Be the exception 

Be the exception 

Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception. -Carl Sagan

I’m reading a James Rollins book and this quote jumped out at me. It reminded me of my personal motto that I completely ripped off from the US Marines. Improvise – Adapt – Overcome.

Over the years there have been many times when I’ve had to look at my life or situation and decide: How can I make this happen? What can I do for things to go in the direction I want or need? Sometimes those decisions are made on the fly….what am I saying they are always on the fly. That’s why I have this motto!

When I ponder on this quote it really drives home that we are all doomed to extinction of some sort, but it’s up to each of us to decide if we’re going to survive or not. Trial by fire seems to be the rule. How do you survive those challenging times?

Just because we go through trials doesn’t mean there isn’t a purpose or a learning opportunity. I don’t want to say all challenges are bad because ultimately that experience might be the force that drives us to greatness. Do we like living through the experience? Probably not…never. I don’t wake up saying oh yeah another miserable day, or is there an obstacle I can throw in my path that I missed all the other days…yeah not doing that. I try to find something positive throughout the day.

How does a positive attitude make a difference? Well everything is about your attitude. A positive mindset allows you to tap into a more productive and creative self. Being able to have a great perspective means you are able to increase your intuitive capabilities, wisdom, and common sense. Something we could all use more of I’m sure!

My goal is to always be the exception – so far so good – had a few moments where I thought I might check out early and make it on the extinct list. Nope. God seems to have a plan for me so I dig deep, plug in, and charge up to survive. Living up to that ripped off motto…or maybe it’s in spite of it. Could be a combo – I’m just stubborn like that.

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Charles Darwin is misquoted all the time about survival of the fittest…true story. This quote really pairs well with Carl Sagan’s I think. Surviving boils down to being adaptable to change otherwise you will become extinct. There are many organisms that haven’t survived the ages due to that fact. In today’s times it’s more than likely due to humans but in the past it was other types of pressures, disease, or lack of forage. Whatever the case as we make our way through life it’s up to us to be able to survive. No one can do it for you.

Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine, and she was telling me a story about a lady she knows that was put into a nursing home/rehab facility. Basically her family dumped her there. So here comes someone that isn’t a relation and looking at the situation aghast with disblief because this lady had deteriorated to a naked woman wearing a nasty, dirty diaper in a chair that appeared absolutely crazy and out of her head. That was the show because she didn’t know what else to do because her family left her there, and they weren’t coming back other than to take care of the bill each month. She makes the connection that it’s my friend and then says ‘well sure it’s you – who else would it be, so get me cleaned up and dressed.’ My friend had a tough love talk with her and said ‘if you are ever going to get out of this place you are going to have to do it for yourself – NO ONE is going to do it for you.’ That’s what she did. It was a long and hard road out of that facility, but she’s back in her own home, living her life, almost the same as before she went into the facility.

What does that tell me? Same thing I’ve known for a long time. That I have to be willing to survive on my own. I can’t rely on other people to do it for me. Fortunately I have a really strong faith and family that I fall back on or it would be a lonely survival. God has pulled me through several tough ones. If you have a significant other that you can rely on that is fantastic I don’t, but I’m not going to dwell on it either. Life is for living and looking towards the future, not for regretting the things in the past. 

Be the exception in life! Survive in spite of the odds.

-G.

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Raleigh, NC

I was heading to Raleigh for work, which is a typical theme for my travel. I was pretty excited since this was my first trip ever to the state of North Carolina – let’s just say I checked another state off my bucketlist!

It’s very green and reminds me of the Ozarks except there are a lot more pine trees than can I find in the Ozarks. We have mostly hard woods. Traffic is atrocious depending on the time of day so just be prepared but in comparison to LA it’s nothin’. Why is it bad? Raleigh is part of the triangle which is made of of Durham and Chappel Hill as well. Lots of people moving between three of them heading to and from work. We of course land right at the best time to catch rush hour! Google maps and I chatted many times about her total lack of knowledge of traffic flow. Pretty sure the bitch lied a couple of times. That’s what me and my other road dog thought anyway and we’re sticking to it.

