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Monday, May 28, 2007


Gratitude, appreciation, thank you, and Memorial Day

It is a beautiful day in Covington, LA. The birds are singing, the air is cool, and the sun is shining brightly. People will be taking advantage of the Memorial Day sales at the electronics stores and the furniture warehouses. BBQ grills will be fired up all over the country as we celebrate.

Celebrate what?

These days we dole out honor to actors and singers - even the amateurs get star recognition and treatment on shows like American Idol. Sports figures are held in the highest esteem. People clamor to get the latest scoop on the Hollywood bad boys and girls. We honor them with our time and mental attention.

Are they deserving of that time and attention?

What of the "real" reason for Memorial Day?

The last few days I have worked very hard in my yard. Friday was a 13-hour day that had my back on the edge of going out on me. It was very much like running a marathon, because there were moments I did not know if I would be able to physically hold up to complete my job. At stake was $370 worth of sod.

Long story short, I got it done, but it got me to thinking about effort. I thought about all of those men and women who have represented our country in the armed services. I thought about the sacrifices they made in time, in effort, and in blood. As tired as I was, I was able to appreciate them even more. My toil and fatigue was optional and it was trivial. Their sacrifice was essential and part of the high price our citizens have paid time and again for freedom.

Because our people answer the call, we are free. They did the heavy lifting for us. It is like sitting down at a nice table to a meal you did not prepare and then you eat until you are full. Then you get dessert, and then retire to brandy and cigars without a thought to cleaning up the mess.

The media does not make us aware of the sacrifice our men and women are making. They are too busy trying to make us angry about race, religion, and politics. Fox News is running a program entitled "V for Valor." It showcases the bravery of servicemen in recent years. It will help you better appreciate what people are doing for you this very moment. Right now, people are in danger to protect you.

Now is when people start talking about the war is unjust and Bush is a so and so. As if to nullify the sacrifices our servicemen are making. They have not invented the curse word to adequately express my opposition to such comments.

Regardless of politics, those men and women volunteered to serve their country. I am sure a few in the military have signed up for less than noble reasons, but I would contend the majority have a deep vein of patriotism, God, family, and country driving their decision making. They serve to preserve our way of life. They serve bravely and they do it so often and consistently that it has become the standard.

Listen to the medal winners speak. They do not accept the praise. They said they did what they did out of love. They wanted to help their buddy or some innocent citizen. They go onto say they do this because they love their country and their family.

These are people worthy and deserving of our honor and respect. We should treat them accordingly. Make your gratitude tangible and donate to a cause to help these folks.

When you BBQ today, I hope you serve up a great big dish of thanks to these fellow citizens who make it possible for us to live as we do. Their behavior is one of the things that make me so proud to be an American.

Happy Memorial Day folks and here's to all who served and are serving this great country. This is one American who is grateful.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, May 25, 2007


Laying sod

Today the weather should be perfect for the yard work I have slated. Two pallets of sod are to be delivered, but I have a lot of raking and leveling to do before I can do the fun part.

I will have the Bear Cam (Sod Cam) trained on the work area, so watch me sweat.

Have a great Memorial Day Holiday.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, May 24, 2007


Legally blind

Thank goodness I am legally blind. It is bad enough not seeing very well; without having to go to jail for it too.

Oh, and here is what the moon looked like last night from Covington, LA

The Moon May 23, 2007

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Once in a blue moon

The Moon 5.21.07 9.23 PM

It seems like I post once in a blue moon. Those of you who are familiar with the term know that; number 1 I am exaggerating, and number 2 this photo is not of a full moon. A blue moon is the second full moon in the same month. That phenomenon only happens every 2.72 years or so - thus the term refers to a rare event.

After I posted Rocky's tribute and his last lift, I felt like leaving it at the top of my page for a while. I have also been pretty busy with more than the usual stuff going on. Presently, I am preparing my yard for two pallets of sod which are to be delivered on Friday. My 50-year-old back ain't what it used to be. I have been getting up early and working in the yard from 6:00 to 7:30 AM digging roots and leveling the patch of earth for the sod.

