Monday, November 29, 2010

M-Cubed for 11/29/2010

Monday Morning Musings for November Twenty-Ninth, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- 5 days  If I were not to go to work today (Monday) then tomorrow (Tuesday) would be one week without work.  Sounds nice but I think I'd better show up today.  All great things must eventually come to and end!  Or at least a pause.

- Those days weren't wasted either.  A little highlight was 3 of those days were spent on the trails of West Branch State Park.  Wednesday, I met up for a Turkey Eve Sunset trail run with Shubi, Gombu, Slim, and Baby Harris...the NEO Trail crew.  We ran the most rocky section of trail in all of northeast Ohio and then enjoyed some pizza afterwards in the parking lot.  Friday brought another 8 miles, waterside, with my brother Jim and yesterday at 6:30am, just before sunrise, Jim, JP Preston, and I hit up the no-hunting area and cranked out another 8+ miles under clear skies and 23F.  We were blessed to witness the sunrise over the smooth-as-ice reservoir.  I did take a hard fall and shed some blood, but I WAS extremely graceful in the fall.  Nothing that won't heal!  The only other running was Thanksgiving's HomeRun for the Homeless in Akron that I run each year.  My task was simple, get my friend, Gina, to the finish line.  Gina has lost something like 60+ pounds and this was a big day for her.  I had a blast!  It was cold and rainy but we still had fun and I got a lot of pictures.  So for me, 28+ miles since Wednesday and I feel great!

West Branch State Park Sunrise - 11/28/2010
- The dog search kicked into gear again on Friday.  I noticed that Rose's Rescue, a local rescue non-profit in Ravenna, was having a Meet-n-Greet at the local Tractor Supply Company and since we were all on our way out for some non-Black Friday running around, we made that our first stop.  After lots of shopping around amongst their 48 dogs online and meeting some that day, we visited 2 who would match us pretty well on Sunday afternoon.  The first one lives in North Canton and is a 2-3 year old Plott Hound named Scout.  He was very malnourished and rescued from the Stark County pound.  He's about 30lbs but needs to gain 5-10 more.  Plott Hounds are used to chase down bears until they can't run anymore...not to kill them but to wear them out.  Hmmm...a dog with running endurance...sound like a match?!?!  We LOVED him.  We then met another dog, about 15lbs heavier and 100% muscle.  She is a husky/shepherd mix with those gorgeous blue eyes.  She was nice, too, but oh my...the energy level was over the top and we left that home, feeling the anxiety of having her at home and we hadn't even chosen her yet.  Clearly, Scout was the choice.  We went home and talked...and talked...and talked some more...and ultimately decided to sleep on it.  We'll decide today and could very easily go pick him up this evening.  We shall see.  This is Scout below.

Scout and Marjie - for the first time
- 2010 vs. 2009: I'm already looking forward to comparing these 2 years in about a month on my blog.  So incredibly different in nearly every aspect of my life.  2009 brought 3 100-mile finishes and a multitude of other ultra-marathon finishes.  2010 has been a year where I decompressed a bit, stayed home much more, ran a couple of races, volunteered like never before, and stopped and "smelled the roses" for awhile.  That's just the running aspect of my life.  The military, the local election, my civilian career...that was all very different, too.  Today, though, I like where I'm at (in nearly all cases) and what the future potentially holds.  2011 will be a life-changing year...that I am very confident of.

- Cyber Monday = today.  Supposedly, the highest buying day online vs. Black Friday a few days ago...the highest brick-n-mortar buying day of the year.  I think I may order some espresso...I'm running low.  That'll be the highlight of my Cyber Monday.  :-)  Our Christmas shopping is done! (and 100% paid for, I might add)

- Tangled in 3D: an animated movie, just released over Thanksgiving from Disney, that I took Marjie and the girls to see on Friday while the crazies were raiding the stores.  Wow!  It was very, very good.  I can confidently say that I enjoyed it as much (but differently, I hope) as my girls did.  It really is a fantastic movie and at 1hr, 50min, went by quick with no dull moments at all.  I can't recommend it enough!  8 thumbs up!  View the trailer here.

- Did you hear that Leslie Nielsen died?  You know...the star of the Airplane! movies and the Naked Gun series?  He died yesterday at the age of 84 due to complications of pneumonia.  This scene from Airplane! is still my favorite of all time.

