29 January 2012

Dogs, couches and such

Ever have one of those days/weeks where you cannot collect your thoughts?  I have had several great award winning ideas (in my mind) for blog themes, but they never seem to make it to print.  

This week, I've been all over the road.  From old cars to job interviews to wedding plans to car show to furniture shopping to the Super Bowl to dog parks, I've pondered them all. 
  • I have an old theme in the back of my mind I've been considering about my wheels.  Cars I've owned/driven/worked upon since I got my license.  I have something in the works, but I want to find some more pictures of my older wheels that I can share.  Something for the doldrums of February, perhaps.  
  • Job interviews - I've done a few over the last few months trying to hire a new buyer.  We found one that will start in three weeks and I am looking forward to training a new buyer into our system/way of life.    
  • Wedding plans - I mentioned that my son is tying the knot this year.  They are planning for an August wedding, but they don't have an exact date.  We are hoping to have something in stone by next month, but that not locked down, yet.  Whenever the date, it will make for an interesting summer. 
  • There was the car show in town this weekend.  Had plans to attend and ogle the new cars and demos, but we lost track of time and did not make the show.  It is always interesting to attend this show to see the latest offerings from various companies.  A new set of wheels is definitely in the works this year, but we are not yet sure of which brand/model.  Stephen's car is the oldest (18 years) but momma's will probably be replaced first.  The land barge (mine) is the work horse and we don't yet have it on the schedule to replace.  No matter what we pick, it will be an expensive proposition.  
  • And the Super Bowl is next Sunday.  Lots of hoopla this week in build up of the game.  For us? We are not all that interested in the game since our team is not participating, but the super bowl hype is already starting this week.  Not sure which will draw more attention. Super Bowl XLVI or the commercials that are shown in the break times.  I've already seen a lot of the commercials on line, so it will be interesting to see what changes they make.  
  • Took the two mutts to the dog park on Saturday.  We're now into that empty nest syndrome without kids to shepherd around town for various games/activities and we have our own agenda.  Somehow, with two very needy Goldens, we have inherited all of their energy and attention and we have a new set of "activities" to handle.  Since my two mutts are housebound for most of the week, I try to take them to the dog park at least once a week.  They have an absolute blast there.  Grayson spends his time running from one end to the other and laying in whatever mud puddle he finds as well as the pond.  If there are any doggie conflicts, he has to be a part of it.  Claire is still the official greeter, licking every person in the dog park.  Both had a blast at the park Saturday.  I always love the park - we see the same groups/peoples at different times.  There is a certain clique at dog parks, if you watch for it.  
  • Furniture shopping - my bride has us on a mission.  She wants a new couch for the living room.  We haven't had a formal couch in there since the last one was bequeathed to my son for college. Now she wants something to fill the empty space.  I am more of a minimalist and prefer the simpler design, but my opinion doesn't matter here.  Spent a good portion of my day in the furniture store looking at expensive possibilities.  Like RC, a new sofa is inevitable, it just depends upon what momma likes.  Now we just have to pick out something that wont's clash with Golden Retriever.  

23 January 2012

4 years later

Wow.  Who’d a thunk this would have lasted this long?  I guess if they keep putting up such stellar programming like Jersey Shore, Survivor, Big Brother, and DWTS year after year, this meager blog can share some of that longevity.  

Occasionally, I look back to see where I've been (or, if you're paranoid, to see if anyone is following you).  It is about this time of year that I mark a milestone of sorts.  Actually, it is two milestones.  The first being this meager excuse of a blog.  This is the place I go to ramble on about this and that, share stupid/funny stories, show endless pictures of my dogs, and complain about life in general.  I actually created this site back in spring of 2007 with a short coming outpost but I did not follow up with anything until almost a year later (found it hard to write something meaningful or intelligent).  I started posting in earnest in January after my surgery in 2008, so I tend to mark the beginnings of this site around that time.  4 years and thousands of words later, this thing has gotten legs, albeit wobbly ones.  I started out following dozens of other blog sites, each with a different theme/flavor.  Some have survived, some have closed up shop, some have disappeared into the winds.  I found a few favorites that I continue to follow religiously.  They serve as my muse/inspiration to continue to read and post new things.  I like to thank (or blame) Terri for starting this site.  I've followed her saga for years from kids to work to bowling to dogs, she's had an interesting journey that keeps drawing people back for more.  It was her stories and the way she spun them that inspired me to try my hand in this "blog stuff" although, I'll have to admit, I'm not as interesting or funny.  I have followed other sites (AbbyMeleahRC) as well for their stories and insights and I thank each of you for your inspiration to keep this up.  Four years is not a long time, but I look back and find I have accomplished a lot. I’ve been on a cruise, I have been I've see my son graduate from college, start work and get engaged, I've traveled the world, got to meet one of my blog friends (thanks, RC)I have lost a dog but gained two more.  I've survived 4 half marathons, I’ve dislocated a shoulder, I’m still driving the same old truck, bought an iPod, bought a new computer.  I’ve done a lot in the last four turns around the sun.  Looking back, I consider myself one lucky SOB for the opportunities I’ve had and glad to have been able to share/bore them with everyone.   

