01 July 2017

2017 is passing quickly.  I can't believe it's already July!  There are still so many things that I want to do but have not gotten around to it.  Summer will be gone before we know it.

I have been an avid firearms enthusiast since I was old enough to buy firearms.  I joined Junior ROTC in high school and part of the training involved shooting .22 caliber rifles.  When I got into college, I continued into Senior ROTC.  I fired the M-16A1 and was thrilled beyond words.

When I was old enough, I started buying firearms.  I have owned firearms since.

Along the way, I learned that reloading ammunition was a great way to save money.  Buying a box of ammo from the store could cost you $20.  But reloading the used brass would bring the cost of that box down to around $8.  Well, that is if you're not counting the cost of the reloading equipment and your time.  There are many advantages to reloading ammunition.  One major reason is that with care, you can produce better and more accurate ammunition than the generic factory stuff.

Anyway, where I'm going with this is that in the early 1990's, something happened and I just walked away from a lot of things that I used to do.  I was an avid hunter - I stopped. I was an avid fisherman - I quit. I shot high power rifle competition and handgun competition - I lost interest.  I stopped reloading.

My reloading equipment sat in the corner of my garage gathering dust.  But two months ago I started cleaning out that part of the garage.  I started dumping out a lot of old stuff.  I dusted off my reloading equipment and it still looked like it could work.  I started reloading to see if it still worked.  Within minutes, I felt like I had to relearn how to do it.  I started to spend hours at my reloading press.  I cleaned it up. I adjusted it.  I resized some brass and adjusted the press a bit more.  Lately it seems like I've been spending whatever free time I have at the reloading bench.  I started shooting my rifles again too.

So what am I saying??  That this manual process involving some thought, adjustment, and working with my hands just feels so good.  It's almost like working with wood but it's feeding my newly energized competition shooting.

14 May 2017

Visited Dad who has dementia...

I just got back from spending 2 weeks caring for Dad.  He lives in another state and has severe dementia.  His memory span is about 2 to 5 seconds, depending on how well rested he is.

His caretaker went on her annual vacation and the temporary caretaker backed out at the last minute so my sister put out a call for help.  Being that I'm retired, how can I say no?  I offered to stay for two weeks and then at which time a younger sister will take over until the caretaker returns.  So I flew in, rented a car, and drove over.

Dad is now 90 years old and we're fortunate that he's still physically healthy and mobile.  We're very fortunate that he's not suffering from incontinence.  While he is mobile, he is not a runner either.  He prefers to stay home and consistently refuses to leave his house even to walk the neighborhood that he has lived in for over 40 years.

I knew that being the sole caretaker would not be easy but have to admit that it was mentally exhausting. The daily activities such as preparing meals, cleaning, and other was the easy part.  It was his constant looping questions that was frustrating.  It was like "are we there yet?" with a toddler.  He would ask me the same question over and over until I could change the topic.  Then he would ask me another question over and over until I could change the topic.  Because he is mobile, he could follow me around the house.  At times, I would log on to the computer and tell him I was doing "homework".  He would often leave me alone for a bit but eventually approach, apologize for bothering me, and say he had to ask me just one question.  After I answered, he would say "ok", look away for second and then turn back to me, apologize for bothering me, and say he to ask me just one question.  Rinse - lather - repeat.

Because of his 2 to 5 second memory, he would ask the same question over and over.  I would remind him to eat his meal, he would thank me, and then wander away.

He also had a fear of catching cold.  So despite the 88 degree weather, he was wearing two light jackets and very afraid of getting wet.  So getting him to bath was difficult.  I finally got him in the shower and it was "the water is too hot/the water is too cold" until we finally hit it just right.  Then it was "hurry up before I catch cold".  

There were a couple times he woke me at 4 AM with a look of terror on his face.  He couldn't remember where he was.  He kept thinking that he was in a boarding house in his hometown.  He couldn't find his wallet, had no idea how much he had to pay to stay there, and was afraid of missing his flight home in the morning.  I would try to calm him down by telling him he was in his house that he had bought outright 40 years ago.  That he has plenty of money in the bank and food in the refrigerator.  He would calm down but was forgetting the answers almost as quickly as I gave them.  After a while, I was able to calm him down and urge him back to bed.

