Month: December 2013

‘Tis the season

tis_the_season_I am sure that I have said this before in the blog, and I know this to have some truth as I have often experienced that there are themes that seem to crop up from time to time in our lives.  This month theme, and I would suggest that it started around the Thanksgiving holiday is being selfless.
It seems that the theme of being selfless or unselfish has been overwhelming since Thanksgiving.  It has cropped up in Scoutmaster minutes I have shared with the Scouts of our troop.  It has reared its head in news stories, we have seen its appeal in “adopt a family” programs at work.  We demonstrated it in our annual Scouting for Food drive, and in my own life I have really been hit with the theme of forgetting about my self so much and focusing on those around me.  I consider myself a giver.
In Scouting, I have dedicated a lot of time, talent, and treasure to the organization, knowing that my dollars and time have a direct impact on Scouts.  I am not sharing this for a pat on the back, rather to plant in your mind the spirit of giving.  A few years back I was asked to give and become a member of the James E. West fellowship.  After some discussion with my wife, we decided that this gift to Scouting would be a lasting legacy gift, money that will stay in Scouting and have direct impacts on Scouts forever.  We annually give through the Friends of Scouting program.  It’s not much in the grand scheme of things.  28% or so of the operating budget comes from FOS, but the impact is direct.
Giving of time and talent are perhaps the most important thing that we do as Scouters and to put a price tag on it would take an advanced math degree and sliding rule.. maybe even the use of an abacus and someone that knows how to calculate it.  That is where the rubber meets the road, where it really counts.
But that spirit of giving does not end when we take off our tan shirts.  Living the Oath and Law in our daily lives suggests that we are givers.  “To help other people at all times”.  This is all about giving.  Being courteous and kind are gifts to others.  I once heard Dennis Prager speak about Happiness as a Moral obligation.  I am going to quote part of his talk on this subject, as there is no way that I could say it better.  Prager said, “When people think of happiness or pursuing happiness, the first thing they think of is, “Well, it’s a pretty selfish desire, I want to be happy for me.   I mean, after all who wants to be unhappy?”  Actually, there is an answer to that, but that’ll be for another time.   But I am here to tell you that in fact happiness is far, far, far more than a selfish desire, it’s actually a moral obligation.  That’s right.   I’m sure most people have never thought of it like this, and I didn’t for most of my life.  I thought that happiness, the pursuit of happiness, was primarily selfish, but it isn’t.  Whether or not you’re happy, and certainly whether or not you act happy is a very, very altruistic endeavor.  In other words, it’s how you touch other lives.  Ask anybody who was raised by an unhappy parent whether or not happiness is a moral issue, and I assure you the answer will be “yes”.   It’s no fun being raised by an unhappy parent,  it is not particularly good to be married to an unhappy person, it is not at all nice for a parent to have an unhappy child, it’s lousy to have a chronically unhappy co-worker.  Yes, our happiness affects others tremendously. That’s why I believe and that’s why I advocate that happiness is a moral obligation.  We are morally obligated to at least act as happy as possible. Even if you don’t feel it. You can ‘t be guided by feelings.  How we act affects others.”
So look back now at the Scout Oath and Law and see how this directs us in our daily lives to be helpful to others.   How do we make happiness a Moral obligation in our lives.  Being Selfless is the answer.
Being Cheerful, Thrifty and Brave certainly impact other people.  Being Trustworthy and loyal directly touch peoples lives.
Ok, so lets get back to this recurring theme.  Why is this so important to me tonight as I sit at the key board and rattle on about it?  Simply put.  We need to think about being better givers.  Take care of our families first, friends, and other people.  Make other people happy through our happiness and our selflessness.
Again, I am not bucking for Sainthood here, but basic compassion for our neighbor dictates that we give.  About a week ago it got real cold here in the Portland metro area.  When the snow hits the ground we go about our daily lives just a little different.  Being a good Scout, I go prepared.  I throw some extra socks and a headlamp in my lunch box along with a few extra snacks to get me through the long UPS days.  It was hovering around 14 degrees as I pulled up to an intersection that a panhandler “works” every day.  I was surprised to see him out there on as cold a day as it was.  But there he was none the less.  Like most people, I am skeptical in giving money to panhandlers, so many of them here in the Portland area at least turn that money into booze or drugs.  And maybe that is the way that they deal with there condition, but I can not justify contributing to that.  The light was red so I pulled to a stop.  He made eye contact with me and I gave him a courteous smile and nod.  I could see he was freezing.  So I turned off the truck and got the socks out of my lunch box.  They were good REI smart wool socks and I knew that this poor guy needed them a heck of a lot more than I this particular morning.  I handed him the socks and encouraged him to try to stay warm.  He smiled and thanked me.  Now I am not going to judge this guy.  And I have heard from local business owners that he is running a major scam out there.  But the fact remained that he was cold and I had extra socks.  No harm, no foul.
With a cheerful spirit it was good to give.
Tonight I rolled the UPS truck up to a house that looked pretty dark for this time in the evening.  No lights were on except to glow of a few candles I could see from the front porch.  The package I had for them was clearly a Christmas gift from someone, perhaps a family member, in South Carolina.  As I got closer to the door, I noted that there were door hangers attached to the door and knob.  The electric company, the gas company and the water had all been turned off.  I could not help but feel for that family sitting by the glow of the candles.
It is easy to judge and say, its their problem for getting into that situation, yes it is.  But what of compassion for those people.  We all have had hard times in our lives.
I knocked on the door and a lady answered.  She looked at me and smiled, I returned her smile and wished her a good evening and a Merry Christmas.  I could see on her face that Christmas was going to be thin this year.  She thanked me and before she closed the door wished me a Merry Christmas.  My heart sank as I walked back to the truck.  It was my last stop of the day.  As I drove home I thanked God for all the blessings that I have.  I thought about my wife and kids at home that have never gone to bed hungry or in a house without heat.  And a voice inside reminded me of my moral obligation to be happy.  You see, I feel that because we have always had a spirit of giving, we have been given so much.  We work hard and try to share in our time, treasure, and talents and as a result we are blessed.  We try daily to live the Scout Oath and Law, and because of that we make those around us better too.
Last night I was honored by being recognized for being elected to the Vigil Honor of the Order of the Arrow.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Order of the Arrow,  I will sum up its purpose by saying that the Order was founded to enhance the spirit of Scouting within its members.  The foundation is Service to others.  Service rendered with a cheerful spirit.  The National Order of the Arrow web site states that, “The Vigil Honor is a high mark of distinction and recognition reserved for those Arrowmen who, by reason of exceptional service, personal effort, and unselfish interest, have made distinguished contributions beyond the immediate responsibilities of their position of office”  further “Alertness to the needs of others is the mark of the Vigil Honor.  It calls for an individual with an unusual awareness of the possibilities within each situation.”  In short, those that make an effort to serve in their daily lives and live the Scout Oath and Law.  This applies to so many people I know, but it is nice that our Lodge has deemed me worthy of such an honor.  But there again, in a short period of time, this theme of selflessness was looking me in the eye.
And now we enter the Christmas season.  Perhaps the season that’s hallmark is giving.  The whole reason for this season is the celebration of the worlds greatest gift.  A gift, that if you believe is renewed over and over.  It is a gift in which our God modeled an expected behavior.  Tonight as I pulled into our neighborhood, I passed the lights decorating houses, Christmas trees glowing from front windows, and the hope that every house has a Merry Christmas filled my heart.  I opened the door and there sat my wife writing Christmas greetings in our cards, that may or may not make it by Christmas.  Our tree, decorated with lights and ornaments collected over the past 22 years, each with meaning and sentiment to our family.  I could not help but pause for a minute and just enjoy what we have.
Being selfless has made us better people, sharing that selflessness is what all of this is about.  Giving each and every day, even if that gift is a smile, a hello, or a pair of socks.  It could be as simple as holding a door open or helping carry a load of groceries.  It can be as big as a James E. West Fellowship or just paying for the coffee of the guy behind you at Starbucks.  The impact you leave with your simple act of kindness, selflessly going through your lives make a difference.
‘Tis the season to be reminded of that.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Re Launch

