I found this great post on a blog called Zita’s Legacy.
It is about a call she got from the school principal because she allowed her daughter to walk home from school … which, by the way, is right across the street.
Anyway, her post got me thinking …
I don’t know how earlier generations ever survived. I personally walked to school for many years … all through elementary and middle school … winter, summer, rain, snow, or sunshine (No, it was not uphill both ways, and I did have shoes). But yes, I did drink water from a hose, ride my bike without a helmet, come home when the street lights came on, played Cops and Robbers, and Cowboys and Indians. I fought my battles with neighborhood bullies, and somehow, someway, I managed to survive.
If in today’s America, a child is not even allowed to walk home from school by themselves, even when that school is right across the street … then we are doomed to extinction! If we are raising a generation that cannot cross the street by themselves, how, as adults, will they be able to make intelligent decisions, survive any kind of challenge, protect their families, or fight off terrorists who wish to destroy our country?
It is a far cry from ideas such as …
Fall down seven times, get up eight.
Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.
One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.
Michael J Fox
The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.
Nothing is more beautiful than the smile that has struggled through the tears.
Anyway, that’s enough philosophical waxing! If you’d like to read Zita’s post, click below.
I get a phone call from my daughters school on Monday, it was the principle, he had left a message for me. “I know that we talked about this last year, your daughter Skylar walking home by herself. We just think that she is to young to be walking home alone by herself. We want […]
Some of my readers may have noticed I took a small break in posting to my blog. Sometimes life can take the wind out of our sales and we simply need some time to get our feet planted firmly back under ourselves. I recently found myself in such a state. That is because my mother recently passed away. This came as an unexpected, sudden shock to us all. Diagnosed with lung cancer just before Easter, she went to be with her God on Sunday, June 10th. Needless to say, my mind has just been elsewhere for the past few weeks. Solitude can sometimes be a helpful, healing thing.
While Mom will most certainly be deeply missed, the purpose of this post is not to engender sympathy or condolences. My mother was a strong woman and led an amazing life. Growing up in the small town of Ilion, NY with blue collar parents, she became a registered nurse at Albany Medical Center and then later, an excellent mathematics teacher. Quite the artist, she specialized in pastels and watercolors and was a member of the Fine Line Art Gallery for 10 years. A lover of music, she sang in choirs, and served as a choir director at several churches. Mom also sang with several choral groups and performed on concert tours in Central Europe, Turkey, at Carnegie Hall, and the White House. She traveled most of the world and much of the continental United States and Canada. She embraced life firmly standing on her own two feet and she lived her life to the fullest.
Mom was a woman quietly strong in her faith. She accepted her situation with grace, strength, and courage, and when the outcome became clear, her faith and courage made things easier for the rest of her family. How many of us wonder how well we will handle things if we find ourselves in such a situation. How do we hope to find the strength to deal with situations like this? It is seeking an answer to this question that is my motivation for writing this post. I do believe that, like my mother, I am a person of quiet but strong faith. I certainly do not attempt to push my beliefs on anyone; nor will I argue with people about their beliefs. That is what “Freedom of Religion” is truly all about … not the political manipulations we see all over the news today. I can only hope that when my time comes, I can meet it with the same grace, strength, and courage exhibited by my mother. So where does that grace, strength, and courage stem from?
Solitude and Reflection
Shortly after my mother died, my father discovered a quote my mother had saved to a folder on their computer. He shared it with my brother, my mother’s sister, and me. With the grief over my mother’s death still very new and raw, I must admit reading it brought real tears to my eyes. While it was difficult to read, at the same time, it had a very different affect on me. I suddenly understood so much more about my mother and the source of her strength and courage.
I seem to remember that my mother spent a week at some kind of retreat which I believe was held at a Trappist Monastery. It was a week spent in silence, prayer and personal reflection. Maybe this was where she found this quote … or maybe it came later from reading inspired by her experience. I am not sure. However, when I read the quote, I was struck by the simple, open honesty of the words, and the trust in a pure relationship with a loving God. I cannot help but feel that such a faith could only be beneficial to whoever kept it.
