Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

Good Morning. I am the proud mother of a great American hero from Keizer Oregon, PFC Ryan J Hill. I want to begin by thanking Glenn for this opportunity to share our story. And a very special thanks to all of you who set aside a few moments to honor some very brave men and women.

Memorial Day for many means a day off, great shopping deals, family barbecues, camping, the beginning of summer; honoring loved ones who have passed or veterans who have served. While all these are great, it really doesn't represent what Memorial Day is really about. Memorial Day is the one day set aside to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending and protecting the freedoms that we all enjoy. Since the American Revolution almost 670K men and women have been killed in combat.

Before I go into the events that have brought me here today, I would like to give you a glimpse of who Ryan was.

On April 26, 1986 at 2:00 in the afternoon God entrusted me with one of him most precious treasures, Ryan J Hill. As a single mom it was up to me to teach and guide him. Little did i know that he would in the end be the one to teach and guide me. Ryan had a compassionate heart from the beginning. He was always drawn to the underdog. I didnt want him to be the outsider while growing up as I had been, so i really tried to help him be cool and hang out with the "right" people.

(Story of andy, Aaron and Mike)

Ryan was sharp and a quick learner. I should have known when he came home from the first day of school in the second grade at Keizer Elementary and I asked how was school and he said stupid....

When he attended McNary High school my biggest concern was, would he fit in. High school can sometimes be brutal. Little did I know he would ace the social aspects, but given his view in the first grade of "I've already done that" his academics left a little to be desired. He would finish High School at the Oregon National Guard Youth Challenge Program, a military school. He originally went to make up credits so he could graduate on time, but he ended up completing 2 1/2 years in 5 months with an a minus average. It was obvious that he excelled in this environment. His nickname...make me do push ups please.

Just to give you some insight into his mindset, Ryan loved football and played at McNary........

In July 2005 he would leave for Ft Benning where he would attend Boot Camp and AIT and would go on to be assigned to the 1/26th Infantry Division (Big Red One) in Schweinfurt Germany. When he was in boot camp the drill sgt said as Ryan reached for a piece of cake, Hill you eat that cake your gonna do push-ups; Ryan's response "I'm gonna do push ups anyway" so he reached for a second piece.

In July 2006 I got the call from Ryan that they were deploying to Iraq into a very bad area. He said to me Mom if i come home God has more for me to do, if I dont then I've finished my job.

On Friday January 19th a little after 8pm the earth stood still... I got the dreaded knock on the door. I looked out the peep hole and there they were 2 officers in uniform. I opened the door and told them they weren't supposed to be there. Shortly after midnight in Baghdad Ryan's group would be making their final patrol of the night, an IED that was command-wire detonated by cowardly insurgents hiding in the shadows would steal a great man. The unit would come under several hours of heavy fire and Ryan would be the only KIA for Charlie Company that night. Although Ryan was the first among many killed on the deadliest day. Ryan had finished his job. God Almighty said okay you've had enough and allowed him to go home. See several of Ryan's fellow soldiers had already been killed and he took each loss personally. Just like his job here was to protect his family and friends, he viewed his job there as to protect his fellow brothers. In fact he always wanted to be in the lead vehicle which was most likely to be attacked. So when there was a loss he felt like he had failed. I believe he was spared from events that were to come. The attacks got more severe. As the unit found ways to mitigate the insurgents actions, it caused the cowards to escalate the type of attacks they would use. In June 2007 Charlie Company would receive an award at the US embassy from special forces with Ryan's name on it for the work that was done on January 20th.

The Blue Spader Task force is considered the hardest hit since Vietnam. The commanders were continually asking for help but the requests seemed to go unanswered until July 2008 where the 110 who patrolled Adhimayah were replaced with a unit of over 1000. All in all the task force had 34 soldiers KIA, and 122 wounded. Charlie company suffered the most with fourteen men killed 9 of which were from Ryan's second platoon.

In 2012 the Blue Spaders received the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy.

