Cheap fix

By: Mrs. Swarr

I have been putting off any blogs because the ones that need written really require pictures. Unfortunately our camera card reader has stopped working (the one that we have only used once). For now I'll have to write sans pictures, and if I'm super lucky, I can get the card reader working and the pictures updated.

The first item of business is our pet situation. Being devastated as I was about losing Oliver, I conceded one day to a family trip to the Lancaster Humane League. The argument was that Declan had been extra good and looking at a bunch of cats in cages would be a special treat for him. My condition: "We are absolutely not getting a cat today."

Let me tell you, getting married, having a son, and needing to take responsibility for everything in my life might have turned me into a cruel, stone hearted witch, but when I crash, I crash hard. The moment we stepped into the room of playful kittens and snuggly cats begging to be adopted, I knew we would be making an addition to the family that day.

I told one of the do-good high school girls what I was looking for in a cat and she immediately told me which one was for us. So I went into a room full of free roaming cats to check the proffered cat out. He was fine, but nothing special - just a cat, and after Oliver, there was no way I would be settling for just a cat.

Enter Teena. Little white and black cat that decided my lap was the perfect place to cozy up and relax. That was all it took. We informed do-good high school girl of our intentions and in response we received, "No, you don't mean Teena, she's not friendly. All she ever does is hide in the litter box. Show me which one you were holding." Ha!! In your face! Teena doesn't like your teeny bopper ways, but let me tell you, she is all about a 3 year old dragging her around by her neck!!!

Needless to say, the first thing we did (even before getting her home) was change the name. Teena became Lucy about 2 months ago and has since survived numerous vet appointments, many traumatizing moments with Declan, and some very harsh words from me after she peed on our bed. She's actually turned out to be pretty nice. We still have a few kinks to work out, but she is very sweet and snuggly and puts up with Declan regularly. With age and practice, she might just live up to Oliver standards. Either way, she has definitely helped to fill the space he left in our home.

Snow Day

By: Mrs. Swarr

There are days that I will complain about having to leave work every single time Declan is sick, vomits because he ate lunch too fast, feels hot because (duh) he just woke up, or his daycare just doesn't feel like being open that day any more. Don't let me fool you. What could possibly be better than a fool-proof excuse to ditch work and hang out with the coolest 3 year old on the block? Seriously. The work will still be there tomorrow and praise the Lord if it isn't, but Declan is growing up so stinkin fast. Those days when its just me and him hanging out at home waiting for Daddy to join us - they're the best.

Declan's daycare just called and is closing. The weather sucks today, our cars and the roads are coated with ice, and I'm dreading the drive home that will likely be extended to 2 hours due to said ice, but I'm leaving in an hour and then - then the day is ours baby!

The Bus Rocks

By: Mrs. Swarr

Last week I dropped Declan off at school in the morning and was told he may be able to join the older kids for their field trip to a puppet show. This was a pretty big deal being his first trip out and first bus ride and first puppet show... but it was still uncertain if there would be an extra space for him.

I waited anxiously all day, wondering what tales our little man would have to tell later that night, if any. At home that night, we asked Declan all sorts of questions: "Did you go anywhere special today?" "Did you get to play with the older kids today?" etc. The answer to all was an uninterested 'no'. Sadly, Declan must not have been able to go.

Or so we thought. The next morning on the way to school we passed a school bus and Declan piped up, "Mommy I rode on a school bus!" I think he may have peed himself in fear with my uproarious, "What?!" (its ok he still wear diapers so no harm done) (except that he's still in diapers which totally sucks).

So after lots of questions, I discover that he had gone to the puppet show, had ridden the school bus, and hadn't told us. Honestly. Apparently Declan isn't to sure about Marionettes though. I asked him if he had fun and all I got was, "eh, sort of." Seems there was a scary monster that died (did you know there was a monster in Cinderella??), but the school bus was fun (duh, he got to sit next to Isabel).

So there he goes, having adventures, doing new things and mom and dad are oblivious. Maybe we'll book him for a communication class.

The Red Violin

By: Mrs. Swarr

First I want to warn you all against the rapid decline in quality writing in the Swarr Family blog. Why? The great writer of the family and composer of said blog (Zach) has decided it is time for him to move on and try new things. i.e. I told him to get up off his *** and make something of himself by doing some real writing. Okay that's not quite how it went down, but you get the idea. So from now on, I (wife of good writer) (who in contrast happens to have no writing talent) will be in charge of updating you on the family's goings on. And here my friends, is the kind of stuff I get excited about:

We bought a painting. At my urging. Me. Miss penny pinching, tight wadded, stodgy scrooge authorized the spending of many dollars on an item that does not fit into the category of "absolutely necessary for continued survival on Earth." What the hell? I give Zach a hard time for spending an extra $2 on brand name shampoo! But I couldn't help it. We do stupid things when we're in love. Here is the love story of me and my painting:

My father-in-law is an artist. Some of
his stuff I like, some of it is not as much my favorite (did I skirt around that one well enough?). Well.... the moment I saw the Red Violin (the name I lovingly attached to her) I knew I had been ruined and would never truly love again. She was not complete when we first met, but that didn't stop my heart from fluttering.

Like the start of all relationships, this one started out with a lot of doubt. 'She's too good for me' and 'She deserves a better wall than what I can provide for her' and 'What if she meets someone else'. Nevertheless I continued to visit her in Dad's studio. I even went to see her when she was moved to a gallery to display herself for anyone who dared walk by (the little slut). Jealousy ensued, but I was reserved to the fact that a Lititz art snob could give her a better home than I ever could.

Weeks went by and we saw each other only in passing. We exchanged pleasantries, but the atmosphere was cool to say the least. Then came the studio tour in which I knew she would yet again be displaying herself to the world. I was prepared to deal with it, until we got to Dad's studio and saw the crushing news: All Items 50% Off. What?! At least before she was demanding a decent rate! How could she whore herself out like this? I left in a rage of disappointment and confusion. Now any slum could walk in off the street and leave with her on his arm - it was anyone's guess what kind of life she would end up in. Through my hurt and anger, I simply knew I could not let that happen. Zach and I were well on our way when I finally spoke the words I had been hiding from for so long, "Honey, we need to buy her." I prepared for a long discussion with arguments worthy to convince him that it was for the best, but all I got was, "Okay. You'd better call Dad or it'll be too late." He had known all along. My secret love affair had never been a secret.

Well the Red Violin came home last night, and although we have little wall space, we made a cozy little spot for her, and there she will stay until Zach hits it big with his superb writing skills and we can buy her a new wall that is truly worthy of her.

