Friday, May 22, 2015

Hamvention

Last weekend a friend and I drove 5 hours south and went to the Dayton, Ohio Hamvention, a gathering of all things involving Ham Radio.   Most of the amateur radio operators I know have been there several times since it was first held in 1952, but I am a fairly new Ham and so this was my first time.  I borrowed my son's Jawbone activity tracker so that I could log the 14,000 steps we did each day.    I took only a couple of photos, but I brought back a million memories.
I had so much fun!   It was a low tech/high tech trip, beginning with the picnic we ate in the parking lot of an abandoned Sears store where shuttles took us back and forth to the decrepit Hara Arena.    There were  many flowering trees in the area -- perhaps some kind of locust from what I've seen on line -- so despite the run down appearance, the smell was heavenly.
Inside and outside the arena, every kind of old and new electronic, radio or digital item was on display or for sale.     Literally thousands of displays.   Sort of a combination garage sale and expo, with many thousands of happy Hams, overwhelmingly male.     I bought hats embroidered with my call sign, sent radiograms to my family, drooled over the beautiful begali (morse code) keys, grabbed free pencils and buttons, and stocked up on anderson connectors and another mobile antenna for my HT radio.    It's a little hard to explain to a non-radio person, and certainly there are many in my circle of family and friends who thought I was crazy, but it was the best time ever.

We met Hams from India, Norway, and Scotland, as well as too many of the United States to count.   We met Antenna Hair Girl and saw several people with creative outfits and antennas, and several children younger than ten who had earned their licenses.    
One of my favorite things was my certification in QLF, a tongue in cheek award where I had to send a Morse Code message with my  left foot.    I, who still have terrible stage fright doing Morse Code on the air, had NO trouble showing off my skills with my left foot!   I am still laughing, and everyone there was laughing right along with me.    I can now say that I am fully certified, and they gave me a CW Op button to prove it!   
 This is one award that will go on my wall for all to see.  Not that anyone will have any idea what it means, lol.
Ham Radio is not something that I ever expected to do.   I would not have predicted that I, who had never touched a wire or a soldering gun before, would, at 65, own 3 radios, a Morse Code key, and be operating in voice, CW and digital modes.   I would never have guessed that I would have two soldering irons  a budding understanding of resisters and capacitors, and a growing list of projects I want to build.   

How on earth did this happen?  I got here through a challenge I took on with one of my grief groups, when I told them that they should try new things and that simply doing that would open new doors and relationships.   They argued back that it was not that easy, so I told them that I would take on the next new idea that came up in conversation outside the group.    Soon after, someone joked that I should learn Morse Code, so I did.   Since there is no other way to use that new skill, I took the exams for my amateur radio license, and earned my Extra class credentials.   All of which lead to last weekend's trip to Dayton, where I had SO much fun.

Has it changed my life?   I guess it has, more than I would have expected.   And amateur radio was not the only new thing I've tried that I did not expect to enjoy, I also started fly fishing and kayaking and target shooting on the same theory, and I am still doing those, too.    I've met dozens of new people,  gained a couple of new close friends, and joined a Search and Rescue group and emergency communications groups as a result.     All as a result of trying things I knew nothing about and had no interest in.

As I tell my groups (and as I constantly preach to myself), trying something new is a win-win.   Either you will like it, or you will be able to cross it off your list of things to try.   Some of the things I tried in the past year or so were interesting and fun, but did not hold my attention long enough to blossom.   I did not go back to beekeeping, at least I haven't yet, or cheesemaking, and I only did lampworking once.    But I'm glad that I did all of those things.  

I am grateful to my grief groups for forcing me to walk my talk.  Now I am a huge believer that the only thing that stops us is the inner voice that says "I can't do that" and "I won't like that."    It is no easier now than it used to be for me to ignore that nagging negative voice in my head, but now I know for sure that it is worth doing.

Friday, May 8, 2015

May I?


