Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Bird in the Fender is Worth....

This post is not going to be interesting.  I'm setting the bar right now.  This is simply me telling you of something that happened to me a few days ago. (Did I mention that this was not going to be interesting?)

I notice odd things in life.  I think my senses are screwed up.  I have a bad sense of smell but my nose will pick up the most obscure scents lingering around.  (That not only has some advantages but it also some VERY distinct disadvantages.)  My hearing is similar.  I can hear a fly flying around in another room or even a conversation going on through walls and upstairs/downstairs in my house but, for some reason, I can't hear my wife telling me that the trash needs to go out, even when she is standing in front of me ...and looking directly at me ... and making me repeat the words that I obviously can't hear!  (Again... advantages and disadvantages.)

This rare oddity also works with my sight.  I have impaired vision (thus the glasses) but I will SEE the strangest things.  I don't say anything because I don't want my wife to think I'm crazy.  (We have a lifetime to be together.  I don't want to have this "weird sight thing" held over me for the next 40 - 50 years.)  I'm still not convince that I'm seeing something strange or that I'm interpreting what I see strangely. (See why I can't tell my wife?)  Anyway... here is an example of what I'm talking about.

The End (First): I had to ask myself, "Do animals, like birds, thrill seek?"

The Beginning (Second... because I'm cool like that.): So I was driving home from work the other day.  There was nothing special about the trip until I made the last turn and I was on my street.  I noticed a little bird in the road on my side of the street.

Initially, there was nothing strange about that either as it happens all of the time.  But that fowl looked foul.  He looked like he wanted to play chicken!  Of course I'm going to win this because every physics lesson I remember from high school tells me that staying on the present course was only going to end badly for the birdie.  (Basic Math had me winning this too: little bird 0.5 lbs + BIG BAD SUV 4000 lbs = me winning EVERY SINGLE time!)

Even with the Vegas House style odds greatly in my favor,  I am by no means evil (at least I'm not admitting to it here).  So I did slow down a little bit to give the bird some more time to check with his bookie.  (If it had been a cat, I can't say I would have been as nice.  But before I get email from the cat-lovers out there... I would have slowed down for a cat, too... just not as much.)  After getting a text from his bookie, the bird decided it was a battle he can't win.  So he hopped over to the left lane and admitted defeat. (For my UK (United Kingdom not University of Kentucky or Kansas) fans, you are now considered driving in the bird lane.)  The victory was mine... or so I thought.  Apparently, the ACTUAL competition had yet to begin.

As I neared the bird, he began to fly.  My first thought was that he was going to fly away.  But, Nooooo... He started flying in the bird lane in the same direction I was going!  It reminded me of the Dave Chappelle line, "I'm gonna race 'em!" (Most of you wont get that one.  But the ones who do will find it absolutely hilarious!) He started speeding up.  This bird wanted to race.  I know some of you are saying that he was just a little scared bird flying for his life.  But you are being very naive.  He's a bird.  At ANY point in time he could have flown upwards and away but THAT bird chose to out(fly)run my car.

Now, I'm the smart one here.  I am the creature of higher intelligence.  Between the bird and ME, I'm the one who knows that regular birds can't out-fly this car.  That knowledge alone should be enough to just smile about what happened and move one.  It's moments like these that men should rise above petty competition for zero gain.  We must take the high road.  But thinking about it, the high road would technically have been easier for the bird... since he can fly!  And THAT knowledge was what I allowed to "drive" my decision.  Oh... IT WAS ON! (For the female of the human species: The male of the species is missing the gene that allows us to take the high road when we have been challenged to a competition.  (It's similar for dares.) It has been a curse every since Eve challenged Adam to an apple eating contest.  She won...  He lost twice!)

So, I was driving.  The bird was flying.  I'm speeding up a little because I'm not going to let that bird take me in a race that I didn't know I was going to be in.  It's just not happening.  At that moment, I look forward (which is where I should have been looking to begin with) instead of at the bird to my side and I see there is another car coming toward us (in HIS lane, of course).  I then realize I have this race in the bag.  So I don't even need to push it.  I let off the gas a little (but not enough to let the bird win.)  It should have been over and done with at this point.  The car was coming.  I'm sure the bird saw it.  And being a bird, he should have just flown OVER the car coming and that should have been it.  But since I'm taking the time to tell this story, you should know that the normal route wasn't take.

