Slogging through

Alright. So, I haven’t been great about keeping this thing moving. I’m feeling like kind of a slug about it at the moment. I don’t really have much to say right now… Not much at all…

We had a nice Independence Day weekend, for what that’s worth. Cat O’ Nine Tales drove in to our neck of the woods for the weekend. So, that was nice. Everything just kind of worked out great all weekend. We got to the parade later than we wanted, but we still got the best parking space in town. And, when we went to set up our chairs, we found a great place to park our butts too! The weather was cool and it started to sprinkle at the end of the parade. The go-cart drivers in the Shriners were in the finest form I’ve ever seen them. They must have a practice track somewhere, because I didn’t think it was possible to drive those little suckers that hard!

We had the same story when we went to the University to see the fireworks show. Got there late, still found a great spot. It was nice. Sunday afternoon we went to the range and converted money into noise and jubilation. I made some decent groups, but my lack of practice is starting to show. That kind of sucks.

On the business front, the sales are starting to roll in slowly. I’m seeing a very slow and steady increase in interest and in actual sales. This is a good thing. It tells me that it is actually working. I’m going to wager a guess and say that what I’m seeing right now is typical of a year in. If I’m right on that, I deserve a pat on the back or something. Maybe I’m just being optimistic. At any rate, I’m about to announce a great event over at The Holster Site. I’ve got to keep that pretty secretive for the moment, but I’m getting really excited about that!

Anyway, I’ve got some other stuff to finish up in the next couple hours, and that’s about all I’ve got for now.

2010 New Year

Here we are, at the beginning of the final year of the first decade of the millennium. This was the iciest New Year that I can remember. I have several thoughts about the change this year.

Two years ago, on January 1, I became a gunny. Never having owned a gun before, I felt highly compelled to buy a Smith & Wesson Model 29, and learn to shoot it effectively. So, Jenni and I went to H&H Gun Range and rented a couple guns and a lane. She rented a S&W M&P9, and I rented a 6-inch M629. Really, I just wanted to make sure I could shoot the thing before making the investment. We were hooked!

At this point, my M29 is my range queen baby, and Jenni carries a M&P9c every day, in combination with her M640. As a side note, we would have gotten her this one instead, had it been available. As it is, we’ll eventually have hers cut for moon clips, and it will essentially be a Pro Series clone. We are both CCW permitted, daily carrying, NRA certified Range Safety Officers, proficient with various action types, avid shotgunners, and accomplished rifle marksmen (in the general sense, not the gender-specific sense).

Our son has gotten in on the action as well. He loves to shoot rifles and handguns chambered in .22lr and .22 short, as well as 9mm, .38Spl, and .410 shotgun. He has tried the 20-gauge on a couple of occasions, and has become a spectacular shot with a sporter-style air rifle with competition sights. He does want to continue to work with the 20-gauge and become proficient with it. My brother and sister-in-law have both gotten their CCW permits, and she actually works at H&H full-time now! I have been making custom, made-to-order, leather holsters, and Jenni has been involved with classes, assisting with teaching women the basics of self-defense and the use of defensive firearms. We’ve done a little basic gunsmithing and have enjoyed every step of the process to get where we are today.

This year, I want to start hand loading. That’s no resolution, per se, so much as it is a loose goal. If I am to resolve to do anything, it is to start hunting. The three of us will take our hunter safety education class together, and we will go shoot some tasty animals this year. My grandpa used to keep his freezer completely filled with game of various sorts. I’ve never been hunting. It’s not as though there weren’t guns in the house as I was growing up, so much as my parents didn’t enjoy shooting nearly as much as I do. Jenni‘s upbringing was a different story, as her mother was frightened of firearms, and would not permit them in the house – even though http://injennifershead.com/’s maternal grandfather was an avid rifleman, and sharp-shooter for the U. S. Army. It is tragically unfortunate that the two of us never had the benefit of the rich gun heritage that could have come from each of our families, but it has been a wonderful journey that we have enjoyed together, and teach our son along the way, giving him the benefit that we never had.

