Monday, April 22, 2013

Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back.

Celebrate.  Remember.  Fight Back.  These four simple words are the essence of an American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

In each Relay, we celebrate those who are cancer survivors.  We hold a "Survivor's Lap" where survivors, their caregivers and family walk a lap in celebration that they are have beaten cancer.  

We then remember.  We remember those who were not so fortunate and did not win the battle with cancer.  We remember them with a Luminaria ceremony and a silent lap dedicated to their memory.

Next, we fight back.  We work through the night to raise money to find a cure for cancer.  We work together to find a cure so more people can be survivors.

In 2009, my neighbor (who is a cancer survivor and helped start the EGR Relay in 2008) asked me to help.  I was the Logistics Chair for the 2009 East Grand Rapids Relay for Life and I have had this same job in 2010, 2011, 2012 and again this year, 2013.

At the end of each Relay, I tell myself that next year somebody else can take my place.  I talk myself out of participating because it is a lot of work and I feel that there are better things I can do with my time.  Then, each year, something happens.  I find out that a friend, or a neighbor or a co-worker is diagnosed with cancer and suddenly, my complaining ends.  This year is no different.  I found out today that a former co-worker is retiring at the end of this week.  He is retiring because this past January he was diagnosed with lung cancer and he wants to spend more time with his lovely spouse.  Thankfully, he had surgery to remove the tumor and is now cancer free.  The wind in my sails filled again, and I am committed once again to be the best Logistics Chair that I can be and raise as much money as I can to fight cancer.

In 2012, I raised $2652.00 to help fight cancer.  I ask you to please consider supporting my fight in this battle we all must win.  No contribution is too small.

If you can make a contribution, click here and then click on the "DONATE NOW" button.  Thanks in advance for your support as I Relay to fight cancer.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

So long, old friend

Today, I managed to make one more stop at Paddletown Hardware before it will close forever later this month.  We were up at our cottage this weekend to have internet, TV and a telephone line installed.  Technically, the lines for all three items are already installed, we just had them all activated.  We went to Harrisville for lunch at our favorite restaurant, The Old Place.  

After lunch, I dropped Deirdre off at our cottage and I drove back into town to pick up some cash, buy Powerball ticket, and stop by Paddletown Hardware one last time.

This store has been a mainstay in Oscoda since 1937.  Soon it will be gone.

The discounts on all items are now 50% off listed price...

I strolled into Paddeltown Hardware to take in the moment, as well as to look and see if there was anything I needed.  The store had been pretty well picked over, but I managed to find a hammer and a CFL light bulb.  I actually needed a new hammer, and the light bulb was an added bonus.  The rest of the hardware and supplies there were not anything that I needed.

When I was wandering round, I saw an open door that lead to an office.  Tom Ruedisueli, the owner was sitting at a desk and he answered a phone call.  I waited outside the office until the call ended and I introduced myself to him.  The conversation went like this:

Me:  Hello.
Tom:  Hello.
Me:  You don't know me, but I am Paul Kratochwill.  I wanted to let you know how sorry I am that your store is closing.
Tom:  Yeah, we did our best.
Me:  We bought a cottage about 2 miles south of the Au Sable River in 2010 and we have been coming here for all of our hardware needs since then.  Your staff has always been the so helpful and friendly.
Tom:  Thanks for the kind words.  It had been tough the past few years, but the road construction on US-23 last year did us in.
Me:  Again, I am so sorry about your store closing.
Tom:  Thanks for the kind words.  I really appreciate it.

And that was it.  I took my hammer and light bulb to the check out and I was warmly greeted by the cashier who is losing his job in a few days, and I spent the last $10.40 I will ever spend at Paddletown Hardware.

So long, and thanks for everything you did for the community for over 75 years.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Family of Spies

Family of SpiesFamily of Spies by Pete Earley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a well written book that chronicled the John Walker, Jr., spy ring.  There were some technical inaccuracies about the US Navy, but the author personally interviewed many of the key players of this conspiracy.  His interviews with John Walker, Jr. were particularly interesting.  I knew that John Walker was an egoist, but he really came across as a megalomaniac.

