Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Grinch

     Yesterday, my youngest daughter was glued to the TV watching, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."  It is probably my third favorite Christmas show (behind Charlie Brown and whichever one has the Land of Misfit Toys in it, I think that is "Santa Claus is coming to town."  In any event I digress.

     So the Grinch is on and I could not help but the "When I was your age" talk.  In this era of on-demand, digital shows, you can see just about anything, anytime.  Not so in my day.  How many of us born in the Johnson/Nixon administrations recall with pain and sadness realizes that our favorite Christmas show was half-way over when we turned it on.  NNNOOOOO!!!!!!!!    Too bad, next year.  Sometime in the late 80s, there came liberation from the tyranny of the network executives, we could buy the VHS copy of our favorite shows.  Then came the DVD and well, now it's all on line.  I think the Grinch has been on several times in the last 24 hours in our house.

     The Grinch features of course a legend of horror films, Boris Karloff.  Boris was born William Henry Pratt and changed it to Boris Karloff.  (source-  Not a bad career move if you think about it.  The name Pratt does not conjure fear (unless Mr. Pratt is a geometry teacher and it's the final exam) but Boris Karloff, now that gets your attention.

     I did a search (albeit not a detailed one, after all the Packers game is on in an hour) to find out how Karloff got the job.  As nothing came up, I imagine the executives sitting around a conference room in LA, with all the "Man Men" life props of overflowing ashtrays, bottles of rye and bourbon, bleary-eyed and frustrated middle-aged men not particularly pleased at doing some "(expletive-deleted) kiddie show."   Then someone flies into the room.  They reel back from the wall of smoke and cough.  They announce:  "He'll do it."

Some other suit, "Who will do it?"

First guy- "Karloff."

Yet some other suit, "Who?!?"

First guy- "Karloff, you know, Dracula!"

All the other suits in unison- "Perfect, he's (expletive-deleted) perfect!  Now, let's finish these drinks and go to happy hour!"

Ah, how I love a happy ending.

Actually, all kidding aside, Karloff is perfect as the Grinch.  He gives a voice to the green and mean Grinch.  He is, in fact, "...A mean one, Mr. Grinch."  And yet, when he realizes that Christmas is not about presents but the celebration, his heart, "...grew three sizes that day," (or words to that effect.)  Without question, my favorite part is when the Grinch comes riding down the hill, blowing the horn, bringing back the gifts.  The Whos, instead of being angry or initiating court action, welcome him and all is well.  Trite and predictable, sure.  But then again, IT'S A CARTOON!  (As I mentioned, I love a happy ending.)  As I watched the show, I smiled, thinking of old Boris, reciting the lines of the Grinch and narrating the story.  The suits were right, he was perfect for this part.

The Grinch has the "Welcome Christmas" song and here are the lyrics:

"Da hoo dorais fa hoo dores
Welcome Christmas christmas day
da hoo dorai fa hoo dores
Welcome Christmas, Christmas day
Welcome, welcome fahoo ramus
Welcome, welcome dahoo damus
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome Christmas bring your cheer
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome all Whos far and near."


"Christmas day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp."  So true.

I wish everyone who observes the Christmas holiday a wonderful and most Merry Christmas.  For those of you who are not Christian but will be partaking in a celebration, to enjoy it as well.  For some of us, we'll spend either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day in a church.  Not surprising, it will be more full than (ahem) other days.  I recall last year when our Monsignor quipped at the end of Mass;

"Now please be sure to check out our new fellowship hall that just opened.  Or, you can see it next Sunday when you are all here."  (Or words to that effect.)  There was a burst of uncontrolled laughter.  The point was made:  "Glad you're here, see some of you at Easter."  Oh well.

We have all experienced a collective punch in the gut of recent days.  I have no doubt we will all, in our own way, remember those who are grieving this Christmas.  Yes, let us remember and if inclined pray for them.  But let us also be of good cheer.  Revel in our families, laugh at stories told for the umpteeth time that get grander by the year, be awakened at zero-dark-thirty by kids who fly down the stairs, hurdle the dog and set a NFL-combine record to get to the stockings, bulging with gifts from Santa.  Good times.  Of course, there are those that are far from home who will eat a dinner on a plastic tray.  When they finish that meal, they will sling a rifle over their shoulder and head back to a dangerous job serving our nation.  Please keep them in your thoughts.  May they ALL come home safe and soon.

Be well my friends.  I'll close with the words of Tiny Tim from "A Christmas Carol:"

"God bless us, every one!" 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snow Day

When I was a kid, snow days were something to cherish.  No school and a mess of snow to play in.  This was back in those days long since past when kids could be out for hours and mom and dad need not worry.  I recall how we would sled down the hill by Trinity Lutheran Church.  Marquette Street ran right smack dab in front of it and part of the "fun" was being able to stop or jump off the sled before you hit the street.  I look back at those days with fond memory and a profound sense of appreciation for my good fortune (or dumb luck) in never finding myself in that street...under a station wagon. 

