Halfway There

12for2012 Ballroom DancingI’m at the halfway point in my quest to learn 12 new things and do 12 charitable things this year.

Unicycling, slack lining, jumping stilts, yarn bombing, and drumming have now been checked off, with ballroom dancing and eating right being works in progress on the learning side. That leaves 5 more to be accomplished. (Paragliding has been tentatively scheduled to begin at the end of July.)

SugarOn the giving side, I’ve built homes, fostered a puppy, volunteered to donate bone marrow, did graphic design work for a mitzvah and next Sunday will donate 400 square feet of knitting to Warm Up America, while having my blood, sperm and hair rejected. That leaves 7 more to be accomplished. (I become eligible again to donate blood on December 25th so that will likely be GR12.)

Duneier SlackliningThis is where you come in. I need suggestions for the remaining 12. Is there something you have been wanting to learn, but aren’t ready to take the leap? Is there something you would like to try, but worried it will be too difficult or time consuming? Use me as your guinea pig. Let me pave the way. Is there something you’ve learned that you think others should try too? Is there a charity you know of that could use a hand? Tell me how I can help.

Send me your suggestions. Share your thoughts.

Thanks!

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Chip Off the Old Block

My parents came to town for my daughter’s graduation and I took full advantage of it by bringing my father up to speed on my 12for2012 progress.

Grandpa UnicyclingGrandpa UnicyclingGrandpa DrummingGrandpa Using Jumping StiltsGrandpa Thankful to be done with Jumping Stilts

LR2 Update: Slackline Turnaround

Progress! Today I was able to turnaround on the slackline for the first time.

GR2: Mission Accomplished

She came into our lives only a few days ago, but she will forever be a part of all us in this house. Sugar, a beautiful 10 week old white Boxer mix, came to us after being taken from a negligent home where she was malnourished, infested with fleas and riddled with worms. Her 5 sisters and she were due to be euthanized in Camarillo when DAWG SB, a no-kill shelter, stepped in and rescued them all. A friend of Barbara’s forwarded her a plea she’d seen on Facebook asking for people to foster the puppies. Barbara asked, “Would this satisfy your giving resolution?”

The Giving Resolutions, defined as doing charitable things that don’t involve writing a check, were intended to “inspire others and myself to be more caring and considerate by gaining a new perspective. It’s an attempt to pierce the bubble of my world.” Sugar, her sisters, the other foster parents, DAWG volunteers, my family, my Facebook friends & their friends, and Ulyana & her family all played a role in helping me do exactly that.

In just a couple of days we rid Sugar of the fleas, fattened her up a bit, finished with the worms, taught her a few tricks and gave her enough love to make sure that all of that bad stuff would be nothing but a distant memory as she goes off to live on a big property with a family that is excited to pick up where we left off.

I’m not going lie, it was hard to say goodbye, and my son requested that I keep him out of future giving resolutions that involve fostering, because saying goodbye was just too hard on him. We’ll miss you Sugar!

Sugar with Me

Me and Sugar

Sugar with Barb

Sugar with Barb

Masie and Sugar

Masie and Sugar

Jackson and Sugar

Jackson and Sugar

SugarSugar

GR2: Sugar Needs a Home

20120303-093216.jpg

As much as I keep reminding myself not to get attached, it’s hard not to. Sugar is such a sweet girl and so smart. In no time at all she has learned to respond to her name and a brief, distinct whistle. She’s so easy to potty train and gets along with everyone in the family, especially Stella!, our 95 pound Italiano Spinone.

I won’t deny it’s hard work training a new puppy, especially knowing I won’t be reaping the benefits. The 1am walks, the weaning away from her mom and sisters, it’s a traumatic time for a puppy and the hardest few days of owning a dog. At 1:30 am this morning, with Sugar sighing loudly in her sleep next to me and me expressing my frustration with not finding her a home, Barb asked me if I was sorry I took on the task. Truth is, I’m not.

This is precisely what I was looking for when I made the Giving Resolution. Writing a check to the shelter would have been much easier, but this experience has already changed me and given me a new perspective. I got a glimpse into the lives of shelter workers and discovered a whole group of people I didn’t even know existed, the fosters. One woman I met has fostered and found homes for 35 puppies who had been sentenced to death.

When I see Sugar running around playing with Stella, I think to myself, “I did that.” She was slated to be put down 3 days ago, when I and 3 other volunteers plus the DAWG shelter rescued her whole family. I can’t save every dog and may never foster again, but the experience, and Sugar, have enriched my life. I think it’s made me a better person already.

