Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Tides of September

Great Grandma!
Wow.  Has it ever been a scorcher of a summer.  Lawns have gone almost totally unmowed for weeks now, and even the trees are turning brown.  Riding the Harley has been a simple commute to work.  I just don't enjoy riding in the extreme hot weather.  If I wanted to be cooked, I'd turn into a Ball Park Frank and toss myself onto the first waiting BBQ grill.  The electric bill is even screaming for mercy.  Try as I might, its been one challenging summer, and lately I seem to be falling ever farther behind.  My consulting work has all but dried up, and its becoming harder to manage those bills when everyone from Tom Dick to Harry wants a piece of you.  Day work has been extremely challenging as staff retirements are adding to my own workload.  Its just harder all around, and the hot weather is just the added irritant I don't need right now.

Jesse and Dale
At home things are in a constant state of flex.  Our grandson Dale has been a challenge, learning his habits and adapting to his constant changes. He sure is a feisty lad, but at the same time I am reminded many times a day that I am NOT the easiest person in the world to get along with either.  We all have our moments, apparently me more so than others.  At the moment the little guy is teething, which is a very trying time for both baby and parents/caregivers.  Having been through this process I can say that babies at this stage can become very fussy.  His mother, however, is learning, and sometimes she falls and we'll lend that uplifting hand to pick her back up.  Raising Dale will be a tough task, but so far Dale and Jesse are doing pretty darn good.

Cheyenne posing in South Haven
Cheyenne has started college.  She is currently attending the community college here in town.  She seems to be adapting rather well, but sometimes college can present a different set of challenges.  She does face an uphill battle, and struggles some in some of her courses.  Having been through all this in high school, we were fortunate enough to get her into a program that will provide learning assistance as she needs it.  She does seem determined to follow through with this, and it will be interesting to see how she meets these challenges.  She definitely prefers college, however, as she so directly put it.  High school simply has too many rules!

As for Mary and I, we are getting antsy feet.  We've spent our lives raising two fine young daughters, and now we sense a freedom that we have never experienced before.  This year September brings so many challenges that Mary and I are facing, but for the first time in our lives we are finally going to venture out and do a "little" travelling.  Those who know me best know what a huge fan of the rock band Rush I am.  It goes without saying that any band who continues to produce quality music for almost 40 years gets my undying respect.  To that end, several concert trips are planned, including one to Winnipeg and Saskatoon on the Harley.  I am meeting up with a friend for some riding time on the scoots.  Mary and I are also going to a couple shows, including a trip to Toronto.  We plan on meeting up with friends and just trying to enjoy the time away for once.  We have been reaching out and making friends that we would not have otherwise found, and its refreshing to have those that we can relate with, of our age group.  To say we are looking forward to this is quite the understatement!

A recent PGR Ride honoring a
Korean War MIA whose remains
were recently identified
Riding has been sparse.  The hot weather has combined with my other duties to slow my riding time down a lot, but once every few weeks I manage to get in a hundred or so miles under my belt.  We have been experimenting with riding two up with Mary on back, but we're still learning how to do that the best way.  I did manage an oil change and some riding this past Labor Day weekend.  Actually not much traffic out that day. Found a couple of promising routes I might take for later.  The one thing I keep finding on my riding days are things I never usually see.  The eagle soaring overhead, or the family of deer along the creek bed.  A perchance meeting with a beaver or just seeing the trees and being outside.  Being office bound a lot I don't always get to do these things, so every opportunity is a blessing.  Sometimes in life too, we must find those little things that we feel blessed with. Find those things that make you happiest, and never let them go, because you only get once chance at this thing called life.  I am learning to make the most of my time!!

My Marilyn - she sure cleans up GOOD!

Peace & Love Everybody!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Its About THE RIDE!

Dale sportin' a new do!
Anyone who has ever ridden a motorcycle of ANY kind make model color manufacture knows what those words means.  Its like understanding why pilots fly planes, or why race drivers race, only in this case, to me motorcycling isn't just some hobby you spend a few hours a week at.  Its more than a religion, its more than a profession, or a career.  There are those who say that riding is like going to church, only more important.  I happen to think its deeper than that.  Unfortunately, however, sometimes I forget that, and sometimes it takes a life changing event for me to realize how important that I spend each day riding my Harley and spend some time praying, which, as it happens, I do both at the same time. As for that life changing event, becoming a grandpa might just fit that bill.  At my age I wasn't really mentally prepared to accept that role, but things change!!

