Category Archives: General

1-800-273-8255 (there is hope)

Hey folks… I haven’t written in a while. Been busy, and haven’t been in the writing mood. Plus, WordPress goofed up my template and it was a pain to fix. But that’s not why I’m writing…

Today, I received word that a former co-worker and friend who had lost his job back in the summer (due to layoffs) took his own life yesterday. Gone. Just like that. He and I had communicated back in July about the whole ordeal. I wasn’t aware of anything at my company, but I put him in touch with a recruiter that often sends things my way. I know they made contact, and things sounded like they were looking up. In fact, I understand he was to start a new job soon. I don’t have any details. I don’t know what happened. We weren’t ‘close’, so I failed to reach back out and see how his search was going. In retrospect, perhaps I should have, though it may not have changed anything.

I’m aware of depression, but at this point I simply cannot fathom what brings a person to such a momentous decision. I also do not know what else may or may not have been happening in this man’s life. What I DO know is that this is absolutely not the answer or solution to any problem. In fact, it creates deep and lasting pain for those you love way more than it serves to ease your own. Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). My experience has been that this is true. If God brings you to it, He will see you through it. 

So if you need help, call 1-800-273-8255. There is hope.

RIP J.S.

Indiana Army Ammunition Plant

Years ago, at the forefront of WW2, the federal government quietly began buying up land near Charlestown, IN. Well – I’m not sure how quiet it was, as many were not happy about it. But in short order, the government had gobbled up homes, family farms, churches, the site of the former Rose Island Amusement Park (see a great video here as an amazing example of how nature has reclaimed this site).  Sadly, elements of the community that had been around for over a hundred years were suddenly part of the 12,000+ acre Hoosier Ordnance Plant. Many long-standing families were forced to move, with some even leaving the area entirely with a sense of distaste and rejection. Ironically, much of the land was likely not even needed, with hundreds to thousands of acres still being left to woodland and agricultural purposes. A huge part of the land was not even suitable for anything. Miles upon miles of fence and rail tracks were installed.

At its peak, the plant employed well over 25,000 people, and is given credit for pulling the area out of the Great Depression. However, it could be argued that the need for employees, cheap pop-up government housing, and the fact that the plant only operated in full capacity for about 5 years, actually led to significant long-term poverty and economic depression in the nearby city of Charlestown, IN.

Over time, the plant was slowly shut down. In 1960, a small chunk of land was given over to Clark County for the 4-H center. In 1992, it was finally shuttered for good. Between 1993 and 2004, around 5,100 acres were given over to the State of Indiana to form the Charlestown State Park (including the aforementioned Rose Island property).  Much of the rest (@3000 acres) has been transitioned over to the River Ridge Commerce Center, a fast-growing business and industrial park.

While the INAAP may be gone, it is certainly NOT forgotten. At least, not yet. Many remnants of the old plant still remain, and are slowly being cleaned up. A fascinating history of the plant, along with pictures, can be found here. Former military housing still stands, lost among the weeds. Public is not allowed in that area, but those who have been there report that many houses just appear as if folks up and moved without warning – appliances and furniture left behind for ghosts.

Below is a link to another fascinating photo journey through some of the remains of the old plant. Hopefully photos such as this can be retained for time as a reminder of our greatness and folly.

~Mike

INAAP: Indiana Army Ammunition Plant Charlestown, IN

Doctor on Demand

Today, I saw a doctor in California. He gave me a prescription for my pharmacy here in Indiana, and it was filled within an hour. No plane tickets, no red tape, no 2.5 hour wait in a germ-infested waiting room.

Sometimes you have a great experience and you just want to tell everyone about it. That happened to me today, when I decided that instead of going to an immediate care center for my flare-up of gout, I would try ‘Doctor on Demand‘, which is a a “telemedicine” service.  Now, to be fair, I was incentivized to try this service by my employer (and insurance company), who reduced the cost of the visit by about $30. This certainly made it MUCH more appealing than limping out of the house, driving, and sitting in a waiting room. I knew what I had going on, I just wanted/needed some relief.