Since I was there for a competition and work took up lots of my time I’m going to sum it up rather than go day by day. You really don’t need to see the inside of the convention center for the days I was there – this is a travel blog not a convention center blog. I do have some fantastic foodie delights to share and I’m pretty exicted about those so lets get this party started.

We had a team building activity the required everyone to load up on a bus with a Tobacco Trail Tour Guide. The day I was with him he was amusing but I heard reports back that he turned into an ass on another. Maybe that’s part of his comedy routine – going to suggest he change that part quickly. Bless his pea pickin’ heart. 

We arrived at Deep River Sporting Clay’s to do some skeet shooting. We were in hog heaven. I did terrible because I don’t normally  shoot moving objects. Snakes tend to be coiled up waiting which is perfect. Sorry for the snake lovers but I’m shooting it.

I had some foodie finds that I recommend highly:

The Cowfish – it’s a fusion of Japanese and American. So good! We took time out to go celebrate my birthday at this place! I would definitely come back. Loved the sushi!!! The atmosphere is festive and unique so it’s a fun place day or night!

The Second Empire – it’s amazing. In an old home near the convention center. It is beautiful inside and out. The food is exceptional. My first course was pork belly and scallops – AMAZING! Entre was lamb chops with a casserole. My first time ever to eat lamb chops and they didn’t disappoint. Medium rare is the way to go. I also taste tested my neighbors duck confiet…it was my favorite. It melted in your mouth. It would’ve been rude to take his dish and eat my own…really. I had the Empire Chocolate Souffle for dessert and it was another first for me. It was so pretty I didn’t want to eat it but I did!

The Angus Barn – delicious steak! There are a few unique things about this place. You must check out the bathroom it’s amazing. It’s the best looking barn I’ve ever seen in a bathroom setting. They also have a beautiful wine cellar that you can get a tour of as well. Remember no touching – only look!

Fun times with some great folks!

Circa 1888 – A great little bar that used to be a depot for the railroad. Beautifully refurbished with a patio area outside and a billard tables that will keep you hanging out for hours inside.

Mostly food because I was so busy working, but food and drink should be considered nectar of the gods!

-G.

Time

Time

I’m watching the movie Lucy – Morgan Freeman has the best voice. There are two concepts that I find intriguing in this movie. Time and Predator-Prey relationships. I’m going to focus on Time in this particular blog. I’ll get to predator-prey another day.

When we are young it feels like time is endless. It takes forever, we feel, before we’re old enough to wear make-up, stay home without a babysitter, date, drive, or not have a curfew. I’m sure I missed some milestones, but I hit the big ones. Wait…I left off drinking but that really varies in age.

I just celebrated a birthday, and I’m telling you time is flying by at a rapid rate. You think you’ll have time for everything even the things you put off in life. You don’t! Children grow up so fast that I want to make sure I don’t regret not spending enough quality time with my son. Same for friendships – there are some I don’t see for periods of time, but when we do have an opportunity to get together you would never guess we’d spent a day apart.

Back to the discussion of Time – One book I find fascinating and I’ll tell you now it’s not a quick read. It’s definitely one of those you sit and ponder on is Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. Back in the my teacher days and specifically when I taught Physics this was one of the books I assigned. Nerds-R-Us right here!

[Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself, precisely, endlessly.] In the book it goes on to say that for the most part the people don’t even realize they are reliving their lives over and over. That would completely suck!  There are parts I would rather not repeat on a regular basis. As the book states ‘precisely, endlessly’….that makes me cringe thinking about it. If I had an option I’d rather it be a do-over not a repeat. On the other hand I would miss out on some pretty spectacular things. If you imagine changing one aspect of your life how does that ripple through the rest. I’ll take what I’ve got and live with it because there have been some amazing moments.

For us time isn’t circular but when you think about your past are there parts that keep repeating themselves. If so, is it worth repeating? Reflecting on our own history and having a goal or direction you would like to see your life is important. It doesn’t have to be a five year plan maybe you start with 6 months or a year. Stretch it out as you see success or determine that adjustments need to be made. I think goals are important. I create a list for myself that has personal, professional, financial and anything else I think needs a plan. Serious planner right here….I didn’t start off like that it was something I had to develop. Really anyone can grow this skill.