Roar... tiger-like

By: Mrs. Swarr
I was going to write a nice long story about Halloween, but when it comes down to it, this is all there was:
  • Mommy works on tiger costume for days
  • Family walks in Mt Gretna parade on Monday, during which there is a torrential downpour and said costume is all but ruined. Trick-or-treat night? Wednesday. I have 1 evening to remake Tiger.
  • Tiger shabbily remade, trick-or-treating a success despite crazed rush from Lancaster to Morgantown.

He knocked on the doors and said trick-or-treat all by himself

Post trick-or-treating:
  • Declan learns he is not allowed to eat 3 lbs of candy at 8:30pm, even if he did just work for every piece of it.
  • Our beautiful 2 year old magically transforms into a raging, screaming, spitting, writhing mass of evil.
  • Said mass of evil is forcibly strapped to car seat (give me a break - I could have lost a limb) and proceeds to scream the entire 40 minute ride home.

I think he fell asleep at some point that night, but I've erased the majority of the event from my now frail mind.

Next year we'll give him door duty.

Oliver Swarr: A Tribute

We were actually hesitant to get another cat, but we talked it over and decided that Arty needed a friend. We went to the local shelter and I started to look around at the cats. Maribeth walked in the room and within 5 minutes had a tiger striped cat out of its cage and in her arms. It was the fastest bonding I had ever seen between an animal and a human. We found our Swarr.

We got him home and naturally he was hesitant of his new surroundings, but by the evening he was sitting on the couch with a little Declan hovering inches from his face. They exchanged sniffs and kisses and then whack. Declan hit him on the head with a Gameboy and under the couch he went for almost the rest of the night. If my memory serves me, I actually think he slept on our bed the first night and just about every night since.

He was fantastic. An instant part of the family. His bond to Maribeth was very strong and very visible. He wouldn't ever let me hold him for more than 6 seconds and he rarely slept on my side of the bed. When she had a bad day he would follow her and love her just the right amount. He was always there to greet her (and I) and never missed an opportunity to make it known that he was hers.

His patience with Declan was outstanding. He let Declan poke and prod. Explore and tug. Tickle and snuggle. And all the while he was happy. He would intervene with Declan at just the right times to get him to relax or help him do what we were asking. It was almost creepy, but he truly did.

Oliver was one of those cats that comes along once in a lifetime. He was an extremely loving cat who would always curl up on your lap. He would follow you around, but never get underfoot. He would nuzzle with you when it was needed and keep his distance when the time was right.

Although he was only living in this house for about a year and a half, he has more than earned the right to be a lifetime member of the family. He helped make this house a home and he will be sorely missed. And although (I'm sure) many other pets will grace the halls of this house, he will be the one to whom we will compare them all.

So to you, Oliver, we say, "Thank you. Thank you for coming into our lives and our hearts. You will always be with us."

-Your family

Arty's Test Results... all of you know, Oliver had Feline Leukemia. Feline Leukemia is very contagious and is transmitted mostly through saliva. Just for learning purposes, I'll break this down as simple as possible: Once the virus enters the body, it travels to the nearest lymph node. It uses that lymph node to replicate itself to the point where it enters the blood stream. If the immune gets defeated it then infects the rest of the lymph nodes and replicates itself on such a scale that it ends up killing the cat (or becoming semi-dormant yet embedding itself in the bone marrow, blah blah blah).

So given the fact that Oliver had it and he and Artemus played together and shared the same food/water dishes, we've been hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.
Maribeth took Arty into the vet today to get him tested. As always he acted like the spawn of the darkest Hellcat. They took what they needed for testing and gave him a quick once over. Except for fleas, everything else seemed in order. Then it was back in the crate, devil-cat.

Now as most of you know, Arty is "my" cat, so I was extremely anxious for the results. After losing Oliver, losing Arty would have been equally, if not more painful. So I called Maribeth to see if she had heard anything and she had not. So I called....I spoke with the vet tech.

Artemus' test results: Negative. >sigh<
Joy of joys.

That was very unexpected, but well needed news after losing Oliver. I asked about us getting him retested after 3 months o
r so and she said there is no need. If he was that exposed to Oliver and he didn't get it before now, he won't get it. So no worries.

The only thing we can think is that Oliver had it before we got him and it just chose to resurface when and how it did and he just couldn't fight it. On the other hand, we got Arty as a kitten and he had all of his shots, etc.

So here's to you Arty. Good job.

Up next: Oliver's Tribute post.

Find upon finds!

So I've been perusing Google's patent search engine as of late and I usually come across some really cool stuff. The patent forms are very interesting to me because they not only have to contain a full description of the invention, but also a picture. I've also been fairly disappointed because it seems that every good idea I have, some schmuck thought of it, patented it, and is now squatting on the patent and not marketing their product/invention. Ah well.

I've actually found the patent for for a baby brain cooling device and also the patent for for the push pin. However, today (10 minutes ago, actually), I came across the absolute coolest patent form I have ever witnessed. It's for a toy gun which is convertible into a robotic humanoid form.

Yup. You guessed it. I found the patent for Megatron...



UPDATE: There is actually a whole SLEW of Transformers patents. That zany Takara.

Change of mood

It's been a very sobering week. It is strange to not see Oliver around the house as we used to. It's a definite change. It's different. But different is a part of this world and so is change. I'm working on a nice tribute page for celebrate the joy and friendship he brought to out home rather than just mourn his loss. So be patient.

But for now we'd like to lift up the mood of this blog by talking about something stress free and relaxing: the holidays. I know, I know. I was just kidding. The holiday season is one of the most stressful and non-relaxing times of the year. But you have to admit, it's a fun stress.

First is the spooky Halloween holiday. Halloween's origins are actually not very well known to most. If you have time, go here and read about it. As far as costumes go, I think we've narrowed it down to two options so far for lil man. I know I need to come up with a costume as we're having a work party again this year, so the only one with no costume is Maribeth, unless we have a party to go to. Any ideas?

The next one on the list is Thanksgiving. We all (I assume) know the origins of Thanksgiving, but if not, here you go. Declan is already talking about this one. All he needed to know is that Uncle Gabe and Aunt Karla are coming to visit and all of a sudden he's asking "When are Uncle Gabe and Aunt Karla coming to give us thanks?" ...every day. It's going to be a long wait until Turkey Day. I love the innocence in him how he broke down that word to think that on that day we all give each other "thanks" (as presents).

And lastly, is Christmas...I'm not even getting started on that one....all I have to say is this, this, this and last but not least...this. I am excited...for all but the last one. That was just weird.

