Peace in the Mid-East: an 8 year old's plan

On the way home, Christian asked me if people in Israel still worship God. Naturally, this turned into a bigger discussion about politics and religion and stuff that every second grade kid wants to talk about. Right?

OK, maybe it's just my kid.

But he had a simple question with a complex answer so it warranted some additional details. I talked about the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock. I told him how that area was the birthplace of the three biggest religions in the world - that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all started there. I talked about how those three religious groups in Israel all believe they have rights to that land and that they're fighting over those rights. I talked about how they're hurting each other because they disagree in politics and religion. I talked about how the three religious groups don't really like each other. I talked about how each group wants power and control. I talked about how each group wants the other two to leave.

This was almost too much for him to wrap his brain around and mentally digest.

Then he said, "I believe that everyone should have the right to live anywhere." Ah, the wisdom of a child.


Drugs & Second Chances in the Public Eye

The truth is out. He's admitted it. The rumors and allegations have been confirmed. Lance Armstrong doped up. In his own words, it was "one big lie." He was using performance enhancing drugs during each of his seven consecutive Tour de France victories. In his opinion, those wins would not have been possible without the drugs.

Now what?

Let the scorn begin. Oh how we love to crucify our heroes.

Yahoo Sports called him "arrogant and unaware." CNN has panned his contrition as unconvincing. They said, "there was no flicker of soul-searching. Maybe he doesn't have a soul to search."

I expect some level of derision from major news outlets. It's their job. They're out for blood or whatever attracts more viewers and/or readers. A fallen celebrity is chum trailing behind a fishing boat out to catch  sharks. However, the public humiliation doesn't end with the mainstream media. As Armstrong was able to find a warm corner in the hearts of the average American, he is now being evicted from those places of high esteem with vitriol and revulsion.

If you read through local news, you might find comments like "One of the lowest forms of life" and "Just a con man." Or you might see others say, "the epitome of a bad parent" and "spoiled brat."

Do I have room to criticize Lance Armstrong? What makes me any better than him? Sure, I've never done drugs, but I've never competed on an international stage with the pressures of the whole world watching. Granted, that stress and scrutiny over Armstrong's career isn't a valid excuse, but neither is the lack of a spotlight pardon my poor decisions. I might not have sued people for making accusations against me, but I have hurt people in other ways. The real difference between Lance Armstrong and Nicholas Casey is that everyone can see his mistakes, while very few people saw mine.

Armstrong is suffering the negative affects of something I've talked about before: when we place our heroes up on pedestals, there is only one direction they can go. Down. We ignore their humanity. We place inhuman expectations on them. We're unforgiving of their flaws. And we are ruthless when the inevitable happens.

Is there room for forgiveness and second chances in Lance's life? From my perspective, there has to be. I don't know him personally. The lies he told have zero effect on my life. I am not one the people he betrayed. The closest our two paths ever came to crossing was when he visited Coeur d'Alene to watch the Ironman Triathlon a few years ago. I'm pretty sure I was at church that day.

Forgiveness isn't mine to give as he's done nothing to personally wrong me. When I ponder whether or not he deserves a second chance, I must consider a few things.

1. He is all ready facing the natural consequences of his actions. He's been stripped of his Tour de France titles. The IOC has requested he return his Olympic medal. He has been banned from his chosen profession for the rest of his life.

2. He is being sued for repayment of money he won in libel lawsuits. Some organizations are asking he return money he was paid to compete in various events. He will no longer be able to earn income from cycling. He has lost many of the sponsorships that helped finance his career. He has resigned from his own non-profit foundation. There will be severe financial punishments.

3. His relationships are all ready strained. He's burned several bridges through his doping and the lies he told to cover it up. Many of those he hurt were friends and teammates. Some of those relationships might be beyond repair. But those closest to him may have been hurt the worst - his family. That includes the son who defended Armstrong as accusations were first leveled against him.

