I made a thing!

Actually, I made two things:

The first is a quarter wave ground plane antenna for the 2m ham radio band.

It’s based on the instructions in this video by K7AGE

The second is a semi-portable PVC pole/stand to get the antenna about 8ft in the air.

My initial plan was to raise the antenna up 12ft, but my quick-and-dirty design made with lengths of ¾in PVC wasn’t stable enough to stand on its own. I have ideas for fixing that, but this shorter version worked well enough to participate in a ham net on a local repeater tonight.

I’m going to see if I can hit a couple of repeaters down in the Bay Area later this week using this set up.

W7RAB 73

Keeping a Broken Promise: Part the Second

Living Powerfully – Part II:
The Landmark Forum

A year ago this August, I completed my own Landmark Forum. I went into it still feeling skeptical, but open to the idea that I might get something good out of it. Thanks to the conversation with my mom, I even had an idea for what I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to get some closure with my dad. I had been stuck for a long time feeling like I never got a chance to say goodbye to him. I had grieved, but I did not truly feel like I had any kind of closure related to his death, even after the man who killed my father had been tried and sentenced.

A Breakdown and a Breakthrough

One of the exercises that we were to complete as homework after the second day of the forum was to write a letter. It could be to anyone (living or dead), but it needed to be powerful and authentic. I figured this was my big chance to finally say some of the things to my father that I hadn’t had the chance to before he died. I got home from the forum around midnight, sat down at my computer and started typing. I had trouble finding the words (just as I had ever since he had been killed.) I figured I just needed some sleep, so I went to bed with the intention of finishing my letter the next morning before I left for the forum.

Have you ever been stuck on a problem, gone to bed thinking about it, and awoken the next morning with a new insight, able to see a solution with remarkable clarity? At some point during the night, my subconscious let the rest of my mind in on a little secret: I hadn’t really ever accepted my father’s death because I was still pissed off at the bastard who took his life, Jonathan Beiderbeck. (The exact circumstances of my father’s death can be found in my blog entries from July, 2003.)

When I woke up, I had a breakthrough: It wasn’t my father that I needed to write to for this assignment, it was my father’s killer. Armed with this new-found clarity, I sat down again at my computer, wiped out my failed attempts of the night before, and started again. Instead of the frustration of not even being able to get started, the words flowed from my fingers onto the screen. It was almost easy the way what I wanted to say poured onto the screen, but at the same time, this was one of the most difficult things I had ever tried to do.

This is the letter I wrote:

Dear Jonathan,

I came to the Landmark Forum to complete my relationship with my father. What I have come to realize is that in order to do that I need to come to terms with how what you did affected me.

I blame you for my father’s death, you are the person that murdered him, but I also blame you for taking him away from me. I blame you for not letting me have the chance to tell him all the things I never told him. The truth is that I had 26 years worth of chances to do that, and I never took them, at least not completely. I left many things unsaid, and that had nothing to do with you. Yes, you killed my father, but I am the one who took him away. I am the one who never gave me the chance to say what I needed to say to him. I thought that I had come to terms with what you did, but that was not enough because I have spent the last 2 and a half years hating you for taking my dad away from me. I have been unable to truly forgive you for that, because it is not you I need to forgive. It is myself.

The possibility I have invented for myself and my life is the possibility of being expressive and honest. Today, I am committed to stop blaming you for my own inability to communicate with my father.

I sobbed as I wrote it, and again as I shared it with my wife before I printed it up and left for the forum. I almost didn’t take it with me because I did not intend to share it with the group of 150 other forum participants. In the end, I’m glad I did, because I got the chance to share it with my mother and stepfather during our lunch break. (They were there to help people register for the 10 week seminar that is included as part of the tuition for the Forum.) As I read it to them, I cried again. As I finished, I looked up at my mom, and she had this odd mixture of love, sadness, and pride on her face.

“How did you know?” I asked, sobbing just a little. “How did you know that this is what I needed to come here for?”

