Sunday, October 31, 2010

Our Nasty Looking Jack-O-Lanterns

It is Halloween and Zack and I each did a jack-o-lantern for the occasion.  We didn't use any fancy patterns or anything like that - just knives and our imagination. 

I'll write more later.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Day of Work and Volunteering

Well fall break for Zack has now come and gone.  Yesterday was his last "official" day off but we still have the weekend - or at least 1/2 of the weekend now.

This morning started bright and early for Zack and me.  I had fallen asleep last night on the couch in the family room and I was awake before the sun came up.  Lying there in the dark I ruminated on many different thoughts.  Zack woke up and came down to snuggle with me around 7:00AM.  We had to be up and about by 7:30AM as we needed to be in Littleton for some charity work at 9:00AM.

Today we were volunteering for a charity called Denver Kids Against Hunger.  It is a charity that is run by the Kiwanis club.  They work to raise money throughout the year to buy mass quantities of food that are then assembled into self-contained meals and then shipped to places like Haiti and war ravaged countries of Africa.  Today was one of their several times a year efforts to take the food they had purchased and build meals. 

The meals are very basic.  They consist of a chicken-flavor powder (at least that is what it tasted like to me when i got some on my hands) with vitamins in it, dried vegetables, soy protein and rice.  The whole effort consists of working to combine all these things in the right proportions and package them in a plastic bag.  Today the work was to build 100,000 meals that are to be shipped to Haiti next week.  I had learned of this opportunity through a post I saw on Facebook.  They were looking for 150 people in two different shifts to help out in this effort.

Zack and I arrived about 5 minutes before the start to find things getting rolling.  We were assigned to a team of 3 other people - Tom, Missy and Joanne.  (Tom, Missy and Joanne are all from Greeley.  Tom and Missy are high school students who are involved in a "junior Kiwanis" club.  Joanne I would guess is retired and is the wife of one of the guys from the Kiwanis who was leading today's effort.)

Our goal was to assemble as many of these meal bags as we could.  We were assigned a table that had 4 large "bins" (actually plastic roughnecks).  One bin was full of the powder, one the dried vegetable, one the soy protein and one rice.  In the center of the table was a funnel like device into which you put everything.  While the team members put the material into the funnel, one person held the bag to be filled at the bottom of the funnel and caught everything.  Each meal consisted of 1 tablespoon of the powder, 1/3 of a cup of the vegetables and 1 cup each of the soy and rice.

(Our team's work station)

Once everything was into the bag, it was put in a tray at the end of the table.  When the tray was filled a runner would come by and pick it up and give us another tray.  The trays were then taken to a central station where each bag was weighed to make sure it was in the proper weight range, sealed and then loaded into boxes.  When each box was complete it was loaded onto a pallet for shipping.

(Zack and I all geared out in our hair nets.)

 (Zack with 2 of the other team members - Missy and Tom)

My understanding of how the situation works when it arrives at the destination is that the bags are handed out at the refugee camps.  Each bag can then be dumped into a pot with water and boiled and it becomes a total and complete meal that meets the nutritional needs of the refugees.

The five of us developed a really good system for working and getting the meal bags built quickly.  Based upon the number of trays we filled I estimate we completed between 2,000 and 3,000 meals.  Our shift was originally supposed to complete 50,000 meals but by the end of the 3 hour shift we had built over 60,000 meals. 

The time went very quickly and we developed a very good working rhythm.  We didn't even talk that much as we were working so fast.  Zack did a good job keeping up.  He did take a couple of breaks but for the most part he was as dedicated to the effort as the rest of the team.  He didn't even complain about getting tired.  He did a great job and I am very proud of him.

In the end run we gave about 3 hours of our day.  I really don't think we did that much, but to be honest it was fun to get out and do something like this.  I have never done anything like this before but I must say I am eagerly anticipating doing it again.

That was the big event for the day for us.  The rest of our day was spent working around the house.  I continue to make progress on the garage.  Today I managed to sell a bunch of stuff on Craigslist.  Hopefully the sales will go through and the people who agreed to buy the stuff will actually show up tomorrow.

Zack spent a bunch of time riding his bike throughout the neighborhood today.  Though he is once again showing some signs of anxiety he has also really made some advancements of recent.  Riding his bike around is just one example of it.

Given the weather was pretty decent this evening I decided to grill out for dinner.  This might be one of the last weekends in which I don't have to freeze to grill a dinner.  I will normally grill all year round but it is much better to grill when the weather is warm and not freezing!

I hope everyone is having a great weekend so far.  Hopefully too you aren't scared by the ghouls and goblins cause tomorrow is Halloween!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Fall Break - Day 5 (Big Adventure and Lots of Trouble!)

A big adventure always seems to start before the sun rises.  This morning even though my alarm was set for 4:15AM, I was awake at 4:05AM.  This is actually my norm these days as I continue to feel a lot of anxiety, stress and unhappiness about the situation with Shelly.  I tend to wake up between 3:30AM and 4:30AM.  However this morning I had my alarm set for 4:15AM so that Zack and I could be up before the sun and headed out on our adventure for the day.

Our adventure for the day was a trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park - which is about 230 miles to the SSW of Denver.  We ended up leaving the house around 4:50AM heading south on I-25.  At that hour my head was still a little bit fuzzy and I was definitely trying to wipe the sleep out of my eyes.  We kept on going South until we hit the small town of Walsenburg which is about 60 miles from the border with New Mexico.  From there we took highway 160 west to about 20 miles east of Alamosa and then turned North on the access road to the National Park.

Wikipedia describes the park int the following way "the park contains the tallest sand dunes in North America, rising about 750 feet (230 m) from the floor of the San Luis Valley on the western base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, covering about 19,000 acres (77 km²). They are perhaps 12,000 years old.
The dunes were formed from sand and soil deposits of the Rio Grande and its tributaries, flowing through the San Luis Valley. Over the ages, westerly winds picked up sand particles from the river flood plain. As the wind lost power before crossing the Sangre de Cristo Range, the sand was deposited on the east edge of the valley. This process continues, and the dunes are slowly growing. The wind changes the shape of the dunes daily."

Zack and I arrived at the dunes around 8:50AM and proceeded to spend the next 4 hours exploring all aspects of the dunes.  I have been there numerous times before but I have never gone as far into the forbidding environment of the dunes as Zack and I did today.  We essentially hiked into the middle of the dune and could see the ends of the park to both the East and West.  It was fabulous to do this with my son.

I of course focused on taking pictures.  During the course of the day I took over 100 pictures which I have posted to my facebook account in a new album.  The following a representation of the pictures I took today.

Besides the joy of visiting the Sand Dunes today, I had to deal with a lot of trauma.  Zack decided he was going to read my personal journal today.  He took many of the words he read and decided that he needed to call Shelly.  Oh my god!  I have no idea what exactly he said, but from what he told me it is not good.  I now have to live with the possibility that my son has forever sabotaged my relationship with Shelly based upon private things I have written.  Great is all I can say!!  Regardless of that I need to ensure Zack that I love him and I am not angry based upon whatever he may have said in a voicemail message to Shelly.

It is a very tough situation as I love Shelly very much.  Even past flames of mine can see how much she means to me and all that I am willing to sacrifice for her.

Anyway - back to the trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park...  Zack and I had a fabulous time and we saw lots and lots.  It may not be as great as Yellowstone, but it certainly comes in a close second!

Thanks and peace to all ~J.

We hope everyone has a great weekend ahead!