Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Outdoor Living, Recreation for Some, Necessity for Others

From Mitch Albom’s site on Have A Little Faith… In the book Albom becomes involved with a Detroit pastor – a reformed drug dealer and convict – who preaches to the poor and homeless in a decaying church with a hole in its roof.

I teach outdoor education and recreation. I teach parents and teachers to take the children outdoors for enrichment and appreciation of nature and all it offers us. I am also a huge proponent of outdoor education for the skills it can teach us about doing without modern day appliances, which in turn may someday give us an edge if we are forced to cope with a natural or manmade disaster. People forced from their homes have a better chance of survival if they have developed a sense of well being and confidence in the absence of electricity, running water and a warm cozy bed.

Mitch’s book gives a detailed description of what it’s like to live on the street, and the way Pastor Henry had compassion upon these people to make their live not just more comfortable, but bearable. One of the characters loses his toes from frostbite. Can we even imagine? A wise person once told me, “The key to happiness is gratitude”. This principle is demonstrated and affirmed in the book when some of the homeless rejoice in being granted just a few comforts, like some used clothing or shoes without holes.

I challenge us all to consider this as the new year approaches and we think about all we have to do in 2010 and goals we wish to accomplish. Take some time to consider those not just less fortunate, but those who have nothing, and do something to make a difference in your community.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Spotlight: Mitch Albom’s Book, Have a Little Faith



Well Christmas is over, and the New Year is approaching. Santa Claus was good to our family, although it was a little leaner under the tree than some years. One of the gifts I received this year was a book from my Sweetie of one of my favorite authors, Mitch Albom. (I need to list Mitch as one of my Favorites in my profile.) Mitch is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press and authors many fine books such as Tuesdays with Morrie, 5 People You Meet in Heaven, and now his latest book, Have a Little Faith.

I’m not a book worm, so in order to read with good comprehension and most importantly captivation; I need a quiet place with good light and a little white noise. Have a Little Faith, kept me wanting more from the very first page to the very end with only a few short breaks in between. The reasons it hooked me are his style and layout mostly. I love a book that has new chapters every two or three pages. Similar to a blogging style, the book left me finishing one thought, then lead me on to the next which was sometimes completely different, making me think – but not too hard.  Beyond this technical aspect is Mitch's humanness that he portrays.  His thoughts and feelings are those like I might have in similar circumstances, and his people are real - ordinary folks with extraordinary stories.  There is greatness in the ordinary - that point comes across crystal clear.

From Mitch’s site
Albom’s first nonfiction book since Tuesdays with Morrie, Have A Little Faith begins with an unusual request: an 82-year-old rabbi from Albom’s old hometown asks him to deliver his eulogy. - Feeling unworthy, Albom insists on understanding the man better, which throws him back into a world of faith he’d left years ago. Meanwhile, closer to his current home, Albom becomes involved with a Detroit pastor – a reformed drug dealer and convict – who preaches to the poor and homeless in a decaying church with a hole in its roof.

So Mr. Gus, you may ask, What does this have to do with the outdoors? Are you rambling? - The answer is no. As I read about the Detroit pastor and his work with the homeless, I reflected upon those who live at the mercy of the outdoor elements by necessity, rather than by choice. The reason for this book review at all is because of the impression it made upon me in this way.


Here i
s a great follow-up article to the book in USA Today: 'Tuesdays With Morrie' author Mitch Albom keeps the 'Faith', Updated 9/29/2009 10:39 PM.

Please read my upcoming follow up: Outdoor Living, Recreation for Some, Necessity for Others, to post Dec. 30, 2009.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Gift Of Service


As a government employee, sometimes we feel our hands are tied when it comes to wishing people Merry Christmas or mentioning God. So at the risk of offending the public reader, I'll go out on a limb and instead of giving an original message, I'll offer you a quote from our Commander In Chief, but one I feel whole heartedly in agreement:

This season, we celebrate that sacred moment -- the birth of a child and the message of love He would preach to the world; that we are our brother's keeper, our sister's keeper; that, "pure in heart," we do unto others as we would have them do unto us; that we devote ourselves to "good works;" that we are summoned to be peacemakers.

