RIP John Solomon

My cousin, John Solomon, died this past week at the age of 68. He had pancreatic cancer. From time of diagnosis to time of death was very short – less than a year. We are saddened by his passing.

John’s mom and my mom were sisters. . John was the first child born in the immediate family so he always had a special place in my mom’s heart. We are a close family so we spent time a lot of time together over the years.  Most importantly, John was a good person. John never seemed to have a bad thing to say about anyone. He had the salesman’s natural smile and demeanor. He was always easy to talk to and a willing listener. He would be the kind of person anyone would want for a neighbor, a friend or a co-worker.  The speakers at his funeral reinforced every one of those points.

On top of all that, he handled his upcoming demise with a rare grace and eloquence. His last e-mail to his family and cousins said the following (everything in italics):
we (really I) decided that hospice care was the next logical step. As a result, I signed up with a company called Hospice of the Western Reserve yesterday. The concept of hospice is to make the patient comfortable physically, mentally and spiritually in the last days of life. It’s not a place, but a concept, a philosophy. Their goal is to keep the patient in his home as long as possible, and, in fact, to have the patient pass away in his home, if at all possible. Their goal is to give the patient the highest quality of life possible during the last few weeks/months of their life and to allow the patient to die with dignity.

You all know that I’m not afraid of death. I know that only my body will die, and I will be united with Jesus Christ at the end of my earthly life.

I will save a spot for each of you when your time comes. (My attempt at humor).

Wow.  Pretty powerful words.  Very inspiring.  I hope that we all can stare our demise in the face with such grace and dignity.  I’ll miss you cousin.

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A Personal Manifesto

As part of my work with students, I am asking them to look at a personal manifesto.  What is a personal manifesto? It is a:
•public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives
•a document that a person writes that declares what is important to them
• a statement of principles and a call to action. By causing people to evaluate the gap between those principles and their current reality, the manifesto challenges assumptions, fosters commitment, and provokes change.
I am trying so hard to help my students break out of the ruts that they are in.  I know it is not easy to be a teen.  If I can provide a little direction, a challenge, or an inspiration to move someone forward then I have done what I want to do.  So many teens send up automatic defense mechanisms (“I’m not smart enough”, “Everyone else is doing it”, “I am tired”, “Why do I need to do that?”) at a challenge.  It is not easy to be introspective.  But I feel like it is important for them to think that way, if for no other reason than to prepare for adulthood.
At the same time, it really helps me revisit myself and questions my own direction.  I find that challenging fun and fascinating.  I am amazed at how the days keep flying by.  And it bothers me when I allow them to fly by without reflecting on the day.
If you wish, here is a really cool site with some manifestos.  Maybe you will be inspired to write your own!

So here is my current incarnation of My Manifesto
My Manifesto
I’ll have to check in often to see how I am doing.

Liars, Truth and our attention span

An interesting thought came to me spurred on by two recent stories involving sports.  But the interesting part has nothing to do with sports.

Lance Armstrong and Manti T’eo have both come forward in the last week to talk about a web of lies and deceit.  In Lance’s case, it involved more than a dozen years.  Lance denied the allegation vehemently time after time.  He covered up.  He bullied others.  He threatened people.  Manti’s story is much shorter.  But he perpetuated a lie even after he knew it was a lie.  He continued with a story for reasons only he can fully understand – embarrassment, youth?

What I find most interesting is what it says about us as a society.  We have a collective lack of attention span.  We CANNOT pay attention to a story for very long.  We are too anxious to “get the story” and “move on”.  This is especially true if another story comes along so quickly after it.  Think about the reaction to disasters – natural and man-made.  We listen intently for a couple of days.  Then we move on and forget about the disaster.

People are becoming accustomed to instantaneous feedback. We look for messages on Twitter. Facebook updates are expected constantly. If someone texts someone else, they expect a response immediately. Heck, a lot of people are playing games on their phones (Words for Friends, Ruzzle, etc.) and expect immediate responses. Many of those games have short timers on them – to better feed our obsession with immediacy. The 24 hour news cycle while true – does not allow for deliberation or rigorous thinking.

