Why Do We Camp?

WP_20140718_010Unless you work for NASA, you need more air and space.  Being outdoors for even a brief time revives the senses and re-establishes mental focus.  Spending a couple of nights sleeping with nature is nearly a religious experience; truly life changing.  All living creatures benefit from occasional changes in routine and camping gets you out of your dwelling and into a different kind of “comfort zone”.  Take your dog camping with you and give your cats some much needed time alone; you wanted a new couch anyway.  After a few days in the wild, you’ll be rested up and recharged and, when you get home, that old mattress you were going to replace will feel like a pillow-top at the Ritz-Carlton.

Camping is a culinary delight and a boost to the olfaction   Coffee smells better when cooked outdoors; heck – everything smells better when cooked outdoors.  Hot dogs are difficult to burn at home and smores made in a microwave are just wrong.  Sorry backyard glampers.  Frank’s Red Hot makes anything taste good; even those pancakes you dropped on the ground.  You get to smell like Deep Woods Off for several days, which is a good thing considering 40-degree showers will keep you from getting one until you get home.  Speaking of bathrooms, you get plenty of exercise because you must walk farther to the bathroom.  Once you get to the bathroom, you realize you didn’t really have to go.  On the plus side, you learn to determine where the “upwind” side of a place is.  Unfortunately, you realize your tent is “downwind” of the bathrooms.

Camping teaches us about non-domesticated animals.  You get to see different varieties of spiders.  Is it possible mosquitoes actually like citronella?  Bears like perfume and will follow you for a chance to find out what kind you’re wearing.   Bald Eagles on the picnic table are allowed to eat whatever they want.   Racoons teach you to put things away, and ants can transport an entire weekend’s worth of groceries better and faster than your minivan can.

Camping builds life skills.  If camped far enough away from a cell tower, people learn to actually look at each other when speaking to one another.  Packing for camp improves Jenga and Rubik’s Cube skills.  You learn to pack enough stuff into your vehicle to be able to survive for least an additional 72 hours should the apocalypse come.  After setting up your tent, building your next bicycle will be easy.  You learn fire prevention – especially as it pertains to firewood.  Camp games are fun but remember strip poker is generally frowned upon and, in the game of horseshoes, you lose all your points if your horseshoe goes through a neighboring camper’s car windshield, although that might result in learning how to box or wrestle.

Ultimately though, camping plugs us back into the natural world surrounding us.  Camping gives us confidence in knowing we can survive, even thrive with much less than previously believed.  Camping is communal; it asks us to share with each other and care about each other. Camping challenges us to try new things.  Camping causes us to look up and out rather than just down.  And finally, camping is better than being at work.  That’s why we camp.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Legal Immigration“It’s only a misdemeanor.  Why are we separating families over misdemeanors?”  “Ridiculous” is an excellent way to describe the media’s spinning and downplaying of the illegal nature of what’s going on here.  There IS a legal way to come to America.  Sneaking in with stolen identities and counterfeit papers is NOT the way.  As someone who read the United States Code, the Code of Federal Regulations and The Federal Register daily and who drafted updates and changes to those books of Federal Law, I need to clarify some of the semantics being thrown around in the immigration discussion.

Title 8, Chapter 12 of the United States Code specifies the FIRST illegal entry into the Unites States is a misdemeanor ($10,000 fine and/or up to 6 months in jail).  The second illegal entry is a low-level felony (up to 2 years in prison) (most of those we’re seeing).  Subsequent illegal entries following multiple misdemeanors, felony convictions or being listed as a National Security Threat carry prison sentences of up to 10 years (also many of those we’re seeing cross our borders).  As someone who worked alongside INS, Customs, FBI and DEA agents, I can attest to the validity of assertions that some, possibly many, of the children being brought illegally into this country are NOT the children of those bringing them.  Global drug trafficking, human trafficking and organ harvesting are BIG businesses and serious law enforcement problems.  We don’t need to increase their presence here in America.

Our county jails and prisons are already full of parents separated from their children as the result of misdemeanors or repeat violations resulting in escalated penalties. Though African Americans and Hispanics made up approximately 32% of the US population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015. This didn’t apply solely to men in those populations. The imprisonment rate for African American women was twice that of white women. Numbers were similar for Hispanic women.  Those numbers are much higher today.   Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court.  In 2012 alone, the United States spent nearly $81 billion on corrections (from the naacp,org criminal fact sheet).  Many of those convictions and incarcerations were the result of multiple misdemeanor offenses.  Those who can get released from incarceration frequently go on to commit more serious crimes because of their ex-convict stigma.