Setting up my account was pretty simple, and only took a matter of minutes. I could have conducted my visit via my desktop computer, cell phone, or tablet, but decided to use my phone. For one, it will be nice to have that app and ability no matter where I go. And for two, I had a feeling the doctor would want to see my foot (he did) and doing that via my desktop would be more complicated.  Decision made, I downloaded the app for iOS and jumped into the 21st century.

Overall, the visit went well! My doctor, Dr. Schmidt, was very well-spoken and clear. The video and audio of the call were also very clear, though I had to put on my headset for him to hear me (because my LifeProof case makes me sound like I have my face buried in a pillow).  He was very patient, listed to all my explanations and comments, and explained my issue clearly. He gave me an immediate course of treatment, a treatment for future flare-ups, and a follow-up path of treatment should this not work. Overall, it was WAY better than almost any immediate care center visit I’ve ever had! It was still face-to-face, though not being ‘in person’ is a bit strange at first. But seriously, this is the wave of the future, I think.

If you want to try it yourself, just cruise over to http://www.doctorondemand.com and check it out. You can use code ‘michael2526‘ for $10 off your first visit (just in case your insurance doesn’t cover it).  Overall, I highly recommend it!

Monsters

Note: Bringing back another of my favorite posts today… this one was originally written on March 5th 2004, just about 3 months before my son was born. My youngest daughter has asked me to ‘clear’ rooms for monsters lately, so I still see a lot of relevance. Enjoy… 🙂

When you were a child, did you have Monsters in your room? Perhaps they lurked in the corners, or under the bed. Maybe they even had a summer home in your closet.

As a kid, I was positive these Monsters existed. And they were not cute or funny like the ones featured in Disney’s “Monster’s, Inc.” movie. These were dark, shadowy creatures that moved fast and hovered over me while I slept. I tried to convince my parents of their presence, but of course they didn’t believe. As I grew older I stopped believing, too. The Monsters eventually disappeared.

But now, after all these years, I know the Monsters were REAL! I know, because I am one. And I’m not alone.

You see, each night my wife and I “sneak” into my daughter’s room to peek at her while she sleeps. Although the room is dark, we can see her in the soft glow of the night-light. Occasionally my wife will get something out of her closet for the next day. She tries to be quiet, but it will still rattle.

And sometimes during these quiet visits, our daughter is restless and stirs a little in her bed. It may be she was sleeping lightly, or one of us clumsily tripped over something or made a noise. That’s when you have to take whatever measure necessary to avoid one thing — being seen.

Parents who are reading this know… if you are “spied”, it’s all over! She will wake up and want to be rocked. That’s not so bad, but if she’s in a good mood she may want to play. When she’s old enough, she will want a glass of water. Or maybe she’ll just be cranky, and it will take an hour to get her calmed back down.

So you hide. You duck into a dark corner or dive to the floor where you can’t be seen. If you are fast enough, you jet out the room and quickly but gently pull the door behind you, patting yourself on the back for your swiftness.

Meanwhile, she is still in her bed, wondering… what was that!? SOMETHING was just hovering over me, and now it’s gone! With her sleepy eyes, she knows she saw something run across the room or duck into the darkness. And how did the closet door get open!?  Why was it rattling?

If she was fast asleep, she will slowly fade back into her slumber. But as she drifts off, she wonders if it’s still there. If it had been mommy and daddy, they wouldn’t have run from her — they would have picked her up and given her kisses. So after all consideration, there’s only one answer that makes sense…

Monsters.

Bizarro You

I was chatting with the kids last night and posed the question to them: what if there is an ‘opposite you’ out there in the world — not so much someone who looks just like you, but a person who does the exact opposite of everything you do? Every decision you make, that person would do the opposite. What kind of person do you think that would be? Would he/she be a good person?

