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Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Solstice?

If you watch the news or follow social media, you know that today is the first day of Summer.  But wait, wasn't the Memorial Day weekend the first day of Summer?  No, the first day of Summer was when the kids got out of school.  All the fashion experts know that the first day of Summer is when they fit in their swimwear.  The problem is our media and social media are all advertisement driven and will tell you everyday is the first day of Summer if it pays the bills.  Before we had all our high tech gadgets the Summer Solstice was a very important thing to know.

I teach Scouts a great deal about maps and compasses.  One of the key lessons I teach is to find direction without a compass.  Can you tell direction without an electronic gadget or compass? Because today's kids are filled with media driven ads, it takes me a long time to explain direction without a compass.  Dates and time of year is very important.  June 21st is the Summer Solstice. This is the day the the Sun is as far North as it can get.  Mind you I'm teaching kids in the deep South of the U.S.  This means that during the Summer and more specifically on the Summer Solstice the Sun rises almost due East.  During the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes the Sun rises about 23 degrees South of due East. Then on the darkest day of the year, the Winter Solstice, the Sun rises almost directly on a South East heading.  This year at Summer Camp I took my fifteen Scouts out to an open field early in the morning to explain all this.  Of the fifteen only four knew what the Summer Solstice was.  Mind you, some are barely eleven and there is plenty of time to learn. It's just very disturbing to see the advertising media is more powerful than the education system.  Our kids can tell you the first day of Summer as it pertains to school, movies, vacations, and toy sales at Walmart.  I just happen to think that it's more important to know directions than sales pitches.

I know everyone thinks that it's pointless to know directions when we have so much technology at our hands.  After all, I am old fashion and think growing my own food is better than the supermarket.  I just happen to think that maybe we should be smarter than the gadgets that run our lives.  If you think that our gadgets and technology will always available, take it from a guy that has lived through floods and hurricanes.  Sooner or later you will find yourself in a situation that your gadgets don't work for days and maybe weeks.  Spend a little time learning about how to survive in the worst case scenarios.  Teach your kids what direction they are going when driving to the beach.  Most importantly, be aware of all the things surrounding you and how they work and teach your kids to be the same.

Happy Summer Solstice!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Temper is a good thing.

I like to think I have a unique perspective, but I'm probably fooling myself there.  I do get to see a myriad of kids in a number of different arenas.  I've had the privilege of seeing many young kids try to adapt to the harshness of things such as football, band camp in August, and Boy Scout Summer camps.  I can tell you that most kids in today's society are not ready for these things. Most kids have Mommies that baby them.  Why in God's name would you peel your thirteen year old Son's chicken nuggets?  Has your child spent more than an hour in 90 degree plus weather? Can your kid dress himself?  And for crying out loud, is your child smart enough to get out of the rain?  These may sound like dumb questions but the problem is they are not being answered.  I am all about giving my Sons a better start in life than me, but at some point you have to let them learn the harsh lessons of life.

In the plant world it is known as "hardening off".  A seedling is raised indoors.  Then when it gets close to being big enough to go out into the garden, the seedling must undergo a process of hardening off.  Basically, you are going to expose the seedling to the harshness of the sun little by little.  A couple hours at first, then in a couple of days it can stand up to the sun all day and is ready to be put out in the garden.  If you take a seedling straight from the green house to the field it will wilt and die the first day.  In the world of metal the process is called "tempering".  In order for steel to stand the test of time it must be heated up to near the melting point and quickly cooled off several times.  If steel is not hardened or tempered it will be very brittle and fall apart over time.  Any two idiots with the right anatomical parts can make a kid.  The question is are you self aware enough to raise a kid who can stand on his own?  Your child needs to be tempered and hardened at as young an age as you think you can start doing so.  The best time to start your kid eating green things is when he is a baby.  Yes the preparing of your child for adulthood starts when he is an infant.  The best time to start hardening your child to the hot summer days is when he is old enough to run. That's usually in between a year and a half and two.  Yes preparing your child for adulthood starts when he is a toddler.  The best time to teach your child about clothing for the day is when he is old enough to go to school.  Yes, preparing for adulthood starts in kindergarten.  I think you are starting to see my pattern here.