If I were to criticize Armstrong,  there's nothing I could do to make his situation any worse. My ridicule would be nothing more than empty words adding to the abundance of other voices insulting him. All that I would accomplish would be to show my own emptiness as I'd be hurling venom against against a man I don't know and who is just as frail and fallible as me. I'd be doing nothing more than pointing out the speck of sawdust in his eye while ignoring the plank that's blinding my own vision. He is as worthy of a second chance as I am.

Despite his errors, he is still a cancer survivor. When all is said and done, his survival is will still be a great accomplishment. Even if all of his records and awards are erased from the history of cycling, he still managed to make it a more interesting sport - he introduced many American viewers to a competition that they previously thought of as boring. That renewed interest helped spurn more people to pursue an active and healthier lifestyle. For that, he deserves some recognition.

It is not my job to judge him or criticize him. It's mine to recognize that he made mistakes, to applaud his bravery in admitting his history, and to hope he is able to move forward.

He may not. He might not ever repair the broken relationships in his life. He might not right the wrongs he committed. He might serve as an object lesson in failure for years to come. But he deserves the chance to try. And if he succeeds, I'll be in line to congratulate him for rising from the ashes.

After all, when you hit rock bottom, there's only one direction you can go.


Glue Sniffer

A coworker was divulging a story of how she got carded at Walmart over the New Years weekend. She was surprised and her husband thought it was hilarious. Why might it be funny? First, she's about the same age as my parents. Second, she was buying rubber cement.

As she retold the events as they unfolded, she quoted her husband's response: "You mean to tell me that there are crack dealers on the street selling cocaine, and you want to see ID to sell rubber cement"

"Yes," said the cashier.

At this point in the tale, I asked her, "Since when did they start carding people buying rubber cement?"

"Have you smelled this stuff recently?" She replied. "I nearly got high just using it for the project I was finishing."

"Are you kidding me? I sniffed that stuff the whole way through my high school days." I said.

"That explains a lot."

Note to self: have drivers license handy if ever purchasing rubber cement.


Zu writes

My five year old daughter is the author of this blog post. Granted, there will be some translation involved. She had the boring pleasure of hanging out with me for a half hour while Bekah was at a meeting. In attempts to not interrupt my work, she communicated with me via flash cards. Those messages are as follows.

"Is Momma coming to pick me up?"

"When is Momma coming?"

"I'm thirsty."

"I all ready have food."

The handwriting is as sloppy as you'd expect from a kindergartener. But the thought process is there. She's connecting the dots. I hope to have her reading soon. And writing more.


Conversations with JJ

Now that JJ is home hospital, he is full of energy. With that boundless energy comes words - lots of words. Unless there is food in his mouth, he won't stop talking.

However, when he talks this much, he doesn't always make sense. This would be more annoying if he wasn't so funny.

Me: "Are you ready to go home?"
JJ: "Yes!"
Me: "Are you sure?"
JJ: "Uh-huh."
Me: "I think you want to go for a drive in the mountains."
JJ: "No!"
Me: "No? Where do you want to go?"
JJ: "Home."
Me: "OK, we'll go to the mall."
JJ: "No."
Me: "Nanna's house?"
JJ: "No. Our house."
Me: "In the middle of our street."
JJ: "No. (he didn't get the reference) In Coeur d'Alene!"
Me: "Right. That's where we live."
JJ: "I'm telling Momma that you're lying."


Me: "You're so non sequitur."
JJ: "I'm not random sect it were."
Me: "Yes you are."
JJ: "Uh-uh... Look it up in a psychopedia."


JJ points at a church as we drive by. He asks, "Are we going to church?"
Me: "No, it's not church day, and we don't even go to that church."
JJ: "But there's people there."
Me: (looks at three cars in the parking lot) "No more than the pastor, a janitor, and their secretary."
JJ: "Blah hah oohs walkawalka ooga lah lah waaaaaaaah. I said, there's hundreds of people."


