Friday, May 22, 2015
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.