Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Household Archeology Dig

Do you ever watch those shows on HGTV or the TLC that have to do with professional organizers coming into a person’s house and getting them organized? Though I didn’t have a professional organizer come into my house I really felt like that was happening to me today. Today while on countless conference calls I cleaned and organized my desk. Let’s just put it this way – it was a big task! For the longest time I have been working at my kitchen table instead of my office. I moved to the kitchen table about 3 years ago for a variety of different reasons. First it allowed me to be closer to where Zack was playing and hanging out. Second, for a while I was kind of gun shy of my office as it was there that I found out Patty had leukemia. So I kind of tended to stay away from it for the first year after her diagnosis. The problem is I love my office. It is a great space. I had the office built for me when we finished the basement before we moved into this house. When we purchase our house, the basement wasn’t finished. It was just a big open space that the prior occupants had used as a workshop. I was able to get my office finished the way I wanted and make it a very nice space within which to work. Some might laugh but it is painted a light rose color so that it is very soothing on my eyes. I have all kinds of artifacts I have have collected during my travels around the world on display in my office.  It is a place in which I feel very comfortable.  But unfortunately, I have let it get very messy over the last couple of years.  So there is a significant effort to be made to get it all organized and back into shape.  Cleaning the desk off is the first step in this process.
On days that our cleaning ladies come I usually try and work from my office because I don’t want to hear the vacuum cleaners and such. Normally our cleaning ladies come on Wednesday, but with the holiday later this week they were re-arranging their schedule and came to our house today. So I went down into my office early this morning as soon as I got back from dropping Zack off at WCCK. With the exception of one hour from 11AM to Noon, I was on conference calls the entire day! (I have a project in Glasgow, Scotland that goes live tomorrow. We had numerous operational readiness reviews and communication updates – so it was an insane day!) As a result, my schedule gave me plenty of time to use the speaker phone and clean and organize while I talked. I can’t believe all the things that I found as I sorted through the piles of papers, books and magazines that were piled 2 – 3 feet high on my desk. It was like an archeology dig as I went deeper and deeper. I guess the good thing is I obviously didn’t miss much of what was at the bottom so it made it very easy to get rid of stuff.
I now have a huge pile of stuff for recycling next Monday and a huge pile of garbage to also go out on Monday.  The desk is utterly clean, organized and ready for me to begin using it everyday.
Besides cleaning my office, the day has been very busy with work.  Most of my efforts of the last 3 - 4 months will come to a culmination tomorrow with the project go-live in Glasgow.  Everything is ready to go and our team will take operational responsibility for a large chunk of my clients business.  We had numerous discussions with senior executives from both IBM and client today to ensure we were operationally ready.  Given the time differential between Europe and here, I am will not be getting much sleep tonight as I will be checking in with the team in Glasgow.  If there are issues I want to know about them as soon as possible.
Tomorrow will also be a tough day in the fact besides all that I have going on with work, I also need to get Nancy to the hospital for her bone marrow biopsy.  Having had one of these before, I do know what she will go through.  I am just hoping her age doesn't make a huge difference and she does fine with the procedure.  Unfortunately we won't find out the results of the biopsy until sometime next week.  I am sure that will make for a long weekend for Nancy.
Zack and I are now hanging out in the family room - Zack is reading and I am sitting here with my Mac on my lap writing.  As per usual we are having a good evening together.
We hope everyone had a great day!
Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Pound of Flesh....

In the Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” Shylock demands a pound of Antonio’s flesh in repayment for his loan. The wise Portia points out that though Shylock is entitled to a pound of Antonio’s flesh, he is not allowed to spill one drop of Antonio’s blood. It is a very interesting and funny story by Shakespeare. I am thinking of the “Merchant of Venice” tonight because of an accomplishment I have reached today. Instead of giving away a pound of my flesh, I have given away a gallon of my blood this year. Since January I have now visited Bonfils eight times. In each of those visits they have taken at least one full unit of platelets from me. In many cases they have taken multiple units of platelets and a unit of plasma. Today was no different, as I donated a large unit of platelets and a unit of plasma. They actually wanted me to donate two units of platelets instead of one, but I just couldn’t afford to spend over 2 hours in the donation chair. In total I have now donated 4 gallons of blood/blood products to Bonfils. I don’t know how many people have received blood products from me, regardless it just feels good to be able to do this on a regular basis. The staff at the Highlands Ranch donation center have come to know me relatively well. It is nice to be able to go to the same place and receive their care and consideration. I haven’t passed out on them for a long time, but I know whenever I have a bad reaction to the donation, they will always get me back on my feet. So I will use this as my regular forum to say if you are healthy enough please consider donating blood, platelets, plasma, etc. You will be helping some one by your actions. It is an easy but important thing to do. Yes – I know I kind of harp on this subject, but I know that had it not been for blood and platelet donors we would have lost Patty years before she actually passed away, as she couldn’t have lived without the transfusions she received. Not much else to say about today. We have been busy doing lots of things. I had a conference at Sylvan about Zack. He only has another 2 weeks left of the program. He will be done on July 15th. I can’t tell you how happy we both will be when he is completed. He just wants to be done, I want him to be done and I want to stop taking him there several times a week. It will be a good thing for both of us. We grilled out this evening and had an overall good evening. This evening after dinner Zack sat here at the kichen table writing a “guide” for one of his video games. I spent a bunch of time hanging out on my back deck on the swing. Hope your Monday was good! Thanks and peace to all! – J.

Mt. Spalding Climb Video

With my new Mac I am doing a lot of different things with the pictures I take. For our hike this past weekend, I used iPhoto to create a video slide show of many of the pictures that I took. I posted this video to Facebook yesterday, but I have to realize that not everyone is on Facebook. (You should all get on Facebook - LOL!) So here it is.... It looks a lot better when you can see it actual sized. I got to say I love playing around with stuff on my Mac. video One point I did want to make. I know my writing made it sound like we were in a lot of trouble during our hike between the "rotten" snow and Zack being sick. At no time were we in any kind of serious trouble. I am very cautious about where and when I hike. I have had lots of experience in my years of hiking and backpacking and I feel very comfortable facing many different kinds of situations. However, I will never purposely stretch myself too far, especially when Zack or others are with me. Anything can happen to anyone at any time, but the more prepared you are the less likely something stupid is going to happen to you. I approach every hike with as much preparedness as I can and will do everything in my power to ensure the safety of those who are with me. It's another Monday and things just continue to move along. I am still struggling with way too much stuff right now. Regardless I will do what I have to do to keep life on track for the Z-man. Sometimes you just wish that you could block various parts of your life from your memory - in my case the last 3 months. So last night was another sleepless night. Oh well... I have to move forward and so I shall. Hope everyone is having a great Monday! Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pain and Suffering on Mt. Spalding

