Saturday, November 23, 2013

Xbox One Initial Review

Let me start by saying I don't consider myself a Microsoft Fanboy, despite owning every version of the Xbox that Microsoft has produced. My goal here is not to gush about the virtues of the Xbox One, while overlooking any shortcomings. Instead, I plan to give you a quick write-up of my first day of experience with the new Xbox offering. My motivation for purchasing the Xbox One was not a need or desire to be an early adopter. The deciding factor was significantly more mundane... my 360 stopped reading my disks, leaving me with the choice of buying a new 360, or upgrading to Xbox One. Since I'm writing a review on Xbox One, my choice should be obvious.

Let's start with the setup. It was straight forward, with no glitches or gotchas. There was an immediate software update required, which 500 meg, and took a bit to finish. In fact, the initial update doubled the time needed for the setup. The first boot-up, and the one immediately after the software upgrade seemed slow, when compared to the Xbox. After the updates, I migrated my settings, which was a snap. I simply had to enter the email address and password associated with my existing Xbox 360 account, and everything was transferred. This migration was something that Microsoft got 100% right! I do not know, however, if you can go back to the 360 after migrating to Xbox One. It does, however, look like you can sign on to a different Xbox (at a friend's house, for example) and access YOUR downloaded games, music and movies. (I haven't verified this firsthand though.)

Next, I spent some time playing with the Kinect and voice commands. I was very impressed with how well the Kinect recognized me as an individual. My wife walked in and out of the room several times, and each time, the Kinect recongized me. I was also impressed with the voice commands. I'm not going to say it was flawless, but I will say I suspect that errors were based on my misunderstanding of command synatax, rather than the Xbox failing to understand my speech.

After spending some time with Kinect, I downloaded Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Once again I was impressed... Netflix and Hulu settings transferred with my profile. All I had to do for Amazon was enter the username and password. I was initially a bit concerned that these apps might not be ready on launch day, but was happily to see them. In fact, I'm pleased to see the wide array of available apps.

Finally, after a brief eternity, I got around to trying out the gaming, which in my case is Ryse. I didn't spend a lot of time playing the game... my goal was to have everthing up and running when the kids got home. But I will say this... I like how the controller feels. I like how the game looks and plays. I do not, once again, like how long the game took to install and load initially.

Overall, I'm very happy with the purchase.  Setup was a breeze; all of my must-have apps were available, and gameplay looks to be very immersive.  The only issues I have are with install/update speed.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Reflecting on my Enlistment

Tomorrow, November 10, the U.S. Marine Corps will celebrate its 238th birthday.  As is the case this time every year, I make a point to watch the Commandant's message, and inevitably, I end up reflecting on my own service as a Marine.  Year after year I reach the same conclusions...

First, I stand in awe of today's Marines.  I enlisted as a peacetime Marine.  I never expected to be involved in any conflicts.  And when I was tapped for missions, they weren't like the Afghanistan or Iraq wars of today.  I was asked to participate in Operation Earnest Will, which was essentially mine sweeping operations and oil tanker escorting in the Persian Gulf.  Later, I was a participant in Desert Shield and Desert storm.  Desert Storm was, to borrow a phrase, "A Splendid Little War."  We walked over an unwilling, demoralized opponent.  Today's Marines are combatting highly-motivated guerilla-style opponents.  If Desert Storm was the Spanish-American War, then today's Marines are fighting something more like Korea or Vietnam.  Furthermore, all Marines serving today knew what they were getting into when they raised their right hand and swore "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.  Compared to today's Marines, I had it easy.

My other conclusion is that I am a better Marine today than I was during my actual enlistment.  As I said earlier, I joined the Corps as a peacetime Marine; and though every Marine is a rifleman, I didn't really take that creed to heart.  I did my job well, but I had a difficult time submitting to authority.  Furthermore, it was difficult to be promoted from Corporal to Sergeant; instead of knuckling down and doing my best, I became discouraged.  I let my hair grow longer than regulations allowed. I quit PT. My uniform was clean, but not crisp, and my boots were buffed but rarely spit-shined.  I (mistakenly) believed that I was a lot smarter than my peers and my superiors.  I loved my actual job, and I loved the idea of being a Marine, but I knew that I wouldn't be making the Marine Corps a career.  It took me two decades to truly appreciate my beloved Corps.  Today, I voluntarily keep my hair short (partially because it's receding).  I regularly exercise and if I took a Marine Corps PFT today, I would likely get a first class score.  I take pride in my appearance, though not to the point of vanity.  In the face of adversity, I tackle the problem without becoming discouraged.  I don't fight authority just for the sake of being difficult (but I also don't simply submit to authority because they say so).

My enlistment in the Marine Corps entails less than 15% of my total life experience.  But now, having some distance and perspective, I acknowledge that the Corps has had an oversized influence on who I am as a man today.  The Marine Corps gave me a great many experiences, and it instilled or developed several positive character traits.  I am proud to be a Marine.  But again, I stand in reverence of those who have followed in my footsteps, and I freely admit that I'm a better Marine today than I was twenty-five years ago.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Another Fitness Goal Achieved

I hit another physical fitness goal today.  This was the last of my original goals that I hadn't yet achieved.  Today I finally managed to do a set of 50 push-ups.  When I set my original goals, I estimated that I'd hit all of my goals within six months.  It took me a bit over a year to be able to do 50 push-ups.  I should clarify though, that I have NEVER done a set of 50 push-ups, so I'm not upset about needing a year to hit that milestone... I'm happy that I achieved it at all.

Now, it's on to my next goal, which is to do 50 push-ups, a First Class Marine Corps PFT, and swim a mile in one mega-workout session.  I can realistically do two in any given session.  I hope to be able to hit my next goal within the next six months (which means that it may take another year).

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Of Volunteering and Veterans

My church did something really cool today.  Instead of preaching and learning the word of God, we put it into action by volunteering throughout the community.  I was tasked with mowing the lawn for a Vietnam-era Army veteran who has a bad hip and is awaiting hip replacement surgery.