The quote is from Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk of the Abbey of Gethsemane, KY. Merton was a prolific poet and writer on spiritual social themes. He lived from 1915 until 1968.
From “Thoughts in Solitude”
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead my by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Is that not a powerful statement of faith? I do not normally share such personal things on my blog, but in this case, and especially if it helps someone else find the hope, courage, or strength they need, I think my mother would approve.
I had a need to take trip to upstate New York this weekend. I flew into Syracuse and drove up to Raquette Lake in the Adirondack Park. My family has a small camp (called a cabin in the South) at Raquette Lake. We built it ourselves when I was a young teenager. My family has a history at Raquette Lake that spans several generations, and I understand I made my first camping trip to Raquette Lake when I was about six months old.
How Raquette Lake got its name … maybe!
The origin of the name is uncertain. One account is that it was named for snowshoes (raquette in French) left by a party of Tories led by Sir John Johnson in 1776. Traveling by snowshoe while fleeing American rebels, the spring thaw caught up with them. The snow was gone when they reached the lake. They left their snowshoes in a pile on the shore.
Back to the camp …
Sometime ago, we added a screened in porch to the camp. It has two skylights. One is leaking, so I flew up to take some measurements and see what materials might be needed to repair the problem. Every time I visit Raquette Lake it seems to have a healing effect on my soul. Whenever I drive into the Adirondack Park, it is almost like someone drew a line across Hwy 28. The air changes and I can breathe freely again. It is really quite a remarkable feeling.
Hwy 28 North from Utica
Once you leave Utica and head north, it is a short distance to the Adirondack Park entrance. From there the drive becomes a trip down memory lane. It is very beautiful in a desolate sort of way. You pass through small towns like Remsen, Alder Creek, Otter Lake, Thendara, Old Forge, Eagle Bay, Inlet, and then Raquette Lake.
The Fulton Chain
You pass the Fulton Chain of lakes which are eight lakes formed by damming the Moose River. The chain starts near Old Forge and ends with Eighth Lake. The next lake is Raquette Lake which is a natural lake. The Raquette River flows out from Raquette Lake winding its way northward to the St. Lawrence Seaway. Raquette Lake has 99 mile of shoreline, making it the largest lake in the Adirondack Park. Eighty percent of its shoreline is owned by the State of New York and is constitutionally forever wild. It is truly a wilderness adventure.
The Tap Room
Once I got my measurements and figuring done, I headed to Raquette Lake Village for lunch at the Tap Room. I also need to drop a copy of my book, Serpents Underfoot, off at the Raquette Lake Library. The librarian, Carolynne McCann Dufft, a friend of my parents, was kind enough to add my book to their collection. After dropping off the book, I had a great burger at the Tap Room. The Tap Room is a historic place … probably as old as the village itself. It can be found on the backside of the Raquette Lake Supply Co. While it can get a little loud in the evenings (it is a small place), the food is really excellent and it has a genuine rustic Adirondack atmosphere.
I should also mention that the Raquette Lake Library, while small, is quite nice. Like the post office, it is a newer new addition to the village. Other than the post office and the library, the village remains pretty much the same as it was when I was a child. I love that. Maybe that accounts for part of the “soothing” effect it has on my soul. The village, the lake, the air, the memories … all has a calming, peaceful feeling that recharges me like nothing else I have ever experienced.
Another positive (or negative, depending on how you look at it) is that I can’t get a cell phone signal at all when at Raquette Lake. Sometimes, if you walk out on the end of the dock, stand on one leg, each as far out over the water as you dare, you can get the glimmer of a signal. But, I could never actually make a call from that position … never mind send a text or read an email. For me at least, that is a good thing. We all need to unplug from time to time.
Where do you go for healing?
We all need a place to go to unwind, to de-stress, and recharge our batteries. It is important for maintaining both physical and mental well-being. For me, Raquette Lake is that place. Raquette Lake provides solitude, peace, and a great rustic atmosphere. I hope you find the time to find your own “Raquette Lake.”
Personalized copies of Serpents Underfoot can now be ordered directly from my website. Just click here!
