Friday, April 30, 2010

Bob the Builder Award: Antonio Travis--event organizer extraordinaire

Dabbling in event planning, I have NEVER went into a venue and within 28 minutes of walking through the door have been able to pull off an event that moved 4 million pounds of anything!  Hooray from Anotinio Travis....we need him on our church activities set up committee
Airman Makes Time 100: CMSgt. Antonio Travis is on Time Magazine's list of the 100 most influential people for 2010.

Travis, who is the chief enlisted manager of the Air Force Special Operations Training Center at Hurlburt Field, Fla., was among the initial US military members on the ground in Haiti following the devastating January earthquake.

He led the special tactics airmen, setting up single corunway operations and controlling the first relief aircraft arrival within 28 minutes of the team's touchdown.

According to the Time narrative submitted by Chesley Sullenberger, "set up a makeshift air traffic control operation … [and] working from a card table, often standing on chairs, he and his team deftly took control of the arrivals and departures." His team's efforts enabled aircraft to transit the facility every five minutes, bringing in four million pounds of relief supplies. (report by Maj. David Small)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Guest Blogger: Abby----Val gets a "paycheck"

Most of you know that I direct a statewide leadership academy for Rotary International called RYLA.  It brings together 100 high school students for a four day academy of developing their leadership skills in the area of service.  We try to have kids attend who are naturally "wired" for service because they enjoy the experience more (the website is  It is suppose to be up, so if it isn't, check back.  When you are working with volunteers, it is as they say "a work in progress").   This will be my 5th year as director (I too am a volunteer) and we have had some extraordinary kids come through. 

This week has been long with The Boy and yesterday I went on a drive alone to clear my head and evaluate what I have been contributing to the "bigger picture." 

I am feeling like a failure as a parent.

I have no career.  Not one that qualifies me for some Social Security that won't be there when we are old enough to claim it.

I was questioned by some anonymous coward in an anonymous cowardly email this week about my intentions for my church lady presentation  tonight.  There was some mention of me and I quote-- "the Dark Side." 

I am feeling a little beat up.  I mean really, the guy on the Titanic didn't even care whether I was going to Hell or not. 

So in regards to RYLA, I work long and hard throughout the year on it with several other talented folks.  It takes so much attention and time, it is like it is my third child.  And frankly, you just never know.  Is it worth it?  Why do it?  Does it really matter?

Well, this morning, a note from Abby, RYLAian of two years ago says it is.  She has no idea how perfect her timing is.  How perfect her words are.  And how it makes me feel like when I die, my work will have contributed to more than just the betterment of me. 

And I quote: (hear how self aware she is....she is 17)
After everything that happened during the course of camp, I would have to say that the most life changing point was when I realized that I have certain gifts and talents that can help another. I have, not only the ability, but the responsibility to help others who need it. From camp, the most important thing I took away was joy. I am now excited to help other, however big or large the deed is, it is truly gratifying to know that I can have a positive impact on a person's life. I will take that joy with me everywhere I go throughout my life. Thank you for that.

Since RYLA I have noticed that I am more involved in serving others. In my junior year in high school I entered the peer ministry group at my school and became the leader of my group. We are responsible for the Spiritual Life at my school which means we plan masses and provide opportunities to pray during school individually and as a school. I have also been a part of planning the senior retreat and ended up actually being one of the main volunteers, actors, and tech people for the retreat. It was stressful but turned out great!

I have also gave up some days off of school to get up early and go volunteer at Harvesters and deliver coats from a coat drive to a center in the less privileged part of town that was low on coats during the winter.

In January I took the principle of helping others who can't help themselves to Washington D.C. and marched in the annual March for Life, which protests abortion. A 24 hour bus ride up to D.C. and another 24 hours back to Kansas City, with no showers or sleep besides on the bus, I learned that sacrificing certain pleasures for the sake of another cause is crucial and effective.

This year a group from my school is going on a mission trip to Guatemala. Unfortunately i will not be able to attend until next summer, but i will be going on a mission trip to Nashville to help food bank for a week while working with the working poor in the city. It should be a humbling experience.

Overall, RYLA was a wonderful time that taught me how to give of myself without expecting any recognition or praise for a good deed. I learned that not only can putting on a fundraiser for a local family in need, or going across the world on a mission trip, or raising money for the starving will give someone a chance to practice the motto "Service above self" but small things can also be an opportunity to practice that.