The May flowers have finally arrived!   I love Michigan this time of year!   There is no prettier place to be.  :)

After months of complaining about the cold and snow and ice, the last couple of weeks here in Mid Michigan have been absolutely beautiful!  There are spring flowers everywhere I go, and the sun has been shining.    I am loving it, although I know the time is quickly approaching when I will begin to complain about the heat!  :)   I am, after all, an all-weather complainer.
Our May drill for Search and Rescue involved a night search in a local forest.   I was 'stuck' in the Planner's Chair while the rest of the kids got to tromp out in the woods and look for clues.   Teams reported their find and the UTM locations by radio and I marked them on the map.   Later I uploaded the GPS tracks onto the map to show the area that had been covered by the search.   It was not very well attended but was a lot of fun.
We held our first Death Cafe at the hospice where I work this week and it was a disappointment to me.   Interestingly, it was NOT a disappointment to the three people who showed up.   One of them told me that he surprised himself by opening up about things he had never discussed before, and all three shared moments of tears and laughter.   And so for me the "take-away" was a lesson about my own expectations and how I too often lose the benefit of the moment by comparing it to the moment I had imagined.    Something I will think about a lot, I suspect, as I consider how much of that approach I apply to other situations in my life.

There is lots of stuff to do lately, if only I weren't so lazy.   Tomorrow is a marathon to raise money for MS research in Frankenmuth, and they are looking for amateur radio operators to volunteer to help with communication.   My plan, if I get up early enough, is to drive down there to help.  Tomorrow evening there is a local concert at a tiny venue nearby, Girls With Guitars, and maybe I will go.   This evening I also heard about a community play in a nearby city, but they are talking about thunder showers and by evening my chronic laziness almost always kicks in, so I will likely hang around the house instead.    With any luck, I'll at least complete a few of the endless household tasks.

This weekend is Mother's Day, and I expect it will be a quiet day for me.   My own mother is dead, my daughter is in New Orleans with a bagful of troubles of her own, and my son and his wife are extremely busy with young children, rare time off, a new house of many needs, and two other mothers besides me to attend to on this day.   My sister and best friend are both out of town.   So I am sure I will see or speak with my kids, as I hope to do every weekend, but I will have some time to appreciate the many blessings of my own life and my own strengths, too.    I have a long Task List that I  hope to check off that day, and I have adventures to look forward to later in the week.

I am planning a pedicure and a manicure (a very rare treat) on Tuesday.    I hope I won't wreck my nails on my way home, as I often do, which is why I treat myself so rarely.   And next Friday I am going to my first Dayton Hamvention, a journey that is seen by ham radio enthusiasts as a necessary pilgrimage at some point in their amateur radio career.  There will be nearly 2000 booths to visit in the two and a half days so I'll be taking my walking shoes and every penny I can find under the couch cushions!   Lots of fun to be had -- embrace every moment!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thursday is My Friday

I work four days a week so I love Thursdays!   My sister also works Monday through Thursday so we email each other each Thursday morning with a TGIF greeting.     Although my 'off' days are every bit as numerous as my 'work' days, they seem to fly by so much more quickly!

My 'weekends,' which for me means Thursday afternoon through Sunday night, are usually pretty much planned by the end of the work week and anticipation always runs high.    I spent last weekend with my sister, and she and one of my brothers and I went to see my great niece in the stage play, "Mary Poppins."   The play was held in the little town where we grew up, so that made it especially fun.    We ate at a little restaurant next to the river, and stopped at a candy store before the show.
Our little 8 year old played Jane, the daughter.   It was her first time on stage, she acted in 11 performances, sang her heart out and never missed a line or a cue.   Very impressive and so much fun to watch.   We were all really proud of her, and no one more than my sister, her Grandma.    And it was so much fun afterwards to see the little girls in the audience come up to meet her and have their picture taken with her.   She handled it all with more grace and humility than some of the adults around her.
This weekend I have an amateur radio meeting, a day with the Grands, a birthday party and a day that I hope will eventually be filled with something fun with a friend.   In the nooks and crannies of the weekend, I'll do laundry and housework and errands and grocery shopping, but Fun is the priority so I'll let the other things slip if I have to.
 We had a beautiful few days of Spring here in Mid-Michigan in the past week or so, but yesterday it snowed all day.  
 My poor bunnies were grazing in the back yard with snow building up on their ears and backs.   It would have been funny if it didn't seem to sad.    I like winter as well as anyone, but I am ready for some sunshine.  :)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

You Have To Be Kidding Me

I thought it was Spring.   At least I really, really hoped it was Spring.   We had a couple of days in the mid 60s.    But the temp dropped back down to 17 the other day and this morning I awakened to over an inch of snow.  

