Three Year Anniversary

It has been about three years since I first started this blog.  I’m not sure what my goals were initially, and I’m not sure if I have met them.  I had happened to stumble across a book about blogging and shortly afterwards I was writing my first posts. Of course, I probably thought by now I would have hundreds of followers and turned my blog into a veritable side business with sponsors seeking to endorse my posts. If the truth be told, I rarely look at my blog statistics because there isn’t a whole lot to see. Regardless, I have enjoyed sharing ideas and stories with those who visit the site. My posts are now few and far between as work now consumes the majority of my time. In the past, blogging felt like a chore at times when I would try to post so many times in a month or attract so many readers or write forced comments on other blogs in the hope that I would attract more traffic to my site. Over time, I have learned to enjoy blogging rather than be a part of the rat race in the quest for more followers, visitors, and posts.

Besides that, not a whole lot is new or different. I did play golf the other day. While my score was nothing to write home about, I did have some decent shots. The abandoned tennis courts and lonely pool were likely signs of a prior country club. It seems like many country clubs and golf courses are struggling to stay afloat these days as golf is not quite as popular as in the past and other hobbies have taken the place of this pastime. I think this trend is somewhat unfortunate as golf has many benefits to include socialization, health, and fresh air. I’m sure the stereotype of golf being an elite white male sport has contributed to its decline. With all the backlash against the one percent and European colonization, I’m sure the masses aren’t necessarily lining up to support a game perceived to be so exclusive. No doubt, Tiger Woods did a lot to broaden golf’s appeal, so maybe his recent comeback will help the sport.

Well, that’s about all the news that’s fit to print from my life. Until next time, I will be trying to stay cool in south Texas.

Advertisements

This Past Week

Well, one week of the night shift is in the books with one more to go. It seems like Vietnam veterans have a difficult time at night. Unfortunately, I had to use haldol for one patient who became excessively aggressive and started swinging at the nursing staff. I’m sure Vietnam PTSD plus delirium is not a good combination. However, it is rewarding when these military veterans share some of their stories. One former pilot related he flew over one hundred missions over North Vietnam in an F-4 during the war. He described his plane being shot over North Vietnam and then gliding to safety over water before he was rescued by friendly forces. It’s not every day that I hear stories like that, and I felt privileged to learn of this piece of history.

I went to a local driving range the other evening. It felt a little bit like stepping back in time as I had visited this driving range fifteen years ago when playing high school golf. Of course, like most golfing establishments that need to survive these days, the driving range has transformed into a combination of bar and driving range with alcohol and refreshments readily available for purchase. I think my swing impressed a couple of the locals as they introduced themselves and took a crack with my driver. While I’ve never been a superstar golfer, I did have that double eagle back in the day while using a $200 set of beginner golf clubs. I’ll never forget the expression on the golf coach’s face after discovering I had holed my second shot from 200 yards on a par five. What’s the old saying, it’s the one shot that keeps you coming back… or something like that.

The Lord’s Supper was served this evening during Church. There was a time of sharing salvation testimonies before the Lord’s Supper, and it was encouraging to hear others talking of their excitement when first becoming a Christian. Unfortunately, time and responsibilities can sometimes dull that enthusiasm, but I guess that’s the point of always remembering your first love.

Overall, this week has been good. I received a book recently entitled 101 Things to do Besides Watching Televsion. I have tried to incorporate some of the advice from this book into my life, and I think it has been helpful. However, it is nice to mindlessly gaze at the TV every once in a while.

More Recent Happenings

Unfortunately, a lot of the time and energy I would normally use to blog has been usurped by my job. Don’t get me wrong, my current job is way better than my last one, but it is just much busier. I do spend a lot of time thinking though, and sometimes it feels good to get those thoughts written. I recently returned from a visit back home. It seems like things are so simple back home: God, family, country, job, … just the basics. It seems like somewhere along the line things became complicated.

I work in a hospital, and it sometimes feels like groundhog’s day. Everyday, I see the same people and do the same thing. I wonder if anyone else can relate? I previously had outlets to include crossfit, cycling, and basketball, but those have largely been replaced by more work. I now water the lawn and jog around the neighborhood, which can both be therapeutic in their own right, but gone are the days of hours of leisure activity without a second thought.

I recently celebrated my thirty-first birthday. It’s hard to believe that I’m that old, but I think I’ve had a good life so far with many good experiences. My brother and significant other came into town and we saw the movie Solo, played topgolf, and ate at an overpriced restaurant on the Riverwalk. (I’m didn’t realize a shrimp, bacon-wrapped quail leg, mushroom, and stuffed jalepeno could cost twelve dollars) The atmosphere and location must have contributed to the cost.