Originally, I was slated to share the job with another guy from my church... a guy who happens to be an Air Force veteran.  Being a Marine veteran, I thought the whole thing was really cool... two vets helping out another vet.  Shortly after finding out the scope of the project, a third guy from the church showed up.  His job was to take pictures of the various volunteer projects in action.  Being a doer, I fired up the mower and started tackling the task at hand.  The photographer/videographer took a few pictures of me mowing while he was talking to the Air Force guy.  After the flyboy and the photographer chatted for a few minutes, the photographer said that he was going to his next site.  Flyboy then informed me that I appeared to have things under control, so he was going to hit a different volunteer site.  Amused, I finished the job by myself, realizing this was a perfect analogy for the US Military.

-The Army can't complete its mission and calls for help.
-The Air Force shows up, but as soon as the photo op is over, they're gone.
-The Navy is nowhere to be found.
-The Marine Corps accomplishes the mission with no fanfare, because the press has left.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Getting Fit - A Year in Review

It's been about a year since I started exercising, so now is a good time to look back and see how I actually did as compared to how I expected I'd do.

When I chose to start a regular exercise program last year, it was done after numerous false starts over the years.  I'd never been a big fan of working out or running, but surprisingly, those are the core activities of my routine.

I made three major deviations from my past attempts that I believe helped make this attempt at a healthier lifestyle a success.  First, I actually spent some money.  I went out and bought new gym shoes, gym clothes, and swim attire.  I did this because I don't like to waste money.  The second change was to NOT have a workout partner.  Historically, I figured that a workout partner would help me stay motivated to continue.  In reality though, if either one of us voiced any desire to skip a workout... well, you get the picture.  Finally, I brought music.  I have a workout playlist on my smart phone, filled with upbeat music that helps keep me focused.  (No eye of the tiger though.)

With all of my aforementioned false starts, I knew that not sticking with it was a real possibility.  But when I started this time, I didn't envision that.  I did, however, envision more muscle mass, and more strength than I actually have.  I know that part of the reason I'm not quite as developed as I expected is because I missed so many workouts during the summer.  The overwhelming majority of this was unavoidable.  (The point is that I never quit.)  The other reason I haven't progressed as much as I thought is that I simply underestimated how difficult it would be to put on muscle mass as a middle-aged guy.  (That, and the fact that I've always been on the slender side.)

I still haven't reached all of my original goals.  I can't do a set of 50 perfect push-ups.  And though I have successfully completed a first class Marine Corps PFT, I usually end up about 10 points shy of a first class.  I can, however, swim a mile without much effort at all.  I'm not breaking any speed records, but speed was never part of the goal.

Regardless of whether or not I've progressed as much as I envisioned a year ago, I've stayed with it.  I look better, and I feel better.  I'm pleased that I've made it a year.  I've been doing it long enough that I can confidently say that I've actually made a more active lifestyle change.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Carhartt Convert


I grew up wearing Levi's.  I loved their 501's (until the buttons would blow out), and I can't count how many pair of 550's I've owned; but over the years their quality seems to have diminished.  I used to be able to wear Levi's for years before they disintegrated, but lately they seem to barely last a year.  With that in mind, it was time to try something different.  I figured that I'd do a side by side comparison and bought two pair of Levi's and two pair of Carhartt's on the same day. Neither pair of Levi's lasted a year before blowing out the knees.  Both pair of Carhartt's lasted over 18 months.  One pair is on its way to two years with no holes or thin spots.  Better yet, Carhartt jeans are generally less expensive than Levi's.  Double score!

I also grew up on those one-size-fits-none cheap socks you get at Wal-Mart.  I've got relatively small feet, and was tired of having the heel of cheap socks sitting well above the heel of my foot.  I had good experiences with Carhartt's jeans, so I figured it would be worthwhile to try their socks.  I'm glad I did.  The socks fit perfectly!  They're also slightly thicker at the ball and heel, and they provide just the right amount of arch support.  Yes, they're more expensive than some, but they're absolutely worth it.

As my old t-shirts and flannel shirts wear out, I suspect I'll try Carhartt shirts out as well.  Hey, they've done this well with jeans and socks...


Sunday, September 29, 2013

An Open Apology to J.S.

John,

We were never particularly close; in fact, I always thought you were kind of a tool.  You were the stereotypical jock, swaggering down the halls of the school as if you owned the joint; that in and of itself gave me a strong distaste for you.  But the biggest reason I hated you was your classroom demeanor.  You consistently derided the thoughts and ideas of other students without ever putting yourself out there and letting people know your own notions.  It played well into that athletic bravado personality you wore, but to me it was like nails on a chalkboard.  The day we almost got into a fist fight after class because I had the audacity to call you on your bad behavior is still seared into my mind.  (I know this is a bizarre way to begin a letter of apology folks, but please roll with me for a moment.)

Shortly after I moved home after my enlistment in the Marine Corps ended, you made the news... more accurately, the death of your son made the news.  Junior's body was found in the creek, within a couple of blocks of where I was living at the time.  You were under the umbrella of suspicion - if not by the cops, then by the people of our home town.

Fast forward two decades, when I read that there had been an arrest in your son's murder.  I don't remember the guy's name, but that's not important.  What's important is that it wasn't you.  For twenty years, I believed that you were not only capable of taking your own boy's life, but that you actually did it.  I convicted you, not based on evidence, but on your boorish behavior as a high school boy.  I was part of the mob that wanted to burn you before the evidence was in.

I've been thinking about your innocence since hearing the news, and realizing how your life has literally been a made-for-TV movie.  I look at my own daughter, who is roughly the same age your son would be, and I can't imagine the hell you've experienced.  You lost your baby.  Your community (wrongly) convicted you.  You left town and started over, ostensibly building a life for yourself thousands of miles away from where the horror occurred.  I suspect that you found a measure of happiness, but your son was never far from your heart.  And then, years after you had resigned yourself to the fact that your baby's killer would never be found, it happened... an arrest, based on DNA evidence.  And now, I suspect the wound has been reopened.  This kind of thing shouldn't happen to anybody.

John, for what it's worth, I am sorry for being part of the masses who wrongly convicted you.  I apologize for callously believing that you took your boy's life.  I regret that I couldn't look beyond my own petty animosity.  Despite our differences in the past, you deserve better.  You deserve better from me, and you deserve better from your former community.