On New Year’s Eve, we ate lamb, and drank Bogle Zinfandel and Coppola Sophia with an intimate group of friends and family, who promptly went home shortly after toasting in the new year, as we do when we get a little older. We partied like it was 1999, two-thousand zero zero, party’s over (whoops) out of time. It seems strange that I can remember ten years ago so clearly. Everyone was all freaked out about the nonexistant “Y2K” scenario, much like everyone is currently all freaked out about the nonexistant “global warming” scare. I was working a crappy job and had a headfull of hair. Now, I’ve got a real job and thinned hair (hence the hats). Ten years ago, millions of people were ignorantly celebrating the new millenium, which incidentally wasn’t going to happen for another year, because they apparently never learned to start counting from the number one. It was a time of excitement. Now, people are freaked out not only by global warming, but also by the state of the economy. If you ask around, people will nearly universally tell you that 2009 was a terrible year in all aspects. I will be one that will claim 2009 as a great year. It wasn’t easy, but it was good. Jenni and I have both faced issues that have subconsciously been clawing away at our confidence and ability to live our fullest. That is the best thing that happened all year. What we share in common with all those that claimed 2009 as a terrible year, is that we are optimistic – and yes – excited to see what 2010 holds for us! This very well may be the best year that we’ve ever had. To that end, I resolve to no longer let the past define me, but to make my own future (I really hope I can keep that). In many ways, the two of us have grown closer and closer in the time we’ve been together, but in other ways it feels like we’ve been wandering in the desert. I refuse to believe that’s the best we can hope for. I believe that we are finally equipped to attempt to grab life by the horns and make it work for us. Whether or not we accomplish anything in the process is another story altogether, but the very attempt sound worth the effort.

I’ve got a good kid, whom I’ve become a lot closer to in the last year. I come from a line of men that have a difficult time getting close to their children. This in turn, produces men who have a hard time getting close to their children. My son has started interacting with us in a far more mature way than ever before. I’ve said and written on multiple occasions that he is quickly ceasing to be a little boy and is turning into a great man. He is making more responsible decisions, he sees the value in intangible concepts that boys have no concept of, and he’s a fun person to be around. I resolve to continue to get closer to my son, and break the cycle that has plagued generations of men in my family. I think I’m on the right track to make that happen. We enjoy doing things together, and he and I have appropriate, mutual respect. How can I expect him to have respect for me if I have none for him?

So, there you have it. Three resolutions for 2010 based on the happenings of this last year, the last several years, and the last ten plus:

1. Get legal and shoot animals.
2. Move forward with Jenni into what can only be an amazing chapter in life.
3. Continue to become closer to my son.

I hope I’ve illustrated above how closely these three things really are, in the context of my life. That’s all for now.

Hats III

If you’ve been following my blog, you have no doubt read that I’m currently looking at hats. My last post detailed the first eBay hat that came in. I’m still working with that one, but it may prove to be a lost cause. We shall see. My son thought it was funny when I put a couple of his plush toys on my head.

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Nothing says bad to the bone like a red bear riding a frog riding on your head, right? So anyway, the other hat that I purchased on eBay came in on Thursday, just in time for Christmas. I must add a disclaimer here: I have successfully purchased clothing, boots, and shoes on eBay. Granted, it hasn’t been 100% success, but it has been an enormous net gain. I can count on one hand the number of online clothing and accessory purchases have been busts – including some successful purchases of Italian designer clothing for my wife – that is until hats. For whatever reason, an auction pic such as this:

Stetson

…does not automatically register in my head as this:

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It did fit above my ears, but I was likely to knock doorways with the top of that crown. It totally felt like I was wearing an Arby’s hat. Instinct‘s wife, Intuition said that I need ‘supervision’ when I’m shopping for hats. As far as how I’m wearing it in that picture is concerned, it was cold and blustery, and the hat was pretty warm pulled that low. In my back yard, it’s not like anybody was going to see me like that – unless some weirdo posted the pic on the interwebtron or something, right? As an aside, nice blizzard, eh? FYI – the coat and gloves are actually black.

