I spent today (and part of last night) in Woodstock, Maine for Pathfinder Leadership training. This is the church where the training is being held:

Woodstock Adventist Church

Woodstock Adventist Church

And here’s what I saw tonight as the sun was setting:
Sunset in Woodstock, ME
It has been pretty cold here so far. The thermometer in Melissa’s van read -8F as we headed from the church to the house where we are being lodged. It fluctuated too quickly for me to believe that number though, going from -8 to -4 in under a minute. It was cold enough to freeze the hair in my nose though, so maybe it was eight below.

We also had snow throughout most of the day. It didn’t amount to much, but it was pretty. And here I am without snowshoes (and with a full schedule).

David and I are supposed to write a script for Pathfinder Sabbath. We will present the worship service in its entirety in about a month, and that’s not a lot of time to pull off what we have planned. David and I made a rough outline last night, but that’s as far as we got. The kids wanted to make a movie. We compromised, and instead we will be doing a series of “television newscasts” from Egypt during the ten plagues. The news anchors will be behind a desk and live. The reporters “live on the scene” will all be pre-recorded. We will use the fearless kids for the live action, and the eager, but less fearless for the pre-recorded parts. This will require costumes, sets, and a ton of video editing. Then the live actors have to practice banter with the on-the-scene reporters. It is ambitious for the amount of time we have, but I think we can pull it off.

But first we have to write a script!

Yesterday some jeans I ordered from LL Bean came in. They are fleece lined, and my legs are loving them. Last month I bought some flannel-lined jeans, and they are warmer than regular jeans, but not nearly as nice as these fleecies. I wanted fleece and settled for flannel, because they didn’t have them in my size. The flannels didn’t fit in the waist (too tight or too loose? I’m not saying!) so I bumped them up (oops!) an inch and saw that they had them in that size.

We had some flurries earlier today. I don’t think they were in the forecast. A few minutes ago Penny asked to be let outside, so I obliged. When she came in again, her coat was covered in snow! Yay! They have now updated the forecast, and we are to expect 3.2 inches of snow. What a delightful surprise!

Tomorrow I am headed to Woodstock, Maine for a Pathfinder Leadership Training weekend. Eight staff members and teens from our club will be attending. I always look forward to these weekends, as they are packed with info, and I really like the other staff members in our conference. It’s nice to see them, especially when we don’t have our hands full watching a group of kids (other than the teens, but they are pretty well behaved and low-maintenance). This is a weekend for us.

The downside is that I’ll miss the company holiday party (and the free loot) and I’ll also miss time at/near home with daylight. That would have been nice because it would have allowed me to seek a new location for my geocache. Instead, that will have to wait another week.

Over the weekend, David and I went to Barre, VT for Pathfinder Leadership Training. It was a busy weekend. It started Friday with a snowstorm. I guess we got five inches or so. I decided to work from home until noon. By then it had quit snowing, so I cleared the driveway. We drove in to Concord because the citrus truck was due to be there around 3:00pm.

That in itself is somewhat notable. Normally, we do not order enough fruit to warrant a direct drop, and that was the case again this month. However, a school in Manchester and another in Westmoreland had ordered some, and we were all slated to pick up in Portland, ME (a 2.5 hour drive for me). But the fruit company looked at the map and since the three of us had 140 cases all together, and since they decided Concord was central to the three, they proposed that they drop the fruit here. I was not going to argue!

I got a call from the coordinator at Manchester saying they could not be there for the drop off. I stupidly agreed to unload their order for them and hold it for a day. I was expecting Westmoreland to show up though.

Anyhow, the truck did arrive around 3:00 in spite of the snowstorm, but our plow guy had not hit the parking lot at the church yet. So the driver refused to pull into it. Instead, he parked at Sam’s Club (next door), and we unloaded his truck into Ken’s truck – twice. So even though they delivered it to Concord, I still had to unload a truck twice. And on top of the, Westmoreland was late, and Manchester wasn’t going to show up at all. So our crew unloaded 140 cases twice. Then the guy from Westmoreland showed up, and we helped him load his van. That’s a lot of work just so we can sell 27.5 cases of citrus.

We labelled our boxes, and then David and I hopped in Melissa’s van (she’s one of my Pathfinder staff) and we drove to Vermont for the leadership weekend.

That went pretty well. The highlight was when a guy presented what his club had been doing over the past year. His club decided that they would write a bi-monthly newsletter and send it to the 1,300 soldiers in the Vermont National Guard who had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s 2,600 stamps, by the way – every month. They raised money to cover that. But that’s not even close to the most impressive thing they did. They also committed to helping out the soldier’s families back home.

