Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Great Stuff of Life!

During my 58 years on this earth I have amassed some great memories. Some are great memories, some are memories of not so great things. The totality of all those experiences is what makes living on this earth so awesome. The good memories and the fun memories are the great stuff of life! 

I was in Home Depot the other day and noticed something on the shelf that brought back a funny memory and one that gets brought up every now and then. Many years ago, my wife and I decided to build a small pond in the backyard of our new home. The back lawn was a pretty bare landscape with no plants or features other than grass laid by the homebuilder. We planted a few trees and shrubs and added a flower bed or two. Our grand plan was to put a nice pond in the middle of the yard with a nice rock waterfall on one end that would produce a relaxing, running water sound. 

We purchased a solid plastic pond form and dug a big hole in the hard clay soil. We piled the dirt from the hole up on one end so we could lay our rocks and make a waterfall. I researched the size of pump needed and purchased and set it in place. We had researched different ways to set the rocks for the waterfall and the best way to fill in the cracks in between the rocks so the water would flow correctly. A more involved process involved mortar and an easy process involved the spray foam Great Stuff. We chose the easier way and bought a can or two of Great Stuff. 

I filled in the cracks as best I could with the Great Stuff. It takes some practice to judge how much the foam expands so you don't get too little or too much. My plan was to let the foam dry and then trim any areas with a knife or razor blade. 

My wife decided she was going to smooth out the spray foam with her fingers while it was wet. Not a great idea!!  I was in the house cleaning up or doing something else when she walked in with sticky spray foam all over her hands. I laughed and made some comment about that not being a great idea. She laughed too and was determined to clean this stuff off her hands. The sticky foam does not come off easy. You need a solvent of some kind to get it off. It is as sticky as getting Super Glue all over your hands. Her next great idea was to grab some paper towels to wipe off the sticky spray foam. You can guess how that went. Now she had bits and pieces of paper towels stuck to the Great Stuff that was stuck to her hands. It was the biggest mess ever! We were both laughing so hard as the situation continued to get worse. I wish we had a video to send off to America's Funniest Videos or to put on the internet to go viral. 

My only solution was to grab some gasoline. It took a lot of scrubbing with gasoline to get the mess off her hands. To this day, we laugh about that experience and she has never touched Great Stuff again! Our pond turned out great but never looked very natural in the middle of our yard. We later had trouble with algae growing down the waterfall and into the pond. It never did look like a Better Homes & Garden backyard pond. But, we have one great memory from that pond building experience!

What great stuff memory do you have from your life experience? Any of you had similar experiences with the actual Great Stuff, Super Glue or something similar?

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

How Talented Are We! Pottery Throwing

I started to put a question mark at the end of "How Talented Are We"  but changed it to an exclamation to make it a statement of fact rather than a question. You can make the determination of which is the most appropriate.

I've posted in the past about trying new things and continue to look for opportunities to experience something that I haven't done before. Last month my wife and I took a two hour pottery throwing class. This was something we have never done and thought would be fun to try. It was a lot of fun!

We put on an apron and then sat at our own pottery wheel with four other students. After a brief demonstration by our instructor we were handed three chunks of clay to make our three masterpieces. I had joked for a month that I was going to make three ashtrays, even though no one in our family smokes. 

I slammed down the chunk of clay into the center of the wheel. Yes, you really have to slam it on to make it stick good. My first piece was fairly easy to do and I got pretty confident in my abilities at making pottery! I made a nice little bowl. I slammed my second piece of clay and started on my second masterpiece. I decided to make this one a little taller so it could be considered a vase. Boy, oh boy, the second try was a disaster. I collapsed my bowl vase ashtray thing several times. I would try to form it up as it was spinning and then it would get all out of balance and clay flew everywhere. I finally gave up on that piece and attribute the failure to bad clay! My third piece of clay went much better and then the instructor gave me another piece of clay to try again.

We completed three pieces each and had our aprons, arms and hands covered in slimy clay mud. After the pieces were glazed and fired we picked them up a couple of weeks later. We were impressed with how well they came out. The photos below show our pieces,  mine are blue and my wife's are green. I made three bowls and she made a spoon rest, jewelry bowl and bowl. We did a Facebook post and my youngest sister said one of mine looked a little "wonky". I agree it is a little imperfect but was a pretty cool piece made by my own hands. Besides that, my sister is a little "wonky" herself! I told her and will tell you all, pottery throwing is not as easy as it looks.

Has anyone tried a pottery wheel? Are any of you really into it as a hobby and make awesome pieces? Have any of you tried a new thing lately? If not, I encourage you to try something new to try. As I always say "You never know 'til you go"!

Friday, September 15, 2023

Rocket Launch

In keeping with the space theme from my last post, this one will also be space related. I have several bucket list items that I would like to get to in the next year or so. One of those items is to see a rocket launch in person. I imagine the sight of a launch is impressive when seen live. I have seen several web sites that list launch schedules around the world and around the U.S.   

I would like to see a large rocket such as a Falcon 9 or Starship being launched in the U.S. I plan on flying to Florida or other launch location to see the launch and plan on having a flexible schedule to account for any delays. 

Have any of you seen a rocket launch in person? If so, any advice on the best location to see a launch? Is a rocket launch as great as I envision it? I have seen that NASA has an area to view a launch where you have to purchase tickets. Is that the best way to see a launch? Any advice and tips would be appreciated as I plan to cross this one off the list!   

Sunday, September 10, 2023

How Small Am I?

