Happy Birthday to…me?

Today marks the anniversary of yet another trip around the sun for this lowly human. That’s right, it’s my birthday! I’m not a fan of birthdays anymore and were it not for the fact my birthday falls right after New Year’s Day, I would likely forget it most years. It’s not that I hate birthdays in general or that I don’t like celebrating my own, I just never considered surviving a trip around the sun as especially remarkable after the age of about ten.

However, this year I feel a change in attitude about the day of my birth. I am reminded today and every day really at how fast time seems to move as I age. There are things I want to do in life, things I want to see and experience and some of those things will only get harder as my human form grows older (unless my friend George solves that whole aging thing).

As I look back over my life to this point I can see dozens of roads not taken. I never imagined I’d be where I am today and I often wonder where I would be had I made different choices. I can say honestly that I’m happy and that’s precious. I have a wonderful husband, some really great friends, an awesome board game collection, and time to pursue interests and hobbies. I have my family close by, a great church community, and really good internet speeds for streaming! That is definitely something!

In the coming days, months, and years I want to travel more within the United States but it’s not cities I want to see. I want to see lakes and rivers and mountains. I want to walk through caves, stargaze where there’s no light pollution, and beachcomb where there’s no human garbage left behind. I want to see monuments and museums. I want to touch the places where human civilization made significant turning points. Of course I also want to travel among the stars and visit alien planets but I’ll have to save that for another life!

I also want to leave some kind of legacy behind. It doesn’t have to be grand and life changing for a lot of people but some kind of mark to show that I was here, that I, J.A. McLendon, lived a good and happy life on Earth. I want my time here to have meant something to the people that matter to me. When my time comes to leave this place, this existence, I want to leave it better than I found it.

Most importantly, moving forward with what I hope to be many more trips around the sun, I want to be deliberate in the everyday choices that I make, to consider how even the smallest simplest gestures can change a moment in someone else’s life. My cumulative effect may not be much but on the off chance it sparks others to do the same, ripples can turn into waves and maybe together we can all change the world. That would be something!

Happy Birthday to me!

End Transmission

The Last Time…

On Sunday, All Saints Day as it were, a person I have known my whole life lost her battle with cancer. Since her passing I have been thinking about the last time I saw her and at the time I didn’t know it would be the last time. It was probably a Wednesday evening; it was probably a bell rehearsal. I imagine that was the last time many in my church community saw her. None of us, not even she knew it would be for the last time.

Many things we do in life for the last time we don’t always realize it will be the last time to do it. None of us think about the last time we wore a diaper or drank from a bottle as child. Those “last times” are probably more significant to our parents but even those last times are important as they mark an end of one phase of growing and the beginning of another.

For all of us there will be a last time to drive a car, play in a park, and see a movie. On the day my friend passed, she was preceded by a church full of people in Texas who woke up that morning for the last time. None of them realized they were going to church for the last time, saying prayers and praising God for the last time. Had they known that any of those things would be their “last time” would they have done something different? Eaten something different for breakfast, driven a little slower, maybe slept in a little longer?

The next time you hold a door for a stranger could be the last time they enter that building. The next time you wave to your neighbor could be the last time they see you. The next time you smile at a homeless man, yours could be the last face they ever see. What have any of us to lose by making our everyday actions count for something? And what do we gain by making an effort to be better people?

The truth is most of us never get to know when our last time for anything will be. We shouldn’t wait for a mass shooting or the death of a friend to help a stranger, to stop and smell the roses, or slow down in our chaotic lives and appreciate all that we have. When our last breath comes, when our heart beats for the last time, it’s too late to make a legacy, too late to say all that went unsaid, too late to make right any wrong we leave behind. We all need to live as if our last time to do anything is now because the “next time” is never guaranteed.

Rest in peace my friend.

End Transmission

A Lego Reformation

This year marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Reformation. This is kind of a big deal for Lutherans, the followers of Martin Luther’s teachings. To celebrate the anniversary my church held a Reformation fair during Sunday school. I was asked to create a Lego mosaic of the Luther rose that could be assembled during the event. I jumped at the opportunity. Of course I’d jump at just about any opportunity to work with Lego!

I wasn’t the first to attempt such a feat. A quick internet search came up with this design which is amazing…and a bit expensive. I’m all about go big or go home but when the church is footing the bill, I must take a more practical approach. Instead of the 5×5 32 stud base plates I scaled the design down to 3×3. Keep in mind these baseplates alone cost $7.99 apiece.

I searched online for a good picture of the Luther Rose that I could use to create my pattern and found one easily. In the past I used a program called Legoaizer to create patterns for mosaics. I simply import the image and the program does all the work. This time, however, I wanted to limit the number of colors and edit the design. I couldn’t do that with my program so I was stuck…for all of a minute. I also dabble in cross stich and last year I downloaded a program called PC Stitch that does the exact same thing for stitching as Legoaizer does for Lego mosaics. I imported my image and set the parameters and there was my rose! PC Stitch let me edit individual stitches or in this case Lego studs to the colors and configurations I wanted. Here is the final pattern!

The biggest challenge to a project like this is coming up with the actual brick. It’s difficult to calculate how much of any one size and color pieces needed unless I broke down the pattern as such. I knew the kids who would be assembling this wouldn’t want to be slowed down by having to following a pattern so closely. I had to guess. I spent several days sorting bricks in my private collection and when I came up short, I went to BrickLink for the rest. I guessed I’d be short on some things but I didn’t want to over order parts, again to keep costs low.

I did all the work in black. By having the outline done, the kids could grab the right color plate of any size and get to work without much instruction, and they needed no instructions! Needless to say the project was a huge success. I ended up being short on the white pieces at the fair but thankfully I had enough spare parts at home to finish the rose.

End Transmission

Hello world!

Greetings Earthlings and welcome to the epic blog of J.A. McLendon! Okay maybe it’s not epic yet but it will be as soon as I figure out how to use this WordPress interface! I intend to stand on my orbital platform (soap box as it were) and preach to you all on politics, toys, and the virtues of Star Trek and other things of a geeky and sci-fi nature. I’ll probably talk about a lot of other things too…probably. So stay tuned for further updates from my orbital platform!..or don’t, it’s your choice.