As I indicated in my previous post I wanted to write this on Saturday night but I was just too tired to do it. I started writing it and then my computer locked up and I lost everything that I had written – which is a major downer! Saturday morning dawned early for Zack and me. The alarm went off at 6:30AM and I was quickly out of bed getting Zack out of his room as I went. After getting dressed, eating a quick breakfast and stowing our gear we were on our way out of the house by 7:15AM. We headed north on I-25 as we were taking my friend Janel with us on our attempt to summit both Mt. Spalding and Gray Wolf Mountain. After meeting up with Janel we headed due west on I-70 into the mountains. Idaho Springs was our initial destination; as we would exit from I-70 there and then take the Mt. Evans Highway further into the mountains. The Mount Evans Highway is the highest paved road on the entire North American continent. It starts about 15 miles to the south of Idaho Springs and then winds it way up Mount Evans until it reaches an elevation of approximately 14,100 feet. (To reach the top of Mount Evans you have to walk the last ¼ mile to gain the summit at 14,264.) We would not be driving the whole way to the top parking lot at 14,100 feet. Instead we would be stopping at Summit Lake at approximate 12,700 feet. From Summit Lake you have easy access to many of the peaks and highpoints of the entire Mount Evan Massif. We arrived at the Summit Lake parking area around 9:15AM and the morning was off to a beautiful start. As soon as we arrived in the parking area, I noticed something very different. At first I thought I was seeing two very large dogs hanging out by a stone shelter near the lake. A closer looked revealed that they weren’t large dogs but were instead mountain goats. For whatever reason there was something in the stone shelter that was very appealing to them. I don’t know if they were licking salt off the concrete floor or what, but they were very determined to hang out in that shelter! They didn’t mind if we stopped and took pictures of them as long as we didn’t get to close. The goats provided a fun diversion from contemplating the mountain that we were going to hike. As we stood there in the parking lot at Summit Lake, Mt. Spalding dominated the sky. We knew we had a tough hike a head of us. As soon as we got all our gear in our backpacks, turned on the GPS and adjusted our backpacks we were off. The trail we were to follow started there in the parking and went around the side of the lake. After 1/3 of a mile we came to a trail juncture where this trail met up with the Mt. Evans trail that appeared to be coming up from the Chicago Lakes Basin. A short distance over the ridge from the trail juncture, there was an entire herd of mountain goats hanging out, grazing and just having an enjoyable day. They were so interesting to watch as they ate, played and jumped around. We must have stood there for 15 minutes or more watching them. Once we wore out our welcome with the mountain goats we began to act like mountain goats ourselves – climbing higher and higher. The first part of our hike had been relatively flat as we walked along the shoreline of Summit Lake. After the trail juncture, the trail began a long run up the side ridge of Mt. Spalding. It was a very interesting trail as it was built between massive boulders and rocks and constantly switched back and forth. Most of the time there was a pretty significant drop off on our one side as we quickly rose higher and higher on the flank of Mt. Spalding. After ½ mile or so of constantly being on the edge of the ridge with a steep drop off beside us, the trail finally mounted the top of the ridge. From there things began to level out a bit and we didn’t constantly have a shear drop off beside us. Once we were on top of the ridge we entered a very large boulder field that went on as far as the eye could see. Each time we thought we were going to finally reach the summit of the peak it turned out that we just had made the top of another false summit. There were at least 4 or 5 different false summits that we reached before we could finally see the real summit in the distance. To reach the real summit we had a fair amount of scrambling and climbing to do to make it over some of the largest boulders. At one point along the way my right leg “post holed” through a large snow drift and I found myself up to my hips in snow. I really had to struggle to pull myself out of the drift. Unfortunately my right leg was ripped and scratched by the glass-like shards of ice. This was a harbinger of things to come on the second part of our hike! At last we finally reached the real summit. The summit of this mountain is flat and is surrounded by a massive circle of boulders. We reached the inside of this circle of boulder and we found the high point of the entire summit and stood upon it. We had made it – reach the top of a mountain that was 13,864 feet tall – at least according to my GPS. Given the amount of effort we had put into reaching this point we were not going to just jump up and start on our way to Gray Wolf Mountain. This was a moment to savor the beauty of the landscape around us. There was no one else up on this summit so we definitely wanted to enjoy the view and hang out for a while. I had packed lunches for us so we all spent some time eating some of the snacks in our lunches and just looking around. After taking a whole bunch of photos we turned our attention to Gray Wolf Mountain and making it to that summit. As we started down the backside of Mt. Spalding a very beautiful but not well traveled landscape appeared in front of us. Unlike the hike up Mt. Spalding there is no trail that leads to Gray Wolf Mountain. To reach that peak we were going to have to bushwhack our way over 1.5 miles of high alpine tundra. Shortly after we started down the backside of Mt. Spalding Zack began to complain that he did not feel very good and didn’t want to go further. This was very unusual for Zack as he doesn’t complain on our hikes that much. But given we were at such I high attitude I really didn’t give it too much thought. We just pushed on to Gray Wolf Mountain. The hike down the backside of Mt. Spalding was to put it bluntly – pure and unadulterated hell! What looked like a beautiful gradually sloping alpine tundra was in fact a death trap. There were many patches of snow that covered this area. The snow in most cases was entirely “rotten” and would not support our weight. As we stepped on to the snow from the surrounding rocks and grassy areas, it would collapse under our weight sending at least one of our legs plunging downward through the glass-like shards of ice. Each time I extracted my leg from this painful mess it would come out more bloody and beaten than the last time. In one instance I nearly broke my leg as when I plunged down through the snow, my foot became wedged under a rock. The pain I felt was excruciating! I honestly thought I had broken my leg. I didn’t break it but the damage to the skin and bruise I acquired by were major. After what seemed like hours we finally made it out of the patches of snow and entered the flat area between Mt. Spalding and Gray Wolf Mountain. Unfortunately this flat area was a massive marsh. We could not move without stepping into water that was so deep it would swamp our boots. Zack’s complaints as his boots became soaked became even more profound. He was constantly complaining of a massive headache and stomach ache. As we floundered through this marshy, wet hell we could clearly see the route we wanted to take to reach the top of Gray Wolf Mountain. But by the time we finally reached solid “dry” land on the flank of Gray Wolf Mountain, I realized that we had to turn back because of Zack. He was doing so poorly that I was almost dragging him. We started to believe that he was suffering from a nasty case of attitude sickness. With our goal clearly in sight we made the right call and decided to turn back. Had we continued we would have had at least another mile of hiking before reaching the summit of Gray Wolf Mountain. Then we would have had to turn around and hike out another 3 or more miles before we reached Summit Lake. Looking at the terrain we found ourselves in, we realized that no matter what we did we were going to have to climb back up to Mt. Spalding’s summit ridge. The question was how to do that without having to climb the whole way back to the summit itself. We found the best possible route that we thought we could find and then we started slogging through the water and “rotten” snow. Zack quickly lost his battle to prevent himself from puking and threw up all over the place. But he was a total and complete trooper. He didn’t let it bother him and kept moving as best as he could. To keep him motivated and focused on moving forward, I set all these little goals for him. “Zack just walk to that triangle shaped boulder and then you can rest of 5 minutes”. He didn’t grumble that much and I stayed right beside him, letting Janel blaze the path for us. Our hike to the summit ridge was very long and very laborious. We had to re-gain so much elevation that we had lost as we had tried to make it to Gray Wolf Mountain. At last the summit ridge was in sight! Now the question was, could we actually pick up the trail down to Summit Lake? If we couldn’t find the trail we would be in one major amount of trouble – as we could have found ourselves in a position where we might not have been able to get down. Thankfully once we reached the summit ridge it only took us about 3 minutes to locate the real trail. We were tickled pink as soon as we found it and knew we would be able to get down. As we began the downward trek on the trail Zack began to perk up. We didn’t have to stop and let him rest every couple hundred yards. He had a long more strength and determination. We quickly made our way down the ridge and soon we were in sight of the trail junction where we had seen the mountain goats several hours before. Once we reached the trail junction we heard something odd – a siren from an emergency vehicle. We thought it was very odd to hear one of those this high in the mountains. About 5 minutes after the siren went off a helicopter came roaring up over one of the lower ridges. Obviously having a helicopter at this elevation is NOT a good thing as for most helicopters 13,000 – 14,000 feet is their max operational ceiling. Looking closely at the helicopter we realized it was a life-flight helicopter and it was trying to land on the Mt. Evans Highway! After circling around for a long time, the helicopter finally put down on the road. From the distance that we were watching this from we really couldn’t see much of what was going on. However, we later learned that the helicopter had been brought in to life-flight a bicyclist to a Denver area hospital. Apparently the bicyclist had been coming down from the top of the Mt. Evans Highway and had gotten going so fast that they lost control, flipped over and then plunged down one of the drop offs at the edge of the road. (We learned this from a Park Service employee who was directing traffic around the section of road that was closed because of the accident.) We have no idea if that person was OK or not, but we certainly hope they are doing OK. After watching the helicopter situation for a good long time we got everything into the car and took off down the mountain. (The accident had happened further up the mountain so we could at least go down.) Our drive home was uneventful. We dropped off Janel and then continued home. We were both exhausted and very glad to get home! I am so very proud of how Zack handled himself on the hike. Though he was sick as a dog he knew he had to hike his way out of the situation. He did a great job showing his determination and capability! I am so very proud of him!! Today – Sunday has been a busy day. We both slept in this morning as we were tired from yesterday’s exploits. I had a memorial service to go to in Longmont this afternoon for Ramon Owens who passed away in late May. After that I came home and then Zack and I went out to dinner and did some shopping. All-in-all it was not a bad day. We hope everyone has had a great weekend! Thanks and peace to all! – J.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Too Tired for a Real Post...