Monday, September 23, 2013

An Open Note to my Brother-in-Law

Steve,

Broken hearts suck.  Right about now, you’re probably going through the motions of living, but you feel like you’re having an out of body experience.  You wish that you could just go to sleep for a couple of months, but the sleep won’t come.  When it finally does come, it’s not because it’s bedtime; bedtime has long passed.  You fall into a fitful state of half-consciousness out of sheer exhaustion.  The first couple of times you don’t dream at all, and you wake more tired than if you hadn’t slept at all.  The next couple of times the dreams are as vivid and memorable as a movie, but you’re still exhausted.  When you want to cry, the tears won't come.  When the waterworks start, they're unpredictable... sometimes it's a quick tear and a wistful sniffle.  Othertimes, you want to quit and just can't. I’m sorry you need to experience this.

When you’re not sleeping, you’re alternating between avoidance and obsession.  You want to take your mind off of the situation, so you play video games, but that hot chick in GTA IV with the nice rack inexplicably reminds you of her.  Every song, movie, article of clothing, and street corner somehow draws out a long-dormant memory of how it used to be.  Then you obsess and start to wonder what you could have done differently.  You want to ask her questions to find out what you did wrong.  I’ve felt your pain.

You’ve probably realized that things would be easier if she were dead.  At least then, you wouldn’t have to worry about running into her at (insert location here).  You wouldn’t have thoughts of revenge… the incessant desire to try to win her back… you wouldn't wonder if she’s already found somebody new.  Your friends, in a desperate attempt to cheer you up, tell you to hang tough, but the words ring hollow.  They tell you they’re sorry, but you feel like you’re the first one who’s experienced this pain.  Life sucks right now.

It’s funny how you had never realized how appropriate the term “broken heart” actually is.  Even when you’re at your happiest, (no, least unhappy more accurately describes how you feel) your heart still feels heavy and slightly numb.  Your stomach feels full of rocks.  The butterflies you felt when you first met have turned to big, hairy moths.  You forget to eat, and then you gorge yourself, if the knot in your belly will relax long enough to let food pass your esophagus.  Even drinking a glass of water is a chore.

You intellectually realize that it will get better, but that doesn’t make it suck any less right now.  You somehow know that you will be a bit stronger when this passes, but that’s no consolation today.  You know that a broken heart is part of life, and that virtually everyone has experienced this before, but you still feel alone.  I’m not going to give you hollow words of encouragement, but I am going to let you know that I’ve felt your pain, and tell you that you can give me a shout if you need to.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I Don't Support Action in Syria

Hot topic of the day... it looks like the US will be getting involved in the Syrian civil war.  I do not support our involvement because we just don't belong there.  At some point, we need to admit that we can't be the world's police.  Eventually, we need to acknowledge that we shouldn't "help" people who don't want our assistance.  Someday, we need to understand that the enemy of our enemy is not necessarily our friend.  Ultimately, we must concede that not everyone thinks like we do; not everyone shares our values.  The Middle East has been a hotbed of violence for centuries.  They do not place the same value on human life that we do.  We've got to admit this, and let them fight it out for themselves.

If you agree with me, please contact your legislators and let them know.  To make it easier for you, I am including a link to help you find your congressman and senators, and I am providing sample text that you can simply cut and paste.  I am not naive enough to believe that there's never a good enough reason to go to war.  I do, however, believe that we don't have enough reason to join THIS war.

I'm not a huge fan of Glen Beck, but this video of his pretty much explains why I don't support our involvement in Syria.

Find your House Representative

Find your Senator


Sample Text:
I am writing to ask you to vote against authorizing any military action in Syria.  I understand that war is occasionally a necessary evil, but we have spent enough money, time, and human life trying to improve the lives of those who hate us.  At some point, we need to realize that we cannot be the world's police.  Eventually, we must understand that not everyone thinks like us.  Sometime, we have to acknowledge that the enemy of our enemy is not necessarily our friend.  Please, let our military involvement in the Middle East end here.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Drama Update

Believe it or not, it's been relatively quiet since my daughter's run-in (run-over?) with the ex boyfriend. Her ankle is slowly but surely mending. She just got her second cast put on. Initially, she had a temporary cast of some sort, but that was designed as a short-term splint. After a couple of days her swelling decreased enough for her to get a real cast. That was fine until she decided that she needed to take a shower. Despite wrapping her leg and cast in saran wrap, the cast got wet, which ruined it, so she got another one put on today. Her wrist must be doing well, because she's never complaining about that. In fact, she's spending more time complaining about her good foot being sore from hopping around on it all the time. (Remember, she can't use crutches because of the broken wrist.) I think she has a minor sprain in the good foot.

Her ex has managed to stay in the spotlight though. A week after running over my daughter, he got another domestic assault charge run against him. Since he's staying with his parents, the logical victim would be his mother, father or younger sister, but I haven't yet found out for certain. Either way, when there's a domestic assault, a no-contact order is automatically filed. The victim has asked to have the no-contact order lifted. Somebody's a slow learner. Oh yeah... he also had a bench warrant issued for his arrest. I haven't figured things out with 100% certainty, but here's what I surmise... He was released on bail a while back for a First Degree Theft charge. I suspect that a condition of his bail required that he stay out of trouble. The county prosecutors found out that he's been in trouble again (and again), and told the judge, who revoked his bail, and required him to post another $10,000. He was arrested when he appeared in court regarding the no contact order with my daughter. We all got to see him arrested, and he had to attend the hearing in handcuffs.

To bring you all up to speed, he's now been brought up on four sets of charges in the last three months... three assaults and a felony theft. This guy is rapidly losing any semblance of self control. I fully expect that he'll be in jail for AT LEAST some of this. This may sound a bit odd, but I'm kind of torn. As a Christian, I want to forgive him. I want to help him. But I'm realistic enough to know that I can't help him because he doesn't want to help himself; besides the part of me wanting to forgive him is a tiny minority. The overwhelming majority of me is taking sadistic delight in watching him self-destruct, waiting to see how the courts treat him, knowing that whatever he gets, it will be less than I believe he deserves... secretly wishing that I lived in a slightly less enlightened day, where I could have rounded up a posse and given him a bit of frontier justice.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up, Part XII

Epilogue
This may sound like the end of the story, but it’s just the beginning.  My daughter is racking up several thousand dollars in medical bills.  She can’t work.  She may have to drop out of school, and will be unable to recoup that financial loss.  Furthermore, it’s time to get a formal custody agreement.  They were unpleasant and impossible to deal with in the best of circumstances.  I can only imagine how ugly things are going to get while this all plays out.  Unfortunately for them, they chose to fuck with the wrong family.  We don’t give up, and we have a lot more influence around town than they seem to think.