Freedom Rock 2012
A few weeks ago I took my yearly trek to Freedom Rock, located in western Iowa. And, as usual, the artist who paints that rock every year did another supremly awesome job on it this year.  I needed the time away to digest the new role I had taken on.  In life every day is a day of change, of new adventure, and mine is no different. Being a grandpa takes dedication, love, and patience.  I needed to spend some time riding to come to terms with it all.  The ride over was peaceable, quiet, perfect weather.  Made my usual stop for a juice and a quick run to the restroom. Opting to take a more direct route over, I knew the route well, and knew what traffic would be like.  On this day there were many visitors, unlike more previous visits.  A Korean veteran, a former machinist mate on a destroyer, several Vietnam Era veterans, all coming to this place in remembrance of those who have made the "ultimate" sacrifice. Then there were those guys on their Harleys.  Some beautifully customized, while others showing the look of a hard ridden machine.  Each coming for their own reasons, and each saluting the Flag as it flew over our heads. Its a wonderful place for veterans to come and give thanks to the fallen, or just to remember the sacrifices each veteran has made in serice to our country.  It may not seem like much, but to a veteran this place is revered.
This side pays respect to the
Sullivan Brothers, from
Waterloo, Iowa

The ride back was anything but boring.  As with any trip on a motorcycle, you make decisions on what your route may be on the fly, and I soon found myself completely lost in the middle of Des Moines.  No need to ask for directions, right? I quickly turned around after realizing that I was not in the most friendly of neighborhoods! To my displeasure, however, I would be forced to take the main highway around town, and ended up stopping for gas just east of Des Moines.  I refueled, grabbed a quick cold drink, and headed back to home.  I took a quick shortcut home, and although I was tired, I had an absolute blast.  I had been to a place held in high honor had met many veterans, and had taken my own time to give thanks for those who have died in service to our country! 

Flag Line for Welcome
Little over a week ago, I took another ride.  I am a Patriot Guard member, and I believe strongly in the mission of the Patriot Guard.  On this day we would be escorting a soldier returning home from Afghanistan to his home about 20 miles away. Again, I took stock in what I was about to take part in, made sure my machine was clean and ready, and left for the airport.  As we met, I noticed some of the familiar faces in our bunch.  Its always nice to have familar faces to ride with, because you can feel more comfortable riding with them.  Newer folks take some time getting used to, and as we tend to ride in formation, my safety AND theirs is paramount. We did our preride briefing, and headed up to the terminal. As we lined up at the gate and presented the colors to this new hero, I realized many folks watching this event just didnt realize what all the excitement was about, and some simply do not care. What a shame that anyone who lives in the U.S. cannot pay simple respect to a returning soldier. 

Cpl. Cole Passick
receiving a PGR flag
Our escort began in the heat of the day.  Temperatures approaching 90 on a motorcycle makes it even hotter, but today I had hydrated enough this wouldnt be a problem.  Most of the escort went safely excepting for a guy in a green Jeep Gran Cherokee who tried to slash his way with his car thru our escort processional, right at ME! Thankfully, I was among friends, who recognized what was happening and were able to give me the room I needed to avoid trouble.  Later one friend remarked that I had done a masterful job of avoiding a collision, but in the end it was the teamwork of friends that paid off.  The ride back home was uneventful, but as I shook this young Marine's hand, a Corporal Cole Passick, I gave thanks for HIS service, but realized he was younger than my oldest daughter Jesse, and yet served honorably in a place where being an American is a bad thing.  My ride home was uneventful, but I reflected on the days events, and said my little prayer "Thank God I am alive" as I pulled into the garage.