- Unless you are living under a rock, you know that North Korea attacked a South Korea island off its shores last week killing some civilians and South Korean marines.  As a partner and supporter of South Korea, we deployed the USS George Washington, CVN-73, a nuclear aircraft carrier, to the area and have since been conducting exercises off the coast, which is infuriating to North Korea.  I suppose it is our way of flexing our muscle without actually doing anything.  The GW (George Washington) was the last ship I was on in the Navy and my favorite, by a long-shot.  I first arrived to the GW while she sailed south of Iraq in the last 90s during Operation Southern Watch.  I really miss her!  The GW is now stationed permanently in Japan so deploying her to Korea was easy for us to do.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble, Gobble

Ahhh...Thanksgiving morning.  I slept in today (ie: got up at 5:30am) and when I awoke, the house was filled with the smell of TURKEY!!!  In the oven since midnight, Marjie has been working hard at the feast that my parents, brothers and their families, and grandma will partake in later today.  Normally, I would have cut up the bread a few days ago in preps for the homemade stuffing (which is currently centrally located within the bird itself) but my girls finally stood up and took that job from me, thus passing down tradition that has been mine since I was a kid in elementary school much like themselves.  That's always been my job.  Cut the slice into strips then pick up each strip individually and cut 1/2" to 3/4" pieces.  Toss gently over the last few days before Thanksgiving and there you have it, the central ingredient ready for homemade stuffing.

I won't bore you with my long list of things I'm thankful for today.  If you stop by here often, you probably have a pretty good idea, already.  Instead, I'll tell you what is forefront in my mind this morning.  I can't stop thinking about my fellow brothers and sisters in arms halfway around the world.  In Iraq where it is 7hrs ahead, they are well into Thanksgiving Day and in Afghanistan, 8 1/2 hours ahead of us, it's mid-afternoon already.  I do know that my parent command in the Navy shipped thousands and thousands of turkeys to the area so that our servicemen and women could have as much a traditional dinner as possible.  Still, they are in harms way and sustaining the freedom that we enjoy, especially on days like today.  I am also thankful today of Marjie and my girls.  They are truly a blessing to me, each in their own way and uniqueness.  I treasure them more than anything.  I am also thankful for some close and true friends that I shared 2 hours on the trails with last night.  We were on the West Branch Mountain Bike Trails at sunset and had a simply fantastic time and some nice social time afterwards.  Pictures of the run here.

To you all, Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are and whomever you are with.  And please, do your part to reduce the turkey overpopulation!  Turkey coma here I come!  But first, my annual tradition of the Homerun for the Homeless 4 mile run in Akron.  Normally sunny but this year, it is 37F and pouring rain.  Woot!

Gobble, gobble...

Monday, November 22, 2010

M-Cubed for 11/22/2010

Monday Morning Musings for November Twenty-Second, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Gobble, gobble. Bread is cut for homemade stuffing, pies are getting baked tonight, the bird is about to be thawed.  Almost time for Turkey Day!  This year, we are hosting Thanksgiving Dinner for my parents, Marjie's parents, my brothers' families, and my grandma.  My job?  Stay the heck out of the way and do as requested!  Marjie's a pro at these things and hits a homerun each time.  I'm simply her cheer squad and support staff.

- Speaking of Marjie, today marks Day 1 of Year 19 for us.  We celebrated 18 years of marriage yesterday which yes, means we got married very young!  1 year out of high school, we tied the knot about 2.5 miles from where we live today.  Young, know-nothing, and a newby sailor and nursing student, we headed into the unknown in 1992 and it's been great!  We also thought how if we had decided to have kids immediately, we'd have a senior in high school right now.  Gulp!  Glad we waited 9 years for the first one!

- One other little tidbit about Marjie.  She also has a blog and has been posting little snippets each day about thankfulness in celebration of Thanksgiving.  For today's post, she is GIVING AWAY one $10 iTunes card.  No joke!  I know many of you could use this so head on over and post on her blog and she'll draw the name on Thanksgiving Day.  Good luck!

- Another weekend with the Navy is in the books.  For this past weekend, I went somewhere totally new, to Battle Creek, Michigan, the home of Kellogg's.  I swear that every building, convention center, credit union and sign had some mention of them on it.  Everywhere!  In Battle Creek is the headquarters of DLA Disposition Services, one of the branches of the main DLA out of Fort Belvoir, VA.  (DLA = Defense Logistics Agency = the command I am a part of in the Navy = global supplier/supporter of the warfighter)  We had a leadership "huddle" which ended up being a very productive weekend and quite eye-opening.  It was great to see fellow Supply Officers from other DLA units from around the country and work together over the weekend.