Vermont is a small state, and Barre (which is where they were located) is right in the middle of the state. They can drive to any corner of VT in two hours. When soldiers deploy, their salary goes from whatever it was (and average of $50,000) to $20,000. That’s a pretty big pay cut. And there is often no one at home to pick up the slack. Who cuts the grass, fixes the car, takes the trash to the dump? Often it’s the soldier’s wife, but often, she is already overwhelmed. So sometimes stuff just doesn’t get done.

Enter the Central Vermont Regiment Pathfinder Club. They approached several businesses (including Sherwin Williams & Aubuchon Hardware), and got them to agree to provide paint & materials to do home repairs. They sometimes drove two hours (each way) every week to cut one woman’s grass (a 30 minute job). They fixed cars. They hauled trash to the dump. They finished siding a house. Their director was putting in about 30 hours per week doing this for 10 months until the troops came home again in December.

They raised over $200,000 dollars in cash, goods, and services. All I have to say about that is “Wow.”

Saturday night we ended up playing basketball until 11:30 pm. Four teens against four old people (I count myself in that group). We spanked the teens. The score was roughly 20 to infinity. 🙂 I am still paying for that though. I am very sore, but I’m sure none of the teens are, so one could rightly ask who really won that.

We drove back to Concord after lunch. Va met us at the church, and David went home with her, while Beth stayed at the church with me to keep me company while people came to pick up their fruit. At 7:00pm, we went to Taco Bell, grabbed some food to go, and headed home. I went to bed around 9:00 exhausted.

The seminars this morning were pretty interesting. I had been worried that I’d have trouble staying awake during them, but that turned out to be no problem.

At the end of the sessions, I filled out a Myers-Briggs personality test, and found (as I expected), that I fit the typical engineer’s profile: INTJ. I guess I’m in good company, as the following people are considered INTJ’s as well: Sir Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Niels Bohr, and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The seminars wrapped up at noon. We had lunch, and then the boys and I set out for home. We stopped in Gorham, NH so I could let Jonathan drive (he can legally drive only in NH). I stayed awake for most of the drive, but did doze a bit after we left the White Mountains. I tried to take a few pictures from the car, but a moving, salt encrusted vehicle does not provide optimal conditions for photography. This one wasn’t too bad:

White Mountains

White Mountains

Oh, and before I forget – on the way to Maine this morning, as I was coming through the Whites, I saw a huge moose standing on the shoulder of the road. I think that if it had let me, and if I had dared, I could have walked up to it, and not been able to reach the hump of his shoulders. It was one massive moose!

Anyhow. We got home a little before 4:00. I took a nap, but had to force myself to get up so I wouldn’t sleep through bedtime. If I had, I’d have woken up again at 3:00am or something, and I really need to try to get back on a sane sleeping schedule.

So far everything has gone as per the plan. I did ask one of the people here if she would pick the boys up from the lodging this morning, and she said she would if I got her directions to the place. Hmmm – the only directions I had were on the GPS, and I didn’t want to hand that over because I didn’t think I could get back here today without it. So I dropped it.

I got up at 4:15am and was on the road by 4:30. I arrived to pick up the boys at 7:30, and they told me that Elaine was coming. She is a reliable enough person that she took it upon herself to find directions. I could have slept an extra hour.

Oh well!

The baptism went off as planned yesterday too, and Va and I enjoyed the company party. BUt now the training sessions are about to start again, so… later!

Today marked the beginning of a new routine, mostly for Jonathan, but really, it affects the whole family. Jonathan had to get up at the same time as Beth, Va, and I. (Actually, I always stay in bed for about another 10 minutes.) He rode in to Concord with us, and we dropped Beth off at school.

Then I dropped him off at NHTI. As I was about to drive off, he flagged me down. He had forgotten his student ID, which is a free pass to use Concord’s bus/trolley system. I fished out some cash and gave it to him, then I went on to work.

His first class didn’t start for another hour (at 9:00), and it ended a bit before 11:00, just after the trolley left the campus. So he had to wait until 11:30-ish to catch the next one downtown. From there he walked to my office, and we went to eat at Subway (the restaurant, not a mass transit system). Then back to my office. We found an empty one where he could camp out and do his math homework. He also spent some time figuring out his schedule and entering it into his laptop. Meanwhile, I worked.

We rode home together at 4:30. Tomorrow he’ll ride home with Va. Of course, this leaves David at home alone with just Penny for company, but I imagine he’ll manage OK.