My second milestone is actually the impetus for some of the stuff I accomplished above.  I have made it a point to mark down on my calendar the anniversary of my surgery.  For those new to this game or with short term memory, 4 years ago yesterday I purged my system, donned some fashionable hospital scrubs, and went under the knife for Prostate cancer.  Was still a bit of a shock to me to be diagnosed with PC at only 50 years old.  I chose the surgery path and came out the other side “prostate free”.  If you are interested in some of the story, you can look back at my earlier postings.  I thought, in all my postings, I had described the saga in vivid detail, but was disappointed that I hadn't shared that with the rest of the world.  I actually started posting seriously while recovering from surgery and that’s where this little blog started out.  Blogging was something I didn't think I had in me, but I've managed to keep at it for a good while.  After the surgery, I changed my outlook on a few things.  After getting diagnosed in 2007, I decided to knock off one of my bucket list items - to run a marathon.  I couldn’t get in in 2008 (did not realize how far in advance you had to sign up) so I did the corresponding 5k that year.  But afterwards I signed up for the ½ Marathon (because I am only ½ crazy).  Been doing that shtick for 4 years now.  As I mentioned earlier on my marathon posts, I run as a reminder that I am still alive.  I am still pondering a full marathon at some point, but, for now, will stick with the ½ until my legs tell me different.  I started traveling more for the company and it has taken me places I haven't been to before.  I love to travel and have taken advantage of the trips I am assigned.  Oh, sure, I may grumble and gripe about plane travel and the TSA and hotel living, but, truthfully, I love it.        

I usually mark this time here by getting on my soapbox and reminding everyone to get checked out.  Prostate cancer is one the leading causes of death for men just Breast cancer is with women.  Last time I ran the numbers, over 280,000 men are diagnosed with Prostate cancer each year.  A simple, precautionary PSA test can save you a world of grief.  As I have been told and told others, this stuff is preventable, if you catch it early enough.  The interesting fact I uncovered in all my research on pc was that, at some point in their lives, most men will either get prostate cancer or have it.  It strikes late in life (post 50) and is usually not detected until later when something else goes wrong.  Because it hits late in life and is not spotted through normal exams, men will typically die of other causes before prostate cancer will take its toll.  The takeaway here is to get checked out.  It is easy, relatively painless, and simple (blood test).  Some guys avoid it because of the stigma/embarrassment of getting a package check.  Embarrassing?  Perhaps, but I am too old to GAS and besides, the risk is too big to bet farm upon.  So, if you are a guy skirting 50, if you know of a guy over 50, if your brother/dad/son are getting on in years, please insist that they get checked out.  Life’s too short to spent it wondering “what if”.  I am a walking testament to the fact it does not have to be a fatal diagnosis.  I got checked out, dealt with it and I am still here after 4 years enjoying good beer and fine scotch and life in general and I am not making plans to go anywhere just yet.  End of my soapbox speech. 

And I never imagined that I would have enough interesting stuff to say to fill up 4 years. 

22 January 2012


Bear with me.  One more post about running.  I really appreciate everyone's encouragement.  I finished up with a quasi decent pace time, despite my internal misgivings.  Abby (channeling her inner life coach) pointed out that I am probably my own worst critic when it comes to these things and I should accept the positive.   

Will I do a 5th one?  Probably.  But I still want to change a few things.  I want to run a better pace.  This ain't my first rodeo.  I know the course and I know how to prep.  I should be able to beat my older times.  I need to train more for longer distances.  I need to build my stamina.  Above all, I need to not drink as much water during the course of the run (negative side effects).  