Bizarro Superman
Bizarro Superman – making all the wrong calls.

Of course, their answer was this person would be really bad. And I would expect no less! I want them to believe that their opposite would make bad decisions, because it means they are confident they are making the right calls in life. And don’t we all feel that way?  That the decisions we make are right and good?

Superman had an ‘opposite’ doppelganger, known as ‘Bizarro Superman’.  This character typically does (and says) the exact opposite of everything Superman does and stands for. He also (often) lives in a ‘bizarro’ world, where everything is different. This character mostly does the wrong things and serves as a foe to Superman. But sometimes he accidentally does the right thing, and finds himself a hero.  Like most comic book characters, Bizarro lives and dies a few times. But in one of his last speeches before he dies, Bizarro (who also speaks strangely) tells Superman “It am part of genius Bizarro self-improvement plan! See, me suddenly realize that me am not perfect imperfect duplicate! Maybe me not trying hard enough.”

In our non-bizarro world, a self-improvement plan helps us realize that we are also not perfect, and that perhaps we need to “try harder”. Whether it be how we act, how we eat, or how we exercise, many of us strive to “do better”. But many of us also tend to believe we do not need improvement — that the decisions we make are strong and good, and that a Bizarro-version of our-self would be really bad. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Some of our decisions are right, some wrong. And in reality, a bizarro version of our-self would probably be like who we are now! Some decisions would be bad, some good, and as a result that person would likely ‘ride the line’ between right and wrong. Unlike Superman, we are not perfect beings who only fail when some outside force is applied. But our hope (and mine, for the kids) is that person would be more wrong than right. I certainly don’t expect my kids to be perfect people, but if d their decisions trend toward the good side, their bizarro selves would not be great people. Does that make sense?

So today, ask yourself — if you had a bizarro-self out there in the world, what would others think of that person? Is he/she good, or bad? Perhaps somewhere in-between? If this were a real thing, perhaps our decisions would be made a bit more carefully, and we would take softer tones toward others. Or perhaps we should just all consider and realize that — even without an opposite — the decisions we made DO affect others, whether we like it or not, and act accordingly.

Have a great day!
~Mike

Shake It Up

Yesterday I happened to cross paths with someone who carries a relatively important level of importance in our community for some folks. Extending a friendly greeting to this person, I reached out to shake his hand.  What I got was… a dead fish.

This is honestly a huge pet peeve of mine! To me, how a person shakes hands says a LOT about their confidence and conviction. A weak, limp, soft handshake says “I’m not confident in myself”. For men, especially, it signals to me that you are weak —  that you are not a person whom I can trust. I can’t say with certainty that is TRUE, but it’s the impression that matters. And if we’re shaking on a deal or a bet, it says “I may not stand behind this”. It feels ‘untrustworthy’.  This said (and not to sound ‘sexist’) but women can get by with this a little more, as it goes back to a time when women in police society offered their hand for a ‘hand-kiss’. But a firm handshake from a woman also indicates that she is self-sufficient. There is nothing wrong with a firm handshake from a woman, and it’s preferred if we are doing business.

There are ways to shake hands, and ways not to. If you meet someone and suspect you are about to shake hands, there are a few things you should do. The obvious is to make sure your hand is free — don’t try to shake hands with something in it! Also, no fist bumps! You should only ‘fist bump’ someone who is already a good acquaintance/friend (and please don’t ‘blow it up’ unless it’s a kid). If your palms feel sweaty, PLEASE wipe your hands on your pants or stick them in your pocket for a moment to dry it off. And when you approach the other person, extend your arm and hand and look them in the eyes. Take a firm hold of their hand, and shake lightly, but strongly.  You shake with your whole forearm, NOT just your wrist.  A couple of shakes is all it takes… don’t linger and make it awkward.