Even well into middle age, snow days still cause me to smile.  Today instead of being in school, my kids and a friend made cookies.  (They were good.)  Instead of getting on the treadmill like I should have, I was out pushing snow.  My youngest daughter was out three times and she laughed off the cold and wind.  I think she has a future with the ski patrol. 

The fact this was the first snow of the year added to the day.  Last winter was a farce as far as snow was concerned.  Jimmy Buffett has a line in one of his songs, "Been awhile since I seen any snow." (I can't remember the song so if you know it, please remind me, thanks.)  I thought about that today as it came down.  Although I am sure I will be muttering under my breath (or not so softly if it's a bad winter) about future snows, this has a beauty to be appreciated.  The way the snow hangs on the branches, winter cotton if you will, is worth the look.  In our hill in back the snow is a soft blanket of white, a blanket tucking in the hill for the winter.  It is as if nature says, "Worry not about those remaining leaves.  They will wait until spring."  I got three bags of the bargain birdfeed from HyVee and filled up the feeders.  I always like seeing the birds come back.  I figure those who have the fortitude to ride out the winter deserve a snack.  I have no doubt the some ambitious squirrel will attempt to hijack the feeder.  I hope I am there to watch. 

Then there are the deer.  We do not feed them as it would be (to quote my Dad) a disaster if they were regular visitors.  Cars and deers do not mix.  Still, they do wander in, seeking the last of the apples or whatever else they can find.  I recall one time at Fort Dix when I came face to face with a deer.  I stayed down there during the week and one night I was coming back to my barracks room one night in winter.  It was a cold night (duh, winter, I know, but please, just go with me on this) and I was walking alone.  Then over the loudspeaker, taps was played.  If you are inside, you really cannot hear it, but outside, with no other noise, you cannot help but hear it.  Well, hear it is not really the right word.  You do not just "hear" taps, at least I don't.  It is both sad and comforting.  The mournful notes hang in the air, like I suppose snow on a branch.  I don't know the words by heart but then again, you don't have to in order to appreciate the importance of these notes.  It signals the end of a day.  It also reminds you of things past.  The hidden beauty is you, the listener, get to decide what you are reminded of.

If you hear taps, you are supposed to stop.  You do not salute for the flag is already down, but you should pause if outside and I did.  It was then I realized this deer was like ten feet away from me.  We both looked at each other.  It was a thing of beauty.  Here's the funny part:  It was cold and I do not like cold, except here, in this moment I felt just fine.  As the song died away I lingered, staring at the deer.  Then, he turned and walked away, leaving me with the returned cold.  This was a decade ago (thereabouts) and I still remember it.  I hope I always will, if only with the first season's snow.

Snow days are special as is winter.  It starts tomorrow.  I'll make an effort to enjoy it, at least for a short while.  I am also sure I will drive by Trinity Hill and shake my head at the joyful stupidity of my youth. 

Be well my friends,

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Nothing Clever Today

Greetings All:

I have not written for a couple of weeks and was hoping to do a post on something fun or frivolous.  Perhaps talk about the holidays and how we celebrate everything in our house.  Or maybe discuss that for all our mocking of holiday songs, we secretly love them and cannot get enough of them.  Who knows, maybe something else. 

That is not going to happen with this post.  Not only am I not going to write about something fun, I am not even going to attempt to be clever, even by my mediocre standards.  Nope, this is not one of those posts.  Simply put, it is my feeble attempt to get my head around the horrific events of yesterday. 

I learned of it from a news brief on my iPhone, clearly tragic, yet few details.  As the morning gave way to the afternoon, the view came into focus of ugly, terrible clarity.  I woke up this morning and although I do not usually turn on the news (I prefer to start the day with Dwyer & Michaels and only go to the news when they are on commercial) did today.  It is just plain horrible terrible.  I can live to be 100 and will never be convinced that there is an explanation of this act of savagery.  Never.

As for the perpetrator, I reject the term, “shooter.”  That is a tactical term used by those who must respond to a situation in a professional, emotionally detached situation.  (As an aside, profound thanks and gratitude for those who responded to this tragedy.  By all accounts, they were brave, making hard calls and doing all they could to provide protection and comfort.  Their work, unfortunately, is far from over.) 

