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Regarding Sandy Hook and guns

December 14, 2012

I’m going to take a whole lot of shit for this post. But I don’t care.

As we undoubtedly all know by now, there was a shooting at a grade school in Newtown, CT. A deranged unstable young motherfucker gentleman walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School with three guns and opened fire, killing 20 children between the ages of 5-10, and 6 adults, including the principal, before killing himself, as they always do. Punk ass bitch.

There are all sorts of fuzzy and/or conflicting details- first that it was the shooter’s brother that was the shooter, and apparently the brother was on Facebook saying, “IT WASN’T ME! I WAS AT WORK!” Then it was discovered that it wasn’t who they thought it was after all. Nice job of fact checking, CNN. Here’s a tip: instead of being the first to get the scoop, how about being the first to get the goddamned facts correct? THERE’S a novel idea. News outlets get hard-ons for sensationalist stories like this. Sure, it’s a “senseless tragedy”, but you can just read it on their faces that there is some mass circle jerk going on in some board room at CNN Plaza or Rockefeller Center or wherever. “Ratings!!” *stroke stroke stroke*

But that’s a whole other kettle of whoop-ass for another time.

[cue Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” in 5… 4… 3… 2…]

It was said that the shooter’s mother, who was reported to be a kindergarten teacher at the school, was one of the six adults killed. Now they’re saying that the mother was killed at the family home before the shooter ever got to the school. It has also been reported that there was a related killing in Hoboken, N.J., 80 miles away, where the shooter is said to have lived. Not sure we’ll ever even know for sure what happened, let alone why it happened.

Anyway, naturally, when each of my kids came home from school today, we hugged them a little tighter than normal. We told Ian what happened, and it shook him up. Adam, we’re not really going to volunteer anything about it until such time as he asks, at which time we’ll be up front with him about it.

But here’s the thing. The anti-gun folks are going to be full of all kinds of piss and vinegar about how we need to ban all guns. The pro-gun folks are going to be all kinds of piss and vinegar about how that’s not fair. Neither are correct. But then, neither are incorrect, for that matter.

People that say, “Cars kill people; are you going to ban cars?!” are idiots. Same with knives, baseball bats, or anything else. The fact is that knives  baseball bats, and cars have intended uses besides inflicting harm upon people. A gun’s sole purpose is for inflicting harm, whether on people or on animals. But here’s the rub: A gun does no damage until someone pulls the trigger. Someone has to willingly aim that gun and pull that trigger for it to do any harm. That gun has no emotion, no freewill, no motive. It takes a shooter to shoot a gun. It takes a killer to kill.

I agree that it is way, WAY to easy for anyone to get a firearm. There needs to be a serious overhaul of that system. One can literally walk into just about any gun show and buy a gun and take it home with virtually no questions asked. That is simply wrong.

But folks, there’s also this little thing called the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights. The 2nd Amendment states, and I quote directly from the text of the document itself:

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Shall NOT be infringed. What that means is that law-abiding citizens have the right to own a gun. And once Illinois pulls its head out of its ass, to carry one in all 50 states as well. There IS a serious flaw in the system regarding how easy it is to obtain a gun. It is far too easy. There need to be background checks. There need to be mental health evaluations. There need to be waiting periods. There need to be safety education requirements as well as shooting education requirements. There need to be age requirements. Direct sales at gun shows need to stop. Allowing convicted felons to obtain guns needs to stop. Allowing the mentally ill to obtain guns needs to stop.

But banning guns is not the answer.

Many killing sprees, such as this one today, are reportedly carried out with legally obtained weapons. To me, that lends itself to the notion that it is not the gun, but the shooter. A legal gun in the hands of a killer becomes a lethal weapon. An illegally obtained gun in the hands of a law-abiding citizen remains nothing more than a gun. Law-abiding gun owners don’t fucking kill people. It IS just that simple. Believe it or not, folks, it will not turn into Shootout at the OK Corral simply because citizens are allowed to carry firearms.

Do you truly believe that banning guns will just magically make crime disappear? Or that banning guns will at least make gun crime disappear? If you believe that, you’re either delusional or an idiot. That. Will. Not. Happen. All a full-out ban will do is drive up the price of those illegal guns that are being bought and sold already. And they’ll still be bought and sold. Mayor Daley instituted a gun ban in Chicago, and gun crimes have increased since. You know, because criminals are all about obeying the law and all.