Author's Note: You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up is a factual story, broken into twelve installments for easy reading.  I am writing the story primarily for the benefit of my friends... specifically those friends who wanted to know what was going on, but remained silent, allowing me to focus on the emergency at hand.  Thanks to all of you who prayed for us, or sent words of encouragement.  You can go directly to any of these installments by clicking below...

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII

You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up, Part XI

Reunion
Around noon on Wednesday, 48 hours after getting run over and six days after the original “visitation” started, my daughter was reunited with her son.  They were discovered hiding out at the great-grandparents’ house in a small town about 20 miles away.  Once they were located, they were given the opportunity to voluntarily return the baby to my daughter.  The grandfather brought the baby to the local police station, where we met with DHS to make sure that there were no apparent injuries.  Baby is now safe and sound with his mother, who is recovering from her injuries.

Author's Note: You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up is a factual story, broken into twelve installments for easy reading.  I am writing the story primarily for the benefit of my friends... specifically those friends who wanted to know what was going on, but remained silent, allowing me to focus on the emergency at hand.  Thanks to all of you who prayed for us, or sent words of encouragement.  You can go directly to any of these installments by clicking below...

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII

You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up, Part X

Out and Running
Later that day, he was released on bail.  Baby daddy and his parents left town with the baby.  During this process, I specifically told everyone involved that I believed they’d bolt with the baby.  Apparently they didn’t believe me.  The local police department once again proved themselves not up to the task of retrieving my grandson.  They stopped by the trailer, but no cars were there and nobody answered.  We didn’t find this out until my daughter called the police department.  They said “don’t worry, we’ll keep driving by.”  The next morning, she once again called, asking “Where’s my baby!?!”  The police said they didn’t know anything yet, and asked if my daughter knew any other places where they might be.  That’s right; they didn’t do ANY of their own investigating.  They didn’t do ANYTHING to stay in touch with the panicked mother, and they didn’t ask ANY of these basic questions until long after they were ordered to bring my grandson back to his mother.

Author's Note: You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up is a factual story, broken into twelve installments for easy reading.  I am writing the story primarily for the benefit of my friends... specifically those friends who wanted to know what was going on, but remained silent, allowing me to focus on the emergency at hand.  Thanks to all of you who prayed for us, or sent words of encouragement.  You can go directly to any of these installments by clicking below...

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII

You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up, Part IX

Court is Now in Session
The next morning I sprang into action while my daughter stayed home and convalesced.  We were all furious about the whole situation.  I went to the courthouse and talked to the prosecuting attorney, with two goals in mind.  1) See if he could be held without bail.  This wasn’t possible, but based on the entirety of the circumstances, they got the bail upped by 250% over what they usually ask. 2) See if the Criminal No Contact Order (which is automatically issued in the case of Domestic Assault) could be extended to my grandson.  No such luck.  The only method of getting my grandson covered under the no contact order was through civil court.  Fortunately, the court expedites no contact orders, for the safety of the victims.  The court order was issued, and he was served while he was still in jail.

Author's Note: You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up is a factual story, broken into twelve installments for easy reading.  I am writing the story primarily for the benefit of my friends... specifically those friends who wanted to know what was going on, but remained silent, allowing me to focus on the emergency at hand.  Thanks to all of you who prayed for us, or sent words of encouragement.  You can go directly to any of these installments by clicking below...

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII

You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up, Part VIII

Hide and Seek
We got to his parents’ house (sorry, trailer) and knocked on the door.  Nobody answered, but we saw someone open the curtains.  In short, we knew that the baby was in there.  Grandpa was a few houses down, and my daughter saw him.  The cops told him that we were there to retrieve the baby.  He said that the baby “isn’t in there, and you don’t have a warrant, so you can’t go check, so you can just go fuck right off.”  He said some other stuff in a vain attempt to bait me into a confrontation.  In the end, we had to leave without the baby.

Author's Note: You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up is a factual story, broken into twelve installments for easy reading.  I am writing the story primarily for the benefit of my friends... specifically those friends who wanted to know what was going on, but remained silent, allowing me to focus on the emergency at hand.  Thanks to all of you who prayed for us, or sent words of encouragement.  You can go directly to any of these installments by clicking below...

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII

You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up, Part VII

The Baby is WHERE?!?
As my daughter was taken by ambulance to the hospital, baby daddy was taken by squad car to the county jail, where he was charged with Domestic Assault and Assault with Intent.  The police left the baby with his parents.  It took hours for my daughter to even find out where the baby was.  Once she found out, she freaked!  She told the cops to get the baby.  (Remember, the cops were the ones who left the baby with his parents.)  They wouldn’t.  They said to get a court order.  It was too late in the day to get a court order, so the attorney said to call DHS.  DHS said to call the cops.  Several hours later, she was released from the hospital.  I took my daughter to the police station.  Once again, the cops were reluctant to do anything, but I convinced the Lt. to get a couple of cops to go out there with us to retrieve her son.  The understanding was that the cops weren’t going to get involved.  I was just hoping to bluff them into giving him up.  (The part that really angers me about this is that the cops left the baby with his parents, but would do nothing to clean up the mess that they made.)

Author's Note: You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up is a factual story, broken into twelve installments for easy reading.  I am writing the story primarily for the benefit of my friends... specifically those friends who wanted to know what was going on, but remained silent, allowing me to focus on the emergency at hand.  Thanks to all of you who prayed for us, or sent words of encouragement.  You can go directly to any of these installments by clicking below...

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII

You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up, Part VI

The Deep End
Last Thursday he asked for the baby.  Thursday turned into an overnight visit.  The overnight visit turned into Friday night… and Saturday night… and Sunday night.  He said that he had an attorney’s appointment for Monday to work out a formal custody arrangement, and that she could have the baby then.  There was no such appointment.  My daughter got him to meet at a local restaurant, planning to get the baby back.  Instead of giving the baby back, he tried to take off again.  My daughter called the police, who told her to make him stay put.  Instead of staying, he ran over my daughter with his truck, once again taking the baby with him.  As my daughter lay screaming in the parking lot, he drove back to his parents’ house, like a coward.