No, “shooter” is the wrong term for him.  I chose three:  coward, thief, and murderer.  Coward for he chose those victims he was certain could not fight back.  Thief for he stole from these victims’ loved ones their life and the accompanying joy.  As I write this, there are family members writhing in a pain I cannot possibly begin to understand.  Whatever grief we collectively feel and I know it is sincere, it can never come close to the family members of those who fell yesterday.  I will also add that he is a coward for taking his own life and not stand accountable for his crimes.  Finally murderer for what you did by your hand.  You are the very worst of mankind.  I know this is not very Christian of me but I have neither mercy nor pity for you.  Perhaps God found reason to offer him grace yet I hope not.  Instead, I hope that when you, coward/thief/murderer, pulled the trigger for the last time your soul was sent screaming to Hell.  I sincerely hope you will spend eternity being damned along with those who served the Nazi death machine and others of such acts of evil against children. 

I remember a movie from 1990 “The Russia House.”  In it, Sean Connery’s character says in one scene, “All victims are equal.”  I disagree.  These 20 children stand alone.  They had no way to fight back.  They went to school that day, to a place where they had the right to be safe and loved.  For those who were not victims of violence, they are victims of witness to a carnage no one should ever have to see.  Whatever the cost, I do not care.  Raise my taxes to ensure there is adequate counseling and support for these kids.  It is the least we can do.

I have nothing clever to say.  I want to forget the coward/thief/murderer.  I want to honor the memories of the fallen.  I wish there was a way I could carry some of the grief, if only for a little while, of the parents.  Yet even as I write this, I know that is a hollow wish.  Whatever good intentions I may have, they are not realistic.  I will likely never know any of the loved’ ones of the fallen.  I can of course pray for them and I will.  I can also renew my efforts to be a better parent, knowing that I have the most precious of gift.  I will try not to get frustrated with toys left on stairs or clean clothes thrown on the floor.  I get to clean those messes up.  Twenty sets of parents will never get to wash clothes worn by their child again.  My God, it’s hard to breathe when thinking about such a thing.

I want to end on a positive note.  I have been thinking about what that can be that is realistic and meaningful.  I think we are all seeking that now and want to avoid any triviality of this horror.  This is what I have come up with:

As I read the posts of my friends on Facebook I have noticed a sincere sharing of grief.  In addition, I have seen a noble exposure of personal pain of how this has impacted them.  I can see in their words their love for their families and their children.  I am utterly certain that on millions of Facebook walls friends are sharing the same feelings of love, grief, pain and appreciation that their families are safe.  I have seen a validation of our collective humanity.  It’s easier to breathe when I read these posts.

Thank you for reading this and forgive me if some of my comments are angry and small.  Now that I have put them out there, I hope to focus on the good and the positive and pledge to write something positive and soon.  In the meantime, here is a poem that I found I feel is appropriate for this post:

Epitaph on a child
Here, freed from pain, secure from misery, lies
A child, the darling of his parents' eyes:
A gentler lamb n'er sported on the plain,
A fairer flower will never bloom again:
Few were the days allotted to his breath;
Now let him sleep in peace his night of death.

Thomas Gray, poet, classical scholar and Cambridge don (1716 - 1771)

Be well my friends.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Great Local Play

Greetings All:

Last night Dawn and I saw a great local production of a local playwright.  "Altar Call," authored by Melissa McBain, opened at the District Theater in Rock Island.  (The above image used with permission of Ms. McBain.)  It is a super show!  The cast includes Angela Rathman as Maggie Stone, Jerry Wolking as the Rev Silas Elmore and Bobby Duncalf as John Stone.  The rest of the cast is terrific and bring to life a compelling and thought-provoking story. 

Please be advised, this is not a laugh-out-loud comedy for the whole family.  Although there is humor in the show, it is sprinkled throughout, much like Parmesan cheese on an otherwise spicy pasta dish.  It pulls no punches in showing just how complicated life can be and the choices people make.  The story focuses on, as Johnathan Turner summarizes in his review, "Maggie Stone, (Ms. Rathman) a 40-year-old minister's daughter, is trapped between the needs of her gay son, the demands of her Baptist father's church, and the desires of her physician husband."  The review in full is carried by the link below:

I do not get out to see much live theater.  In fact, with my daughter's recent performances at Jr. Theater and last night, I have seen more of it in the past two months than in the last few years.  In fact, probably longer than that.  Until last night, I had forgotten how much fun live theater can be and how good an experience it is for a person.  Of course, that presumes a couple of things:  1.  The actors are serious about their craft; 2. The theater is set up for the experience; and 3. The audience (er, me) is sincere about receiving the performance.  

