Standing Behind the Sitting QB

colin kaepernickWhile I was out of town this weekend, on a marathon run to Monterey County to celebrate my 30th reunion with the amazing Alisal High Class of ’86, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers took a seat and started a controversy. I heard about it immediately, when my NFL app fed me the news bulletin. I saw the backlash immediately, too, on the social media platforms I follow. Many spoke out instantly with disdain for his actions and for the words Colin Kaepernick chose afterwards to explain his actions. My own reactions were mixed and I decided to let the thing play out a little, while I enjoyed the weekend. I did.

My initial thought, and the one I shared with the lovely companion I had along on the ride, was this: I had no problem whatsoever with what Colin Kaepernick did, but I thought he was dumb for doing it. My thoughts on the matter have evolved from my initial reaction, as thoughts should, but they haven’t necessarily changed. I still stand firmly behind the actions of the sitting QB, but I’ll watch with interest before I judge the man.

Why I defend his right to take a seat during the national anthem should be pretty obvious; I believe in the rights of people over the rights of nations. I adhere to the philosophy that a person has a right to peaceably protest in any manner that they choose. I believe that every topic can be viewed from multiple perspectives and, because of that, I think we need to be tolerant of multiple points of view. I also believe inequality is an issue in this country – on this planet – and that needs to be addressed. So if a man wants to take a seat to protest his perception that the issue of inequality is not being properly addressed, kudos to him.

Why my initial reaction was that Colin Kaepernick was dumb for taking this stance is a bit more complicated and, probably, unfair to him. I viewed the man as a privileged athlete with a lot to lose, and I saw him as an individual who had – to my knowledge – never taken a stand like this before. I questioned, internally, whether or not he was doing this to bring awareness to a cause or doing this to get attention, and if he truly understood the implications of this action. He painted a target on himself, and became a martyr for a cause that I wasn’t aware that he believed in. He was shooting his career in the foot and I wasn’t sure that he was prepared for the aftermath.

But that was hubris on my part. To assume that I know anything about the struggles another man has gone through, inside his own self, to get to the point where he takes such a stand, well that is arrogance. I don’t know what led Colin Kaepernick to decide to sit during the national anthem and I don’t know what he will do next, now that he has. If he has thrown himself on the sword and expects that to be all he has to do then my initial reaction stands. If, however, this action is only the beginning and Colin Kaepernick becomes a champion in the fight against inequality then my initial reaction was wrong.

Regardless, it was his choice and I defend that choice. The song he sat through repeats the line “land of the free and home of the brave” four times in the full version, and Colin Kaepernick bravely exercised a freedom. He risked a great public and professional backlash to make what he feels was a necessary stance. We should honor that. We should wait a little longer before placing judgments on the character of the man. We should honor the constitutional rights that he has, that are echoed in the very song that he sat through. We should watch his actions now.

If he ducks and dodges, racing out of bounds, then we can judge his actions unworthy. If he stands tall against the rush and continues to deliver strikes against injustice, then we can judge his actions noble. Either way we should judge his actions as free, and defend his right to make them, while that banner yet waves.

I think that is what America is supposed to be about.

Thinking Is the Enemy

During the move, and the time leading up to it and after, I spent a lot of time doing things I didn’t want to do. That’s okay; sometimes we must. But in order to accomplish those grave daily responsibilities we must give up something that truly matters to us, at least in the short term.

For me I cut a little bit of time out of everything I do and a whole lot of time out of reading books. The reading of books suffered the most.

I do a lot of reading, and not just books. I get daily news sources delivered to my e-mails, I get suggested articles from Facebook and pocket.com – and from friends – and I have a sitting inventory saved in my “pocket” for “later.” I try to read other blogs to see what interests me about them that I might incorporate in my own blog. I also read other blogs to see what does not thrill me, so that I can avoid the purgatory of monotony. I hope I do that. I hope you let me know if I don’t.

But books.

I can’t say I’ve ever been an avid book reader. I never read a book in high school. Seriously. My career in reading started some time in my twenties and consisted almost entirely for the next decade of science fiction or Anne Rice. I probably read more books in my twenties than I have read since. Some time in my early thirties I stopped reading fiction, at all, just because it didn’t thrill me anymore.

I’m a plodding reader, who has tried his hand a million times at speed reading. I assimilate information pretty quickly, so that’s not the problem. The problem is one of focus. I think quicker than I read so often I’ll be a page and half into the meat of something really invigorating but I haven’t actually read a word. I was a million miles away, thinking of some game adventure, or about finances, or what I’m going to grill for dinner or the next book I’m going to read after this one. My reverie is usually broken by some incredible line in a book that makes me go back and find out how we got there. So I’m a slow reader, because I have to read so much of it twice.