One of my sons biggest fears is that he would be forgotten. And today you have sent a message that we remember. I remember getting a phone call from him after one of his brothers had been killed. It was during election time and he was struggling from all the negative news reports about the war. He said Mom my friends are dying for people who don't give a rip. All they care about is did the barista get my coffee right, o did you know Brittney Spears is bald, Lindsey Lohan has a drug problem, what in the world am I fixing for dinner? Meanwhile my buddies are dying and not only do people not know who they are, they don't care. I reminded him that he told me after he got to Iraq; Mom don't watch the news it's really not what's happening. So don't watch the news it doesn't represent all of Americans.

The question for you is do you care? As you drive up and down the freeway and you see my license plate that says "gold star family" do you know what that means? (well probably most of you do, or do now). Please don't get me wrong with what I am about to say. I don't want your sympathy. I just want you to think about your freedom, the price that has been paid for it, and not take it for granted. For you to truly understand you would have to experience it. And that is really something I wouldn't wish upon anyone. Imagine your child or grand child one day stolen from you. Not just them, but of their hopes and dreams, their future, the children that you will never know. Perhaps their son or daughter would have been the one to walk on mars, or discover the cure for cancer or be the next brilliant president. Or perhaps they would have been just like Ryan and been one of the most kind, funny, and loving person you ever met, whose goal in life was to protect their family and friends and to make a difference.

There are many days when I am out and observe people and wonder, does anyone remember? As I watch them go about their lives, I wonder do they know the price that was paid for them to drive thru Starbucks safely and buy a coffee or push the granddaughter on the swing at the park. You see for Gold Star families we live Memorial Day every day. This is my 10th Memorial Day since Ryan was killed and yet it seems like it was still yesterday.

On October 5, 2006 Ryan sent a small group of us this email: "2 days ago one of my good friend was lost for doing his duty for our country. He was shot by a sniper and didn't get a chance to shoot back. He was doing what he was asked of him regardless of the risks at hand. I ask that as you read this you hold a moment of silence within yourself for another of America's finest that lost the battle he was told to fight. I ask that you remember your freedoms and that we willingly gave ours up to protect our loved ones back home. That you keep us in your thoughts and prayers in good times and in bad. Because to tell you the truth all we wanted was a better life for us and our loved ones. Some of us won't make it back from this place and we shall never forget them. The rest of us who are here will keep fighting for you and those you love. Thank you for reading my thoughts and the few minutes it took our of your lives...."

So one thing I ask is that as you drive around going about your day being a productive member of the community pause once in awhile, maybe when you see that glorious flag flying, and just whisper thank you.

In closing I would like to challenge with a quote from Ryan's my space... "A True Champion is one who wants to make a difference, never gives up, works hard and never gives up their dream". So for Ryan, go be a champion.

Thank you. Freedom isn't free.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

My dad

I watched my father (Curtis P Fenison) pass tonight. Very hard thing. But I have no doubt that he is now exactly where he's been longing to be for the last 70 years or so since he dedicated his life to Jesus. He is no longer limited by a human brain that struggles to grasp the glory of God. Because now he's experiencing Him in His fullness first hand. Face to face. I can't imagine a man more dedicated to his family and to his God. Well done, good and faithful servant.




Below is a video that my brother Les made.



Saturday, April 1, 2017

Childishness

Twitter is an interesting place. I follow a lot of news people as well as technical accounts. Much of what I hear there is of a political nature. One Fox Business personality that I had been following (@LouDobbs) constantly refers to democrats as "Dimms". Ok. Time out. This isn't a grade school playground. Feel free to call them "Dems" if you want to abbreviate but calling them Dimms just makes you look stupid.

I unfollowed him today. I'm sure he would be heart-broken if he knew. Hey, I have to draw the line somewhere. In the interest of full disclosure, I might add that I detest the democrats. I think they are evil. They've virtually destroyed this country, and continue in deliberate attempts to do so. But that's no excuse for childishness name-calling.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The blogging thing

I recently moved our domains over to Google Domains. They allow pretty good integration with Blogger. So I decided to relocate our blog to www.moondog.org. I figured that maybe my wife and I might start posting occasionally. I also noticed that it's been a long time since either of us have done that.

Blogging is a little weird. There is a fine line between good blogging and what amounts to self-absorption. I'm pretty sure I've crossed that line a few times. And perhaps blogging at all crosses it from the get go. Hard to say.

So what's new?

