01 January 2014

The One Second Holiday

  We’ve passed another New Year’s.  As I reflect, as I’m wont to do each New Year’s, it occurs to me.  New Year’s in association with its close relative New Year’s Eve, is essentially a one-second holiday.  While most other holidays are a full day, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, MLK Day, etc, and there is even a holiday which spans months (Christmas starts in August, right?), New Year’s comes down to that moment from 23:59 to 00:00.

  Yet, within that one second, we pack a lot into the holiday.  Two years’ worth in fact.  We take all of our past from the previous year and put it behind us.  Usually, that means pushing away our disappointments, failures, losses, and that which has saddened us.  And then, in the same breathless expectation, we look forward to the New Year.  Our thoughts are always filled with hope and wonder at what is to come.  This year, after all, will be better.  We set our goals (“resolutions”) and look ahead at the joy that is inevitable.  I cannot think of a time where someone looked forward with disappointment.

  If you’re truly blessed, you even have someone with whom to share that second.  After all, one of the traditions of the New Year is to kiss your special someone.

  Which led me to think further – why do we only go through this exercise in that moment that rolls the odometer over from 23:59:59 31 December to 00:00 01 January?  Imagine how our outlooks might be improved if, from time to time, we took a moment to share with our special someone and put our past and disappointments behind us and looked forward to the hope and expectations of a new day dawning.

  For a one second holiday, we limit it to merely once a year.  Surely, we have a second to spare elsewhere in our yearly journeys.  Let’s not limit ourselves to only that one second.  There’s not a second to lose!

So, to all… Happy New Year!

01 May 2013

The Right Stuff

This has really struck a nerve with me. I first heard about it shortly after it happened back on the 29th.
Even before the video, eye-witness descriptions pointed to a load shift.
Then the video came out.
And reportedly, air traffic control communications reporting the pilot said he had a load shift.

These pilots do some fantastic flying. All the way to the ground. They never quit. You can actually see it...

Part of what bothers/ed me is the critical importance of doing even the 'small jobs'. And attention to detail.
The pilots are highly trained, a crew of seven... loads of experience... but, it likely came down to whether or not someone used the correct type of chain/strap or tightened it down correctly on the vehicles in the cargo deck.
The very moment the plane started to climb, it was doomed, because the cargo shifted, rolled backwards, thrust the plane onto its tail making it nigh impossible to control.

And yet, the best part, is that the pilots didn't QUIT. They may have known they were doomed, but they kept trying. A book I love uses the quote, "I've tried A, I've tried B, I've tried C!" showing how you don't give up all the way down.

And for a beast of a plane loaded with cargo, way outside of its design limits, they ALMOST do it. To the untrained/unfamiliar eye, the plane looks like it's falling from the sky, as controlled as an autumn leaf. But these pilots, and they ARE piloting that whale, do the amazing following steps:
Recognize the Stall
Overcome ALL human instinct in a stall situation close to the ground and begin to aim the plane AT the ground to recover (a very key point of training - had they done differently, the video would have been much shorter).
The left wing wobbles, dips as the stall begins. They recover the left wing stall rolling into a right wing stall.
It begins. But, with the wings now both stalled, and then recovered, a spin starts. They kick the rudder hard, turn her... and get wings level and ready to begin accelerating to recover flight.
Nose down a bit to start accelerating right when the precious margin between aircraft and ground ran out. The maxim 'Altitude is Life' is as timeless as aviation itself. With altitude, you have time... you can make it happen.... but, they just ran out.
With all of their incredible aviating, and IF ONLY for a couple thousand more feet... they might have made it. Or at least, to start solving the next part of the problem.... getting the crippled bird back onto the ground in one piece. But, somewhere... one person shortcutted. (Truth be told: in aviation, there's never ONE cause, there's a chain, but universally, if you can break that chain anywhere, then you can avoid it... so, there may be many causes, but any one could have stopped it.)
These civilians don't get the military honors. They don't get the "Thank you for your service." They don't get any of the glory or anything that our uniformed brethren get. Yet, without their support and their efforts, we couldn't do it. And they are volunteers as much as we are.
There's not likely going to be a Missing Man Formation of 747s (wouldn't that be a sight?), nor any ceremonies. The families will deal with this privately.
But to you Aviators, what to the vast majority of the viewing world seems like sixty seconds of sheer terror was likely sixty seconds of amazing professionalism and solid performance. I'm in admiration.

22 April 2013

One Day, Sweetie...

Why You Fight for Others' Rights

Over the past weekend, I wrote about how it was fundamentally critical to us, as Americans, to ensure that we enshrine our rights. We must make sure that these rights are there when they are difficult - for the Marathon bomber, for the Westboro Baptist Church, for the Second Amendment, for everyone we disagree with, etc.

We press for these rights for others because while we talk and debate others losing their rights, we boast and are sure that OUR rights will never be threatened. We're Americans, and it'll never happen here.

Not ever.

It couldn't.

Could it?


Or... could it?

Maybe just a tiny right, in the interest of a Greater Good, and who would really mind? "If you have nothing to hide..."

Innocent people dragged from their homes at the point of a gun, frisked, escorted down the street, while they wait for their homes to be searched without a warrant...

But, but... we had to find the bomber! And, certainly, there IS a definite concern there. I'm one who wants to find the guy who's blowing up people. BUT, don't we have a way to do that? Judge issues warrants, authorizing police to only search and seize just the person they're looking for? Maybe the police have to ask first? Still, how intimidated do you feel when you open the door and see a shotgun pointed at you? CAN you say no? What happens if you do? And for all of you/us who say, "Ain't no one coming in my house without a warrant!" ok... fine, and what happens when we show our shotgun to the 20+ heavily armed, trigger-itchy cops outside?