1. The Actors

Last night, I saw actors who were serious about their craft.  Although I am friends with Jerry (Rev. Stone) I had never seen him perform.  I was impressed with him and the rest of the cast the way they gave themselves to the show.  In film or TV, retakes are expected.  In live theater, it is one go.  There were interactions between the characters that were funny on occasion, difficult in others, and in a few, painful to watch.  This story is the emotional equivalent of a rear-end crash at about 45 MPH without deploying airbags.  It is a great and powerful story but at times hard to watch.  It is the actors who made that happen.  They took the words of Ms. McBain and brought them to life,...and in the face of the audience. 

This is community theater.  It was not perfect from a technical sense.  However, as far as I am concerned, that made it all the more meaningful.  There is something about community theater, of people who have day jobs, and school and families and life and bills and oil to change and all the other "stuff" in life.  While we are home or doing something else, they are rehearsing.  I suspect (but do not know) that many of the props, the costumes, and so on were supplied by the actors.  It is a credit to their craft and an acknowledge of their love for theater.  To paraphrase Mr. Billy S, they did, "Act well their parts."

2.  The Theater

I love The District Theater.  I wish now I would have taken some pictures of it from the inside before the show.  It is an intimate setting (about 65 seats) and utilizes both a main stage (I think that is the right term) and staging up above to the stage left.  (I think I got this right, I just asked my daughter.)  It does not "look" like a theater from the outside which (to me) just adds to the cool effect of walking into it.  I have not seen a lot of big-city theater, but of what I have seen, I would put this place up against anything "The Village" offers.  Here are the links to the theater and to their Facebook page, please check it out if you' like:

The place was transformed from a church to a home with ease, the illusions of scene changes maintained.  There was clever uses of props and set pieces.  (I will not say more, go see for yourself please :)) While the lighting cues were not perfect, it was still an effective use of the "tech" aspects of the show. 

I should also give a word of appreciation to Mr. Bryan Woods, the Director, and Ms. Martha Davenport, the Stage Manager.  Without their work beyond the spotlight the actors in it would not have shown through as they did.

3.  The Audience

From all accounts, this was an appreciative audience.  I know that I tried to be and it was one of the reasons I slammed a cup of coffee before the show to not be groggy.  I heard years ago how Celine Dion was furious at audience members who would fall asleep during her shows in Vegas.  She lamented (and with some reason, I would surmise)

"People come here for four days, they eat too much, drink too many free drinks, they get sick from all that, they are jet-lagged sometimes so they just sit in the seat and sleep."

I saw no one on their smart phones, no sustained whispering, appropriate laughter and hearty applause at the end.  The only confusion was when intermission came as we were not sure it was intermission.  That may have been the idea.  In any event, I think the audience did their part, that is sitting back and enjoying the show.  

For me, the one thing that stuck with me were the set changes.  Obviously, you knew there was a pause in the action.  However, it was as if the audience made a pact with the actors-"We will suspend the show together, yet keep the illusion of the story alive until the lights come up."  To me, it is one of the coolest things about theater.  

This was a great local play, put on locally by local actors and written by a local playwright.  I am glad I got to see it and experience that wonderful experience of seeing art brought to life on a stage.  I am already looking forward to my show.  Who knows, maybe someday I will audition for a role.  What shows or performances have you seen that moved you?  What would you like to see?  How about telling your own story?  Please let me know your thoughts, thanks.

"Altar Call" runs Dec 1, 6-8, (curtain 8:00 p.m.) and Sunday, Dec 9th.  Tickets are $15.00, available at (309) 235-1654 or email,


Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Bane of Winning

     Admit it, you bought one, or two or ten.  Lottery ticket or tickets of course.  That half a BILLION dollars.  I did, please see above and nope, didn't win, not even one number.

     Of course, it's fun to think about what you could do with ALL THAT MONEY!  Issues that are a daily, if not hourly concern would (in theory) vanish.  Your kids (and grandkids) could be perpetual students.  For that matter, I could go back to school and bring my fraternity brothers with me.  We could re-colonize our old fraternity and I could even represent us in misdemeanor court for noise violations.  (Oh wait, I don't stay up late any more and complain about my kids' music being too loud.  Never mind...)

     Seriously, everyone I know had the "If I don't come in tomorrow" line on Wednesday.  And that's fine.  It is part of the fun to dream about how your life would change.  And it would.  Of course, it might not be for the best.  As the link below shows, there is the "lottery curse."  People who have won it have suffered deaths of loved ones and other less horrible but nonetheless heartbreaking events.  As the wife of one winner commented, "I wish I would have tore up the ticket."  (Or words to that effect.  (Please see the link below for the precise quote.)