I had plans to write a very long post this evening about our hike today. But - I am just way to tired to spend the time doing that tonight. So I will do that post tomorrow morning. There is a ton to write about as we had quite the adventure today on the peaks surrounding Mt. Evans. But it is just going to have to wait for a few hours as I am beat. We hope everyone has had a great Saturday. Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Here we go again??

As Yogi Berra used to say "It's like deja vu all over again". What am I talking about you are wondering? Nancy got a call from the hematologist today who she saw last week to help address what is going on with her bloodwork. The call today was from the nurse saying that her appointment was cancelled because she needs to have a bone marrow biopsy. The tests that were done last week all came out normal - meaning most of the easy solutions to her problem are out the door. Which means only the more complicated issues seem to remain - in particular leukemia or some other kind of deficiency with her bone marrow. As a matter of fact with her latest test her white blood cell count was down to 1.6. This is way lower that Patty was - even after the bone marrow transplant. So - we don't know exactly what it means other than we are starting down that same nasty path we went down 3 years ago. Ugh... I really don't want to have to go through this again. Obviously the situation is very different in the fact that Nancy is 77 years old and the options that were open to Patty are not necessarily open to Nancy. The biopsy is scheduled for next Wednesday afternoon at Littleton hospital. The hematologist doesn't expect the result to be available until sometime after the 4th of July weekend. Hopefully the biopsy won't mess Nancy up so much that she is incapacitated, as I would really like to get away with Zack for the 4th to the mountains. But obviously whatever happens with Nancy will have to take precedent over that. We escaped all the major rain and storms that hit the Denver metro area this afternoon. Just a tiny bit of rain, no lightning, no thunder. Hopefully we have the same luck tomorrow! Tomorrow morning Zack and I are going to get up very early and head out for another major hike. We are going to head West on I-70 to Idaho Springs. We will take the road up towards Mt. Evans but we will stop at the Summit Lake parking area as we will summit Gray Wolf via the Mount Spalding Traverse route. This will allow us to hit two peaks on the hike - Mount Spalding and Gray Wolf Mountain. It is also only 5 1/4 miles round trip. (I actually believe the mileage this time as I pulled the route information off of a respectable Internet site - SummitPost.org.) Total elevation gain for the hike is 1500 feet which though tough isn't too bad. We will max out at 13,842 on Mt Spalding. Gray Wolf Mountain is only 13,602. It should make for a good day as long as we move quickly enough and are off the peaks and down below tree line before noon. Well - I hope everyone has a great Friday night! Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Wee Bit of Social Commentary Again

It's been a bit since I have engaged in some social commentary, but today there are just too many things out in the news that are providing fodder for some commentary.  I could write about the passing of Michael Jackson or Farah Fawcett, but instead I am going to write about the governor of South Carolina - Mark Sanford.
The obvious thing to write is that he is an utter idiot.  I am not going to condemn the guy because of cheating on his wife.  My view on that subject is that you never know what is going on in the private lives of people.  You just never know the situation.  But I do think the guy is so stupid to think that he can be the sitting Governor of a state and disappear to Argentina for a week.  What in god's name was he thinking?  As a private citizen, you want to do that - no problem.  But as a governor....  the guy is just plain and simply nuts.
Even this is really not the point about which I wanted to write.  What I really caught my attention about the whole situation was the statement that his wife issued.  As I said I don't know the whole situation in their private life.  No one does but them.  Regardless I think the statement that she issued captured something that is so often missing in today's world.  There was one particular sentence that really hit home with me.  It was this...  "I believe enduring love is primarily a commitment and an act of will, and for a marriage to be successful, that commitment must be reciprocal."
Why did this sentence hit home with me?  Because you see so many instances in this life where people don't understand the whole point of marriage and saying that you are in love with another person.  It isn't fickle.  It isn't a temporary thing.  It is something that you really have to work at.  It is something that if you want it takes a lot of effort.  This whole concept is important to me because of what I endured for so long while Patty was sick.  
I can't tell you how I suffered during that horrible period.  But it didn't matter in the slightest.  What mattered was that I had committed myself to our relationship.  It would have been so easy to give up and walk away and just not deal with the pain and suffering, but how could I do that?  I know this isn't making a lot of sense, but when you have been where I have been in life you see the importance of the statement.  You see the importance of the whole concept - working through all the issues in a relationship.  I guess I am thinking of this even more as the one year anniversary of Patty's passing in approaching.  I am sure I will write a lot more about that subject as the days pass.
Anyway - forgive my rambling for the night.  It has been a VERY long and busy week.  I am so looking forward to the weekend.  I think Zack and I will do a big hike on Saturday as long as the weather holds.  Then on Sunday we unfortunately will be going to a memorial service in Longmont for Ramon Owens.  It is never fun to go to these things, but I think it is an important thing to do - to show your respect for those who are no longer with us.
Anyway - I hope everyone has had a great week so far.
Thanks and peace to all - J.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Close Shave....

For those of you who have kids you might recognize the title of today's post as a saying from the Thomas the Tank Engine books and TV show. Whenever a near disaster occurs, which often occurs in the Thomas series, the author always calls it "a close shave". Well today I had a close shave. No - it wasn't anything too drastic. I wasn't nearly impaled by rebar falling from a construction site, nor was I nearly electrocuted by a lightning strike. It was much simpler than that - I dropped my laptop on the ground so hard that the battery popped out and all kinds of dust and crud flew out from the fan. I have had this same Lenovo Thinkpad laptop for the last 3 years. We have been through thick and thin together but it has always kept on working. I was afraid that I had really done it today and finally broken the thing. After picking the laptop off the ground and putting the battery back in, I gingerly turned it on. I wasn't sure what to expect. At first nothing happened. I began to curse rather profanely. But... I wasn't about to give up. I pushed the battery pack back into the laptop harder and I tried again. This time - there was success! A light lit up on the front panel and I could tell it was going to start booting up. Yippee - I was saved! Though the first signs were good I watched with trepidation as the boot up process continued. Finally it entered Windows and I was ever so happy. A quick check of Windows Explorer proved that my data was intact. I was elated! A broken laptop might seem like an insignificant thing and in reality it is. However, what would be the true cost to me of a damaged laptop would be the potential for data loss. On this computer I have files and records that I have maintained for the last 15 years. I have a Quicken file that has recorded everyone of my financial transactions since 1995. I have a spreadsheet in which I have recorded all of my work outs, hikes, bike rides and 5K races going back to 2000. Luckily for me I do tend to back up this old laptop fairly frequently, but the thought of losing all that data that I have created over the years is horrifying to me. It is funny how our lives become attached to this gadgets. Prior to 1992 my life ran fine without a computer. I used Franklin planners and paper files. Now without my laptop and my iPhone I am utterly lost. Now that I have added a Mac to the mix I have another device that I can't live without. Oh well - I am sure as the years pass more devices, gadgets and data will become important to me. We had a busy day today. We were up very early as I needed to get Zack to WCCK and get on the road to Boulder by 7:15AM. I spent the entire day in Boulder in a variety of meetings and project reviews. Since so many people were in town for these review meetings we had a project-wide get together at the Westminster Dave and Busters. It was a good event as I got to spend a lot of time talking with my counterpart from the client. Once the project outing was done I stopped by and visited a friend who lives in Thornton since I was on that end of town and didn't have to be home right away. Zack on the other hand went out of state today! The daily field trip from WCCK took him to Wyoming this morning. The kids travelled by bus to a Bison Ranch in Wyoming where they got a tour and had a BBQ. I wasn't sure how Zack would like it given the travel time, but when I asked him this evening he gave the trip a big thumbs up! Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Doing Nothing