We recently refinanced our home with Quicken Loans. We were able to drop PMI, cut 8 years off of the term of our loan, and lower our monthly payments. That was pretty sweet. And we'd only had our original mortgage for barely over two years.

We hired a new guy at work who is from India named "Bala". He's going to learn to do what I do. So I'm responsible for helping him get up to speed. He is an experienced developer (Oracle) but has no experience on the IBM i or with the programming language we use (RPG). So there will definitely be a learning curve. He's a really nice guy and very articulate. I really like working with him. I hope he doesn't get too frustrated with all the new stuff that he will have to learn.

Speaking of the IBM i, we brought our company up on a brand new Power 8 a little over a month ago. That was pretty sweet. I did much of it myself over the course of one weekend. Very nice to be up on a new box.

Yesterday was the last day of employment for another of my co-workers who also did what I do (Programmer/Analyst). Unfortunately his health was not such that he could continue.

So that leaves me the senior guy with a relative trainee working along side. While he doesn't know RPG or the IBM i, he's familiar with most of the concepts. I have high hopes.

On a different note.... I've taken to listening to over the ear headphones both at work and at home. This resulted in a very undesirable effect I will call "headphone hair". After getting frustrated with that... about two days after my last haircut I'd had enough. We went by a hair salon and I went in and had them do a #3 clipper all around. Yes... pretty much a shaved head again.

The funny thing is... even with hardly any hair... I still have a semi-permanent dent in my head where the headphones sit.

Ok... that's enough for now...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Rock music... pride comes before a fall

I’ve recently been driving our convertible more than normal. I always drive it with the top down whenever I can. We’ve been pretty blessed this year with many sunny days.

As I am driving with the top down and the sun shining, I tend to crank the tunes. I often find that Christian music just doesn’t capture the mood. Although I can’t for sure tell you why. Except that the SiriusXM Christian station is way more pop than it is rock. And I’ve always been a rock fan. Pop often makes me cringe.

So I will often find a secular rock station and crank it to 11 while I’m cruising down the highway.

That’s all good right? Or is it? Here’s where I wrestle. As I observe my own behavior and the music I choose, I’ve noticed a few things.

First, let's establish one thing. God hates pride. A lot of folks think that God is love and everything is good. Well God definitely hates certain things and pride is on the top of his list. Here are a few quotes out of Proverbs.

“These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19).

“Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 16:5)

There are many other quotes I could add, but that is a small sample. As I was listening to certain secular rock, I was thinking to myself... I don’t know anything at all in this world that exudes pride more than secular rock. I mean think about it! Much of it really boils down to artists thumbing their nose at God and authority in general. And according to the Bible, God really hates that. He doesn’t use the word “abomination” lightly.

Does all secular rock fit that stereotype? No. But I believe the great majority of it does. I think maybe it was AC/DC that I was listening to when I had the thought about pride. But there are any number of bands that fit that description.

The other thought I had was this… why do I listen to the music I do? Of course part of it is the enjoyment I get. I really love a wailing guitar. But there are people I know, maybe not very well, whose main knowledge and information they have about my personal life consists of the music they hear me listen to.

And maybe I listen to what I do in part, because I sub-consciously want to send a certain message. It's sort of fun to listen to "cool" music and have people be a bit surprised that this 54 year old guy is rocking out.

Jesus tells us that His people will suffer persecution because they believe in Him. I wonder if He appreciates one of His children essentially identifying with the rebellion and pride of the world by way of what music they listen to. Should one of His children really want to gain the acceptance of the world in this manner?

When I have Christian music turned up loud in the convertible, do I turn it down at the stop light so those around me don’t hear? If there is a really good ZZ Top tune on… I might be way more tempted to leave it cranking at the light. Maybe?

This is my observation. That much of secular rock exudes pride. And when we listen to that, we are participants and are actually identifying with that mindset. And we are likely transmitting that to others around us.

Well, I don’t think that’s something that God feels very good about. Historically I've pretty much blown this off as a "gray area" that cannot necessarily be categorized as sin. But not caring about this is quite prideful in and of itself.