     But what about those who do not suffer tragedies?  There is a strong likelihood that a winner of a mega jackpot will be broke down the road.  Oh and by the way, not decades, but a mere half of one.  I found this quote that sums it up pretty well:

"The researchers, led by Mark Hoekstra of the University of Pittsburgh, found that five years down the line, there were almost no meaningful differences between the big lottery winners and the small. The two groups had comparable assets and debts. But there was one big distinction -- the big winners were more likely to have gone bankrupt, for the simple reason that, as the authors put it, they had "'consumed their winnings.'"

     So be of good cheer if you did not win.  If you think about all the good stuff that is in your life, you are already a winner.  (OK, I admit, it is a trite expression but it is the best I come up with at 9:39 on a Thursday night and I have to be up at 5 tomorrow for mandatory fun (PT) so go with me on this, please. I will end on something I heard from Tony Robbins years (like 1990s) ago.  He was commenting about how he interviewed Sir John Templeton, then one of the richest men in the world.  As I recall the discussion, Robbins said,

     "Sir John, what is the secret to wealth?"

     The answer offered was one word- "Gratitude."

     We are all capable of this so in theory, we are all wealthy, even if we have to go to work tomorrow.  Oh, and we are free of the bane of the lottery win.  Perhaps that is the most priceless thing we can possess.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Silly Season

     Ah, the winter holidays, they kick off with Thanksgiving (granted, it is still technically fall but considering the billions of dollars that was spent on Friday (what's the color it is referred to again?) that sets up for the holiday gift-giving season I'll throw it into the winter holidays.  Besides, it helps to make a better blog post :))  Here's a link to some info on Friday:

     So about the title of this post, The Silly Season.  I recall that in the "Lethal Weapon" movie, there is a scene where Mel Gibson's character is attempting to control a suicidal jumper and in his small talk, refers to this the holidays as "...the silly season," or worst to that effect.  There is a link below to the youtube clip.  (I state all copyrights are owned by the production company who made the movie and/or they are cool with this being on youtube...)

     So here we are, a week away from December, no snow (at least in Eastern Iowa) and yet into the "Season."  It is a time to struggle (and maybe curse) at lights tangled.  (Didn't I make a sacred oath last year to put them away in an orderly fashion?) It is a time to marvel at how our kids can remember their lists the way 1950s bookies could remember bets and spreads.  It is a time to be caught up with nostalgia from all directions.  And yes, it is a time to be overwhelmed.  From social engagements to  juggling "who is at who's house this year" to all the joys the mall is, how could it not be a time for feeling just a bit (or a lot) of craziness.  Perhaps calling it the silly season is being charitable and I do not mean in a red kettle kind of way.

     Then again, it is our choice as to what we focus on this season.  It can be crazy or it can be great.  It can be stressful or it can be time to back up the truck (er sled) and cart away memories.  I do not claim to be an expert on the holidays (or anything else.)  Here is what I do know:

     1.  I have one child who believes in Santa;
     2.  I have another child who is a willing co-conspirator in keeping that myth alive;
     3.  Both of these kids are Jewish by way of their mom/my wife:
     4.  In our house, our Christmas tree went up Friday and today there were potato latkes for dinner;
     5.  My kids put up and decorated my Dad's Christmas tree;
     6.  We will light the Menorah during Chanukah;
     7.  We will have our traditional New Year's party and will start it early this year as making it to 1200 is not that big a deal anymore; and
     8,  I will try to not get stress out (much) and focus on all the wonderfully great stuff in my life. 

     If I can pull that off, it will be a great season, with all the silliness that comes with it.  Come mid-January, I think we'll all wish things weren't so calm,...and cold.

     What are your thoughts on the holiday season?  Is it truly the silly season, a wonderful time, or both?


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Few Appropriate Remarks

Author's Note:  This blog post grew out of a Letter to the Editor of the Quad City Times that I was fortunate enough to have published on Monday, November 19th.  Here is the link to it:

