Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How Was Scout Camp ?

Today's post is basically just a link.  But a link that took significantly more time to compose than any blog post I've written before.

It's more of a labor of love for me than anything I expect anyone else to appreciate as much as I do.  The video got some great laughs tonight, and that's plenty fine for me.

If you have 16 1/2 minutes to get an answer to the blog post question, please click on this LINK and you can enjoy the video I put together for our Boy Scout Court of Honor this evening.

The songs used in the video will count as my Song Of The Day for today.  But since none of them was used in its entirety, you'll just have to ask me if you want to know artist or name for any of them.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Why Ya Gotta Be So Rude ?

Periodically I will get a voice-mail on my phone at work or my cell phone.  Most of the time those messages follow a relatively standard pattern:
Hi this is (fill in their name).  I was calling about (fill in some details) -or- I was wondering (fill in some question).  If you could please call me back (sometimes a call back number is indicated) when you get some time that would be great, thanks!

These messages always get a prompt reply from me, because I judge them as deserving of a response.  They are clear, mostly concise, and give me some insight on why this person needs to speak with me.

Sometimes, however, I get a message like this:
Hi Josh, it's (fill in first name).  Call me back.

These messages almost NEVER get a response from me, except to delete them from my voice mailbox.  They are deemed unworthy of a response in my opinion.  Unless you're my wife (only the one), boss (also only one) or teacher (I'm not currently in school), you do not have the right to give me an assignment or task or homework!  Your need to talk to me indicates that you need something from me, but when you leave a message informing (or even asking - politeness is irrelevant when you're asking me to take over your responsibility) me to call you back, you've crossed a line.

Thankfully I believe most people either naturally understand this, or they quickly get the hint after leaving multiple messages that do not get a call back.

Song Of The Day:
Although the song "Rude" by Magic! is about an interaction between a man in love and his would-be father-in-law, I believe the title of the tune applies equally well to this post, in fact, the lyrics in the chorus are where the title came from.  Don't be rude, leave a real message after the tone.  :)


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Has It Really Been Twenty Years ?

About a month ago I found myself and the rest of the Case Clan back in Greeley, Colorado for my 20-year High School Reunion.  What a trip!

There's plenty I could write about the experience, but I've decided to just post a slew of pictures I took and make a few comments on them.

I still have my graduation tassel
(it rode with us for the 2 hour drive)
The NEW front entrance
(which did NOT exist in 1994)

The old auditorium is now the library!
(Those beautiful windows had been covered with bricks
when the auditorium was finished.  They were uncovered
during construction and provide amazing views and light!)

Just another good 'school spirit' sticker 
Courtyard between the NEW
and OLD halves of the

Most of my kids were willing to take a 'Locker Photo'
These are newer lockers - mine was bright ORANGE!
Looking down (from the roof) at the open
space in what used to be the main entrance.
(These trees were planted just a few years
before I began attending school here.) 
The OLD front of the school (from the roof)
Sadly I totally neglected to take a
picture from the street so you could
see why we called this 'The Castle"

Some more 'school pride' artwork and a decal.
I had about a dozen of these stickers on a variety of folders
... and maybe my car window?

The cafeteria looked (and felt) so tiny!
(Of course Cat was happy to claim this as hers!)
The concession stand outside the gymnasium.
(The artwork when I went to school was WAY cheesier!)

Our gymnasium floor, complete with new logo
(In the top of the picture you can see the windows
to the new weight room, which used to be open
space for extra seating - it also was where
we stretched for track and cross country.)

MUCH better than the logo we had
during my years at Central!
(and Cat is now a WILD-Cat too!)
First, the orange banner is the words to our school song.
Second, the 'everyone a wildcat' sign is even creepier
when it lights up.  I'm a little sad it's still there!
Layout / map of the school and the grounds
(we didn't need one of these when I attended school here)
Some more artwork in the newly constructed weight room.
(I'm thinking this cat 'juiced'!)