Long story short, it was very painful to see such a brilliant and hard working man reduced to living in fear and anxiety.  Constantly fretting over money, in fear when he couldn't remember where he was, or disappointed that his family does not visit him at all (we do but he doesn't remember).  He did not even realize that I was his son.  Even when he would call me by name and I think he knows who I am, he will ask me if I had ever met his wife or family.  I would explain who I am, there would be a flicker of recognition but it's gone within a few seconds.

Well, I have come to the conclusion that he is in Purgatory.  He is neither living or dead.  For myself, I do not want that.  I do not wish to inflict the difficulty and heartache of dementia on my wife and family.  I have told my wife and family in no uncertain terms that if so afflicted, let me go for a one-way hike in the mountains; let me nap in the snow; or let me accidentally take a bit too much of my medications. It would be a kindness to me.  I really hope if I should ever be diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's that I will be cognizant enough to take myself out so that my family will not be faced with the dilemma of what to do.

18 April 2017

Sleep Issues

As I've gotten into my late 50s and now early 60s, I find that I need less sleep at night.  Instead of 8 hours, I find 6 is plenty and often get 5 hours.  The nice thing about being retired is that I can take a nap when I want to (most times).

But I'm starting to have some sleep issues and I don't know yet if it's just a random passing thing or something serious.  Last night as I was sleeping, I must have moved rather violently.  I sleep with an APAP machine so I have a mask strapped to my face.  I recall waking as the APAP machine fell to the floor.  I sensed that I had somehow gotten tangled in the hose and yanked it.  This is the third time in 2 months I've done that.  I have very seldom gotten tangled in the hose before.  This time and in the last two times I pulled the machine off my night stand, I believe I was thrashing enough to yank it off.

I did ask the wife if she had noticed anything during the last two times but she is such a sound sleeper that she missed it.  I have to admit that I sometimes envy how she can sleep thru anything while I seem to wake for a variety of reasons.

I just picked up a FitBit Alta HR.  It's the first time I've owned a FitBit.  I'm trying very hard not to join the "Pound of the Month Club" and hope this will remind me to keep moving and exercising.  It does have a Sleep Quality tracker built in.  That tracker actually shows when I woke up a couple times last night.  I suspect one of those times was when I yanked the APAP machine.  I recall picking it up off of the floor, putting it back on the night stand, and then falling back asleep.

This FitBit is pretty nice.  I was thinking of getting an Apple Watch but this Alta HR is better suited for constant tracking heart rate and sleep patterns.   Kind of funny that I hate wearing jewelry like rings but have no issues with wearing watches or watch like devices on my wrist.  In Iraq and while hiking/camping, I will wear a watch on one wrist and a compass on the other.  I like being able to take a quick reading on direction.  It's synced to my iPhone so it's tracking my steps too.  I went out for a 2 mile walk yesterday and when the rain stops today, I want to go for another walk.

Funny how when I was still in the Army marching in the rain was not an issue but I despise it now.  It's one thing when you have no choice and have to do it; it's another when you can look out the window and decide to do it later.

11 April 2017

Another bucket list item checked off....

Just got back from another road trip.  This was not a pure road trip as the wife, youngest daughter, and I flew to Phoenix.  There we rented a car and drove it north and east.  We eventually ended up in Albuquerque, NM where we turned it in and flew home from there.

I really like this mode of car rental - the one way trip.  In the past, I would have rented a car out of Phoenix and eventually returned it there.  It was simpler and no additional fees.  But after a while, I realized that I could potentially see much more if I didn't have to backtrack.  It also created other possibilities, good and bad, but that is now all part of the fun.

While in Phoenix, the daughter wanted to go to the zoo.  Okay, done.  She had a good time and it is a pretty darn good zoo if you time it right.  Some of my friends in Phoenix were worried that it would be so hot that the animals would be hiding.  Some were but enough were out and about to make it a good day.