[Imagine a world in which there is no time. Only images.] I like taking pictures but they are one dimension compared to real life that is multidimensional. No day or night just an image of a moment in time. Seems kind of limiting. Think of how much you would miss out on. Things happen in an instant that you can never capture only experience. An image would never do it justice. I like looking at pictures, but I would never want that to be my existence.

This does make me think of the times that I’ve taken photos with me to visit my grandmother at the nursing home. She has Alzheimer’s. My thought at the time was that the pictures would help her to possibly remember the event or trigger the memory of the person, but isn’t that the same as this description in the book. Only living via images. My grandmother is more than images. She may have this horrible disease but she is a blessing to those around her. She’s a vibrant human being with memories, life experiences, hope and dreams that are trapped in her mind.  I stopped bringing the photos because it confused her and I’d rather be in the moment with her. Maybe that moment includes talking about her babydoll or talking about God. That’s okay with me because we are having a conversation and spending that time together.

My point is live life to the fullest and be in the moment, so you don’t miss the good stuff.

-G.

*Image credit: http://www.themindtrap.com/img/rooms/time-machine-5.jpg

Cruising Taneycomo

My job provides some fun experiences and this was one of those opportunities. After a long day of meetings we all loaded up on the Princess to cruise up and then back down Lake Taneycomo. It’s a small lake that sits between Table Rock Lake and Bull Shoals. Because it’s so small and the water coming off of Table Rock it stays cold all year long. I’ve actually taken a boat ride up the Bull Shoals Lake to where the water spills over from Taneycomo. Brrrrrr comes to mind but we all jumped in and took a quick dip. I will not call it a swim because it didn’t last that long. Obviously not this trip but when the water is high on Bull Shoals it makes for an interesting day out on the lake.

It was a beautiful evening and as we went down to board the fountains were shooting up sprays of water. Just had to capture the moment.

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This was a dinner cruise that was being catered so no great foodie find. The meal was good but it was the views that really captured your attention. The water was pristine, big fluffy white clouds in the sky, plus the reflection on the water equals amazing!

I just couldn’t resist snapping a few pics as we moved up the lake. The scenery is so classic of the Ozarks.

 

We finally got to a turning around point and as we were coming back you could see an open field behind a stand of trees. It’s right at dusk so there were several deer in the glen. It was so peaceful looking just made for a relaxing end to the day.

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As we were coming into the dock I stepped out the back door and took this pic. Just thought the water churning and the low light made a beautiful shot. If you are in Branson and want something fun and relaxing definitely take a ride on the Princess. You can find her on the Branson Landing.

Here I am with one of my besties! We had fun cruising up and down the lake. Great end to a long day!

-G.

Gettin’ on a jet plane

Gettin’ on a jet plane

When I’m traveling it’s normally uneventful, which is totally acceptable. I normally people watch in airports because there is always something to see. Humans are fascinating that’s why it’s so fun watching! 

I’ve seen some interesting choices for clothing, behavior that is questionable, I’ve met some unique folks, and I’ve seen ONE celebrity. There have been conversations about religion, hunting alligators, insurance…not real exciting, buying timeshares, and most recently about retired life. 

Let me tell you about my last flight – I got on the plane from Springfield, MO to Atlanta, GA. My seat partner (Tom) was an 83 year old gentleman that had to be the biggest flirt I’ve ever met. He was a character! Before you start singing gold digger his wife was across the aisle telling him I might not want to talk with him. He kept telling her ‘she’s talking to me’. I guess that was the go ahead that he could continue conversing. It sounded a bit like a kid asking mom for a special treat. In this case I was the treat. Sounds a bit wrong now that I think about it, but it was seriously amusing! She has got to be a saint. She also put ear plugs in and read a book the entire time. Tom would swear she reads 400 a year. She’s ahead of me only because she’s retired…oh the life.

Our conversation included discussion about retirement, politics, love, marriage, kids and grandkids, vacation spots, boating and coaching football. He really does coach football and told me that he wasn’t a role model. He thinks that is the parents job. I agree that parents should be the role model, but I darn sure expect my son’s soccer coach to be setting a good example as well. That whole thing about it takes a village to raise a child is true and if one of the villagers isn’t cooperating then you need to get on board before there’s a stake burning.