So...let's all jump into the holiday season head first and have some fun!!

p.s. If my memory serves me correctly, I owe all of you a blog entry entitled, "Santa Nuts" this year.

goodbye my friend

By: Mrs. Swarr

Oliver is gone. I stayed with him last evening, holding him and watching him - hoping for a glimmer of a will to live. I could make his death a long story, but I would rather not just now. Suffice it to say I travelled to the vet this morning and then brought Oliver home to be placed in the grave lovingly dug by Zach and Declan.

I have never been a cat person. Dogs are much better - loyal and true and joyful. But Oliver was all of those things. He loved us from the moment we found him at the shelter. Of course Oliver belonged to all of us, but there is no doubting that he was "my" cat. He curled up next to me in bed at night - he was rarely far away if not sitting on my lap. Even Declan got along well with Oliver. Oliver was fond of laying in the middle of Declan's puzzles and was always happy to give a kiss or rub to him. There aren't many cats that are patient enough to enjoy a 2 year old.

A lot of changes went through Oliver when he got sick, but he never lost his love and kindness. He purred all through his visits to the vet, and snuggled in my arms anytime I wanted to hold him and love him. He truly was a great cat, through and through, and we miss him desperately.

Thank you Oliver, and may you rest in peace.

Oliver: Update #1: The Plan

After a lot of thought and heartache, Maribeth and I have come up with a game plan.

The vet's outlook was bleak. She said she believes he may have 2 days at the most. He hasn't been eating and that is definitely not a good sign. So without food, even if he fights this thing, he's not going to make it. His liver and kidneys could be infected already (from not eating).

So to put Oliver's needs first, we've decided to schedule an appointment with the vet to have him put to sleep. That appointment is set for Thursday evening. So what the plan is is this:

Tonight I'm going to force feed him some wet food. He needs to eat. There's no denying that. If he keeps that down, that's a good start. Then we see how he's doing tomorrow night and force feed him again. If that stays down, the appointment gets canceled and we take it one step at a time.

If I force feed him tonight and he can't keep that down, then we keep the appointment and just make him as comfortable as possible.

Wish us luck and keep the Swarrs (especially the little furry ones) in your prayers.

I'll let you know how it goes...check back for more posts.

Diagnosis: Feline Leukemia...Prognosis: not good

This isn't an easy post. Oliver doesn't have much time.

Just to give you an overview of the events, about 3 weeks ago, we found that his Lymph node was swollen under his chin on the left side. None of the others were, so we kept an eye on it for about a week and a half. No change. So we decided to schedule an appointment with the vet. Better safe than sorry.

So while all of this is going on, I had purchased a different kind of cat food...oops. Arty was doing ok with it, but Oliver didn't seem to like it at all. He wouldn't touch the stuff. A couple days before his Saturday vet appointment, he started throwing up and having diarrhea. He also looked very thin. We called the vet and bumped his appointment up to Friday. And by this time I went and picked up a bag of their usual food (which they both started to eat- however Ollie kept throwing up).

On Friday, Maribeth took Oliver into the vet and they checked him out. Aside from him losing approximately 2 lbs, he was fine. The Lymph node was back to normal size (which the vet didn't think it was his Lymph node anyway. Tard. Obviously it was) and the vet attributed the bowel/stomach issues to his lack of food intake.

However throughout the weekend we noticed that Oliver wasn't eating and he was just overall bad. He had taken to sitting around and sleeping and doing nothing and still pooping all over. We couldn't get him to eat anything substantial and what we could get him to eat was just thrown up within 10 minutes.

So off to the vet again. Maribeth took him in and this time the outcome wasn't so good. I don't know numbers, but he lost more weight, he was running a fever, he was dehydrated and on top of all this, he has fleas (which is odd, b/c he's an indoor cat and neither Arty nor the house show signs of fleas). So they pumped him full of liquids and drew blood to see what was up. They tested some of the blood in house and sent the remaining out to a lab.

The in house testing showed that his white blood cell count is extremely low. That's never a good sign. As far as the lab tests, they found the culprit: Feline Leukemia. From what the vet said, it's just a matter of time. A few days at most and that's the best they could give us. The fact that he's no longer eating is not a good sign. His chances of getting through this are slim to none.

So...I would say that at the rate of things, by week's end we'll be down one Swarr. We also need to get Arty tested. He may have contracted it too.

It's rough. He's good cat and a good friend, especially to Maribeth. He's her boy.

We'll keep you posted.

Playing Ketchup

We haven't posted in a little bit so I'll try and "catch y'all up" (ha ha).

The yard sale was not very successful for Swarr Family, Inc. I think we ended up selling $7 worth of crap, but the Schaeffers did great, so I guess it wasn't a total loss. And yes, the yard is still there.

The house is coming along nicely. The stairwell is painted (thanks to the wonderful Maribeth) and most of the pictures have been hung. They look really nice so far. It makes a huge difference. It's starting to feel more and more like a home than a work in progress. As for my honey-do list, I think I'm going to kick myself in the you-know-what to build the box for the can lights above the bartop. That will make a huge difference. I'll take before and after pics so you can see my craziness in action. Hopefully I'll have enough gumption to get up early Saturday morning and measure, go to Lowe's and start cutting. Then, come early afternoon it's off to my company picnic.

BUT's off to Hersheypark tomorrow! No work and no phone calls. The Nelsons and we are going in the morning and not coming home until we ride every ride twice. Lil man will be at daycare and then he'll be picked up and sat on, er- babysat for the evening so it's time for fun fin fun. Keep your fingers crossed that the weather is great and that Maribeth feels 100%. She's been fighting something lately.

So let us get through the weekend and hopefully we'll have before and 'during' pictures of the lights above the bartop and possibly some Hersheypark and company picnic pictures. So that will mean lots to blog about.

Maribeth and lil man. San Diego '07

Talk to you in a few days...


Saturday! Saturday! Saturday!!

Yard sale at the Swarr's...

you'll come and buy our crap if you know what's good for ya.

60 + 60 = 60? A Birthday Celebration for the Ages!

Hello students. Let's jump in the time machine and go back to math class. woosh! There we go. See? Time travel was quick and painless. Who knew? Here we are. Math 101. Oh look there you are listening intently. Let's listen too.

"...and if you take the square root of 3600, multiply that by the sum of 357/459 and 28/126, then add the number of ghatikas in the ancient Hindu day (being sure to take into account the proper aging and manipulation of the vitis vinifera) you'll easily see how we get the answer."