One phrase from RYLA that has changed my perspective was when another teenager said "I want to change the world, but changing someone’s world could be even better." I have been trying to live my life by that idea, changing one person's life whenever i can. It has proven to be a wonderful life. Thank you to everybody who helped make this camp an awesome, life changing, and eye opening 4 days.
No, Abby, thank you.  :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How we almost died in the Titanic Steerage

It is true.  We had a near death experience on Saturday in the Titanic.  Not many people live to say that....between 700-730 to be mostly exact.  And three chicks  from Kansas City.  :)

So, Branson is home to the world's largest Titanic exhibit.  Because nothing makes more sense that Branson would be the home.  Land-locked state, foreign ship, no Missourians on board....perfect sense.

All the workers are dressed as maids and ships officiers as to make the experience that much more authentic.  I paid over $20,000 dollars 15 years ago to learn that type of museum is called "interpretive."  Good use of my college education this morning for sure!

Parts of the ship are made to scale from the original ships blue prints.  It is really a nice museum, especially given it is only 15 miles from a town named Omaha, Arkansas, home of a guard goat (see below).

The museum collection is woth over $4 million dollars.  It is very well done.  I am not a museum curator but Mr. Fun's uncle is and since we are related, I am sure some of his knowledge has spilled over to me.  He created the Shania Twain museum so it has to count for something. 

Back to my near death tale.

As we going through the exhibit, a strange sort of yelling went on in the admission area, and then everyone was evacuated.  As we peered over the bannister down below, I was wondering if perhaps it was part of the tours....pretending something terrible was going to come along--I mean it makes sense--we are on the TITANIC!  Since there wasn't a lot of icebergs on Highway 76 where the museum sits, perhaps pretending a tornado would do the trick.  So my mother says to the two museum people "Are we having a tornado?"  They were like "duh..." so my mom says again, "I think they said a tornado is coming."  The workers were like "whatever...we have time to take your cheesy picture for the overpriced snapshot of you photoshopped on the grand staircase"  Tornado or not, we stopped for two shots...which I am sad to report did not look as good as this chick below.  Maybe it is because we didn't have the dress.

It is true.  A tornado or some sort of weather bad thing did come along.  We got shuttled down the Grand Staircase to the Steerage level (hello, everyone died there...we just read it on the museum plaques)
so we weren't feelig that optimistic.  The Girl was freaked.

So, we heard the winds.  We had our handy staff in full costume saying "here are the flashlights in case we lose power."  The whole thing was a little surreal.  Acutally, it made me laugh, which made the Girl that much more crazy.

The pictures you are about to see are contraband...however, as we were almost dying in the third level hallway, I figured all the "no photos" rules could be bent.


Not sure why these workers were smiling...

Another interesting thing happened while we were almost dying in Steerage.

This guy who was squished up against us turns to my mother (and my mother only) and out of the blue says, "Do you know where you are going after this?"

I thought it was a strange question.  Here we are, in tornado warning, wind flying about and he was wondering about our plans after the musuem tour.  Did he know we had scored front row seats to the Brule` concert that night and wanted to hone in on our action?

My mom then said a strange answer.  "Yes.  Heaven."

Heaven?  What did I just miss?

Then the wacky guy says, "How do you know?" 

He then went on to "Spanish Inquisition" my mother about her eternal salvation and how did she really know that Jesus was cool with her....

It actually was very intrusive and inappropriate.  We were jammed tight with all these strangers and he was asking some very personal questions....I would laid in to him but holy hannah!  We were in lock down.  We didn't know when we were getting out.  We didn't know if we were going to go see Jesus sooner than I have planned, so I figured I shouldn't spend my last earthy moments saying "Hey Nosey Dude, leave my mother alone and shut the hell up." 

The happy ending of our story is that we survived.  The tea party tent outside with dozens of cute little girls was flipped and dragged away.  Tables were flipped.  There were some signs of minimal destruction throughout Branson, but nothing big. 

We celebrated by having some snacks at the Denny's and indian rock opera-ing with Brule` later than night.  Sans the nosey Titanic guy. 

You can now say that you know three survivors of another Titanic disaster.  Man, that boat must be cursed.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wanna take a field trip? Wo-cation to Branson

Me, The Girl, and The Grandma took a girly trip to Branson.  It was super terrific! 
More later. I am tired.  :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bob the Builder Award: Happy Birthday Miles Nelson, age 101

Today is Miles 101st birthday.
"His secrets to his longevity?  Walking 3/4 a mile a day.  No smoking. 
Little drinking.  And volunteering for charity."

Meals on Wheels in fact.  Delivering meals to shut-in "youngsters."  He has a route of 12 folks one day a week, and since he isn't driving as much as he used to, his 74 year old son Ed drives him around.