More than 2,000 years later, that spirit still inspires us... And it's why, as so many of our fellow citizens struggle through tough times, we are called upon to help neighbors in need. And it's why, with our men and women in uniform serving far from home, in harm's way, our fervent wish remains, this season and all seasons -- let there be peace on Earth. - Remarks by the President, Barack Obama, at the 28th "Christmas in Washington" Broadcast, National Building Museum, Washington, D.C., December 14, 2009.

The speech in full.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Take Some Time To Reflect


"Take Some Time To Reflect" is becoming my new mantra for the next week or two at least. This past while has been a crazy one. In the last ten days my house was robbed, the car died, I took a weekend trip to Alabama, an 18 hour car ride to pick up our son from the Marines, an archery tournament, a group campfire and only 2 more days left of archery day camp, and my bathroom sink is leaking. Whew. Is it Christmas yet? What month is it?


Perhaps needless to say, it has been challenging for me to get into that good old holiday spirit.  The TV and radio media just make it worse, hearing about last minute Christmas shopping.  On the radio I heard the Carpenter's song, "There's no place like home for the holidays" which started to bring me back on track. Karen Carpenter's voice sooths my soul. Here's a reminder of how it goes...

Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays
'Cause no matter how far away you roam
If you long for the sunshine and a friendly gaze
For the holidays you can't beat home sweet home



In the 4-H program, we teach life skills and this would be a good one to reiterate - Reflection.  Look at the past day, week, month or year and reflect upon goals you set, or those you didn't but should have.  Reflect up on the important things in life, like your most important relationships, the ability to work, have a job or the opportunity to go outdoors and feel the breeze upon your face.  Reflect upon the things you do good, and the things you need to work on.  Whether your financial situation is tight or flush, you are alone or with family, everyone I know can gain from thoughtfully looking back to evaluate their situation.  I think I'll make a campfire over the holidays, enjoy it with my family and do some more of just that - reflect.
Photo Credit: Ginger Roberge.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Can Roadkill Serve A Worthy Purpose?

As a USU Aggie and former Utahan, I'm still interested in the Rocky Mountain wildlife. This week my daughter went with her Mom to Utah to visit Grandma, Grandpa and the cousins for Christmas. One of the great things they'll probably see are the deer that come down from the snow covered mountains to feed. In Grandma Pope's particular neighborhood, the deer love the fallen apples left over from the fall harvest. I was thinking of this precisely at the moment I ran into this article.


As a subscriber of the Outdoor Press Room, I check in weekly to see what the headlines are, and this week there is a captivating article regarding the number of road kill mule deer in the state of Utah.  The article, by Brett Prettyman, UT road-killed and hunter-killed deer numbers nearly equal, goes on to say that "with an already struggling mule deer population, Utah wildlife officials are concerned that recent estimates indicate the number of road-killed mule deer may actually exceed the number taken by hunters in the Beehive State."  Were not talking a few mulies here, the numbers of road kill deer are in excess of 20,000!  Unbelievable!


Now as a Floridian, its making me start to wonder about our road-killed wildlife.  I'll have to look up the Florida FWC numbers, but when I asked myself, Are more possum killed by small game hunters or by cars?, I laughed out loud!  Florida drivers smashing possum and armadillos, attract more buzzards than Palm Beach attracks New York retirees.  But does this, or can this have any beneficial affect to us and our families, or is it just a sad sad thing?



Like it or not, we're part of the ecosystem, and the urbanization of our once pristine land has come at the detriment of wildlife, possum and mule deer alike.  In Utah, the homes crawl up the mountain side, so they've put up deer fences.  In Florida I do see some roadside game fences, but mostly I see six lanes of concrete from Miami to Jacksonville to Pensacola.  Its a wonder we still have wildlife at all, but I do see one bright spot in all of this gloom and negativity to the future of our game.