Uh. OK. So maybe going back to math class wasn't the best of ideas to understand what's going on. woosh!! (Back to the present time) Let me just break it down for you:

Take 60 years. Add 60 paintings. And you get 60 bottles of wine. OK, so you don't normally, but this Saturday you do. No it has nothing to do with the once-in-a-lifetime alignment of Pluto and Uranus.

It's because Fred Swarr (aka Dad) is turning 60!!! And to celebrate this great milestone, he will be painting 60 painting in 1 day! You heard it: 60 PAINTINGS!! ONE DAY!! On Saturday, August 4th from 7 AM until 5 PM it'll be paint paint paint in Mt. Gretna (directions here). Then, at 5 o'clock you (yes, YOU!) will be able to get one of these momentous paintings for the mere price of a bottle of wine. Now that's a deal you can't beat anywhere. Snazzy, huh?

Ladies and gentlemen, feel free to come out at any time to see the master of majestic mayhem paint a plethora of perfect and priceless paintings. "priceless" I mean "the price of a bottle of wine".

This is a once in a lifetime experience!!! So play your part and help an old man get enough alcohol to last him until his next birthday (or at least until next week). If you don't feel like giving up a bottle of wine, at least come out and cheer him on. After all it is his 60th.

Make us proud, Dad! Paint away.

-The Other Swarrs


One more Swarr off the market. Check it out! Way to go, sisters!!! You made all of the PA Swarrs happy and PROUD!!!!

From the Tuesday edition of the Seattle Post Intel.

tired. but satisfied.

Last night was was an odd night. As I stated, my mom was watching Declan, so we cleaned the house very fast and sat down to finish HP and the DH [don't worry...still NO SPOILERS]. Although I had the amount of chapters accurate, the page count was wrong. We had around 270 pages to go. So we read and read. Again, we couldn't stop. Before we knew it it was time to pick up lil man. The events in the book were already in motion so we had a hard time stopping. But alas: no choice.

I laid down with Declan to get him to go to sleep and he did around 10:00. I walked over to our bedroom and there was Maribeth: in bed with the lights off. I bugged and pestered and grumped, eventually getting my way. The lights were on and we were reading again. Then around 11:30 we turned the lights off with sighs of near exhaustion. We still had 70 pages to go. I was so anxious I couldn't sleep. I wasn't even tired and Maribeth knew it. She was happy that I made the choice of sleep over keeping her awake o finish the book, but apparently there must have been something chewing at her too. After about 6 minutes she said, "Ok. You can read."

It didn't even dawn on me what she had said. Then, after a second or two it clicked. I was out of bed faster than Dudley on a cupcake. Book in hand, glasses on my face reading. I was going full throttle. But realizing the reality that we both have to work the following day I said that we can read until 12:15ish. If I didn't finish, I told myself, it would have to wait until tomorrow night.

However, by the time 12:15 rolled around, things were so intense in the book that we both lost track of time. We pressed on and finished the book at 1:37 AM. Utterly fantastic. Totally worth it.

So I realized, there comes a time when one is reminded of what one has. I was reminded last night of what I have. I have a stubbornness beyond all measure. I also have a beautiful, loving wife that would do anything for me and who understands (mostly) how my brain works. This morning I realized that last night's events were attributed to the latter of those two. Although I know that the former played a part at times :)

Thank you for staying up and finishing the book with me.


Harry Potter- NO SPOILERS!!

[No Spoilers here!]

Ok...first off I just want to say that we are still reading the book. And obviously, others are still reading too. So I won't post any spoilers nor will I tolerate any in the comments section...they will be deleted and you will have problems.

Maribeth and I have been pushing through reading the book aloud and we have only 10 more chapters to go (plus the epilogue from what I hear). I'm being told that the ending is amazing!

All I will say thus far is that the book is an utterly fantastic roller coaster of story and emotion. Wow! I CANNOT WAIT TO FINISH!!!

My mother has graciously agreed to watch the lil man tonight so Maribeth and I can finish the book (thanks, Mom).** When we do finish, I still will not post any discussions until it seems that the Harry Potter fans out there start resurfacing from their spoiler protected hidey-holes. I don't want to ruin it for anyone.

So if you are reading this, please post in the comments section whether or not you are still reading and also when you are finished...I can't wait to talk about it.

Happy reading Potter-fans!

-The Swarrs

**If you try calling our house or stopping in unannounced tonight you will be ignored. I don't care if you look in the window know that we are home. Unless you are bleeding profusely and are in need of medical attention, you will be completely ignored. My feelings won't be hurt in the least.

My job

By: Mrs. Swarr

While working for a living usually isn't fun (I would much rather spend my days hiking through the mountains and hanging out with Zach and Declan), I have to say that I am lucky enough to have a job that I can enjoy. And on the days I don't enjoy it as much, at least I can believe in it and feel good about what I am doing.

For those of you who don't know, I work at Mission Research makers of GiftWorks. We make fundraising software for nonprofits. Ummmm..... who cares? It's just a software company.

But see that's not the point. Our CEO (frustrating though he may be) has this vision that we are going to make the world a better place. He's one of those people who can turn a piece of software into the idea that we can help enough nonprofits who can in turn help more people (or animals or whatever) and then our world will be great. Ok so I don't say it as well as he does. The thing is, every person I work with thinks like this. We are all here to help the world one nonprofit at a time.

I have never experienced a place like Mission Research. While it is not the same as taking a journey to Romania to help the horribly condemned orphans, I can come to work everyday hoping that what I do will further the cause of those working to save those same orphans.

I'll admit it, I'm an idealist. I am convinced that if we all do these little things to help the world, eventually it will all add up and we will find ourselves living in a better place. And if that is not the case, well, at least I will have done my part and will feel that I have done something good with my life.

Our new endeavor is This is our attempt to bring the world of nonprofits and nonprofit experts to one place where they can share their experiences, problems, issues, insights, and whatever else is on their minds. Like Mission Research, it might not change the world, but if we help just one nonprofit who makes a difference in multiple lives, we will have done something good.

~ Maribeth

Blah blah blogging

Alright. It has been fairly uneventful at Swarr Family Inc. lately and that's not necessarily a bad thing. With the upcoming Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix movie (which we have nearly a dozen people going to see tomorrow evening!!) and the 8 days away release of the seventh and final book, I attribute the lack of goings on to sheer disbelief (for myself anyway). I honestly don't know how I'm going to control myself when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hits the shelves...and my hands. So because of the lack of eventful things, I am going to blog about uneventful things. Yay! Like to hear it? Here it goes.

