Shame of the Nittany Lion

Seventy-five percent of the time, I like to wear an oversized t-shirt to bed. Yeah, I know. TMI. Tonight I grabbed from the bottom of a stack of shirts what I thought was an old non-profit organization one to wear but it was THIS one that I pulled out. I forgot I had it. I was surprised and repulsed.

In light of recent events, looking at the shirt made me angry. It is a subject I have written about before because it is one all too close to me.

Sexual abuse of children is a disgusting subject polite society would rather not speak about, especially those of older generations. I know. I have witnessed the pain of multiple generations abused and heard it hushed in close circles, seen it hidden behind stoic faces, and swept into the corner never to be dealt with again. But these were the victims that hid behind their shame. These were victims making decisions on how to deal with what had been done to them.

To find out an alleged perpetrator of some very horrible acts was known to his supervisors and those people did not report anything to the authorities is grossly appalling. Alleged incidences took place on the job, on Pennsylvania state property and no one in charge took enough offense of what happened to make sure it would never occur again. Anyone who knew of the first reported act is guilty of suborning all possible future despicable acts by what sounds like a sexual predator of children.

My first thought was to cut up the shirt. No, I stopped to think. I’d rather burn it. But then my thoughts slowly turned to all the good people that have been associated with Penn State for over 155 years. More than 99% of students, faculty, administrators and athletic coaches that have come through Penn State did not commit nor cover up these alleged foul acts by one of their own. It is a wrong rooted in fallacy of logic to hate Penn State, their school, their accomplishments, their team, their existence because of the sad moral decrepitude of a handful of people.

As my soliloquy with the victim turns to commiseration of memories, I choose to hide the t-shirt back at the bottom of the pile to hush my angry mind.  I hope healing can begin for the victims of the awful acts, for administrators that must undo the wrong that was done by the inactions of a few and for Penn State to carry on the great mission of higher education for so many of the past, present and future. I hope one day I will find that t-shirt again and discover healed wounds.


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Running to Leave Failure in the Dust

Utilizing the quote, “What would you try to do if you knew you would not fail,” I have been tackling new and old things on my life’s to-do list.

Last month I started a running program called Couch to 5K after seeing others posting their runs on Facebook. I had thought for a long time that it was probably something I could not do because of my hypoglycemia. But last year I had done p90X and learned how to control some of the muscle fatigue caused by low blood sugar. Then I thought, if I can’t do it, I’ll just stop but until I do it, I will never know.

Facing my biggest issue with starting something new isn’t, well, something new. The fear of failure has stopped me from doing so much. If I fail at Couch to 5K, I will move on to something else to try.

Failure may be on the horizon but for now, I am loving it. When I’ve completed the walk, run, walk, run pattern I feel like I’m on top of the world. I love that feeling. A little soreness or cramping may come later, but my brain loves the endorphins from the run. That feeling is what I remember and it helps me look forward to the next run.

I’m 42 years old and dare say I might be becoming a runner. I would have never thought it. I love swimming, hiking, skiing, kayaking and several team and individual sports but outside of sprints and hurdles, I always thought running was boring. As long as the muscles and joints stay in shape, I’ll keep training. If I fail, at least I will have fun until I fall on my shame.

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Books: Our Defining Choices

     Madeline Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was my very first science fantasy read. I remember it because it hooked me into reading science fantasy rather than the silly pre-teen angst novels my friends were reading. It defined me as different.

     After a friend introduced me to Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon in high school, I fell in love with post-apocalyptic novels and how mankind survives near annihilation. Take everything away from a person and throw them into survival test after test. What happens to ensure success? As fascinated as I am by the stories, I’m not sure I’ve learned anything from the books.

     I discovered hard science fiction in college. Stories spun by turning known scientific theories on their head. Settings created unlike anything we know on earth. Time travel. Alternative universes. Space and planet explorations. Changes in human anatomy. Communication without words or speech. When I want to put my mind at ease, I dive into science fiction.

Some choices over the years…

     Reading more non-fiction than fiction, just a few years ago I got on a kick of reading about Henry VIII’s reign after seeing the Elizabeth: The Golden Age movie. I wanted more background on her, her family, her rise to the throne. As a degreed Americanist historian, I always felt I needed a more thorough understanding of the passions behind the Reformation that eventually pushed the Pilgrims to America.

     Then I found a writer that wrote non-fiction of that era as well as fiction. Her books are fiction in the sense that the dialogue is made up yet set in real historic facts. Historic fiction can be difficult for a historian to read, yet I have let it incite a passion that I had buried deep inside my mind: to write my own science fiction, alternative history, time traveling, post-apocalyptic, historic fiction novel.