The photo of the moon above was taken with my Canon S3 IS with a 1.5x teleconverter. I took the photo 5.21.07 at 9:23 PM. The lens was at 3.5 and the shutter was 1/200. I lightened it up a bit in Photoshop.

I have some video projects I want to do and my job really eats into all of my fun time. This is a familiar mantra, but it is also what keeps me from getting bored.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Rock Star

His lifting buddies called him Rock Star. On March 3, 2007 Rocky lifted 285 lbs. in the dead lift to set a world record with the American Powerlifting Association for his age group. Less than two months later, Rocky died of colon cancer. Can you imagine the determination it took to fight gravity with all of that weight?

This is what it looks like to not quit. Rocky never gave up.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, May 14, 2007


In Honor of a Good Man - A Tribute to Donald "Rocky" Rockenbach
November 17, 1931 - April 24, 2007

The memorial service for Rocky went well. It was held at the gym where he worked out and competed as a powerlifter. About 80 people or so were there to pay their respects and we all shared a memorable, service that celebrated the life of a good man.

Rocky’s teammates worked hard to clear the heavy equipment to set up chairs. They set things up as if it were a powerlifting competition. Rocky’s record lift of 285 lbs. Were on the bar up front along with some of Rocky’s things; his bag packed for a road trip, two wood blocks he used for leverage when he did the bench press, his shoes, and his weight belt.

The service began with the theme music from the movie Lonesome Dove. As it played his team carried his ashes to the front and placed them very respectfully.

A video was shown that had contributions from Rocky’s family members and it gave some information about Rocky’s life and times.

I have uploaded the video at YouTube. It is 19:35 in length, but the video is in 6 segments. I have placed them here. Scroll down to read the text of the message delivered at Rocky’s service.

After the video I shared the following words:

In Honor of a Good Man

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Donald “Rocky” Rockenbach was a good man. All of us here know that for different reasons. We were all touched by his life and now we are influenced further by his death. When someone dies what they did for us day to day goes away. We are left with the memories and the pain of that loss. Rocky was a quiet humble man who was content being in the background, but his impact was much more center stage than that. Our hearts tell us that. Our grief tells us that.

We will all die; the question is will we all live? I am not talking about drawing breath. I am talking about appreciating life. Drinking in the wonders that surround us. There are so many treasures around us in nature and in the people we see day to day. Rocky knew that.

He appreciated the outdoors. He loved natural beauty. He enjoyed looking at the sky, noticing subtle changes in plants, and a peacock named Napoleon. Rocky called it a turkey. Rocky knew one of the secrets of happiness; to simply look out his window and see what he could see.

There was a man in the Bible that also appreciated God’s handiwork. His name was David and he wrote many of the Psalms. Psalm 8 in particular describes the beauty of which Rocky was so fond.

O God,
How full of wonder and splendor You are!

I see the reflection of Your beauty
and hear the sounds of Your majesty
wherever I turn.

Even the babbling of babes and the laughter of children
Spell out Your name in indefinable syllables.

When I gaze into the star studded skies
and attempt to comprehend the vast distances,

I contemplate in utter amazement
my Creator’s concern for me.

I am dumbfounded that You
Should care personally about me

And yet You have made me in Your image.

You have called me Your son.

You have ordained me as Your priest
and chosen me to be Your servant.

You have assigned to me the fantastic responsibility
of carrying on Your creative activity.

O God,
How full of wonder and splendor You are!
   from the book “Psalms Now” Leslie Brandt

The way Rocky moved through life was with what we call today “old fashioned values.” I wish they weren’t so old fashioned. We can ascertain a man’s values by observing his behavior. Actions speak louder than words.

I don’t think Rocky was ever a Boy Scout, but he would have been a good one. The scout law goes like this; “A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” Check, that pretty well describes Rocky, but I would have to add strong, persevering, tenacious, hard working, and humorous to that list.