I served as one of the Communications Material System Custodians aboard USS NIAGARA FALLS (AFS 3) from 1986-1988, and I had to page check some of the same cryptographic manuals that had been previously page checked by CWO2 Walker and RMCS Whitworth.  It was chilling to hold the same manuals that these two traitors had held in their hands.

View all my reviews

Requiem for a friend...

Late last week, I saw the following Facebook post from Paddletown Hardware:

Friends and Family,
As of April 1, 2013 and after 76 years in business, Eymer & Duchane Inc.dba” Paddletown Hardware “will be going out of business." As a valued customer, we wanted to inform you that we will be holding a going out of business sale Saturday, March 30-for “FACEBOOK Faithful” favorite customers.
Then on April 3rd we will offer to the general public access to the closing sale. It will be a “Dutch Auction” type of sale with the discount taken off higher each day until merchandise is gone. We will sell fixtures and equipment also, so keep that in mind too. We will accept cash or checks only. Credit decisions will be up to Tom or Karen before the sale with those whose current balances are caught up having preference.
In an effort to clear out our inventory we will be offering unprecedented discounts on all of our popular items for only those who mention seeing this on FACEBOOK. It is an event not to be missed!

I was stunned.  This is a corner hardware store in Oscoda, Michigan.  

As readers of the blog know, we own a cottage on Lake Huron just south of Oscoda.  We purchased the cottage in January, 2010.  When you buy a new place, what do you likely need?  A new shovel, a new rake, stain, paint, sandpaper... you know, hardware.  We started going to what was Ace Hardware, which morphed into Paddletown Hardware a few years later.  The staff at Paddletown was always helpful, very knowledgeable and always able to find that one thing you needed.  If they did not have it, they would order it for you or refer you to a competitor's store to get what you needed.

Look closely at text at the bottom of the top sign:

Est. 1937 Downtown Oscoda.  When this store opened, FDR was President.  

We went to our cottage this weekend to open it up for the season, and I had to stop by Paddletown Hardware for what might be my last time.  I walked into the store and I was immediately greeted by one of the staff and the conversation went like this:

Paddletown Staff:  Hello.  How are you?  What do you need?
Me:  I am extremely sad to hear that you are going out of business.  
Paddletown Staff:  Yeah, it is a bummer.  Can I help you find something?
Me:  Yes, I need...

This Paddletown staff member did not miss a beat.  He focused on me, the customer, not himself, the soon to be unemployed person.

From there the staff member helped me locate a few things, and I got a 30% discount on my purchases because I told them that I heard about the store closing on Facebook.

While I was checking out and paying for my things, I overheard a conversation between a customer who was likely in his eighties (and wearing a hat that said "USAF Retired) and one of the managers:

Elderly gentleman:  So you are going out of business?  That's too bad.  You must have had a rough winter.
Paddletown Manager:  Yes, we had a bad winter and a bad summer last year.  We just could not make it.

In 2012, US-23, which is the main road through Oscoda, was resurfaced.  It caused all kinds of traffic back ups and delays.  It really disrupted the flow of goods and services into and out of Oscoda.  It has been a rough couple years in Michigan with the Great Recession, and it has hit Oscoda hard.  A couple of other businesses went under the past two years in Oscoda.  The economy was likely to blame, but resurfacing the only real business street in Oscoda did not help.  Now, a store with the best staff that has been in business since the FDR's second term will be no more as of 20 April, 2013.

I won't be up there for much, if any, of the so called "Dutch Sale."  We might make it up there once in the next few weekends.  If I do, I will definitely stop by and once again pay my respects.  This store will be missed by everyone who ever shopped or worked there.

