Sunday, May 31, 2015

End of May

We don't know here whether summer hasn't started yet or if, perchance, it's over and we missed it.   I finally bought a few plants for my window boxes but before I got them home, another freeze warning had been posted so they are waiting inside by the patio door.    I am not complaining, or I am only sort of complaining, because I generally like it cool.   But a little sunshine would not hurt.
There's not much yet to buy at the Farmer's Market; a few people have asparagus and rhubarb, which is especially nice since my plants all died over the winter.    The only signs of Spring in my yard are the lilacs and the chives, both in full bloom.

Although we are all crazy busy, I see my grandchildren for at least a little bit most weekends.   They are, as all grandmothers everywhere must know, an endless delight.   I especially take pleasure in how close they remain and how they respect and rely on one another.   Yes, they bicker, they break each other's hearts, but they are also the best of friends.   I love to watch them walking arm in arm or listening carefully to the other's advice.
I ended the month by volunteering as a radio communicator at the Big Fish Triathlon a few counties away.   It took about an hour and a half to get there and rained throughout the drive and the event.   I ended up as a sort of assistant -- no need for me to ever use my radio, but I kept a tally of all the bicycles that passed our station so that I could count them on the way back to be sure everyone made it through the very rural route.    I spent some time outside in the rain, which I enjoy, but was mostly warm and toasty, with my hot mug of coffee, so it was a pretty glorious day.   For me, anyway.   The athletes went from their long swim to the bike stage, where I worked, before moving into the final run.   With temps in the high 40's, it was a wonder that only one of them had to be removed from the course with hypothermia.    And of course I was warmly dressed and with a friend, too, so for me it was a morning of laughs, a nice contrast from the sadder things that took up the part of my weekend when I worked at my hospice job.

And tomorrow we move into June.   It is amazing and a little frightening to realize that the year is half gone already.   I plan to hang on tight to every minute, and have fun, and I hope the same for you.  :)

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.

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!