Not much else is new here.   All the usual happy things, grandchildren and friends and that hopeful feeling you get when the birds start to chirp again and the bunnies come out to graze.   Life is good.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Turning the Corner

It seems like Spring is finally on the way.  We are having a heat wave here, with temperatures in the 30's, whoo hoo!   There is still lots of snow on the ground, but patches of grass are starting to appear near sidewalks and roadways, and the deer are out in numbers, grazing as if their lives depended on it.   I am cutting back on bunny feed, encouraging my herd of rabbits to remember their wild roots, but they still show up on my back porch each evening just to reminisce.  There are no flowers blooming here yet, and no green to be seen, but daffodils have appeared in the grocery stores, and I bring them home every time I go.
At the search and rescue group, I am learning - and teaching - knot tying.

Spring fever  has set in, and with it a strong urge to have my house clean and clutter free.  Sadly, the energy and ambition it would take to accomplish that has not yet taken hold.    My son and his wife just bought a house and it exhausts me just to observe them cleaning and packing and sorting.   It should be a wake up call to me to do the same but so far my slacker nature has prevailed.   Maybe tomorrow. 

Work goes on.   I am burned out and no excuse for it.  The strongest lesson I have learned from my hospice patients is that I should not be in a job, at a place, where I am not happy.  Life is much too short.

Meanwhile, I am spending part of my much-too-short life today at the car dealership, spending several hours and a thousand dollars on routine car maintenance, and planning to buy tires later in the week.   Life may be short, but some months money seems to be even shorter, lol.    

Enjoy that sunshine, wherever you find it!  :)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Not Losing My Marbles

When you target shoot, as I do, for Marbles, and when you are hopelessly outmatched by your competition, it is a wonderful day indeed when you finally win. 

And today was such a day.    I beat my worthy opponent by a mere 6 points (he had offered to spot me 10 points, but I didn't need his stinkin' patronage and earned myself a natural win, a point I've had to mention many times already!)    Victory is sweet, and my martini trophy glass is not quite so empty anymore! 

It still feels very much like winter here, we still have lots of snow and ice.  But a friend's chicken's are obviously feeling optimistic lately and I am hoping that they know something I don't know.   When the hens start laying again, spring can't be far behind!   Let's hope!  :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bitter Cold

It has been bitterly cold.  Sunday night my car thermometer registered at 13 below - that's a real number, not a wind chill number - although by the time I arrived home an hour later, the temperature had risen to a balmy minus ten.   A nearby community was 24 below, so I felt lucky to live in the tropics.  But the wind chill by my house was 35 below.    Brrrrrr.    Today it was 10 degrees ABOVE zero when I went out, and it felt like a heat wave. 

Strangest of all, a friend and I were driving the other day when, (literally) out of the blue, a bird dropped dead right out of the sky, falling right in front of our car.  I've never seen such a thing.     I know there are parts of the world that are colder, and I hope they have way better socks and gloves than I do.   For mid-Michigan, this is cold weather.

Today is Mardi Gras, so yesterday the Littles and I decorated the King Cake that I ordered, as I do every year, from New Orleans, with the traditional green, gold and purple sugar.   An hour later we were all in sugar shock.   Love it.  :)    And since I live in Michigan, where paczkis are the order of the day on Fat Tuesday, I managed to eat one (or two) of those at my early morning meeting at work.   It's good to know that I am all ready to celebrate Fat Tuesday today -- I've got the fat already packed on, lol.   Hey, it's a matter of self defense when the weather is this cold!  I need that insulation to keep me warm.  :)    I hope you are all feeling as fat and happy this Mardi Gras as I am!