In psychology there is information about a phenomenon that is quite interesting. When we view movies or listen to music. Our brains play certain tricks on us to make us feel like we are participating. Can anyone identify with playing the air guitar? or invisible drums? Of course! And when you see a very moving film. Why do you think it has that effect on you? Because you feel part of the story!

So there you go. Maybe the choices we make about the “media” we consume are not as benign as we like to think.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Elevator music

I think elevator music gets a bad rap. Since our last car purchase, both of our cars have SiriusXM satellite radio. Included with the plan is the ability to stream audio from the net as well. So that's primarily what I've been listening to when it comes to music.

There is a lot of variety. Certainly more than you'd find on over-the-air radio. Being an ex-hard-rock-addict, I found myself listening to a few things that aren't good for me. So I started searching for stations on the service that were more morally neutral.

I've found a few stations that are ok. But so far the best neutral music I've found is the SiriusXM channel that plays elevator music! Totally harmless and not half bad. I think I'm getting old!

Addendum:

If I want to be completely purist about this, elevator music is NOT 100% harmless. Because when you listen to a song you know, even if it is an instrumental version... the words play in your head. However, most of the songs they play are songs I do not know. So it's probably about as good as it will get.

Monday, February 3, 2014

We sold our soul

I recently posted something about Led Zeppelin on Facebook. I thought perhaps I should reveal my true thoughts on that sort of music. Just for the record. In the past I was one of their biggest fans. And there is a part of me that still really loves that music. However, I don't think that's a good thing.

I have wrestled for many years in my head over the morality of rock music. When I was young, Led Zeppelin were far and away my favorite band. The first rock concert I ever attended was Black Sabbath. And one of the first rock albums I ever bought was their album “We Sold Our Soul for Rock and Roll”. Little did I know that I'd be fighting these demons for the rest of my life.

When I turned my life over to Jesus I had the standard ritual “album burning” in my driveway where I doused my worldly music with flammable liquid and set it on fire. In the years following that, I have gone back and forth quite a number of times. As a matter of fact, if my life history is open to ridicule, this would be one area where I am vulnerable. On four or five occasions I have sold large collections of rock music worth multiple thousands of dollars, at a huge loss, primarily for moral reasons.

In the Bible Jesus states “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”.

To me this is what it boils down to. It’s the attitude, the lifestyle, and the culture. In the day, Led Zeppelin went hand in hand with rebellion, dope smoking, and partying. I think it’s undeniable. As much as I’d like to say that I just “appreciate the music” or attempt to detach the music from the activities and attitude that typified those who listen to it, I just don’t think it can be done. And believe me I've tried.

You could take ZZ Top, Motley Crue, and any number of rock bands you want. Their whole style really amounts to thumbing one’s nose at God. And I think listening to that type of music makes me a participant in that.

In the last 6-8 years or so, I've tried to diversify my listening habits. I wanted to listen to stuff that was spiritually and morally neutral. But’s that type of music is extremely hard to find. I don’t even know that it exists.

Even if you chose the instrumental variety of “new age” music that supposedly has no connection to any sort of religion or spiritual belief, there is a high risk that you will be exposed to music expressly designed for use by folks practicing a set of very real spiritual beliefs that are decidedly contrary to Christianity.

Music appeals to our passions. And in a fallen world, it will frequently appeal to passions that are of a fallen nature.

Regarding Led Zeppelin... I read a recent interview with Robert Plant. Even he is a little creeped out by the music they did together. Asked what the meaning of their song "Stairway to Heaven" was... they really don't know. And calls for a reunion of the band are met by them with clear hostility. Maybe they are fighting some demons of their own.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Problem solved

Our vehicle saga took another turn yesterday.

Shawna and I bought two 2-door 2012 Honda Civics about a year ago. We traded in our cars which had about 90k miles on both of them, effectively extending the life of our automobiles about 5 more years. In the process we moved from two fairly expensive cars to two economical ones.

It wasn't too long before we realized... the two-door Civics were not big enough for a lot of things. Obviously we expected that to a certain extent. But we actually had to rent a truck just to move a few things from our apartment to our mini-storage unit.

So, in late December we traded the red Civic I had been driving for a 2013 Honda CR-V. I then switched over to driving the black Civic that Shawna had been previously driving because I have a 122 mile-per-day commute.