One could count on Rocky. He worked hard his whole life. He never retired. He wasn’t content sitting still; he had to be doing something or fixing something. This was another secret to happiness Rocky knew; the importance of activity. He kept busy. He had projects and when those were completed he had more. If he didn’t have a project, my mother had a list for him. He was the kind of husband that makes the rest of us look bad. He did what his wife told him to do.

Rocky loved a good western. His favorite author was Louis L’Amour. He had many of his books and devoured every one of them. Here are some quotes from Louis L’Amour:

Regarding death he said:
It is the measure of a man to die well. –Last of the Breed
Rocky did that. Though his body was racked with pain and his strength was drained from him he worked to get up and dress everyday. He wanted to live as though it were a normal day. I am told he never complained. So if the measure of a man is to die well, Rocky did that with both strength and dignity.

Louis L’Amour also wrote regarding death:
When I die, remember that what you knew of me is with you always. What is buried is only the shell of what was. Do not regret the shell, but remember the man. Remember the father. –Last of the Breed.

I think Rocky would agree with those words. “Remember the man.”

So Rocky lived; but he also lives. He lives on in our memories and he lives on as we continue to carry out his legacy.

His legacy is in the kind of life he lived. It was in the family from which he came, his parents, his siblings, his children, and all those he adopted along the way. Rocky’s family extends far beyond blood. You know what I am talking about. Chances are that if you are sitting here today you are one of Rocky’s extended brothers or sisters or sons and daughters.

We are his legacy. The way we honor that is to take the torch from his hand and carry it forward. The torch we carry is to live the kind of life he lived. To value honesty and hard work, to appreciate natural beauty and those treasures all around us. To be a good friend, to laugh, to compete and to leave the world a better place.

That is how you honor someone. You carry on what they did. The beauty in this is that if we live like Rocky lived we will learn the secrets he knew. You see happiness is a byproduct of our actions. You can’t acquire happiness by doing any one thing or by getting any one thing. Happiness comes from doing many things and doing them every day. Rocky knew that too.

In Boy Scouts we were taught that you leave a campsite better than you found it. Even if it was dirty when we arrived, we were to leave it clean and with a fresh stack of firewood. Rocky was like that too. He is leaving us in a better condition than when he found us. God has enriched us through him.

Rocky had a big heart, and as the Wizard of Oz told the Tin Man, A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.

Can there be a better legacy?

Here’s to Donald “Rocky” Rockenbach – a good man.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, May 10, 2007


Heading North

I have been busy making the DVD for Rocky’s memorial service and preparing the message. It has been a labor of love, because he deserves my efforts and a whole lot more.

Friday, Barbara and I will be driving to Missouri and the service will be Saturday afternoon. Sunday we drive home and Monday it is back to work. Too bad we can’t stay longer, but it will be nice being with the family.

Eventually, I will post the text of the service and possibly parts of the video.

Next week, I should be back to my normal posting.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, May 04, 2007


It wasn't that long ago

Life goes by quickly. The older I get, the more I realize this. Below is a photo of my mother and Rocky; both 17 years old with their lives ahead of them. (click for larger image).

Mom and Rocky at age 17

I scanned in a few photos I received from Becky and Rocky's family and you can see them here.

Photos of Rocky

Have a great weekend folks. Since life goes by so quickly make sure you enjoy it.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, May 03, 2007


Look ma, no beard

I have had a beard since 1980; that's 27 years. When I was at Manresa a week or so ago, I decided to shave it off just to see what was underneath it. Bear still remembered me, but it took Barbara some getting used to. I think she feels like she is cheating on her husband. I say that is guilt free cheating, ha.
Clean shaven
No beard after 27 years

Moon May 2
The Moon through the Louisiana pines on May 1, 2007

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I'm still here

I have been spending a lot of time preparing for Rocky's memorial service for May 12. I am making a video and preparing the words. I want to do a good job; he deserves it. Therefore, posts will be sparse until I feel I am on top of the task.

I get to have a root canal today, yipppeee.

Until the next time
John Strain