On Day 2, we drove north to Flagstaff.  Along the way we stopped at Montezuma's Castle, Well, and a nearby petroglyph site.  The Castle was a bit of let down because we couldn't get very close to it.  But Montezuma's Well was interesting and there was a park volunteer there with good stories.

After those visits, we continued north thru Sedona. Just as we left Sedona, it started to hail very hard.  It then turned to snow.  I was worried that our trip to the Grand Canyon would be rough.

Day 3 opened up a bit cloudy but the hotel clerk assured us that the road to the Grand Canyon was wide open and clear.  I had been to the Grand Canyon last year for the first time and that was a bucket list item for me.  This time, it was to check off the bucket list for the wife.  This was hers and the daughters first visit.  

As we left Flagstaff on West Bound I-40,  it started to snow.  Pretty hard too. I was getting a bit nervous.  I slowed down a little and traffic was very light.  It eventually faded out.  When I hit the town of Williams to head north, the road was dry and it was sunny.  When we arrived at the Grand Canyon, the skies were clear but there was a very cold light breeze blowing.

It was a good visit. I could tell the wife and youngest daughter were quite impressed.  They were quite cold due to the breeze but still enjoying it very much.  Though towards the end they did get tired and were happy to be heading back to Flagstaff.

Day 4 saw us heading for Gallup, NM.  Along the way, we stopped at the Meteor Crater, "Standin' on the Corner" Park in Winslow, AZ., and a petrified forest/painted desert NP.  

Day 5 we headed to Four Corners.  It's about a 2 hour drive north from Gallup but a very nice drive.  There is very little traffic and the highways are pretty good most of the way.  We were averaging 75 MPH most of the way.

Four Corners is one of those places that I'm glad I went but doubt I will ever go back.  There really isn't much there.  But fortunately we went during the off season and the crowds were low so getting pictures were not hard.  It would certainly be a zoo during the summer.  

Day 6 we  headed for Socorro.  We did take the back roads so it took us about 4 hours to get there.  When we arrived, our hotel room wasn't ready so youngest daughter asked if we could drive to Truth or Consequences, about an hour south.  So off we went.  I asked the wife to drive as I was feeling a bit tired.  After an hour of driving, we get there and the daughters asks, "Is this it?"  Yes, what were you expecting?  Needless to say, she was a bit disappointed.  We still stayed for a bit before heading back to Socorro.

Day 7 we rolled for the Trinity Site.  It's about a half hour drive to the SE from Socorro and on my bucket list.  Just in case you're not familiar with the Trinity Site, it's where they tested the first atom bomb.  The Army opens the site to the public 2X a year; first Saturday in April and in October.  The line to get in was amazing!  Holy cow!  We got there around 0930 and the line was over 2 miles long.  Within a half hour, it was out to the main highway behind us.  That is probably another 3 miles.

The wife and daughter were underwhelmed so we stayed just long enough for me to be satisfied and then we hit the road for Albuquerque.  

Day 8 we headed home.  Glad to be home but glad we got to do this trip.  

I keep debating whether to get a RV or camper.  Not sure what I want to do.

Hope everyone gets a chance to start working on their bucket list.  Take care.

08 March 2017

Do you have a Bucket List?

I mentioned often that something was on my Bucket List to do someday.  I would hear about something and make a mental note to myself that it would be a good thing to add to the Bucket List.  As time went by, quite a few things popped up and quite a few things were forgotten.  As my memory has gotten worse, even more things have slipped away.

I finally sat down and physically wrote out a Bucket List.  As I sat there looking at it, more things came back to me and the list kept growing.  I also noted the things I have already completed like Stonehenge and the Grand Canyon.  I struggle about whether I want to put something down that is very unrealistic like New Zealand.  It's not so much the cost but the very long and uncomfortable flight.  Part of me says, "Why not?  It's a wish list".  Another part of me says, "No, it's a priority list of things to do before I get too old".

Life is fragile and fleeting.  I just heard recently that two more of my high school classmates have crossed over just this year alone.  I still think about that good friend who passed away last October due to cancer.  He was 2 years younger than I. Another friend, also the same age, is also suffering from cancer and I don't know how long she will be around.