I walk the streets every day.  I see the effects of children who have truly been separated from their real parents “as the result of misdemeanors” (at least initially).  Make no mistake – Children’s Services provides a critical service to at-risk children.  However, it is also a big government business with a huge payroll, just like our prison system. Remember that $81 billion figure above? Double it.

Are we really worried about “children being separated from their parents” or do we just enjoy sharing our echoes of the media spin?  If we are sincerely troubled by the plight of children, we should get involved in our communities and save parentless and at-risk children from falling into the social hole their parents and the government have created.  We should lobby and work for legal reforms to find alternatives to misdemeanor incarcerations and work to restore stable family structures in the most at-risk areas of our communities. We should be examples and not just parrots.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Where Do You Dwell?

Guitar by Lake Pymatuning 2015One of my favorite places to dwell is up at our family camp spot on Pymatuning Lake.  That’s where my mind is the clearest and my emotional state is stuck on “happy”.  Unfortunately, I can only dwell there for a sort time before having to return to where I reside most of the time, which is also a nice place – but it’s not the lake.  Thanks to screen savers and digital wallpapers, I can take short breaks and mentally dwell at the lake.  However, I mustn’t dwell on those thoughts too long or no work gets done!

It’s funny how old school automotive tech can relate to my mental lake trips.  There’s an automotive term called “dwell”.  Without going into great and possibly boring detail, dwell has to do with the spark that ignites the fuel in the engine.  The engine crankshaft only turns because fuel explodes in the cylinders forcing pistons up and down to turn the crankshaft that turns the driveshaft that turns the wheels and moves the car.  The circular distribution of that fuel igniting spark must be timed perfectly.  That perfection depends on the amount of time the spark spends igniting the fuel in each cylinder.  Basically, that amount of time the spark-producing mechanism is creating a spark for one park plug is called “dwell”.  Too much or too little “dwell” results in an engine that won’t run well.

Sometimes we can get caught up in dwelling on the past; or dwelling IN the past.  While watching “The Incredibles” the other night, I caught this quote “Reliving the glory days is better than acting like they didn’t happen”. ~ Mr. Incredible.  I was talking with my neighbor about this.  He wisely pointed out how it’s important to remember the past so we can learn from it, but quickly added, using a sports illustration, that we can’t dwell on the past too long or we won’t be ready for the next play coming at us.

Some hearts and minds tend to dwell on pleasant things.  Others have a more negative bent, dwelling only on the gloomy and troubling.  Truly, our attentions are directed to dwell on the hearts of matters, be those matters happy or sad, based on our perceptions of expected outcomes.  The pessimist dwells with failure and catastrophe, the optimist dwells with solutions for success and the pragmatist dwells on the wall between the other two.

To speak or write insistently is another definition of the word “dwell” and I must continue to dwell on my assertion a person is formed largely by where they dwell physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  Being mindful of past dwelling places is helpful but dwelling there too long comes with a cost.  Dwelling in the wrong place or the wrong state of mind side tracks us from where we should be.  Refusing to dwell in a new place could have you dwelling in opposition to God’s plans for you “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) and “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19).  You might want to dwell on that.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Am I Connected?

HANDSTo be able to enjoy hands free convenience when using my cell phone, I bought a Bluetooth earpiece.  This earpiece had voice command capabilities and I could ask it questions.  One of the questions I asked most often was “Am I connected?”  A woman’s voice would reply “Phone One connected.”  I bought a new phone last year and got rid of that earpiece, but I still think about that question “Am I connected?”.  Can that question apply to things other than a cell phone?  What does being connected look like?

I like to support community events, and I just happened to have the day off, so I went to the National Day of Prayer Breakfast at the YMCA.  Jordan Rimmer, Pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church in New Castle, PA. was the keynote speaker for the event.  Jordan is a talented writer and blogger and chose to speak about the relevance of the Church in today’s culture and how the church is not relating to or connecting with that culture.  Jordan said, “We are more connected now than we have ever been before, and we are more disconnected now than we have ever been before.”  Talk about a lightning strike!  “That’s it!” I thought.  “We’re connectedly disconnected.”  Wait.  What?

We used to go to public places called libraries to find things called books, so we could look-up and learn information about whatever it was we were trying to figure out.  Those books were, for the most part considered “authoritative”; of acknowledged accuracy or excellence; highly reliable.  We usually had to engage in face-to-face interaction with other humans during this library experience.  Furthermore, if additional, practical explanation of this newly obtained knowledge was required, we would need to personally interact with another human who could explain and even physically demonstrate the application of the knowledge if necessary.  Sometimes these human interactions resulted in physical contact in the form of handshakes or hugs as an expression of appreciation for the assistance.

