Friday, June 25, 2010

Sink or Swim

Today I dusted off the old water wings and headed for a nearby lake to see what I could do.


I arrived at the beach very curious as to how far the distance was between those large white buoys marking the deep water. There was also a rope and buoy system delineating the shallow water. I found a couple of good marking points at either end of the beach and paced it off a few times. I was about spot on with fifty paces each time, so I went with that.

Back in the Marine Corps days, we learned orienteering and I knew exactly how many paces of mine equaled certain distances so that I could work off of a topographical map and know not only where I was and where I wanted to go, but how far I had come and how far I had left to go. But it has been a long time since those days and I decided to get an accurate pace measurement when I got home.

So into the water I went. It was shocking just how cold it was at first. But my body acclimated to it by the time I was out to the large buoys treading water. I swam about half of the first length freestyle, and while my stroke mechanics felt pretty good and solid, my lung capacity has diminished to that of a two year old. So I swam most of the rest of the workout using the sidestroke or the breaststroke.

I estimated that one length was probably around fifty yards, so I swam four lengths to get at least a 200 yard swim in. By the end I was bushed, and swam my way into the shallows and walked over to my towel to dry off.

I felt pretty good on the drive home, and when I arrived I measured out ten yards and paced it off. Turns out it takes seven paces almost exactly for ten yards, putting my beach measurement at just over seventy yards per length. I had done around 280 yards! Not too shabby for a first swim. I’ve got a mere 65 days to get my endurance built up. I am confidant that I can finish the triathlon, so that’s good. I’ve got to get a bike soon though!

More Later

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Try a Tri, Do or Die?

So a very good friend of mine went mad recently. He became a triathlete. He did his first sprint triathlon, or "tri", not too long ago and apparently had a really good time with it, because he's doing another one in late August. For this one though, he has invited me to do one as well.

Back in my USMC days I would have readily accepted. A sprint triathlon usually consists of a swim around 500 yards, a bike ride of around 15 miles, and a run of around three miles. Back then I could do all of those things. Especially since a Marine Physical Fitness test (or PFT) finished with a three mile run.

As I posted not to long ago I am nearing 40 and have done little to none of the training I once did as a Marine, lo those dozen years ago. But you know what I did? I took my friend up on his offer to join in this adventure.

After all, back in high school I swam the 500 yard freestyle competitively, I've always liked riding a bike (at least I did back in Jr. High) and I could run three miles as a Marine in a decent time. How hard could it be to get back in shape for a sprint triathlon?

Guess What? It's HARD! Today I strapped on the old running shoes again (actually they are new, as the old ones were pretty ratty after twelve years of being used for everything BUT running - see gardening and mowing and other muddy scut work) and I headed out on a run/walk that ended up being some run with a LOT of walk. I went one whole mile. The first mile on this journey to a Tri. It took just under 18 minutes. That's right. For those of you keeping track at home... that's an 18 minute mile. Or a 54 minute three mile. I have a good, long way to go, and oh boy do my feet HURT!

Today I am scouting a local public beach to practice my open water swimming in. The benefits to this are thus... 1) Triathalon swims usually take place in open water, and open water swimming is quite different from pool swimming. 2) It's free!

I'm still pondering the whole 'bike' issue. I have a recumbent trainer to pedal for now. At least it will get my legs used to pumping for a time. But I'll have to transition to a road or hybrid bike pretty soon to get ready for the Tri.

People who know me might ponder the wisdom of someone my size and shape deciding to do a Tri. My wife sums it up best. She tells me that of all of the things I've ever done, I've succeeded quite well at the things that I am really dedicated to. Things I get motivated for. Well. I'm remarkably motivated by this idea! I'll write more about that later. For now though, I'm letting the world know out loud that I am training for the Triathlon.

Holy crap, what have I gotten myself into?

More Later

Sunday, June 20, 2010


My father taught me quite a lot. How to keep my cool and how to lose it. How to paddle a canoe and how to swim. How to treat women and how to be a good man. He taught me a thousand other things directly and indirectly.