launchOCTSkyWell, as promised.. there are going to be changes coming to the blog and the You Tube channel.  Yes, I am going to fully launch the You Tube channel as an extension of the blog.  Sort of like the podcast was.  I am liking the format of video and it is going to allow me to express the spirit of the blog via video.
I am still working out the details, but the videos from the channel will be in the blog as well as subscriptions on You Tube.  Yes, I am going to ask for everyone to subscribe.
Reason for the subscription.  I have been doing some homework on this and looking at what one would consider a good You Tube channel.  Read.. lots of subscriptions and good content.  What happens is that they start bubbling up to the top of the You Tube world.  I am not being narcissistic here.. My goal is to get Scouting and related topics on top.  Just like when we had the podcast, the more downloads and subscriptions one had the closer to the top of the list the podcast got.  In order for us to keep Scouting on top.. we need to promote it.  I have said it many times, I think it is up to us to deliver the promise of Scouting and do it using multiple media.
The Channel.
The format for the channel will not just be me reading the blog.  It will be an outdoor related channel.  Gear, Tips, Trip reports etc.  And thrown in there will be Scoutmaster musings and minutes.  Character, Leadership, and tips on Scoutmastership.
The Blog will be enhanced with this addition and I am excited.
So why has there been a delay and gap in blog entries?
My computer crashed and crashed hard.. blue screen of death kind of crash.  It was toast.  A friend of mine rebuilt it adding a super huge hard drive and some computer things that make it go faster.  I am not a computer guy.. a good user, but do not ask my how it works or whats inside.  Anyway, now that I have everything reloaded and set up.. it’s time to get going again.. and here we go!  No more delays and hopefully no more crashes.
First ask.
If there is anyone that can recommend some cool video editing software.. please let me know.  I am currently using Windows Movie Maker, but know that there is some neat stuff out there.  Rule #1.  It needs to be easy to use.
Drop me an email, or leave a message in the comments section.
Stay tuned.. the Re launch and all the details are coming soon.
Ready for RE LAUNCH.. in 10, 9, 8, 7….