Use the main idea of this story to teach your kids.  Even a three year old who sees a dead animal on the roadside with a vulture feeding on it can begin to understand this one small part of the ecosystem.  When one animal dies, it may allow another to live.  I admit, that's a pretty somber story for a toddler to learn, but when is the right time to start teaching about the food chain, decreasing wildlife habitat and natural resource conservation?  If you teach this while they're young, it may have a greater impact on the decisions they make as adults, when they can make choices that will make a difference.  Photo Credits: by joeesabol of Flickr! and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Protect Yourself. Inventory Your Things.


Recently a close friend of mine had his house broken had some valuables stolen, including firearms. Luckily all of the items were stolen were inventoried, so when the police arrived he handed him printed pages of the goods including photos, serial numbers, purchase price and replacement value. He said the police were very pleased at the detail of information, because it will give them a better chance of having the items returned. He was using the same inventory software as I use, for that dreaded break-in, severe weather event or fire. That software is free, and it’s called What You Own Home Inventory, from M-One Studio. The most current version is 4.11 and it is available from or from CNET, who gives it a great review.

When I first started using the software, it was from one of the larger insurance companies, and I spoke to one of their reps. They told me that too many people try to make claims for stolen or ruined valuables, but they offer no proof those things ever existed. After using the software, I found it extremely intuitive and useful. Some tips as you start to inventory your items: Do it in a logical order. I opted to inventory my most valuable items first, which made good sense. After those were done, I went room by room and did other valuables. Lastly (and ongoing) I use it to keep track of account numbers and log-in information. Many of us nowadays have multiple account numbers for our banks or shopping online, it’s hard to keep track of all of them. What You Own Home Inventory does a great job with this. Finally, when your done – save a copy to your hard drive and burn a copy to disc. I keep mine in the safe, with the intention of giving a copy to a family member in case all my things go up in smoke.

CNET had this to say about it, and I agree… CNET Editors' Review: We review a lot of programs, and it's not often that we find one that really blows us away. What You Own Home Inventory is one of those rare programs, the cream of the crop that's available on Download.com. The fact that this powerful home inventory program is free is a very pleasant surprise. The program's interface is fantastic, with a sleek, intuitive design. Users enter the rooms in their home and then the contents of each room, listing the purchase price, replacement price, and other relevant details…

Do it today, before it’s too late.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Allow Kids To Screw Up


When we are teaching children, sometimes it seems we want to make them do it the "right way" or not at all. Learning is a process.

Allow youth to do the activity- don’t be too quick to correct them, show them the right way, or do things for them. Of course, if you see a danger threat, intervene immediately. The point is, some of the most important life lessons are learned by making mistakes. Adults tend to want to rescue kids from adversity. When we do that, we rob them of some of the most powerful learning experiences.

This is just one of the principles we teach in the 4-H Shooting Sports Instructor Classes, but it is applicable to any discipline or subject matter, to other kids or your own. Allowing them to fail in small degrees will set up those teachable moments, like I discussed in a previous blog, 12/2/09 Teachable Moments.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Spotlight: The Snook Foundation


I had an email exchange this morning with a great guy, Rick Roberts, who is the Executive Director of the Snook Foundation.  He is also a die-hard angler and an optimist, whose life theme has been conservation.

When I asked Rick why his organization is so important, he told me, While the foundation’s name is Snook we are truly universal in our desire to protect all game and forage fish...We are  the inshore angler alliance. Our primary objective is to protect and retain the remaining nursery and juvenile fish habitat. We have lost 50% of what existed here in Florida  in the past fifty years...that has to stop.  William R. Mote, who founded the organization in 1998 and relates his vision, For countless ages, man has taken from the sea. Now it is time for us to give back to this precious source of all our planet's life.