I hope to be able to pass these gifts along to my children as they grow.

Thanks Dad, for everything. I love you very much!

More Later

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Two New Ones

I've been able to get more shop time lately, and finished these two up last week.

The Barracuda has lacewood scales. It is a very pretty wood from Australia. Has very good properties for a knife handle, and looks really unique! I may have to make one of these for myself.

The Choctaw has bocote scales. I made a skinning knife for a friend of mine and he tells me that as he uses it, the handles have been covered with grease and stuff and have taken on a really nice luster. This wood has a pretty great natural luster, so it must look awesome by now! I may have to make one of these for myself.

I wish I didn't love the knives I make so much. It would make parting with them much easier! But if I don't love it, I don't expect a customer to love it either. And I want my knives to find good homes! Still, it is about time to be making knives for my own collection. Perhaps to display at a show sometime. Ah, it is nice to imagine those days! Now for the hard work of making those dreams come true!

More Later

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Boyo Moves On

Friday was his very last day of Kindergarten!

The Wife dropped him off for the day with a present for his teacher, who we all thought was excellent.

I made the apple with vintage glass 'cause I thought it looked neat!

The Boyo had a great time all morning, and was not even a little teary when he came out for dismissal. This is directly opposite of how he's been acting all week, as every time we ask him if he's ready for summer, he says he is, but he's very sad that school is ending. We have assured him that there are many, many more years of school left. The only one with a lump in their throat as he came out of the hallway for the last time was me.

After school it was off to a favorite Mexican restaurant for a celebratory lunch, then home where his Welcome to Summer sign was waiting, stretched across the door and ready for him to burst through into Summer.

He wasn't sure what to do at first, since smashing through paper walls is not something we ordinarily do. After a faint hearted first try (he didn't want to break it after all) we assured him that it was meant to be torn through, and he mustered all of his six year old speed and energy and split the paper and raced into Summer!

Little does he know that he won't be getting a break from learning. That evening we worked on a calendar for June with activities such as multiple library days, letter days and number days. He'll get to work on math and money, daily reading time, manners and spelling. We even have a journal for him to write five sentences in each day about what he does that day.

Of course there are many fun things too. Clay days, bubble days, sprinkler days. Even campfires and an overnight camping trip are scheduled!

We have the first grade curriculum, and will be working him into that. The tricky part is, he is very smart. He's already reading well into a first grade level, and we got some books at the library last visit that are second grade level. He seems to be doing just fine with those as well. His assessments came in in the 97 - 100% range and his math skills are excellent as well. I remember being sort of bored in 1st - 3rd grade with some stuff because it was too easy for me. Reading especially. Our job will be to keep on challenging him, I guess. But for now... Summer time fun with some learning mixed in!

Happy Summer!

More Later

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New Things - a conversation with myself

It hit me tonight that I am rapidly approaching my 39th birthday. 39 years. Do you realize what that means? I'll be entering the last year of my 30's.

'Yes John. That's how these things work mathematically.'

OK. OK. But soon to be in my 40's? Where on earth did the time go?

'You learned early on that the earth revolves around the sun, and that constitutes a whole year, and every year you get another year older didn't you?'

Well, yes. Of course I did. But back then the years seemed to drag on endlessly. School years in particular. When, oh when would the summer come? Now I'm turning 39 and thinking where the heck did my twenties go? I did have those, right?

'Yes John. You spent several of those years at school, most of them in the USMC, and a far too many of them trying to decide what you wanted to be when you grew up. Remember?'

No! Well, yes, a little. But those years were over in a blink!

'That's not what you thought at the time.'

No, but now I'm trying to figure out where the thirties went.

'Marriage, kids, jobs and remarkably more school. You know, for someone who couldn't wait to get out of school you certainly seem to keep going back an awful lot.'