This is a really nicely made 4x Stetson. The felt is very soft to the touch, and the color is beautiful. Even as goofy as the shape is, I’m sure it was quite expensive new. The crown was very nearly fully open, with one tiny little crease in the top, and the pinch in the front. Although the brim was nice and stiff, the crown was quite soft. I liked the way the brim was shaped, but the tall crown made my want to kick my own behind every time I saw myself in the mirror! So, I once again put on a kettle of water and worked up some steam. I very carefully inverted the brim and then popped the middle back out. Then, I pinched the front and made sure it fit my head. I’m pretty happy about how it looks now. Here are the results:

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Jenni said that she would bead a new band for it, and I may try tooling a leather hat band or two. I’m trying to decide whether I need to completely cease online hat purchasing or if I have learned anything from my isolated yet dismal success rate. The savings can be quite significant, as I didn’t pay nearly as much as I should have for either hat. That in and of itself may be enough motivation to keep going like I am. In any case, please do let me know what you think about it!

The Meaning of Christmas

Jenni pointed me to this rant by Stingray at Atomic Nerds about the commercialization of Christmas. It seems that at about this point, nearly every year, I find myself making an empty vow that I will never participate in commercial Christmas again. I pretty much hate trying like mad to find that special something for each and every person on my list. Most of the time I’ll find an item here or there that’s a no-brainer for someone in particular, and then when we’re getting down to the line, I’ll desperately throw my hard-earned money at some other stuff that will do so no one will feel left out. It’s psychotic! And yet, I know that I’m not alone. Lots and lots of people do the very same thing. Year after year, I claim to myself that I will never do it again, and year after year, I do the very same thing all over again. Our household is basically on a spending freeze until after the first of the year. What was supposed to be a really cool gunnie Christmas has turned into a frantic run to empty assets as quickly as possible.

After reading the above mentioned rant, I found my friend, Wai’s words in the comment section:

I don’t care what you say, Stingray, I still believe in God, Christmas and the Christmas Spirit. I feel the same way you do about the commercialization of Christmas, which is why I don’t buy into any of it. I went to Catholic school and became so disillusioned by all the hypocrisy that I became, not only an atheist, but an anti-God bonehead. Throughout the years of personal strife, I came to let God back into my heart and at once, I felt inner peace that I had never felt before. I don’t believe in organized religion by any means, but God is always and forever and will always be my saviour.

And, that’s one of the many things I like about him. I’ve tried on several occasions to bully him into starting up his own blog, but he apparently is not to be bullied into such things. He makes so many excellent points in his comment that I can’t really touch on all of them. for one, I’m not about to get started on my atheist rant right now. But, words like these convict me that I have lost sight of what the celebration is really about. It’s not about getting a shiny new gun, or fancy electronics, or boots or hats, or a tacky tie. It’s not about spending my hard-earned cash on some piece of crap that the receiver won’t even like, nor is it about finding that perfect present that a loved one will cherish forever. At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark special, what is Christmas really about?

Most biblical scholars agree that Christ was not, in fact born on December 25. In Rome, December 25 was the pagan celebration of the Winter solstice, a time of wild partying, since the sun was not in fact going to disappear forever, yet again for another year. Early Christians adopted this date, as the ambient celebration would mask their risky, religious holiday. Christians were not well-liked at the time, and open celebration could get them thrown to the lions. Ironically, many historians agree that Jesus was born on September 11, 3 B.C.

The ‘wise men’ or ‘magi’ traveled from the far East to see the King of Kings who had be prophesied. These magicians were astronomers and astrologers. Something was lost in the English translations, referring to the star that they followed, as the original text refers to a cosmic event of some sort. We make a distinctions between different bodies in the heavens, and events in the sky. The textual reference to the star that they followed may have been more general than our language can allow, and actually referred to a conjunction between the moon and the constellation Virgo, in a form that has only ever happened once. It was a symbolic conjunction that told these ‘wise men’ that a virgin was giving birth to the Savior. They were able to calculate when the conjunction would occur and where it would be most visible from on the globe. This told them exactly where Christ was born. If this is true, the same conjunction is described in the book of Revelation.