- Thanks to "Slim" for the great trail run on Friday at West Branch.  We had the mountain bike trails all to ourselves and knocked out 75min on them just after sunrise.  Clear blue skies, perfectly calm water that we ran along the whole time, and air that just smelled perfect.  No better way to kick off my weekend before hitting the road for Michigan.  Slim and the NEO Trail gang headed to PA for Slim Pickins for the weekend which from what I see on NEO Trail's blog (see my blog roll to the right), it was a GREAT time.  Sorry I missed it!

- For any of you not on Facebook and have become a fan of the WaterFalls Run that I've organized since 2007 on the last weekend of the year, it will take place on Sunday, December 26th this year.  Starting at 8am from Lock 29 in Peninsula, it will visit all 3 main waterfalls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and be about 17 miles.  Afterwards, the Western Reserve Trail Running Awards Lunch will take place at the Winking Lizard...starting around noon or so.

- I finally picked up "48 Days to the Job You Love" on Friday.  I had a 33% off coupon from Borders so I took advantage of it and grabbed this book.  "Uncle" Dave Ramsey talks about it all the time so it'll be my mission to read this book over my FIVE days off this Thanksgiving holiday.  While some of you crazies are tackling fellow crazies on Black Friday, I think I'll curl up with a hot espresso and do some reading!

- My fellow Type A's came out of the woodwork a few days ago after I blogged about what I wanted to be when I grew up.  At least now I know that I'm not alone!!!  Type A's unite!  (or should I say, step on each other to get ahead?  Now that's true Type A!)

Navy IAs (Individual Augmentee) "Boots on Ground" as of November 19, 2010: Active 4,959, Reserve 5,105, Total 10,064.  A "Navy IA" is a Sailor who leaves their assigned unit or command to deploy individually or with a small group.  Most IAs are concentrated in the 26-nation Central Command region, which includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the Horn of Africa. The rest are serving elsewhere in the world.  For me (as a Navy Supply Officer in the Reserve), that is what I'll be when called to go.  This stat from 3 days ago is proof of the role that today's Navy Reserve is playing in the War on Terror in Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.  The Navy's official "IA" website.  I hope you all remember deployed servicemen and women as you gather around this Thanksgiving...for it is them that maintain your freedom to do so each and every year.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?

This topic has been nagging on me all week and thoughts have been swirling around which normally leads to a blog post...not always, but often.  It wasn't even a week ago and I was having a conversation with Marjie about her success professionally.  She graduated high school with me over 19 years ago, joined my adventure with me as I served on active duty in the Navy, pursued her nursing degree, accomplished that, and has stayed within her profession ever since.  She's worked in nursing homes, worked within multiple hospitals on their cancer floors, med-surg floors, doctor's offices, and eventually in the Emergency Room.  Long, diversified, steady, and an uninterrupted career path that has led her into management of the very ER that she began in.  Now, she looks to pursue a graduate degree that combines the business/financial side of medical care with her nursing profession, setting her up for more upward growth into the future.  Still young, it's difficult to not be a bit envious of her career path and success.  It is a fact that in today's climate, most people bounce between career paths and also move geographically more often than not.  Still human, she often feels beat down and a failure and I do my best to bring her back up and give her the encouragement she needs to keep forward movement.  It's easy to get inside your own head and convince yourself that you're a failure when reality is completely opposite.  I suppose this could be true sometimes but not in her case.  The frequent and positive feedback from those above her proves this.  Still, the negative thoughts and stress creep in and trump all of that.

It's nearly impossible to be her husband of 19 years (THIS Sunday!!!) and not reflect on myself as I watch her.  My path couldn't be more different.  The longest I've been in any job was in the Navy...10 years straight while on active duty.  That ended in June 2001.  Since then (only 9 years later), I've done the following in order: 1) Christian trade organization trade show exhibit manager in Colorado Springs...with an office location that could see Pikes Peak and the Air Force Academy.  I loved that job and the expense account that went along with Starbucks!!!.  2) STARBUCKS!  Yea, while selling our home that we just built, I worked at Starbucks, went through their coffee "university" and became a lifelong addict. 3) Helped my parents build a business plan, get the financing to start a restaurant. 4) Sold Hondas for 2 1/2 years with an extremely short stint at managing a Nissan dealership. I found that I was VERY good at selling...especially a product that I believed in.  5) Got my Series 7 license and worked for MetLife, selling all insurance and investment products, primarily to the educational sector.  I visited local school systems and sat down face-to-face with teachers, administrators, and other district employees to help them get their financial "house" in order and protect their family.  Did that job for just over 2 years.  6) I rejoined the Navy but this time in the Reserve and this time as an officer...missed serving so very much. 7) Fed up with living on commission and the stress that brought and sought after a more steady income that paired well with being a Navy Reservist >> now a federal employee where I work face-to-face with people who are disabled or are alleging disability.  It is a very difficult job to explain to someone and what it truly entails.  I have been there for about 2 1/2 years.