And quite frankly, even if you could somehow magically get rid of all guns, even illegal ones, and take all guns out of the hands of criminals (good luck with that, by the way), there will still be murders. Killers kill, regardless of their weapon of choice. Knife, car, baseball bat, meat cleaver, wood-chipper, poison, explosive, plastic bag [i.e. placed over someone’s head], or bare hands- it doesn’t matter.

It is the killer that kills. Not the weapon they use. Not even the gun.

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What is most important here, regardless of where your beliefs lie, is the fact that there are 20 families who no longer have their children to hug and kiss and tuck in at night, and the families of the adults that were killed that no longer have their spouse, parent, aunt, uncle, sibling, or whatever the case.

I also have to mention the President. At approximately 2:15 CST, President Obama delivered a statement with regard to this tragedy. He spoke not just as the leader of our country, but more so as a father. I watched the President of the United States cry on television. People will undoubtedly argue that it was staged, or even phony. I’m willing to put it all out there and say that the tears he wiped away were genuine. I know the tears that he caused to pour down MY face were genuine. I am dropping my guard and admitting that I did not vote for him last month or four years ago (nor did I vote for his Republican Party opponent either time, for what it’s worth, but that’s irrelevant), but in watching him today I was never more impressed with, and proud of, my President. Much respect, Mr. President.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims of today’s horrific shooting, their families and friends, and the entire community of Newtown, CT. I hug my boys a little tighter from now on, partly because my heart aches for those 20 families that don’t get to do so with theirs any longer.

How 30 middle schoolers made me cry

October 2, 2012

Something happened at the city cross-country meet yesterday that was so profound and unexpected, I felt it needed its own post.

Okay, so at last Thursday’s meet, Coach Lynn asked me if I was able to help out with the city meet on Monday, or if I was going to have pickup issues with Adam, or what. Coach Lynn is a good friend of my brother’s, so we’ve known each other for several years now. I told him I had to check with Dawn to be sure, but I should be able to, since Dawn got off work at 2:00, and she should be able to pick up Adam (turned out that she could, seeing as how she was in on the whole thing). Jeff asked if I could possibly be there about 3:00, even though the meet doesn’t start until 3:30. I told him it wasn’t a problem.

So fast forward to yesterday. I get to Lincoln Park around 2:50 or so. I find Jeff there getting stuff set up with Mr. Hampsey (one of LMS’s assistant principals), so I walked over to the tent and pretended like I was supposed to be there. I’m shooting the shit with Coach, Mr. Hampsey, and Mr. Heyen (the principal’s husband), when the team bus shows up around 3:05 or so. The kids get their stuff settled under “their tree”, and I grab Ian’s stuff and take it to the car, so as not to have to dick with it later. As I’m walking back to the tree, Coach starts them in their stretching exercises. During preseason practices, I attempted to do the stretches with them, but I proved to be too fat and/or out of shape to do most of them. So I usually just watch the kids do them.

I started wandering back to the awards tent where Mr. Hampsey was, when Coach said, “Mr. Stearns, I’m going to need you right here with me in just a few minutes”, so I walked back over next to him and waited for the stretching to finish. As they finished stretching, Coach said, “Okay, friends, let’s all gather around Mr. Stearns for a moment.”

Um, okay.

So the kids surround me. I mean, SURROUND me. Tightly. The kids on the outside of the circle were within arm’s reach. And I have short arms. Then all the kids put a hand on my head, shoulders, and back.

Now I’m thinking, what the hell is going on?! I mean, what would YOU think?

Jeff started talking about the city meet being the most important race of the year, then switched gears and said, “Okay, friends, tell me some things we like about Mr. Stearns.” The first one to chime in was little Mia, who said, “He learned all our names!” That made me giggle, especially since I am SO horrible with names. Then there were several more comments, including:

  • “He comes to every single meet!!”
  • “He yells and cheers SO loudly for all of us!”
  • “He helps us and inspires us to do better!”
  • “He literally saved our butts at the Franklin meet!” (That was Ian’s contribution.)
  • “He has cool hair!”
  • “He’s like our second coach!”