So what does a lack of attention span have to do with liars?  The liars depend on it.  If they can spin a story and then wait us out, they count on the fact we just might move on to the next interesting thing before we have a chance to really consider the facts.  Usually that wait is a relatively short amount of time.  Deliberate the facts?  Take some time th=o think about what is being said?  That’s too hard for our attention spans.  When our attention goes elsewhere, the liar has won.  And that probably happens way more than any of us really know about.

Maybe we all ought to think a little bit the next time a story comes flying by.

Fans and Fanatics

I had a great time watching the UD-Butler basketball game with my buddy, Matt Kaiser.  The game was hard-fought and exciting.  There was a very loud crowd.  A lot of people are really into their Dayton Flyers.  Matt and I enjoyed chatting about the game and about life.  Butler won and they were the better team because of their toughness.

But for me, going to a live game like that is not nearly as enjoyable as watching a game at home.  Part of that is because I prefer solitude to large crowds.  I would just as soon hang out at home than go out.  Perhaps I need to get out of my comfort zone in that way!

The biggest thing for me personally is that I am a fan of the game of basketball.  I am not a passionate fan (or fanatic) of a lot of teams.  I enjoy watching the coaches.  I enjoy watching the plays teams run.  I like to see the techniques the players use to defend and to get open.  I am not a typical fan (fanatic).  I don’t like it when people boo – because most of the time it is for no rational reason.  I understand that fans are biased towards their own team.  So they want every call to go their way.  Fans don’t want to admit the officials were right or their players were at fault.  That’s not to say officials are always right – they are human.  But the fanatics go to the games to yell at the opposing players or the referees just because they like to yell at people.  I’ve never understand that way of being.  But I think so many people are beaten down in their life or their jobs or whatever.  So taking out their frustrations  on players or officials is something they justify in their own minds.  Okay.

What that means is a find myself trying to use logic – or knowledge of the game – to counteract irrational fans booing for no rational reason.  I understand this is foolhardy on my part.  But I can’t help it.  What ends up happening is that I do not enjoy the contest nearly as much as I could.  And that is my problem!

That is why I need to only occasionally go to the live games.

Sad – The Sandy Hook “Truthers”

“Did you know that the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Newtown, Connecticut was fake?”. Thus began my day.

Two senior girls – that would mean they are 18-year-old adults – brought that question up to me before school started. I was stunned and dismissive. I asked them what they meant. They said that the event did not occur. It was all a Government hoax in order to ban guns from Americans. I incredulously asked them if they honestly believed that the U.S. Government could perpetuate such a sham. They said yes. So I asked them about all of those dead children. Their answer was these people were “actors”. It seems the Government staged the whole thing. There were even Facebook pages created before the event occurred, ready to be posted. And somehow the government duped almost everyone. At that, I asked them to stop talking.

I cannot express deeply enough how disturbed I was at their assertion and belief. To be honest, it ruined my day. It bothers me on a number of levels, but most importantly are two.

First, these students actually believe the US Government – which cannot agree on ANYTHING – would somehow be able to pull off this massive a fraud. Somehow some parts of the Government are able to keep the truth hidden from those people who never trust them. Somehow the government is able to hire and train massive amounts of actors to portray victims, families, first responders and neighbors. And all of those “actors” remain quiet about their role.  In fact many of them continue to act.  Somehow all media – CNN, Fox, Yahoo, CBS, ABC, NBC, etc. – “buy” the government story and don’t uncover any discrepancies. The NRA, which spends hundreds of millions of dollars fighting gun control, does not expose this “story”. The conservatives who hate Obama somehow cannot see the “truth”. Wow.

Secondly, are they so naive and untrained that they are unable to calmly and completely investigate such a wild claim? Can a few postings on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter be enough “evidence” to overwhelm any common sense and skepticism? If this is the type of “thinking” we are raising, what does that hold for our country?

