Wednesday, May 19, 2010

True Friendship

True friends can go long periods of time without speaking and never question their friendship.....and pick up like they just spoke yesterday, regardless of how long it has been....(ganked from someone on FB)

However, I find this statement so true.  And so I will talk about my best friend....We've been best friends for over 33-34 years.  Our friendship and our family's friendship is the only good thing I feel that came out of my dad's second marriage.  Well, and Buckwheat, but unfortunately he passed on long ago.  

We were around 3 or 4 years old when we met each other.  I don't really remember this, but Michelle says the first day I met her I flipped her off.  Yep, all my siblings are older and I learned things as a child that I probably shouldn't have known at that age.  Oh well, that finger gesture sealed our friendship.  HAHA.  

Our families spent our summers in Tahoe and later in Brianhead.  Her brother, Joe, a little older than us, Michelle, and I would wreak havoc on that condo project.  I remember the time we demolished some other kid's fort.  HAHA.  Ok, it was mean, but fun.  

Michelle and I went to different elementary schools, but she was always invited to all my birthday parties and my sleepovers.  We went to the same junior high only because it was the only junior high.  Although we had a lot of the same classes and we hung out together, we truly had different cliches.  May be that is why we have survived all this time.  

We entered high school and definitely went our separate ways with regard to friends and hanging out.  We really didn't have too many classes together, but when we did we had a blast.  I remember having Michelle in Mrs. Biekman's science class.  Chad was in the class with us and man did we cause problems.  On the weekends and when we found time, we hung out.  

Our college years happened upon us and initially I went to another state, but returned to Arizona and spent the rest of my college days hanging out with Michelle almost daily on the benches of NAU.  She was the one who was with me when I decided upon piercing my belly button.  She was the one who attempted to put the new ring in, she was the one who attempted to repierce it, and was there years later when I almost passed out when I had it done a third time.  During our college years, we probably were the closest in all aspects of our friendship.  

We graduated from college and went on our ways both ending up in the Phoenix area.  Michelle was the one who found me my first apartment, which I sometimes still wish I lived in.  I was there on the mountain when she married Hector.  I was there when her children were born.  And vise versa, but I've been smart and haven't gotten married and pushed out children...but she's been there for me whenever I needed her.  

And then I got the job of a life time and left Arizona.  But since my family was still all there, I would often come back.  And when I did, we always went out to lunch or spent time together.  Usually with me handling her kids and giving her a break.  And like the statement above says, it was like we had just seen or spoken yesterday.  

When I received the telephone call her brother had passed away, there was no doubt in my mind that I was flying to be with the family.  And so I did.  

We've lived apart for many years now.  Only seeing each other about once a year.  I live in a no zone for cell phones, but she somehow talked me into getting text messaging.  And every week when I head into town for errands, we either text back and forth or give a quick call.  Occasionally we will send each other a card that we find that fits our friendship.

The last couple of weeks, we've missed each other.  When we finally talked yesterday, she jokingly said 'Am I still your friend?".  I said NO.   And we both laughed.  In the 33 years we have known each other, we have never had a fight of any kind.  We've never stopped being friends like so many teenagers do over the course of school years.  Her friends are so different from mine, but we all get along just fine when we hang out together.  Michelle and I are quite bossy with each other and during a particular outing with her friends, Michelle was bossing me around as she usually does. (Which is funny because I am 10 days older to the hour).  I can't remember the exact words, but one of her friends said something with reference how we berate each other.  And Michelle just laughed knowing full well that this was just part of our strong friendship.  

She is the truest of friends and I know in the coming months as I travel even farther away from Arizona that our friendship will not suffer and end in anyway.  If anything it will just grow stronger as I think I might be in a cell zone.  

So give your true friend a call today or drop a note just to say I'm still here and how are you....

Saturday, May 08, 2010


In 2005, I participated in my first Relay For Life event in H-town in California. I came in second place in raising the most money for our team. But it wasn't about me. The money I raised went for cancer research. Check out this link for more information regarding Relay For Life. The Relay monies help in the following ways:

Helping people stay well
Helping people get well
Finding cures
Fighting back

So far the Relay I am participating in has raised over $1500.00 and we still have 83 days to raise money. I think my donate page gives a good indication as to why I do this year after year after my first one in 2005, but nonetheless I'll tell you more....

Kevin Ross was a classmate of mine in high school. Nope, he wasn't someone I hung out with and would even call a friend. Hell, to be honest I didn't realize he was missing from half of my classes until he returned to school after his treatment. I remember like it was yesterday (not 20 years ago) how when he stepped on stage at graduation, the entire class stood and clapped. It was a very emotional graduation to say the least. He is doing well last time I heard.

I have three sisters who have beaten the cancer bug. Supposedly my father was a carrier of a 'cancer' gene. My oldest sister who recently beat breast cancer went through some genetic testing and that is how we found out. I like to think I am going to be the black sheep of the family and not get any form of cancer. I could go get tested to see if I have the gene, but I refuse. Primarily because I already wonder constantly if I am going to get cancer. If I went and got the test and I came back positive for that gene, I think every time I sneezed I would almost have a heart attack thinking I have cancer. Some people would want to know, but I want to live my life not worrying more than I already do.