The house is now quiet as Zack, Nancy and the dogs are asleep. I am just hanging out in my bedroom with my Mac on my lap typing away. I did something very unusual this evening - nothing! By far doing nothing is not my normal. I am normally up and about doing something almost every single second of the day. Whether it be doing my work for my employer, doing something for Zack, playing with Zack, taking care of my home, doing some kind of major project around the house - I am normally always in motion.

Doing nothing but sitting on the couch watching TV is a luxury for which I do not have time. Tonight I just had to do that. Zack and I snuggled on the couch and watched an episode of “Modern Marvels” from the History Channel that we have recorded on DVR. After that I let Zack watch some “Sponge Bob Square Pants” and I took a nap.

Sometimes I really don't know how I manage all the things for which I have responsibility. I guess you can kind of tell it though in the fact that house is often a wreck and I am frequently behind on all kinds of stuff. But regardless I usually always manage to get everything done.

Many of my friends, and even people who I just casual know have said that they are amazed that I can keep up on everything. I usually never even step back and thing about this - as I just keep going at 100 miles per hour. This evening as I lay on the couch dozing I did think a lot about this. I thought a lot of how my life has changed in the last several years. It made me wonder if it has made me a better or stronger person. I would definitely say it has made me a stronger person. Better - that is hard to say. I think I tend to see the world in some very different shades than I ever saw it before. I think I have become a lot more forgiving of people because I see the heartache and hardship that you can encounter in life.

I think in addition to being stronger I appreciate things much more. Now a simple hug from Zack gives me enough reward to power on through another difficult day. I guess in the end run I am lucky. I am very lucky for all that I have experienced in life. Now I just need to find a little bit more time to be able to do nothing more often!

I hope everyone is having a great week.

Thanks and peace to all. - J.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Celebrating Old Friendships

From the time I graduated college until a few years ago I led a very transient lifestyle.  Though I had a home and a family, I was constantly on the move.  I would move from city to city as the projects on which I worked dictated.  Over the years I spent at least twelve months or more living in cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco.  Along the way I would make many friends in these cities and then I would move on.  In the years before cell phones, e-mail and social network websites I would frequently lose contact with these friends several years after I had moved to the next location.
Thankfully through Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking websites I have reconnected with many of these friends from years past.  This evening I had the opportunity to have dinner with one of my friends from the past.  Wendy was a fellow student at my university - Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  We were in similar majors during school so we knew of each other, however we were not close friends.  After graduation we both went to work for the same company - Andersen Consulting.  During our first years with the company we were deployed to the same projects at various clients in the Pittsburgh area.  In the spring of 1990 we were both assigned to a project in Minneapolis.
In Minneapolis we were part of a large group of friends who did practically everything together.  We were all in our early twenties - we worked hard during the day and then we would play very hard at night.  A routine was established by which we would put in our 10 - 12 hours of work, get in a workout and then go out and drink lots and lots of beer and kamikazes at the Top Hat Bar and Lounge in St. Paul.  It was a great time and we all had lots of fun.
But times change and eventually our project in Minneapolis ended.  Wendy left Andersen and our paths diverged.   We saw each other every once in a while at a university reunion event of one type or another but then we lost contact and the friendship was broken.
In late 2008 we reconnected through Facebook.  It was fun to reconnect and exchange e-mails and see what was going on in each other's lives.  I have repeated this countless times in the last year as I have reconnect with friends from high school, university and previous employers.  This evening it was really nice to reconnect with Wendy exchange stories about our lives.  It was neat to hear about her work, dogs and husband.  For me it was nice to just be able to talk about Zack, our struggles of the last couple of years and where the path of life is taking me now.
Both of us have reconnected with friends that the other has not.  It is like knitting a circle together.  Each of us brought one part of the circle of friends together and we are now linking them together.  It will be fun to reconnect with some of the people who Wendy has still has connections to that I do not.  
I guess the point this...  In this day of cell phones, e-mail and other communication mechanisms it is very easy to stay in touch with your friends of the present.  But don't forget about friends of the past, search them out and reconnect.  It is well worth the effort.
Not much else to say about the day.  My legs are a little bit sore from the efforts of yesterday.  My mind is still ever so much troubled by the last week.  As hard as I work to handle the situation I continue to feel haunted by an immense sense of loss.  I am certain this feeling will continue to occupy my thoughts for a long time to come!
Tomorrow (Tuesday) will be an exceedingly busy day for me.  I must be up very early so that I can get a start on the day.  I need to get Zack to WCCK and get on the road to Boulder very early.  I need to be back here in Centennial for a 4:00PM dentist appointment to finally finish off the work on my tooth that had an abscess several months ago.
With that I am off to bed.  Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Conquering Bear Peak