I immediately noticed that the black Civic had a problem that the red Civic did not. It manifested itself in the form of a rapid vibration in the steering wheel around 70-75 mph on the freeway. Since I mainly drive the freeway on my commute, this became severely annoying.

After a fair amount of trouble shooting at the Honda dealer, they concluded that the vibration was caused by either the poor pavement or was a characteristic of the tires (which are not covered under warranty).

Of course the only way determine if the problem was caused by the tires, would be to shell out $650 for new ones. And if that didn't correct it, there seemed to be a strong likelihood that they would then blame the road... which would essentially be denying that there was a problem at all.

After already throwing over $500 down the toilet at Les Schwab for this problem, we decided to cut our losses and trade the car in. While not necessarily that great of a move financially, it didn't turn out to be that bad.

We ended up with a new 2013 Honda Fit. Nice little car. Certainly a step below the Civic in some areas. But a lot more practical in others. For one, it's a hatchback, where (unlike the Civic)... the fold-down feature of the rear seats actually is a functional advantage. It's also a four-door. And it feels much roomier than the Civic.

Oddly the Fit is not rated as good as the Civic when it comes to gas mileage. But after buying four brand new Hondas this year, we are now committed to keeping the two we have until they crap out.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Call the Whaaaambulance

I tend to be a bit of a whiner. It just seems like sometimes it's way easier to see the negatives vs the positives. Sort of like how the news tends to report way more negatives stories than it does positive ones. Or how typical conversations are often about what's wrong with our government or the economy or how that Chinese restaurant messed up my order yesterday.

As a Christian, I like to consider what pleases God or what bothers him in our behavior. The journey of the Israelites in the desert with Moses was a picture of the Christian life. Out of a million Jews... only two entered into the promised land. Why? If you read through the story, those people experienced many awesome miracles from God, but they were largely ungrateful. They whined a lot. And that did not turn out well for them. They whined about not having food. Then, after God started providing food for them daily, they whined about the lack of variety in their diet. At one time God caused the earth to open up and swallow several thousand of them in one fell swoop. Because they wouldn't stop whining. This is a big deal to God.

If one believes the Bible, one must conclude that things and circumstances in our life occur for a reason. One of God's primary wishes for us is that we grow. This is way more important to him than our "comfort". When we encounter things that we consider unpleasant, it's often an opportunity for personal growth, specifically engineered by God for our benefit. What kind of people would we be if everything always went our way? Spoiled brats perhaps.

Do we really believe that God is in control? Then what exactly are we doing when we whine about our circumstances or problems in our life? We are essentially questioning the fairness of God. It's like saying that we don't approve of His handling of us or the affairs of our life.

In addition, consider how Christ suffered on His way to the cross. More than we can possibly imagine. After all, He was God. And He submitted Himself to the most humiliating suffering and death that was possible. At the hands of His own creation. He did this for us.

And we complain when we have a stomach ache.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

New Diet Plan

Shawna and I started a new diet yesterday. This isn't one of those "we're going to eat healthier" diets. It's a Medi-Fast diet. You eat six times a day. Five of those "meals" are provided by Medi-Fast. The sixth meal is a "lean and green" meal. It consists of 5-7oz of lean meat and a veggie. This meal you provide yourself.

Each of the Medi-Fast meals is 100 calories. And they are entirely interchangeable. There are about 70 different things you can choose from. They all have basically the same nutritional profile.

So what we're talking about is basically around 800-1000 calories per day. They actually warn you against exercising during the first 3-4 weeks of the diet. And they give you measures to take if you suffer from headache or dizziness as a result of the low caloric intake.

The Medi-Fast meals are interesting. Many of them are simply powder that you mix with water and microwave. Two such meals I had yesterday were eggs (egg whites) and vegetarian sloppy joes. These were both surprisingly good.

The program also calls for drinking a gallon of water per day, or 1oz of water for every 2lbs of body weight, whichever is greater.

It's certainly too early to draw any conclusions. Based on our experience with day one, we think this is something we can do. And with one month of Medi-Fast food coming in at over $600, we had already decided that this was a commitment we were determined to make.

I personally think that one of the bigger factors in the success of this program will be the almost complete removal of decision making from our diet. We totally don't have to think about it.