So as you can see, we have traveled extremely different paths.  We are the same age (well sorta...she's 6 months my senior!) but have reached very different levels of least on paper, right?  I remember saying something like this about a week ago: "You have been so successful with your career.  You have done it all right, you are excellent at what you do, people admire you, and your future is super bright.  I, on the other hand, have not.  What have I accomplished?  Where am I headed?  What do I want to be when I grow up?"  I'm not jealous.  Actually, I admire her more than she'll accept.  She is the epitome of what so many look to achieve.  Still, it is nearly impossible to not reflect on myself.

This has forced me to "Get a hold of myself!!!"  What really matters?  What do I really have control over?  I think one thing I must do is to release those things that I have no control over, including people, and focus on the things that I can.  Being a Type A+ personality, that is not easy as many other Type A's will attest.  True happiness as a Type A is a challenge...a lifelong challenge as the desire to constantly strive for the next "rung" never stops and normally, my best is never, ever enough.  That then leads me to believe my best is still not the best...and never will be.  To add salt to the open wound, when someone then tramples my attempted-best, it is like ripping open that would and stomping all over it...figuratively speaking, of course.  It just feels like a non-stop battle and a constant striving for happiness, success, accomplishment, and fulfillment.

I have not arrived at a solution.  I don't have the answer, either.  I have my faith, my family, and a bouncing opportunity to serve my country which I am very passionate about.  Those are constants that keep me somewhat grounded.  Still, my mind, ambitions, etc. are going a million other directions, nearly 24/7.  You may, after reading this post see something a bit least I do after re-reading it before posting: my service in the Navy.  It, without a doubt, has consumed the majority of my time post-high school.  It is also what I am most passionate about.  "So why don't you go on full active duty?" you may ask.  Not that easy.  I've tried, actually.  I am in far more demand as a Reservist in today's war-climate.  That could change in the future but I know the future just as much as you do.  For now, my "part-time" Navy job will have to do.  The shining light here is that service to one's country is all about selfless service.  My graduate school was Regent University in Virginia Beach.  I graduated from there in 2006 with my MBA.  It is a private, Christian grad school with the motto of "Christian Leadership to Change the World" and is very, very heavy in the concept of Servant Leadership.  Before Regent, I was the Type A that would walk on anyone to achieve my goals and do whatever it took to reach the next rung.  Post-Regent, I am still a Type A but without that blood-thirsty-take-no-prisoners drive.  I seek to lead through serving and it is part of my every fiber.  I feel my call to serve in uniform is a true marriage of this ideal and fits me to a tee.

So to my fellow Type A's...hang in there!  To everyone else, do what you love and love what you do.  When your job doesn't feel like work, you're nearly there!  For me, I'm going to head out today and pick up a highly recommended book at Borders, 48 Days to the Work You Love...and then put the uniform on and head on out to my "part time job" for the weekend.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Humbled by SGT Giunta

Not since the Vietnam Conflict has a living soldier been bestowed with our country's highest honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor.  They have been awarded, actually 3 since President Obama was elected, but all given to the next of kin of the deceased soldiers.  That changed today as Sergeant Salvatore Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor by the President.  Thanks to Heidi who directed me to a one-on-one interview from Sunday's  "60 Minutes" episode where SGT Giunta describes exactly what happened in that northern Afghanistan mountainside, 7000 miles away, 3 years ago last month.  His humility, raw emotion, and his dedication to his fellow soldier humbles me more than anything I can remember.  Please watch the interview below.