Where did he learn to serve?  When he was a kid, his farmer father would butcher their hogs and then take him to deliver the meat and care packages to the poor.  That was around 1920.  :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

6 things you might not know about The Valsy

There was a list in the People Magazine of six things I didn't know about Usher.  Considering I didn't know who Usher was (heard him sing on Am Idol a few weeks ago) the list of things could have been a LOT longer. 
Here are six things about me that you might not know about me and Usher

1.  Pet Peeve: 
Usher:  Driving a dirty car.
Val:  People who "cut" in line. 

2.  Dying to meet: 
Usher wants meet Scarlett Johansson because he "likes her vibe." 
Val:  I would like to meet a true Masasi.  Their "vibe" includes a great red giant pashmina, considered deadly warriors, and see how high they jump....that is because someone just told him that I wanted to come to his house for dinner.
post script:  My brother met some Masai two years ago when he was in Africa.  He took some clothes to share with the tribe, and one of them was the lucky winner of the Sturgis T-shirt I gave Brother several years ago.

Travel Essential: 
Usher:  His cigar holder that keeps them fresh
Val:  my camera (speaking of trips, we are field tripping to The Kewpiesta World Convention on Friday.  No, I am not kidding.  My father calls them the "bald-headed bastards.")

Favorite Chore: 
Usher:  cooking breakfast for his kids
Val:  not cooking breakfast. 
Val:  if I like doing it, is it a chore?  I like folding warm out-of-the-dryer laundry.

Spectator Sport:
Usher:  Basketball
Val:  Short Track speed skating with Apollo Anton Ohno

Dream Role:
Usher:  Harold in Harold and Maude (?)
Val:  Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Have a great day!  :)  I am off to officially join the Usher fan club.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One Word

Glee  :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bob the Builder Award: Diocesan Council of Catholic Women

It is called a Shoebox Shower.
The Catholic women ask other local women in the community to fill a shoebox with items a woman or child would need if they left their home in haste or fear.  The ladies collected more than 2,000 boxes this week.  :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wanna take a field trip? Would you like a spot of tea in Kearney?

I am not really a good candidate to attend a Republican Tea Party for a couple reasons....1) I am Mormon.  I don't drink tea.  2)  I am not a Republican. 

I am not a Democrat either.  I am an Independent...I know, big surprise.  Val and the word "independent" in the same sentence....I just am all about the right guy for the right job. 

One year in college in Utah, I was the Democratic Party District Chair because in that district, there were TWO democrats, both in their late 70's.  We felt bad, so Mr. Fun and I took turns representing them even though we weren't registered Democrats.  We even attended the County Convention.  :)  I am all about the process.

Mom and the Girl
But two of my favorite women in my life (well, one woman and one mostly woman) invited me along.  I have a long lens on the new camera, so I can photograph and stalk without others hey!  Let's go to Kearney, the home of Jesse James, the bank robber....err, which the locals will attest that he was never convicted.  Can you say "sore subject?"

Here is what I learned:

*It was NOT a Democratic Bash Session.  They didn't stand around bashing the government, President Obama, or how everyone who is a Democrat is going to Hell.  There were speakers, and one was actually very good.  He is a fomer Marine who is specializing in the Constitution.

*Not everyone who has passion for this subject is a good public speaker.

*I should have taken a lawn chair to sit on. 

*There was no fun music.

*Everyone listened very politely and reverently.

*It is all about the message you want to convey.  "Don't Tread on Me" was the number one motto.

A little family history side note of the yellow flag:
My dad is a distant cousin of Christopher Gadsden
from South Carolina who invented it during the Revolution.  :)

This guy was MORE than proud to pose for his picture
(that is because he caught me trying to get his shirt...busted!)
He had his own flag appealing to Heaven...not sure what he wanted.
I know he was looking for Sarah, a blogger.
He was bummed I wasn't her.
He should have appealed harder I guess.  :)
Or been more specific.

This guy wasn't a good speaker,
he is about 150 years old. 
World War 2 Vet Hero.
People stood in line to shake his hand.

There were all kinds of folks there.  Young, old, males, females.  Dogs.
This 18 year old kid declared his
intention to run for President in 2036.
Talked about the sexualization of
young people.  He must have been at
the UN Class in New York I was at.

Tea Party folks often call themselves
Constitutional Conservatives.
Meaning it isn't about politics, but about
how do the policys being created fit into
the framework of the Consititution.