Tom being the flirt he is offered to show me a good time for about 20 minutes. I told him I would have to check off my bucketlist having a well seasoned gent flirt with me. I also told him I’d have to decline his offer….OMG. He did laugh about checking off the bucketlist, which lead to a discussion about the movie ‘Bucketlist’. One of his favorites.

He told me his younger looks were due to drinking daily. He stopped smoking at 50. He’s a real rascal obviously. This is why he’s not a role model and the villagers would be after him like Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s book.

Normally my seat mates keep to themselves so no conversation. It was a treat to chat with Tom. Do I always want to talk? No…lots of times I’m just like everyone else and keep to myself. My attitude is not necessarily unfriendly….might call it disinterested. Just moving along in the travel process. No one wants to be that annoying person on the plane – at least I don’t. 

I moved outside my comfort zone for whatever reason and I’m glad I did. I got to meet two fascinating people that have lead and continue to lead an interesting life in their retirement. 

My hope is that I live life, not sit on the sidelines waiting on life. ☺ I think I’m doing pretty good after a few false starts.

-G.

Blackhat

Blackhat

A few days ago I was watching the movie Blackhat and the villian in this movie thinks he’s pretty clever. I’m sure mostly because he’s a hacker, which means he’s anonymous and his actions are clandestine. I don’t know any hackers, but I do know some people that thought they were so clever they wouldn’t ever be caught in their own web of deceit. Oh the tangeled webs they weave. It’s when they’re wrapped up so tight like Frodo, the hobbit, in Lord of the Rings that it gets really entertaining.

I’m an observer of human nature….love people watching. Put me in an airport, an amusement park or Wal-Mart and I’ll be happy as a clam watching what’s going on around me. I also like watching movies or reading books where there is intrigue and figuring it out well in advance. Take Game of Thrones for example – I had a theory that’s pretty much on the money right away as I started reading the books. George RR Martin is a good story teller, and I like to connect the dots in his story. That’s what I do in life as well. Things that seem like they don’t go together or happen in an unusal way, well it might be they really do connect. I like figuring it out.

Anyone love strategy games? If it’s on an xbox I’ll probably die right away. Just not that coordinated when it comes to gaming systems, but a board game where you can put time and thought into it totally different scenerio. Settler’s of Catan is one of my favorites. I think my nerd rankings have shot up with this blog.

Okay back to Blackhat – the villian is also an opportunist. When you’re down they take the most advantage. Well that’s what he thought before he ended up dead. That happens to us in real life as well. People that are opportunist will look for that moment you are weak, down, not aware of deceit, and they strike. Striking with only themselves in mind. There is no thought to your well being or those around you. How do you protect yourself from that? Because staying vigilant all they time isn’t possible. I don’t really know the answer to that question. I would like to assume positive intent until I know that to be untrue. When I start seeing certain tendencies popping up in the other person, then my connect the dots behavior goes into overdrive. I don’t believe in coincidence. There is a purpose or design for everything. It’s possible that due to my life experiences I just happen to be on the lookout for it.

We all have experiences that can overshadow our lives, but it’s how we react to those situations as they arise that determine whether or not we overcome them. It’s okay to be disappointed, let down and know you’ve been lied to but we have the ability to decide if we are going to be the victim. Or stand up and say where did I have some accountability, where can I take some ownership of what happened, what blinders do I need to rip off so that I can be more successful as I continue in my life.

Life isn’t easy or perfect but we can find joy even in the hardship. It’s all about our perspective. Are you facing the future or trying to linger in the past?

-G.

*Photo credit: https://www.wired.com/2016/04/hacker-lexicon-white-hat-gray-hat-black-hat-hackers/

Arkansas Balloon Festival

It’s the 21st Annual Balloon Festival in Harrison, AR. Every year pilots come to paricipate in 3 days of events, along with an evening of optional tether rides and a balloon glow on Saturday night. Last year was my first year to crew, and I was absolutely hooked! Nothing compares to flying and I enjoy the comradarie of the chase crew. So now that I’ve tried to convince you of the merits of ballooning let me tell you about this three day event.

First of all it’s weather dependent. If the weather is bad or the wind is to high it’s not safe so no flying. That’s just something to expect if you’re going to one of these Balloon Festivals.