There is a lot of “success in life” or self-improvement information floating around out there; some of it great, some of it good, and some of it not so good. Many people are trying to succeed at their dreams. If you can make your hobby your occupation, that is indeed one form of success.
Rules for Success by Earl Nightingale
Cristian Mihai’s post on Earl Nightingale’s 12 rules made me think. You might want to check it out.
Reading this post made me take a good look at the things I am doing to succeed in my goal to be a successful author. While it would be hard to put all 12 rules into play at one time, we can certainly begin working on one and then expand from there over time. I know I am going to be re-evaluating some of the things I have been doing in the light of Earl Nightingale’s 12 Rules.
So, I would just like to thank Cristian Mihai for sharing this post with his readers. It is one of the more helpful blog posts I have read in a long time, at least as far as reaching my goals are concerned.
What does shape the story? Several people with whom I have spoken after they read my novel, Serpents Underfoot, have asked me if there are some of my life experiences woven into the story. What life experiences helped shape the story? And I answer, of course, there are.
I have about 35 years of martial arts experience as a student, instructor, and dojo owner. That experience plays a crucial role in Curtis’ and especially JD’s interest and development in the martial arts, and for JD, specifically in Isshin-ryu Karate. I based Sensei Tokumura’s character on my last karate sensei, Sherman Harrill, who helped me to understand what real karate is all about. Those who have trained with Sensei know what I mean. It was a real honor to be that man’s student.
An Army of One?
While it also helped shape the story, the military stuff is a bit more complicated. Even as a young child, I wanted to be in the military. The backyard was my battlefield where my brother and I had legions of little green army men with jeeps, trucks, tanks, field artillery, etc., all under our command. We had trenches and foxholes. It was quite a battlefield. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d reply “I want to be an army!” I still remember my parents laughing and telling me that one man cannot be an army, but you can indeed be a soldier.
Maybe that is why the recruiting slogan adopted in 2001, an “Army of One” was so short lived and was replaced by “Army Strong” in 2006. Perhaps Army officials either talked to my parents, or they decided “Army of One” was a bit contrary to the idea of teamwork, an approach the military relies so heavily upon.
I did not just want to join the U.S. Army … I wanted to be an Army Ranger. And later, maybe even get into the Special Forces. I still remember that day, when I was perhaps 14 or 15-years-old, being so impressed when a Ranger team put on a demonstration of their skills at a park in North Adams, Massachusetts. That was what I wanted to be! The problem was I stuttered, and in my younger years, it was quite pronounced. However, this did not change my dreams of joining the military.
There was just one problem!
My stuttering seemed to lessen at least in comparison to my earlier school days. Either that or I slowly became better at concealing my stuttering depending on the circumstances. So, in July of 1979, I went down to the recruiting station in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and I enlisted in the U.S. Army. I had just blown the ASVAB right out of the water, so I could pick whatever MOS (job) I wanted. Looking back on it now, I should have probably chosen some good technical skill (maybe “in-flight missile repair technician”), but I wanted Ranger School; so that meant picking 11Bravo (Infantry) as my MOS. I had planned on an initial tour of three years, but I ended up signing a contract for four years (they offered me a $4,000 cash enlistment bonus upon completion of training if I enlisted for a four year period instead of 3 years).
On my way!
According to my contract, I was going to Basic Training at Ft. Knox, Advanced Infantry Training at Ft. Benning, and then directly to Ranger School which, if I remember correctly, was also at Ft. Benning. I guess it was because of the high ASVAB scores that I was able to lock this in. I took the oath, and the recruiter gave me a ride home to get a toothbrush and say goodbye to my parents, and we headed off to Ft. Knox, Kentucky that same afternoon. The recruiter who’d signed me up was going back to Ft. Knox, so he kindly offered to give me a ride. Several hours later, dropped me off at the induction center. Amazingly, I had not stuttered once this whole time, even when taking the oath. It was like a dream come true. I was going to be a U.S. Army Ranger.