These visitors from the East bought three symbolic treasures with them. Gold represented the wealth of royalty and showed respect to Jesus as being the one true king. Frankincense represented the priesthood of Christ, as it was used in ceremony by the priestly class. Myrrh symbolized the fact that the child was born to die. Myrrh was used as a fragrant embalming agent, and is a resin, harvested by gashing the commiphora tree. It bleeds out of the gashes and is collected after it hardens. So, the magi from the orient knew exactly who they were coming to see – probably on a far deeper level than Mary and Joseph.

Three hundred some-odd years later, a boy named Nicholas was born in the Greek city of Patara on the southern coast of Turkey. He was orphaned while relatively young, and his parents left him a fortune. As he grew, his religious convictions led him to use his wealth to the benefit of others. There are legends about his generosity of Robin Hood proportions. Multiple stories tell of him throwing bags of gold through the open windows of the needy, landing in the shoes which were left by the fireplace to dry (hence stockings for gifts). Nicholas became Bishop of Myra and was known as the patron and protector of children. St. Nicholas spent time in prison because of his faith, and the anniversary of his death was celebrated for centuries on December 6. I’m not really sure how St. Nicholas got inducted into the whole Christmas celebration beyond the closeness of the dates of December 6 and 25.

Fast forward a thousand years, give or take, and filter the holiday and traditions through Norse religion. Santa took on Thor characteristics and gained a ‘helper’ based on Thor’s greatest enemy, Loki. Thus was born a demon-like creature, Krampus, which means ‘claw’ in old German. So the lore went: The list was kept and checked twice. The nice children got treats from Santa. The naughty children got beaten and whipped by ‘Claws’, and were left with lumps of coal and switches. In Austria and other parts of Europe today, Krampus is highly celebrated in a tradition that’s like our Halloween – but for grown-ups to scare little kids – and with booze instead of candy – and everybody gets schnockered.

Somehow, Krampus got left off the boat when Christmas came to the New World. Santa kept the ‘Claus’, but only in name. We grew up hearing about the jolly old elf who shook like a bowl full of jelly, who magically comes down the chimney perhaps due to Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston… Then, Christmas became commercialized. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman inexplicably entered the holiday in the mid-century. Christmas was taken over by industry and hard sales. Even the Oklahoma City Zoo got in on the action to wheedle themselves into a hippopotamus.

Now, so-called ‘Black Friday’ Christmas sales make up 20% of annual retail sales. Some say the Saturday before Christmas is even busier. This is not to mention Cyber Monday or the stragglers that run amok on Christmas Eve. The sheer amount of money that changes hands due to this holiday is mind-boggling.

Public schools can no longer promote ‘Christmas,’ as it may offend those of other faiths. My child’s school has no ‘Christmas’ programs, but instead has ‘Seasonal’ programs where the kids will sing about snow (which doesn’t even happen often in this part of the country). The lights and signs in people’s lawns say ‘season’s greetings’ or ‘happy holidays’ instead of ‘merry Christmas. The poison known as political correctness has all but completely driven the reason out of the season. Christmas is regrettably no longer a Christian holiday. It has returned to the pagans in the worship of money and wordly goods, and the celebration of nothing more than going into debt.

So, what is the true meaning of Christmas? Can we go all the way back and celebrate it as an unprecedented event that took place on the most significant 9/11 in the history of the Universe – that was even worth designing the history of the sky around? Is it about throwing sacks of gold through people’s windows, hoping you can score in a sock or a shoe? Is it about scaring the living crap out of little kids so they’ll do what their parents tell them to? Is it about spending every last penny you have, and then going into debt to benefit no other than industry in a gambling-addict-like craze?

Or, can it be as simple as my friend, Wai put it? I would like to think so. Jenni and I were able to purchase some nice gifts for a few people. We don’t presume that it’s the reason for the holiday. We will spend time with friends and family, and we will remember God’s love and His gift to us. I believe that’s the reason for the season. If you are reading this, I hope you can see through the lights, plastic, and glaze and feel His love as well. Merry Christmas, everyone!