PS Please help Sugar find a loving home. She is a 10 week old boxer / pitty mix. Send me a message, share a link to this blog, and/or join her “Sugar Needs a Home” facebook page. Even if you’re halfway around the world from Santa Barbara, it can help. Think six degrees of separation.

GR2: Foster the Puppy

Pitty Boxer mix

Take me home!

Today we picked up an 8 week old pitty boxer puppy we have named “Sugar”. (Isn’t that what all boxers go by?) Sugar is part of a litter that was recently rescued from a neglectful home with her 5 sisters and parents. She’ll be staying with us until either we or Dawg can find her a permanent home. She has such a sweet temperament and quickly settled in with Stella, Sadie and the kids.

If you know anyone looking for a cute, well behaved puppy like Sugar, please contact me. By the time she leaves us she will be house broken, well trained and socialized.

How can you resist that face?

Please adopt me!

LR1: Spreading the Unicycle Bug

I have become the Mr. Miyagi of unicycling, spreading the gospel to anyone who will give it a try. While it took Jackson and I days to learn how to ride, we lacked the advantage of having any clue what to do. Just how much of a disadvantage that was came to light as we taught my nieces and nephews how to ride on our trip to Florida.

If you’re going to try it for yourself, here is my advice. 1) Just do it. 2) Lose your fear. Nothing stands in the way of progress more than fear of falling/failing. 3) Err forward. If you fall, make sure it’s because you leaned too far forward. 4) Pedal. Especially when you feel like you’re about to fall, keep pedaling. 5) Pedal. Unicycles wont move unless you pedal (you can’t glide) and like a bike, its hard to stay up if you’re not moving. 6) Put your arms out to balance yourself. The inclination is to hold onto something like a person, wall or even the seat. Don’t. All of this will only impede your progress. 7) Look where you want to go. Just like driving, snowboarding and cycling, wherever you look, thats where you’re going.

To see the proper starting position check out Jackson’s video at How To Do Random Stuff Now

Follow these simple instructions and you will be riding within an hour, just like Matt was in the video below.

LR1&2: Mid-February Progress Update Updated

Includes slacklining and off-road unicycling.

LR3: Jumping Stilts

It seems like there is no common name for these contraptions. Some call them “Boks” because they look like the legs of a Springbok, but the most common name I’ve found on the Internet is “jumping stilts” and after trying them for the 1st time, it’s also the most sensible name for them. I’ve seen them sporadically from afar over the past couple of years and always wanted to try them, but it never seemed to happen. The Learning Resolution provides the perfect opportunity for me to pull the trigger and truth is, that’s kind of the point in it, to get me off my ass and do some of the things I’ve often wanted to do, but never did.

Once my Powerizers arrived in the mail, I had to run out and get wrist guards, elbow and knee pads before getting up on them. I ran to the closest sporting goods store (we don’t have the big chain stores in Santa Barbara) and picked up a set of pads for $19.99. I wore them for the first outing but had zero confidence that they would help in any way should I need them. That’s why, as you’ll see in the video, I refused to make an attempt on them without holding onto either a car or my son. The next day I drove to Sports Authority in Goleta for a proper set of pads and look forward to giving it a real go this afternoon.

Giving Resolution 2(b): Donate Sperm – REJECTED!

 

I’m starting to get a complex. It seems no one, not even those begging for donors, want anything I have to offer. The Blood Bank turned me away because I’d been to Haiti on vacation and now the Sperm Bank rejects me because I’m too old. WTF?!? Tony Randall has a kid at 78, but my sperm is inferior because I’m over 38?

They say the problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard, but they’re wrong. As infertility becomes more common and gay marriage finally becomes a norm, the sperm banks are quickly becoming the gene pool’s self-designated lifeguards. But are they qualified?So who do you want propagating the species, 37 year old guys who need to sell their sperm for cash or a 44 year old, health conscious, fit, blue-eyed, six foot tall, 175 pound, employed, caring father, without a criminal record, NYU MBA with a zest for life?

This giving resolution is harder than I thought. No wonder most people just write checks.

GR1: Building Homes

It begins with what is supposed to be a 550 mile drive from Santa Barbara to Tonto National Forest in Arizona, but thanks to errant directions from the GPS it’s now an 850 mile drive with a detour through Tucson. I’m making great time and around 8:00pm with just 15 miles from where I think I am stopping for the night, I have a casual dinner at Swenson’s. Minutes later I realize I’ve made a horrible mistake, having driven 150 miles out of the way. I reverse course and get back to where I should have turned off originally, but now it’s almost midnight. Exhausted, I give up on getting to the campsite tonight and with the help of the “Around Me” app on my iPhone, find a Comfort Inn with availability for the night.