My dad's companion (AKA: Girlfriend) of over 10 years, battled a form of cancer that would go into remission and then return. I do not know how she endured the treatments every several years. But she was a strong lady. I know because she used to kick my ass in tennis year after year.

In 2007, a coworker, Gary, was diagnosed with Cancer. He under went surgery in April and upon opening him up, realized the cancer was far worse than they thought. Immediately, I organized a Relay For Life team called Gary's Condors. Since we had so many people they made us split into two teams, but in realty we were one. We raised the most money for the cause because they made us split into two teams. I think we raised almost 4,000 dollars. But to me that night was not about the money.

The first lap of every Relay starts out with survivors walking the lap. Gary, fresh out of the hospital, may be a week, walked that lap and he led the lap. He walked many more after that before heading home. Most of our team stayed all night, taking turns walking, chatting, crying, laughing, and making a difference. Tim Graham walked the entire time we were there. And half the time it was raining, but no one went home. We had tents set up but no one used them to sleep. The energy of Relays is amazing. I can't remember what time the final lap was, but Gary's Condors had an amazing turn out including Gary leading us once again around the track. As you can tell by his webpage he lost the battle.

I walk and raise money for many reasons. But I ask you to donate because I know you know someone that has either beaten the hell out of the disease or unfortunately has gotten beaten by the disease. And the more we raise, the less people CANCER beats.

If you have made it this far in the reading, you might as well go to the site and donate. Thanks.

I reached my third goal of $700 so I bumped it up to $800. Now I am 88% away from reaching that goal.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Flight of the Condor

On a good given day I can witness this magnificent bird flying over where I live. It is a California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus)with a wing span of roughly 9 1/2 feet. Usually they are so far up in the sky that sometimes you aren't sure if you are looking at a small plane or a condor. Usually, capturing a photo this close isn't feasible, but I have contacts.

This is the start of the spring trap-up. The program captures all the birds (or attempts to) for medical checkups. Yep, just like you are supposed to go to the doctor once a year for your annual physical, the condors must go through the same.

Once they are trapped into a facility, they are captured with a net and then a serious of tests are conducted. The condors have blood drawn and a sample of that is tested for lead. Condors can die if they have a thumbnail size of lead in their system. If they have lead in their system then they are given a treatment to remove it. If their lead levels are extremely high, they are put into a dog kennel and whisked away to the zoo for more intense treatment. Besides the blood work, the entire body is check over and the feathers are measured and counted.

Do I need to give you a history? In the 80s, there were 22 condors left in the United States. Depending on who you talk to the number will vary, but I'll go with 22. They decided to save the bird by having a captive breeding program. Today, in the wild and captivity there are roughly 350. And more wild condors are starting to produce offspring. Matter of fact, where I work has a nest for the first time in 100 years. Progress is slow, but it is progress nonetheless.

So on Tuesday, I heard the radio call that a couple of birds had been trapped. Knowing that most of the crew was in SAR training, I volunteered my time to help out with their physicals.

And that is where photo above came from. As we approached the facility, there was a bird on the roof and it took off flying. The condor was about 20 feet above me when I snapped this photo. But it isn't so much the size of the bird that awes you. When a 9 1/2 foot wing span flies over you, the sound that is whistling through its wings is amazing and breathtaking. At that moment in time, every thing else in the world ceases and you hold your breath. Peace.

They are vultures. They eat dead things. And they aren't really handsome or beautiful. But after working with them for years they still take my breath away. People will often say they are ugly. The videographer said "they are so cute" and I had to chuckle because they do tend to be cute at times.

After we were able to get one adult male trapped up, he was held by one person as I head the feet and tail. He was beautiful. Yes, beautiful. His head was various colors--some red, some orange, flecks of black. Really it is hard to explain fully. Just as we were finishing up, he decided it would be a good thing to poop on my hand. Lets just say thank goodness for gloves.

But not many people can say that they have had an endangered species poop on their hand. Both birds came back with high lead levels and one was whisked to the zoo for further treatments.

So where are they getting the lead? Well since they are vultures, they eat dead things. And around here, we have hunters and ranchers galore. There is a ban on using lead ammunition for hunting in the area, but as always there have to be a couple of bad apples in the group. And when they leave their kill for the vultures (coyotes, turkey vultures, etc), the condors find it and ingest it. The program has had numerous condors die from lead poisoning. The ammunition battle is just one of many the condors face in becoming a population not regulated by humans.

I think this bird flying above was 375. They are all numbered and radio tagged so crew members can find them usually. Some of the birds even have GPS units on them which allows crew members to pinpoint their locations from downloaded data. In 2005, I had the great opportunity to work on the project for an entire year. But during that entire time, I never had a condor poop on my hand.