Declan and I were riding in the car this morning and he had his first taste of classic They Might Be Giants. I played 'Flood' for him and more specifically, 'Particle Man.' He loved it. His little arms were up and he was wiggling. "Dance, lil man. Dance." I explained to him that Daddy and Uncle Gabe listened to these guys and they are a lot of fun. All he heard was that Uncle Gabe liked them, so now they are "Uncle Gabe's favorite songs." Regardless, listening to old TMBG was a little nostalgic this morning. It was a good break from NPR and Harry Potter audio books.

Last evening was also uneventful. I decided to light a little fire relax. I pulled the fire pit over to the middle of the patio and then I got some matches. Next I needed wood, so I shifted some wood on the woodpile and in a torrent of grossness, around a hundred earwigs scattered across the patio. I started smashing them with the fire-poker and then set that down to use a piece of wood and my feet. Lil man picked up the poker and started hacking away at them saying, "Bad bugs. Those are the ouchy ones that pinch."

After lil man went down for the night, Maribeth and I finished watching Pan's Labyrinth. I don't want to speak for Maribeth, but I know I felt it to be a little disappointing. I liked it. Don't get me wrong. Conceptually is was great, but I thought it was a little lacking. The previews and reviews played it off to be much more along the lines of Mirrormask, only darker. Overall I guess I was just expecting more fantasy world and less real world. Ah was still good.

So here we are again. After some much needed sleep, another work day started and the morning ritual of sending back and forth email forwards and crazy internet pictures began...I stumbled upon this site which I absolutely must try. The many uses of flies never cease to amaze me.

I'm a geek. But not a sell out.

Well I went to see the new Transformers movie and I must say that I liked it. Liked. Not loved. I attribute most of that like to the fact that I had such low expectations for the movie ever since it rolled into production.

Let me just start by saying that I am a huge Transformers fan. I have been since they first came out. My childhood was The Transformers, G.I. Joe, He-Man, etc...80s classics. I will also say that I have the entire 80 issue run of the Transformers comics, Headmasters miniseries, G.I. Joe/Transformers crossover, Transformers Universe, etc... I will even tell you that I was very excited about and still love to read and re-read the Transformers: Generation 2 series. It was good. They did a great job. So hopefully you can see that I am not a total purist when it comes to the Transformers. I love G1, but I also watched Transformers: Beast Wars (somewhat reluctantly). And naturally, I got caught up in the new Dreamwave TF series, but that died when they crapped out X amount of spin-off titles.

Like most everyone else, when I heard they were doing a live action TF movie I was excited. Who wouldn't be? After a lot of convincing (by myself and others) I decided to not pass judgment until I saw the movie. That was hard, because that meant that I couldn't see or hear anything during the production period. What made it nearly impossible was that a certain individual -cough-Dean-cough- would try to tell me every blasted thing he read on every fansite in the world. So needless to say I did hear some mumblings and I did see some images. Most made me unhappy. But I still reserved judgment.

So judgment day arrived. It wasn't off to a good start: I didn't sleep well the night before, my back hurt, I had a headache and it was Independence Day (I have much better things to be doing than sitting in a theater for 2 1/2 hours...). But again, I kept an open mind and tried not to go into the situation with a crap attitude. I got a big tub of popcorn and ice-cold Cherry Coke. That cheered me up. The previews came and went. Then it was time...everything went dark. And then you heard it. The awesome, rumbling voice of Peter Cullen. Fantastic. Also, you hear the ever classic transformation sound (albeit the only time in the movie). Fantastic. Then you see Cybertron...not fantastic. But Peter Cullen is still talking, so that makes it tolerable. The nostalgia hadn't worn off yet.

I'm not going to sit here and type a play by play of the movie. But I will recommend seeing it. As a movie with giant transforming robots, it's amazing. From the eyes of a TF fan...I didn't like it.
There were a million things I'd change and I won't list them all, but I will say two words: Welker and Frenzy. Two of the worst decisions of the movie. Another big gripe is this: because Michael Bay screwed with the look of the TFs and made them all look the same (aka 'crap'), it was very tough to tell what was going on in the battle scenes. The cinematography was all over the place and it moved very fast. So a lot of the time you're just trying to figure out what you're looking at as opposed to seeing giant Rock 'em Sock 'em Robot battles.

To end this post on an upswing, Shia LaBeouf was the perfect choice. Absolutely hilarious. His delivery was killer and his acting was right on for the movie. And don't get me started on Megan Fox. I'm just glad she could act too. In fact, the casting (with the exception of Welker) was great. There were a lot of unnecessary characters in the movie, but overall it was good. Again, I recommend going to see it. But go see it not as a Transformers movie, but as a big transforming robots movie. Big robots and big explosions should be seen on the big screen.

'Til all are one...


Here we go...

I like blogging. I think it's a lot of fun. I also like reading blogs. Sometimes I pick random blogs on this site and just start reading. It's cool. You never know what you may find. Try it sometime, just look at the top of this page and click 'next blog'...

However, I have noticed that over the last 2 weeks or so a lot of the blogs haven't been updated (or in our case 4 weeks-ish). But I have a feeling that it may be because of how busy this time of year is.

In our case, we've been busy too. Between my brother's wedding and the upcoming 231st Day of Independence (please don't call it the 4th of's the 4th of July in most it is Independence Day. Respect it.).

Gabe and Karla's wedding was SPECTACULAR! We had such a great time and the ceremony and reception were beautiful. I just wish we could have stayed a little longer, but alas...

I must add that little Declan had his first In-N-Out burger...and LOVED it. Congrats, little man.

Loose Ends...

Alright...I want to finish up with the Florida vacation posts because the luster is quickly fading away. And I'm starting to forget a lot. The reason for the delay in posting was because I hadn't been able to find the USB cable to transfer the photos from our camera to our computer. Thank you technology! That fact combined with the new patio we built in the back yard and Maribeth's has a busy time. HOWEVER!! Lo and behold the cable has been found, the patio has been built and the edumacation graduation happened!!

So...Florida trip Day 2: Turn Left at the Walgreens...

Sunday was supposed to be a day of swimming with manatees...with our good friend Dave, whom we hadn't seen in ages. So that means...good day: planned; dumb day: reality.

The manatee place was about 2 and a half hours away, so we set out around 5 AM or so. Driving, driving, driving...turned left at the Walgreens...listen to the weather...lots of rain predicted, gale force winds...turn off the radio...driving driving driving...turned left at another rings. Manatee dive: canceled. Damn. We were so close. Apparently the winds and such were too nasty on the bay to do anything. However the weather was still nice where we were.