Song Of The Day:
The year was 1994 and I was not yet 18.  Top 40 music was an eclectic mix of 80's style fun stuff, mixed with some angry grunge scene sounds, and topped off with a strong infusion of R & B and emerging rap artists.
The Cranberries had a few popular songs during my hgh school years, and I have chosen  "Linger" for this post.  The experiences we have in high school often do linger with us for the rest of our lives.  I, for one, have changed a great deal from those decades ago, and yet, at my core, the same beliefs and values ring true.  I am grateful for both the stability of my life and also the growth I have experienced through challenges and living day-to-day.  I hope everyone can say the same after the next 20 years.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Did You Really Earn It ?

I work with the Boy Scouts and really love it.  Seeing the boys become young men as they learn and grow and accomplish things they didn't realize they could is very rewarding.  I've been fortunate to see some boys I worked with in Cub Scouts move all the way through Scouting and achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, which I never completed.  It is impressive to see how they have expanded their knowledge and skills to truly earn this award.  At each rank advancement you can literally see the maturity and personal growth.

But there is a dark side to these achievements, which I hate seeing but am powerless to stop.  In fairness, I am also judging without proper knowledge of what has actually transpired.  But the difference is noticeable which supports my concerns at least enough to leave a few open questions.  The dark side is the parents of boys in Scouting who are so supportive of their son's progress, that they may be circumventing the 'Do Your Best' motto in exchange for a 'Get It Marked Off The Checklist For Eagle' approach.
- Boys that come to scout Board of Review meetings with a stack of already signed (by one of their parents) Blue Cards ... but can't tell you much of anything specific about what they did to earn said Merit Badges.
- Young men who begrudgingly stand in front of small crowds to ask for help on their Eagle project ... but then at said Eagle project, demonstrate more typical teenage boy behavior (standing around, sneaking off, pretending to 'work' while actually just carrying things around) than that of the Project Leader they should be acting as - a role filled by one or both parents in this case.
- Boys or young men (who you have worked with for over 3 years), who may have gained some knowledge or experience, but who likely couldn't go camping, or properly plan for a hike (let alone any other outdoor activity), etc.

My only solace, and it is just a perceived one for now, is that these boys (whose parents seemingly did most of the work for them) will one day face an Eagle Scout Board of Review ... alone.  I have never actually observed or been a part of one of these reviews, but from what I have heard, they can be grueling if the young man hasn't really achieved the Eagle Scout rank requirements.  Of course I do not want any young man to have a horrible Board of Review experience, but they need to become aware that true accolades, such as the Eagle Scout award, are but the shiny object atop the real benefit: personal strength and growth.  Perhaps these young men will opt-out themselves from the process and in that exchange with their parents will demonstrate some of that maturation they could have gained during Scouting activities.  That's my hope anyway.

Song Of The Day:
Hard work is essential for growth.  'Do Your Best' is a motto for giving all you can give, not just what your parents say is enough.  This is a lesson that, if learned in childhood, will surely proper that individual to much greater success in 'the real world' but without it the song "Ain't It Fun" by Paramore suggests a much more challenging reality (albeit sarcastically).


Saturday, August 16, 2014

What If ... ?

I know we all find ourselves thinking deeply about life at some point.  As we age, we are tempted to ponder on life's choices and where they have led us.  It is equal parts amazing and confusing to consider the path we've trod and answer the question "How did I get here?!"  There are infinite possibilities.  Scenario after scenario that, if it had played out differently, may have fundamentally altered the very place you are sitting or standing at this moment.  'What if ...' becomes a daydream where you can imagine an endless parade of outcomes.  But it could be a dangerous daydream if you're not cautious.

The biggest potential downside if engaging in this mental activity too often or for too long is that it can mislead you into believing your current situation isn't already the BEST CASE SCENARIO.  I think, for most of us anyway, life is pretty amazing as is.  Strong relationships with close family and friends, steady and challenging work, sufficient time to engage in hobbies or other activities, excellent health and wealth (especially as compared with most of this world), three squares a day (and most likely snacks in between whenever we want), shelter over our heads when the weather isn't gorgeous (and it really is most of the time isn't it?!), transportation to and from wherever we need or want to go, entertainment literally at our fingertips, and so on.

I'm not decrying a little fun in asking 'What if ...' but make sure you come back and end with 'I'm so glad that ...' so you remain grateful for all you have.  Remember, life is what you make it and unless you've consistently chosen horribly, you've likely made a GREAT life for yourself and your loved ones.