Author's Note: You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up is a factual story, broken into twelve installments for easy reading.  I am writing the story primarily for the benefit of my friends... specifically those friends who wanted to know what was going on, but remained silent, allowing me to focus on the emergency at hand.  Thanks to all of you who prayed for us, or sent words of encouragement.  You can go directly to any of these installments by clicking below...

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII

You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up, Part V

Reconcile?
He asked for time with the baby on the 4th of July.  I suspect that he knew my daughter would go along.  During the fireworks, he tried to work things out with her, telling her how much he loved her and missed her.  She wanted nothing to do with this and called me to pick her up.

Author's Note: You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up is a factual story, broken into twelve installments for easy reading.  I am writing the story primarily for the benefit of my friends... specifically those friends who wanted to know what was going on, but remained silent, allowing me to focus on the emergency at hand.  Thanks to all of you who prayed for us, or sent words of encouragement.  You can go directly to any of these installments by clicking below...

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII

You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up, Part IV

Heading South
Roughly six months after the baby was born, it was time for my daughter to move back home.  Baby daddy got fired from his job and couldn’t make rent.  My daughter assumed primary physical custody of the baby, but had every intention of letting baby daddy see his child pretty much at will.  I figured that he’d probably disappear after a couple of months.  This isn’t exactly what happened.  His visits were infrequent and sporadic, but he never went much more than a week without seeing his son.  One day early last month, though, things took another violent turn.  The three of them had a visit and went to the park.  After the visit, they returned home and the trouble began.  He wanted to take the baby overnight.  In normal circumstances – in a normal relationship – this wouldn’t be an issue.  But he had no car and no place to stay.  My daughter said no, pointing out the aforementioned facts as her rationale.  He said that he was going to take the baby to his parents’ house.  (You remember his parents, right?  The bat-shit crazy ones I mentioned a bit ago?)  At this point, I said I wouldn’t allow it, and he literally went nuts.  He got in my face, screaming “You won’t tell me what I can and can’t do with my own son!” He then head-butted me in the face, breaking my nose.  My daughter and he broke up immediately after that.  I’d like to think I helped her realize that it would only be a matter of time before he hurt her or the baby, but I can’t say that for sure.  Either way, they were through.

Author's Note: You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up is a factual story, broken into twelve installments for easy reading.  I am writing the story primarily for the benefit of my friends... specifically those friends who wanted to know what was going on, but remained silent, allowing me to focus on the emergency at hand.  Thanks to all of you who prayed for us, or sent words of encouragement.  You can go directly to any of these installments by clicking below...

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII

You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up, Part III

The Other Grandparents
I have to digress for a moment to talk about the other grandparents.  This may seem a bit of a tangent now, but it will come back into play a bit further into the story.  The only way I can describe them is bat-shit crazy.  They are facing felony burglary charges. Grandma has abused her own son.  Grandpa thinks he’s a lot smarter than he really is.  They’re both pathological liars who seem to actually believe they’re telling the truth.  They’re the epitome of trailer trash.  When my daughter moved back home, crazy grandma told my daughter outright that she was going to take the baby away from my daughter.  They tried to interfere with my daughter’s custody by filing false reports with DHS.

Author's Note: You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up is a factual story, broken into twelve installments for easy reading.  I am writing the story primarily for the benefit of my friends... specifically those friends who wanted to know what was going on, but remained silent, allowing me to focus on the emergency at hand.  Thanks to all of you who prayed for us, or sent words of encouragement.  You can go directly to any of these installments by clicking below...

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII

You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up, Part II

The Brewing Storm
About six months into my daughter’ pregnancy, she decided to move in with him and give things go.  I was reasonably certain that they’d fail, but my daughter was an adult, with a baby on the way.  I wanted to ground her to room, but I really couldn’t.  It’s reasonable for you to wonder how I knew they wouldn’t make it… Well, he couldn’t hold a job, and he couldn’t hold a stable residence.  Even his parents kicked him out.  When they sent him packing, he crashed with a friend, but blew it when they got into a fist fight.  He moved in with a second friend, and proceeded to get booted from that place as well.  The cause?  Another fist fight.  And then there was that nagging suspicion in the back of my mind.

Author's Note: You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up is a factual story, broken into twelve installments for easy reading.  I am writing the story primarily for the benefit of my friends... specifically those friends who wanted to know what was going on, but remained silent, allowing me to focus on the emergency at hand.  Thanks to all of you who prayed for us, or sent words of encouragement.  You can go directly to any of these installments by clicking below...

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII

You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up, Part I

The Back Story
In retrospect, I can probably say that I never liked the guy, but he was dating my daughter, and they eventually had a child together, so I had to give him a fighting chance.  He had a couple of strikes against him coming out of the gate.  (How’s that for mixing my metaphors?)  He met my daughter by crashing a party.  The next morning, things were discovered missing from the house.  He struck me as white trash when we first met.  I accepted that he was dating my daughter though and tried to make the best of it.  I let him into my home.  I fed him.  I gave him money for a motel room when he was kicked out of his parents’ house.  I defended his rights as a father when others were telling my pregnant daughter to go for full custody.  I should have followed my instinct.

Author's Note: You Can’t Make this Sh*t Up is a factual story, broken into twelve installments for easy reading.  I am writing the story primarily for the benefit of my friends... specifically those friends who wanted to know what was going on, but remained silent, allowing me to focus on the emergency at hand.  Thanks to all of you who prayed for us, or sent words of encouragement.  You can go directly to any of these installments by clicking below...

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Prayers Please

My daughter and her ex-boyfriend have been having custody issues over my grandson.  Last Thursday, the ex-boyfriend took my grandson for a visit.  Since then he has refused to return my grandson to my daughter.  This all came to a head yesterday, when he ran over my daughter with his truck, breaking her foot and wrist.

My grandson still has not been returned to my daughter.  Please pray for us.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

In Defense of Homophobes



I’m sure that I’m going to get a lot of grief for this, but I’m trying to ask an honest, thought-provoking question here, not merely stir up a hornet’s nest.  How is it that people who support gay marriage, etc. are tolerant, when they refuse to accept that those opposing gay marriage may have a legitimate issue?