Fast forward to 2018.  We can now access virtual, non-verifiable information from virtually every point on the planet, or at least we think it’s coming from somewhere – it’s from the “cloud”.  We so prefer or are so addicted to the virtual world of the digital devices in our hands, we often neglect interacting with the basic realities surrounding us; realities like friends, family, emergency vehicles in our rear-view mirrors, meteors crashing down upon us from outer space.  Snubbing reality has even been given its own word.  Phubbing is a word created in Australia in 2017 by team of advertising executives and dictionary publishers. They were looking for a word for the rude habit of snubbing someone while choosing to pay attention to a cell phone instead.  They combined “phone” and “snubbing” to get “phubbing”.

Have you been phubbed?  Are you guilty of phubbing?  I’m a phubber.  Is it time to come back to reality?  Maybe I should let my cell phone battery run out, then ask myself some realistic questions.  Am I connected to my God?  Am I connected to my family?  Am I connected to my friends?  Am I connected to my community?  Am I connected to myself?  With out being able to email anyone or do an Internet search, I’ll be forced to grab my Bible, a note pad and a pencil and go find out in person if I’m still connected.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Sowing Seeds

Organic Spring GreensIt’s time to get some varieties of seed in the ground.  Most seed packets have a growing guide on the back telling the gardener when to plant, where to plant, how deep to plant, how tall the mature plant will grow and how many days until harvest if the seeds are for a food crop.  Usually, there is also a date printed along one end of the seed packet.  That date is the limit of the expected viability of the seed; in other words – the expiration date of the seed.  After that date, the percentage of seeds that will germinate, spout and grow decreases steadily as time passes.

Starting seeds indoors is a terrific way to survive winter.  Seeing little bits of green life during late February into March gives me hope that Spring is just around the corner.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much room in our house for starting seeds.  We have a garden window over the kitchen sink where I can set an egg carton full of starting mix and seeds.  We had a homebuilt greenhouse for several years (built from old house windows).  We were able to grow 16 flats of vegetables and flowers.  However, the moisture inside the greenhouse caused the wood framing to rot and we had to tear it down.  I really miss that thing!

Some of my best surprises and worst frustrations are what gardeners call “volunteers”.  Some plants can “self-seed” and come up again far more prolifically the next year.  Heirloom varieties are the most likely to produce new plants identical to the seed donor.  Hybrids are another story.  Depending on what genes came together to produce the specific hybrid variety, volunteers from hybrid seeds could be happy accidents or useless, mutant plants good only for the compost pile.  Then there are invasive volunteers; those plants that pop up everywhere you don’t want them.  Lemon Balm fits in this category.  Another invasive nuisance is Physostegia virginiana commonly known as “Obedient Plant” or “False Dragonhead”.  The name “obedient” is deceptive.  This plant spreads rapidly both by roots underground and popping seed pods like other members of its mint family.  These trouble makers are best keep contained to prevent them from becoming a bigger part of your garden than you were bargaining for.  Hedge bindweed is one of the worst volunteers.  This morning glory clone chokes everything in its path as it grows at least an inch a day, its roots are almost impossible to dig up and its seeds are viable for decades.

I’ve learned a lot of life skills from gardening and growing things from seed; things like patience, consistency, conscientiousness, perseverance.  It’s no coincidence the Bible contains dozens of verses about seeds, soil and care of gardens.   What I sow and when, where and how I sow it not only pertains to seeds and what kind of garden I have; it also determines what kind of life I have.  Like invasive plants that take over a garden or seeds that never sprout, sowing the wrong things in my life or sowing things at the wrong time or in the wrong way can make a real mess of my garden of life.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Thanks Mom!

On Mother’s Day 2018Bonnie and Curtis Savage 1961, I think about all the things my mom did for me.  Of course, foremost is, being a very young woman just out of high school, she was willing to carry me to birth and raise me.  I often think about Maureen Stapleton playing Mama Mae Peterson in the movie “Bye Bye Birdie” declaring to Harry McAfee (played by Paul Lynde) “But when I was expecting him, in the Maternity Ward, three days I waited.  Did I desert him?  No!  I stayed right there so he wouldn’t be alone when he was born!” Her son Albert (played by Dick Van Dyke) says “Mama please don’t excite yourself.  You know I love ya’”.  I would never leave you!” to which Mama responds “Now, don’t try to pay me back, son. I forgive you. So what if you’re an ingrate? So long as you’re happy.”