149 years ago this Monday (November 19th), a government officer performed an official duty.  He was asked to formalize the dedication of a particular piece of Federal land.  In the invitation to this official, he was asked to offer "...a few appropriate remarks."  The main oration, a formal speech of greater length would be offered by another.  The government official was Abraham Lincoln.  The plot of land was the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg.  His ten lines of prose, a few minutes in length, became known as the Gettysburg Address.  That speech has become vested in our nation's history.  Here it is in its entirety:
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
A Lincoln public domain.bmpLincoln Gettysburg Addy public domain.jpg
(Public Domain photos of Lincoln)
Last night, I took my 14-year-old to see the movie Lincoln.  It is a great movie and if you've got kids past grade school (there are some graphic battlefield scenes) take them.  There is a lot to discuss on the way home, including how it was that the continuation of slavery was even open to debate.  Not withstanding the "Hollywoodization" of the story, it still is time well-spent.  Here is the link to the movie:
In the beginning of the movie, the address is featured in a interesting and unexpected way.  Two years after the speech, it was popular with many and over time, its popularity has only grown and with good reason.  It is a part of our American history.  It has even found a place in our not-so-distant pop culture.  ##The iconic opening of "Four score and seven years ago,"  was spoofed in the "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" movie, where President Lincoln was brought back in time declared, "Four score and seven minutes ago, we, your forefather, were brought forth upon a most excellent adventure conceived by our new friend, Bill..and Ted,  These two great gentlemen are dedicated to  aproportion which was true in my time, just as it's true today.  Be excellent to each other..."
One could take offense to this clearly comedic use of the likes and words of our beloved 16th President.  However, I would offer that Mr. Lincoln would likely laugh loudly at the reference.  Considering how he was pillaged in the press, this would be deemed an act of no ill will, if not affection.  In any event, it shows the staying power of this speech.
It is a terrific speech.  A few years back, I was in Clinton, Iowa for court in my private practice.  I noticed that this speech was displayed in the iron sign often seen dedicating historical venues.  Here in a place where speeding tickets, divorces and on occasion more serious matters are deciding, routine in their own way, is a testament to something not routine.  Even though I wanted to get home I remember pausing to read it and marveled at it.
Lincoln was an orator and a statesman.  Yet he was also the supreme authority of the U.S. military.  The article below from the January 2009 Smithsonian online magazine by James McPherson discusses Lincoln as this wartime leader.  It is a terrific read and discusses how Lincoln determined the national war strategy.  He committed to it, knowing how heavy the cost would be in lives.  He then sought out generals who would execute it. 
Lincoln understood that in order for the United States to not "...perish from the earth...," and to finish, "...the great task remaining before us..." he would have to win the war.  I suspect that when he made those comments in November, 1863 he knew, he was certain, the war would drag on.  It would continue to create rows of crosses and grieving mothers.  Still, he was committed to this cause and with his short address committed the rest of the nation.  It truly was a few appropriate remarks.
Wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving, especially to anyone reading this far from home.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Some Truly Good News

It is not hard to find bad news. In fact, thanks to the internet, you are one click away from war, natural disasters, economic pressures and other strive.  In a future post I am going to focus on the The Fund For Peace and its 2012 Failed States Report. That is chalk full of bad news, enough for at least a couple of posts. However, that is for another day.

For this post, I want to share with you what I consider a truly "good news" story. It has nothing to do with the military, the law, or anything along those lines.  And yet, I hope you will come away from this post feeling just a bit better about our world and the young people who live in it.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Ms. Sarah Cronk. I have not met her personally yet I know a number of people who do know her. She is from my town and has done (IMO) a pretty amazing thing. She created The Sparkle Effect.

In a nutshell,this terrific program empowers kids with disabilities with the opportunity to be cheerleaders. Here is the message from Ms. Cronk:

"The Sparkle Effect continues to profoundly change the lives and outlooks of participating students with and without disabilities, replacing insecurity with confidence and joy. In the United States today, athletes are taught to perfect their skills, to conquer, to win. Sparkle Effect teams are not about perfection, they are about connection. Join the nationwide movement that is changing game night in America."

I could go on at length about how neat and cool and wonderful this program is but please do me a favor, just check out the photos on the website. I think you'll get the point. Go ahead, I'll wait.

OK, we're back. So from the website you saw what makes this so amazing. Here are what one could argue are two groups in the high school world you would not necessary think would come together. Back in my high school days (in the dark ages of cassette tapes and the Apple II) this would never have happened.

What I find so amazing about this group is that it is both a super idea and it also has a plan to grow. Itis what we in the military-speak call sustainment.  The program continues to grow, reach kids and I might add, the adults who have the good fortune to watch it happen.

As I learned about this program, I recall Sarah mentioning that her inspiration for this program was when her brother was invited to have lunch at the table of the swim team captain. The link below is from ESPN and tells a story on the same lines, although under more dire circumstances. A girl was being bullied and members of the football team stepped up and befriended her. It is another "good news" story.

Back to The Sparkle Effect, this story is something that has many so good points. The story by and far is great and that is enough. However, when you factor in that this was started by a student and grown legs and is now spreading throughout the country makes it even better.  

Robert Kennedy made a speech in South Africa on June 6, 1966. In that speech, he said the following:

"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
Is this quote a bit much for this program, maybe. Then again, watch the video from NBC news about this programand then decide for yourself about this program:

After watching this, I think that The Sparkle Effect is a true ripple of hope. If this is not a good news story, I do not know what is.  I would go so far as to say it is a wonderfully good news story.  I hope you enjoyed it.  So what is a good news today you have?  Please share it, either here or better yet, through your own blog, I would appreciate reading it, thanks.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

4th of July

It's the 4th of July, America's birthday.  As I write this, Americans in places like Afghanistan, Kuwait, the Horn of Africa and other harsh and dangerous places it is already that day.  Interestingly, I understand that it was actually the 2nd that the Continental Congress voted for independence but ratification occurred on the 4th, thus the reason why we celebrate it then.  Besides, doesn't the 4th of July sound so much better than the 2nd of July?