JJ's Photographic Review

This is JJ.

This was his year.

JJ did not have an easy year, and it's not fun when he is sick.

His finger was almost amputated the night before Easter. But that was only his first trip to the ER.

On the last ride of autumn, before the weather turned cold, he fell off of his bike and bit through his tongue.

And as the year was coming to an end, he got hit by a class mate on a trike. Broken leg.
(Yes, I said trike.)

When he's healthy and injury free, he's finding new ways to express himself.

Or perfecting his rockstar moves.

Or doing whatever it is he's doing in this picture. Honestly... I'm not sure what he's doing.

If you ever see him with a halo, trust me - it's only temporary.

JJ is our clumsy child. He is accident prone, goofy, random, filled with absurdist humor, and the definition of non sequitur. He is Bamm-Bamm. He's found a distinct pleasure in pestering his brother and sister. He's the rough and tumble kid that is all boy. He's developed a fascination with sports that he did not inherit from either of his parents. He has become obsessed with vehicular machinery in a way that neither of his siblings ever attempted. Given the option, he'd rather watch a documentary on monster trucks than most cartoons. He will make you laugh. He will make you cry. And sometimes, he'll make you laugh and cry simultaneously. Life with JJ is an adventure.

I love this kid.

Zu's Photographic Review

This is Zu.

This was her year.

She is my little fashionista.

She has mastered the art of feeling the full range of emotions in a single day.

My favorite is when she's like this.

She is my brave child. She'll try things that make her brothers tremble.

She is a girl of summer.

Yet she's perfectly comfortable in winter.

My daughter will wreck you. When she smiles, she lights up a room. And when she's sad, it will break your heart. Yet, when you're sad, she will make an effort to comfort you. She is beautiful and she knows it. I'm buying myself a shotgun when she turns 13. Inside of this little girl is a clever brain. She is smart, witty, and full of attitude. And she possesses a level of empathy that would put most adults to shame.

I love this girl.

Christian's Photographic Review

This is Christian.

This was his year.

This is the year he learned to ride a bike. The hard way. By falling off. A lot.

This is the year he discovered Guitar Hero. And my heart rejoiced.

He's the curious type.

He's willing to get his feet wet.

He loves to read.

So much that we got him his own Kindle.

He's also crazy smart. So smart that it scares me a little. This year, his creativity blossomed. He frequently claims that he's making a movie, or writing a play. Stories. Art projects. Dramatic productions. And if he's not in artistic pursuit, covered in marker ink and half dried glue... and he's not lost inside the world of Kirby, Mario, or Donkey Kong... he is chasing after learning. He's asking questions, researching his books of knowledge, on a fact finding mission, or obsessed in scientific inquiry.

I love this kid.

Us in 2012 continued

My original plan to recap 2012 for the kids individually went by the wayside. This past week has been a doozie and this blog has suffered neglect.

That being said, I couldn't quite figure out how I wanted to plot out the kids' years in review. Really, it's been a big year for them. It was a year of change as they moved into a new house, started sleeping in new beds, explored a new yard, and eating fruit picked from new (to them) trees. Christian moved up a grade, but Zu and JJ both moved to new schools as Zu is now in Kindergarten and JJ is in Preschool.

This was the year of the road trip. We endured two back to back vacations: one to Cheyenne and one to Seattle. They were fantastic trips, but it totaled seven days of driving. Christian may ahave developed Post Traumatic Sibling Disorder from spending those seven days cramped between his brother and sister.

But we survived. And if you're reading this, that means you survived the year as well. All I can really say is thank you for coming along with me as I ramble, rant, rave, and present a series of random thoughts.

From my family to yours, welcome to a new year.


Our Year

Welcome to a new year. Before I continue on the randomness that is this blog, I'd like to take a few minutes and review what has happened in the past 12 months.

