To those who never made it home

I’ve been struggling today to come up with or find a single phrase or sentiment that would adequately express my thoughts about Memorial Day this year. Many of my friends did quite well with that. It has worked for me in the past. This year nothing was singing for me. So at the risk of being labeled an ingrate, I remained silent.

Then a friend, someone who served in the military, wrote about how this day is to honor not all veterans, but those who never made it home.

And then I saw a clip from an HBO drama in which a (fake) news guy tells a college assembly this isn’t the greatest country on Earth. My thought was, “Shame on me if he’s right.” The show seems unrealistic to me, because after dropping an F-bomb to that college audience and asserting we’re not No. 1, he keeps his job. In the real America he’d be handed his exit papers moments after he was coerced into making an apology.

That clip, coupled with my friend’s take, took me to my real thoughts about Memorial Day, and the best ways I can express thanks to those who never made it home.

For one, I can be grateful I never had to join the military to be in public service. This country hasn’t drafted people in 40 years. I live in a military community and I’ve met many people who seem wired for that kind of work, but there are others who are in there because one day they looked around and saw no better option to get them out of the lives they to which they felt otherwise destined. I had other options and I took them. I bought things on credit when it probably wasn’t wise and I took jobs I knew I wasn’t suited for. I learned from those mistakes and major part I owe some of that learning to those who never came home.

Second, I will resist jingoistic nationalism that declares, “We’re No. 1!” as if that declaration alone makes it so. I wave a flag today in gratitude, not to shove it in the face of people who can see my yard from Canada. Other nations have taken up the same cause of liberty, probably through our nation’s example, and have created free nations as well. Some, perish the thought, may be doing freedom better than we are. But they should remind us that our status as a great country takes work, and sacrifice, a concern for the rights of the individual and for the rights of the whole.

Third, as a citizen I will not assume that everyone who works for the government is some shiftless, lazy bureaucrat with little or no job skills. At the same time, I will demand that those government workers take care with the tax money I and other Americans provide to do what we ask. That includes the military.

Fourth, I can stop resenting those who want the same things I have. Whether they live in foreign nations or emigrate to mine, their commitment to this ideal makes the world better. Freedom isn’t really freedom if it’s limited to those who are born with it.

Fifth, I will vote in November. And during the process I will set aside the lies and the labels and pick someone for president who I believe is best able to handle that responsibility. The same goes for Congress, my state and my county. I will dismiss all commercial sound bites and shouting points and instead study for myself the resumes and the records of the candidates. People can outspend me in an effort to sway my vote, but my vote is my responsibility.

Sixth, I will take days like today and grill burgers on the barbecue and picnic with my family. I’ll watch baseball and dispute the umpire. I’ll complain about what’s not on Netflix. You died to give me that right, too.

Finally, just because I probably won’t end up dying for my country does not mean I cannot still lay down my life for it. I can work every day to make this country worthy of that ultimate sacrifice so many gave. I can be skeptical without being cynical. I can question my own ideas of what’s right for this country and make different choices if I need to do. I have the freedom to be wrong about things and to change my mind.

To those who didn’t make it home, I’m working hard to be worthy of your sacrifice. I’m trying to raise children who will one day make huge mistakes and have big successes, and to through it all be grateful for that chance. I know I can probably never repay you for what you did, but thanks to you I have that freedom, too.

Shedding a big guy — week 32

A face only a mom could love? Even Mom might have questioned this one.

This past week I have been über active. On Monday and Wednesday I did an early morning boot camp, getting to the YMCA to participate in grueling exercises designed to make someone functionally fit, or vomit.

On the other days I found other things to do, except for maybe Thursday.

On Sunday I generated the face you see here at the The Color Run in Seattle. It’s a 5K starting at the Seattle Center, down and back Second Avenue and finishing back at the center. The weather was perfect, I managed to finish and the event really was fun. The distance may be 5k, but the way they have things set up no one could really do it for time. You start wherever you line up, where other races have people packed in spaces related to their pace. I did intervals and once we got to Second Avenue I was jogging through the walkers in the group ahead of us. Diana called the race a “Try to run a 5k” race,” because pretty much everyone has to walk as some point. At each kilometer there are volunteers throwing colors at the runners. With the sweat I generate it caked on pretty good. I had one guy ask to get his picture taken with me.

Overall I lost 0.2 pounds during the week. I’ve been involved with a Biggest Loser (Looser) group for two weeks and so far all I’ve lost is a couple of pounds and a couple of bucks. It could be worse, right?