I was no ingrate.  I always appreciated how hard Mom worked to keep us happy.  Did your mom do special things for you?  This might seem silly, but I remember my lunch sacks.  My mom used to pack my lunch when I was in the early school grades.  She used to draw pictures and write notes on my lunch sacks.  By the time lunch rolled around, I usually needed that encouragement.  Of course, the cute lunch sacks disappeared by the time I was in 4th grade – a kid can get beat up for that.  Mom understood all of that too.  She made sure she knew my friends and was careful not to let me get in with kids who would be trouble for me.  The few who came around and tried to cause trouble for us didn’t stick around for long when mom laid down the law.  Thanks Mom!

Being a single mom for a few years made it difficult for her to get all the bills paid and still be able to pay for all the stuff me and my sister needed with constantly growing out of our clothes and scouts & everything.  We stayed with our Grammy a lot while Mom worked two, sometimes 3 jobs so we could have the few “extras” that would otherwise be impossible.   Even after Mom remarried, she kept working so I could be in band, play little league baseball and be involved in all the extracurricular activities that started popping up once I entered Jr. High School.  Thanks Mom!

Our mom kept things seeming fairly “normal” during some tumultuous times growing up in Los Angeles; our family’s divorce; moving around quite a bit; the Watts Riots; the assassinations of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy; the Vietnam War; the Resignation of President Richard Nixon and some pretty big earthquakes – figuratively AND geologically speaking.  With everything seemingly going crazy around us, Mom always made it feel like everything was alright at home.  She’d bring home pizza or Pup-n-Taco for supper and throw some favorite albums on the Hi-Fi and just keep all of us right on going like she always did.  No family skids or crashes.  She taught us to stay “cool as a cucumber” – something she always says; and life was.  Thanks Mom!




© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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The Rabbit Problem

RabbitsI grew up with my sister in Southern California; bonafide city kids.  We visited our extended family in Minnesota several times where we learned about farm life.  We liked to go fishing and were aware the meat on our table came from animals such as the fish we caught or from meat farms like the cattle and poultry operations in the counties east of us.  We didn’t have to raise our own meat so we never experienced the killing and cleaning part of anything larger or messier than our caught fish.  In our minds, the cows went straight from the fields to the burger joint.

When the recession of the mid-seventies hit, prices on just about everything went up dramatically and quickly; food prices were not immune.  I had a good friend with whom I spent a lot of time and our families became close friends as well.  We did lots of things together; traveled together, ate together, celebrated together.  My friend’s family was minimally employed so they learned to live very frugally.  As the recession deepened, we sought to learn that life style from them.

My friend’s dad raised meat rabbits and suggested my dad might want to do the same to save money on grocery bills.  To help our family, our dad enthusiastically dove into this new endeavor and – BAM!  Just like that – we were into raising meat rabbits.  We built hutches in the back yard of our suburban home and began making regular trips to the pet food store for bags of rabbit food.  Half of the family wasn’t sure the fuel along with mileage on the car and the cost of the feed was cheaper than buying meat from the store, but we continued to tend to, and become attached to, the rabbits.

The rabbits did what rabbits are supposed to do and soon we had to harvest some of them or give up our bedrooms to them.  My friend’s dad came over and helped my dad prepare to slaughter and dress out the biggest bunnies.  They tied little ropes to our swing-set and tied rabbits up by their hind feet.  My dad emerged from the garage with a large hammer; all of this while we watched from the dining room window as the bad scene unfolded before our eyes.  That’s when it happened.  My sister was far more horrified than I was.  However, I would have preferred to continue thinking the rabbits just disappeared and magically turned into supper.  These beneficial bunnies had suddenly become a big problem.

Our mom sprang into action, devising a plan than still has ramifications today.  One afternoon, as soon as our dad had left for work, we collected all the remaining rabbits and packed them into the family car.  We drove to-and-fro, crisscrossing the county dropping off rabbits the way Fed-Ex drops off packages.  When we ran out of adoptive friends, we took the last few furry fugitives and shoved them under a fence setting them free in a tree farm that ran for a mile under some large electrical transmission towers.  Those rabbits did what rabbits do and we saw generations of their kin every time we drove past that tree farm.  At least they weren’t proliferating in our back yard anymore. Those rabbits were just like any kind of trouble in life; you have to handle it or it will just keep multiplying.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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