I had a patient a few days ago who talked a lot about God. Granted, he was demented, but it made me think about how little I hear about God these days. It seems like outside of church I rarely hear about spiritual matters. I guess that is to be expected if people do not believe in God, but I do not think that has always been the case. I think God and spiritual matters had previously been much more prominent in the daily activities of society. I recently read part of The Miracle At Philadelphia, which discusses the Constitutional Convention of 1787. It seems like these founding presidents relied upon God for their daily tasks and regularly discussed spiritual topics which I do not find to be typical where I work. It may just be a sign of the end times…

 

Recent Happenings

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. Most of this absence probably stems from the long hours I have been working for my new job. While this change has definitely been for the better, some of my less essential hobbies have not received as much attention recently. Even though I have not been writing as much, I have enjoyed reading the posts of others.

So, what’s new? Basically, I wake up before dawn to drive to the hospital and round on patients. The rest of the day consists of lectures, more rounding, and patient care. I will say the degree of fulfillment from this job is about ten times that of my previous one. While there are certainly frustrations and negatives, I think there is a lot to be said for a job that requires critical thinking and keeps one active and on their toes.

And then there is the change of location and new sights to see. I had the opportunity to visit Fredericksburg, Texas as well as the Enchanted Rock. The drive through the Texas Hill Country to these locations was definitely a treat. Being of hearty German stock myself , I thoroughly enjoyed the town of Fredericksburg and their German heritage. I also had the chance to visit the Alamo and absorb some Texas history.

One of my favorite day trips was actually to Seguin of all places. There was a nice little kayak paddling trail next to the town where I enjoyed a leisurely float. The little downtown area was also nice, and there was an antique store that had some interesting pieces.

I have to admit that one of my newest interests is lawn care. Since mowing lawns as a summer job in high school, I have never really needed to mow a lawn since I always lived in an apartment. But I must say, there is a certain level of satisfaction that comes from maintaining a well-manicured lawn. I think the smell of freshly cut grass is part of the draw.

Well, that’s the latest from my world. Hopefully, it will not be another six months until my next post, but who knows?

 

 

UHAUL, Amtrak, and My Moving Experience

                The relocation experience is always interesting.  For my latest move, I really had no strong connections to my workplace or the surrounding area, so the process was fairly clean and easy.  I guess if a person is deeply ingrained in their job or community, moving is probably much more difficult. For me, loading my belongings into a UHAUL truck was actually somewhat liberating. Escaping the confines of my apartment complex and office cubicle meant the realization of new challenges, new scenery, new beginning. Maybe it’s something in the blood which drives this mindset and transient lifestyle. Who knows?

                Fortunately, I chose the twenty foot UHAUL truck as this size was perfect for my belongings. Despite my usual precautions, I figured the twenty-seven foot truck designed to accommodate the belongings of a four bedroom house would probably be too large for my possessions occupying a two bedroom apartment. Additionally, I was planning to tow my car on an auto transport, so I definitely wanted to choose the correct size. Surprisingly, the road trip was uneventful despite the ten miles per gallon gas mileage.

                After unloading and returning the UHAUL, I planned to take Amtrak back to my previous location to finish cleaning my apartment and drive my other car to my new location. Granted, I had never ridden Amtrak, so I was curious to see how it worked. The train experience start roughly as I initially parked in a private parking lot. The Amtrak staff gruffly explained the nearest public parking location was approximately four blocks from the station. After glancing at the clock, I figured fifteen minutes was plenty of time to move my car and prevent the possibility of towing. Unfortunately, the parking garage I found was several blocks from the station and required about fifteen minutes of brisk jogging with luggage to reach the train in time for departure. No worries; just a minor hiccup on this journey.

                After some scrutiny of my boarding pass, I was allowed onto the train. I quickly settled into a window seat in the coach section and began taking stock of my surroundings. Behind me, an Amtrak worker was unsuccessfully trying to convince passengers to upgrade their coach seat to a sleeper cabin. For the most part, a few passengers would come onboard at each small Texan station; Austen and Dallas supplied the most passengers. Points of interest along the trip included George H. Bush’s Crawford ranch and the filming location for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There was also a well-worn footpath alongside the railroad tracks which was probably a route for illegal immigrants.

                Without anyone sitting next to me, I was content to observe my surroundings. The café car attendant’s announcements over the intercom persuaded me to try a breakfast sandwich. Of course, all menu items were significantly overpriced as this operation held a complete monopoly over food service. My twelve dollar hamburger was surprisingly tasty, yet I still felt like I got the short end of the stick afterwards. For some reason, there was a major emphasis on community dining and reservations from the restaurant car attendant; I think they probably just liked talking over the intercom.