I will keep my word and not gloat over the Kings beating the Blues

The Kings are happy and I am, too. But unlike the fans you see in the background I am restrained from making too public a display of my joy over the Kings' 4-0 series win over the St. Louis Blues.

I am man of my word.

For as long as I’ve been aware that Los Angeles had a hockey team I’ve rooted for that team. They’re not like the Dodgers to me. It’s not that co-dependent. Still, I root for the Kings. I regularly check the standings to see how they are doing, at least once a month. Then I ask my coworkers how they’re doing and what their chances are in the playoffs. I have coworker who loves the Vancouver Canucks. He goes to see them on occasion.

The Kings, on the other hand, have never been seen by me, except on television. No NHL team has been seen by me. There were those minor league hockey glory days I caught in Salt Lake City, but that’s it.

So now the Kings have defeated both the Canucks and the St. Louis Blues, the favorite team of all teams for my nephew. For him I committed to not gloat. So I won’t brag that the Kings have now defeated the Western Conference No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in order and are about to face the No. 3 seed, assuming the Phoenix Coyotes continue their dominance of the Nashville Predators. I will not boast that the Kings are 8-1 in the playoffs this year, that they likely have the best goalkeeper in the game.

I don't watch hockey a lot, but the guy in the white shirt was supposed to keep that little black thing out of there. Now he has to go home.

I am too much a man of my word to do any of that. For sure I don’t want my nephew to feel any worse about the fact that his team totally sucked against mine, which in all fairness to both of us should have been the other way around. I’m so casual about hockey that most years I can’t tell you who won the cup even if it happened the day before. The Kings are my team, sure. I’m not necessarily a fair-weather fan, because I root for them even when they are bad, which is pretty much the case every year except two that the team has existed. I remember when four out of five teams from a division would make the playoffs and usually it was the Kings who got left out. I still rooted for the Kings. I just couldn’t always be counted on to pay attention.

Reggie, on the other hand, lives for the Blues. He sports a Blues tattoo. I’d consider a permanent Dodger ink spot, but putting the Kings on my back would probably start more conversations than I’d be willing to have.

So for Reggie, I won’t celebrate publicly my excitement over the post-season success of the 2012 Los Angeles Kings, who could very well be the best team in hockey, who might kick royal butt on the Yotes and then some collection of chumps from the Eastern Conference to bring to Los Angeles the Stanley Cup for the first time (The Disney Ducks don’t count.) until Sunday afternoon. (There is a timer over in the right column to remind me when time’s up.)

Reggie asked for a week before I celebrate in front of him. I promised I would wait, so on my honor I declare that I will.

A boot in the butt in week 31

I made the decision more than a week ago to join the YMCA. I left work and drove over there and enrolled the whole famn damily and surprised Diana. She wasn’t necessarily thrilled until she went there herself and saw the palace. I kind of already went over this. The machines elliptical machines are Jetsonish and they have these stationary bikes that put you in a mock road race. I really like those, because otherwise I hate exercise bikes.

One of my first days there I saw a friend and he told me about the early morning boot camp. When I joined I was hot on the idea of doing classes, maybe Tai Chi or something. A boot camp, however, sounded like the ideal thing, especially when he said I could do the exercises at my own pace. At first I thought this would be something I would do eventually, but I signed up for a 12-week beginner’s exercise monitoring thing the Y offers and the coach there said “Why eventually?” Again, she told me I could do things at my own pace.

So this morning I got up at 4 a.m., which meant last night getting to bed by 10 p.m. I wasn’t absolutely committed to going and once I went I wasn’t committed to doing the exercises. I thought I might watch to see if it were something I could do. When I got to the gym, though, I chose in and did my best. My butt was thoroughly kicked, but it’s exactly the kind of stuff I want to do. So as of right now I plan to go back. It’s a tough call, in a way, because I’m not normally an early riser. I guess I can become one, eh.

OK, so now I’m an early riser.

The exercises include different kinds of push ups, none of which I can do fully; sit ups, which I really can’t do that well; lunges, which I can’t do fully; and other stuff I can’t really do. I mean I’m about 200 pounds overweight, so there is stuff I can’t do. I can do a lot, though, especially for my size. It was hard work and I’m tired, but I know from doing things like this in the past that if I lose weight and continue doing this kind of exercise, then a few days from now I’m going to notice that I feel like I can do more with my body than I could before.

Afterward I shot a few baskets just to make sure I did something fun. Now it’s 7:45 and I’m about to leave for work, which is an early start for me. I imagine around 10 or so I’ll be battling to stay awake. I’m sure there’s something for that.