Duffy at the front desk informs me that not only is his hotel full, but all hotels in the area are booked thanks the Barrett-Jackson car auction being in town. He calls around as a favor to me, but to no avail. I ask what’s up the road from here, thinking I can make it a little further to the next town, but find out there is nothing between here and the campsite except cacti and dirt, with the campsite being another 100 miles into the middle of nowhere. I let my wife know that I have no other option but to drive on into the night. “I wish I drank coffee,” I say to her. She suggests I drink some soda at least for a caffeine pick-me-up. I guzzle two bottles of Mountain Dew for maximum caffeinage before getting a follow up call from her saying she found me a room at the local Holiday Inn. I lie in bed until 2am hopped up on caffeine, with my alarm set for a 6am wake up.

Tonto National Forest

Tonto National Forest

The drive into Tonto National Park at Sunrise with “La Grange” by ZZ Top blasting on the radio and passing places like Whiskey Springs and Kitty Joe Creek is manna for anyone who loves the Old West.

It’s 8am when I arrive at the Grapevine Group Site on Roosevelt Lake in Tonto National Forest. I’m the first to arrive, or so I thought. Turns out the rest of the tent assemblers arrived at 2am and were sleeping in their RVs nearby.

Roosevelt Lake

Roosevelt Lake

Four adults and three kids, we erect nearly 50 tents for the 160+ other volunteers who will be arriving around 2am tonight. It is exhausting work, with many of the tents incomplete, broken or lacking instructions, but we get it done. I installed my slackline in a perfect spot away from the many spiky cacti.

Tent City

Tent City

The kids arrive in the dark after a 10 hour drive, exhausted and cranky. Seven hours until breakfast and the 30 minute drive to Apache Nation.

We are broken up into 7 groups of 24 kids and 3 adult supervisors. Each group is shuttled to a different work site, each building a different family a new home. Upon arrival, our site has nothing but a few stakes in the ground and some string hanging between them to mark to outline of the home’s foundation.

The adults, all construction professionals except me, go through the plans and begin to dole out tasks for the kids. Over the coming days we will lay the foundation and install the underground plumbing.

Framing the Foundation

Framing the Foundation

Around midnight, after our first full day of work on the sites, our makeshift tent city is punished by gale force winds knocking down half the tents on the kids, snapping tent poles and shredding two beyond repair. I spend Day 2 back at the campsite reassembling tents, duct taping poles and canvas, and generally attempting to bring order back for the kids, so they’ll have a place to rest their weary heads.

The organizer of this effort is Amor Ministries (www.amor.org) and its founders Gayla and Scott Congdon are an inspiration to me. After witnessing poverty on college junkets, these two have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of others. They’ve built thousands of homes for the needy in Mexico and are now committed to building 1600 homes for the Apaches of Arizona. What I came away with is not so much a dedication to this particular cause, but to the simple idea that individuals can make a big difference. You just have to make the effort and be committed.

Learning Resolution #2: Slacklining

Duneier Slacklining

Slacklining

I recently went to the Reel Rock Film Festival at UCSB, and both my son and I were most amazed by the short about Sketchy Andy’s (aka Skandy) slacklining escapades. Then last week, while shopping for camping gear at REI, my son spotted the slackline box and although I initially dismissed it as a possibility for the Learning Resolution, his pressure and my curiosity got the best of me. Truth is, it satisfies the requirements perfectly, so I’m giving it a shot. Hey, the way this resolution is playing out, I may have a future as a Carny.

 

Giving Resolution #2 REJECTION!

Duneier in Haiti

Labadee, Haiti

I went to the donor bank with the best of intentions. I answered all the probing questions, had my blood pressure taken, got my finger pricked and temperature taken. Then with the answer to the most innocuous question of all, I was summarily rejected. Have you been out of the country in the past 12 months? “Yes, I was on a cruise that went to Jamaica, Mexico and Haiti,” I answered. “Thank you and have a nice day,” she said. Turns out Haiti is a Malaria risk and as such, if you’ve been there in the past 12 months, by federal law you cannot donate blood. Bummer!