That was the beginning of the flood. I started tearing up a little when Ellie said that I was like a second coach. Then it continued when Coach then said, “That’s right, friends, you have all done amazing things this year, but none of it would be possible without Mr. Stearns’ help. Therefore, Mr. Stearns, we have all decided as a team to dedicate today’s meet you. Now I want you all to go out and run your best not just for yourselves, not just for me, but for Mr. Stearns!” They then did the team cheer, gave me high fives, and went off to prepare for the meet.

Dudes. Did you catch that? They dedicated the meet. To ME.

I’ve had several proud moments in my life. My boys being born. My dad getting inducted into the Springfield Sports Hall of Fame. Ian receiving four awards- including straight-A honor roll- at last year’s awards ceremony. Watching both Ian and Adam at the piano recitals. But never have I ever- EVER- had such an honor bestowed upon me. And it was bestowed upon me by middle-schoolers. Kids from 10-13 years old. Kids that age can potentially be some of the most adult-despising people on the planet, yet at that one brief moment, more than 30 of them made me the center of their world. And get this: they meant it. They may well wind up denying that it ever happened, if asked, but at that particular moment, I know they meant it.

As the girls walked to the starting line for their race, I had to walk about 15 feet behind them, so they couldn’t see what a blubbering idiot I was. I was able to regain my composure, for the most part, and timed the girls. And they didn’t disappoint. The LMS/BC girls took second place for the meet, and we had four girls that medalled by finishing in the top 20. (Shout-out to Alexa, Maria, Sophia, and Kaitlyn R.!!) Then the boys also took second place as a team, and Kody medalled for us. Karl finished 21st- just out of medal contention- but I’m very confident he’ll be well in the mix next year, as I hope Ian will as well.

I was already crazy stupid proud of these kids all season. They’ve done so well and improved so much. But for them to dedicate the most important meet of the season to me… I love these kids to pieces. I’ve read to 3 or 4 classes of kids at library time, for both Ian’s and Adam’s classes. I coached Ian in baseball for four seasons. I’ve been around some good kids. But these kids on the LMS/BC cross-country team are literally the finest group of kids I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

So to Kody, Jervias, Allie, Kaitlyn T., Karl, Ian, Holling, Josh, Noah S., Noah L., Kaitlyn R., Alexa, Lillian, Kelly, Clare, Trevor, Harrison, Brendan, Alex D., Jaden, Tyrone, Caleb, Zach, Danny, Ellie, Mia, Healy, Maya, Alex R., Logan, Noah D., Liam, Maria, and Sophia, I say this: I cannot express how much yesterday meant to me. You all will likely forget about me, quite possibly sooner than later, but I will never forget any of you, nor especially will I ever forget yesterday’s gesture. You did more for this goofball totally lame dad of one of your classmates than you can possibly imagine, but I hope one day you can feel what you made me feel yesterday.

Thank you all SO much, not just for yesterday but for accepting me and allowing me to hang out with you over this cross-country season. It has been my privilege. I love you guys.

Cross-country update

October 2, 2012

Okay, Ian has had four meets in the last week (last Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and then yesterday).

Tuesday was in Chatham against Glenwood Junior High. This is the team that trains like friggin’ beasts, and they have a running club in which the kids get together and just run. All. Year. Long. I’m SO hoping Ian’s coach moves forward with his plan to strongly urge the LMS/BC runners to do so. Anyway, the actual meet was out in the middle of this wildlife sanctuary in Chatham’s Deliverance section. Really weird course. Ian ran a 15:06 there. Naturally, he was pissed off about it, since he has twice tasted times in the fourteens, but I think it was pretty impressive considering what a goofy course it was, and it was wet, AND he’d never run it before. But could I convince him of that? Hell no.

Then Thursday was a meet at Lincoln Park, with just Lincoln, Franklin, and Johns Hill, which is apparently by Decatur. Ian ran a 14:33 at that meet- his third time under the fifteen minute mark this season. This kid never ceases to friggin’ impress the hell out of me.

Saturday was the Jacksonville Invitational. The high school kids run their 3-mile courses first, and then the middle schoolers do their 2-mile races in the afternoon. This was kind of a rough and tumble day for Lincoln Magnet/Ball Charter. In the 7th and under girls’ race, Sophia (a 5th grader on our team… a 5th grader!!) got knocked down and stepped on by about 6 girls in the mass convergence to a single line. It happened only about 40 yards from the starting line, so they stopped the race and brought everyone back. Coach and I checked on Sophie, and made her run a few steps to make sure she could go, and she said she wanted to run. I think her pride was hurt more than anything. She wound up finishing first for our team!!! I told her afterward that maybe we need to knock her down and get her run over more often. Apparently ticking her off is the trick! She didn’t seem to want to do that. Go figure. Anyway, in Ian’s race, he was moving right along, when he said the kid in front of him looked behind him (Ian wasn’t sure if the kid saw him or not), and then just stopped. Didn’t slow to a walk, he stopped. Ian and this kid smacked heads, and then as Ian stumbled, he got elbowed in the mouth by this kid. So that little altercation added a couple seconds to his time, but he wound up finishing with a 13:55. Now, before you all get TOO excited, understand that the Jacksonville course is not a full two miles. They swear it is, but it’s not. It can’t be. When nearly every kid out there- not just on our team- is beating their personal best by 1:00, 1:30, some more than 2:00… I’mma have to call ‘bullshit’ on that. I mean, it’s great for the confidence, I get that, but there’s just no way it an be a full two miles. Regardless, it was a good race and a good time for Ian. Other than that whole cracking skulls with the kid in front of him thing.

Then there is yesterday’s meet. The city meet. The big one. All 5 public middle schools vying for position for sectionals on Saturday. This was an amazing meet for me based on what happened beforehand, but I’ll cover that in a separate post. Franklin Middle School, naturally, won the meet, and took most of the Top 20 finisher medals in both boys and girls. There were four girls that got medals- one being Sophia, our little 5th grader. She is going to be tough as she gets older. We had one boy place for a medal, and another finished 21st (ouch!), and Ian set another personal best with a 14:25. Naturally, he doesn’t see that. The only thing he left with was the fact that two teammates passed him. He was worried about his placement on the team for sectionals, but considering he’s holding firm to the #3 spot, he really had nothing to worry about. Still… try to convince him of that.

All in all, ’twas a great week. And I hate that the season is almost over. Stay tuned…

I have a catdog

September 19, 2012
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We have a very cute beagle-Bassett hound mix named Lucy. We got her from the pound around Thanksgiving or so last year, and they estimated she was roughly a year and a half old at that time. Dawn was the one really wanting to get another dog at the time, but when we went to the pound to go check her out, Lucy [almost literally] attached herself to me instantly, so it was all, “I guess we’ll be taking the beagle”. She kind of became “my dog”.

Yeah, that lasted for about a week.

I love her to pieces and want to bury her in a shallow unmarked grave in the back yard at the same time. She does typical dog things (most of which piss me off), such as, among other things, begging for food (the #1 capital offense a dog can commit, in my eyes), digging 8-inch-deep holes in the yard, barking for no apparent reason at things that aren’t there, trying to eat everything in sight, including dog shit, rabbit shit, birdseed, squirrel corn, grass, leaves, and crayons, to name but a few.

SIDE NOTE: Dogs that eat crayons produce dog shit that looks like Little Debbie™® Cosmic Brownies.

However, I truly believe Lucy is really a cat in an incredibly lifelike dog costume. I just can’t find the zipper. I present the following as evidence of my theory:

  • She begs, often rather vocally, to go outside. Then when we let her out, usually she’ll take about four steps and then turn around and wait for you to let her in. Cat.
  • She is a Jedi master at that whole “serpentine between your legs as you’re trying to walk” thing. Cat.
  • She climbs all the FUCK up in your business when you’re reading, or eating, or knitting, or doing pretty much anything. Cat.
  • She walks back and forth along the couch, the footboard of our bed, and other furniture, rubbing her body against it as she walks. Cat.
  • She is constantly cleaning herself. Constantly. CON. STANT. LY. Cat. Friggin’ nasty-ass disgusting cat.
  • She puts her nose right up in your face and just sniffs you. Cat.
  • Whenever you attempt to pet her, she instantly rolls over and grabs your hand and tries to rip it to shreds with her teeth, as though she were a lioness that just caught a wildebeest. Cat.
  • Glance for a split second in her general direction and she teleports herself to you in the blink of an eye, yet when you call her, she looks at you like like she’s Travis Bickle. Cat. (Go ahead and Google ‘Travis Bickle’. I’ll wait.)
  • She’ll be sound asleep and then suddenly, instantly has to be in another room RIGHT GODDAMNED NOW. Cat. (I believe “vacuum activity” is the term for that particular phenomenon. Ba-dee, ba-dee-dee.)

She really is an adorable “dog”, but I am convinced she is actually a cat. Franklin, my 11-year-old golden retriever, is simply confounded by her. He never knows whether to play with her, as she always tries to start shit with him (she exhibits further cat behavior by sneak attacking him and then running off underneath something where he can’t get her), or to simply swallow her whole and just take the ass beating as being “totally worth it”. Personally, I couldn’t really blame him if he did.

Stupid cat.

Franklin Invite

September 15, 2012

Okay, so last Monday, Ian had a meet at Lincoln Park, and finished with a very respectable 15:12, coming in 24th out of 53 runners. Pretty sure that’s his best time ever on the Lincoln Park course. Naturally, he’s not thrilled with that time.

*eye roll*

Today was the Franklin Invitational meet, coincidentally run in Franklin, IL. This course is a mostly flat course with some slight slope in some areas (across which the kids don’t like running) and, according to Ian, a big ditch “you gotta jump over unless you want to break your ankles”.

I swear, I’ve told that kid a million times not to exaggerate.

Anyway, this is a flighted meet, which means that the #1-ranked runners on each team run against each other in a boys’ race and a girls’ race, then the #2-ranked runners all run against each other, et cetera, through the #7-ranked runners. All others run in the open race, or what is called the 8th Man race.

Points-wise, Ian was the top-ranked runner on Lincoln’s team. Coach Lynn showed me that at school when I dropped Ian off this morning, and said, “I think I may see if he wants to defer to Karl on that.” The reason Ian was ranked #1 in points is because, for whatever reason, Karl didn’t run in that very first meet back in August, so even though he always finishes ahead of Ian, Ian still has more points, because he has run more races.

Shocker, but Ian about pooped himself taking himself out of that first flight. I can’t really blame him; he’d be running against some of the best runners in central Illinois, if not the entire state. I wouldn’t want that pressure either- not when there are faster kids than I on the team. And coaches have discretion on how they rank their runners. Sometimes they’ll have their #3 run in the #1 flight, for example, to give him or her some experience. Obviously you don’t want to put your 12:00 runner in the open race with kids that are running 14, 15, and 16 minute races- or at least I wouldn’t think so- but I imagine somebody at some point has done so. Or at least attempted it.

So anyway, this meet almost wasn’t, at least in relation to Lincoln Magnet School. The meet was to start at 9:45. I got there around 8:45 or so and got the canopy set up. I figured they’d be there any moment.

9:00. No team.

9:15. No team.

9:25. No team. So I called Coach, and he tells me the bus driver got them lost. They’ve passed the turn off of 104. Twice. By now, they’re calling last call for the coaches meeting. I ran to the head starter and informed him that LMS’s team isn’t here yet because the bus is lost. Luckily, he knows Mrs. Heyen (LMS’s principal) very well, and he coached her husband when he ran cross-country for Franklin H.S. I told him, “I’m only a parent, but can I fill in for the coach?” He was okay with that and gave me the coach’s packet.

So I get back to the canopy, at which several parents are gathering and wondering where the hell their kids are. I’m trying to get them calmed down when I hear, “FIRST CALL, 8TH MAN BOYS. FIRST CALL, 8TH MAN BOYS.” Which means they’re lining kids up, and our runners AREN’T EVEN FRIGGIN’ HERE YET.

Second call goes out. Still no team. Third call- which is usually last call- and finally, I see Coach. So I go darting over to him with the packet, and he and I are scrambling to get kids tagged for that first flight. Luckily, there were only about 4-5 kids running in that race. It also helped that the head starter knew Coach and knows Mrs. Heyen and her husband. Big shout-out to Rick.

So we get settled in- FINALLY- and start getting races going. 7th Man girls, 7th Man boys, 6th Man girls, 6th Man boys. I’m running between the start line and our camp, finding the runner(s) for each race and getting them lined up at the start. Last year, they ran each race to completion before starting the next. This year, the first 7-8 races were just boom-boom-boom, one right after the other. For several races, the leaders of one race were lapping the last place runner(s) of the race ahead of them. So when the 8th Man girls’ race, with probably between 200-250 runners, took off, they decided to slow it down a little bit.

The races are continuing. 5th Man girls, 5th Man boys, 4th Man girls, 4th Man boys, 3rd Man girls. Then comes Ian’s race- the 3rd Man boys’ race. His biggest worry- besides being convinced he’ll finish last- is that he’s right by the starter and the gun will make him go deaf. His race steps off with little to no inner ear damage. I found Coach Lynn and told him that Ian just stepped off, and Lillian is set for the 2nd Man girls race next and Karl’s ready for the 2nd Man boys race after that and- and he stops me and says, “John- I got this. Go time your son.” So I pick a spot at the finish line and just wait.

I had no idea how much running *I* had been doing today. I realized I was friggin’ tired.

Anyway, long story short (too late), Ian finished with a VERY respectable 15:15. Last year’s time at this meet was 17:02, so I was hoping for near a 16:00 finish. He beat the snot out of that and then some. He finished 16th out of 18th runners- naturally, that’s all he remembers- but considering he was running against some of central Illinois’ best, I am crazy stupid ridiculous proud of how he did, and I’m trying to convince him he needs to be as well. He got a ribbon for placing, and he’s sluffing that off, saying that all finishers 1-25 get a ribbon, so since there were only 18 in his race, he’d have gotten a ribbon anyway.

Thanks, Dr. Downer.

Next meet this coming Tuesday, at Lincoln Park. We’re hosting Grant, Washington, Lincoln, and Blessed Sacrament-St. Agnes. The next after that will be the following Tuesday in Chatham. That should pretty much be a bloodbath. Chatham kids train year-round, and they have a running club in which the kids get together and just run. I can’t even convince Ian it’ll help him to run on weekends.

But hey, a good humbling now and again keeps one grounded, yes?

Yes, I know what today is

September 11, 2012
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(WARNING: This post is likely to piss off a majority of people who read it.)

9/11.

The yearly day, more so than just about any other of which I can think, that email inboxes, Twitter streams, and Facebook feeds are saturated with “Never Forget!” and “USA! USA! USA!” posts, among others. Many contain some sort of doctored photograph- an eagle crying or pissed off, the Twin Towers with an eagle superimposed in them, etc. Some contain links to some webpage at which a slideshow plays, often backed by some cheesy robo-patriotic song. No offense to Lee Greenwood, but I absolutely despise that goddamned song of his.

It was previously a nice little tune about how cool it is being an American, but all the gratuitous emails and Facebook posts have ruined it for me. That and how it gets played over and over and over and over at every single function having anything even remotely to do with patriotism, America, or whatever.

I’ve expressed this sentiment on a few of 9/11’s anniversaries, and I feel it once again bears repeating.

It was the single most devastating event that has happened to our country- certainly in my lifetime, if not in the 236-year history of the country. I am absolutely 100% certain without fear of being wrong that I will never forget where I was, or how I heard, nor will I ever get those images out of my mind. That second plane hitting the tower. The smoke and fire billowing forth from the towers. People not just falling, but jumping, to their deaths. Each of the towers collapsing. And of course, the devastating aftermath. I will never forget how spookily quiet the skies were once all planes were grounded across the country, nor how much pause it gave me to hear that first plane overhead when planes were allowed in the air once again. I remember stopping in the middle of the street and looking skyward and just watching that jet until it went out of sight.

9/11 is being called this generation’s Pearl Harbor, and for good reason. One can also compare it to the Challenger explosion, the Great Depression, or maybe the Hindenburg tragedy, as well as the JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King assassinations, among countless other things, in that there are just certain events in our history that everyone who was alive when it happened remembers where they were when they heard the news, how they heard it, etc.

I’m more than reasonably certain that nobody- at least nobody who was old enough (or young enough) to have a conscious memory formed at the time- will forget that day.

Which is why I don’t want to relive it.

I am extremely blessed in that I was not there that day, nor did I have anyone close to me there. The closest thing I can claim is- and I just found this out yesterday- that Nancy, one of my Facebook acquaintances, boarded a plane with her husband and three kids at the time to fly home to Springfield from New York City- the day before 9/11 happened. That kind of spooked me a little. I don’t know if she’ll even see this post, but if she does: Nancy, I’m SO thankful you came home when you did. At any rate, I was not directly involved in 9/11. I thank my lucky stars that I wasn’t there, nobody in my family was there, and none of my friends were there.

Don’t get me wrong– without question, I shed tears on this day 11 years ago, thinking of the men, women, and children that died that day in New York, Washington, D.C., and southwestern Pennsylvania. My heart aches for the families and friends of the victims, still to this day. But to me, they are the only ones that really deserve this day. In my eyes, they can participate in memorials, moments of silence, and other remembrance ceremonies. Me, I just look back on it in my mind for a few moments, and then move forward. I don’t dwell on it all day every year. I mean absolutely no disrespect to the victims, their families, the survivors of that day, or anyone else who chooses to actively remember 9/11. That’s just not something I choose to do. I don’t WANT to see the news footage over and over. I don’t WANT to watch the towers collapse in slow motion from the view of every television and cell phone camera that was focused on them that day. I don’t WANT to see the humanity. I can never get that out of my mind- yet oddly enough, I don’t feel I should ever get that out of my mind. I just am not going to keep it on an infinite loop.

If, in your mind, that makes me a horrible American, that’s certainly your right to have that opinion. But you can also kiss my ‘Merkan ass.

I am absolutely no less American than you, Mr./Ms. “Forward Every Email and Repost Every Facebook Status That Has Anything Even Remotely To Do With 9/11, America, or Patriotism In General”. Conversely, your doing so makes you no more a patriotic American than me. So cool your jets.

Everyone grieves differently. How you choose to remember 9/11 is your business, and I have no right to tell you you’re “wrong” in doing so, nor will I. So don’t you dare do that to me. Don’t you dare judge me because I don’t stand up and wave my flag and sing that goddamned Lee Greenwood song. I am not trying to forget 9/11. I simply don’t wish to relive it.

Patriotism on 9/11 is a lot like “romance” on Valentine’s Day: It loses all meaning and significance when it is contrived or expected. All the constant repetitive “Never Forget” and “God Bless the USA” posts all goddamned day long really come across looking rather disingenuous, to be perfectly honest. But again, I’m not knocking anyone for posting all those posts. Just don’t judge me for NOT doing so.

You want to show me REAL patriotism? Show me an America free of racism.

Show me an America in which both genders, all races, and all religions- including the lack thereof- are truly equal.

Show me an America in which homosexuals can legally be married in every state- and have it simply called “marriage”, not “gay marriage” or, worse yet, a “civil union”- and can also legally receive any and all benefits therein as their heterosexual counterparts do.

Show me an America in which the homeless, the hungry, and the sick are given as much attention and assistance as a dog locked in a car on a hot day. Amazing how people will put their lives in jeopardy over saving a dog- a noble gesture, mind you- yet will equally go out of their way to avoid housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, and curing the sick. Worse yet, they’ll send millions of dollars to victims of wars, plagues, famine, and natural disasters in foreign countries they can’t find on a map- again, a most noble gesture- but will do absolutely nothing to help out those equally unfortunate in the United States.

Show me an America in which the same outrage over possibly missing a pro sports season is, far more appropriately, directed at the plight of schoolteachers and the children- your children and mine- that those teachers teach.

Show me an America in which, even though we have a two-party system, those two sides can actually come together for the benefit of everyone, instead of just their side. An America in which, instead of saying how much “better my side is than yours” or at least “how much worse your side is than mine”, we can coexist and do what is best for the common good for the supermajority of Americans.

Better yet, show me an America in which the growing number of voters dissatisfied with the Democrat-vs-Republican, liberal-vs-conservative, left-vs-right ideal have equal representation in the media and, more importantly, in the voting process. There are far more libertarians and “centrists” than the MSM want you to know about. Stop making everything black-or-white. 97% of life is nowhere near that tidy. Nor that simple.

Show me an America full of unhyphenated Americans. An America full of, simply, Americans.

You show me THAT America; then and ONLY then will I bust out the Lee Greenwood by your side. Patriotism is more than just waving a flag and banging a drum, literal or figurative, a few times a year.

Cross-country Week 1

September 9, 2012

Ian started his second season of cross-country about a week and a half or so ago. Between August 30th and tomorrow, Sept. 10, there are five meets scheduled, with four of those five within six days. Yikes. So I guess this will kind of be the Reader’s Digest version of the first four meets, as opposed to my usual long-winded, takes-55-minutes-to-read posts about each meet.

Oh, stop your cheering. I’mma get long-winded soon enough. Bite me.

Okay, so at the first meet, at Lincoln Park (his “home course”), he ran a 16:56.

The second, this past Tuesday (also at Lincoln Park), he ran a 15:55.

Thursday’s meet, again at Lincoln Park, was a 16:27. This race was kinda cool for me, simply because Ian’s coach asked me to help out with timing the race. I felt like an official. Like, an official official. I know I”m lame; again, bite me.

And then there was yesterday’s meet.

Yesterday’s meet was the Parkside Invitational, held at Parkside Junior High School in Normal. I’m guessing the meet’s name is not completely coincidental. This is one hell of a fun meet. There are 30-40 (or more) schools from all over the state represented, and well over 1000 runners. There are four races at this meet: varsity girls, varsity boys, open girls, and open boys. The “varsity” races consist, typically, of the seven best runners on each team, although- and I’m still not quite clear on all of this- apparently there is some strategery involved with exactly who is placed on the “varsity” team, so as to garner the most points for the team (the times of all a team’s runners are factored together to determine which team “wins” the race), and/or to put a couple of the faster runners in the open races to help increase points there.

Again, I’m not 100% on how all the scoring works, let alone the strategery involved in choosing who runs varsity and who doesn’t.

At any rate, Coach Lynn- who happens to be a friend of mine- didn’t run a girls’ varsity team, basically since we didn’t have enough girls to field a varsity team. So the first race that Lincoln ran was the boys’ varsity, which consisted of Karl, Kody, Noah S., Zach, Holling, Harrison, and Ian. It was Ian’s first varsity race of his XC career, and hopefully not his last. I’ll get back to Ian and this race in a minute, but let me just say that all seven boys ran personal bests.

Next was the open girls’ race. There were eight runners: Kaitlyn T., Kaitlyn R., Ally, Ellie, Lilian, Haley, Clare, and Mia. And I apologize if I spelled any of the names wrong, or just flat out named someone incorrectly. I’m still learning everyone’s names and trying like hell to put them with the correct faces. It ain’t easy. Anyway, this was a great race as well, and all eight girls ran personal bests.

FORESHADOWING ALERT: See if you can guess the outcome of the boys’ open race.

Noah L., Liam, Jervais, Alex, and Jaden were the LMS representatives in the final race. Coach Lynn told them right before the gun, “No pressure, but everyone has gotten personal bests so far today. Let’s get five more.” Sure enough, all five ran personal bests as well.

That’s 20 runners, 20 personal bests. That is insane, folks. I mean, the Parkside course does have a reputation of being a “personal record buster”, but when everyone on your team that ran breaks their personal best time, that is a serious accomplishment. And yes, you corn flakes pooper onners can say, “But John, it’s only the fourth meet of the season; of course they’re likely to break their personal bests.”

True. Even so, it’s pretty amazing to have your entire team break their personal bests.

And then in Ian’s case… his time last year at Parkside was 16:27. Yesterday’s time? 14:44. 14:44!!!! That’s 1:43 faster than his time for that course last year. And his fastest race time on ANY [2-mile] course, last year or this year, was 15:36, which means he beat his all-time personal best by 52 seconds! When I told him his time after his race, he was absolutely excited and, for the first time in his running career, demonstrated genuine pride in himself. He even gave me a hug, right there in public, in front of everyone. How’s THAT for happiness?! Dude has never run under 15 minutes before, so this is huge. I told him that, now that he’s broken the 15:00 mark, it’s going to get harder and harder to get personal bests, but that as long as he keeps working at it, he may even dip underneath the 14:00 mark before the end of the season.

My daddy pride had my chest swelled up for the entire drive home. As cheesy as it sounds, I was literally giddy with pride.

Next meet is tomorrow at Lincoln Park, a meet I HOPE to at least make in time for the boys’ race, and then the Franklin Invitational is next Saturday. It’s the flighted meet, so I’ll be curious to see where Ian runs in that meet.

Anyway, go Ian, and GO LEOPARDS!!! LMS cross-country rocks!!!

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