Before I continue, I want to clarify, for the record, that I've personally got no problem with gay marriage.  In fact, I'm proud to be from Iowa, one of the first states to allow homosexual nuptials.  I loved it when George Takei came out with his "I'm Takei," and "It's Okay to be Takei" catchphrases, and I free acknowledge that the gay community has far more avant garde taste in virtually everything than my silly redneck self does.  Furthermore, I was, until recently, intolerant of those who were prejudiced against the gay community, having had countless very heated debates with my mother, who opposes gay marriage on religious grounds.

I guess I started having second thoughts when I began to read the occasionally intelligently-written editorial from the other side of the fence.  Let me condense my brain stew of conflicting thoughts... Religion is widely understood to be very important, and something that transcends full understanding, pure logic and strict science.  Faith, specifically Christianity, is deeply ingrained into our national culture.  The Bible outright condemns homosexuality.  So, regardless of how misguided or insensitive the belief may be, conservative Christians have a point of view that should at least be acknowledged.  To belittle or dismiss this point of view does nothing to advance the debate or change anyone's perspective.  All it does is antagonize and cause people to dig in their heels and continue fighting.

To take this issue to the larger picture, I believe that this mentality has a lot to do with what's wrong with our country... I'm right, you're wrong, end of story.  No discussion.  No listening.  No attempting to see the other side of things.  I'm not asking everyone to instantly change their minds regarding homosexual marriage (or any other controversial topic, for that matter).  All I ask is that people quit yelling long enough to hear and understand the other side's point of view.  Who knows?  You might learn something.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

An Open Letter to DK

On Monday, June 3, I was assaulted by my grandson's father.  He and my daughter (who is living with me) were having a custody dispute over their son.  Baby daddy (known from now on as DK), understandably, missed his son and wanted to take him.  The downside though, is that DK is currently "in between residences" and without transportation.  DK suggested taking the baby to his parents' house.  My daughter refused this option, for reasons that will become clear during my open letter to DK.  I backed my daughter up, and for my efforts, I was thanked by a headbutt to the face, breaking my nose.  I'm not going to get into a vitriolic diatribe here, but I do have some things that I'd like to express.  I highly doubt that DK will ever read these words, but I'm going to speak my peace, nonetheless.  Here goes...

Well there DK, congratulations on putting the "beat-down" on a middle-aged man.  I suspect that you feel pretty macho right now.  There are a lot of things you don't realize though.  So, let me tell you a few things.  Most of this will be difficult to hear, but you've always known that I'm a straight shooter.  That's why you've come to me for advice on more than one occasion...

-I've known since you and my daughter first started dating that you'd eventually end up hitting someone in my family.  I'm just glad it was me, and not my daughter or grandson.  When you and my daughter first started dating, I remember you crying to me about getting kicked out of your parents' house, and then telling me a couple of weeks later about getting kicked out of two friends' houses in rapid succession.  In each instance, you freely admitted that it was because you couldn't control your temper.  So yeah, I knew this day was coming.  In fact, I had a pretty clear idea that Monday would be the day, because you were definitely unhinged.

-I'm glad that I managed to steer your rage away from my daughter and grandson, toward me.  You may think being a man is the willingness to fight for what's yours.  Well, you're half right. The TRUE measure of a man is the willingness to shield your family from harm.  When you started coming unglued, I directed your violence toward me.  You may think that you were in control, but my words directed your rage toward me, thus protecting my family.  Being a man is more than just fighting for what's yours... it's also being willing to suffer to protect what's yours.  I willingly took that headbutt, and would do it again 1000 times to protect my family.

-Do not mistake my non-violent reaction for weakness.  You may not have noticed, but that hit didn't faze me.  I've tolerated pain a lot more intense than what you delivered.  My non-violent reaction allowed me to enlist the help of law enforcement, and to establish that you have a pattern of violence.  I'm smart enough to know that it's only a matter of time before you would have turned that violence toward my daughter or grandson... despite your self-righteous cries to the contrary.  I could have fought back;  I chose not to.  Indeed, I was able to keep a clear head and make a tactical decision that will help me more in the long run, as opposed to losing my cool and giving in to blind rage.

-When I came out to the garage on Monday, my intention was not to interfere with your parental rights.  In fact, I was trying to formulate a solution that would meet everyone's needs... yours, my daughter's, and your son's.  But there was no way I could tolerate your suggestion that you take the baby to your parents' house.  You yourself have freely admitted that your mother is trying to undermine your role as a parent.  You know that she has made false claims to DHS in an attempt to take your son as her own.  You also have admitted that your mother is an unfit parent, yet you still wanted to take your child into that poisonous environment.  As you said this, you tried to play the "A baby needs his father" card.  But this wasn't about what was best for your son.  This was about your own selfish desires.  And yes, if you try to take a child, with no transportation and no home, and offer up a poison environment as your solution, then it's not about the kid, it's about you.  THIS is what I was trying to prevent... nothing more, nothing less.

-You argued that you couldn't see your son.  Well that's not exactly true.  While it is true that I won't allow you into my home when I'm not there, I was more than willing to welcome you in while I'm here.  The fact is, you made a choice.  You chose to avoid your son, as opposed to being slightly uncomfortable around me.  For clarification, I didn't allow you in my home during my absence for a couple of reasons.  When you started dating my daughter, you knew that I didn't allow males in my home unless there was an adult present.  Yet you and my daughter chose to violate that rule.  Furthermore, you had been charged with burglary (and were recently charged with theft).  Whether or not you LIKE my rules, you must concede that allowing you into my house AT ALL with this knowledge in mind, is rather magnanimous on my part.

-You seem to forget that I, too, am a father.  As a father, I am keenly aware that we are relegated to the role of second-class parents by a large part of society and by the legal system.  During my daughter's pregnancy and after your son's birth, I fought diligently to make sure that you had reasonable access to your son.  Many people who know my daughter argued that she should take the baby away from you.  We may not see eye to eye, but I fought FOR you in this arena.  I chose not to tell you any of this because it wouldn't have benefited you at the time.