Have a Great Scouting Day!

The COLD Attitude

When preparing for winter camping or camping in colder temps than you are typically used to it is important to get your mind right.
It is a must to have the right gear, train for the conditions and practice before venturing out into the cold.  But the most important thing to prepare is your attitude.
We teach that COLD means to stay clean, keep from overheating, wear your clothing loose and in layers, and stay dry.  Those things should keep your warm and comfortable while camping in the winter.  I have known people that just never seem to be warm.  They can add layers and layers and still won’t be warm.  When they are constantly cold, they dont want to be there.
I was stationed in Alaska while I served in the Army.  Before I was assigned to Ft. Wainwright in Fairbanks, I was in Georgia, I think this is the Army’s idea of humor.  When I arrived in Alaska I was sent to a course called Cold Weather Indoctrination Training (CWI).  The first thing that they tought us was that we had to get our mind set to be cold.  Once we accepted the idea that it was going to be cold, we could focus on our job.  The first night of the training we took our sleeping bags and sleeping pads an went out into a near by stand of trees about 100 yards from the barracks.  We were told that we would be sleeping out there for the night.  “Trust the gear and accept the cold” the Sergeant said.  I thought I was going to die that night.  I got in my sleeping bag, wiggled around a bit, and then settled in for a nights sleep in the snow.  The guy next to me tossed and turned all night, his teeth chattered, and at about midnight he got up and ran to the building.  I remember watching him through the face hole of my sleeping bag.  I was toasty warm in the bag and would not have gotten out of that warm bag to run if the forest was on fire.  The next morning, the Sergeant came out and woke us up.  The air was crisp and it was cold.  He told us that we needed to get up and get moving.  It was like jumping into a cold pond.. you just hold your breath and go for it.  I sprang from my sleeping bag throwing clothing on as quick as I could.  Once I got my boots on and started rolling up my sleeping bag I noticed that I was not cold, I was working up a little sweat even.
We marched to the dining hall for breakfast, then right back out into the cold for more training.  The more we trained, the more I got used to the cold.  The more I got used to the idea that it was just going to be cold, the more I accepted it and it was just another thing.
I can remember my second winter in Alaska, when it warmed up to the single digits above 0, we would run around with sweatshirts and t- shirts on.  The cold was just a matter of fact.  We had our minds right.
Now, I dont want to confuse anyone by changing up the meaning of COLD.. but I remember my Squad leader came up with a new version for us to keep our minds in the right attitude for the cold temps.
C- Can’t is not an option.  When the tents need to be put up, camp chores need to be done, Can’t is not an option.. the work has to be done.  Can’t is not a phrase that gets us out of any situation.  YOU CAN be in the cold… You just have to accept it.
O- Operate with the mind set that this is a challenge I am willing to face.  Challenge yourself mentally, physically, and prepare your self for the Challenge.
People do not summit Everest because they have North Face gear and lots of money.  They accept the challenge and push themselve in the preparation.
L- Look around, you are not the only one out here in the cold.  Your buddy counts on you and you count on them.  We do this together.  When one man is not mentally prepared the whole team suffers.
D- Dont forget your training and have confidence in your gear.  Training for the enviornment settles the mind.  The less you think about the cold, the more at ease your mind is.  Just like athletes rely on muscle memory to esure that they are fundementally sound, thus they can focus on the other aspects of the game and their oppenent.   Never forget your preparation and training and you will have the right mind set.
Some of the Scouts wonder why I seem to love camping in the winter.  It is quiet, I love the crisp air, and you never have crowds.  Above all I love the challenge.  I love to test my skill and training.  I love to safely push personal limits.  I trust my gear and my training and know that I can have fun out in the winter just as much as I do in the summer.  I try to teach our Scouts those same things that I learned 30 years ago.  Just like then, I accepted the challenge and adapted to the winter conditions.  As a result I gained an appreciation for camping in the cold.  Now I love it.
Your mind is powerful and will allow you to do just about anything that you want.  As long as you trust yourself, your training (the people that trained you), and your gear, you will have an awesome time camping in the cold.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Swap and Sale