I also really want to enjoy the run more.  I am so focused on beating my old times and doing well, that I tend to zone out on the sideline activities/events.  At times, I will plug into my iPod and ignore all else.  That's a shame, since there is a ton of stuff going on on the sidelines.  I appreciate the massive crowds that cheer the runners on.  My brother and his wife came out at 0800 to root me on around mile 5.  I was so absorbed into my pace/run, I barely acknowledged them.  I don't want to be that kind of runner.  I want to enjoy the run, have fun (and still beat my old times).  Some of my run pictures look like (to me) like I have gas.    

A few more pictures from the race/sidelines just to show it wasn't all pain & sweat... 

Many funny signs along the route

Not quite as stylish as Abby's tights

Uhh, not sure what to say

Saw lots of Golden Retrievers along the route.
This dog has been a regular supporter for the last 7 Marathons

No freakin way

Marathon TuTus?

Yes, these two were running the full Marathon like this

He may be weird, but he did pull down a good time

Extra motivation

19 January 2012

One mile at a time

Feeling all of 54.  I am not as sore as I have been in the past, but that may be experience or the Advil talking.  I made the run without any issues and was back home by noon.  After a long run like that one, I will strive to keep moving.  At my tender age, I tend to stiffen up if I sit for long periods afterwards.   

Sunday's run was pretty much the way I had expected it.  After 4 years, I don't need no stinkin' map to figure out the route.  The route was exactly the same as last year, so I am not going to bore everyone with the mile by mile commentary.  It was about the same as last year, sans the rain.  The weather was chilly, but not cold.  We started out at about 36 degrees, and I was sporting an old sweatshirt I had from Germany.  A lot of people toss their gear within the first mile or two, so I figured that I would wear this old sweatshirt and toss it at the outset.  The weather was't as cold as I had expected, so I tossed my jacket around the start,  I am pretty sure that my lack of training runs really wore me down this year.  My pace was good at the start, but I started to fade around mile 6.  I managed to push on though the 2nd half  stretch but I hit the wall at mile 10.  I was able to limp along running/walking the route and when I made the turn headed back to downtown around mile 11 at 2 hours I tried to kick it up a notch.  At 11 miles, that leaves me with a little over 2 miles and I could have bested my old pace if I could hold to the current pace, but I was pretty much played out.  I have cramped up on past runs, with one quad cramping. but today was different.  At 11, I was walking more than running.  Tried to kick it into an old "airborne shuffle" to keep moving but I ran out of gas.  At some point I realized that there was nothing left in the tank.  As hard as I tried to kick it up, it wasn't happening.  I did have enough left to run the final 1/2 mile across the finish line, but I was pretty much done.  I had hoped for a little better showing and I shouldn't be too unhappy with my time (2 minutes off of last year), but I could have done better, if only I had done more training.  As I had figured, I could make the distance, but what got me was the time.  I try to run several times every week but those are shorter runs.  Usually 3-4 miles during lunch with something longer on Fridays (if I have no afternoon meetings).  I need to do longer, 12+ miles runs to build stamina to keep up the pace through the full race.               

They had posted everyone's race results posted by early Sunday afternoon and pictures by Tuesday.

My brother actually decided to come down and root me on and we drove the route on Saturday.  It is an different route when you drive it in a car.  We cut through several areas of the downtown I would definitely not got into after dark.  It was nice to have a pit crew cheering me on around mile 6.  I usually do this run by my lonesome, so I get to see all the sideshows where people are cheering on their family members or loved ones.  I kinda like seeing all the side support when we run the route.  Of course, plugged into my iPod for the trek, I don't hear the bells, whistles, horns, music, yelling as much.  It is a bit uplifting to hear people shout out your name (it is printed clearly on the bib) in encouragement as you run past.  Spotted many funny signs/people along the trail.  The one that stuck with me was  being held up by a VERY pregnant woman that simply said:  "Ron  Hurry Up.  I think my water broke".   

They have already posted registration for next year's Marathon (01/13/2013) and I am considering going for #5 (unless I sober up).  

15 January 2012

Either you RUN the day or the day RUNS you

One more in the bag and I'm still alive and kicking.  Like I quoted last year:  That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.  

I survived my 4th round of the Half Marathon with no injuries aside of sore legs.  At 2:28, not a PR, but at least I came in below 2:30 which was my quasi goal this year.  Not bad considering the lack of training I've done this year and fighting the zombie flu since Christmas.  Not sure yet if I am going to sign up for 2013.  The mind says yes, the knees say hell no.  The run was excellent.  Started out clear and cold (~36 degrees) and warmed up to mid 50s by the end.  Very little wind.  29,000+ runners (I forgot to include the 5K runners in my last count) stepped off at 0700.  More later as I sober up.  