Oh hush. I only went back to school to work my way up the EMT ratings to be a medic. I had to have a career that I loved to do the wife and kids thing, right? Speaking of which... When did the Boyo get so flipping tall!?! I was JUST rocking him to sleep as a little baby...what... a couple of weeks ago?

'Six years buddy. It was six years ago. You remember... In your early-ish thirties.'

And my little Sweet Pea... walking and talking and acting like a toddler! She JUST learned to crawl!

'Yeah. Two years, Johnny.'

Holy buckets! Seriously? What about all of my old friends? I saw them just a couple months back, right?

'Sorry to disappoint you again. But it's been two decades for some of them, and a year or two or ten for those who were your best friends. At least you can keep up with them on facebook!'

Man oh man. Now I AM feeling old. Shouldn't I have made my first million by now? Be near the top of the ladder in my career? Or at least somewhere in the middle? All of these years have passed and I still feel like I'm just getting going! What in the sam hill have I been doing all this time?

'Learning, my friend. Learning. Not just in schools either. You seem to teach yourself a new skill or hobby every few months. Is there something you have NOT tried yet? You also get an education in early childhood development and Marriage 101 every day. You are discovering new things about yourself every day too. Like all of the places you still want to see, all of the things you still want to do, all of the things you really don't want to do anymore. You do realize that you'll need to live about two-hundred more years to fit all that study and travel in, don't you?'

Well... but LIFE is happening now! I have to work to pay the bills and I can't just traipse off on my own to do stuff anymore. I'd really rather have the Wife and kiddos along anyway! They are too much fun to not be around. I'll never make a million as a medic, and the 'ladder' is about three rungs high, so not really a great climbing opportunity. What to do? What to do?

'Sounds like you need to do one of two things. A) Settle in to your career and life and just be happy with where you are, what you make, and what you are doing, or B) Throw caution to the wind and go after all of those ideas and dreams. If you choose B, you should probably make a list though. Better to go at it with some sort of plan for a change.'

Caution... Wind... Put 'em together. Life has already been a roller coaster of a ride. Though I have felt at times like it was more coasting. It's well past time to turn the engines on and go full speed ahead. It is exhausting to think about, but I suppose I'll rest when I'm dead.

'You'd better get started then. You are nearing the downhill part of this ride, and you still don't really know what you want to be... Do you?'

I don't know. I've never been fond of defining myself by a job or career. Yes, I am a Paramedic. I enjoy that work for the most part. It gets draining sometimes, dealing with the pain and death. Also dealing with the whiners and hypochondriacs. But I get great satisfaction out of the job sometimes. I don't fit into the mold of being just a medic, though. I'm also an artist that works in a HUGE array of media. Metal, wood, glass, music, photography, name it - I've probably dabbled in it. I'm a gardener who gets totally geeked about every little sprout I plant. I'm a former Marine with all of the pride and attitude that goes with it. I'm fiercely opinionated and once I've made up my mind on something, it is hard to change. I can drive almost any vehicle on land, a bunch on the water, and quite a few in the air. I've been a carpenter, plumber, welder, electrician, roofer and a host of other trades... but never for a living. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool DIY'er... A jack of a great many trades, but a master of none. I know that in everything I do, I still have much to learn. Most importantly, I'm a husband and a father. The money for that isn't great, but the benifits are amazing!

So I guess that all this time, I really did know what I wanted to be. There just wasn't a career path for it.

I want to be the best ME that I can be.

I want to be as good as I possibly can at being a dad and a spouse. I want the best medic I can be. I want to make the best knives that I can make. The best bows, bean towers, stained glass, and other artwork that I can create. Take the best pictures I can take. I want to do as many new things as I can until I can't anymore.

Life is too short for labels. But we get pigeon holed based on jobs or careers, on how much money we make. That has taken a toll on me for far too long. People ask "What do you do?" "I'm a Paramedic." I can say. But it is such a small part of the answer to that question. From now on, I think I'll try answering "Almost everything!" and see where that gets me!

Hmm. What do you do? Almost everything, and not enough.

More Later