The bird wasn't budging.  Not only did he play chicken with my car, he was playing chicken with the car coming toward us.  I honestly thought I was about to see feathers go flying over the roof of the oncoming car.  But that didn't happen.  That bird (and I will promise on a stack of bibles or testify in a congressional hearing), instead of going OVER the other car (again, he could do it at any time... he's a bird), chose to kick it into another gear.  He flew even faster at the oncoming car and cut into my lane in front of me at the last second!  I tripped out!  That was one of the craziest things I had ever seen!  He won the stupid race.

After he had performed his daredevil feat, he FINALLY decided to fly upwards.  I'm sure when he felt he was clear he turned toward me and waived a wing (kinda hard to tell when they are flying) and said, "See ya sucka!"  I'm also  pretty sure he literally gave me "the bird" too and went on his merry way.  (But I can't confirm that one.)  I wanted to explain to the bird that I let off the gas as an act of kindness.  I wanted to let him know that even in competition, men will still sometimes submit to act of humanity.  I also wanted to explain to the bird that I let him win because my street has 2 cops that live on it and they don't like speeding.  There were a lot of reasons I LET the bird win that day.  But if I tried to explain that to him, do you think he would have listened?  I doubt it.  Which really stinks because there is a bird somewhere in this world that thinks it won that race and defeated two humans in a game of chicken.  But my readers know what really happened.  It was my single act of kindness that let him live to tell the tale to all of his little avian buddies.

Aren't you glad this wasn't about it a cat.  This story might have had a different ending.  :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010



It has been quiet on the Que Family front.  We have been staying out of trouble.  And it's not that we necessarily WANT to stay out of trouble.  We just don't have the financial backing to get INTO said trouble.  With the current state of the economy, a lot of us find ourselves standing on the dock and the ship has long since set sail.  Some have been able to move on.  Some are still waiting for the ship to come back.   Unfortunately, that ship will not be returning for most of us.

With everything going on, I had to ask myself.... W.W.D.D. (What Would Daddy Do?) I know that's a take on What Would Jesus Do?  I didn't meant to steal it.  (I promise!)  But I had to take a new approach to the current set of circumstances.  To be honest, I'm sure I could use Jesus' principles and words to help in these times since the words are timeless.  But sometimes it's a little hard to relate to someone who wasn't married, didn't have kids (especially little ones), didn't have a mortgage, never made a car payment, didn't have student loans, still lived with his mother even in his 30s, and whose father COULD have bailed him out of any financial difficulty if it had ever become necessary.

Sure, he had his own share of problems.  And none of them would make me want to change positions with him.  But this isn't a life comparison.  It's just a statement to show that, at this moment, I'm looking for someone to get an idea from who has been "there" and done "that".  I love you, Jesus.  You are the savior for my soul.  But right now I'm going to look up to someone else for my particular set of problems... my father.

When I was younger, my family was very poor. So my father had a lot of the been "theres" and done "thats".  But there is one thing that really stands out to me.  When we were going through a particularly difficult time I didn't see my father  that much for a few years.  It wasn't because he was a deadbeat dad.  It wasn't because he left all of his responsibilities.  It wasn't because he didn't want to be there for his family during the tough time.  It was exactly the opposite.  My father took a second job to help pull us out of the trouble we found ourselves in.  He bit the bullet for a couple of years and did what he thought was best for the family.  That's where I am right now.

Living in a sea of debt and not being able to swim has created more than its share of issues.  So I decided to tackle this issue as my father would. Starting this week I will have two employers.  Honestly, it's going to suck pretty bad!  But you won't hear me complain much about it here.  As bad as it is, I will still feel blessed to have two jobs when a lot of Americans don't even have one.

But even with that understanding there is a fair amount of sucky things I will have to accept for a while.  This decision will mean that I will be spending less time with my wife and kids.  So, I will miss all of the gymnastics meets.  I will miss all of the school meetings.  I will miss all of the family dinners at the table.  I will miss out on seeing my kids (especially the little ones) learn new things (my wife MUST record some of those).  I will miss the putting the kids to bed at night.  I will miss sleep. (That one won't be too bad though.  The kids don't let us sleep as it is.)  And I will miss taking the kids to see the grandparents. 