Three trips are planned already for this year.  Bucket List - Family - Bucket List.  I'll write more about the Bucket List trips after they happened and we have the results.  The Family trip will be to visit my 90 year old Dad.

If you're curious, I have 10 things on my Bucket List at this time.

18 February 2017

I also wanted to add that retirement so far has been everything that I hoped it would be.  Time has passed so quickly as it tends to do when you're having fun.
It's now been one year since I've retired...

I find myself missing life in the Army quite a bit.  But I know I'm not physically able to keep up so that's it.  What I do miss is the camaraderie.

I just heard that one of my former soldiers has been selected for non-retention.  In plain language, he's being booted out.  He has enough years so he can retire from the National Guard.  That means when he turns age 60, he will draw a small pension and receive Tricare Medical for himself and his family.

Now having said that, I'm actually kind of miffed that he was allowed to retire.  Most soldiers make it to the rank of SPC/E4 by the end of their first enlistment.  By the end of their second enlistment (6 years), they're at least a SSG/E-6.  After that, rank gets tougher.  But let me put it this way, if you retire at the end of 20 years with the rank of E-6/Staff Sergeant, most soldiers will look at you and wonder where you screwed up. 

If you retire as a Sergeant First Class/E7, it's like getting a "C" in college.  Master Sergeant/E-8 is like getting a "B".  Sergeant Major/E9 is like getting an "A".

This former soldier retired after 20 years as a Specialist/E4.  So some started talking about what a nice guy he is and that it's a shame the Army Guard is allowing him to retire at the low rank of E4.

Let me confess to you here, because it's pretty much anonymous, I'm mad that he was allowed to retire.  I thought he should have been kicked out a decade ago.  That he should not have been allowed to retire.  The Army National Guard allowed this substandard soldier to stay and now when he turns 60 he will receive a life pension for being substandard.  Now it won't be much and some people are already carping about how anyone who retires deserves more.  Ugh.

Now let me admit that I have a great deal of appreciation for the Army.  I'm not Caucasian but I have never felt that the Army has treated me in a racist manner.  On the contrary, the Army has been color-blind long before the rest of society.  The Army has told me that if you meet these benchmarks, you will be retained and promoted.  If you do not, then you may be eliminated.  It was in black and white before me.  I knew exactly what I had to do to go to the next level.  It didn't matter what color I was, if I met the requirements for the next level, I would move forward.

There came a point that I no longer wished to go higher and declined.  I wasn't promoted but since I refused to do what was required, no surprises there.

So what brings up these comments is that this former soldier was told everything he had to do to get promoted and retained.  One of the requirements was WLC school.  He refused to go.  He was given numerous opportunities to go and he refused.  He was ordered to go but still refused.  I wanted him kicked out 10 years ago but he's only now being eliminated.  Guess who is crying that he's being unfairly treated?  I have absolutely zero sympathy for him.

I wanted to add that in my case, there have been individuals appointed over me that have treated me badly or with racial prejudice.  But the US Army has never done so. 

16 October 2016

People are strange.

I was just chatting with an old friend that I recently reconnected with.  It is a college friend that I lost track of after she got married.  For some reason, her husband took an instant dislike to me and forced her to cut off contact 30 years ago.

About a year ago, we bumped into each other via Facebook when we both friended a mutual friend.   We have exchanged some messages but have no intentions of connecting in person.  Well, let me speak for myself, I have no intention of connecting in person.  Initially we talked about getting together for coffee if we were ever in the same town.  But as we conversed, I have gotten very vague about my travel plans and constantly keep "forgetting" to pass my phone number.

Do you know someone who is in an angry, bitter marriage?  One where the other can nothing right?  That even the act of saying "Good morning" seems to spark an argument.  So why do they stay together?  I have no idea and have no wish to find out.

They live in a warm, sunny state and the husband refuses to even consider moving.  She has an adult child from a previous marriage that lives in a northern, colder state that she wants to visit.  So she will be taking their mutual adult child along on this visit.  So what sparked this mornings argument that she has sent me scathing messages about?  Her husband expressed concern about their child not being ready for the winter cold.  Really?  I thought that was a reasonable concern and said that I was glad to hear he was concerned.  Better than him not being concerned, right?  Well, that earned me a scathing "You men all stick together..." message.