And finally. Are people so callous and unsympathetic that they cannot put themselves for one minute into the hearts of those who suffered in this tragedy? Can they not think about how it would feel to lose a young loved one in such a way and then have that death demeaned by such a farcical story? To quote Joseph Welch in the McCarthy hearings (look it up), “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

As Mr. T said “I pity the fool”.

My Resolutions for 2013

As I said last year, it is a good thing to put resolutions in writing.  So many of us “promise” or “resolve” to do something good for ourselves in the coming year.  But thinking it, or saying it, does not have the same power as putting it in writing.  Those of us who worked out at the Fitness Center in the old NCR days could always count on a crowded locker room – for the first month of the year.  But by the time February rolled around, those people who had a resolution to exercise had given up.  Well, I hope once again to counter the prevailing way and meet my resolutions.

I am going to continue with my running and working out, so I hardly count those as resolutions.  My goal is to get in over 1000 miles of running (about 20 miles a week) for the 12th straight year.  I’ve already signed up for two half marathons, so that ought to provide some added motivation.

I will also continue my Blog in 2013.  I enjoy it.  I hope to make at least 75 new posts.  I would like to figure out a way to get my blog more notoriety and more readers.  Perhaps my next resolution will help.

My major resolution for 2013 is to get outside my “comfort zone” at least three ways.  We all are guilty of settling into a way of life and not trying new things.  Our “comfort zone” are the activities, the ways of thinking , what we do each day.  It is our “cocoon” of life.  It is what makes our life stable.  But it also is what can make our life stale.   I have been trying to stress with my students that they need to be willing to get outside their comfort zones.  That does not mean doing something illegal or dangerous (necessarily).  But it does mean stretching ourselves a little bit.

Therefore, I am going to resolve to “go outside my comfort zone” at least three different ways in 2013.  I am not sure exactly what that might mean.  And I do not know what life will throw at me to inspire it.  But I have a couple of ideas already.  My goal is to do something very concrete that is different – and share it with you all (I’ll bet you are excited about that!).

Sacrifice

As I was driving home from school today (where I have a lot of time to think since it is more than an hour drive) I was thinking about the biggest difference between my parents’ generation and our current country.  That difference explains a lot about our current problems.

My parents’ generation was really formed by two major events – The Great Depression of the 1930’s and World War II. If you think about the unifying factor of those two events, it was sacrifice.  The Great Depression made almost everyone poor.  The value of a dollar became very important to everyone.  Debt was looked upon negatively.  Families had to sacrifice a lot – often young men had to move away to find hard jobs.  People distinguished very clearly between needs (shelter, food, clothing) and wants.  And very few wants were purchased.  Most everyone understood their situation and dealt with it.

During World War II families were asked to “do without”.  There was rationing of many commodities.  Items that people “need” to live on were not as readily available – you couldn’t just walk into a shop and buy as much sugar or butter or meat as
you wanted, nor could you fill up your car with gasoline whenever you liked.  Many articles of clothing were similarly rationed.  Entertainment and sports were lessened due to stars being inducted into the Army.  The country did not keep spending money as if no war was going on.  Sacrifices were made for our people in the military (bond drives, etc.).

Contrast that with today.  Despite being in two wars – Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no rationing.  Other than news reports about American deaths, we don’t talk about those wars much.  We continue to demand all of our “needed” goods.  If the latest iPhone is not available, people scream.  If the Internet is a little slow, it is a big issue.  Gas prices are higher – that is an abomination.

That is not to say I want to go “back to the good old days”.  We have progressed so much in the past 50 years (just as blacks, women and minorities about that). But I am struck by how “needy” we have become in 60 years.  We expect (demand?) to be able to have whatever we want whenever we want it.  Everything is our God-given right to have – now.  And forget about “sacrificing”.  That is for someone else to do.  I get to keep all of my guns.  I should not have to pay taxes.  I paid for Medicare and Social Security so I get to receive it now.  If a natural disaster hits, I better get services immediately (and someone else better help me rebuild).  If I want to buy something, it must be cheap.  Forget compromise.  My needs and wants have to be filled first.

How did we diverge so much from the values of “The Greatest Generation” in such a short time?