Song Of The Day:
Every situation we encounter provides us with "Chances" to make decisions that will define our future.  I love this tune by the a Capella group Tonic Sol Fa, including the music and the lyrics.  If you're ever feeling down, think about that one chance in a lifetime that came true.  Odds are you'll find there are many more than just one 'What if ...' that turned out amazingly!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Can You Just Leave Me Alone Right Now ?

How do you tell someone that you just want to be left alone
without making them feel like you don't care about them?
'The plight of the introvert in an extrovert's clothing'

I am, by nature, an introvert.  The role I play in life is often that of an extrovert (at work, for Scouts, in family gatherings, as a parent, etc.)  Balancing these two different styles is something I have become fairly comfortable with.  Occasionally though, too much time in an extroverted role can snap me back to my natural introverted tendencies like a broken rubber band; I literally snap.

I love my wife and kids.  I care deeply about other friends, family, co-workers, and many people in my life.  But when this 'snap' happens, I find myself incapable of overcoming the deep feelings of wanting to be left entirely alone.  No talking to me.  No touching me.  No 'hang out in the same room but pretend like we don't need to interact with each other' either.

I.  Just.  Shut.  Down.

Fellow introverts will understand my reaction and are already saying in their minds 'oh yeah!  I totally get that way!'  But extroverts out there could be thinking I am just selfish or antisocial.  I'm really not.  In fact, most people who know me would be surprised to know that I am, by nature, introverted.  This is because I have worked hard to cultivate strategies that allow me to act like an extrovert in social situations.  But it does have limitations, mainly in duration.

So in the future, I am going to refer to this blog post for anyone who tries to interact with me in any of these rare times when I 'snap' and I hope it will save their tender feelings.  The love is still there, but I cannot express it and you do not need to coax it out of me - that will only make it worse.  Give me a little time and I'll be back, good as new.  No, you didn't do something wrong.  No, I am not mad at you.  No, I don't need anything right now - except to be alone for a while.  That's all.

Song Of The Day:
I think most people know well of The Piano Guys, but the cellist's name is Steven Sharp Nelson and one of his versions of the equally well-known Debussy compositions is the song for today's post.  Some folks first heard "Clair de Lune" when it was used in the popular movie Ocean's 11, which is great but also sad (because everyone should hear great music without it having to be popular).  This piece of music perfectly captures, for me anyway, the somber solitude that I sometimes need to get 'right' again.  I love how the music is uplifting in a slow, building way, because that is how my alone time works, when I get it.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Did You Miss Me ?

Sometimes I wonder if we're kidding ourselves when we say we missed someone or something.

"I've missed you."

We say this phrase as a means of expressing what we believe to be sincere missing, but were there ever actual moments of missing that person or thing?  I believe that would have created periods of longing or desire, when one would truly miss something to the point it consumes their whole being.

I can't truthfully say I have felt those feelings more than a handful of times in my life.  And almost always it has been when I am separated from my family.

Sure it sounds nice when expressed to someone you haven't seen in a while, but I doubt the feelings were that deep.  But then again, maybe it's just me.  Perhaps others truly do have those 'I miss you' feelings about lots of people or even things (food, their comfortable bed, summertime, etc.)

"We'll miss you."

This phrase is most often uttered as a preamble to the perceived feelings of missing someone or something.  It also sounds sincere and nice, but you could be lying when you say it.  I certainly thought I would miss having cable television (especially ESPN), but after a very short while, I didn't miss it at all.  I thought I would miss people who have moved away, whether from school, church, work, or even close friends and immediate family.  But even for those I do miss, the feelings are much more infrequent than I believed they would be.
(I am sure my mom will read this and think I mean her, but she ought to know by now that's impossible.  I miss her, and my father, just as frequently as I expected ... very often!)

I'm not suggesting we should stop using these phrases, but it may be setting unrealistic expectations when considering the implications of the lengths we will go to in order to reconnect with these people we miss.  I think I would rather have someone know that I enjoyed our times together and will always remember them fondly, but that I won't likely miss them terribly, as opposed to holding any belief that I'll be counting down the days and making explicit plans to see them again very soon.