There are a lot of other things I will miss but I don't have the time to list them all.  This sacrifice now is to help insure a better future for my family.  When you are in debt you don't get to enjoy all of those things I mentioned as much anyway.  It's something you are always thinking about.  Money (or lack there of) always makes its way into every aspect of your life.

So, this is how I plan to take control of the situation.  This is where our family starts to get some of its freedom back.  With every debt gone comes another opportunity to enjoy all of the other things that make life worth living.

I would tell everyone to pray for me because this will be a tough journey.  But honestly, I would much rather you pray for my wife.  I may be taking another job but she is the one who is making the real sacrifice.  She has spend more time with our 3 crazy kids without me as a buffer.  (I really didn't do much anyway so nothing will change.)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Man-Camp 2010 - The Solitary Exodus (The Final Chapter)

So, it was the morning of my departure. I slept surprisingly well considering the "root" problem I dealt with the previous night.  The foam pad helped but the ROOT would not be denied.  It had an agenda and it wasn't going to let a little padding stand in its way.  Personally, I also believe it knew I was leaving that next morning and that made it all clingy.  You know how roots are.

I rose to the COLD morning air.  The previous frost warnings almost proved to be accurate.  In my professional, meteorological opinion, I would guess the temperature was about 1 degree ABOVE hell freezing over.  Which is warmer than I had expected it to be.  So... bonus.  But the area wasn't going to warm up simply because I was starting MY day so I got up and started getting ready.  I was even able to skip the first step in the old man morning ritual because my bladder was COMPLETELY empty from the night before.

The Scoutmaster had gotten up a little bit before I did because he had a dying fire to tend to.  He stayed true to his goal and only had to light the fire once when we arrived.  There was also firewood leftover from yesterday's episode of "Who Wants to Be a Lumberjack?"  So with his skills and the available resources he was able to revive a weak pile of embers to the mighty inferno it once was not even 6 hours earlier.  I let him finish that before I got out of the cold tent though.  In spite of popular belief, I'm not an idiot.

The campsite also began to wake up with the fire.  It didn't take long for the sound of the burning wood to change the site from a freezing cold ghost town to a slightly warmer (yet still freezing cold) ant farm.  People started moving around and that signaled the beginning of the day.

I was leaving out that day but before I got everything together I ate breakfast.  The morning's breakfast was an MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) like all of our meals.  Mine in particular was Meatballs in Tomato Sauce. (I'm not completely sure on that fact.  All I know is that it was red and had meat in it.  So really it could have been any one of 50 types of MREs.  But I won't complain because it was a LOT easier to carry those down the mountain than the bologna and hot dogs we tried to carry down on the trip before this one.  That is a 10-Part series!  I will spare you all that one).

MREs are field rations provided by the US military for its service members who are in combat or are in other field conditions where regular food is not available.  So I was a little concerned to see that mine contained ingredients to make a French Vanilla Cappuccino.  What???  Not that I'm opposed to an MRE having French Vanilla Cappuccino.  I just can't understand a combat situation where someone once said, "You know what would make this lovely meal complete? ...French Vanilla Cappuccino.  Now, hand me my rifle.  The enemy is advancing."

After eating my breakfast (minus the Cappuccino) I got my gear ready for the trek up the mountain.  My pack was MUCH lighter now that the MREs were gone.  I did pack one with me so that it would be one less the others needed to worry about when they left the following day.  (I left a day earlier than the others because I was working on a business idea that needed my attention.  If we get to go next year, I will make sure I get to stay the whole time.  I wouldn't want that root to miss my back too much.)

Because it was cold I was originally going to wait until it was closer to noon leave. But I knew that it was going to be a tough 4-mile hike up the mountain so I would get plenty of warmth simply from the movement.  With that, I put on my pack, retrieved my number 2 pencil and (though I made fun of it) asked if I could keep the little knife for protection on the hike.  I was given the security clearance necessary to possess such a powerful weapon. (They don't just let ANYONE carry those things!)  My friends had also been debating for 2 days on whether to walk up with me so I wouldn't go alone but I finally convinced them I would be fine. (I have awesome friends!)  They reluctantly and with extreme reservation agreed.  (See?)  And the journey alone began with a few appropriately placed fist bumps, hand shakes, hugs (yes, hugs) and simple good byes.  I would have left them with an even more appropriately placed gas-plosion but I really had to go to the bathroom at this point.  So in the end (pun intended) the joke would have been on me.  Literally...