-You must know that I've always had your interest more in mind than your own parents.  After all, you came to me for advice on more than one occasion.  I, in return, told you the truth as I saw it.  I plainly pointed out areas of your life where you needed to improve, and expressed that I believed you were trying.  Well, I think it's time for more brutal honesty...  You claim to want what's best for your child, but in practice, this is only as long as it's not uncomfortable for you.  If you really wanted to see your son, you'd do it.  You wouldn't go weeks on end without seeing him.  You wouldn't let your uneasiness around me prevent you from seeing your kid.  If you really want to do what's right by your boy, you will stop breaking the law, get (and keep) a job, find a place to live, stop self-medicating, get some serious counseling, and grow the fuck up!  I sincerely hope that you can (and will) do this, but in practice, I doubt that you have the discipline and self-awareness to do what's necessary to get yourself on the right track.  In short, I think you're damaged goods.

-Oh, for the record, you are no longer welcome in my home... at all... ever.  If I see you on my property, I will immediately call the authorities.

-I think that's about all I've got to say to you.  Once again, congratulations on your major milestone of hitting an old man... in front of his daughter, no less.  You may think that you put me in my place.  I on the other hand, have hopefully demonstrated what my daughter can look forward to if she keeps associating with you.   Like I said, I hope you can get your shit together, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Boys Trip, Evolved

This weekend marked my 20th Annual Boys' Trip.  Back in 1994, a couple of friends and I were talking about how we missed camping, canoeing  and so forth.  Next thing we knew, we decided to rent some canoes and do a weekend-long downriver canoe trip.  We enjoyed it so much that it turned into an annual tradition.  The trips have evolved over the years... we've done canoeing, whitewater kayaking, visited at least 15 different rivers in at least four states... we even went to Las Vegas one year.  But somehow we've managed to turn it into a tradition that's spanned two decades.

Somewhere along the line I talked about bringing my wife and kids, but the boys said no.  (I was okay with that, by the way, or I would have pushed harder.)  My older daughter is now an adult, and my younger daughter is 16.  My friends, however, have young children.  Last year we started bringing the spouses and kids at my friends' request.  We broke the kids in slowly, staying in a campground, in a large camper with an indoor stove, A/C and so forth.  The kids had a great time.

This year the spouses stayed home, my friends brought their young 'uns, my older daughter brought her baby, and we went a bit more rustic.  My daughter, grandson and I stayed in a small pop-up camper, but everyone else stayed in tents, and we cooked over an open fire.

This trip is going to go down as one of the more challenging ones.  The forecast predicted mild weather, but it was cold and rainy all weekend.  The kids (including mine) were underprepared for the chill, so there was a lot of squawking about the cold.  The pop up camper provided a welcome relief from the elements, though.  I hate to imagine how much worse the complaining would have been without the camper and a deck of cards.  Don't get me wrong... the complaining was completely within the realm of what's normal for kids.  And this didn't ruin the trip or anything.  I'm not bitching about the kids' complaining... I'm merely reporting.

I ran the river twice.  The first time was with a friend in his canoe.  The river was quick and challenging, but well within our ability.  The purpose for this trip was to make sure that it was feasible to take children the next day... okay, and to give us a bit of adult time.  My adult daughter watched the kids during our short run down the river.  We decided that it was safe for the little ones... even the baby.  But I have to admit... while I knew in my head and heart that it was safe and that I had the skill to run the river, I also experienced a twinge of anxiety at the prospect of flipping the canoe with a baby.  And yes, we took every conceivable precaution... life jacket for the baby... mom didn't paddle... I was the middle canoe, and we pre-scouted the river to verify the safety.  But I still had a twinge of anxiety... almost an adrenaline rush.

The downside of that day was that we got back kind of late, so we didn't dinner until almost 9:00PM.  The kids were understandably hungry and cranky.  Eating late became a recurring theme for the weekend.... one the kids never quite got used to.  Again, there was complaining, but nothing outside of the normal realm of childhood behavior.
Day trip canoeing entails a lot of vehicle shuttling.  During the shuttling I picked up a screw in my tire.  I had hoped that it would hold for the entire trip, allowing me to get it patched once I got back home.  But alas, this wasn't the case.  It held for a couple of days, but gave out on the way home.  I had to change my tire in the pouring rain, with a truck full of gear and a trailer on the back.  Not my favorite way to change a tire.  By the way, this is the first time I've had to change a tire on my vehicle.  The tire, by the way, was still repairable.  It just went flat.  So again, not complaining, just reporting.

We went on a hike... the kids ran ahead and got separated from the adults.  For the purpose of this story, I'm considering my adult daughter one of the kids.  The baby wasn't with us on the hike.  The kids and adults got separated, and we called Iowa DNR to help us search.  This, by the way, was not a panic situation... we called before it got to that point.  Everything had a happy ending... we ended up finding the kids before DNR did.  This was merely a precautionary move that made my heart jump for the briefest of moments.

Overall I'd call this a misadventure.  Nothing really bad happened.  The biggest thing is that the kids got to go.  I wanted this years ago, but my friends weren't ready to allow adults.  Now my friends are ready, so the boys trip has evolved into more of a family trip.  These are early trips for the kids.  They're going to be underprepared (or we're going to underprepare for them).  They're going to be uncomfortable.  But they're going to have a lot of fun as well... running the trails... exploring for shells on a river's sandy beach...  We, as the adults, need to keep our patience when they're upset, and encourage the excitement.  If we don't do this, then our children will never learn the love for the outdoors that my friends and I developed when we were kids.  That would be a shame.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Daveathlon

I've missed the last two consecutive Friday workout sessions.  Last Friday was because of work.  The previous Friday was because of a concert.  Furthermore, I've been in a bit of a rut regarding my workout routine.  I've hit a major plateau and just haven't been able to break through it.  As a result, I've started to feel a bit discouraged and crappy about exercising.

I figured I'd kick myself in the complacency by doing my first ever Daveathlon today.  A while back, I realized that I'd eventually hit all of my original fitness goals, and decided to give myself another one.  My original goals, for those needing a reminder...

-First Class Marine Corps physical fitness test (achieved)
-Swim a mile (achieved)
-One set of 50 push-ups (not yet achieved)

My secondary goal is to do all of this in one day. Working toward this goal, I ran the PFT, swam and did a max set of push-ups.  I didn't get a First Class PFT, and I didn't get the 50 push-ups, but I did perform to the best of my ability and proved that this is a very achievable goal.  This also served the purpose of making up for one of my missed workout sessions.  It was a strenuous workout, but I did it, and I feel much better.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Manatee

I was swimming at the Y yesterday when I saw a very large woman get into the pool and start doing laps.  This lady wasn't just a bit overweight, her torso was almost a perfect sphere (albeit a bit lumpy).

