listen to your Passion.

The Major Change

As I kick off this blog-restart, I want to write about one particular subject that changed things for me.  It will be referenced in future posts but I promise I’ll try to keep the volume down a bit.  I don’t want to sound like I am proselytizing.  I just want to put it all  in one place so it’s understandable to the audience when I reference it down the road.  I want to give credit where credit is due before moving forward.

Back in the later months of last year I was having a pretty rough time.  I was super stressed, not sleeping well and my anxiety was out of control.  I had breakfast with a dear friend and they said to me, “You gotta get out of your head.  Your mind has completely taken you over.” I brushed it off at first but he persisted, “Tell you what, have you ever heard of a guy named Eckhart Tolle?”  He then went on about him, his ideas and his books, encouraged me to watch some youtube videos.

I’m not going to go much further than that because I think you see where this is headed.  The next day I started to read a PDF copy of his book, “The Power of Now.”  It immediately had my attention.  Two days later, I owned a hardback copy and, to this day, I still carry it with me.  I read the book in a week and then, in a funny set of circumstances, my wife stumbled across of a copy of “A New Earth” for a few bucks at a used book store.  I devoured it as well.

Tolle’s main point in his work is that nothing in this world is more powerful than mindfulness in the present moment, the Now.  Here is a saying that helps to sum up Tolle’s theme.

If you are depressed you are living in the past,  If you are anxious you are living in the future.  If you are at peace you are living in the present.
~~ Lao Tzu ~~

It was perfect timing from the Universe at large.  When I read the first book, it was like being handed the final piece of a puzzle.  A puzzle I had been fussing over most of my adult life.  I began to practice the simple things the book suggested.  Over the course of a month wonderful things began to happen.  I began to change internally and, because of this, the world began to change around me.  I began to have energy again.  I began to sleep again.  A clarity began to emerge.  I was laughing more.  In the physical world, a new, less stressful and better paying job appeared out of nowhere.

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I am not going to lie.  The first month of November and the following holidays were hard.  Tolle’s ideas are that our Ego, both a personal Ego and the overall Ego of humanity is out of control.  In a Buddhist sense, we are letting the dark monkey lead the elephant.  By taking on daily practice of awareness and mindfulness I was directly challenging the Ego.  Needless to say, the Ego, who had been running the show for the past 40+ years, was not happy.  The first few weeks I would literally have physical pain in my chest when I began to go into deep meditation.  Random panic attacks would spring up over the silliest of things.

However, as Tolle recommended, I kept at it.  I kept it simple and non-judgmental.  Heck, I’m STILL working at it.  I always will be.  Yet, as the days and weeks and months went by I noticed improvements.  My chest pain faded and in it’s place I started to feel a warmth.  (I started calling it “hitting the groove.’)  Then, I started to practice all day and I started to realize that I was, for the first time, having long periods of happiness.  More importantly, I started to notice how many other people were not happy.  I think that was, and is, the most painful part for me.

In March/April, I went through a pretty difficult life event.  The lack of sleep arose like a returning demon.  The tightness in my chest returned as I worked through the event.  I was reminded of one of the most powerful phrases, “This too shall pass…”  I used all the tools I had been given, floated onward and through the other side about as gracefully as I could have hoped.  It was at that point, in late April, that I felt something deep down click, like tumblers in a lock, and I realized I had found something I can only call “my Way” again.

Yes, Eckhart Tolle changed my life.  I owe quite a bit to him and I will never forget how I felt halfway through the “Power of Now“, how I consumed that book like a starving man at his first big meal.    He, himself, states that all he is has done is take the great wisdom, from Buddhism, Christianity, Sufism, Hinduism, Gnosticism, Taoism and many others and simply re-state it for modern consumption.  In the end, it works and, for me, it’s powerful stuff.

So, as I move forward, I do so with these concepts in mind and I have no doubt it will leak through onto the pages of this blog.  I will try to contain my excitement over them.

~Good Roads~

 

 

 

 

Catch Up

It would appear that my goal of at least one post a week has been shot right down.  No posts for March AND April!  Egad.  What was I thinking?!  I’m not sure what happened really but I know it was a rough mix of new job, family and, the doozie, dealing with numerous passages beyond the veil since last December.  The year of 2013, most certainly, got off to a rough start.

I suppose I wanted to post something to let everyone know that A.) I wasn’t going away just yet and B.) discuss what’s going to happen next.  First of all, I never intended for this blog to be focused on any one subject too long and as I posted in my first post, I have quite a bit of subjects to cover.  One of those is the outdoors.  With the turning of the sun and a return to warmer weather I’ve started being much more active in the great outdoors.  As my wonderful Canon camera is out of action I won’t have a lot of pictures to share but I’ll do what I can with my words and the occasional snap from a point-n-shoot I’ve got on loan.

In the subject of the “woods out back” I’ve been mushroom hunting with no success what. so. ever.  I think at this point I’m going to blame the cooler weather, two turkey flocks in the back valley and the small herd of deer that live with them.  It can’t be my uber-morel hunting skills, right?

The better news is that I’ve gone exploring in the back woods more than once and I’m looking forward to more adventure from that quarter.  One of the things I’ve been enjoying the most is identifying and collecting the early Spring plants coming up in the woods.  I’m hoping to get a few posts up talking about it and using the blog to stroll through the coming season in all of it’s dirt and loam filled fun. Throw in a host of permaculture projects and you’ve got a party.

I know some of you (ok, maybe only a few of you) are asking, “What about the gaming?”  Welllll, that’s coming along too.  I fully intend to get going with my solo sandbox game very shortly.  Why has it taken so long?  I’m going to let you in on a big secret about all of that and why there’s not been a whole lot posted.  I’ve been stuck.  Yes, stuck.  One, I’m just now getting used to Crazy Rewarding Job which has taken much if not all of my remaining energy.  Two,  I’ve got this horrible problem/habit with creative projects called thinktoomuchitis.  This is a condition where, instead of just doing the damn thing, I tend to daydream and mentally dawdle (typically back and forth to work) about why one subject or idea would not work or I have an idea that I’m concerned needs to be saved for a writing project that I will probably never get done, let alone published.

I think about these things (typically coming home from work) and then, once home, they crash into the realities awaiting me there.  Sometime after dinner I realize I had thought something important and that I must have left it in the car because it’s CERTAINLY not around here and right about the time I decide to go back out to check the car, I fall asleep or fall prey to an online game and THEN fall asleep.  (Go LOTRO!)   The next morning, I wake up, roust the children if they need rousting, prepare for my day, and then it’s off to work where the whole cycle tends to repeat itself.  You turn around, it’s almost May and you think, “Oh!  I had a blog around here somewhere didn’t I!?!”

To sum up those two overly long paragraphs, I’m coming back to the gaming and am trying, REALLY trying, to find an idea that I can just relax and have fun with.  The good news?  I think I may have come across something that might just work.  I think the test here is to not think about it too much and just do it.

When I look back over my New Years Resolutions, I had promised to post at least once a week.  My last post was March 1.  Today is May 1st.  Looking back at my calendar that makes roughly 7 weeks or 7 posts that I owe myself.  I’d like to get caught up by May which means 4 posts for each of the remaining weeks.  This means 11 to 12 posts before the end of the month.  Thankfully, I’m not too worried.  Those posts may not be huge but I think I’ve got enough material between Mother Nature, Gaming and “The Big Surprise” in the next two weeks that I can do it no problem.  Anyone out there care to cheer lead for me?

What’s that?  What?  Did I say something about a Big Surprise?  Oh, no, I don’t think I did.

You must have been hearing things…

Wrapping up 2012

You know, for a year toted as the “end of the world” this year actually turned out to be, overall, pretty good.  Usually I join in the overall chorus of “good riddance” at the end of things but this time, for me, I don’t think I can do it.  2012 will be one of those years I look back at with a fond memory.  I guess it’s because the year started out pretty rough for me and then sometime around late summer it started a slow, spiraling climb into the good stuff.  It was hard to tell at first but it was certainly happening.

The downside to all of this is that 2012, as good as it was, really did NOT stick the landing.  In the final days of the year my wife (and I) have been dealing with the loss of her father who passed last weekend after a long battle in the  hospital.  The final weeks of the year have proven to be a real test and a final, cold lesson about what is truly important in all of our lives.

This New Year’s Eve is being spent quietly at home, by holiday lights and in the warmth of a wood stove.  We’re watching movies, eating chili and Christmas candy and simply being with the ones we love.  We’re watching two movies tonight in my father-in-law’s honor which, funny enough, are also some of my favorites as well – The Quiet Man and the more recent True Grit.  At midnight we will run out into the snow, scream at the sky and bang on pots and pans to scare any evil spirits away before the new year begins.  We’ll also do it because it’s fun.

Even with the present sadness I’m having a hard time cursing the year.  Even my wife said earlier this evening, “No, overall, it was a pretty good year.”  Amazing words considering what she has been dealing with the last weeks of this year.

The year started out with me finally attaining my dream of getting my college diploma.  I was still unemployed though and my family and I were in rough financial shape.  It has ended with me employed because of that very diploma and hopefully, over the course of the next several years, being able to dig out of the financial hole we have found ourselves within.  There were other things as well.

I started this blog.  I carved out a short story.  I got a larger piece outlined and ready to start.   I managed to go to the NATF festival and meet some incredible people.  I cheered my wife on as she too finally achieved her dream of a college degree.  I also worked closely with her on an art exhibit, conducting interviews, and creating an audio landscape as a background to the art.  We moved out of the apartment which was draining us financially and by the grace of the Universe found an amazing rental in the country.  My children are healthy, intelligent and make me laugh every day.  Right now, writing this, there is so much I’m deeply and truly thankful for it’s hard to stay too focused on the sadness.  It’s been more than enough.

Life and family and friends are precious.  Hold them close.  Hold them dear.  Ultimately, it is all you will ever truly own.

May your evening this evening be wonderful, amazing and filled with all the love and companionship your heart can hold.

2013, here we come.

The Christmas Blizzard of 2012

I first heard about the storm on the 23rd, Sunday afternoon.  We were having a family gathering at our house, a preemptive Christmas Eve for my side of the family.  A family member made mention of “that serious winter storm coming up on Wednesday.”  My ears perked up at the words because just that morning had checked and NOAA suggested there might be a light chance of “1/4″ of snow expected” late Christmas night so I wasn’t too worried.  (I still wish I would have gotten a screen cap of that forecast.)

She proceeded to tell me about a group of  storm chasers on Facebook –  BAM Chase LLC and I took a look at their forecast.  Their model indicated we were directly in the path of a whopping big dump of snow, nearly a foot or more, which would come up and out of the Oklahoma panhandle area.  That much snow, if it came with ice, could upset things around here for days. perhaps even a full week.  Since we lived in the country we needed to be ready to be snowed in.  To make matters worse, having been lulled into a false sense of safety with the local warmer December weather, we were low on firewood and propane.  IF we were going to get hit, I needed to move fast since Christmas Eve was less than a day away!

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I called a friend who had offered help with firewood in the past.  He got back to me the next morning and he promised a small delivery.  Enough to get us through.  As I called a few other people I would hear, “What winter storm are you talking about?”  So, I explained and I’d like to think I helped to spread the word a bit concerning what was coming our way.

We pushed northward on Christmas Eve.  Time with the family was great.  Getting to be there for my nephew’s first birthday was a big plus!  By that time the word was out and major weather sites were starting to mumble something about “significant snow” on Wednesday.  On the morning of Christmas Day I noticed the flags were being blown by a stiff and steady wind right out of the East/Northeast.  I pointed it out to my wife who uttered the very scientific term of, “Uh oh.”  Here in the Midwest, when the wind starts coming in from the East it’s almost never a good thing.

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Early afternoon on Christmas Day a few cellphones amidst the room went off with a  “Blizzard Warning Alert.”  Needless to say, it caught everyone’s attention and made me feel a bit more justified in my planning.  We left on time and made it home without issue.  As I brought in wood so as not to have to dig it out of a snow bank, my wife made cookies.

DSCF0105We were as ready as we were going to be to ride out our first blizzard as adults.  (It would also be the first winter storm in our new home. ) The last blizzard I can remember living through was the one which hit Indianapolis in 1978.  I’ve been through more than my share of winter storms but I still have memories of the ’78 blizzard as seen through the eyes of a young boy.  This typically covered such things as staying inside and watching television, a large snowball fight after the storm had passed and digging a large set of tunnels in the snow of our back yard.  I also clearly remember the ice storm of 1979 and running back home as the wind moved through ice-covered trees causing them to lose their limbs and fall all around me.

The wind picked up just before midnight but no snow.  Not knowing how long the next day might be, we went to bed.  I awoke just before dawn to more than 6″ of snow, blowing wind and a winter wonderland.  Our day was pretty uneventful but that was only because of the advance warning.  I kept a fire going, watched the internet for news, and wandered out into it every now and then.  I took a lot of pictures.  I also watched the birds.

Right at dawn a lone cardinal sat outside our snow burdened feeder giving off alarm cries.  The snow had caked the feeder and needless to say the ground where I normally place seed was covered.  Heading outside I fixed the feeder and cleared off a small patch of ground and placed some bird seed (by the time I was heading back inside it was already starting to cover over again!)  Within a half an hour, word was out that the buffet was open and our front yard and tree branches became slammed with birds.  I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it.  Cardinals hung in our trees like Christmas ornaments and our front yard around the feeder became carpeted with birds.