There should be no need to overemphasize how we feel about each other like this, whether while we depart or upon seeing one another after a long absence.  Perhaps just clarifying the statement would suffice, as in 'Now that I see you again I remember so many good times we once had together, and that makes me long for more of those times at this moment.'

Ehhhh ... that would take too long.  Never mind.  Good to see you again - I've missed you.

Song Of The Day:
I think we miss music sometimes, but it isn't until we hear a song again from years ago that we remember when we used to love that song.  I don't know if I've ever missed hearing a song, as if it's very absence had a profound effect on my life's experiences at that moment.  But "I Miss You" by Blink 182 is a great song that I hadn't heard in a while and it came to mind as I was writing this post.  And doggone it if I didn't start missing that song as I composed the post above.  Now that I've heard it, I doubt I'll miss it again for a long time.  I hope the song is okay with that.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Why Is This So Funny To Me ?

There is no longer an explanation for why I find this funny EVERY time I see it.

Sure the first time it was hilarious because of the sheer unlikeliness of it.  Who on earth would not only pretend to be the coyote, but go further and deface this poster?

Then perhaps the next time I saw it I chuckled because I noticed the picture of what one can only assume is 'Peaches' and imagined that look on it's face just before the coyote enjoyed it for dinner.

And maybe when I saw it again later I actually pictured the coyote with a smile on his face as he wrote the special note on the sign.  Or I suppose I would have laughed if I pictured the face of the person who posted the sign when they first saw the writing that was added.

But no matter the reason, I laugh out loud EVERY time I see this again.  I may very well be a horrible human being, but I think I'm okay with that.

Song Of The Day:
Laughter is a blessing.  I know there are different types of humor, but I am grateful to be able to appreciate all kinds of it.  Some people in life are missing out on simple smiles they could enjoy if they just embraced the lighter side of things, real or not.  "You're Gonna Miss This" by Trace Adkins is more of a song about enjoying life's little moments as they happen, but it applies here too.
When I am surrounded by family and friends, one of my favorite things is the laughter that comes from reliving shared experiences we previously had together.  Missing out on those funny moments the first time would leave me out of the loop when reminiscing later.


Monday, August 4, 2014

My Life Cycle Is Over ?

Okay, actually not MY life cycle, but the life cycle for my laptop at work.  Apparently, these laptops have a 3-year life cycle, after which our IT department has orders to replace them.

I pretended this wasn't going to happen by ignoring the emails as long as I could, but when the day finally came, it was surprisingly fast - and I had NO issues!  And best of all, the new laptop has some nifty features that I already love.

For starters, it is significantly lighter and thinner.  This doesn't seem like a big deal, but as often as I am toting it around multiple floors and buildings at work, it was a noticeable change.

It also has a quiet keyboard with back-lit keys (they light up when in use).  This eliminates the need for a keyboard light but I think I like the quieter keys even more.  I am often typing on the laptop in the back of Training rooms and before I've felt like my typing may be a distraction - but not any more.  You can't barely even hear it sitting right next to me, let alone across a large room.

In a serendipitous twist, the comic above was just on my Dilbert desktop calendar within this past week.  I'm super excited about my new laptop, but I also feel like technology is laughing at my age.

Song Of The Day:
I like the Brad Paisley tune "Welcome To The Future" because it conveys how far we've come with technology but also how far we have come with other developments.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

What's The Real Reason ?

The view of Colorado Springs from the Sky Ride at CMZoo

Myra's 'break down' happened to
coincide perfectly with the lion
feeding schedule
Our mini 'family reunion' at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo yesterday was a complete disaster, including crying, whining, hurt feelings, anger, pouting, and some selfish, very childish behavior ... and that was just from the adults!

Right time, right place
In fairness, some fun was had by everyone who attended, and after we took a food break, spirits were much higher.  But even in that sentence it is evident that something was the real reason for the travesty of this get together.

It remains to be debated for ages, but the two primary arguments are that one of the following was the true culprit:
- the sheer size of the group (we had to be 25-30 people)
- just a lack of prior planning combined with poor organization of the activity

I am 100% in support of the latter theory.  Most families are not the best planners, especially when bringing together 5-6 separate family units, but I think my in-laws are less adept than most in these situations.  There is also the factor of every adult feeling like they could be the primary point person in charge, but none of them stepping up to actually TAKE the lead to organize things.