I was floating in my pool a couple of weeks ago and noticed the moon way up in the bright blue sky. I began to ponder how far away the moon was and amazed at how humans made the trip up to the moon in 1969. I am amazed that we could do that with the technology that was available at that time. A little research shows that the moon is, on average, about 238,555 miles from Earth. That is quite the trip! My mind began to ask other questions and further internet research revealed that the Sun is about 93 millions miles from Earth. When I start looking above and thinking about the vastness of space, I realize just how small I am here on Earth in the big scheme of things. 

Once you get past the distance from Earth to the Sun, distances begin to get measured in light years, a year of traveling at the speed of light (189,282 mile per second!). Our solar system including our sun and orbiting planets is estimated at .5 to 1 light year in diameter. Go further out and our Milky Way Galaxy is a much as 100 thousand light years across. It is estimated that there are over 100 billion galaxies in the universe. That is simply unbelievable and hard to wrap your mind around. I have seen some of the Hubble telescope images of distance galaxies and the images are simply amazing and show different shaped galaxies dotting space. Our own Milky Way Galaxy can only be depicted as an artist rendition because we haven't sent a camera out far enough to get an outside view. Our furthest spacecraft, Voyage 1, has been heading out to space for 46 years and is just now getting to the edge of our solar system. It would take another 40,000 years for it to exit our galaxy!

I read a description of a scale comparison of our solar system to the Milky Way and it said if you placed a quarter on the ground in the U.S. the quarter would represent our solar system and the U.S. would represent the size of the Milky Way. That is incredible! And it said that earth would be a microscopic piece of dust on that quarter. Then, if you think smaller, how big would a person be on that speck of dust, on that quarter in the middle of the U.S. We are but a tiny thing in this universe. 

Yet, the majority of us think we are pretty big stuff! I tend to view the universe as rotating around me and my family. I picture my family sitting at a dining room table or at a gathering at my home and can visualize a giant rotating hurricane circling around us while we sit in the eye of the storm. My world is my small little circle while the rest of the universe rotates around us. Boy, do I have it all wrong! When I think of how vast the universe is, and how short a human life really is, I think of the Bible verse "Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." James 4:14. Our time on earth is so small compared to the time that has passed and the time to come. 

I see nothing wrong with my visualization of my family being the center of my universe. But, I should expand it a little and include other friends and acquaintances that I regularly interact with. I should expand it a little more and include those I can impact in some way through my living or giving. 

Maybe, after reading this post, the next time you look up at the night sky, you will think about the vastness that surrounds us and realize we may not be as big a deal as we think we are!

Have you ever done some deep thinking about the vastness of space? Have you been impressed with some of the Hubble photos of space? Does the world rotate around you and your space? Have you expanded your space to include connections in your city, state or across the globe?

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Grandparent's Legacy

After taking off most of July and August from blogging, it is time to get back at it. I'll start back up with this post and will make it a fairly short one. As a fairly new grandparent (3 grand daughters age 4 and twin 20 month old), I want to leave some great memories with them and stories they can share with their kids and grandkids about Nana and Pawpaw. I cherish our current relationships with them that makes them light up and get excited when they see us. I cherish them running into our arms for hugs and to sitting in our laps. This makes me think about my own memories of my grandparents.

I never knew my mother's dad. He was killed by his own daughter, my aunt, before I knew him. I did know my mother's mother fairly well. For those who remember from a previous post, this is Little Grandma to me. I remember her as a petite and spunky grandma. She lived with one of my aunts and in an apartment the entire time I knew her. She had enough money to get by, but not a lot of money for extras. Yet, one of my memories of her is that she always sent a birthday card with a $5 bill inside. We lived about 3 hours from her and saw her a few times a year, but you could always count on getting a birthday card with that $5 bill in it. 

On my dad's side, I remember my grandma, Big Grandma, for her cooking and quilting. She made some of the most beautiful quilts, a couple of them I have today. I wrote about her quilts in one post on this blog a while back. She was always happy and generous and always pleased to see us come through the door. She also lived about 3 hours away, but moved next door in my teen years when my granddad had a heart attack. My granddad was a small, thinner man who seemed to be more grumpy and stern than anything else. He had a small piece of land and grew many different types of things including blackberries and potatoes. Some of my memories include helping pick a few berries and digging a few potatoes. I also remember working for him for a few days, for a few dollars, when he moved next door and got to feeling better after his heart issues. He paid me to help take nails out of old boards and then he built a picket fence out of them. I helped paint that fence and felt a little like Tom Sawyer at the time while painting this white picket fence. It was a time that I felt about as close as I ever was to him. He was not the type of granddad that you ran to and gave a hug, at least in my dealing with him.

I don't have a ton of memories from my grandparents and they have long passed away. If they were around now, I think I would inquire more into their history and the history of their parents and grandparents. My wife does family history research and it seems you can find a lot of info on births, deaths, marriages and info from and old census documents. But, you would be hard pressed to find actual details and facts about those same people. 

I hope my grand children remember me as a fun and happy Pawpaw and not as a grumpy and stern man as I remember my granddad. I hope they will have fond memories of visits to our house for celebrations and parties with the whole family. We can only strive to create such memories during our short time on earth. Our family has a cruise scheduled in October of this year and it will be our second "family" cruise. Hopefully, these family times will create some great memories for everyone and someday the grand kids will say "Remember how much fun we had on the family cruises?".

If you are a grandparent, do you have similar thoughts about leaving your family with great memories? What memories stick out in your mind of your own grandparents? Were your grandparents active in your life, or were they distant? Does your family have a regular get together such as Sunday dinners, yearly reunions or yearly trips that are a tradition in your family? If you are a grandparent, how are you different that your grandparents?

Families are so important to our well being, so make that extra effort to keep them connected as much as possible.