I hope that Oscoda can recover as much of the state of Michigan has.  Losing the Paddletown Hardware Store is not a step in the right direction.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

From the archives:

Those of you who know my heritage know that I am half Irish and half German. My mother's family came over from County Mayo in the 1800s and settled in eastern Pennsylvania. The Irish did not stray far away from other Irish when it came to marriage, so I come from a long line of Hastings and Clancys. My father, however, is a first generation German. His mother and father emigrated to the United States in 1921. My parents met when they were

both stationed at Parks Air Force Base in California. They married and moved back to Michigan where I was born and raised.  Well, my mother is quite proud of her Irish heritage and when I was growing up, St. Patrick's Day was always a cause for celebration. We would go to the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Detroit, we would wear green clothing and sometimes put on silly hats and pretend to be leprechauns. One part of the celebration was the evening meal, which invariably was Corned Beef and Cabbage. For the life of me, I think that the reason why so many Irish left the Emerald Isle is because like me, they could not stand this vile cut of seasoned meat.

Back to my story. Each St. Patrick's Day my family would look forward to eating what was essentially boiled shoe leather. My mother would fill a cauldron with water, throw in a hunk of corned beef, some potatoes, cabbage, maybe some salt and 
pepper, perhaps some celery for flavor. How one could ever flavor shoe leather is beyond me, but she would try nevertheless. The aroma of this dank cut of meat would fill the house, so I would try to spend as much time as possible outdoors whenever this "dish" was being prepared. After my father came home from work, the table would be set and the carcass of beef would be removed from the pot, along with the soggy vegetables and potatoes. My siblings would rejoice at the thought of the meat, while I could barely keep myself from retching at the stench of it.

So, we would then take our places at the table, grace would be said and then my parents and siblings would relish in the consumption of this thoroughly proletarian dish. I was forced to eat this wretched excuse for a meal, so I would slather as much mustard as possible between two pieces of bread, then put a slice of this offensive meat there as well. I would then try to gulp this down, chewing as little as possible so that I would not have to taste it, much.

So, while I applaud the celebration of the birth of the patron saint of Ireland, to this day I cannot 
stomach the smell, taste or appearance of corned beef. So today I will probably have a beer or two, maybe even a green one. I will leave the consumption of corned beef to the peasants.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Samson in his element

February is generally a harsh month in Michigan.  It can snow, it can ran, it can be warm, it can be frigid.  This is what we in the Enchanted Mitten have come to expect in the February.

Samson, as ever, rolls with the punches in February.  He is non-plussed about the weather February.  Rain, snow or shine, he simply does what he does best.  He enjoys himself.

Chewing a stick

Notice that he belly down in the snow.  He sorta prefers it that way.  He also loves to chase a cloth frisbee in the snow.  

Catching some air

Catching more air

Returning with his frisbee
He simply cannot get enough of the snow.

About to catch his prize

Here he is resting int he snow to get ready to chase and catch the frisbee once again...

Complete with snow on his snout

It takes a lot of energy for Samson to be Samson.

Monday, December 31, 2012

This simply has to stop...

My blog is anything but political.  I generally write about events in my life, post pictures of my dog, our cottage, etc.  However, the events of the past few weeks in Washington have caused my blood to virtually boil.  The 112th Congress will certainly be remembered for being, to date, the worst in the history of the Republic.  On Friday, I sent the e-mail below to my Representative and Senators who are representing me in Congress.  I have yet to hear from Representative Amash, Senator Stabenow or Senator Levin.  I will post their respective responses  when and if I ever hear back from them.  If you are as mad at Congress as I am, you might want to let your elected officials know, too.

Senator Stabenow, Senator Levin and Congressman Amash,

Shame on you all for getting us here, the edge of the fiscal cliff

How do you look at yourself in the mirror each and every day with the realization that the 112th Congress is, because of your incompetence and ineptitude, the worst Congress in the history of the Republic?  As I wrote to you yesterday, all of you deserve public censure on the floor of the House and Senate and then you should personally apologize to all the people you are supposed to represent.  You have all been utter failures in your job and you need to apologize to us all for your incompetence.