The hike up the mountain lasted about 2 hours.  It was a lot easier than expected because my pack was MUCH lighter on the way out because the food was eaten.  But still... 2 hours is a long time to be walking alone on a mountain trail.  The entire hike I saw 3 people.  There was a guys hiking down alone (idiot) and a couple who were going to be out just for the day (I assume) because they didn't even have packs.  So that left a lot of time to think.  Especially random thoughts like...

1. I noticed that there are a lot of places in the Smoky Mountains that may received one direct ray of sunlight a year.  And yet, the mountain chain is teeming with vegetation.  That made me think... People should be like that as well.  Even if life dumps on us every day of the year except one,  we should find a way to use that one day to give us the strength to last us until the next "one" day.

2. Which hand should I use to hold the walking stick and which hand for the knife?  If I were to get attacked by a pack of Ninja Bunnies, which weapon configuration would be most beneficial. (If you have seen "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" you know this is a distinct possibility.  If you haven't, you need to.  But I will warn you it IS a cult classic.  So you will immediately LOVE it or HATE every minute of it.  There is no middle.)

3. I wonder how many times this theory has been tested: If you and your friends are being chased by a bear, it doesn't matter if you are the fastest.  You just have to make sure you are not the slowest.

4. Man... My wife would HATE this whole multi-day hiking/camping thing.

5. Half way up the mountain I couldn't help but think to myself, "You know what would make this lovely hike complete??? ... French Vanilla Cappuccino."

6. In the movie Star Wars, the bad guys were always trying to "force" people over to the Dark Side.  When this tactic stopped working, why didn't the PR department shift gears and start offering something different like free food or massages for the first 1000 people or even gift cards?  I'm mean, they owned everything at that point.  Surely, money wouldn't have been a problem.  They could have even done the old bait-and-switch like a lot of the multi-level marketing businesses do.   They would offer you a trip to some remote tropical planet if you just sat and listened to a 1hr presentation showing all of the benefits of the Dark Side.

7. If the federal government says they have my best interest at heart, then why don't they personally ask me what I think/feel/want so they will at least know what my best interests are?

8. This trip has truly changed me but I STILL hate shopping.... and cats... and stuffed toys with HUGE eyes.

9. I wonder if the people who named the "Titanic" had named the ship "I will never mock GOD and his awesome power whether I believe in divinity or not" would the ship still be around today.

10. I also thought about the fact that each step I moved forward took me one more step away from my friends.  With each step up the mountain, if something happened, I was THAT much farther away from those who do anything to help me.  With each step I increased my chances of falling to serious injury or even death.  With each step I was leaving behind life-long friends.  And with life's uncertainties, there was a chance I would never see them again.

But it is all about perspective.  Because...

With each step I was one step closer to seeing my kids' smiles.  Each step brought me closer to seeing my beautiful wife.  Each step up the mountain was filling my heart with joy knowing I'm that much closer to hearing the sounds of my children's laughter.  With each step I could almost feel my lovely wife's touch.  Each step led me one step closer to... home.

All in all, the camping experience is one that I will enjoy year after year.  But to be honest, the best part of being away from all of the bad stuff about life for a few days is the coming home to all of the good stuff.  Without my family in my life it really wouldn't really be living.  I would just be going through the motions of life.

It felt good to be home.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Man-Camp 2010 - The OTHER Half-Day of Nature (Part 4)

What??? Are you still here reading about our boring camping trip?  I would stop writing about it but I'm in too deep now.  I have to finish!  So just sit back and enjoy part 4 of 5.

When we last left our heroes...

We decided to go hiking.  We had just hiked the day before so it probably wasn't the greatest of ideas.  But we were in the wilderness... what else was there left to do?  We had firewood and our clothes were drying.  So we decided to hike farther down the trail to see what else the mountains had to offer.

Since we were in the valley between two mountains, the trail generally followed a mountain stream about 50ft away.  A very COLD mountain stream.  I remember it being cold the last time we were there because we all bathed in it's Arctic frostiness (not at the same time, mind you).  It was Spring we when made the trip last time but I promise the water could have held an iceberg or two if it had been deep enough.  So there would be no stream bathing on this trip.  I would be carrying this manly musk back home with me.  And that's the way it should be!