For me, riding isnt just about one thing.  Its about life - my life! The ride of life can be bumpy at times, even tragic.  Or, it can be wonderful, peaceful, and filled with love.  Each day I give thanks that I am alive, and that I am able to love others, to enjoy the fruits of my labors.  Times around my house are tight right now, and some days are harder than others.  We all have those struggles.  Each day I ride my Harley "passionately", and each day I find more passion in my riding.  Riding isnt just about a Harley - its about life.  Whatever is your "ride" is, do it with passion, because life is all about the RIDE! 

My Uncle Ron and I - thanks for riding with me Uncle!

Peace & Love Everybody!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Call of Reckoning

Time to Ride at the Brewhaha
I've tried several times to get something out for my friends and relatives living out there somewhere in internet land.  Usually my posts are about once a month and really just serve as more of a "Whats Up" in my neck of the woods.  Lately, however, its been like an insane asylum around here.  I had hoped this would be a quieter year, given how the year started, but it would appear I never had positive control of my life or my direction.  I honestly don't know who is conducting this railroad into the deep abyss, but whomever he is better get a road map and slow down. It could be way way worse, and truly it is the blessings that I count today and during this month of May.  As I get older, however, I tend to find that sometimes all this excitement can be a bit much.  Like things to keep on an even keel so my little brain can absorb and analyze it all.  Unfortunately for some of us dinosaurs, that's a bit much to be asking.

Honest Officer - I can explain everything!
Since my last report, its now almost summer.  Spring has done about sprung its last surprise for the year on everyone.  Flowers have long since bloomed and faded, and now we are pretty much left with the green of the trees. Pollen now fills the sir stifling the eyes and clogging the sinuses.  Lawn mowing has begun, to which my disdain for that is only exceeded by my utter hatred of those damn political ads which are everywhere these days.  As summer approaches so too, does my hope for exciting riding possibilities.  Fortunately, this past winter was mild enough I never really parked the bike, although riding in winter time when there is supposed to be a foot of snow on the ground was, well, rather weird, but it also was such a great thrill to ride about 20 miles or so in 40 degree weather with people looking at me like I am some kind of fool.  I guess if you ride a motorcycle in cold weather, maybe you ARE a fool, but only a fool knows his true paradise.

The April Brewhaha Crew-in May.
For the last two years I have been making some friends online, who, as it were, are fans of the band Rush.  I cannot hide it, I have enjoyed this band since I was a junior in high school.  In the interest of maybe just celebrating a bit of independence, and the music we all grew up on, some of us decided to have a sort of get together in central Wisconsin.  The date set would be May 9th-May 13th, and we called the event the Brewhaha.  Our objective was really do some seeing of the sights, do some motorcycle riding and have a big party at the end.  To that end we had a glorious time.  Enjoyed some sights, took in some wines, toured a bit, and just found some great friends who came to enjoy some great music great food and just have a great time.  For Mary and I we don't do this that much, so this opportunity was readily taken.  On our last night we celebrated with a huge feast of pork and beef brisket, with all the trimmings.  The sharing of a glass, or several, of a great single malt scotch, or a glass of wine or two as we sat by a nice fire made things just about perfect.  All in all we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the company of friends!

Dale Curtis Atwood - My Grandson!
On our last day in Wisconsin, as I was packing up the car to return home, I overheard Mary sounding a bit excited on her phone.  As we were staying with friends, I wasn't exactly sure what this was about, so I went back in to a cup of coffee.  As Mary came downstairs, she sounded very concerned about something, and then put her cell phone on the table.   On speaker was our oldest daughter Jesse.  Sounding rather upset Mary told her to tell me what she had been talking about.  The conversation went something like this.

PawPaw still gots it!
Jesse:  "Hi Dad I ave something to tell you."
Me:    "Ok shoot!"
Jesse:  "Dad - I just gave birth to a baby boy!"
Me:  Silence.....a pause.....and then "Gee dear I had no idea you were PREGNANT!
Jesse:  "Um yeah but I need to give up the baby I'm not ready"
Me:  "Ok Jess before you make any decision let your mother and I get home so we can DISCUSS this as adults."