Basic training began. And, yes it was pretty freaking tough. But, I loved it! Unfortunately, much to my dismay, some of the drill instructors discovered I stuttered. For me, it was virtually impossible not to stutter when they jumped dead in my shit; they were experts at it. I knew it was only part of the mind game they played to see who could take the stress and who would crack. If you could not handle their crap, you certainly had no business on the battlefield. I will say that, once they figured out what was going on, they did not belittle me for it. They were, however naturally concerned about me screwing up their Army. But, I was also doing very well with the training; physical training, shooting ranges, running, hand-to-hand combat, grenade ranges, mud, running, probing for mines, weapons cleaning and assembly, rain, running, heat, road marches, more running … I was eating that stuff up!
Just one catch!
Then one afternoon, I got called into the Company Commander’s office. I was pretty nervous about that, wondering what the heck I had done. Once I reported, I was ordered to stand at ease. The Company Commander was a young Army captain not much older than me. The Captain told me that the U.S. Army appreciated my volunteering, my efforts, and ambition, etc. He went on to say that by all the reports he had, I was performing outstandingly in my training. However, in spite of that, the U.S. Army could not send me to ranger school. The Captain explained that my stuttering presented too much of a risk, especially with the cost of the training provided during ranger school. I was severely bummed out! But, deep down inside, I could see their point … and I hated it. The Captain went on to explain to me that, because they could not honor the contract they signed with me, I could get out of the Army honorably if I chose to.
My choice was clear!
I did not even have to think about it. For me, that was not an option. I asked if I could remain in the infantry if I stayed. The Captain replied that I certainly could. So, I stated that I did not want out. I would continue my training. The Captain nodded, saying that he had expected no less, and then dismissed me. I completed Basic Training achieving a high score on my end of cycle test, which I felt was quite an accomplishment. I boarded a bus for the Infantry School at Ft Benning, Georgia.
One of my best memories of Ft. Benning occurred on the rifle range. We were conducting rapid-fire exercises with our M-16 rifles, and I was knocking them down. Drill Sergeant Winters stopped pacing and stood behind me for a few minutes, watching. When the range officer called for a cease-fire, I stopped and cleared my weapon. Drill Sergeant Winters looked down at me and stated, “That is some mighty fine shooting, son! Wherever you end up, they will be glad to have you.” I finished AIT by earning the maximum possible score on the Infantry Qualification Test.
Breakfast at Denny’s!
One other great memory. Another soldier and I were eating breakfast at a Denny’s in Columbus, Georgia. We were on our first weekend pass. After we had eaten, we would catch a cab back to the base. We were sitting there in our khaki uniforms when an older woman stopped by our table and started talking to us. We had no idea who she was. She was telling us how good it was to see two such outstanding young men in uniform and told us she was going to buy us breakfast, We both said thank you, but that it was not necessary. She would not argue. The woman then asked us if we knew who she was. We both replied that we did not. She told us she was Lillian Carter, the President’s mother. We were surprised, but finally noticed the men in suits standing around us. Probably Secret Service agents! The President’s mother took care of our check and then wishing us well, left with her escort. That was simply amazing!
Fun, Travel, and Adventure!
So, I served my four years in the U.S. Army Infantry. I traveled the world, saw different cultures, and did some pretty exciting things. In Germany, I was stationed at Wiesbaden Air Base with the 2/22 Infantry.
Shortly after arriving, I was asked to report to the Battalion Executive Officer. My first thought was, Dang! Here I go again! I reported to the XO as ordered. He had been looking at my file and needed a driver. I took the job. I served as the Battalion Executive Officer’s driver for almost two years and spent a great deal of time patrolling our Battalion’s area of operations near the Fulda Gap. Our job was to slow the Russians down if they ever came across the border.
Finishing my two years in Germany, I got orders to Ft. Polk, Louisianna. The last place in the world I wanted to go was Ft. Polk, Louisianna! So, I went to the CO and asked how to get out of having to go there. He replied that I just needed to volunteer to go someplace else nobody else wanted to go. I asked him where. He said Alaska or South Korea. I chose South Korea.
During my year in South Korea, with the 1/17 Infantry, I did a 90-day tour on the DMZ between North and South Korea. That was pretty exciting stuff, a real mission. Real guns, real grenades, real bullets, and a real enemy you could see from the observation post. And, sometimes … even stumble on while patrolling the DMZ itself.