So we took a vote and decided to drive to the little town where the place was and see what else there was to do. We stopped at a gas station and the clerk said there is a cool zoo. "Oh", says I, "How does one get to this zoo you speak of?"...
clerk: "drive down the road you're on for about another 20 minutes and then (you guessed it) turn left at the Walgreens."

Wow. We drove, turned...then we got rained on. And rained on. So we gave up and decided to go back to the hotel. It was one of the wettest drives I have ever EVER driven. And believe it or not we turned at 3 more Walgreens on the way home.

The day was then filled with lazy TV watching and naps. Although the weather cleared up in the evening enough for us to go to Downtown Disney and eat at an awesome Cuban restaurant, Bongos...Once there, we decided to sit outside. Bad idea. It was sooo windy and cold I had to walk down to a store and buy a $42 Pirates of the Caribbean sweatshirt to keep a certain member of our party warm. After my expensive excursion, we ordered our food. I ate something awesome that I unfortunately can't recall the name of. Maribeth had something that she didn't like, so we ended up picking off of each other's plates. It was all good to me.

So the night turned into a fun, drinking, walking and talking time with the Swarrs and Dave. It ended up being a lazy, but still enjoyable day.

Lesson to be learned: If you are ever in Florida and you get lost, make 3 left turns at 3 different Walgreens and you'll be fine.

Up next: Florida Trip: Day 3 aka Busch Gardens: Part 1

We're Smart

There was a last minute change in my plans this past weekend. I thought I'd have to settle for just getting my degree from Millersville in the mail. I didn't think I would be able to attend commencement for my graduation.

However three days before the ceremony, I found out that I had the opportunity to. Unfortunately not everyone could make it as it was so last minute, but I know everyone was there in spirit and that was enough for me.

It was a beautiful day and it felt so wonderful to p
articipate in something that always seemed so far away and at times almost impossible to reach. What an amazing feeling...

I am finally done.

Weekend Surprises

By: Mrs. Swarr

I have to interrupt Zach's Florida stories (uh... story) to share the excitement of our weekend. Saturday was an important day in my college career. The last day in fact. I had 2 finals to take and then all that's left is to wait for the diploma to come in the mail. It’s about time.

Anyway, Zach promised me Saturday. He promised he would take Declan out for the day so I could study and take the final tests of my lifelong schooling. Well. Saturday morning he decided he would rather get the patio finished than allow me to take my finals. For those of you who were unaware - Zach and I were working on a brick patio in the back yard for our summer enjoyment. Needless to say there was quite a bit of arguing on the subject. In the end, Zach refused to back down and I decided I wasn't going to argue about this any longer. What’s one more day when I have already put a good 20 years into my education already?

Well, we worked on the patio from 8:30am until 4:00pm. I am so stiff and sore I can hardly move. Mom was kind enough to pop over around 11:00 to play with Declan, give him some lunch, and put him down for a nap (Thanks mom!!). Then, after we finished the patio and I was preparing to take my first final, finally, Amy and Erik showed up.

me: Hey. What are you doing here?
Amy: We were shopping and thought we would stop by.
me: Why were you shopping the whole way down here?
Amy: Well this is the closest Lowe's to us.
me: Oh. Well do you want to stay for supper? I am going to make this great new chicken recipe. Oh and you can help me take my test!
Amy: Ok. But we're not hungry.
me: Oh. Ok. Later then. Wanna help me with my test?
Amy: Sure.
me: Ok. Dammit. The internet is out. Well let's go sit and relax a bit until Declan wakes up. HEY. Dean's here. He must have stopped by to see how the patio turned out.

At this point I am still clueless, and pretty much reserved to the fact that my finals will be waiting until tomorrow. We are all outside admiring the patio when Zach puts his arm over my shoulders and says, "ok honey. Confession time."

Oh crap. What does he think I did? What did he do? Is he going to accuse me of something in front of Dean and Amy and Erik????

And then the words of my impending fate are spilling out of my husband's mouth, but it doesn't sink in. What?
... for you...


....graduation... for you...

say again?

we're having a surprise graduation party for you

and in walks Mom and Dad Swarr.

and Aunt Debi and Tom

and Mom and Dad Johnson

and it hits me.... Aunt Debi asked about some party. Zach kept delaying my test taking. Amy and Erik “weren’t hungry.” A million other hints. I was clueless. I didn't get it.

and it hits me again..... there was actually a valid reason for Zach insisting that we finish the patio today. Zach has fully surprised me for the first time in our blessedly long and eventful relationship. I am speechless. And I am having the time of my life.


Sunday I took my finals and passed with flying colors. Thank you to my wonderful husband and fabulous sister for planning such a great evening. Thank you to my extraordinary family and friends for being there for me the entire way through this process. I never could have done it without you. Finally, thank you for being there to celebrate the most wonderful day of my life - followed closely by my wedding and the birth of my son. Ok so I guess maybe it doesn't beat those out, but man it feels good to be done.

Florida Trip: The Joys of Publix

Ok. It's time to blog about our Florida trip!

Florida Trip Day 1: The Joys of Publix

After a very pleasant and surprisingly non turbulent flight (and after putting our tray tables and seat backs in their original and upright positions) we started our descent into Orlando...

Our plane arrived at the gate Saturday April 14th around quarter 'til 4. After moseying down to the baggage claim and claiming our baggage, we then took a courtesy van to our car rental place which was surprisingly nice. Although the last thing I was expecting to hear upon arriving in Florida was a heavy Brooklyn accent from our van driver. We went through all of the rigamarole at the car rental place and it was off to the hotel.

Check in was flawless...but then we had to wait 20 minutes for a parking pass which we were informed was highly necessary and important yet put in our windshield all but twice with no problems whatsoever.

We went to the room, unpacked, sat down for all but an hour, made all of the necessary "We got here" phone calls and it was off to the grocery store...Publix. We had a little kitchenette in our room and decided that it might be nice to make a meal every now and then.

Grocery shopping on vacation was a little weird, but we found that the 'Publix' brand foods had very nice and refreshing packaging, so that made it enjoyable...well that and the fact that once you're outside our great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania they sell alcohol at grocery stores, convenience stores, pizza shops, etc...Everywhere except at a 'State Store' (which incidentally, no one outside of PA knows what one is).

After spending way too much on groceries, it was back to the room. And if my memory serves me, it was an evening of nothing but relaxing and enjoying the jacuzzi tub...with beer and wine purchased guessed it: Publix.

Good first day.

Up next: Florida Trip Day 2: Turn left at the Walgreens...