A gulp, two, checking my pulse.  Yes I became a grandpa!  The circumstances were not the best they could be, however, given my daughter and grandson are healthy, and our youngest daughter, who helped in the birthing process, scarred beyond words for LIFE, all things considered we are very lucky.  The drive home was, well, I think Mary and I were both in shock.  I think we needed the ride home to collect our thoughts, and find those precious right things to say.  As I was on my Harley, it goes without saying the ride home was going to take a toll.  All the adrenaline rush was making me sleepy, and on a motorcycle that's a bit dangerous.  In the end, we did find the right words, the right support, and the courage to face this new life with open arms. 

Dale Curtis Atwood born May 13th, 2012, weighing 6 pounds 4 ounces, at 18 inches in length.  Today Dale weighs a bit over 8 pounds is almost 22 inches long, and is already moving around like a linebacker! When he was born, we had no bed, no bassinet, no car seat, no clothes, no bottles, nothing.  As our prayers were answered, we discovered that in the same friendship we had sought to enjoy the previous week together, so did those very same people step up and send an incredible amount of donations in clothing gift cards even a brand new CRIB has showed up for baby Dale.  All thanks to those friends who share a passion for life!  To them I can only thank you on behalf of Dale and his mom Jesse.  Without such donations we might still be scrambling.

Mom and Cheyenne Graduating!
And then there was this past weekend.  Our youngest, Cheyenne, has finally become a high school graduate.  Her much anticipated day of freedom arrived, and she is going to make the most of it.  She received a 4 year math letter, and her GPA is hovering right at around 3.0, although the final number will not be known for a couple weeks yet.  She is also in the Vital program which helps students with learning difficulties with college tuition.  Her first year of tuition is paid, but the best part is she received a scholarship in the amount of $1000 for her first year.  Dad be heap big proud of her!!!  it was a struggle at times, but the best part was seeing her blossom and come out of her shell this last year or so.  New challenges await as she will attend community college for a two year degree in Graphic Art Design.  She will do well, as long as she stays focused and keeps her mind on her work.  Kids sometimes get rather distracted!

Other such notable events.  Mary it appears has almost fully recovered from total knee replacement in January.  She is moving around much better than she had for a great many years.  I hope to be enjoying some riding adventures this year.  Nothing firmed up, but we will be attending Rush concerts in Chicago and Detroit in September, with Toronto an additional stop in October.  I'd like to hope I can make one of those shows on the Harley, but that's a ways off yet.  Cheyenne starts college in the fall which will bring a new challenge as well.  Jesse is managing her new motherly duties fairly well, but as Dale gets older she will have to learn to adapt to his constant changes.  Even though this has been a challenging year, its been one of change, and of reckoning.

Welcome to the World Dale!!

Peace & Love Everybody!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Obituary of a Brother

Riding in winter time - What a TRIP!

Well, its been a fairly long winter, and now spring is fast approaching.  You couldn't tell me that, though. I never really "parked" the Harley for the winter.  I've been in and out every couple weeks on it.  Its been a couple months and life has been filled with challenges.  OK - maybe that's a bad word.  How about nightmares! Or stressed beyond a reasonable doubt! Riding set aside, its been a wacky time around the house.   Spring is coming, however, and I am looking forward to warmer temps, clearer skies, and my first saddle soreness of the year.  Spring always brings out the most positive thoughts in me.  For whatever reason, its like a reawakening of my spirit, like the flowers that bloom in the garden. The senses, usually numb from the winter cold, suddenly burst into action, and the mind is bombarded by the sights, smells, touches, and sounds of spring.  The aching doldrums of winter slowly subdue into a soon to be sea of green and dotting blooms.   You can feel it in the air, and even the birds are beginning to sing a lovely spring song!