The other two people (the Scoutmaster and the Dr.) who were veterans on this trip wanted to find a little water hole they had found before.  They remembered how cold it was but they didn't care because there was a deep pool of water to swim in and a little waterfall to accent the scene.  It all sounded fine and dandy but I wasn't going to get in it!  One of my friends wondered why.  So, I told him.

You won't hear me do this a lot but I'm going to make a racial (NOT racist) statement here.  I don't know a lot of black people who enjoy water.  And I'm going to go out on a limb and say YOU (as in ANYONE reading this) don't either.  Sure, you might know one or two but they are about as rare as the elusive jackalope.  I'm going to let you think on that one for a moment.  Now, to add to the thinking process, how many black people do you see at the beach?  THEN think to yourself... How many of those at the beach do you actually see in the water?  I'm going to guess (with confidence) that you won't find too many.  Years ago there was a HUGE argument about the TV show Baywatch (I told you YEARS ago) not having many black people represented.  People were calling the show racist (NOT racial).  Personally, I think they were being pretty accurate.

Racial (NOT racist) statement part two: You don't see a lot of black people in places where it's cold.  Do we need to take a break so you can think about this one too?  We are just not fond of cold ANYTHING (minus drinks).  When you watch the Summer Olympics we are everywhere.  When you watch the WINTER Olympics we are not even at the indoor events.  We don't ski.  We don't play hockey.  We don't ice skate.  And I will repeat this...  You might find your one or two but you will not find a number that's even statistically recognizable.  I don't know why but that's just the case.

Now combine the two previous paragraphs and tell me if you have ever seen a black member of the Polar Bear Club.  Just the thought of that BLOWS my mind!  I can't imaging perfectly sane people WANTING to strip down to almost nothing in subfreezing weather and jumping into a pool of water that's probably colder than the subfreezing air.  I can't even wrap my brain around that one.  I'm sure there is an exception but I have looked at photo after photo and have yet to find a single one.  (This might be a good challenge to my readers.  If you have a pic of a black Polar Bear Club member, send it to me.  I would love to see it just so I can mark it off of my bucket list.)

And THAT'S why I didn't care too much about the swimming hole.  It wasn't even something I was going to look back on years later and go, "Man, I wish I had risked hypothermia and drowning just so I can say I did it." But I'm not a party pooper so I was on the lookout for it as well while we were making out way down the trail.

I'm not sure how far we went (but it wasn't even a mile) when the Scoutmaster thought he saw it.  So he went to investigate.  And by investigate I mean he cut through the overgrowth to get to the stream and starting making his way back upstream.  I think we all learned a lesson that day. We learned that is a lot has changed since we were here during our late teens.  After going from rock to rock (then eventually just walking in the water itself) he realized he couldn't find the original spot.  Too much had changed.  But, of course, he wasn't going to let that stop him.  So he and the Dr. found a different spot.  And all was well... until the next trip when they try to find this NEW spot again.

I decided to make my way back to camp.  So did the Rookie.  We made it back and enjoyed the last few minutes of direct sunlight left in the day.  The swimming hole adventure didn't last as long as I had expected it to so the other two were back at camp not too much longer after that.  It was definitely lunchtime.

This is also when we got to what the camp was really about.  As we ate MREs (the same food that the fine soldiers of the US military enjoy) we finally took a few minutes to just talk.  We talked about life.  We talked about politics.  We talking about the state of the US.  We even talked about time travel and physics (that conversation didn't last long).  We talking about where our lives are and how different it was the last time we were in the exact same spot.  We talked about the Butterfly Effect.  We talked about religion.  We talked a little about everything and a lot about nothing.  That was easily my favorite part of the whole trip.  There were a lot of funny and crazy things that went on in the VERY short time I was there but those conversations were the most memorable.  If life sees to it that we NEVER get to go back again, I will at least have that moment to keep me company.