It's all about the shirt

14 January 2012

Begin with the End in Mind

To shamelessly borrow one of Steven Covey's Seven Habits, Begin with the End In Mind.  

By this time tomorrow, it will all be over except for the crying.  No matter what happens tomorrow, no matter how cold or warm it is, no matter how wet or dry it is, no matter what pace I run, no matter what shape I am in, no matter what hurts,  THIS is my objective: 

50 yards to go

The Health Expo was over the top crazy this year.  Lots of neat new toys/gear, lots of goodies to buy, stuff to see.  Got my swag bag (bib, timing chip, shirt, hat) plus some energy junk for the road.  Of course, the gear/clothes/accessories were really neat.  Was tempting but kept my spending in check this year.  A few of the shirts I spotted this year were:
My other motto 
Or Whiskey

So true 
Runner's joke 
Abby, anyone you know?

My new motto:  Run or Rust

For all you running moms out there

12 January 2012

Hoop La La

Description: http://www.chevronhoustonmarathon.com/navImages/40YearMarathonRightColumnLogo.gifOk, it looks like this week will be all about running. 

If you read the local news rag or listen to the local news, one might assume there is some sort of big event this weekend.  2012 will mark the 40th Anniversary for the Houston Marathon and it is tagged to be the largest single day sporting event in Houston.  I mentioned that there will be ~24,000 runners on Sunday.  What I did not mention that there will be close to 50,000 spectators, volunteers, coordinators on the street as well.  Last year they generated close to $51.1 million in total economic impact for the city (hotels, restaurants, businesses, etc.) and the Run for a Reason charity program netted $2.1 million for local nonprofit groups.

This is actually a weekend event with a build up to Sunday’s run.  The Health Expo runs Friday & Saturday generates a lot of business/crowds.  In conjunction with the Marathon on Sunday, this year they will also hold qualifying trials on Saturday for the Marathon for the 2012 Olympics in London.  There will be some serious runners who will participate in the trials on Saturday and then repeat the actual Marathon on Sunday.  This shindig is getting lots of PR in the local news.  Lots of stories are being posted every day detailing people’s reasons for running.  One group is doing it to raise funds for a family where the husband and wife were killed in an auto crash earlier this year and the surviving sons were severely injured.  Two years back, there was a blind Army Captain running the race (I saw him during the run).  Yesterday there was the story about a woman who is an “Ultra Marathoner” – one of those people who do triathlons every weekend.  She intends to run the Marathon backwards”.  Not literally backwards, but she intends to run the course from finish to start BEFORE the actual race start and then run the course with the normal runners.  I may be a bit slow in the math department, but I think that translates into 52 miles.  She is planning to start her backwards run at 0400 in order to make the start line before the starting gun at 0700.  There are hundreds of stories why people run this thing, each with their own motivation.  As I’ve said before, I do it as a sort of spiritual kick in the ass to remind me I’m still alive.  The Marathon committee does push the charity donations quite heavily through their “Run For a Reason” drive.  Well over 30 different charities are represented ranging from American Cancer Society to Elves andMoore to Houston SPCA to the Ronald McDonald House.  This year I have set my sights for the Epilepsy Foundation, even if I don’t make the finish line.  Rain, shine, run, walk,  or crawl, my money is already tagged for the Epilepsy Foundation. 

And for those who have expressed concern over my survival, thanks for the encouragement, but let me assure you I will survive the trek.  Come Sunday morning, I may be grumpy and my knees may not speak to me come Monday, but I can make a half marathon (13.1 miles).  I know that some people out there are probably scoffing about this run (or rolling their eyes loudly).  I imagine for certain runners (especially those living in the mountain states), 13 miles is just a freakin’ warm up run.       

10 January 2012

Hoop La

4 days and counting.