I enjoyed the Asian culture and immersed myself in it. This cultural appreciation certainly shaped the story. I got involved with the local Amerasian orphanage and helped put a new roof on their building and also helped feed the kids Thanksgiving dinner. My year was up way too fast!
When I got to my last duty station, I was assigned to the 1/501st Air Assault at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. We later deployed to Panama, flying down on a C-130. We were cruising along at about 30,000 ft, sitting in slippery, canvas bench seats that ran lengthwise on the plane. As we approached Panama, a light turned on, and suddenly the plane stood on its nose and dove. We all slid sideways toward the front of the aircraft. It leveled out at about 400 ft if I remember correctly, and the back ramp opened. A group of men we never even knew were there (they were sitting behind our stacked gear) stood up and ran off the lowered ramp, jumping out into the night sky. When the ramp closed, the C-130 stood on its tail and climbed back to cruising altitude. We all slid back toward the rear of the plane. We were all surprised. I would never have thought an aircraft that big could fly like that. I’d always figured the group of men was a team of Army Rangers on a training exercise, but who knows?
Invasion of Panama?
This action all took place shortly before we took out General Manuel Noreiga, and I always figured we were sent there as a show of force … hoping to calm things down. I am not so sure that worked. However we could not just sit on our collective butts, so while there at Ft. Sherman, we completed the Jungle Warfare School. My squad broke some battalion record for completing the Jungle Obstacle Course. We got a steak and lobster dinner, compliments of the Battalion Commander, for that accomplishment.
When it came time to reenlist, I did give that some very serious consideration. However, the paths I really wanted to take were essentially closed to me because of my speech impediment. So, I decided to seek my fortune elsewhere. I suppose you could say that the military adventures of Curtis Cordell and his son, JD Cordell are fantasies … depictions of the kinds of adventures I would like to have had if things had worked out differently.
All of these experiences did combine to help shape the story.
Easter Sunday was a beautiful day. It was also Sophie’s birthday. She is now one year old. I decided to take her on a walk at Bond Park here in Cary. It is one of our favorite places to walk and practice her training regimens. We walked about four miles including the two-mile Lake Trail that circles Bond Lake.
As we walked, enjoying the sunshine and friendly passers-by (Sophie always garners plenty of attention), I began to ponder the Easter holiday and what it means to me. Beside eating jelly beans, I mean!
I am not sure what sparked it.
Perhaps it was the recent bit in the news about some Muslim guy claiming that Jesus was never crucified. I have heard claims such as this before. I have heard some argue that there is no proof that Jesus ever even existed … outside from the Bible, of course. From what I see, most of the people who make this claim never looked outside the Bible … or anywhere else for that matter!
For those who do dig a little deeper, you can find evidence from non-Christian sources that help point to who Jesus was and what happened to him. This is often held up as proof that he existed and was indeed crucified. Much of Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ, was based on evidence of this type. This non-Christian evidence is often written by those who were hostile toward the early Christians, which makes it an interesting spin on things … at least to me. And, I have looked at much of it. There are records from Roman era historians such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, or Flavius Jospehus, who are often ridiculing those early Christians and their crazy Messianic leader.
Then there are those who like to argue that these Roman historians are all liars, or that somehow their works are all some kind of forgeries … they must be part of some kind of ancient right-wing pro-Christian conspiracy I guess! I must admit it … I find this claim by those people even more fascinating.
Anyway, we continued on our walk and enjoying the beautiful day. I was busy watching Sophie enjoy all the sights and smells and chasing after bumble bees, when I suddenly decided none of that really mattered much to me. What really matters is what you believe, and I do believe that one of Jesus’ primary teachings,
Love your neighbor as yourself,
is simply a pretty darn good rule to live by. Jesus stated this very same concept several times and in several different ways throughout his journey toward his death.
To me, arguing over whether Jesus was actually the Son of God or not, or whether he was crucified or not … does not in anyway make this basic concept any less profound.