Look at these folks.  See their fingers on their mouths.
I looked up body language and it is defined
as something like "thinking and having something
they want to say but aren't saying it yet." 
There were a lot of thinking folks there.
Even my mom did it.  Look back up at her picture.

Last, but not least, I saw a lot of children.
This mother was so tender with her boy.
This girl was a HAND.FUL.  This was the only
way Dad could keep her quiet.  She hung like
this for a long, long time.  Had coooool hair.
The Girl was jeal-ous.
I like this one.  Reminds me of a painting where a boy
is walking with his father and
the dad is wearing a superhero cape. 
The bottom line of what I learned today is that these
people love their families, their country, and many
of them unabashedly love their God.
Time well spent.
PS/  We got invited to the Million March on September 11th
in DC.  They are talking of taking buses from Kansas City.
Now THAT sounds like a field trip!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The sunshine is feeding my photo soul

This is The Boy's eyeball.  He was born with the S in his eye.
Like a birthmark
Front yard

Sparta trying to sneak out

Female cardinal

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

One Day Without Shoes Day: April 8th

 to see the video...I am not blog literate enough to show it
correctly here.

It is called Podoconiosis.
"Podo develops from long term exposure to a collection of minerals found in the soil,
causing extreme swelling of the legs, discomfort, and
creating negative social stigmas.
However, this disease is preventable with proper footwear and basic hygiene."

Former Bob the Builder
Award Winner: 
Tom's Shoes is at it again.
They have established April 8th as One Day Without Shoes Day.

Go all day, part of the day,
or even a few minutes in your house,
join us. 

To see how I feel about collecting children's shoes see my blog
entry from Monday January 26th, 2009.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Sack Lunches

I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight. 'I'm glad I have a good book to read. Perhaps I will get a short nap,' I thought.

Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation.

'Where are you headed?' I asked the soldier seated nearest to me.

'Petawawa. We'll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we're being deployed to Afghanistan

After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached the east, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time...

As I reached for my wallet, I overheard a soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. 'No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn't be worth five bucks. I'll wait till we get to base.'

His friend agreed.

I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill. 'Take a lunch to all those soldiers.' She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. 'My son was a soldier in Iraq ; it's almost like you are doing it for him.'

Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, 'Which do you like best - beef or chicken?' 'Chicken,' I replied, wondering why she asked. She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class.

'This is your thanks..'

After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room.

A man stopped me. 'I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.' He handed me twenty-five dollars.

Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand and said, 'I want to shake your hand.' Quickly unfastening my seatbelt I stood and took the Captain's hand. With a booming voice he said, 'I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.' I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers.

Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm.

When we landed I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another twenty-five dollars!

Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base.

I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars. 'It will take you some time to reach the base.. It will be about time for a sandwich.

God Bless You.'

Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers.

As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country.. I could only give them a couple of meals. It seemed so little...

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America ' for an amount of 'up to and including my life.'

That is Honor.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Insert Deep Breath here--why I love spring

I think with some confidence I can say spring has arrived to our little corner of the Midwest.  :)  We took our first outdoor photo field trip and yep, I feel like I caught my first deep breath of the new year.

At 7:10 am I leapted out of bed and ran to the window.  I saw wonderful sunshine!  "Hooray!" I proclaimed to Mr. Fun.  "The Garage Gargoyle is back!"  (translation:  going outside in my house coat early in the morning to make some photographs...)
This shot is the first keeper of the spring
Spring tree buds

Some of us went to the very lame Easter Parade at the Zona Rosa.
I could have cared less that it wasn't a parade of epic proportion.
We had some yummy Starbuck treats, and saw the cutest
little girls in their Easter finest. 
What girl hasn't spun around in her billowy dress?  :)

I have been thinking that since I have new long lensed camera
I can take people shots and practice that side of my photo making.
It is hard for me.  People are always moving.
I figured yesterday that I take too long waiting for the perfect
angle or perfect look or light.
I am guessing the key to GREAT-Geographic shots
is a strong relationship of trust with the person,
or just shooting and seeing what comes about.

The Girl and I also figured out yesterday that you actually
can feel connection among people in the same
picture.  Their connection with each other
and their connection to us as the viewer.
We feel like we can sense when that connection isn't there.

There was a marching band....can't be THAT lame.
The Mayor was there
Yep, he is really about 2 feet taller than everyone else
and yes, he does look like Lurch
The Girl tried her luck at kissing a frog to find a prince.
Got nothing but some cold lips.
We stumbled across a nice antique store

Last but not least, my new favorite shot of the spring:
Happy Easter  :)  Bawk Bawk