As noted, there are also ways NOT to shake hands. PLEASE avoid the aforementioned limp, wet, or ‘dead fish’ handshake! Conversely, don’t grab my hand and squeeze the blood to the other side of my body to show how manly or strong you are. I get it bro – you lift! Besides, I’m not a drug store “grip test” machine. Please do not shake my whole arm off, either (old men are often guilty of this). And don’t come in for a “bro-shake/hug” unless we truly have a STRONG and LONG history together. And only grab my hand with both hands if we are very familiar and haven’t seen each other for some time.

Finally, there are times where it is OK to withhold a handshake. For example, if you’re sick or have just greased a car, just say so! In fact, admitting it’s not a good time to shake tells me you are honest. If you go wash (and dry) your hands, then come back for a shake. I’ll see you as someone who is sincere.

So throw the wet fish back in the pond and get with the program. How others perceive you can depend on how you shake hands with others. Isn’t it funny how something so simple can convey so much meaning?

~Mike

Mr. Fix-It

Note: this article was originally posted on 7/31/2008, when my son was 4 years old. It came to mind last night while I was busy repairing a toy for my youngest daughter, who is also now four. Times have changed, but the theme remains the same. I have re-posted with a few edits. Enjoy… 

Yesterday my son brought home a little plastic magnifying glass that he had been “rewarded” as part of a summer reading program at the library. He had his little heart set on a “bug cube” for weeks, but apparently changed his mind after his sister and another girl chose “grab bags”. Of course, life has taught most of us not to gamble what you have in hand for that which you cannot see. I believe the folk saying is “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.  Having not yet learned this lesson, he traded his little cube for the promise of a grab bag.

Life lessons are funny things. Certainly we’ve all had them over the years. But I never thought my heart would ache for a little guy who chose a grab bag over a bug cube. You see, while my daughter’s bag was full of neat little bendy toys, my son’s bag contained a cheap plastic magnifying glass and a compass ring. And that’s all. What’s worse, while innocently playing “detective” at the store with his magnifying glass, the handle broke. He enjoyed his reward for all of a few hours before insult added to injury. Thankfully, his sister chose to give him one of her bendy people. Now that’s love!

Daddy, please fix my toy!
One of my favorite “fix it” requests. This one from my oldest daughter, Grace (around the 1st-grade time-frame)

It’s an old cliché that many dads fix everything with duct tape. Unfortunately, I’m not that talented. It sticks to itself. It sticks to me. I end up using twice as much as I need, and rarely get the results I’m seeking. But you see, I have another weapon which has resulted in the misguided opinion from my kids that I can fix anything: Superglue. I have diminished several tubes of this magical resin over the past few years, and have actually gotten some pretty amazing results. The stuff really is good (though not much fun when your fingers are stuck together)! With it, I have swelled with pride as the smiles returned to the faces of my children. Daddy fixed the toy! Disaster averted, tears forborne, superhero status claimed!

So with my son’s little magnifying glass in hand, I retreated to my hero’s lair (a.k.a. my garage) last night to restore what usefulness I could to this cheap little vessel of spying greatness. I did my best to reconnect the pieces with my “magic glue”, but the results are still out. I did the best I could, but it may not hold for long. Any doctor will tell you that you can’t always save the patient. What matters most is that you tried. But perhaps there will be enough life in this trinket for one more adventure, and one more smile.

Of course, I realize my “hero” status is dubious, at best. As the kids get older, they’ll realize that daddy can’t really fix everything (something my wife has already tried to convey). They’ll realize my “magic glue” is available at most stores for just a few bucks, and they can use it themselves if necessary. They won’t even need me to try and fix things. But regardless of that, hopefully the sense will stay with them that I just might have that ability, even without the glue. And I know some things, like broken hearts, cannot be mended with glue.  But if things get too broken, hopefully they will know they can turn to me for help. Disasters will be averted, tears forborne, and superhero status reclaimed.

~Mike