So, with that in mind...

Here's why we, as Americans, must... MUST fight for the rights of each and EVERY one of us, whether we like or agree with people or not:

21 April 2013

It's Not Easy...

Being an American is difficult. We are constantly challenged by others to demonstrate what we say we believe in, to 'walk the talk' as it were.
If a brutal crime occurs, we have to let the criminal justice system work its wonders, even sometimes when we watch someone go free.
We have to listen to the most hateful speech we can ever imagine - the KKK, Westboro Baptist Church, we have plenty of examples - and we not only listen to them, but we DEFEND their right to speak. Yes, their RIGHT to speak.
The Bill of Rights exists so that our rights aren't subject to the whims of politicians.
It's not easy.
It's incredibly difficult. It challenges our emotional responses. We WANT our visceral pleasure - to see the criminal viciously tortured, the hate group muzzled, and other scums of society that deserve not one bit of our love, our friendship, our charity, but every bit of our democratic support.

I am often surprised (not really) by how often I see people quote Martin Niemöller, yet then cry out for squashing the rights of those they deem unacceptable. Or fellow military members who've sworn oaths promising to protect and defend the Constitution, but then leave comments promising blood oaths of violence against the very people needing those Constitutional protections.

America and her Freedoms is not an easy idea; she is difficult and needs constant protection and vigilance. When we stop protecting those Freedoms, then the bright radiance of our shining city on a hill dims a little bit, until one day... we fade into the darkness.

19 April 2013

RIP, Allan Arbus

RIP to Allan Arbus. An Army veteran from the 1940s, he is best known for his role as Dr. Sydney Friedman from M*A*S*H.

He died at the age of 95.

May you slide on the ice, sir...

02 April 2013

A Few Feet...

I have walked miles.  Hundreds of them.  But now, I am walking a few feet in their shoes.

For the past six years, I have worn many labels.  I am a cancer widow.  I am a cancer research advocate.  I am a supporter for all things to do with cancer awareness.  I walk every year in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  I tell my wife's story.  I tell our family's story.  I never miss a beat.

But still, I never quite have that connection, do I?  I've seen it in some eyes of survivors or current cancer warriors - the "But, do you really know what it's like?" look.  I would wager that with the scars I carry, I do.  But then, each of us in this horrific war is scarred and in so many individual ways, and each is no less traumatic than the next.  It's not a competition to be won, after all.


About a month ago, that all changed.  I started to feel a tenderness in my right breast.  And then a slight pain behind my right nipple.  Believe me, no one was more surprised than I.  As much as I can quote the statistics and slogans about how breast cancer is not just a woman's disease and how men get it, too, and how one of my favorite pink ribbons is the one with blue tip... yes, I was not ready for this surprise.

And certainly, what guy is?  So, a week later, as the pain intensified and steadily became more and more present, and the tiny knot became more of a definite lumpish feeling, I began to practice what I preached.  There in the shower, I performed my first Breast Self Exam.  I didn't like the results.
Luckily, I'd already had an appointment scheduled with my primary care physician.
  So, by the time I saw her, this new growth had been there about a month.  It was always there, always painful.  How could this be good?
And I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I wasn't beginning to think myself into a tizzy.  Since I was such an advocate, was I making it come true?  Was this some weird case of hypochondria?  This was all in my head as I approached my doctor's appointment.  That and... how do I, as a guy, bring this up?  Since I work in the medical field, I decided to just be straight forward and professional.

Uh-huh.  I felt so nervous and ridiculous.  Fortunately, she put me at ease and we discussed it.  And then, I had an experience which may be normal for you ladies, but for me was a whole new world - I laid back and had a medical breast exam there in the doctor's office.  You know the one, arm behind your head while the doctor feels you all over?  An eye opener for me.  "So this is what it's like," I thought. 

Apparently, it wasn't all in my head.  The doctor agreed with what I found with the BSE.  She ordered a full round of tests.  One of these would be truly a journey behind the curtain.  She ordered a mammogram for me.

I work in the radiology field.  I have to admit - one of my first thoughts was... but I have so little to squish!  I was so nervous when I called to get the appointment, even though it's with my own department.  Would I be laughed at?  I know there are occasionally men who have mammograms - I've preached this for years.  But now, it's me, and I feel like the only one in the world.  Just like every other woman who is suddenly facing this.

And now I have a very good idea of what this is like.  What it's like on the other side.  I don't know what the mammogram will show.  Like thousands of women every day, I am hoping that this mass is benign, a cyst, a small clump, a non-cancerous whatever... anything BUT.  Like thousands of women every day, I have told my closest friends what's going on, but few others.  Like thousands of women every day, I wonder what the future holds.

I walk every year in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  But now, in the past month, I've walked a few feet in their shoes, and I've seen it all from the other side.  And it's still true, I look forward to when we don't have to walk anymore.   

03 February 2013

Return to The Cathedral

It's been too long since I've visited the Cathedral. Sure, it's actually only been about two months, yet it feels so much longer than that. I sit here in my pew, weary... My face turned upwards. I see another angel streaking across the sky. It's been too long. I should come to the Cathedral more often, and why don't I? I have no excuse not to. The Angels call to me... ...I should come more. For the Peace I feel is deep and transformative. With the Angel's wings, my weights are lifted. Before, I felt exhausted. Now, I feel exciting Joy. The Cathedral reaches into my very soul. It gives voice to my favorite verse from the Bible - the one that's truly leapt from the pages when I first read the book cover to cover many many years ago. Anyway, for someone who is so intricately connected to temporal landmarks, I'm not sure why the Cathedral felt so distant when I had visited so recently. Yet, no matter, for I am here and for however briefly, I am renewed. I come and pray more often.