I think I have finally turned the corner on my flu and I have actually started back up running again. I don’t have much stamina, but I still intend to make the Half Marathon on Sunday (or die trying).  I was freaked a bit Sunday night because I couldn’t find my race packet (usually get mailed out around December), but was able to check out my status on line. The Marathon is going “greener” this year and are not mailing out packets, instead relying upon e-mail notification to the runners. Friday & Saturday is the Health Expo where we pick up our race packets, bib numbers, and shirts. It is one of those free health fairs that has a ton of freebies and handouts plus a lot of local running stores/businesses are set up there selling their wares. A great place to buy a new set of running clothes or even a sweet pair of running shoes for ½ price. I usually wind up getting more shorts and energy bars/gels/shots for the race. A lot of people load up on those energy shots during the run to maintain energy. Two years back, a friend/co-worker who was doing the full marathon gave me some of her energy gels and those helped me out on the back end of the run. I don’t really like the Cliff Bars (too dry) and the shots are like jello cubes. I prefer the energy packets that are about 2 ounces of some pudding flavored energy concoction. .

I always find the hoopla surrounding the whole Marathon weekend legendary. Rain or shine, we will step off at 0700 Sunday morning with close to 24,000 runners (13,000 full, 11,000 half). Something about 24,000 bodies being crammed onto two downtown streets at 0600 in the morning awaiting the starting gun just gets the adrenalin going. I keep making plans to get better trained each year, but life always seems to throw me a curve each year and I find myself woefully unprepared. Last year I was able to finish up in a 2:26, but this year I am just hoping to just break 2:30. The running doesn't necessarily wear me down, it is the time.  2.5 hours of pounding the pavement gives me a lot of internal time to ponder things. I have my iPod charged & loaded up, I’ve downloaded a few new “running tunes”, and I have sorted the songs into a running category. I like to kick on the shuffle mode so I don’t know what is coming up next, but nothing will break my stride like switching from Pink to John Tesh. Even though Sunday the streets will be packed, I prefer to run by myself - I use the time to organize my thoughts, plan my day, get into arguments with myself. I find the debate takes my mind off any aches and pains I might have.

It is about this time I start watching the weather to see what it will be like on Sunday and what I need to wear. Of course, the weather is being fickle again. The weekend was beautiful, definitely not winter like. Very mild and temps in the mid-70s. Yesterday a major storm front blew through and dumping a ton of rain/hail on us. Not a pretty day for commuters, but we need the rain. A second front has settled in and the temps are down in the mid 40sand is supposed to drop the temps into the high 30s, low 40s by the weekend. I’ve run the half before when temps were in the 70s and it wasn’t pretty. A lot of people getting overheated and a lot more cramping. I would prefer to start out cold and stay in the 40s. I do layers, but I find that if I wear some cold weather gear at the start, I am usually peeling it off by the 2nd mile. Last year it was in the mid-40s and drizzling rain. Very nasty. They even threatened to close the course if there was any lightening. The lightening never showed, but it rained off and on for the entire course and we were soaked before we made the halfway point. I think that is where I got my cold last year.  This year looks to be cold and dry.    

09 January 2012

Hair today, gone tomorrow

I think I may be turning the corner on this zombie flu thing.  Was definitely feeling a bit better this weekend and able to get some things done.  

A few weeks back, some people posted a meme about hair.  Long, short, how they used to wear it, what they are into now.  I like RC’s style, even if it does trend towards the wild professor look (or, perhaps, Tom Baker)?  I figured that I should add my two cents to the debate.

First of all, if you have seen any recent pictures of my mug, one might infer that I am “follically challenged”.  My current hair style is a conscious choice I’ve grown into over the years. 

I haven’t always been this way.  When I was a kid, I had long, flowing hair.  Not sure what style I would label it, but it was more wavy than curly.  My most distinctive feature was a cow-lick.  You know, that one spot of hair that won’t be controlled by any conventional means of hair products.  It kinda stood out at times (think There’s Something About Mary).  When I was a cute youngster, it was cute with all my relatives and I got lots of attention.  All my aunts loved to touch it.  At some point, it got old.  I tried to have my hair styled in high school, but it was too much hassle/maintenance for me.  In high school, my inner child rebelled and I let it go long (plus my parents got tired of nagging me to get it cut).  If you could picture it, I was kind of a stoner in high school with shoulder length who rode a motorcycle.  The problem was that my hair tends to be oily and a PITA to maintain.  I wandered aimlessly through high school with no real direction aside of graduating.  When I finally picked my college, I actually fell in love with the Corps of Cadets (the ROTC unit) at A&M.  With all the spirit and traditions and camaraderie, it somehow filled a niche I didn’t know I was looking for.  It fit what I needed at that point in my life (that’s another blog post).  Of course, being a paramilitary unit, long hair is not generally accepted so, right after I enrolled in the fall of 75, I got my first burr cut.  Old style barbers on the north side of campus that have been cutting hair since WWII.  Was weird at first, but I found that I kinda liked it.  I kept it short during college and let it grow out a bit in the Army while in Germany, but at some point, the family genes started to catch up with me.  Seems like, as life worn on, my hairline kept retreating south (or my eyebrows kept getting lower).  Add that to one of those nifty “spots” on top, I figured was fighting a losing cause.  Mot sure when I started getting a shorter cut in my recent days, but with the scouts, I found it easier to sport a shorter do when we did any camps or traveling.  One less thing to mess with.  It became a regular habit that I started to get my hair cut short before any of my road trips. 