Easter struggle

We're home from Florida and I have a lot of posting to do about that vacation. Unfortunately, this week has been a hectic catch-up-from-vacation kind of week. SO...I just thought I'd post a little something from Easter to get you through to next week.

Enjoy the chuckle....

The Sunshine State

I just wanted to tell all of you a little story:

Back in December, my company hosted a Christmas party. At the party Santa handed out gifts to each couple in a unique fashion. Each couple in turn, would be called to the front of the room and one person of the couple would be voted as 'naughty' and the other person would be 'nice'. The 'naughty' of the two would pull a gag gift from Santa's bag and the 'nicer' of the two would have his/her pick of a gift from a present filled table.

To anyone who can say the word 'Swarr', I'm sure you know which of us got the gag gift and which one got the real gift. Anyway, I ended up getting some velcro-ball-dart-board-Family Guy thing and Maribeth picked a gift off the table. Said gift was handed to her and unwrapped. Upon unwrapping, she was asked (by Santa no less), "Is that what's really in there?"

Maribeth then opened the box and found a metal briefcase. The briefcase was opened and an envelope was inside. Santa then stated that "inside the envelope is an undisclosed amount of cash. You can either take that cash and be done or you can take an all expense paid (hotel, flight, rental car, spending cash) 7 day 6 night vacation to either Orlando or Daytona Beach, FL."

As you may have suspected Maribeth took a little while to choose between the 'selfish' FL vacation and the 'practical' gift of cash (of course which would be promptly used toward bills and the house). As you may have also suspected, she did get a little emotional (as did I). Everyone clapped and cheered and we hugged.

Santa later told her she made the wiser of the two choices.

So we are now packing to go to the Sunshine State. Little man will be staying with her sister and we will be embarking on an adventure filled with Cirque du Soleil, horseback riding, manatee snorkeling, hang gliding and more horseback riding (whew!).

So wish us luck, safe travels and we'll see you in a week or so...

-zs and mb

Patience and honor....

As you may recall, in typing these posts I wanted to bring to the forefront some stories that were lost in the shuffle of war. The first posts were from Iraq and Afghanistan because I can relate to those wars (being an Iraq War veteran). However I wanted to also find stories and events from other wars in our country's past. I decided to pick Vietnam this time. I started poking around and I found so many recollections and stories I wasn't sure if I'd be able to choose just one or two. Personally, I wish I could post them all.

One of the events I chose to post was about man named Alfred Rascon. He was a Specialist in the US Army; a medic assigned to a Recon platoon. What he did didn't impact the outcome of the war and I think it is a safe wager to say that this story was rarely told beyond his family and friends who knew him. It would have never been put on the 6 o'clock news in March of 1966...after all, he wasn't even an American citizen. He was from Mexico.

The Republic of Vietnam, 16 March 1966...Specialist Fourth Class Alfred Rascon was assigned as a medic to the Reconnaissance Platoon, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade (Separate).

While moving to reinforce its sister battalion under intense enemy attack, the Reconnaissance Platoon came under heavy fire from a numerically superior enemy force. The intense enemy fire from machine guns and grenades severely wounded several point squad soldiers.

Specialist Rascon, ignoring directions to stay behind shelter until covering fire could be provided, made his way forward. He repeatedly tried to reach the severely
wounded machine-gunner laying on an open enemy trail, but was driven back each time by the withering fire. Disregarding his personal safety, he jumped to his feet, ignoring flying bullets and exploding grenades to reach his comrade. To protect him from further wounds, he intentionally placed his body between the soldier and enemy machine guns, sustaining numerous shrapnel injuries and a serious wound to the hip.

Thinking nothing of his wounds he dragged the larger soldier from the fire-raked trail. Hearing the second machine-gunner yell that he was running out of ammunition, Specialist Rascon, under heavy enemy fire crawled back to the wounded machine-gunner stripped him of his bandoleers of ammunition, and gave them to the other machine-gunner who continued his suppressive fire.

Specialist Rascon fearing the abandoned machine gun, its ammunition and spare barrel could fall into enemy hands made his way to retrieve them. On the way, he was wounded in the face and torso by grenade fragments, but disregarded these wounds to recover the abandoned machine gun, ammunition and spare barrel items, enabling another soldier to provide added suppressive fire to the pinned-down squad. In searching for the wounded, he saw another comrade being wounded by small arms fire and grenades being thrown at him. Again disregarding his own life and his numerous wounds, Specialist Rascon reached the soldier and covered him with his
own body, absorbing the blasts from the exploding grenades. He saved the soldier's life, but sustained additional wounds to his body.

While ma
king his way to the wounded squad leader, he saw that grenades were being hurled at the sergeant. Again, in complete disregard for his own life, he reached and covered the sergeant with his body, absorbing the full force of the grenade explosions. Once more Specialist Rascon was critically wounded by shrapnel, but disregarded his own wounds to continue to search and aid the wounded.

Severely wounded, he remained on the battlefield, inspiring his fellow soldiers to continue the battle. After the enemy broke contact, he disregarded aid for himself, instead treating the wounded and directing their evacuation...only after being placed on the evacuation helicopter did he allow aid to be given to him.

* * *
Now fast-forward 34 years. Tuesday February
8, 2000...President Clinton awarded the nation's highest military award to Alfred Rascon for acts you just read above. He was alive to receive it.

"Thank you for looking out for people when no one else could be there for them. You have taught us once again that being American has nothing to do with place of birth, racial, ethnic origin, or religious faith. It comes straight from the heart. And your heart, sir, is an extraordinary gift to your country," said Clinton.

Rascon was humble during the Medal of Honor ceremony, noting that the honor belonged to the people who were with him that day. He asked the survivors to stand and be acknowledged at the White House ceremony.

"What you see before you is common valor that was done every day. And those of you who served in the military -- and continue to serve in the military -- are very much aware of that. What you do every day, it is duty, honor and country. And I'm deeply honored to be here," Rascon said.


Nice Move

Everyone knows it's true even though they don't want to admit it, active duty military personnel typically frown upon those of us that serve the military in a reserve status. We reservists have earned various titles over the decades: Weekend Warriors, Part-timers, Johnny One-weekend and my personal favorite, Uncle Sam's tampons (only used once a month).

However, in Operation Desert Shield/Storm the reserve component of the military really shut up active duty for a while...85% of the US forces in the gulf were reservists. Thankfully, this time around (in Gulf War II), I got the feeling that reservists were given a little more respect. I can at least say that the active duty Marines I was with treated me as an equal (thanks Yuma, AZ Marines).

One thing that I always believed is that if your civilian job coincides with your military job, 9 times out of 10, you will excel at your military job. Below is proof.