One of the things I love about my house is that it is full of books. I have books on just about any subject that you can imagine. There are several subjects about which I tend to collect prolific quantities of books. One of those subjects is Colorado. I have hundreds of books about Colorado. Even more specifically I have at least 50 or more books about hiking in Colorado. I have books that are dedicated to hiking in Colorado by season, with your dog, snowshoeing, loop hikes, hikes with kids, etc.
In preparation for Father’s Day I was browsing through my hiking books and I chose a book about “great” loop hikes in Colorado. I personally like taking loop hikes as then you don’t see the same scenery twice. As I read through the book last night I decided upon a hike called the “Bear Peak Loop Hike”. This hike starts at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the foothills above Boulder. The hike winds it’s way through Bear Canyon until you finally climb out of the canyon and mount West Bear Ridge. From there you run up the ridge to the summit of Bear Peak. (Bear Peak in the far distance.) Zack and I rose relatively early this morning so that we could get an early start on our hike. Though we were on the road to Boulder around 10:00AM I really wished we had started earlier. Unfortunately, our starting time would later have a significant influence on our hike! We arrived at the trailhead by NCAR around 11:00AM. After getting all of our stuff squared away we headed out on the Walter Orr Roberts Interpretive Trail which was the starting of the hike. Ever quickly the trail structure became very confusing and we had a hard time following the instructions laid out in the hiking book. Within a mile I had totally decided to abandon the book and just follow the trail signs as the book didn’t match up with the trail signs in the slightest. We hooked up with the Mesa Trail which is a major arterial trail in the Boulder open space system. It starts in Chautauqua Park and meanders its way to the south until it reaches El Dorado State Park on the far southern end of Boulder. From the Mesa Trail we eventually connected to the Bear Canyon Trail which we would essentially follow the whole way to the summit of Bear Peak. For a long time we followed Bear Creek as it ran down Bear Canyon. After about 2.5 miles of total hiking we left Bear Canyon behind us and began the climb to West Bear Ridge. Scaling to the top of the ridge was not difficult. We achieved the top of the ridge and we could see the summit of Bear Peak in the distance. The trail continues to run along the top for West Bear Ridge for quite a distance. Along the way we were offered great views down to Boulder and the plains beyond. After about 4 total miles of hiking we reached the base of Bear Peak itself. From the base the peak did not really look that significant. I kept fooling myself and saying it really wasn’t that far nor would the climb be that hard. Yes – I was truly fooling myself! As we began the run up to the summit block of the peak, we were working very hard. I was amazed with how well Zack was doing. He was negotiating very significant boulders and talus fields without problem. He was very confident about what he was doing and despite the shear distance down he was not having any problem. On this Father’s Day hike I was truly proud of my boy! After about 30 minutes of resolute climbing much of it hand over hand we managed to reach the base of the summit block. To reach the summit itself would take even more strenuous climbing – all of it hand over hand. At this point Zack made the very wise decision to stay at the base of the summit block. There were a number of people hanging out there so I didn’t feel bad leaving him there while I made the effort to summit the peak. (Additionally, he would be able to see me the whole time I was climbing up to the summit.) (View from the top of Bear Peak.) There was no one on the peak as I made my attempt to summit. It wasn’t a hugely nasty climb but the consequences had I screwed up would have been severe. Thankfully I managed to work my way to the top and set foot on the USGS marker at the summit without taking any downward tumbles. From the summit I was able to stand up and wave down to Zack so that he knew I had successfully made it to the top. (The obligatory summit photo.) I only stayed on the summit for about 5 minutes. I won't have even stayed for that long but I needed to let another party climb to the top. Luck for me this party was on their way up as I was able to ask one of them to take my picture for the obligatory summit photo. I didn’t want to dally at the top because the clouds were beginning to look ominous and I had no desire to be a lightning strike statistic. (Zack at the case of the summit block.) (Zack and me at the base of the summit with the plains in the background.) Once I reach Zack at the base of the summit block we quickly oriented ourselves to the downward trek. Unlike the approach up Bear Canyon and West Bear Ridge we were going to essentially go straight down the mountain by taking the Fern Canyon trail. As soon as we started down the trail we quickly realized the experience to which we were subjecting ourselves. We had to jump from boulder to boulder and it took a humongous toll on our legs. After a short while we felt as though our legs were made from jelly. This downward horror story continued for over a mile. It was not fun. As we descended further down the mountain the sound of thunder started to become more noticeable. As we reached the base of Fern Canyon and hooked up with the Mesa Trail, the rain began to fall and lightning filled the air. Unfortunately for us we were in a position were there really wasn’t anything we could do. We were exposed and there wasn’t any suitable cover for a while. So as the rain and hail fell on us we did the only thing rational people would do – we kept walking and just screamed and howled at the thunder and lightning. Sometimes when you are faced with a storm there is nothing to do. I don’t like being in those kind of situations and I felt even worse since Zack was with me. Screaming and howling at the storm helped us deal with the fear and it kept Zack from freaking out. We got pretty wet but it was warm out so we didn’t really mind that much. The worst thing was that the trail became a quagmire of mud. With each step we got more and more mud on our shoes. That definitely sucked. We finally made our way back up Mesa Trail to the Robert Orr Roberts Interpretative Trail and the car. The hike had taken us much longer than expected and it was almost two miles longer than what was written in the book. In the book the hike was rated as “moderate” to which all I can say is yeah right! For Zack it was quite an accomplishment as he set a new “Zackie world record” for the longest hike he has taken. Today’s hike was over 8.2 miles long. Zack’s previous longest hike had been 6.5 miles in November of 2008 when we hiked Castlewood Canyon. I am very proud of him. For a kid of 10 years he is a pretty amazing hiker. After today’s hike I feel very confident in his ability to actually make it to the top of a 14er. I am giving serious consideration for us to attempt to hike Mount Bierstadt sometime in late July or August. Despite being muddy and damp we decided to stop in downtown Boulder and get some dinner. We had a nice meal at the Cheesecake Factory right on Pearl Street. Given that this was Boulder no one really cared that we were a little bit muddy and damp! All-in-all it was a good day. It gave me exactly what I needed to focus my attention away from myself and the emotional pain I have been feeling for the last several days - but it is time to move on. I have a busy week planned as I a friend who I haven’t seen in over 10 years coming into town tomorrow night for business. We will meet up for dinner on Monday night. Tuesday and Wednesday I will be taking part in a Project Management Review for my project in Boulder. Those will definitely be busy days! I hope that everyone has had a wonderful weekend and a great Father’s Day. Zack and I had a wonderful time today and our memories of today will last us forever! Thanks and peace to all – J.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday - Gray Weather - Boring Day!

You always look with such anticipation to the weekend.  This spring and summer here in Colorado the weekends have been not necessarily the best from a weather perspective.  Today really wasn’t that bad as it didn’t rain but there was basically no sun.  It was cloudy and gray all day.  Needless to say I didn’t have a lot of ambition to get up and do a lot.

Zack continues to do very well with sleeping by himself, though this morning he decided he wanted to come in and “snuggie” with me for a bit.  So he came in around 7:30AM or so and we talked and both fell back a sleep for awhile.  We had a very lazy morning and really didn’t even bother getting out of bed until 9:00AM or so.

Once we got up and I assessed the weather I decided that we would hold off doing a big hike until tomorrow on Father’s Day.  So the question became “what to do”.  After a bit I decided I had to be very busy to keep me from going insane.  So - I decided it was time to begin cleaning the garage.  Now this is not a minor undertaking mind you.  This is MAJOR project.  But it has to start somewhere.  So today was the day.  The work began and continued...  and continued...  and continued.

While I worked on the garage Zack went out and rode his new bike.  Earlier this week he got a new bike.  It wasn’t a “new” bike per se, it was a bike that his cousin Cole had outgrown.  He rode all round the entire street back and forth, back and forth.  Unfortunately all the other kids on the street are not around right now.  Most of them are away on vacation in some place or another.  

After spending the entire day work on the garage and around the house it was time to do something fun.  For dinner we (both Zack and I) met up with a friend of mine at Rock Bottom Brewery.  I had a couple of beers and my friend and I shared a thing of nachos.  Zack had his normal buttered noodles.  All-in-all it was an OK evening.

Z and I are now hanging out in the kitchen/family room.  I am here working on the Mac.  Besides writing today’s blog entry I am also working on a video of our time at Magness last week.  I am using all the picture I took and then putting them to a soundtrack.  

We don’t have any major plans for tomorrow other than to take our hike.  I have planned a hike in the hills above Boulder for us.  The hike is called the Bear Peak loop and it is about 6.2 miles long.  Given the speed at which Zack and I travel it should take us about 2 - 3 hours.  Provided the weather is nice it will be a great hike for us.  

We hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Thanks and peace to all! - J.  

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday....

Friday has at last arrived. The week has seemed very long and very difficult. Though it hasn't really been any longer than any other week it certainly has been difficult!

To get things off to a better start for the day I was off to Bonfils to donate platelets this morning. It took 1.5 hours but my platelet count was high enough that I could donate 2 extra large units of platelets. It makes me feel good knowing that I saved at least one maybe two people’s lives today. Who knows where my blood will end up? It might end up in a cancer patient in Denver. It might be used for a person in Los Angeles who has a liver transplant or it might even find it’s way to Iraq or Afghanistan and be used in a soldier who has been critically wounded.

Zack of course attended WCCK today. They stayed at the school today and had some elaborate puppet show presentation. He seemed to enjoy it - at least that is what he said when I got him at the end of the day.

I had to take Nancy to the hematologist today. This was the same location that Patty went to before she was diagnosed with leukemia. So it wasn’t necessarily fun going in there. There are a variety of issues that could be going on with Nancy. She had more blood drawn today and then she will meet with the doctor again next week. Some of the possibilities are a lot less severe than others. Hopefully it will turn out to be one of the less severe issues. If it doesn't turn out to be one of the less severe issues we are in for a long and horrible fight again. (The situation is that both her white blood cell count and platelets are well below the normal levels. Additionally the size of her red blood cells are abnormal.) The bottom line is that Nancy is not doing real well and she needs Zack and my support to help her through the situation.

Oh well - I have to keep my chin up. We hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thanks and peace to all - J.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sleep Fails Me

Agh - it is 3:35AM in the morning and sleep has failed me. This is not a good start to a new day. I really don't think that I am going to fall back asleep tonight. I have tossed and turned for the best part of a half an hour already and I just don't see sleep coming back.
So instead I will write for a little bit. I am sitting here in the absolute dark with my Mac on my lap typing away. I have Lex curled up in a ball next to me. Bay is sleeping in Zack's bedroom with Zack and Cole. When I went to get my Mac I checked in on them and they are sound asleep on Zack's bed with all the covers pushed aside. It is truly amazing how kids can sleep literally in any situation and in any position. They will have to get up somewhat early this morning as Tim will be coming to pick up Cole at 7:30AM so he can make it to swim team practice. I need to get Zack to WCCK prior to 8:30AM this morning as that is when my first conference call starts.
Zack is going on his first "hike outing" of the summer season with WCCK. They typically have a theme for each day of the week. Monday they usually try and do something cultural. Tuesday they go to the swimming pool. Wednesday is usually a day in which they do something really fun like go to Boondocks (an arcade, miniature golf, etc place). Thursday is normally a hike. And Friday them normally do something where they stay at the school. In the future I will do a blog post about all the adventures that Zack is having with WCCK.
Well - on to do more stuff. I am going to go through some back e-mail and get that cleaned up. Hopefully I will fall back asleep as it is going to make for a very, very long day.
Hope everyone else is sleeping!
Updated at 7:30AM - Yes my day just got better - LOL! Not! When I got out of bed and went to use the sink I found I had no hot water. Haven't been able to figure out what is going on with the hot water heater but that doesn't make for a good start to the day. On top of that I checked in on Nancy and she is looking worse. I am starting to wonder if she needs to be admitted to the hospital. I am going to have her call the doctor's office as soon as it opens. All-in-all Thursday isn't starting off to swift. I hope it can get on a better track.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why this day was so bad

Today has just been a crap day! Work has been crap and more and more work has been thrown at me. Thankfully my big project that went live in Kuala Lumpur this week continues to go well. We have had no major issues and so I continue the streak of no severity 1 issues with the go-live of this project. My team has been on a streak and we have now gone over 24 months without having a severity 1 issue on any of our project go-lives. I don’t know if it is record for IBM or not, but we certain have a right to be proud of what we have accomplished. Nancy continues to be very ill. I have had to watch out for her all day. She has been running a temperature of over 101 degrees for a majority of the day. This has made her weak and unsteady on her feet. So far she hasn’t fallen but I continue to have to keep a close watch over her. Zack also had a difficult day in the fact that after WCCK he wasn’t feeling so good but he had Sylvan this afternoon. Shortly after he got to Sylvan he went into the bathroom and threw up. They called me to come and get him as I had just arrived back at home from dropping him off. As I drove to pick him up I was on a conference call for work and I missed an incoming call from Sylvan in which the academic coordinator said Zack was feeling much better and was determined to stay and make it through the session. So I got to Sylvan only to find out that I did not need to be there. (I think he threw up from the field trip that WCCK was on today. They went to Boon Docks in Thornton by bus and I have a tendency to think he got motion sick on the bus.) Though I was very proud of Zack for his strength and determination, I was exceedingly frustrated in having driving to Sylvan, back home and then back to Sylvan. As I drove away from Sylvan I was crying tears of extreme frustration. I just so badly wanted to talk to the person from the situation I described above – but I knew I couldn’t and so I didn’t. It made no sense for me to go home again, so I spent the next 1 hour and 20 minutes driving around Highlands Ranch. I stopped at the HR Tattered Cover and went inside for a few minutes. However, my mind was in no way capable of doing anything more than just glancing at the book covers. I stayed about 5 minutes and then left. After that my day started to get a little bit better – but getting any more than just a tiny bit better was not possible because of my immense feelings of loss, hurt and pain. As I drove back to Sylvan I came across two who were in car that was disabled. They were trying to push it into a parking lot at King Soopers. Given that they were on a hill I don’t think they were going to be able to do it. So I pulled up behind them and asked if they would like me to push their car with my car. They were extremely happy to accept my offer. My car got a few scratches on the bumper as a result, but it was worth it to help out people in need. Once I got home with Zack from Sylvan I decided to call Celinde and have her see if my blood test results from Monday were in. My doctor – Kendall doesn’t work on Wednesdays so I knew I won’t be getting any results until Thursday if I waited for Kendall. Celinde quickly found my test results and read the information back to me. My cholesterol was 201, my triglycerides were 116 and my cholesterol ratio was in the good range (I forget what that was). When I had the original test done a week and a half ago, my cholesterol was 239 and my triglycerides were 587 (yes that is correct 587 no lie!). So these numbers were a significant improvement over a week and a half ago. I am sitting here at the kitchen table writing this blog post while I listen to Zack and Cole play in the family room. They are having a sleep over tonight. They are having fun and doing what kids should be doing in the summer. I hope everyone is having a great day. Thanks and peace to all! – J.

A Crap Day Finally Gets a Little Better

Today has been one of the absolute worst days I have had in a very long time. I'll describe all when I do a much large blog post this evening. However something good FINALLY happened today! Two weeks ago I had my blood drawn for my annual physical. All my numbers for my CBC, kidney and liver panels were great. However my lipid panel (cholestrol and triglycerides) was horrible. When I had my physical on Monday my doctor decided to draw my blood again since I had been fasting since the night before. My lipid panel came back great!! Can you say how pleased I was. That way I potentially don't have to go on any of those funky drugs to keep my cholestrol and triglyercides in check. I think the issue that may have caused the problem with the first blood draw was that I had a HUGE dinner at 7PM the night before the blood draw. I have a tendency to think that may have effected it. So yippee! Finally something good on this most horrible of horrible days!