WinterCampingSceneAs we prepare for this seasons winter camping schedule the first thing that we need to accomplish is some good training.  Our Patrol Leaders Council has come up with a good plan to get the Scouts of the troop trained and ready for the January camp out which will take them up to Mt Hood, Oregon once again.
This year, the schedule will work out real well for us.  When January rolls around we will have the solid group that we currently have and a great group of Scouts that are ready to take on leadership roles in the unit.  This will play out to be very important in March when we get our new batch of cross over Scouts.  Their first camp out will be in a cold environment, and so having the group that we have to teach them will pay dividends in the long run.
Part of the preparation is the gear.  Having the right gear is extremely important when camping in the winter.  To assist with this, our troop committee thought it would be a good idea to do a swap/sale.  This would be an opportunity to share some “experienced” gear and clothing and maybe make a buck or two to replace some older gear.
This weekend I spent the better part of Friday and Saturday organizing gear, going through older stuff, finding out what fits and what doesn’t.  Taking a look at the gear and clothing that my sons used while they were Scouts and sorting out what I can give and sale.  Well, since you all know that I am a gear junky.. this process took all day and then some.  In the end, I got all my gear together and two very large rubber maid bins are full of gear and clothing that will be available for the Scouts to take.  I do have a few items that I am selling, hey.. I need a new tarp.  But 99% is going for free.  Looking at the gear, especially the stuff my boys used all these years, I was glad to see that they listened when I told them, and taught them, that taking care of your equipment will make it last longer and it will take care of you one day.  Most, if not all of the gear looks new.  Between my sons and I most of the gear has about 1000 nights camping and if taken care of by the new owner will get another 1000.
I think this swap and sale idea is a great way to share gear and clothing.  It is a fantastic way for Scouts that may not be able to afford new gear to get outfitted.  Last year I gave away a couple sleeping bags and some other stuff.  By consolidating our effort in this Troop event, the guys can really get outfitted well.
Getting the right gear is important.  That is another reason that I like this.  All the gear has been tested, and the stuff I am giving is stuff that I purchased.. so I know it is something I would want the Scouts to have.
Think about doing something like this in your unit.  A Scout is helpful.. right?

Have a Great Scouting Day!