When I swim, I wear goggles, so as you can imagine, I had a clear view of her swimming technique as she dog-paddled by.  (I believe her girth made it so that dog-paddling was the only stroke she could pull off.)  As she languidly slipped by, all I could think was that she looked kind of like a manatee... not exactly what you'd consider appealing, but somehow graceful.  I also pictured myself a mere six months ago, returning to an active lifestyle after two decades of sloth, and thought "good for you."

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Best Shape of My Life

Six months ago, almost to the day, I decided that it was time to get in shape.  Those of you who follow my blog or know me in real life probably know the goals I set for myself...

-10 pull-ups
-50 sit-ups in 2 minutes or less
-Run 3 miles in 30 minutes or less
-Swim a mile
-Achieve a first class Marine Corps PFT (physical fitness test)
-50 push-ups

Today I achieved the most difficult goal... a first class Marine Corps PFT.  To put this in perspective, I haven't done a first class PFT since I was 19 or 20.  Furthermore, the PFT standards are a bit more stringent today than they were when I was on active duty.  With this in mind, I am declaring myself in the best shape of my life (age adjusted, of course).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Unintentionally Artsy

Over the weekend, I purchased a Suma S108G indoor helicopter.  It's a replica of the Marine Corps' AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter.  I bought this exact model because I worked on them during my two deployments while I was in the Corps and I've always thought they were cool as shit.

I took a couple of pictures immediately after taking it out of the package.  I was really impressed with the pics.  If you use just a bit of imagination, it almost looks like the real thing.







I like the silhouette of the first shot, and the background of the second picture.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Rim Job

In the summer of 2006 I bought a new Sportster.  It was a baseline model, but I had wanted a Harley for many years, and the time was right.  This picture was taken the day I picked up the bike.


Since then I've done a few minor modifications along the way... a passenger seat and backrest, a windscreen and saddlebags, but nothing major.  Despite owning the bike for several years, it had remained very close to stock.  Things changed over the last summer though.  I did a bit of engine work, and increased the horsepower, and I had the rims customized.  You can't see the engine work, but trust me, you can feel it.  The rims, however, turned out far better than I had expected.  Check it out...


What do you think?

I've owned this bike for almost seven years now, and I still love it!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Traditions

Back in 1994, I was hanging out with Greg and Darin, a couple of close friends that I've known since grade school, talking about the old days.  Hanging out with them in and of itself wasn't anything noteworthy; we got together quite frequently.  On that particular day though, we started talking about our time as boy scouts, and at some point we mentioned that we kind of missed camping and canoeing.  Greg, in his infinitely pragmatic way, asked why we didn't just do it.  Next thing we knew, we had planned a long weekend canoeing the Upper Iowa River.  1994 was a long time ago, so I don't recall many details from that particular trip, but we had enough fun that we decided to do it again the next year... and the next... and the next... and so forth.

Yesterday, Greg and I were planning this year's trip when it hit me... this is our 20th trip.  You read it right, this year will mark the 20th annual Boys' Trip.  The excursion itself has grown and changed a lot over the years.  We rarely hit the same river twice (though we do have a fondness for the Upper Iowa) so the scenery always different.  We spent several years whitewater kayaking until Greg and Darin decided to hand up their spray skirts.  We've island hopped in the Boundary Waters and Turtle Flambeau.  We even went to Las Vegas one year.  We've had several people that have accompanied us over the years, and recently we even opened the trip up to our family, which was a big change to the long-standing boys only rule.  We started out going over Labor Day weekend, but once we figured out that the water was consistently better over Memorial Day, we changed our weekend.  We used to take pride in our ability to rough it for a week straight.  Now, in a nod to our advancing age, we allow ourselves a few creature comforts.  One thing that's remained constant is that we always have a great time.

When we started this, none of us expected it to turn into a tradition.  But now that it has, I'm proud to say that it's my longest-standing tradition.  It's no longer restricted to boys only, but it was, is and ever will be referred to as the Boys' Trip.  Here's a not to our 20th annual, hoping to keep the tradition alive until the last one of us expires.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Plateaus, Pain and Perseverence

A few of you may recall that I started exercising about five months ago.  Today's post is an update on my progress.

I'm happy to report that I'm still exercising.  This in itself is quite an accomplishment.  Historically, I've never made it more than three months before losing interest.  I think that I've learned enough from my previous false starts to stick with it this time.

At the outset, I set a series of goals for myself...
-10 pull-ups
-50 sit-ups in two minutes or less
-Run 3 miles in 30 minutes or less
-Swim a mile
-50 push-ups
-Successfully complete a First Class Marine Corps PFT

I hit all of the goals except the push-ups and PFT in very short order.  After that I hit a plateau.  For a couple of months, I've been stuck at 12 pull-ups, 60 sit-ups and my run time barely improved.  The one area where I made major strides was in swimming.  I can swim two miles without thinking about it.

Additionally, I've had problems with my running.  When I started this whole thing, I decided to radically depart from my past attempts in a couple of fundamental ways... one departure was minimalistic running, using shoes that effectively provide no support.  The idea is to run as close to barefoot as possible, taking shorter strides and landing on the ball of the foot instead of long, heel-striking strides.  I've tried diligently to make this work, but I keep straining my right foot, and haven't done a three mile run for about two months, because I keep straining my foot.  And yes, I rest after any strain.

Like I said though, I'm not going to quit.  I went out earlier this week and bought a pair of standard running shoes, from a genuine running shop.  I had to order the shoes, because they didn't have my size.  (I tried 1/2 size smaller and loved the way they felt.)  They arrived today.  I tried them out by running three miles, and knocked 45 seconds off of my previous best time, despite having gone a VERY long time without running three miles.  By the way, I'm still focusing on a mid-foot landing, so I don't kill my knees or get shin splints.  I'm going to rotate these new shoes and the minimalist shoes, with the goal of eventually being a minimalist runner.  I may or may not reach that goal.  Either way though, the new shoes are awesome.

I'm also going to focus on push-ups for a while, with the hope of breaking the plateau and hitting another goal.  I had hoped to complete all of my goals within 6 months.  I may or may not meet that deadline, but it's been a rewarding journey.  I think that I may do a 10k or triathlon sometime down the road, but I'm not committing to it yet.