Redacted Post

Ah yes - another deleted/redacted post. I put way too much out there last night. Sometimes I wonder why I do that and then realize I want to delete the post. I think it is hard when you tend to write a lot of blogs. You become very comfortable putting your emotions out there so that they can be read. Other times you put a blog out there for a specific purpose or person. Once the message is communicated to that person or the purpose is achieved then the post is no longer needed. That is exactly what happened last night. The complexities of my life at this time are pretty immense. I cannot even begin to explain all that I feel and all that I am experiencing. At times it is so very unbelieavably hard. Yesterday was CLEARLY one of those days! Regardless of these complexities life is so very good. As we approach the one year anniversary of Patty's death, the beauty and grandeur of life continues to be revealed to me and Zack. We are living life and though it is painful at time it is so good. Anyway - time to get work. It is going to be a very long day. Thanks and peace to all!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Adventures at Magness

Well it is Monday and I am now just getting around to posting a blog entry about our adventures at the Boy Scouts’ Magness Adventure Camp. I should have written and posted this yesterday, but it kind of felt nice not having a lot of Internet activity for a couple of days. Sometimes it just feels good to take a break from the ordinary and do something different.
We left on our trip to Magness on Thursday afternoon around 1PM. We needed to make a few quick stops before we got on the road as I needed to get gas in the Explorer and we needed to get Zack new raingear as he had out grown his old jacket. After all was said and done we were ready to go around 1:30PM. Unfortunately the weather was not to cooperate. As we left the parking of REI where we got Zack his raingear – the heavens opened up on us. The rain and the hail fell like there was no tomorrow. On top of that I was on the phone with a friend in Aurora who told me that the local news was reporting a tornado with a funnel being spotted in Parker, Colorado which was right along our route. So I decided it would be better to go back home and wait until the weather calmed down a bit. The decision was a good one as when we headed back out 40 minutes later we found I-25 to the south of us littered with at least 2 – 3 inches of hail! We arrived at Magness around 3:30PM and got checked in. We were assigned to the Eagles Nest campground. Each campground is 30 or so army surplus tents from the 1950’s that have been erected on a series of either wooden platforms or concrete slabs. The tents are set up around a central “shelter” that is a strong concrete and wooden structure. The shelter is where the bathrooms are located and has numerous picnic tables in it on which you eat your meals. (Meals are prepared at the camp HQ and then sent out to each of the shelters in industrial grade food warmers and then are served in the shelters.) Once we arrived at Eagles Nest we found an empty tent and deposited our packs and sleeping bags there. Most of these tents to put it bluntly are NOT in good shape. They have numerous holes and the effort that has been put into setting the tents up isn’t that great. I tried to shore the tent up as best as I could but, it was still lacking.
(Zack after our arrival at Magness)
(View from the fire tower at Magness.)
After we got situated with our tent it was free time so Zack wanted to head out and hit the obstacle course. To reach the obstacle course we had to walk pretty much the whole way across camp but it was an enjoyable walk. Zack had a lot of fun on the obstacle course and just was having a lot of fun. After the obstacle course we headed to an area near the HQ where there is a man-made stream that flows into the lake located at the center of camp. The kids like to throw pine cones, leaves, branches, etc into the stream and then race the objects down to the lake. We probably spent another 30 minutes there before heading back to the shelter for the kick-off meeting and dinner. After dinner and the retirement of the flag for the day, we headed back over to the HQ area where they were having ice cream for everyone. We ate our ice cream and Zack and many other kids played in the stream and did lots of races. After that we journeyed to the campfire circle for the “big” campfire. Now I have a problem with their campfire. Here in Colorado we have to deal with extreme fire conditions but I just can’t imagine why they can’t do more than they do. I say that because the fire is just a propane fire underneath a bunch of concrete “logs”. It doesn’t do much in terms of feeling like a real campfire.
(The weak campfire!)
The “campfire” program was a number of songs and skits by the camp staff. The kids loved it and the staff did a good job with it. The funny thing for me is that I worked at my local Boy Scout camp when I was kid and most of the songs and skits are the same as when I was a kid. It made me laugh thinking back all those years to me running out and leading the skits and songs at Camp Conestoga. When the campfire concluded Zack and I went back to our tent and got everything set up for the night. The night itself was pretty good as we both feel asleep quickly and slept soundly. I was awoken at 1:30AM to a chorus of coyote yips and howls. They were so loud! But it was just so amazing and wonderful to lie there and listen. It brought shivers of joy to my spine. (Coyotes are not dangerous to people. They might try and look you down and there have been incidents where they have attacked people, but for the most part they are terrified of people.)
(Zack going to sleep in the tent for the first night.)
Friday morning dawned cold but bright. We had a full day of activities scheduled. After breakfast and the raising of the flag we headed out to our “rotation” of activities for the day. You go out to the activities in groups based around other kids who are at the same level in Cub Scouts. The group is lead around the camp by a camp staff member who is in charge of getting you where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there. We were in a group of about 12 boys and their parents. There was one other Cub Scout – Aaron from Zack’s pack and den in the group. Our first activity of the morning was BB gun shooting. I wasn’t sure whether or not Zack would be willing to do it or not. In the past he had wanted nothing to do with guns. I am not a gun person per se, but I strongly believe in my son knowing how to handle a gun and shoot a gun. (When I was a kid we had several guns around our house and I feel pretty comfortable with guns and relatively speaking I am a decent shot.)
(Zack taking a shot with the BB Gun.)
I was pleased that Zack eagerly went and did the BB gun shooting. He did OK with hitting the target and I think he actually enjoyed it. He still has a little bit of difficulty in holding the gun right but it is something that we will continue to work on. (I take him to Bass Pro Shops and their shooting arcade to teach him the basics.) After BB gun shooting we headed to the lake to do some swimming. It was cool and windy but Zack and the other boys were determined to go swimming. They had fun and there were lots of water battles. Our final activity for the morning was handicrafts back at the Eagles Nest Shelter. The craft this year was to have the boys make a little replica catapult. It wasn’t too hard to make but I think most parents ended up helping their kids as some of the handiwork was delicate. We had lunch at the shelter which was a meatball sandwich, pasta and vegetables. We then headed back to HQ to assemble our dinners for that night. As a Webelos II Cub Scout one of the highlights of Magness is the second day hike and overnight camping at the “Second Mesa”. To prepare for this hike and overnight camping you first have to bring your own tent and day packs to the Magness. Additionally, you are then responsible for building your own “foil dinner” from the ingredients the camp provides. The ingredients that we had available to use were chicken, potatoes, green beans, corn, onions and green peppers. You take want you want and place it on a big sheet of foil. Spices and Tabasco sauce can also be added before you fold the whole thing up and turn it into a giant easy to cook meal. After assembling our dinners we headed out on our hike to “Second Mesa”. While we hiked the skies grew ominously dark. There were lightning strikes all around in the distance. Needless to say I was not particularly pleased with the situation. But we soldiered onward. The hike offered the boys a lot of different opportunities to play various games along the way. The hike itself was only about 1.5 miles or so but it took a long time because of the frequent stops to explore and play games.
(On the hike to "Second Mesa")
(Our smiling faces)
By the time we arrived at “Second Mesa” the worse of the storm had passed. Thankfully it had stayed several miles to the south of us and though we had to face the prospect of lightning, none struck near us and we avoided the rain. Once we got to “Second Mesa” Zack and I quickly set about setting up our tent. Given the status of the weather there was no way I was going to set the tent up in the middle of the field where most people were setting up. Being out in the open like that makes you much more of a target for lightning. Instead Zack and I walked a good way from where most people were camping and set the tent up a little ways into the trees. We kept ourselves away from any tall trees and positioned the tent to have maximum cover but little direct contact with any trees. My tent is a relatively good one from North Face. But it had been a while since I set it up and it took me a few minutes of scratching my head to figure it out. Additionally, in the couple of years since I have used it I have lent it to several people and it came back with out the stakes. That was not fun, but I managed to improvise with branches from a pine tree.
(Our tent on "Second Mesa")
Once the tent was set up Zack ran off to play in the woods I took some time just wandering around. The “Second Mesa” is a plateau to the east of the main camp area. The terrain is not too rugged but there are numerous areas of boulders and rock walls. It was fun for me just to take some time and be by myself walking and exploring. We all headed back to the central area of the mesa around 5:30PM or so when the camp staff arrived with the food. They were going to cook the food in these giant charcoal grills that they have there. So we watched them start the charcoal on fire with the equivalent of a blow torch! (They used a propose tank from a grill with a special attachment to it that basically created a giant blow torch.) We were able to identify our dinners because we wrote our names on the foil with a Sharpie. They were actually really tasty. After dinner most of us walked back down to the main camp area for “free activities”. Zack and I went to the archery range and shot a bunch of arrows. After that we walked to the Camp HQ where they were doing tie dye shirts. We got two shirts and tie dyed them. Since I didn’t want to take them back to our tent on “Second Mesa” we walked them back to our car by Eagles Nest. The walk back to “Second Mesa” seemed pretty long to us by this point as my GPS was telling me that we had already walked almost 8 miles that day. Once we got back to “Second Mesa” we decided not to take part in the planned night hike as Zack was too tired. As everyone was heading out on the night hike we were settling down into the tent for the night. About 2 or 3 minutes after everyone left on the hike we started to hear the pittle pattle of rain on the fly of the tent. Before long it was more a roar then a pittle pattle and we heard the people out on the hike running back to camp.
(Zack falling asleep in out tent.)
Despite the rain our night was very comfortable, dry and warm. It was so warm that I actually slept part of the night outside of my sleeping bag. I cannot imagine how miserable we would have been had we spent the night in the tent from our first day! The rain continued to fall for at least 3 or 4 hours. I don’t know how long it fell as I was sound asleep. When my alarm went off at 6:40AM I woke up feeling pretty rested. (I had my cell phone with me and use it as my alarm.) Stepping outside of the tent I was amazed at how wet it was. The only thing worse then packing up a wet tent is putting one up in the rain. Once we got up we headed to the center of the camp and waited for breakfast. Our breakfast was just a small doughnut and bagel and cream cheese. After that we did our best to pack up the wet tent and get ready to get off of “Second Mesa”. Saturday morning at Magness was COLD! Unfortunately our first activity of the morning was boating! Yikes – that offered the great potential to get wet and even colder. Thankfully we found a boat that was dry and we were able to stay dry while we paddled around the lake.
(Zack paddling around the lake in a paddle boat.)
The second activity of the day was catapults. The camp staff have erected these 2 giant catapults on the edge of the camp. The kids get to use the pulleys and rope to pull them back and launch tennis balls and other assorted objects. As part of this activity they also learn a lot about using lashing to build objects. They learn all the basic elements that are needed to construct a strong lash between 2 pieces of wood. Our last activity for the morning was slingshot shooting. They have a high-powered slingshot range where the kids get to use slingshots and fire paint balls with them. It took Zack a little while to pick up the basics of how it worked, but he still had a ton of fun doing it. After that we had lunch and though we could have stayed for longer we got packed up and headed out. We spent some time playing around near the camp HQ but we were on the road back to civilization by 2:30PM. Unfortunately for me I decided to explore the little town of Kiowa on the way home. It was unfortunate because I managed to get nabbed for a $163 speeding ticket! Not fun! Long story short, the police officer was still right at the edge of town about 100 yards before the speed limit jumps up to 55mpg from 35mph. Given that the way out of town is up a hill, I was pushing down on the gas pedal to get up some speed to make it up the hill. BAD MOVE! He busted he doing 47 mph in the 35 mph zone. Ugh – is all I can say! Anyway – sorry it has taken me a couple of days to post this. Things have been busy, busy for me and I just haven’t had the time to sit down and write. I will be working hard to give myself more time to write. We hope that everyone has had a great Monday! Thanks and peace to all – J.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Brief Update and Going Off the Air For a Few Days....

