My Friend Drew

drewMy friend Drew went to Heaven yesterday. At seventeen, he was definitely one of the youngest friends I’ve ever known. When I call Drew my young friend, I don’t mean in a “hey buckaroo” kind of way, but a TRUE friend full of valuable insights and opinions, questions and answers. Drew’s thoughts and opinions were not typical of many seventeen year olds. To be honest, I doubt that I was even thinking that much when I was seventeen.

Drew had the mind of a grown man and some of the strongest faith in God I’ve ever seen in my life. A conversation with him always left me wanting more, and I left each verbal exchange a little jealous of how well articulated his thoughts had been.
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The Children’s Blizzard

blizzard_cover“The 12th of January, 1888, is, and long will be, remembered, not only by Dakotans, but by many in the northwest, not for the things we enjoy, love, and would see repeated; but for its darkness, desolation, ruin and death, spread broadcast; for the sorrow, sadness and heartache that followed in its train”.
-Caleb Holt Ellis, 1909

Considering that horrible events transpire on a regular basis, each and every one of them relative to one’s direct involvement in them, I’m not sure if many people remember this event and/or continue to discuss it’s impact on turn of the century Prairie life. This is not a derogatory sleight by any means, only more of an observation.

We remember the things that matter to us, plain and simple.  Unless you have a vested interest in the history of the weather service, the advent of frontier pioneering, or your bloodline includes someone effected by this tragedy, you may have no idea that it even happened. As for me, I’ve heard the story through the years of the school teacher who roped her children together (turns out this is actually disputed on both sides as to its veracity) to traverse the snow storm but had no idea this was “that snowstorm”.

This book, although tragic, was an incredibly rich read. The author, David Laskin, has created a narrative for this tragedy that intertwines the stories of multiple people involved. From the immigrant families attempting their luck at homesteading to the military officers in charge of weather forecasting (in its infancy here), this is an absolute page turner. Laskin does a fantastic job of breaking down, in layman’s terms, the conditions that both led to the storm and continued to feed its ferocity.

As a quick summary, this book is about a  blizzard that occurred across the Midwest on January 12th, 1888. Striking fast, and without warning (one of the sharply contested arguments about the weather service and it’s shortcomings back then was the inability, for a multitude of reasons, to relay the danger in time), over two hundred people froze to death. Referred to as the “Children’s Blizzard”, due to the large amount of school children unable to make their way home from school before being overtaken, this was a tragedy that had not been expected or seen before.

As a gift a couple Christmases ago, I finally got around to reading this. For those whose To Be Read list is ever expanding (like me), you know the struggle of not having enough time to read all the books you’d like and the “SQUIRREL!!!” moment when you get distracted by a book that must be read immediately, skipping to the front of the line.

Bottom line is that I would definitely recommend this one if you can get your hands on it.

Devil’s Knot

d-knot-coverDuring one of my six month cruises in the Navy, I read American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. I’m not necessarily going to pontificate on that book in detail, other than to say that some of the violence in its pages was graphic enough for me to set it down periodically and go find pictures of rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns to remind me there is good in the world too.

Devil’s Knot is the first book since then to receive the same treatment. I am in no way demeaning the book and actually would recommend it to anyone interested in the following subjects;

1) True Crime
2) Miscarriages Of Justice
3) Wrongful Imprisonment
4) Freedom of Speech
5) Societal Outcasts
6) Artistic Expression

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Destiny Of The Republic

dotr_coverAs a lifelong reader and writer, I have had the opportunity to read books of nearly every genre, length, and caliber. Although I planned on including each of the books I read this year in my summary (2014’s summary), this biography of one of our lesser known Presidents left enough of a mark to warrant its own individual thoughts. As we might say in Internet speak, it “got me right in the feels bro“.
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Dear Robin…

Robin WilliamsDearest Robin,

Although I doubt you and I would have ever met face to face in this lifetime, I always held out a small glimmer of hope that we might. I watched you for years and laughed so hard sometimes that the exhaustion would carry from my jawbone all the way down to my sides. I know that I would have been a blubbering idiot if given the chance to share a moment with you. Sadly, although the odds were stacked against us ever being in the same immediate area, you guaranteed by ending your life that it would never come to pass.

People are in shock, Robin. They don’t understand how someone so funny and constantly upbeat could have been in so much pain inside. They don’t get it.

I do though. I get it. Although it may sound presumptuous of me to say that, I’m fairly confident that I get at least some of it.
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Omaha Beach – 6-6-1944

Into The Jaws Of Death

Since the first documented photograph by Joseph Nicephore Niepce, people have been taking countless pictures using various media. From the most iconic panoramic shots to the current trend of “selfies” on our cell phones, the amount of photographs available for viewing is infinite. This vast amount of pictures is why it can be so difficult to narrow down to one single image for further exploration.

In the process of scouring the internet for an image for discuss I came across multiple images, both heartbreaking and anger inducing. The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” has been widely attributed to Frederick Barnard and it is absolutely correct. The ability to capture a single moment in time, out of context, is an incredible feat of technology. That technology, coupled with the watchful eye of a skilled photographer, has resulted in numerous images that evoke strong emotions and discussions.

I would like to discuss a specific image from history that “spoke” to me. The above picture was taken on June 6, 1944 during the Normandy Invasion, more specifically the offloading of the 16th Infantry’s Company “E” on Omaha Beach. Although there were several insertion points, it is generally accepted that Omaha Beach was the most difficult and dangerous entry point due to its hilly terrain and lack of sufficient cover. Casualties from both the water’s depth and the German fire from high vantage points along all six miles were constant. Estimates put the total casualties during the morning’s raid at over several thousand.

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Memorial Day

memorial_day_mourningSacrifice, as a verb, is defined in many ways. My favorite, however, is the following;

“to surrender or give up, or permit injury or disadvantage to, for the sake of something else.”

I don’t remember the exact date (or more specifically the exact year) that a certain high school girl angered me to the point that my wife had to calm me down but it was probably ten or eleven years ago. We were at a mall in Florida, on Memorial Day, perusing the fantastic deals that occur every Memorial Day and enjoying some lunch.

Standing in line behind a teenaged girl and her mother, I didn’t hear what sparked this girl’s reply but I definitely heard what SHE said.

“Oh come on, Mom. It’s only Memorial Day, not a REAL holiday like Christmas.”

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