I remember when I was 7 years old and be celebrated the bicentennial.  I remember seeing a bunch of military displays and getting ice cream on my pants.  I was not exactly sure what was going on, but knew it was kind of a big deal.

Fast forward three decades and change.  A lot has changed.  We've been engaged in a war that has surpassed both the revolution and Vietnam.  We have technology that would cause Jefferson and Franklin to be giddy with excitement.  Could you imagine Ben Franklin with an iPad or Thomas Jefferson with digital music?  Wow!

Tomorrow I will get up, put out the flag, do town stuff with the family and will sit in our court and watch the fireworks.  Happy birthday America! 


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

1/3 Done

Greetings All:

I was about to write, "It's hard to believe that 1/3 of the year is done and it's May..."  Then again, is it really hard to believe?  Granted, for those of us in the Midwest, we had an extremely easy winter, so that could be part of it.  However, as a law professor said about (gulp) 20 years ago, "Time is neutral."  What I believe she meant and the way I took it was that time move forward.  A minute is 60 seconds, a week 7 days, and so on.  Time is what we attest to it.  Of course, in some situations, time can drag.  Waiting for a flight, results on a test and so on.  Then again, I recall that Dr. Victor Frankl (sp?) writing how even in the Hell of the death/concentration camps, "...the weeks flew by..." or words to that effect.  (As an aside, this book is a painfully hard and equally important book to read or listen to, here's the link.  I am not saying go buy it, your local library should have a copy.  This link is for info purposes and to give a proper cite to my source:)

Back to the post and the year being a third over.  Whether or not four months of 2012 are over seems possible, it is.  Things like New Year's Resolutions have long since passed from the news and the gyms that were crowded even in February are now back to the pre-resolution level.  Have the diets gone by the wayside?  Are the plans to bring lunch and save money replaced by trips to the drive-thru lane just like before?  BTW, I am not offering a critique of anyone or any one resolution, simply offering a point that the new year is a time to think about goals, changes and after that...

As we observe (not really a time to celebrate the start of May, unless you're in Buffalo, New York and the ice is finally starting to melt) this time of year, I wonder if this is a good time to re-visit the goals that were set in January.  Why didn't they stick?  Speaking for myself, I wonder if the reason I have not made any major changes is that I am wildly fortunate to have a great life and want for nothing.  (Well, getting the Camaro running is a clear want, not a need but I digress...)  Still, I am going to take a bit of time and see what is going on and if there are things I want to do, really want to do.  After all, nothing of value comes free, it must be earned.

This may or may not be a good transition, but I gotta get to work, and I wanted to mention this--the inventory.  A valued mentor of mine recently challenged us to take an inventory of what is in our "bucket."  This is a metaphor for those things of value we carry with us (think George Clooney's backpack from Up in the Air).  This will likely include family, friends, experiences, accomplishments, disappointments, et al.  I'll wrap up with this question:  where do goals fit into this bucket?

Have a great day and Happy Law Day belated a day.

Best rgs,

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Days of Remembrance

Greetings All:

Yesterday, I had the profound privilege to hear Mrs. Anges M. Schwartz speak at the Rock Island Arsenal Days of Remembrance Observation.  She is a Holocaust Survivor.  Although she was not deported to a death or concentration camp, her mother was.  Her father escaped his own deportation thanks to the actions of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat (and a personal hero of mine). 

She told a riveting tale of how her idyll childhood world in Budapest, Hungary, was ripped from her when she was only 11.  In 1944, the Nazis, led by Albert Eichmann (later hanged in Israel in May, 1962) began their reign of terror and systematic deportation to the death house that was Auschwitz.  She recalled with chilling detail of the sounds of Nazis marching, coming to collect her fellow Jews,...including her mother.  She survived because her maid, a Catholic, took her in and hid her as her niece.  Because Mr. Schwartz had attended a Catholic school (Hungary is an over-whelming Catholic country and private education was common) she knew enough about the New Testament to avoid inquiry from neighbors, some of whom were enthusiastic supporters of Hitler.  She survived the bombings, the Nazi (and their Arrow Cross henchmen) spontaneous killings, and even found her father after the war.  When finally reunited with her father, she heard those magical words, "We're going to America!" 