Monday, November 15, 2010

M-Cubed for 11/15/2010

Monday Morning Musings for November Fifteenth, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Cult following? Pop culture? High School Pep Rally?  All 3?  I showed up at Summit Mall at 9:30am on Saturday morning for the new Apple Store Grand Opening at 10am.  I walked in to the food court, a few minute walk to the store, and I heard what sounded like was a rock concert, from the crowd perspective.  As my girls and I got closer, the roar increased and as I came around the corner, a very long line, controlled by barricades and mall police filled the entire atrium of the mall and Apple employees scurried about.  Next thing I knew, they (in their matching blue Apple shirts) were running through the crowd high-fiving everyone in the crowd and chants from crowd like "Apple!  Apple!  Apple!" started and stopped multiple times.  I looked down at my iPhone and happily noticed a full Wi-Fi signal so like a good iPhone owner, I called Marjie via "FaceTime" and there she was on my from home where she, Amy, and Bekah were "cooking for a month."  I thrust my arm high into the sky so she could witness the Apple crowd live and guess what, I wasn't the only one.  There were a sea of iPhones in the air...on FaceTime...doing the exact same thing as I was.  "What have I shown up to?" I thought.  I couldn't stop smiling, I'll admit.  This WAS pretty darn cool.  So as the chants continued and the employees kept running through the crowd, my girls were looking at me like "What is going on?  Can we leave now?"  To the best of my ability, I couldn't get them to give a high-5 or even a fist bump.  Nada.  As 9:45am arrived, the first wave was let into the very white, Apple-logo-laden store early and the roar started yet again as they went in and everyone got their very own "Designed in California by Apple" black Apple Summit Mall t-shirts.  We waited our turn and got the same treatment later.  We made our way to the iMac, 21.5" model.  Previous to the visit, Marjie and I decided...together...that we would get it.  I had done the research, would get a nice military discount, and we'd pay cash.  Two of the "Apple Store Apps" employees, helped me and a half hour later, I began my march to the front door.  I was amazed how I paid via a little device that snapped onto the iPhone of the employee...a device that let her swipe my check card which then let me "sign" my name with my finger on her screen.  Seconds later, my receipt was in my InBox.  I even scored a HP wireless after the rebate, which by the way, was processed before I even left the store.  Dang, I love efficiency and superb customer service.  As I began "the walk" towards the front store, it happened again.  The store employees burst into cheering and clapping...roaring is a better word, actually.  Their way of saying "Welcome to the Family!" I supposed.  Wow.

- Many, if not most, people don't follow the news out of Afghanistan very closely.  Over the past few days, a lot of news regarding recent comments by President Hamid Karzai have been published worldwide regarding our presence in the region and his requests for less coalition forces in the country.  He even was quoted to say what a mistake it was for us to establish a deadline for withdrawal which he says only emboldened the enemy.  As October being the deadliest month for coalition forces in a very, very long time, this lack of support by Afghanistan's leader is not good.  In particular, he wants night ops cut back which is critical in our success against the enemy.  They do not have the ability to fight and see like we can at night so a majority of our operations happen then.  Friends: the enemy is fighting daily..bombs, roadside bombs, suicide missions, etc.  You may not see this on MSNBC, CNN, or Fox News, but rest is happening...daily.  Here's just one story of the countless out there.

- A President Obama Chia Pet?  I wouldn't have believed it unless I saw it myself.  Check it out along with video of how to grow him.  Speechless.

- Christmas 'season' seems to start a little bit earlier each year, doesn't it?  The music, the ads, store decorations, pre-pre-pre-pre Black Friday sales, and my own home.  Marjie's plan is to decorate for Christmas THIS weekend...skipping right over Thanksgiving decor.  yikes

- 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller: next on my to-read list.  Highly recommended by 'Uncle Dave' and others and I think it's about time at the age of 37 to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

- Off to the least in March, that is.  Owning a timeshare outright out in Vail, Colorado certainly has its benefits.  We bought it nearly a decade ago outright so it only costs us some maintenance fees each year.  Deeded to us and something we'll pass on down to our kids, we use it or trade it each year to go wherever and whenever we want.  Since we miss the Virginia Beach area so much (we lived there for many years when I was on active duty in the Navy), we will be staying in one of their oceanfront resorts during Spring Break.  We're looking forward to not only the ocean out our window but seeing so many of our good friends, some oceanfront running, visiting my alma mater at Regent University, and some trips to our favorite spots in the Hampton Roads area, including at least a day in Williamsburg.

- Kudos to the "Bills" this past weekend for putting on a great FA run on Perkins Loop down in the CVNP.  I heard nothing but great things about it and superb weather, to boot.  Great job, guys, and keep up the great work!

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Veterans Day in Pictures/Video

Rendering my first salute of the day to Old Glory at my home.

By 8am, I was visited by my niece and nephew.  Thanks, Emma!

Portage County Veterans Memorial in Ravenna: Veterans Day Service (VFW Color Guard shown)

P51 Flyover: World War II plane, known as "The plane that won the war."

Flyover again...Navy flag in foreground


Free Lunch at Applebee's in Niles...thank you!!!  It was packed with veterans, young and old, in and out of uniform.

Veterans Day Assembly in Hubbard, OH at the elementary school.  Absolute highlight of my day.  Many songs, a stage with at least 50 veterans, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, VFW...and school leadership really behind the holiday and what it means.

Thanks, Emma!  (She killed a few markers to make this one!)

Handed to me while leaving the Hubbard assembly

Applebee's #2 for dinner with Marjie, the girls, and my parents (shown here). Happy Veterans Day, Dad!!!

"America the Beautiful" sung by the elementary kids in Hubbard.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day 2010

Emotion overrun describes today well.  It started last night as I tucked my girls into bed and talked about what Veterans Day means to them followed by a discussion about the past, present, and future of our country and how veterans in all those time periods are instrumental in maintaining the freedom we all have.  As young as they are, they get it.  They had a few questions for me, one which cracked my heart in half (which will remain between us) and off to bed they went, under the blanket of freedom.

There is no debate, I am one of the most transparent people you will ever meet.  That bodes me well at some times and spells doom in others.  Sometimes, it is good to shield your innermost thoughts and feelings (ie: the workplace) and other times, it's appropriate.  Call it a failure or not, that's me.  Today is a day that gives me license to be as transparent as I wish about my passion for my country and those who selflessly give of themselves, sometimes with their own blood, to maintain our freedom that the majority of us take for granted.  Tucked away in northeast Ohio, there is little patriotism around me so on days like today, I feel like a firecracker inside a sealed can, getting ready to explode.  It just runs so thickly through my veins.  I was in our  bedroom closet this morning trying on my dress blues jacket and getting the proper ribbons and devices on it for today and Marjie came around the corner, chuckling.  "What?" I asked...defensively...almost feeling mocked by her.  "It's only 7 o'clock!  You don't go until 1:30 this afternoon!"  She wasn't laughing AT me but more of me in a pair of black pants and a suit jacket on, bare-chested!  Shortly thereafter, my oldest daughter asked me if she could wear my green camouflage uniform hat to school (of course, I said yes) and off they went.  Yea, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning today in terms of happiness, thankfulness, and humbleness.

It wouldn't be a typical post without a little ranting.  Not to sour this day, but to just say this: I wish more Americans showed their patriotism and love for their country, if in fact it exists.  There are so few flags flying on homes in comparison to the number of homes.  You can buy a flag, mounting hardware and all, at the store for less than a carton of cigarettes.  True.  And in our schools, our kids are learning safely in public schools beneath a flag flying outside, yet so very, very, VERY few school systems do a single thing to honor veterans.  These kids are our country's future, for goodness sake.  I will do my part as a father and will instill the value system, respect, and honor as part of raising my children but I am saddened by the countless other children who have no clue.  I also don't think that the majority of Americans know that WE have lost several Marines this very week in Afghanistan in combat operations...our own countrymen.  Instead of covering this, the media focuses on politics, the economy, Michelle Obama's handshake, visits to India (costing hundreds of millions of dollars), and a stranded cruise ship off the California coast (which the USS Ronald Reagan assisted, by the way!).  Seriously, where are our priorities?!  Most, if not all, networks will run some kind of patriotic programming today...but today only.  Tomorrow will be business as usual and the flags wilme down.  Still, though, that Marine, Sailor, Soldier, or Airman stands watch over our freedom 24/7.

To all veterans today and those who have gone before, THANK YOU.  We, as a country, owe our very existence to your selfless, voluntary sacrifice.  To the families (especially the spouses, moms, and dads), thank you to you as well.  You provide the support structure, the backbone, for us all to do what needs to be done.

In closing today, I leave you with a quote from every military funeral that is held today as Old Glory is handed to the next of kin, folded ever so perfectly:

"On behalf of a grateful nation, I present this flag as a token of our appreciation for the faithful and selfless service of your loved one for this country."

Official 2010 Veterans Day Poster

Monday, November 8, 2010

M-Cubed for 11/8/2010

Monday Morning Musings for November Eighth, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- My apologies for the lack of blogging this past week.  Last week was one of the worst ever and each day felt like an additional ton of bricks.  There was certainly nothing just "falling in my lap" that I was able to write about.  Luckily, there are things called weekends after really bad work-weeks.

- Ahhh, the weekend.  It started by bolting straight to Columbus from work on Friday for a Navy weekend.  Flu Mist, some awards, a new Navy officer being sworn in, and welcoming home a few sailors from the war zone defined Saturday.  It was a great day to be in uniform.  After drill, I took off on the 90min drive southeast to Burr Oak State Park for the 2nd Annual Bobcat Trail Marathon.  It was great to be back and see many of my trail peeps yet again.  Sunday morning brought clear skies and a frigid 22F.  I started off in a short sleeve tech tee and hat or gloves.  While looking foolish and feeling pretty cold, it was the perfect thing to wear.  I was very comfy about 2 miles into the race and not cold or hot.  My goal for the day was to run between 5 and 26.2 miles.  Since I've been taking it very easy since mid-July, I'm not really trained for the distance but know I could run it on a whim.  Still, my plan was to stop when I felt it was smart.  I took about 60+ pics, stayed at the back of the field, and stopped at 8.9 miles.  By that point, I was missing my 2 girls more than I had in a long time and just wanted to get home.  Thanks to Michelle who was at Tom Jenkins Dam, I got a ride back to the start.  Once showered, I hit the road for home...about 3 hours north.

- Tomorrow night (Tuesday) should be interesting.  I've been asked to talk about running and photography at the SARC Club Meeting.  SARC stands for the Summit Athletic Running Club.  Their new banner that they use at expos, etc. has all my pictures except for one.  I'm really not sure what I'll talk about, though.  Basically, I use 3 different cameras and I take 100s of pictures.  We'll see how it goes.  I'm gathering my favorites into a folder and will show them and do some show-n-tell on the cameras.  The meeting will be at Shady Hollow Pavilion in Sand Run Metro Park at 7pm.

- Pictures from Bobcat through Mile 8.9

- There are 2 openings coming around for the November 2011 Board of Education in my small town.  I've already had a few people come forward and volunteer to be on my committee and am leaning heavily towards getting on the ballot.  I've already contacted the Board of Elections and I can start immediately.  Before then, in May, we'll get our 4th shot at passing an emergency levy for our schools since our community voted it down for the 3rd straight time last Tuesday.  In the previous 2 attempts, we lost 2 to 1.  It was much, much closer this time with twice as many of the voters showing up but still, nearly 1/2 of the registered voters sat at home doing nothing.  Now, an additional $700,000 will have to be cut on top of the recent $480,000 worth of cuts.  We've already began strategizing on how to pass this levy come May 2011.  It's cool, too, that sporadic members of the community are starting to come forward with ideas.

- Some people have a "burning passion" to do "something" with their lives.  They want to be "X" and then they go do it.  What if you (or I) don't have that passion?  Where is the direction found?  That's me in a nutshell.  I didn't grow up wanting to be a doctor, lawyer, accountant, small business owner, etc.  I went to school, got a few degrees, served my country, returned to serving my country  (because I missed it so much), and sit here today at 37 years young, still not knowing what I want to do with my life.  For the Type A in me, that is very frustrating...more than I can explain, actually.  What I do know is that being the best husband and father I can be is priority.  A good job is one tool in the toolbox to accomplish that from a support perspective.  Still, I'd love to be on "fire" in my career and be wholly passionate about it.  I see others who are and certainly am a bit envious of them.  On the other hand, I am very thankful for a good job and one that marries up well with a secondary career in the Navy.  It is true, we cannot have all things and it's up to us to figure out how to deal with the hand we're dealt and make the best of it.  One thing I can't shake, though, is the nagging pull to be in the Navy full time.  Not even sure how I could since there is much higher demand for me as a Reservist then full time and guess what, there aren't many ships and oceans in northeast Ohio.  For today, I believe that we are where we are supposed to be.  The future (starting today) can hold anything.

- If you've been here for awhile, you know we changed everything about how we do things financially back last Christmas.  We started living by a budget for the first time in 17 years of marriage, starting paying by cash only, and began a ferocious attack on our debt.  We have NOT last traction and are rolling along nicely.  We are past the halfway point now and only my car and an equity loan remain.  Credit cards are gone, Marjie's Honda is paid for, and we live strictly to a budget and utilizing cash only.  It has completely removed a huge stressor in our lives and has really enriched our marriage.  My car is scheduled to be paid off by the Spring.  We are well on our way to being debt-free (except for the house) by Christmas 2011...24 months after starting.  We do get slowed down here and there by things like this Friday...Marjie's car is due for 4 new tires.  At 63,000 miles, she still has the originals and unless she wants to be ice skating this winter, new tires are a must.  Still, I'd rather spend $400+ for new tires at Sam's Club than a car payment every month for 5 or 6 years.  It definitely doesn't feel good to pay that in the here and cash, but looking at the big picture, it is what we should have been doing all along.  A little side goal of mine is to teach this program locally out of our church but open to anyone in the community.  Plans are underway already to do so.