I have a simple request as your constituent: Please explain to me what you are planning on personally doing tomorrow, Sunday and Monday to fix this mess you collectively made.

I can be reached via e-mail:  I look forward to a response from you or one of your staffers.


Paul Kratochwill

Monday, December 24, 2012

Our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

When I lived in Chicago, we purchased an artificial tree from a nearby IKEA store.  We decorated it with a few strings of lights, a couple of ornaments, you get the idea.  In 2005 when I was stationed at NOSC Chicago Deirdre came in for the week of Christmas.  After I decorated the tree, I sent her a picture of it and she declared, "It looks like the Charlie Brown Tree."  I had to admit that it did look a little spartan that first year.

In the intervening years, we got a natural tree, or we had no tree at all.  Fast forward a couple of years to 2012.  The tree is once again out of its box and Deirdre strung the lights.  We added ornaments together.

The tree topper is a Belleek star Deirdre picked up along the way.

We are ready for Santa's visit tonight.  I hope that you are, too.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Samson the Dog

Our dog, Samson, is a rather famous individual.  He has a Twitter account where he occasionally posts his comments on the life he leads.  It takes a lot of effort to be him, so he tends to sleep at least 8 hours a day and whatever he can get at night.  He also is quite photogenic.

No doubt he was contemplating a nap when I snapped this image.  He also enjoys hanging out in our yard, chasing squirrels or other small animals who decided to  cross into his territory.

One of Samson's favorite things to do when he is not chasing small furry creatures is rolling around on his back.  He does it with such gusto.

Samson has been a part of our life for five years.  He was a rescue pup.  Somebody dumped him in a park just north of of downtown Grand Rapids.  He was fearful, aggressive and scared when we brought him home.  Now, he is kind, loving and just a great dog.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving traditions

In our home we sorta stray from the traditional Thanksgiving meal.  While I have cooked a turkey with the traditional side dishes, more often than not I have made things that are not commonly associated with Thanksgiving.  For our Thanksgiving meals we have made Chicken Picatta, Peppery Flank Steak, Chicken Curry, Rack of Lamb, etc.  You get the idea. 

This year, I will be making a beef tenderloin roast from a recipe that Deirdre found a few weeks ago.  It will just be the two of us for dinner, as we are going to sneak away for a few days to our cottage in Oscoda.  

Thanksgiving is a very American holiday.  It has resisted any real commercialization of the event because we are not celebrating a religious holiday or event.  Rather we are celebrating the good fortunes that have been bestowed upon us as a nation and a people. In no particular order, here are some of the things I will be thankful for this coming Thanksgiving Day:

  1. I have a job I love with a great company.
  2. Because of Item 1, I do not worry about tonight's dinner or if I am going to pay the next bill that arrives in my mailbox.
  3. I am thankful for the people with whom I work.  They are a great group of engineers whose strengths cover my weaknesses.
  4. Because of Item 3, we laugh a lot at work.  I am thankful for that.
  5. I am in excellent health.  I have no chronic or acute health issues.
  6. I am thankful for the U.S. Constitution, and for its first 10 amendments.  I am especially thankful for Amendments 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 10.
  7. I am thankful for my career in the Navy.  I served for 22 years, went to war a couple of times, but I did not experience a physical or mental scratch during my career.
  8. I am married to a wonderful person who appreciates me for who I am.  We are a great team.
  9. I am owned by a German Shepherd Dog who we rescued five years ago this week.  He was scared and skittish when we brought him home.  Now, he is an obedient, lovable, goofy dog who is essentially a 100lb Yorkie.
  10. I am thankful, each November, for Beaujolais Nouveau.
  11. I am thankful for my neighbors.  I could not have asked for better people to be my neighbors.
  12. I am thankful for single malt scotch.
  13. I am thankful for technology.  I am able to keep in touch with friends who literally live on the other side of the planet.
This is what I am thankful for today.  What are you thankful for today?