I really meant to provide an update yesterday, but unfortunately I was just too tired. I went to bed at 11:00PM which is an exceeding unusual event for me. Zack finished school on Tuesday. He was immensely happy to be done with school. He got his report card on the last day of school. I was very proud of him for all the hard work that he put into the final trimester of school. Given his starting point for the year, he did such a good job improving throughout the entire year. When Zack started school in August of this year he was only 1.5 months away from the death of his mother. His emotional and mental state at that point was needless to say - not that good and it should in his school work. During the second trimester of the year his work definitely improved. This third trimester he really did a great job and the grades and comments in his report card showed how hard he worked. I am so proud of my boy! Yesterday - Wednesday, Zack went to his first day of summer camp. He is attending Willow Creek Cares for Kids at his elementary school. For the first day they had a "summer vacation carnival". They brought a bounce house in and had a lot of games and face painting. When I picked Zack up after camp his face was covered in a "galaxy". Instead of having his face painted in a typical way - a tiger, a lion, a monkey - he decided to have the face painting artist paint a galaxy on his face. How funny!

(Zack with the "galaxy" painted on the side of his face.)

I am going to be "going off the air" for several days as Zack and I head to scout camp for the remainder of the week. We head out this afternoon around noon for Magness. I am sure we will have a lot of fun, but I am concerned that we will run into some severe weather. Needless to say I am NOT taking a computer with me. Additionally, even with my broadband card I don't anticipate that I will have any kind of cellular access at Magness. So I will be officially off the air in terms of blog updates. I feel kind of bad as I have about 5 or 6 emails to write to people and I just don't think I will get that done before I leave. So to anyone I owe an e-mail - Sorry!!

I will take lots of pictures while we are at scout camp so I should have a lively blog entry or two when we get back. I will definitely post again by Sunday (we come back late Saturday afternoon but god knows how tired I will be by then). We hope everyone has a great day and a great upcoming weekend. Thanks and peace to all - J.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Let Summer Begin!

Today was Zack’s last full day of school. He still has to go to school on Tuesday for 2.5 hours. I really wonder why they make the kids do that? I haven’t a clue. The excitement of summer is beginning to take hold in our house. Up until today Zack wasn’t that extremely excited about the end of the school year. Now he is down right thrilled and eager to get out of school. When he came home this afternoon he was saying he just wanted it to be 9PM so that he could go to bed and then wake up and go to school and get done with it for the summer. Despite the fact that it was the last full day of school he still had to go to Sylvan this afternoon. Needless to say he was NOT happy about that. He has ¼ of the Sylvan course to complete and then he is done with that also. I am telling him the sooner he gets done with Sylvan the sooner he has the entire summer to himself.
(This was Zack this evening on his last day of 4th grade! Notice he is wearing his favorites shoes - wheelies!) Last night we had our first big barbeque with the new grill. It wasn’t anything to extravagant – but I did cook pretty much everything on the grill – which was cool. I made my “hot-wing” potatoes, veggies (which I saut├ęd over the grill), salmon, steak, and a salad. On Saturday I had made two different batches of home made ice cream – chocolate and vanilla – which we had for dessert. All-in-all it was a really good dinner. We had Tim, Celinde and Cole and another family over. So we got the “summer” off to a really good start.

(Zack on his first day of 4th Grade. Notice how much more mature he looks in the other picture.)

I was watching the skies for a long time yesterday as there were some really severe storms taking place. There were 5 different tornados here in the Denver metro area. The worst one hit a shopping center at E470 and Smoky Hill Road. That tornado was on the ground for over 30 minutes from what they said on the news last night. I have a friend who only lives a couple of miles from there. Luckily the tornado did not do any damage to their house! We will start our first adventure of the summer barely 48 hours after Zack gets out of school. On Thursday we will be heading to Cub Scout camp at Magness. This camp is located out on the plains a few miles outside of Kiowa. The downside to this is with the severe weather we have been having we will be dodging the storms during our stay at camp. Magness has been known to get some pretty darn nasty thunderstorms. Given that Zack is a Webelos II we will get to spend a night out at a remote campsite on Friday night. I will get a chance to use some of my camping gear for the first time with him. We have camped before but he has never camped with me in a remote location like we will be in on Friday. It will be an interesting day I am sure! We hope everyone is having a great week so far (though it is Monday – ugh!). Thanks and peace to all – J.