This weekend has some incredibly complex logistics. Jonathan, David, and I are going to Woodstock, ME for Pathfinder Leadership Training. We will meet two other PF staff members from our club there, Melissa and Jessica. It’s a three hour drive from my house, so after I get off work, I’ll swing by the house, pick up the boys, and off we go. Hopefully, we’ll get there by 7:30 when it starts. We’ll spend the night at the home of some church members from up there whom we haven’t ever met.

In the morning, we’ll go back to Leadership Training. After the morning session, I will drive to Concord again so I can be there to see four of my Pathfinders get baptized. Melissa will ride with me because she has something she needs to do Saturday night. After the baptism I’ll go home and spend the last bit of the Sabbath there with Va and Beth. Then we take Beth to the neighbor’s house where she will have a sleep-over, and Va and I will go to my company’s holiday party.

Meanwhile in Maine, Jessica and the boys will attend the afternoon and evening sessions of the training, and then Jessica will transport Jonathan and David to the home of our hosts where they will spend the night. Luckily, Jonathan is 18 now, so I’ll have an adult there to manage the minor. Then Jessica drives back to NH because she has to work Sunday morning.

I can’t stay at the party too long, because I’ll have to get up at like… 4:00am. groan. That way I can be back in Maine to get the boys at 7:30. We’ll go back to Leadership and have breakfast and attend the morning sessions. Melissa will come back as well, but on her own. She’d have to get up at 3:00 if we were to drive up together. Then after lunch, we’ll all come back home again, probably exhausted. Here’s a graphical summary:

Graphical representation of the weekend travels

Left to right (at top), Melissa, Jessica, Me, Jonathan, David, Va, Beth

I think that’s about 14 hours of driving for me this weekend. So I am unlikely to post here until Sunday, and even then, I might not, as I could be pretty tired!

Today went pretty much as I outlined it in yesterday’s post. We arrive in Portland a little after 1:00pm. I was scheduled to teach at 2:30, but they had gotten behind by 30 minutes. That left me with two hours of free time. Beth and I changed clothes, and I hauled all my supplies into the room where my session was to be held. Then I took Penny for a walk. There is a long trail behind the Portland church running parallel to a new road in a new development. So Penny and I ambled down that way. It’s maybe a half mile long, and probably less than that. I was delighted to find several squirrel and mouse tracks, so I knew we’d have a shot at casting some.

Penny enjoyed the walk too, helpfully bringing me sticks to throw. I got back to the church, put Penny in her crate in the car, and then went inside. I sat in on a session led by Bill Wood, the Union Pathfinder Director (Union is the next level in the hierarchy up from the Conference). Beth sat next to me and listened as he presented his PowerPoint slides. Beth turned the pages in my handout (which was really just a copy of Bill’s slides). When that ended, it was time to work on Animal Tracking.

I had prepared for 19 students (it would have been 20, but I botched the first set of photocopies) and I had eight. I’m not complaining – I would rather have too many handouts than not enough. Four of the eight attendees were kids, and they didn’t seem terribly interested. That is, of course, a mystery to me since I find tracking so fascinating.

Of the four adults who were there, one had already earned the honor. I was afraid that almost all the attendees would have it already, so I had decided to focus on how to teach the honor rather than on the honor itself. I kinda did both, once I had an idea of what my audience was like.

First we went over some of the theory parts. I showed several of the photos I’ve taken over the past couple of years. Then we headed out to the trail and cast some of the tracks I had seen earlier. There’s no way they would set up before we left, and in fact, I’m not positive these will be successful. It was very cold outside, so the joint compound may have simply frozen before it could do any setting. I’m not sure how that will affect the casts. Maybe when they take them inside, they will simply reliquify. Hope not!

Then we went back in to warm up a bit and talked about telling dog and cat tracks apart, and telling squirrel and rabbit tracks apart. We also covered hopping vs walking birds, and plantigrade vs digitigrade walkers (that is, flatfoots vs toe-walkers).

Then we went back outside with some tempera paint so we could afflict poor Penny. Just as we did in the summer, I poured some tempera paint in a paper plate. I lifted Penny, and Peter (a friend of mine from the Limington Lantern’s Pathfinder Club) dipped her paws in the paint. Then I took her for a short walk. We repeated this and I took Penny for a short run. Then we measured the distance between the tracks. Check off that requirement!

We went in again, and that was pretty much the whole honor. I started gathering up my casts, and in short order, Beth and I were ready to bug out.

I asked David to go and collect our casts in the morning, and he said he would. But just to be on the safe side, I told Va that I had asked him to do that. She will help him remember.

One cool thing Va told me was that in one of the classes she went to, they presented my Wikibooks project as a highly recommended resource. That’s what it’s there for! Many of the people there already knew about it and sang its praises. Woot!