In my younger days as a aspiring drummer
You think with a haircut like mine, it would be easy to find someone to cut it.  When Stephen was younger, we had a barber in a house right next door to our church.  A local barber called Ray who had been cutting hair since the 60s.  Ray had actually converted his garage into a two chair shop complete with barber pole.  We used him for years until he retired and sold off his house and moved.  We wandered for a while trying out the local chains, but didn’t find anything that we fell in love with.  That is until I stumbled across a local chain called Sports Clips.  I discovered this great stylist that I fell found a in love with.   She was a short Vietnamese fiery woman that was barely reached 5 feet.  Nihiti was a marathon runner (full marathon, I might add) and was probably all of 90 lbs.  She was funny and a great stylist, but I am not sure my hair cuts were a challenge to her.  She has been cutting my hair for almost 15 years and I don’t even need to tell her what I want done.  She's even been cutting Stephen’s hair for years and, even though he lives in Austin, he makes it a point to get his hair cut there when he is home.  I am a person of habit.  When I find something I like and tend to stick with it.  I wear my shoes out, I drive my cars until the wheels fall off, I will wear clothes that probably should be retired a while ago.  So when I went to Sport Clips prior to my trip to Belgium, imagine my shock when they told me that  Nihiti  was no longer working there.  I got no story of where she went or why she left, so I figured she either pissed off the wrong person, cut off someone’s ear or got fed up cutting hair.  I figure it was not the latter and if I could find out where she went to, I would definitely follow her.  

High school Chic (or geek?)
For now, I am in mourning.  I went to my local Sport Clips chain Friday to get my hair cut by Jennifer, but it just wasn't the same.  Bummer. 

06 January 2012

Don't call me, I'll call you

Terri struck a nerve earlier with her post about late night phone calls.  I have a particular pet peeve/phobia/paranoia over late night phone calls.  Oh, sure, getting waked up out of a sound sleep is jarring enough, but it goes way deeper than that.  I am the light sleeper in the house and it usually doesn’t take a lot to get me to a wide awake status (like a dog hocking up a hairball in the bedroom).  For the record, I have never liked getting a phone call in the middle of the night.  It never was good news.   

It all starts back when I was a Lieutenant in an Armor Battalion stationed in Germany.  Yea, it might have been all fun and games playing soldier over in Germany eating C-rations, getting to tear up the countryside in big, massive all-terrain vehicles (called tanks) and blowing stuff up, but we had a mission.  Boil all training and drills and target practice down, our basic mission was to fill the gap if the balloon ever went up.  We were stationed in Germany at the tail end of the cold war where our primary mission of the US military was to defend the eastern boarder against Russian and East Germany.  There were numerous units assigned to man the borders against any possible incursion.  Several units were on constant patrol on the border between East and West Germany and their task was to defend against any possible attacks.  We were stationed further west in Stuttgart about 4-6 hours from the border.  The drill was, if the balloon went up and the East Germans/Russians invaded Germany, we were to be the second line of defense.  The border units were the first into the fray and our job was to load up our gear and tanks and head east to the border and get further orders on the road.  Given the tactics of the day, our job to was to plug any gaps in the defensive line.  What does all that really mean?  Our job was to stand by in case the next major war started.  Not to sugar coat it, but we pretty much figured that, if a conflict ever started, our life expectancy was pretty short.  The proverbial elephant in the room topic that no one liked to dwell upon. 