She smiled at me and said, “I’m your mother.” I gave her a hug as she asked “Are you going to share this with the group?”

“I’m not sure. I’m not sure I want to. I’m not sure I can.” But I already knew I WAS going to share my letter, that I NEEDED to share it. Not just with the person sitting next to me, I was going to raise my hand when the forum leader asked if there was anyone who wanted to come up to the microphone to share their letter with the entire forum group.

When the time came, I did raise my hand, and the forum leader called on me along with a few others. When my turn at the microphone came, I was nervous – I babbled a little bit setting up the situation. I said something along the lines of: “The letter I’m reading is not the one I sat down to write at first, but it is what I ended up with.” I then briefly explained how my father died, and how this was a letter to the man that killed him.

I got choked up a bit, but got through my letter without sobbing again. After a bit of coaching from the leader, I added this to the end of my letter:

I am also committed to stop blaming myself for the way things turned out with my father. Our relationship was what it was, and it was not what it was not. In many ways, it was not perfect, but no relationship ever is. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Apparently, my letter spoke to a lot of the people in the room. They were floored that I could stand up and share something like that without totally losing it. (They hadn’t seen me when I’d read it to my wife, or to my mom and step-dad.) Throughout the rest of the weekend, I had people coming up to tell me that they were truly and deeply moved by my letter. A few of them even asked if it would be all right to share my story (or bits of it) with others outside of the Forum. (We had all made an agreement not to talk about the stories people shared outside of the Forum without their permission. It is part of what makes the Forum a safe place to work through some powerful (and in some cases, powerfully disturbing) issues.) I told anyone that asked, that they had my permission to talk about the letter I had written, because I was planning to post it online as part of a series of blog posts.

(Incedently, this is that series of posts. I had originally intended to post these last August, but as I’ve already mentioned, I got stuck as I was writing Part III. You’ll understand why after I post it.)

Keeping a Broken Promise: Part the First

(I started writing this in August of 2005. I even wrote a couple of blog entries that make mention of this little project. I got stuck writing Part III and put it aside for a long time, (too long.) The anniversary of my father’s death got me thinking about it again, and I want to finish it. So here is Part I of a three part series. Parts II and III will be posted at a later date.)

Living Powerfully – Part I:
An Introduction

Two years ago, my mom participated in a 3 and a half day seminar, called “The Landmark Forum.” On the last night of the forum, she invited me to an Introduction. An Introduction is like a 2 hour mini seminar that is designed to give people an idea of what participating in the forum would be like.

It seemed interesting, but I got bit of a “pushy salesman” vibe off of my Introduction leader. That, among other things left me resistant to the whole idea. My mom seemed a little gung-ho about it, but couldn’t explain what it was all about. I do not mean that she was forbidden to speak of it or anything, just that the experience was powerful, and so different from day-to-day life that to try to explain how it worked just doesn’t work.

I could see a difference in her. After my stepfather did this seminar, I saw a difference in him, and in their relationship.

My mom did some more work with Landmark, and invited me to a second introduction. Justin had just been born, and I was spent most of the time pacing the back of the room with him to keep him settled. (He was, and is still, a little trooper.) Again, my mom invited me to sign up, but I was still resistant, besides we had just had a baby – I didn’t feel like I had the extra time or money at that point.

Another course completed for my mom, and another introduction invitation. I went, stayed for the beginning, but had to leave early, so I didn’t stay for another introduction. Besides, I had seen it twice already. It was interesting, but I just didn’t see what I could get out of it, and I still had misgivings about the whole process. (Why was my mom so insistent about the Forum?)

So I asked her. Point blank: What is it that you think I’ll get out of doing the Landmark Forum? She told me that she thought there might be something around my father’s death that was still unresolved for me. I mulled that over for a while – it hadn’t really occurred to me before, but the more I looked at things, the more I saw that she might be right. I gave it some more thought, and then registered to take the Landmark Forum myself.