This is not a statement of faith for me. My faith is very personal. I am not very evangelical. I will discuss my beliefs with a certain few people, but I will not argue about it with anyone. I know what I believe. You can believe what you want to believe.
But, it does seem to me that if more people followed this simple “golden” rule, life would be much better for many of us!
I remember going to a J.C. Penny Golden Rule Award ceremony some years ago (during the mid-1990’s) in Knoxville, Tennessee when I was working as an Anderson County CASA volunteer. It seems this same “Golden Rule” can be found, perhaps worded a bit differently, in every major world religion: Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism (and Commonsenseism … kidding here). I found that to be really fascinating at the time. A guest speaker read each version and stated the religion in which that version was based.
I also got to meet Jack Hanna there. That was pretty cool to!
So, anyway, Happy Easter to you all … from me and Sophie!
This Sunday also just happened to be September 11,2011 and the 10th anniversary of the attack on the world trade center in New York City. In church I listened to a sermon by Reverend Joe Minarik that talked about forgiveness versus vengeance. It was a well thought out sermon and I did enjoy listening to it, and it is often very true that some people mistake revenge for justice. We all need to find forgiveness in our hearts for those people who have offended us … or how can we expect God to forgive us?
How does that translate to September 11, 2011 and the actions this government took to punish the perpetrators of that heinous attack? Did the U.S. seek revenge or justice. Does forgiveness mean there is no consequences for evil actions? Can we forgive those who do us wrong and still expect justice?
Consequences are sometimes necessary for us to learn … and I would say it was justice that most Americans sought after 9/11. Not revenge! Revenge would have been the indiscriminate murder of 3000 muslim innocent men, women, and children. That did not happen. Though we can argue about whether what we did was the right thing, anyone of sound mind and intellect should be able to accept that it was measured, restrained, and that every attempt was made to only go after Al Qaeda associates and their supporters. We did not Nuke the Middle East. I think my thoughts on Iraq should be clear from earlier posts, and yes, even Obama stated that Afghanistan was the “right war to be fighting” to achieve justice for the victims of the World Trade Center bombing.
Sometimes I get the feeling that some people do not mistake vengeance for justice, but instead they mistake justice for vengeance. “vengeance is mine … saith the Lord” is often quoted by certain Christians as an exhortation to stand by and to do nothing when horrific acts or events are playing out. To me, Jesus’s lesson of “turning the other cheek” is not an admonition to go meekly to the slaughter … it is the defiant act of a warrior. It clearly says, “that slap didn’t faze me … would you like to go for the other cheek as well!” I have never bought into the Marvin Milktoast version of Jesus Christ. Marvin Milktoast could not have survived 40 days in the desert, run the money-changers out of the temple, faced down Satan and demons, or endured the suffering Jesus endured during his crucifixion. Jesus was a warrior … like David or Sampson …a warrior for God … with a keen understanding of where and when not to use force or violence.
God gave us as sense of right and wrong, a free will, and a thinking mind! The belief that “divine intervention” is the only biblically correct means to stop the evil acts of others is simply a cop-out and an excuse to avoid personal responsibility. I am reminded of a story about a pious man sitting on his roof as the flood waters rose about him. A truck came by and his neighbors shouted for him to climb in; they were headed for higher ground. He refused their help, saying that he had faith God would rescue him. The water kept rising. A boat came by and the rescuers hailed the man. Again the man refused rescue saying that he was waiting for God to come and save him. Still the water kept rising. A helicopter flew overhead and tried to lift the man to safety. Again the man refused, yelling that God would save him. The water continued to rise. Sometime later the man stood at the Pearly Gates and Peter opened them to let him in. The pious man, his faith shaken and feeling somewhat miffed, asked Peter why in Heaven’s Name God had not come and rescued him? Why did God let him drown? Peter looked at the man and said, “Sorry. God was sort of busy that day. However, he did manage to find the time to send you a truck, a boat, and a helicopter. Why did you not jump on one of those?
While violence is and should always be the last resort, the fact is that if only evil men are willing to use violence, only evil men will win. Here are a few quotes I like:
“An unwillingness to deal forcibly with violence does not equate to moral rectitude!”
~ Mary Malmros
“Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it!”