We need this organization and those like it.  Please visit their website to learn what they’re doing to preserve this great species, how to catch them, and read stories from anglers and all about Snook in the news.


About the Snook: The Common Snook, Centropomus undecimalis, Adorned with a distinct lateral line; high, divided dorsal fin; sloping forehead; large mouth, protruding lower jaw, there is nothing "common" about her.  Found from central Florida and off Galveston, Texas south to Rio DeJaniero, Brazil. Snook cannot tolerate water temperatures below 60 degrees F for long. Usually they prefer inshore in coastal and brackish or fresh waters, along mangrove shorelines, seawalls, and bridges; also on reefs and pilings near shore.  Photo Credits: The Snook Foundation

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mark Your Calendars, Dec. 21

Having a Winter Solstice celebration, is not just another PC way of saying "Christmas party.”, I told one of my colleagues yesterday. 

In short, Winter Solstice is the annual day of the shortest period of daylight.  In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice will occur at 12.47pm Eastern Time on December 21, 2009.  Historically what this means is that from this day forward the days get longer until the next solstice in June.  As the grandson of European immigrants, part of my family tradition celebrates this day with bonfires into the night, knowing that tomorrow will have a little more light, crops can be planted soon, and springtime is on its way before long.


I hope you’ll try to fit this significant day in to your busy holiday schedule, no matter what other celebrations you may enjoy.  It’s a great time to bundle up the kids, put the dog on a leash to enjoy the winter night, and explain to your family how folks long ago celebrated this day.  (Sources & Photo Credit: Wiki, Time and Date)

Monday, December 7, 2009

4-H Values Are The Common Thread


The 4 H’s of the 4-H program are Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. As a 4-H Youth Development Educator, we focus on teaching life skills that tie directly to these four words. The best document I can refer you to is Targeting Life Skills In 4-H, by M. Norman and J. Jordan of the University of Florida. In that paper they relate the H’s of the program to concrete areas of learning and skill instruction of:

HEAD – Thinking, Managing, example Critical Thinking, Goal Setting
HEART – Relating, Caring, example Cooperation, Concern for Others
HANDS – Giving, Working, example Service, Learning Useful Skills
HEALTH – Living, Being, example Personal Safety, Self Discipline

In this blog, you will continue to see a common theme of these four topics running through as a common thread. Even though my last entry was about HAVA, Honored American Veterans Afield, I feel it important to spend some time on the Heart aspect for one more day.

In the news this morning, I saw no mention of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Imperial Navy on the morning of December 7th, 1941. Are we individually remembering this event and discussing it with our families, students and colleagues? Are we still teaching about it in schools? Are we still flying the flag at half mast at our government buildings and homes? In that attack over 3600 people were killed or wounded, and we lost hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, not to mention the psychological damage to those on Hawaii or the ripple effect upon the surviving individuals and families. Please take time out of your day to honor those lost and share it with your children. As you purchase and post your 2010 calendars, circle it now for next year.  Here is an award winning site to remember this day by survivors and their loved ones of Pearl Harbor: Pearl Harbor Survivors.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Spotlight: HAVA, Honoring our Vets.


A few weeks ago late at night, watching the Outdoor Channel, one of the shows featured HAVA, Honored American Veterans Afield. As a shooting sports educator I was interested, as the son and brother of veterans I was pleased, but as the Father of an active US Marine I was riveted and moved at this organization’s service. Photo Credit: HAVA


HAVA is an incredible organization to raise awareness and assist disabled veterans with the healing process through active participation in the outdoor sports. - As the number of injured men and women returning from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan grew, members of the firearms industry initiated a non-profit partnership called HAVA to aid disabled soldiers as they transition to their lives back in the United States. The ultimate goal is to increase their confidence and hope for the future by reconnecting with their love of the outdoors and the American traditions of hunting and firearms. Each HAVA veteran is a national hero that has earned our respect and support through valorous service in defense of our way of life.