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The storm tapered off around 4 PM.  Overall, we made it through just fine.  We were warm and comfortable.  We had received close to 13″ of snow and our road was completely impassable without the help of a 4 x 4 truck.  We had not lost power (which I was sure was going to happen) and that alone made our blizzard experience completely enjoyable.  I knew others were not having as good of a time.  Reports had come in of a 40 car pile-up on the major State Road which heads to Indianapolis.  Traffic was backed up and motorists were stranded.  Power was out in some areas.  One time while out on a walk, I could hear emergency vehicle sirens bouncing off the distant hills.

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I love to take walks out into storms like this.  I’ve wandered out into ice storms, snow storms and tornadoes.   I’m always smart and I always stay close to the house.  There is something about the energy of Mother Nature at her most fierce.  Oftentimes, when Mother Nature is at her most dangerous she is at her most beautiful.  There is a drive in me to go experience it, to view that beauty and that energy.  It’s not something you can feel through the walls of a house, you have to go out and get in it.  If you do, though, always remember to be safe.  As I tell my kids, “Mother Nature likes to kill fools who don’t respect her.  Remember that and you’ll be alright.”

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DSCF0209During one of the later walks a neighbor dog came bounding up to me full of happiness and snow cover.  I said my hellos to her but as she bounded off I heard her name being called further up the hill.  She happily dashed off into a nearby field and that was when I could see the figure up the hill holding a leash.  Someone had escaped.

I spent the next half hour trudging through snow banks and trying to get my canine visitor to come back to me and her owner.  I finally tricked her with the old “I’ve got a treat in my pocket” trick and got her close enough to grab her collar.  I know she was having fun plowing headfirst into snow drifts but with evening coming she would be better off inside.   I hope she forgives me for being such a turncoat.

The storm ended up to be nowhere close to the blizzard of ’78 or others from history.  It was a one day storm where others had sometimes come in and lasted two or three.  There was hardly any ice and the wind had rarely gotten over 30 MPH.  I saw a report at one point that said it had become a Category II blizzard on the 1 – 5 scale, possibly getting into the III level.   I’d say that was about right and I’m glad it wasn’t any worse.  I’m not sure we would have had enough wood or cookies to get through it!

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Banking on the End of the World

Has it really been since July that I posted last on this blog?  Yikes!  I’m not going to take up too much space with where I’ve been.  Let’s just say the high points have been moving the family into a new home and landing a full-time job that I am incredibly happy and content with working.

As the year slowly winds down and we approach the eve of the “end of the world” I thought I would get another post on here to say, if nothing else, “I’m back!” just in time for the end.

Here’s my promise considering the end of the world and this blog.  If the world DOESN’T end by tomorrow at midnight then I will promise to get at least one blog post a week up here for a year.   If it DOES end tomorrow, well, uh, well, er, I’m guessing we’re going to have a whole lot more to worry about than my blog!

If the world doesn’t become overun with flaming asteroids, zombies and rabid raptors, don’t worry.  I’ve not made an empty promise.  You see, I’ve been thinking about things and I’m pretty sure I have enough material to get to the end of 2013 at least.

Cheers!

 

 

 

More Videos and Heat

It’s been a week or so since the NATF but I took the time to edit together two more vids of my experience during the week.  The first one is just a hodge-podge of silliness and fun, little pieces I did here and there.  The second is the hiking trip I was able to take to Greer Springs on the final day of my visit there.  I may have one more vid of the trip home which I’ll subject you to once I get the time to piece it together and upload it.

Here at home, the heat wave continues.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen these kind of temperatures this early in the season.  There’s been heatwaves that crest 100 degrees but its typically been in August, definitely never in late June and early July.  I’ve been setting out small trays of water on the edge of the treeline for the birds and critters.  Most mornings I wake up to empty trays so something is drinking from it.

A story on NPR’s Weekend Edition put things in perspective for me this morning.  It features interviews with survivors of the great Texas drought where it did not rain for seven years.  SEVEN years!  1950- 1957.  Trying to picture going without rain for seven years makes my brain lock-up.  Around here this will be the third year of a dry and hot summer and even though the grass crackles under your feet we can still, hopefully, look forward to rain sometime down the road.  The stories from the feature are well worth reading about and if you get the chance listen to the story as well.

We’ve been told the heat is supposed to break starting tomorrow and we should see high 80’s in a few days.  Pop-up thunderstorms have been breaking out all around the county but we’ve yet to see anything on our front porch.  Since I’m a cold weather person I can’t believe I’m actually excited about temperatures in the high 80’s!   At this point, I’ll take whatever we can get and a few inches of rain.

I’ll believe it when I feel it.

Anyway, here are those vids.  Enjoy!