     Choices going back to 3rd grade have defined my current desires. Be careful in what you choose to read. It might determine what you do tomorrow.

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Filed under Books, Decisions, Life, Passion, writing

Tears of Hope

I knew I would be sad today. I knew I would run through the memories and mourn. But tears came not just at an emotional story, photo, video or gigantic flag unfurled.

They flowed in the quiet darkness of the morning when all was peaceful and secure in my home. I sacrifice so little to have that.

They flowed when I looked out my window at a street full of U.S. flags on display in remembrance of this day. I am lucky to live in such a place.

They flowed while watching my favored NFL team score touchdown after touchdown over an underwhelming opponent. I truly feel we are all on the same team today.

They flowed when the boys left for the airport to pick up a student flying in from Vietnam. I would not be able to overcome the fear to fly today.

Sadness is accompanied by guilt, gratefulness, brotherhood and fear. Beneath it all is an anger I keep at bay everyday with meditation, humility and an enduring faith in mankind. It is a hope I had no idea existed. Wet with tears, hot with fury, it awaits the time I will need it most.

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Filed under 9/11, Decisions, hope

Remembering 9/11

As the 10th anniversary of the 9.11.01 terrorists attacks on the United States approaches, media are breaking out the old footage, old and not-seen-before photographs, and heart-wrenching stories. Painful though the memories are, we must go through this together, just as we experienced 9.11.01 as one nation.

Ten years have flown by with other scares like the shoe-bomber and the Ft. Hood shootings. We now willing strip in public for the privilege of traveling with strangers we’ve seen half naked. Passports are required to travel up the road to Toronto. Yes, our lives have changed forever.

More importantly, our national self-image has changed. We are not beloved by the whole world, but often hated. Held responsible by the whole world for what we allow our leaders to do on our behalf, voting in national elections isn’t about one single issue anymore.

As we remember, mourn again and find that place of anger in our hearts that was created only 10 years ago, do we give credence and power to the terrorists and their purpose of that fateful day? As we fight among ourselves, allow greed to take precedence over difficult decisions and use religion to garner support on both sides of an issue, are we providing the terrorist success over and over again?

When the tears well up and spill over my cheeks, my brain screams, “No, do not let them (the terrorists) win again. No, not again!” Yet I know, the tears will flow again and again today and tomorrow. They are out of gratefulness for heros of that day and pride of being an American. I am shaking too much to type anymore so I’ll stop and wish all my fellow Americans peace and love.

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Merriam-Webster defines hate as intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.

There are very few things I hate for one primary reason. It takes too much energy to work up all that fear, loathing or anger. I see it as a total waste. But, I do severely hate something that made this past week more difficult than most others: birthdays.

I don’t fear growing old though I have difficulty embracing it at times. My anger about birthdays has subsided with time, 30 years to be exact but the deep scars of hurt linger. Each year with the arrival of my birthday, the wounds reopen. Each year I struggle to find a way to erase the memories that I hold onto as if they were all that I have. Well, they nearly are.

My 10th birthday party my Dad threw for me was the most awesome birthday party I ever had, ever attended or dreamed about. I saw him the following year but my 12th birthday came and went without any acknowledgement. Lost, confused and dejected, I turned the anger and disappointment on myself.

I’ve hated birthdays ever since.

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Filed under Birthdays, Failure, Family, Happiness, Life

Signs, Signs Everywhere

Another day, another week full of errands on the to-do list of life. Nothing extraordinarily different about the roads I set out to travel this morning but something made me stop and think maybe there IS something different about today.

I planned to make my way to the post office but a left hand turn onto a street said, “Street Closed.” I didn’t hesitate a second to go another way. Easy decision and not really inconvenient, just different.  When I continued my journey closer to work there were more signs at the street where I usually make a right turn. It was one of those big electric blinking arrows instructing me to merge left not so subtly with its orange cones. I quickly made the decision to make a right turn one street before that blocked intersection.

How easy it was to make those decisions to change my immediate plans! I wanted to go sit in a coffee shop and grok on that for awhile but my arrival at the office was imminent and unavoidable.

The way before me is full of obstacles, interesting side roads, bumps, those irritating slow-down grooves and best of all, signs. Lots of signs. Just like on the streets this morning, I need to always be prepared to make decisions as easily and seamlessly for whatever I may encounter on the road before me. Don’t we all?

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Filed under Decisions, Life