HAVA has also been featured in on TV in shows such as Shooting Gallery, American Rifleman, Shooting USA, and the Glenn Beck Show. It has also been featured in print, in some the NRA publications.  Please get to know HAVA and offer any support you can possible give. Our disabled service men and women deserve this. Thank you HAVA!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Evolution Of This Blog


Thousands of years ago our ancestors etched messages into the sides of a caves, mountains or rocks - the ancient blogger.  Now we see it and wonder, “What’s this about?”  Since day one of Confessions of an Outdoorsman, I’ve asked myself the same question.  Today my purpose is to share things that will help individuals and families cultivate a greater interest in the outdoors and a desire to be there.  Why?  Because outdoor involvement stimulates a healthy mind and body, brings an appreciation that helps to preserve our environment, connects us with those from the past who once lived there in the harsh elements, and helps us, even to a wee degree to develop a bit of self reliance and many other healthy virtues.  My specialty is youth development and the shooting sports, but my experience base is very broad in outdoor education.  Week to week there may be topics on everything from trapping, shooting, hiking, navigation, star gazing and more.  It will always be clean and family oriented but, you can for sure bet to see an occasional yarn, tall tale or perhaps a critique on some aspect of our culture.  I hope you enjoy.  Photo credit: Don Gennero, 2009 


Are you a blogger, expert or have something to share?  Starting in January, I will be introducing my Guest Blogger series of experts in their field to share their insight.  If you would like to participate in this, or give a recommendation please let me know by leaving a comment or sending me a message.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Teachable Moments


A "teachable moment" is THE teaching opportunity, right at the instant it needs to be delivered. This teaching tool is applicable for any subject matter, students of any age. For example, on the archery range regarding finger guards - you can talk about them prior to shooting, "how important they are, blah blah blah", but why take away valuable shooting time with lecture. If the child shoots without finger guards, no harm will come other than potentially sore fingers. With no glove or finger tab you'll be able to see if the string is properly positioned, then after 10 shots or so, ask how the child's fingers are. If the shooter says they're kind of sore, then introduce him to the glove. They'll get it and never forget. The trademark of every effective educator is to devise and use teachable moments.

These teachable moments can't be done with most mandatory safety rules. There has to be some basic knowledge imparted so as to maintain order and range safety, but the more mundane - although very important topics can be taught one at a time, as the situation arises.

Final note. This is not a unique thought, but one of the many valuable tools imparted to all instructors in the 4-H shooting sports program.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Night Rider’s Lament

Last night about 11 o'clock I went outside, like me and the dog often do - and immediately I was struck in the eyes by our magnificent Florida moon, bright as could be and immediately a song fell off my tongue. The words came from seemingly nowhere, from the depths of my brain. As I was singing, my recollections went back to my growing up in the Lone Star State and all of the old friends I have back there, the lonesome cowboy of long ago and some of my old boyhood nights spent under the stars. Read the lyrics. I’m sure some of you will be able to relate. The song is Night Rider’s Lament, by Jerry Jeff Walker & The Lost Gonzo Band, 1975. Is goes like this:

One night while I was out a ridin'

The grave yard shift, midnight 'til dawn

The moon was bright as a readin' light

For a letter from an old friend back home

Chorus

And he asked me

Why do you ride for your money

Tell me why do you rope for short pay

You ain't a'gettin' nowhere

And you're losin' your share

Boy, you must have gone crazy out there

Ah but they've never seen the Northern Lights

They've never seen a hawk on the wing

They've never spent spring on the Great Divide

And they've never heard ole' camp cookie sing

This song was written by Michael Burton, is immediately ready to purchase from iTunes or others for about a dollar. Other singers such as Garth Brooks have done this song, but none sound as good to me as Jerry Jeff (no offense Garth). If you have experienced this song, especially the last four lines, share this experience with someone, especially your spouse or little ones to relearn the magic of moonlight.