Last January, our household was concerned about my brother's health. I flew down to Phoenix to support him and his wife as he faced a risky surgery as a part of his chordoma treatment. Our time there didn't go as we expected. The neurologist in Phoenix sent Aaron through another MRI as a part of the pre-op process, but the results of that MRI showed a smaller mass. Suddenly the need to operate wasn't so urgent. The Doctor encouraged Aaron and Janda to look at different options. He was willing to perform the surgery, but the mass had become small enough that the risk was too steep if there was a better option. Instead of pacing the dreary corridors of St Joseph's Hospital, I got to spend a few days of quality time with my brother.

He did find another treatment option. In April, Aaron and Janda temporarily relocated to Jacksonville Florida where Aaron underwent two months of proton beam therapy. Simply put, proton beam therapy is a form a radiation treatment but less invasive than traditional chemotherapy or cyber knife treatments. The easiest explanation would be to imagine radiation therapy performed by a master Jedi. It is designed to kill a cancerous mass with minimal side effects. He has been doing better since then. His journey has been long and it's not over yet. If you're interested in following along in his adventure in conquering cancer, he's been posting semi-regular updates through his Caring Bridge Journal.

We also began this year with the intent of finding our won home. We began looking at various properties around the Cd'A/Post Falls area with our realtor. Our goal changed frequently. We originally hoped for a new construction home. We found a floor plan that we liked, made a few customizations and it looked like what we were going to do. It fit within our budget, but it scraped the upper end of what we were willing to spend. Once we added in the cost of building a fence, the price was turning into more than would be wise. So began the hunt for an existing home on the market.

If you haven't shopped the current housing market recently, let me assure you it is a discouraging process. Filtering for-sale properties in North Idaho down to our specifications of price range and number of bedrooms, the pickings were slim. Some were in sketchy neighborhoods that warranted little more than a drive by viewing. Some looked great from the outside, but were disasters on the inside. Others resembled the house from that Tom Hanks movie The Money Pit.

Eventually, we found the perfect house. Or at least we thought it was perfect. The bank that owned the property had other ideas and was no longer accepting offers by the time we tried to make our bid. The search continued and we finally found one that both Bekah and I loved. We made an offer and that offer was accepted on our daughter's birthday. The next couple of months of dealing with our lender, the bank that owned the property, home inspectors, and title companies was a blur. It was probably among the most stressful part of the year, and I can barely recall anything that happened during that time. Keys were acquired in June and we moved in as happy first time home buyers.

Bekah walked for her diploma in May and at the end of the summer semester, she graduated North Idaho College with her AS. This past fall she started her junior year at LCSC to get her BSW. She is excited to complete her social work degree and school has consumed much of her time.

Our summer was the season of vacations with back to back road trips. First to Cheyenne for my grandparent's 60th anniversary. That was a trip that included a stop at the Billings Zoo, the Little Bighorn Memorial, the Wyoming State Museum, and a lot of time watching the Olympics at my parents' house. Then we drove to Seattle for a miniature family reunion on my wife's side of the family. I spent a day hanging out with my brother-in-law, walking from Pioneer Square to Pike Place, down to the waterfront, and back to Pioneer Square - all while trying to find a place that served Indian cuisine for lunch and failing to satisfy our curry craving. We took the kids to the aquarium and Volunteer Park. And I discovered my new favorite place to eat in Seattle: Ezell's.

This past fall, I took a business trip to Denver and completed yellow belt certification for Six Sigma. I am hoping this opens up some new opportunities for me to do bigger and better work for my office. I like what I do, but I've looking at the same series of spreadsheets for three years. Some change would be nice.

It has been a crazy and busy year for us. Some days, I wake up and marvel at what God has been doing in our lives. And some days I wake up and wonder 'what am I doing." But all things considered, I'm excited for 2013.

Through the rest of this week, my kids are going to review their year. I'll take a look back at the blog. Then we'll begin to look forward.