I am fully aware of all the joys of having your baby act like a baby.  But, time is a fleeting thing and soon and very soon you will turn your baby loose on the world.  The time to stop babying your child is now.  If you think the time to learn the lessons of adulthood is when your kid turns 18, you've set your child up for a massive and devastating failure.  Tempering takes time and time is something you can't get at Walmart.  Take your kid outside today, make him eat something new today, show him how to wash clothes today, and most of all teach him how to be his own person today.  As a parent, letting go is the hardest thing, but it is the best thing for your child.  You have a simple choice everyday, either prepare your kid for adulthood or be selfish and not prepare him.

Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

2013 Summer Camp in the books.

It's Father's Day and that means one thing.  It means it's time to recuperate from a week at camp with Troop 406.  We always attend camp on the second week of June so that usually means we return on the Saturday before Father's Day.  I think the timing is totally appropriate.  It takes a Father to give a child an identity and camp is a place to prove a child's identity. Camp is an opportunity to conquer a boy's fears.  The proving ground of taking a boy to a man.  There is the issues of nature and weather.  Searing heat, stinging deer flys, down pours, ticks, and endless sand getting in places you don't want to know about.  Then there's the fears of certain challenges such as a fear of heights and the rappelling wall, or the fear of water and a 44 acre lake.  The issues of peer pressure and trying to not look like a baby in front of all the other boys.  And of course, there is the home sickness that cripples many a young boy.

This year, with the help of my good friend Chuck, we led 406 with a total of 15 boys to camp.  For some reason it always rains on the first day of camp.  First lesson to learn is always stay dry. Between rain, the pool, and sweating it is imperative to stay dry to avoid feet problems and chaffing.  Next lesson is to find out who is in charge of your new family for the week.  Boys that have a habit of talking back have to learn very harsh lessons in Troop leadership etiquette.  We use what is known as the patrol method where the older boys lead the younger boys.  The ones that can't except that have to answer to the evil Mr. Van.  Then there is the issue of eating meals with 300 other boys.  This is where the failure of parenting is most apparent.  If your son needs his "mommy" to peel his chicken nuggets, he won't last long in a cafeteria where everyone has to eat the same food.  It is shocking how epidemic this problem has become.  I've seen everything from kids living on peanut butter alone to kids only eating fast food.  Then classes begin and you have to earn your merit badges.

This year was like so many others.  The boys of 406 overcame things from every level of a boys journey to manhood.  Whether is was my little ones overcoming home sickness, or my intermediate boys finding their voice to speak up in leadership, or my older ones finally conquering their nemesis and making the last steps to Eagle, it all makes me proud of them.  I often tell the young ones that they have accomplished something that most boys can not.  To spend seven days away from home in the woods and proving yourself over and over again is a special feat that they should be very proud of doing.  Camp is much like life.  There are many obstacles and fears to overcome.  You have a choice to rise up and meet the challenge or stay on the couch and wish life away.  And be a leader is a lot like being a father.  I'm proud of every accomplishment of my Sons and the boys of my Troop.

Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

D-Day, our finest hour!

There are many, many holidays in America these days.  We spend billions of dollars on Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving.  These are great holidays.  Time to remember God, family, and life.  Sadly, we seem to be pushing aside some other holidays.  Memorial Day is now the official start of Summer instead of remembering men and women who have fought for this country. Pearl Harbor Day and 9/11 are remembered for the devastation caused by there attacks.  Today is D-Day, to most it's just June the 6th.  For some reason Operation Overlord and the Normandy invasion are just tidbits of history these days.  What a different world it would be if it were not for those brave men on that bloody coast some sixty nine years ago.