However, this was not to be a "and they lived happily-ever after."  After settling in Chicago, her father inexplictedly returned to Hungary.  Then, he did the unthinkable:  he re-married and his relationship with his daughter, the one he almost lost, was thrown away. 

Mrs. Schwartz tells this part of the story without overt bitterness.  She stoicly stated how her father was "never the same."  Undoubtedly, he had post-traumatic stress.  How could he not?  Or her, for that matter.

As she told her story of her first husband leaving her and being a single parent, I saw in this eldery woman a strength few have.  She did not say this, of course, but her presence conveyed this message:  "I survived the war, I can survive as a single mother."  She later did meet another man, Mr. Schwartz, and until his death, they had a good life.  If anyone deserved such a life, it is her.

Now retired, her work is with the Illinois Holocaust Museum, her "second home."  She speaks on a subject she ignored (and who could blame her) for years.  Now, her voice is being heard.  It is a difficult story.  I had to work to maintain my composure several times yesterday.  Her decision to speak, to find her voice (that is becoming a trite phase but appropriate here) is all the more important as the number of survivors is estimated at anywhere between 200,000 and 300,000, with that number falling everyday.  As the deniers and the Hilter apologists are eagerly awaiting the day there are no more living survivors, the tale of Anges Schwartz needs to reach as many people (especially young people) as possible. 

In telling her tale, he elected to cross back over a bridge in her memory that had to cause unimaginable pain.  Yet in doing so, by choosing the courage to speak, we have another testament to a dark time in history.  We need to remember.  By remembering, by honoring, by pledging "NEVER AGAIN!" we build our own bridge to a better world.  A world free of (we hope) from terrified 11-year old girls, hearing the pounding of boots on the pavement.

Best rgs,


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Crossing Bridges

Greetings All:

As I mentioned in my first post, the title for this blog, Cedo Pontis, is a rough translation of the Latin "to go to," and the word, "bridge."  So, I thought I would talk about crossing bridges.  With apologies issued in advance for using a way-old metaphor, I did title this post Crossing Bridges.  However, I will make an attempt to add some original thought to this idea.

I cross a bridge at least twice a day during the week, actually, four bridges, counting the overpass, to get to my work.  (More about that later.)  I am not alone, millions, probably billions of people do the same thing.  Then there are the other "things" in our life we bridge.  They are the connections between our family, our friends (Facebook is the expansion bridge to the online world) and to the parts of our self, past and present.  Many of these we do self-consciously and quite frankly, we should.  It's called life.  If we think and ponder about everything we do and the "deeper" meaning of it, we'd never get anything done.  I can speak only for myself, but it's a constant battle to simply keep laundry washed and (dare I say it) folded and put away.

Yet I do think that it is time well spent to, on occasion, ponder where we are, how we got there, and where we would like to go.  As we think about what is next, planning is always a good idea.  In doing so, we can see what bridges we need to cross, and who knows, what bridges we may build.


Today is Pat's Run in Tempe, AZ.

The link above gives some background on this race and the cause it supports.  Pat Tillman was a pro football player who walked away from millions of dollars to enlist in the Army.  He was killed in Afghanistan under circumstances that may never be 100% clear.  What is clear is that Pat was someone who LOVED life as his friends and family attest to without exception. (I never met him, for which I regret but I have had the privilege to meet many people close to him and am honored to have them as valued friends.)  What is great about PTF is the work it does to help others make a difference.  Today, 28k will take to the streets of Tempe to run, walk and honor Pat.  They will also be raising money and joining together to both celebrate Pat's life and take positive action for others.  For some, the 4.2 mile run will be the longest (and last :)) of their life.  That's fine.  In doing so, they are crossing a number of bridges, those made by others and those created in their mind.

Have a great day, be well my friends!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Welcome to Cedo Pontis

Greetings All:

Welcome to the first post of my blog, Cedo Pontis. I struggled with what to call this blog and deferred to that "end of all arguments," Google. I did a Latin search for bridge and came up with pontis. I then needed another word and while putzing around came across another word, Cedo. Cedo means (roughly) to go or proceed. Therefore, Cedo Pontis means (at least to me) to go to a bridge and cross it.

Of course, this is awfully ripe with metaphors. What's a "bridge?" What is being crossed? Why cross it? Hopefully, I will be able to come up with a few things that will cause interest and ideally, spark some discussion.

I also hope to have some fun with this blog. Life is too short to be too serious. I will endeavor to display a bit of wit while never intentionally causing ill feelings. Of course, I fully intend to poke fun at myself and for those of you who know me, feel free to join in.

For those of you who elect to read this blog, thank you. With that, it begins. I'm walking across my bridge into the blogosphere.

Best rgs,

By the way, my source for the Latin came from this site: