The Courage of Conviction

 “…a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”                                                                                                                             - Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Courage comes in many forms.

For most of us, the word evokes mental images of heroic physical action under extreme danger.

A soldier sprints unprotected through enemy fire to pull a friend to safety.

A good Samaritan wades through flames to rescue an accident victim on a lonely stretch of freeway.

A bystander steps in front of a weapon, preventing a criminal from harming an innocent.

These are all examples of people who willingly face injury or death to help others in need; but facing physical danger in spite of fear is not the only definition of courage. Continue reading

The Perspective of Elapsed Time

Sometimes it’s difficult to see our lives objectively.

We’re so close, so caught up in the living of our daily grind that we can’t always see what got us here; what we missed by taking this path, or what we gained by not taking another.

Things may look better or worse to us in our present situation, simply because of our perspective.

For example:

Twenty-two years ago, Continue reading

Ninety Day Wonder

Ninety days ago, I was very close to being in the worst shape of my life. I was forty pounds overweight, I had back and knee pain constantly, and no endurance for anything more stressful than climbing one flight of stairs. (Even that was becoming a stretch.)

I felt like my weight and lifestyle were inevitable and irreversible – it was too much weigh to lose, and too difficult to get it off. I didn’t have time, energy or expertise enough to turn my life around to that extent.

I looked forward to eating.

I loved food, and it was slowly killing me.

Then I looked in the mirror one morning and thought – You, sir, are a disgusting pig. Continue reading

Lost in Translation

The following is a post I wrote for my previous blog when we were in China adopting our daughter in late 2010. Remembering it makes me laugh – maybe it’ll do the same for you.

When one culture attempts to translate their language into another for the benefit of tourists from a second culture, there will inevitably be some degree of confusion.  In some cases, that confusion can manifest itself into high comedy. Continue reading

Clean Your Plate

My parents grew up during the Great Depression.

That experience taught them the importance of not wasting anything – and they passed that on to me.

At meals, they impressed upon me the fact that somewhere in the world, starving kids would be happy to have leftover boiled potatoes (again?!?), so I’d better eat mine.

I took that lesson to heart, and now I have an innate aversion to throwing food away.

I hate wasting food, so I always clean my plate.

The problem is that I used to load my plate with more food than I really needed, which sadly caused my waistband to expand at an alarming rate, and led to an urgent need to change my behavior. Continue reading

Let Them Eat Cake – In Their Underwear

Today my lovely bride and I went to the mall to get me some new clothes. I’ve lost 26 pounds in the last 60 days, which made my slacks a bit saggy, so she insisted. On our way back to the car, we walked past Victoria’s Secret (which, in case you didn’t know, is a place where women go to purchase frilly covers for their naughty bits).

Victoria’s Secret is in the habit of plastering their storefront with skyscraper sized posters of happy-go-lucky underwear models, photographically frozen in various poses specifically staged to not look staged. Whenever we pass this store, I make it a point to look the other way, while my wife makes a point of making sure I look the other way. But today, one poster in particular annoyed her more than usual. Once we were safely in the car, she asked me:

“Did you see the model eating cake?” Continue reading

“Spread Out!!”

In the 1978 Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way But Loose, Cholla, the leader of a gang of outlaw bikers called The Black Widows, always barks the same order when his men make their entrance to a scene and dismount from their hogs:

“SPREAD OUT!!”

This is pretty good tactical advice, if you’re expecting a fight and you don’t want to get bottled up in a corner. It allows you to cover the exits, prevents opponents from easily flanking you, and establishes control over a wider area.

The only problem with the tactic was that Cholla’s men were idiots. Continue reading

Let It Out

Completely drained.

That’s how I felt about writing today.

As I opened my laptop this evening to write something – anything – I realized that my heart just wasn’t in it.

I’m still struggling with yesterday’s news, and the struggle has seriously impaired my enthusiasm for writing.

Tragedy has a way of stealing the joy from every area of your daily life, to the point that you don’t want to do much of anything for a while.

It tends to lock you in place, and threatens to hold you there.

You lose focus, and begin to dwell on the loss, the sadness, the pointlessness of it all.

I did a bit of that today, and in the midst of my funk, I couldn’t find a good reason to write.

Then I thought about what helped me through yesterday.

Writing. Continue reading

Requiem For an Old Friend

Yesterday, an old friend lost his life.

And though I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in more than 17 years, the news today still hit me like a kick in the gut.

We weren’t close friends.

But we were brothers in arms – stationed together in the military, we shared a common experience and a lot of good times. We shared good friends, people who knew each of us better than we knew each other, and that seemingly thin bond made us a permanent part of each other’s life story.

We shared beers, barbecue and very similar work experiences – and when it came time for me to leave the Air Force for civilian life, we went our separate ways. Continue reading