Everything was going great until people started showing up.  Apparently, everyone got the memo that I was going to be at that particular campsite and wanted to come and see if the rumors were true.  Of course, THAT wasn't the case (I don't think) but people did start showing up.  As stated in an earlier camping post of this trip, we saw very few people the last time.  We also didn't have to share the area the entire trip.  Now, already, on this trip we had another person sharing the area (the Fisherman) and other people were coming through OUR campsite.  We didn't mind the Fisherman being there because he was.. well... out fishing pretty much the whole time.  But we had a few smaller groups of people come through first looking for a good campsite.  We directed them away.  Then a larger group came through looking for the same thing.  We gave ALL of them the "this is OURS, go get your own" look.  And they all obliged.  That was until the LAST group showed up.  I can't remember what group they were with (mainly because I didn't speak that much to them) but they decided to make our cramped campsite even crampier. (For some reason, spell checker didn't like crampier.  Oh, well.)

We didn't know this new group of people so we didn't trust them either.  (That meant all of us kept our weapons of choice close just in case.  My little knife was easy to conceal.) We also noticed that they were ill prepared to camp.  They were fine for hiking but not for camping.  This is especially true since there was a frost warning in the area for that night.  I kinda felt bad for them and so did the Scoutmaster.  So before going to bed, he made sure that the fire was a large, good one and that they had plenty of chopped wood ready in case they needed it.

We decided before we went to bed that we would move the tent a little.  I spearheaded this movement because through the course of the day I found out that not EVERYONE was sleeping with a root in their side.  So we moved the tent and changed the sleeping arrangement.  I really felt good about the new move until it was time to go to bed.  I put my sleeping bag in it's new spot.  I placed my trusty knife next to where my head would be for quick access. (You can't trust those squirrels.  Every good camper knows that!)  I get in my sleeping bag and there it was.  Mr. Root's cousin.  ANOTHER FREAKIN' ROOT!!!!  You've got to be kidding me!  Was this thing following me?  I moved my bag around to try to find the best spot.  But even the BEST spot left me with a root press in my back.  I just had to make do.

There was a problem with this night's making do with the root.  I don't even know if this is medically possible but I'm blaming it on THAT root even if it's not!  But for some reason, that root in my back kept making me have to go pee.  And I'm not talking every 30 minutes to an hour.  I'm talking like 5-10 minute intervals.  There were several problems with that.  I didn't have my glasses on so I couldn't see.  The tent was dark and I was on the side away from the entrance.  So that meant every 5-10 minutes I was getting out of my WARM sleeping bag, putting on my shoes, stumbling over everyone, opening the tent (letting in MORE cold air and making me have to pee worse), making my way down a trail (blind and in pitch darkness), peeing, making my way back (under the same conditions), opening the tent again (more cold air), stumbling over everyone, taking my shoes off, getting back into a (NOW) cold sleeping bag, and finally snuggling up to my favorite ROOT in the whole wide world.  I don't know how many times it happened as I stopped counting at 42,007.

I'm sure this ritual was annoying everyone but no one said anything.  The Scoutmaster DID finally offer me a foam padding to go under my sleeping bag.  It was something short of turning water into wine (probably not a good analogy for someone who was peeing a lot).  But it worked!!!  I didn't have go pee after that.  Granted, it could have been the fact that there was ZERO water left in my system after the many, MANY trips to the bark covered port-o-potty.  But, as I said before, I'm blaming it on the the root.

I would like to say that things ended there.  We were in the tent.  It was dark.  It was cold.  It was time to sleep.  But someone decided to put the final exclamation point on the evening.  Someone... And I'm not naming any names because that would be RUDE.  Isn't that right, Scoutmaster??? Someone decided that the night wasn't complete until someone sounded the evening tuba.  Someone (Scoutmaster) ripped on of the loudest, most explosive farts to finish the day off.  Does everyone remember that we were in a closed tent to keep as much of the cold out?  Nothing says camping like trying to decide of you want to freeze to death or die a painful death from paralyzing gas of a butt bomb.  The rest of us zipped up our sleeping bags over our heads and prayed for mercy.  Sometimes that's your only option.  It did, however, insure that if someone or something was going to attack the campsite that night we were protected by an invisible field of toxic gas.  Sorry other campers... you have to get your own!

That simple (yet hilariously disgusting) act also led me to believe that, though, there were a lot of things different on this trip from when we made it almost 20 years ago... some things were still the same.

Stay tuned for Part 5 and FINAL chapter of the Man-Camp 2010 Saga.