Okay, cease fire!  Cease fire!  I don't care nor do I have an interest in what you guys are arguing about.  Don't drag me into your mess and drama!  Now I'm plotting how to start "unfriending" people on Facebook.  I've warned our mutual friend that I might have to unfriend her as part of the situation.  She understands.

I guess I just shake my head and wonder why people stick around in a relationship like that.  Life is too short to be in an abusive or stressful relationship.

Life goes on...

26 September 2016

6 Months Into Retirement

The summer has pretty much flown by.  I got in another great road trip and the adventure continues.

One evening a while ago, the wife and I were chatting about things.  I mentioned to her that an Army buddy had recently suffered a stroke and I was thinking about going to visit him.  I asked her if she wanted to go.  She declined because she had never met him and didn't want to interject.  Plus she knows that we will be mostly talking Army stuff and she would rapidly get lost.  As I mentioned a possible travel itinerary to include flying into Buffalo, NY., she commented that Buffalo was near Niagara Falls and that it was a bucket list item for her.  I said, "Let's go!"

We flew into Buffalo and spent 3 days at Niagara Falls.  That was a really good time!  Niagara Falls is a tourist trap and can be quite expensive but we looked at it as not something we will do again in the near future.  Besides, it's a bucket list item!

Afterwards, the wife flew home and I drove on to visit my buddy.  It was a good visit but sad to see how the stroke has affected him.  We talked about the old times.  We talked about how confusing it was to deal with the VA.  His mind is still sharp; it's just his physical body that has limitations.

When we ended our visit, I roamed on to other places.  I decided to spend a few days just driving thru the northeast area.  I have no idea when I will ever, if ever, return to that part of the country again.  What a great roadtrip!  I took the back roads.  Friends had told me to stick to the main interstate or I will never get to where I'm going.  I thought about it for a bit before deciding that it was the journey and not the destination.  So I took the back roads.  Let me tell you, I would do it again in a heart beat!

For a while, I was second guessing myself about whether I should have stayed working (active duty) a bit longer.  The extra money would have boosted my savings and increased my final retired pay by a small amount.  Every little bit helps.  But as life goes by, I realize more and more that I made the right choice.  I have enough to get by and it's all I need.

I see friends my age that are terrified of retirement.  Some because they haven't planned well for it and will financially suffer.  Others because they have nothing to do outside of work.  One friend mentioned that he and his wife hate to travel.  So what will you do when you retire?  He replied, "I'll get another job."  Now everyone should do what they want to do.  If he finds more fulfilling times in work, then so be it.  I have to admit that I just thought that sucks.

12 August 2016

And another one is gone....  

A friend just told me that he and his wife are getting a divorce.  They had been married for 25+ years and now it's over.   I know a good part of the blame is on him.  After a tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, he had become rather short tempered.  Now understand that he is very intelligent, hard working, and honest.  But he has gotten rather brusque and has absolutely zero tact.  If you did something dumb, he will tell you bluntly in no uncertain terms.  If he gave you advice, you ignore it, and then things fall apart - he will tell you "I told you so" in no uncertain terms.   But in credit to him, he is one of those guys that can fix just about anything mechanical.  He will take a minute to think about it and then have a plan to fix it.  He is right significantly more often than he is wrong.

Having said that, I can see where being married to him would be tough.  Still, it's sad to see it end.  I had hoped that perhaps a cooling off period and some counseling would help.  But she has already found comfort in the arms of another man.  I can't say I blame her either.

So I was sitting here wondering what changed him.  What was the turning point.  I'm sure the stressors of going to war was a big part of it.  He was not a fobbit nor was he Infantry.  But he spent his time on convoys and got into much more gunfights than I did.  He spent a lot of time as a gunner. Between you and me, I think he got to liking the feeling when you toggle a stream of machine gun fire at a human being.  I don't think he would ever go bad.  What happened on the battlefield stayed on the battlefield.  But when you come back home, there is a certain emptiness.  Almost like a drug withdrawal.  "Killing is not hard.  Learning not to like it is the hard part."