                As my luck would have it, a gentleman sat next to me at the Longview stop. After a little conversation, we discovered we had both had connections to the Air Force. His story was quite remarkable as he told me about his experience with Tops in Blue, the musical entertainment show of the Air Force. He spent the majority of his time on active-duty as a member of this group traveling to different overseas locations to perform shows. He then spent the next twenty years recruiting musical acts to a Dallas hotel. His stories were almost unbelievable, but I knew they had to be true. Needless to say, this conversation helped pass the time. I arrived at my destination and, reluctantly, bit the bullet for a cab to my place. Seventeen dollars seems a little steep for a fifteen minute taxi ride, but I guess they set the rates.

                I thought cleaning my apartment for the last time might trigger some nostalgia, but it didn’t. I was surprisingly content to close this chapter of my life and begin the next.

Yanks and Rebs

I’m not exactly sure what triggered my sudden fascination with Civil War history, but having three weeks of vacation to spend in the Piedmont region of Virginia probably contributed. I wrote about my trip to Tredegar Iron Works in my last post, and that was definitely a neat place. I also had a chance to visit the Mannassas battlefield as well. The first and second battles of Bull Run were fought at this location and really served as the first major conflict of the Civil War. The battlefields were setup with artillery pieces positioned similarly to the actual battle, and there was a pretty big area for walking and observing the preserved buildings from that time.

I also had the chance to visit the Wilderness Civil War site when there were some demonstrations taking place. There was a Union Cavalry demonstration as well as Ulysses S. Grant discussing the Wilderness Campaign strategy with his Generals. I toured the Ellwood house which served as the Union headquarters for a time. There was a Union camp setup complete with sutler, headquarters, and sleeping tents. One of my favorite parts was hearing the story of Stonewall Jackson’s arm burial and grave. I guess this legendary Confederate general was wounded and later died due to injuries sustained in the area. It sounds like Wal-Mart had been trying to build a store on one of the Wilderness battlefields a while back, but preservation efforts prevailed.

I then drove to Chancellorsville to see the sites here. This battle proved to be another  surprise rebel victory. The Confederates were able to once-again out-maneuver the Union armies and deal a blow to them. The museum was interesting, and the tour was pretty good.

After visiting these sites, I decided to pickup a copy of Marching Through Culpeper to further learn about life during this period. While I haven’t finished the book, it does really provide insight into the time period and region where a lot of battles and maneuvering occurred. I had always imagined the North as possessing the moral high ground during the war, but from some of the stories;it seems like the Union often took advantage of situations. Regardless, I have enjoyed visiting these sites over the past few weeks.

After a brief hiatus from the blogosphere, I am back for a time. Some recent highlights include a stop at Graceland, where I discovered way more people love Elvis than I realized. It seemed that about 90% of the place was akin to an amusement park, and the other 10% was the house. Still, I guess the $50 was probably worth it to experience a part of American music history. I also stopped by Andrew Johnson’s homestead on the drive. I honestly did not remember he was the seventeenth president of the U.S. It sounds like he had a real “up from the bootstraps” ascendency from local tailor to the top elected position in the country. Still, I’m sure replacing get Licoln was no easy task. I guess some of his Reconstruction policies were questionable and led to impeachment. But you can’t please everyone, right? I actually explored some more Civil War history at the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Virginia. Their Civil War Museum was pretty good, and the iron works building really great. By no means am I a Civil War buff, but I definitely enjoyed the history at this site. I guess this visit must have sparked an interest in Civil War history because I then read Gettysburg by Newt Gingrech and William Fortschein. Granted, my mind blanks after Lee, Grant, and Stonewall Jackson, but this book was pretty good. Basically, the Battle of Gettysburg is retold from each side, and the South actually wins in this alternative historical account. The Camel Club by David Baldacchi provided the background entertainment during the long drive. I do enjoy some drama in a book, and this one provided some. Like Tom Clancy with military topics and John Grisham with the law, I can appreciate the intelligence and terrorism drama of the book.

Cottonmouth Encounter on the Bayou

My recent kayaking excursions have led to some pretty interesting encounters. This past Saturday I decided to explore Grassy Lake Bayou near Conway where I was fortunate to meet some others headed to the bayou. The paddle started innocently enough; cypress trees and swamp water as far as the eye could see. We passed a heron rookery where these birds nest and raise their young ones. One or two blue herons were visible at the time. A little ways further into the float we decided to take the spur route to see what this section had in store. To my surprise, this area was filled with ducks, white egrets, and smaller song birds. A fellow paddler informed me these ducks feed on the millet planted throughout this waterway. Since the Mississippi flyway covers this area, I believe the ducks migrate through the area at some point during the year.