From LEFT: Rich, Tara, Don, Rhonda and I
Family Reunion 1997

You cannot have good, however, without the bad.  To this end I am forced to deal with the death of my youngest brother, Rich.  Through some research, and a bit of tenacity, Mary uncovered a death notice for him dated September 2010. With some luck, and a rather understanding funeral home, we confirmed that Rich did pass away September 6th, 2010, in a hotel in Abilene, Texas at age 40.  The cause of death was attributed to massive alcoholic intake which led his heart to simply stop.  What really happened that night we may never know, however, I find myself in a bit of an emotional dilemma.  For many years I often wondered where my siblings were, given we were separated from each other while I was 7 years old.  Having been reunited with them in 1997, we never really kept in close contact with Rich.  To that end, I never "knew" him as a brother or family member.  The other side of it is he was my brother, and his story has never really been told.  I feel an emotional attachment to him, but part of my dilemma is I never really knew Rich the way I know a good friend. Perhaps in the weeks and months ahead I may be able to make some sense of his life and his death.  RIP Rich.

Mary Thanksgiving

It has been a rather lengthy period of time since my last post.  Christmas to be exact.  Mary has been thru her knee surgery.  Total knee replacement can be daunting for anyone.  Its been about 7 weeks since surgery, and progress has been rather slow at times.  So far the knee is performing well, but healing is slow.  Her knee continues to hold some swelling, and it still requires physical therapy a few times a week, however, Mary is moving around relatively pain free, and although still needs a cane or crutch to keep her balance, looks to be another successful knee patient.  There is still much to be done, however, between her back improving and the knee replacement, she feels better, a bit stronger, and seems....taller? After living for years in pain, finally getting a doctor to LISTEN has been a bit of a relief.  While she won't be doing any downhill slalom skiing, she is up and about. Always a good thing.


The kids are well.  Jesse has moved on from Wal Mart, and is trying to pursue other opportunities, or "challenges" as I call them.  Cheyenne is ALMOST finished with high school.  To say she is looking forward to it probably is a bit of an understatement.  She has done well, tries hard, but I think her biggest relief will be in May.  We did learn last week, however, that her first year of tuition at the community college is now covered by a scholarship program aimed at helping to develop skills in children who are "challenged" in school.  Her second year should have at least 40% tuition covered.  So all we need are books.  The program that offers these scholarships only take up to 3 students every year, so this is a very special achievement for her and for us as parents!  Her major will be graphic design, something she has been looking into for a couple years now.  The biggest thing is to maintain her focus, something that her father wasn't very good at!

Freedom Rock

Took some time this past weekend to make my annual pilgrimage to a little place in western Iowa called Freedom Rock. Its a rather large rock situated on Highway 25, about 1 mile south of Interstate 80.  Every year during Memorial Weekend the artist covers the rock in a freshly designed mural, giving honor to the nations veterans who have served our country. I had not been to the Rock for the 2011 design, as I was decidedly out of state when I normally do that.  As I recall, I was at Mount Rushmore! This year, I believe, the artist has outdone himself.  The pictures should speak to that.  From the main image on the front of the rock, to paying honor to 9-11, Sgt Salvatore Gunta, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Afghanistan, to a memorial of the Seal Team members who were tragically killed when their helicopter was shot down.  Even the mural depicting a Vietnam soldier whose ashes are mixed in to the paint was breathtaking.  The ride to was fairly windy, causing my return trip to be a bit delayed, but the weather was picture perfect, nice and clear.  I made it home just as the last ray of sunlight left the sky.  Thank goodness - I am Alive!

There will be other trips on my Harley this year.  My hope is to travel around Lake Michigan, maybe stop and see family and friends, perhaps a 4 day trip to Rapid City and the Badlands.  Thankfully there are plenty of destinations!  I had hoped to attend the annual "Run For The Wall" that is followed by The Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally in Washington, DC this year, however, that goal will have to wait another year.  It is my hope that I attend that event, which starts in California and goes for about 10 days.  It is the pinnacle of riding to cross the United States on a bike, but to end up in Washington DC on Memorial Day to see the festivities is something I have been dreaming of for several years now.  To pay honor to our veterans means everything to me, although there are some who might suggest otherwise.  I am reminded of our Honor Flights every year, and how a simple "Thank You" goes so very far with these men and women.  What more deserving honor than to line up and let our politicians know our veterans DESERVE to be honored, to be respected, to receive the gifts this country has to offer.  Unfortunately this year - Cheyenne is graduating from school, but next year, I hope its in the works!

Until next time everyone........Eyns Vey Drey ....DUPAH!!!

Peace & Love Everybody!