Day 1

Everyone arrived at the field on Friday afternoon around 5:15. It was a beautiful day but the wind was a little too high in the upper thermals so for safety no flying. We did stand the balloons up so the crowd that was gathered could see a pretty sight that evening. It worked out really well for my team since they had recently gotten their envelop back from an annual inspection and it was a tangled mess. We spent a significant amount of time sorting out lines and untwisting fabric to get it all layed out nicely to even be able to put it up. If that had been the next morning with a race we would’ve been in a pickle.

This year I was paired with a new pilot and they were a fun lot. I have to say all the ones I’ve met so far are great folks. Although a trailer named the Balloon Saloon is pretty awesome. It had a bar with a beer tap and a couple of coolers loaded down. They make a FINE margarita! Friday night is topped off with a pilot and crew dinner at one of the local residents home, which overlooks the Ozark Mountains. It’s a beautiful view and an enjoyable time for everyone to hangout – either get to know one another or catch-up from the previous year.

The Balloon Saloon bar!!

Day 2

Did I mention ballooning starts EEEEARRRLLLLY!!!! I’m not a morning person so this is a divine effort, and I love ballooning so I drag myself out. I arrive at the hotel where everyone is gathering for the pilots meeting….it was raining on the way over. That’s not a good sign. Hung out at the hotel for about an hour gabbing with other crew members and pilots but the morning flight was out of the question due to the weather conditions. No biggie I was off to have donuts with my sister and take a nap!

The balloon glow was a go thanks to the weather clearing up, so off to the soccer complex I went to get set up for tether rides. I know folks enjoy them and the kids are lots of fun, but it’s some serious work too. We had a little one that was down in the bottom of the basket with a cute little hat on – at first I wasn’t sure what was going on because it was dark. Kids are funny! Every year this event grows, so I can only imagine how big it will be in another 10 years.

Gettin’ hitched

We started the glow off with a wedding in the Arkansas balloon. I think that’s a first, but I could be wrong this event has been going on for 21 years. One thing that hasn’t happened in all the 21 years has been someone capturing the key off the pole that’s set up in the field across from the First Baptist Church. It’s got a hefty paycheck for anyone that does get. There have been a few pilots that have gotten close in the past. The geography of the where the pole is located and the location of Crooked Creek makes for some interesting thermals where the pole is located.

Tethering
Tethering in the moonlight

Fortunately when we finished all the tether rides the balloon saloon was open for business. Margarita time!

Day 3

This is the morning I dread because I’m sore as hell from the tethering the day before. I had to drag myself out of bed and straight into a hot shower. Once I had the return of some muscle movement I made my way back to the hotel for the pilot meeting and joined up with the rest of the crew. It’s early but the feeling of community and the excitment that a race is going happen gets the blood pumping. Rules are given, weather conditions discussed and then off we went to find the best spot to put up the balloon. The Ozarks includes lots of trees and hills so finding a flat spot minus cows can be a challenge sometimes….oh and you have to be at least 2 miles as the crow flies from the pole. There is a 45 minute window to take off and by the time we found a hayfield along with a willing landowner we were within the time frame. Things start happening fast – get all equipment out and connect and start filling the envelop up with air – ready set go!

Up up and away!

My fellow crew member had never flow,n so I was excited that she was going to have the opportunity. Really there is nothing like it. It is peaceful and exhilirating all at the same time. You can see from a perspective that gives you the ‘big picture’ view that we don’t normally get to see or experience. The first time I flew I was nervous and thrilled all at the same time then it just became awe. I’m still in awe – not sure that will ever change.

Flying
Coming into the pole

No one came close to the pole the geography got the best of all the pilots, but there are some other ways to get points and win. 
The chase crew is on point to keep track of the pilot and balloon and be ready to collect them from wherever they land. I get to discover all kinds of new places when I’m part of the chase crew. We found our pilot between a house and some big freaking trees. The homeowner was helping hold down the basket and when we arrived he headed into the house. Guess he was done with all the excitement. 

Champagne then Margaritas!

Once we were packed up it was back to the hotel to celebrate with champagne and the balloonist prayer. I ❤ ballooning and all the good natured fun. There is some work involved but the reward is well worth it. 
-G.