To insure operational readiness, they loved to practice getting ready at any time day or night.  We had a phone tree established and everyone had at least 2-3 people to call, so if you got the call, you were to notify the next persons in the chain.  When the alert was given, the Battalion commander was called first, then his S1 and next the Scout Platoon (first responders).  Since the Scout Platoon leader lived upstairs from me and I was the next one in the chain to call, I sort of had a heads up on when he got his call.  Of course, it wouldn’t be real practice unless they did it in the dead of night.  Usually, they called around 2-3 in the morning and when the call came in, you never knew if it was the real thing, so the pucker factor was pretty high.  I kept a duffel bag packed downstairs in our storage room that was my “war bag”.  It had basic toiletries, a change of uniform, extra underwear, cold weather gear, a box of cigars, and a pint of scotch.  I thank God I never got to use that bag, but it was always ready to go.  It became a bit of paranoia with me if the phone ever went off in the middle of the night.  To this day, 25+ years later, my heart skips a beat whenever I hear the distinctive ring/klaxon of a German phone.  And if I get a phone call in the middle of the night, you’ll have to peal me off the ceiling. 

As I came back stateside and got out of the Army, I was able to unwind some of that stress, but I still panic whenever the phone rings at night.  Woe be to the poor soul who make a wrong number call to my house at 0300.  I thought I was over it for the most part, but with the addition of a son to the tribe, it took on a whole new meaning.  I haven’t fielded a lot of those calls, but there has been one or two (mostly for car problems).  The latest one was last week.  Momma has been taking care of her parents and sometimes she doesn’t get home until pretty late.  Being a COF (certified old fart) who gets up early, I pretty much hit the sack by 2200.  Around half past midnight, the phone went off and it had one of the distinctive rings I set up for my various family members.  Suffice it to say, it scared the crap out of me.  Turns out her car wouldn't start so I had to get dressed, fire up the land barge and go pick her up.  I didn't mind going out to get her, was just pissed off that her car decided that midnight was a good time to break down.  

02 January 2012

I'm alive (sort of)

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope everyone was able to user in the year safely and without any major incidents (that we won't read about on Smoking Gun). 

I was by my lonesome New Years' Eve.  The wife spent the night at her parents (taking care of them while her sister works) and my son ushered in the new year with his girlfriend/fiance.  Since I was still recovering from my flu, I wasn't in the mood to party so it was just me and the dogs watching several old movies (or a Walking Dead marathon).  The dogs were a wee bit skittish from all the fireworks last night, so I sat up with them to keep them from going berserk.  Actually, Claire was the calm one.  As usual, whenever there is a thunderstorm or heavy rain, she just hunkers down in the corner of the closet or under the bed until it passes.  I've even found her curled up in a laundry basket in the closet (interesting trick for a dog who is pushing 90+ lbs).  Grayson, on the other hand, is my pacer dog. He wanders back and forth, trying to curl up in your lap one minute and then pacing the floor the next.  He has even wound up curled up in the shower when things get loud.

We passed the New Year relatively quietly.  For a town with a ban on fireworks, there sure was a lot of fireworks going off in and around the neighborhood.  Just past midnight, somebody set off what sounded like an entire roll/string (1000) of Black Cats just down the block that made extra unhappy.  I kinda miss that action - past years we would go camping with my brother and parents out in the country where fireworks are legal, heck they encourage it.  We stay an RV park in the country where the ranch/park owner has a stock pond and lights off fireworks at midnight over the pond.  My brother and I have been the back up show since we go out and acquire some more stuff to add to the show.  We let the kids light off some of the smaller works and save the massive armaments for just us.  Of course, we take plenty of precautions, even though my brother still brings up the the time I shot him with a bottle rocket over Y2K.  Nothing celebrates the New Year better like blowing stuff up.     

Yesterday turned out to be a beautiful day - clear and in the high 60s.  I think I have finally turned the corner on my illness and took advantage of mild weather to pull down the Xmas decorations.  The lights come down a lot quicker than they go up, but most of my time was spent undoing the light strings and packing them away for next year.  Being an Engineer, I test each string and label what side of the house it was on so that I can put them up quickly next year.  I test the bulbs and toss the bad ones, check the light strings and toss the ones that are too far gone, pack up the wreaths, and fold up the soldiers and pack everything away in the attic.  After being sick for so long and wasting last week entirely , I tried to make up for it yesterday - was feeling too good to slow down.  Got the Xmas tree bundled up and in the attic for another year.  Today I hope to tackle the leaves in the yard, if I have the energy.  I've had off way too long.  I feel like a sloth from eating too much, sleeping late, and being sick most of the week.  I did not get anything accomplished I had intended to do and head back to work tomorrow.  It will certainly be hard to get up early and face the rat race again.   Maybe I can find a few left over Christmas cookies to tide me over.