The picture taken was from Afghanistan in support of Operation Mountain Resolve in November, 2003. The Chinook CH47 helicopter is making a very unique landing to pick up some Afghan detainees suspected of questionable goings-on.

This is not the first time this pilot has made a touchdown like this. His name is Larry Murphy and he is from the PA National Guard. In the civilian world he flies EMS choppers in the Keystone Helicopter Corps.

A landing like this in the mountains of Afghanistan (or anywhere) is very tricky. They have to keep the chopper steady in the face of wind and possible small arms fire. Not to mention setting down on a building of questionable structural integrity.

It definitely takes a lot of talent and sheer nerve to pull this off.

Captain Chontosh

The first post in this series isn't one that I would exactly call 'obscure'. Although the story has been told in email forwards and you can easily find it online, I doubt it was in many newspapers outside his hometown and it's never been on the national news from what I can tell.

This is the story of Brian Chontosh. He's a Marine officer. At the time of the war he was a 1st Lt. When I met him, he was a Captain.

Twentynine Palms, CA...Marines just call it 'The Stumps'. It's the home of MCAGCC (Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center). It's a place I've been half a dozen times. I went there for MOS School (Military Occupational Specialty School) in 1999 and I've also had the wonderful misfortune of going there another 5 times to partake in CAX (Combined Arms eXercises). CAX is an annual joint forces exercise where you become very intimate with your MOS in the desert...meanwhile there's a mock war going on all around you with tanks and jets and stuff. It's pretty cool and it truly is great desert training.

Because CAX is a combined arms exercise, the scale of the operation is larger than what one communications unit can do. Therefore, we not only utilize our equipment, but we sign out equipment from the base to use with ours. The downside is that we need to clean more equipment when it's all said and done. Cleaning equipment after a CAX is never fun. It's long hours and you have to be meticulous, but the worst part is that the gear has to be inspected before it is accepted and checked back in. So if the inspector is having a bad day, he can turn away your entire inventory
if he finds one handset to still have dust in it.

So there we were in a giant staging area (aka parking lot) with all of our gear. The sun was a roasting 110 degrees and we were just breaking for lunch (or as Marines call it, chow). My marines and I were hanging out under an awning to escape a little bit of sun and this Marine walks up to us and starts talking. Obviously, we knew he was a Captain, so we treated him as such and began swapping war stories. The extent of his war story was, "Yeah, we saw some action. My Marines and I got ambushed a couple of times. We did alright though."

That was that. He told us to keep cool and have fun. Shortly after he left, another Marine came up to us and asked if we knew who that guy was. Obviously we had no clue. He proceeded to tell us this story (only with a lot more swear words)...

courtesy of :

On March 25, 2003, (then) First Lieutenant Chontosh, recognized his unit was caught in a “kill zone” on Highway One leading to Ad Diwaniyah in the initial campaign to Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

After punching his vehicle through a breech, he was immediately taken under withering machine gun fire from a crew served weapon in a trench. Chontosh plowed toward the machine gunner, trusting his .50 caliber gunner to silence the enemy, which was done almost immediately.
Chontosh then dismounted his vehicle and armed with only his M16A2 and a M9 pistol began to systematically clear the trench that his vehicle was now inside.

With a complete disreg
ard for his own personal safety, Chontosh twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack. When one of his Marines following behind found an RPG, Chontosh decided to personally use it to destroy another unlucky clump of enemy soldiers thinking they could overpower the brazen Marine.

When his dedicated and bold personal attack had ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench and lying behind him and at his feet were the remains of over 20 enemy fighters. For these actions, Brian Chontosh was awarded the second highest award given for combat valor, The Navy Cross.

The man standing next to Captain Chontosh is General Hagee, the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Enough said...


The obscure and unknown

Once again I write this and once again I apologize. It has been a long while since I posted on this blog. That will be no more. This blog will be updated at least once a week.

I know the last time I posted, the next story was to be entitled, "Santa Nuts". That is a story for next Christmas. What I would like to do this time is tell a story form my past. Although it is not really a story persay as much as it is an event. Rather a milestone for me...

My mother and I were sitting in the waiting room at Norlanco Medical Center. Not the main waiting room, the smaller one in the back hall. I'm not sure why we were there, but I'm sure it was for me. It may actually have been when I swallowed a screw from an Erector Set, but I'm not sure (that's a story for another post). Anyway, where we were and why we were there isn't as important to this story as you may think. We were sitting there in the waiting room full of Highlights Magazines and Ranger Ricks and I had picked up a copy of Time magazine. I was flipping through the stories looking at the pictures, when I saw this photograph from the Civil War:

I always remembered this picture vivdly and I was able to find it today on the internet with relatively no searching. I know the picture may be strange or difficult to look at, and it was for me too. I couldn't have been older than 8 or so when I saw it.

Thinking back, I really believe this was my first image of war. I had seen snippets of movies or read books, but there was something about this photo that stuck in my mind. It wasn't a major event. No helicopters and guns. No explosions or blood and guts. It wasn't in a jungle or in Europe. It was a few hours from where I was sitting.

At that time (and for the next decade) I never thought that I would have my own experiences of war. I wasn't an athlete or even that competative. No way would an independent, choir-singing, stage-acting, comic book reading, video game playing dork ever be in a war. But there I was around 15 years later standing in Kuwait. My rifle in my hands and my bags at my feet, looking at a camp where coalition forces were gathering in numbers getting ready to invade Iraq.

I remembered this photo while I was over there. Some of the guys and I got on the topic of Gettysburg and how I lived near there and how they always wanted to go there. Talking about how we'd all keep in touch, get together sometime and go there someday after the war.

This photo to me is now obscure. It's been overrun with experiences and images that are of greater significance to who I am. But I know that I need to never forget this image. It's where a major chapter of my life started. Thank the Lord it didn't end with that chapter.

Obscurity overrun by war is what I want to write about in the next few posts. I want to make known to you some of the war stories that I have come across. Not just the ones you see on the front page, but the ones on the back pages that are just a paragraph stating that John Doe was awarded such and such a medal on such and such a date with no other details given. Or that Little Johnny from Anytown, USA was killed in the war. Some of those John Does and Little Johnnys made a difference. Not a difference that impacted the course of history or the war that they died in, but a difference to those around them and to those who have heard their stories.

I doubt that the six or seven dead Union soldiers in the image above altered the outcome of the Civil War, but if you take your time or do a little digging into the news, you may just find something worth knowing. Something that should no longer be obscure. Not necessarily to the masses, but to you.