After stretching our legs for a little while, we decided to brave the rest of the loop. We saw at least three beaver dams along the way; however, the beavers must have been hiding because they were nowhere to be seen. We also saw a few harmless water snakes along the trip, and then we came across another snake. This one was a little more dangerous and quickly identified as a cottonmouth! One of the members of the crew is a snake enthusiast, and she scooped the snake onto her paddle. While attempting to move the snake to a different location, the cottonmouth fell off the paddle and into her canoe! Needless to say, this caused quite a situation. Fortunately, this cottonmouth was not an aggressive snake and did not try to bite the canoe occupant. After attempting several different methods of removing the snake, a muck boot proved to be the answer. The snake obediently slithered into the boot and was subsequently tossed back into the bayou. Needless to say, I was quickly paddling the other direction! After  this excitement, the rest of the trip was relatively uneventful; however, I definitely experienced some authentic wildlife and nature during this trip.

I

 

Toltec Mounds and King Cotton

With no concrete plans one recent weekend, I decided to visit two historic sites near Little Rock. Toltec Mounds was my first stop. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but the museum and outdoor trails were pretty interesting. According to artifact dating, Native Americans created a ceremonial gathering place at these Toltec Mounds from 660 until 950 A.D. There were a total of eighteen mounds at one time, but only three stand today. One theory proposes that the location of these mounds allowed the Native Americans to determine the winter and summer solstice as well as the equinox. Knowing these dates helped with timing their crop planting and harvesting. Additionally, this location was also thought to be a gathering place for local tribes to celebrate special occasions. The outdoor walking trails are pretty neat; they wind through the mounds and perimeter of the park. It is unknown why the location was abandoned, but needless to say, these people were pretty clever to survive on the land for that long.

My next stop was the Plantation Agriculture Museum. Surprisingly, I was greeted by the curator upon walking through the front door as I think it was a pretty slow day for the museum. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my time learning about cotton in Arkansas. Cotton was a way for life for many in the state in the 1800s, and the process of plowing, cultivating, and harvesting the crop required much labor. Since I am a generation or two removed from agricultural and manual labor, I don’t think I possess quite the appreciation for the effort required to farm. However, looking at the information and pictures in this museum I almost had a longing for the satisfaction of a hard day’s manual labor. These workers picked cotton from sunrise until sunset, and over time, the process evolved from slavery to sharecroppers to the cotton gin.

There was actually an entire cotton processing operation setup in one building. This processing involved separating the cotton from the seeds and then compressing the cotton into bails. Another building highlighted information about the storage and transportation of cotton. A local enterprising cotton farmer established a warehouse along railroad lines for convenient transportation. Overall, this museum was pretty cool. While modest in size, all the displays were really interesting and well-organized. After touring this place, I definitely have a new respect for cotton workers and now realize how much effort was probably required to make my favorite pair of jeans.

 

 

Books, Newspapers, and Television… Oh my!

I’m not exactly sure when I started to develop an affinity for coffee table books, but reading this literature has become a hobby over the past few months. My gateway book was innocent enough, an oversized hardback detailing the history of Shaker furniture. The pictures and background information provided just the right amount of material to pique my interest and hold my attention. While a novel requires my full concentration to comprehend the content, I can mindlessly browse through these books without missing too much information. This interest was further fostered by books detailing the Civil War, world religions, golf, etc…

Of course, I still enjoy reading the good old-fashioned newspaper every once in a while. A Sunday edition of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette is generally worth the two dollars. Granted, news around these parts is generally pretty low key; I mean, the Arkansas Razorbacks and pollution of the Buffalo River can only generate so many articles. Right?

My other source of entertainment is television. Despite the outrageous cost of cable and cringing every time I see my AT&T bill, I’m a sucker for sports, old movies, American Pickers, cooking shows, and, of course, that occasional of Fox News fix. Unfortunately, since I pay so much for cable, I think I need to “get my money’s worth,” which inevitably leads me to watching too much. Has television become an idol in my life? I hope not. But if time spent on an activity is an way to judge priorities, then I’m not completely sure.

It’s hard to believe that all this entertainment can be accomplished while sitting on a cushion of my couch. I guess I spend a lot of my time either sleeping, working, or enjoying down time on the couch. Of course I routinely exercise, cook, and socialize, but I guess the correct term for me would be introvert.