I would have gladly filled that role except for two key factors:
- I've come to dread going to the zoo (or any public area other than a city park) with a group this size.
- I'm a 'married-in' member of my wife's family ... so I would lose some group members just because of my bloodline.

At least I got some cool pictures.  :)

Song Of The Day:
I'm featuring an a Capella song titled "When The Day Met The Night" by the Tufts Amalgamates (originally performed by Panic! At The Disco) with today's post for two reasons.  First, the original plan for attending the zoo suggested we'd only spend part of the day there - but it sure felt like the day met the night while we wandered the expansive grounds at the zoo.  And second, the lyrics in the song suggest a mix of love and confusion in this joining of the day and the night.  That perfectly describes this zoo trip.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

You Want Daddy To Sing You To Sleep ?

There are numerous things as a parent that can be both exhausting and exhilarating.  Bedtime routines are probably at the top of that list.  Each child has different needs related to going to bed.  Some need darkness and quiet.  Some need a drink of water or a bottle.  Others need a nightlight or a blanket for security.

Spencer, our youngest child, has decided that he needs daddy to hold him and sing him to sleep.  This isn't every night, but it does seem to be happening more than half the time lately.  Even when he knows it is what he wants, he almost fights it until he is resting in my arms - and then I hear that contented 'sigh' that is one of the most rewarding experiences as a father.

Some nights I am just exhausted and really do NOT want to hold him, nor do I feel like singing the set playlist he seems to have selected and approved.  And no, I'm not kidding about that.  I've tried to incorporate a few different tunes over the past few months, but his head always pops up off my chest and he starts wiggling like he wants to get down.  Thankfully he is gracious enough to allow me to select the order in which I sing the songs, but it's always the same 4-6 (I sing until I feel his body fully go limp and hear that deep breathing which confirms my work is done).

All that said, I cherish these cuddles with him.  I'm never bothered after putting him to sleep with a few lullabies.  In fact, I often hold him for a few minutes longer just to bask in the tranquility of the moment.  Among countless examples of when I've been less than a great father, these times reinforce for me that at least some of the time I'm doing the best I can.  Soon he will be too big for me to do this and he will have grown out of desiring it by then anyway.  So I hold on and enjoy each opportunity to connect with my baby boy through music.

Song Of The Day:
One of the songs I have to sing, almost every night, is the Harry Connick Jr. tune "A Wink And A Smile"  I'm not entirely sure why he likes this one so much, but I love singing it so I am glad he does.  It even has the phrase sleepy towns in it, so that's a great tie-in!


Friday, August 1, 2014

Are You Afraid Of The Truth ?

It seems like many people are increasingly unwilling to accept the truth ... about themselves.

Overweight people don't want to track their food intake because they are afraid to find out it's their own doing and not some genetic or other excuse.

Likewise, people who feel money is tight seem reluctant to track everything they spend money on for fear they'll have to make changes in the lifestyle they have grown accustomed to.

This also rings true for those who rely altogether too much on their mobile or electronic devices.  Try taking them away and you'll see another side of that person.  Even suggesting that they track their time spent each day on their devices will get you at the very least some very dirty looks.

It's time to ...
Grow up.
Step up.
Own up.

The first step to recovery is admitting the problem.  Perhaps that would be easier to do if you did a little micro-managing of yourself.  Track the data.  Crunch the numbers.  Look at the legitimate facts.  Be objective.  Resist the temptation to excuse yourself for any reason.  People will respect you for your self-honesty and you'll be better able to control your future.  Unless of course you're still too afraid.

Song Of The Day:
The saying goes 'the truth hurts' but what it doesn't account for is how much being untruthful hurts by comparison.  Neglecting self-honesty only leads to regret later.  "Never Turn Away" by my favorite group OMD, is a melancholy tune perfectly suited to this post.  The repeating chorus of I'll never, no, no seems to suggest the hopelessness that will set in if we can't admit we need to make changes.  It is easier to recognize we need to turn away if we can plainly see the challenge in front of us..