Giving Resolution #2: Donate Blood

I was watching an episode of Breaking Bad recently where one of the main characters, a police officer, is lying in the hospital after suffering multiple gunshot wounds. In one of the scenes the camera shot sweeps across all these chairs where other cops are all donating blood to help their comrade in arms. My first thought was the one they had hoped to evoke, “wow, a brotherhood of men and women who all come together to support their fellow officers in a time of need.” Then I thought about how the rest of the hospital is filled with other people who may be in similar need of that same blood, yet no mob of supporters had appeared for any of them. I wondered, “Why hadn’t those police officers been showing up regularly to donate for all their fellow man? ” Actually, why was I picking on the police? Who was I to be critical of anyone, after all, I’ve never donated blood. Period.

Today I rectify that error.

GR1: Build Homes

My 1st entry into the “Giving” category of this year’s resolutions will come in 2 weeks, when I travel to the Apache Nation in San Carlos, Arizona to help build homes for families in need. I will be accompanied by Jackson and a group of students and faculty from Santa Barbara High’s MAD Academy.

Duneier in Arizona

I’ll head out a day ahead to help set things up and then spend a week camping out under the stars and swinging a hammer 14 hours a day. I’ve wanted to do a project like this for a long time and so really looking forward to the experience (and the drive out there, top down, doors off in the Jeep).

Learning Resolution #1: Unicycling


Unicycling

Unicycling is something I’ve always thought looked really cool. It’s the epitome of the quirky things people marvel at, but rarely attempt. That’s why it was just perfect for this resolution.

I had no idea where to begin and don’t know anyone who has any clue either. That led my son and I down to the local bike shop where we had seen unicycles for sale, and often contemplated purchasing one, but never pulled the trigger. We bought one suited for his size figuring we could share it. He’s about 5’4″ and I’m just a hair over 6′. We went for the 20″, which according to the kid behind the counter is the standard size for beginners.

My son spent a couple of hours following the suggestions of a single youtube tutorial for beginning unicyclists, cycling back and forth while holding on to the back of a bench. The next day I joined him, this time on our driveway using the garage door for balance. In his limited experience, he became convinced you can’t fall off a unicycle and get hurt so in our early attempts we went without helmets or pads. One trip to the floor convinced me otherwise and we quickly added helmets.

Over lunch we referred back to YouTube and watched several tutorials which offered far better advice than the original. Armed with this information we took to the local elementary school’s basketball court for a smoother, flatter surface. My son, Jackson’s skill level exploded. He was flying up the learning curve while I was singing his praises in soprano.

It quickly became apparent this unicycle was too small for me and I was torn between getting a more appropriate 24″ thereby improving my odds of success versus staying with the 20″ and maintaining my excuse. After much coaxing from Jackson, we made a second trip to the bike shop and acquired our second unicycle.

It made a big difference. Now instead of falling after just one rotation, I made it to four. Whoopee!

Day 2 we decided to change venues again. We spied the slick surface of the outdoor roller hockey rink at the local YMCA and inquired at the front desk whether we could utilize it for training. They were perplexed. No one had ever asked about unicycling there. The manager asked for some time to inquire with the higher ups, while the kid at the front desk asked, “Whats the difference between that and rollerblading?” We later got approval and an awesome venue for continuing our training.

Within minutes Jackson was learning to turn and riding at will, while I simply found a smoother surface on which to break my falls. For every effortless rotation he made while my progress sputtered my frustration level ticked a notch higher. I kept thinking, “maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Day 3, we returned to the elementary school playground (the rink was being used) where kids were playing soccer and soccer moms were looking on. For the first time we enjoyed the benefits of an audience. Every time the cycle would snap back into my crotch or a pedal would smash into my shin, there was at least one other person  whose expression would empathetically mimic my own. It was equal parts humiliating and encouraging. Jackson was now offroading and doing circles, while my great leap forward was getting from the basketball hoop to half court. It may not sound like much, but I gotta say, Im finally feeling as though Im making some progress. My muscles are beginning to understand their individual roles and working together to make this happen. I truly believe I am on the verge of “getting this”. So far the only injury would be sore knees.

Day 4, some real progress. I pulled my groin muscle early on and for some reason, from that moment on I was really starting to ride. Could it be whatever I started doing to compensate actually brought things in line? In any event, today I experienced for the first time what it feels like to truly ride a unicycle. For brief moments I was as relaxed as I am when riding a bike. Those moments still don’t last more than a few seconds, but the progress is tangible. I’m actually starting to enjoy it. Oh, and not to be outdone, Jackson cycled the entire length of a basketball court while carrying a basketball, and then put it in via a layup!!!

For those of you anxious to learn, I highly recommend Step 1 should be to watch the brief video on howtodorandomstuffnow