The entire world was at war.  Hitler and the Nazis were seemingly unstoppable.  They had conquered or annexed a majority of Europe.  The Axis Powers were hell bent on global domination. From Japan's conquest of the Pacific Rim, to the German gutting of Europe and North Africa there was no where to hide.  You didn't get to say that you weren't going to choose sides or that you weren't going to judge others.  Men crossed a frigid English Channel to face fortified gunners on cliffs overseeing the beaches.  Facing a certain death they still marched forward up the beaches. Why would people do what seems to be a suicidal move? It was a simple choice, defeat Hitler or live under a brutal dictator.  The cost of D-Day and it's surrounding operations to make a beach head was over 200,000 American lives.  It was and is to this day one of the most courageous military maneuvers in history.  It was clearly the victory that numbered the days Hitler had left. Unfortunately, the "Greatest Generation" is quickly dieing off.  With them go the stories of heroism. Gone from our lexicon are the words like Omaha Beach, Mulberry Harbour, Utah Beach, Neptune's Spear, and Operation Overlord.  We were once a proud nation.  Proud of what our nation stood for. Our brave citizens were once considered heroes for defending freedom from tyrants.  At this time in our history being American meant putting your country and it's ideals ahead of your own wants, needs, and desires.

Today's American speaks a different language.  The brave men who stormed those beaches in Normandy would now be called intolerant.  We can no longer say something is good or bad.  We must make excuses for everything an everyone.  We now believe that a few powerful people should decide the fates of ordinary citizens.  Those soldiers that stormed that beach believed in independence of every man to decide his own life.  It's been seventy short years for a nation to go from untold courage to storm a beach for freedom to a nation that is mired in it's apathy.  It may label me a intolerable, old fashion, religious, right winged bigot, but I truly believe that D-Day was our finest hour.  A tip of the hat to the brave men of Operation Overlord.

"Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity." -- Part of President Franklin Roosevelt's D-Day prayer given June 6, 1944

Monday, June 3, 2013

Lessons of a Squirrel.

DEATH TO ALL SQUIRRELS!!  I love my garden.  Some of my other posts show my obsession with gardening.  There is always competition for my veggies.  That competition comes from more than my In-laws and friends.  There are those dreaded little furry creatures that look at my garden as a Las Vegas buffet.  Do you know a raccoon can peel and eat corn on the cob while still on the bush?  My dad decided to try to eliminate the raccoon.  He caught four in five nights.  Then a week later and I don't have a single kernel of corn left.  Needless to say, there are more coons and they are still hungry.  So now the local squirrel population as acquired a taste for vine ripened tomatoes! A couple of days ago I walk out to work in the garden and there's a tiny two ounce gray squirrel hauling off with a four inch tomato.  Then today I walk out to a tomato wasteland.  No less than a dozen of my precious red fruits eaten and strung out across the garden.  Get the gun!

The raccoons and squirrels are persistent if nothing else.  Yes they have an animal instinct and are driven to by the need to eat, but it is persistence that will get them their food.  I find it ironic that the same quality that most people see as good is destroying my garden.  Most single women want to date a man that is consistent in pursuing her.  Unless that consistence in pursuing her is no longer wanted.  Then it becomes stalking.  Most would say that spending time with others is a good thing.  We all want people to take the time to hear us out and make us feel important.  But when time becomes a thirty year old son sitting on the couch for days on end then it's not such a great quality.  We hope that everyone has a sense of humor or more specifically our sense of humor.  Then all of sudden we are the butt of every joke and humor is not such a great quality. Everyone wants a spouse that has passion.  As long as that passion is directed at us.  If my passion is directed at fantasy football then my wife would not be so attracted to my being passionate.

We are not so different from the squirrel.  We want what we need in this life.  How quickly we are to build up others and compliment their qualities.  When in reality it is meant to do whatever is necessary to keep others serving us.  Politicians and used car salesmen are considered lowest form of our society.  Why you ask?  They are consider scum because they use people to get want they want by means of flattery and lies.  They are doing whatever is necessary to survive another day.  The fact is we all use others to get what we need in this life.  The question is do you quickly discard others as soon as your need is fulfilled?  How far does your loyalty go?  Do you keep people in your life after their function is complete?  The definition of persistence is to out live your designated purpose.  Learn from the squirrel, be persistent with the people in your life and never give up on anyone.