- Veterans Day is this Thursday.  For the past few years, I've spent it at my kids' elementary school but as far as I can tell, the district is doing nothing to honor veterans this year so I've been invited to another county's school where I'll participate.  (this needs to change, by the way)  I am always off on this day so I'd like to always be involved somewhere.  I'm really looking forward to dinner at Applebee's, too.  They are again offering free meals to ALL veterans this Thursday.  Last year, there were 80 and 90 year olds in their uniforms and the place was packed out.  I will certainly be there for dinner!  (maybe lunch, too) :-)  Golden Corral is also doing it and Outback Steakhouse is offering free Bloomin' Onions and drinks to veterans.

Have a great week, everyone and don't forget Veterans Day this Thursday.  We all know someone who has served or is serving.  Please make it a priority to reach out to them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

M-Cubed for 11/1/2010

Monday Morning Musings for November First, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- November....ahhh, poor Tom Turkey.  You will be mine!  My apologies for that uncomfortable homemade stuffing that will be surrounding you in a few weeks in the 350F oven.

- Great, great Friday/Saturday a few days ago for Marjie's 38th.  After getting the girls on the bus and knockin' out some household chores and Navy business, we first started our romantic getaway at the Rootstown Post Office.  Marjie mailed in her application for the Healthcare Executive MBA program at Kent State.  Based on her current career path, it's the next logical step!  The plan is for her to start in the Fall of 2011.  We then continued the romance at the Portage County Board of Elections and voted early.  I was pleasantly surprised by a small line to wait in but we were still out of there in less than 10 minutes.  Voting...DONE!  The romance ended at the next stop as Marjie just "had" to stop at Target, but that resulted in a few more Christmas check-marks.  Finally, we started heading south towards Sugarcreek and Amish country. We stopped halfway at our favorite made-to-order all-you-can-eat sushi bar which is part of a Chinese restaurant and BAM!  They have shut down the sushi operation.  We were starving and geared up for sushi!  So, we went from ready to spend $50 to walking the aisles of Sam's Club next door for food samples and ended up spending $2.00 for two hot pretzels and we were on our way.  Next stop: Breitenbach Winery, just before Sugarcreek on Route 39.  Breitenbach is one of our favorite stops down there, especially on beautiful, warm days.  They have an outdoor patio where you can have a bottle of wine, some cheese/crackers, and just soak in the rays and the rolling countryside.  This day, it was a bit chilly so we opted for the indoor seats.  We ordered up some organic nachos and our favorite, winery-only Dandelion Wine.  Over 3 days each Spring, the Amish hand-pick tons (literally) of dandelions which result in this unbelievable wine.  Super sweet, if you like that kind of thing.  They first steep it for 3-5 days before crushing it just like grapes and then it's made like every other kind of wine.  Pretty awesome.  We also had a fire-roasted pizza...barbecue chicken and pineapple.  Oh so good!  Afterwards, we took the 1hr long winery tour which was great since only 2 other folks showed up for it.  Afterwards, I endured the "pain" of some shopping and even got a chance to read "The 20 Things You Want to Know About the Amish and Mennonites" while sitting in a Thomas Kinkade Gallery as Marjie got her shopping juices flowing.  Eventually, we ended up at the Amish Door, a very nice, classy Inn nestled into the Amish countryside, but not before some Amish cookin' for dinner next door.  A very enjoyable weekend with my Love, indeed.  Saturday, I mowed the grass.  Priorities, priorities...

- Fun, fun, fun...Sunday after church, the girls and I had a mission to carve pumpkins.  Turns out that when you  leave them on the front porch for over a month, they will start to rot.  One did from the inside out and when we opened it up, a nasty, white "froth" awaited at the bottom along with a hole.  It was still a great jack-o-lantern.  That was Madeline's.  Katherine had a "baby" pumpkin that was inside and not rotted.  Her sketch was of a cat and it turned out really good.  We roasted the pumpkin seeds on a stone after meticulously picking out every seed from the "goop".  A great time!

- Bobcat Trail Marathon THIS weekend!  I'm looking forward to heading down to the sold out event and hopefully, we'll get a beautiful, sunny weekend again just like last year.  Camera, of course, will be in hand and battery fully charged.  I got 171 great photos last year.  I'm not looking for that many this year...just some good ones.

- I'm seriously considering joining the American Legion.  There's a very active post in Kent that I've been watching and it would be good to involved with a local group that is full of veterans and active in the community.

- After I walked in the door from church on Sunday, I looked up at my flag pole outside my garage and it was majestic...white puffy clouds, bright sunshine, and a good strong wind blowing.  I grabbed my iPhone and snapped a few photos.  I pointed it straight into the light and never thought I'd actually get a good picture out of it.  Oh, how I was wrong.  I caught the best one ever.  I absolutely love this photo of Old Glory and the Navy Jack.  "Let Freedom Ring!!!!!"

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!