Beth and I headed out at around 5:30 I guess. We stopped at McDonald’s because they had an indoor playground. Beth was so well behaved that I decided I would endure the food and let her play a bit. But not for too long. We left around 6:00, and got home at 8:30.

I was supposed to swing by Ken’s house and pick up his pickup so I could fetch the fruit tomorrow. But it was so late and I had so many things crammed into my car, I decided to swing by in the morning instead. I didn’t really savor the idea of unloading my stuff twice when once would be enough. I called, but his phone was busy. I finally got through when we got home.

So tomorrow, Beth and I will get up bright an early (actually, it will not be bright yet). We’ll gnarf down some breakfast and hustle over to Ken’s to get his truck, then hustle over to Keene to get the fruit. I am really looking forward to my tangelos.

That’s about enough for tonight. Thank you both for reading!

According to my thermometer, it got down to -17°F overnight. It was -13° when I got up, so I guess we had something of a heat wave sometime during the night.

After I dropped the kids off at school and headed to the office, I came across a disabled vehicle on the exit ramp from I-93. The left front tire was shredded. It looked like one of those retreads you see cast from semi-trucks on the side of the highway sometimes, but I don’t think this was a retread. The tread was completely separated from the side walls. I can’t help but think that maybe -17° mighta had something to do with that, but I don’t know for sure.

There was frost on the window sill in my office, but it was warm enough at my desk that that didn’t bother me. Also, I didn’t have time today to think about frost or cold. As soon as I sat down, things got real busy. I had to review all the information we had gathered for the 9:30 meeting, and I guess that went OK. I was only asked one question that I had no clue about, and that was a “when will feature X,” which I had never heard of, “be ready?” My answer was “I have no idea,” and that was good enough. It was a low priority item.

After the meeting I was working furiously right through the afternoon. I called Va to find out what time Sabbath began (4:37), because it looked like I was going to have to work right up until then (I would not have worked past then). I told her I would prolly work until 4:30 then. At 4:00 we thought we had all the problems licked, but another one surfaced at 4:05. I knew it would take more than 25 minutes to resolve, so I promised to come in after 5:00 tomorrow.

Which is a bummer. A bunch of my friends from church are getting together at the Raquet Club about then, and I’ll hafta miss it. I’ll probably drop the boys off though so they can get in some basketball. Then I’ll go right back to the office, and maybe finish off that last problem. We’re supposed to deliver a card to a customer on Monday, and it has to pass all the tests before then. There’s a bug in that last test, so I’ll go in to hunt it down.

I got home right about sunset. Beth ambushed me with her report card, which was pretty good. All I’s and P’s. Whatever that means. (I think P’s are good and I’s are all the way good.) She needs to work on her handwriting and is having a bit of trouble adding and subtracting when that involves carrying or borrowing.

I sat down with her last night with a stack of dimes and pennies, and we went over it. I think that “borrowing” is a really bad term for that particular subtraction operation, and suggested to her that “getting change from the bank” was better terminology. Basically, we were trading in a dime for ten pennies so we would have enough pennies to make change. I think she got that, but we’ll see how she does on her math work next week.

This quarter in Sabbath School, I have been talking about winter animals. I’ve already talked about the black bear and the red fox. Tomorrow I’ll talk about the gray squirrel. I thought it might be nice to bring in a cast of a squirrel track containing both the hind and forefeet, but I don’t have one. So I went out in the yard after supper to see if I could find one in good enough shape to cast. Except I didn’t. There were several tracks, but they were either eroded so badly, or misshapen, that I decided to skip the required effort. I’ll just show them some photos of tracks instead. I might also scout around the church tomorrow and see if there are any squirrel tracks in the vicinity. I’m sure that the kids would love to go outside and look at them if it’s still -17°.

I got word today that our January fruit delivery should happen on Sunday morning, Jan 25. That means I will be teaching Animal Tracking on the Saturday afternoon of the Pathfinder Leadership Training session next weekend.

Last night I started to put together a list of supplies I’ll want to bring with me (including the dog and all her accoutrements). It’s a lengthy list. I’ll spend some time during the week making a slide presentation too, but I think most of what we do will be activity-based, not lecture-based. Also, my intent is to share with the folks there how they can teach the honor to their kids (including tips on casting tracks in the snow). Beth and I will have to leave church as soon as it’s over next week, hop in the car, and hustle over to Portland, ME so I’ll be there on time.

Tomorrow at church I’m slated to tell the children’s story, and I still haven’t selected one. I guess I’d better get on that!