Still…

I would say I finish about 20 books a year. Some years less, some years more. I will read 1/3 of a book a lot and then put it away and never finish. I think by a 1/3 of the way through a book if it hasn’t captured you it’s wasting your time. Sometimes I’ll read 5-10 pages and already decide.

I’ve tried listening to books but I have the same problem. My mind wanders. Call it attention deficit disorder if you must, or call it an active mind. I call it a scattered brain. My scattered brain has probably robbed me of more accomplishments than any other factor has. Focus is so important to setting and keeping goals. It’s practically mandatory. I lack it.

What was I saying?

Oh yes, books. This entry started with a desire to tell you a few words about a short book I started this week, now that I have time to read again, and how interesting it is only 16% of the way into it. I was even going to quote a pretty cool phrase – “ego is stolen; confidence is earned” – in describing my thoughts about it. But I got derailed.

You’re probably used to that by now.

Next time I boot up I’ll probably have something entirely different on my mind so I doubt I’ll get around to telling you about Ryan Holiday’s “Ego Is the Enemy” but, so far, it’s a pretty good book. He also wrote “The Obstacle Is the Way” a couple of years back and I’ve read it, too. Cover to cover. If I finished it, it must be good.

If you finished this, you probably have better focus than I. Thanks for doing that, it means the world to me. Now go read something substantive, you’ve earned it. If you’re inclined, post below what you read immediately after this and I’ll go read it, too. I promise. I might not finish it and, in fact, I might not actually digest the words I’m reading, but I do promise to check it out.

After all, now that I have more free time than I have boxes, I have a whole scattered brain to fill. 😉

A Dogs’ Tale

In dog years I’ve been married for 13 decades. If you throw in courtship the wife and I have been together for nearly two centuries.

I’m sure it feels like that to her sometimes. 🙂

But as long as we’ve been together I don’t remember a time when we didn’t have a dog. This is a tale about them.

Mick
Mickey

Mickey was our first pup, and we picked him up at a party some time in the early 90’s. It was a New Year’s party, as I recall. I don’t remember the hosts and, in fact, I don’t think I really knew them. I only remember they had some puppies they were giving away. I also remember some clowns at the party thinking it was funny to let some curious little dog get too close to their cigarettes and I remember asking the owners if I could have that one. When they said yes the future Mrs C and I let those clowns have it for messing with “our dog.” Mickey was with us for the next 13 years.

Mickey was the only true “mutt” we ever had. In 1997, when we got married, we picked up a companion for Mick, a black lab/german shepherd mix we named “King.” Suzie wanted to name him “Hades” because he was black as the night, but I thought that sounded a little too evil. We compromised on “King Hades,” and just always called him King.

We had talked about a companion for Mickey for months and had decided on a black dog because I had loved a black lab a friend of mine owned as a kid. I was working one day when a neighbor across the street from where I was came out and asked me if I knew anybody looking for pups. I asked what kind. Black kinds, he said. I sighed heavily knowing the universe just works that way sometimes. He brought out King. I brought King home.

King2
King

King passed away five years ago yesterday. That boy made it 14 years in our lives.

Mav3
Maverick

The story of Maverick, our first golden retriever, is documented in another post back in March. Maverick came along in 2002 and stayed with us for 11 years. Maverick is the reason I always shop for golden retrievers now when it’s time to get another.

If Maverick is the reason I shop for goldens, then my next dog Moxie is my validation. Moxie came along in 2009 when Maverick was already 7 and King was already 12. Moxie fell asleep on the ride home from the breeder and basically slept through his infancy. I’m not kidding. When we took him down to the vet for his first examination the doctor slid Moxie back and forth across the table trying to get him to wake up. He wouldn’t. We asked the doc, laughing, “is that normal?!” and the doctor cackled back “NO!”

Moxie
Moxie

I think Moxie had the benefit of those two very senior brothers during his childhood because he just seemed to learn very quickly how to listen, understand commands, and stay out of trouble. He is also the most food-motivated dog I have ever known. I can remember a time when Maverick was shrinking like crazy in weight and Moxie was ballooning to nearly 100 pounds. We found out why … the little sucker was stealing all of Maverick’s food and Maverick was letting him. Maverick was always more motivated by “play” than “food.”

Speaking of which …

About a year ago, 2 years after Maverick left us, Ludo joined the clan. Ludo, it turns out, means “I play” in Latin and he took that name literally. Food? Sure, if I must. Love? Yeah, I guess, if it doesn’t take too long.

Ball? YES!

Ludo
Ludo

Ludo and his ball are inseparable. Or I should say “balls” because he has about 15 of them to choose from. Let me tell you, though, when he chooses one of them no other will do. Go ahead, pick up a different one and throw it, he’ll watch it in the air and if it isn’t the one he brought you, forget it. I believe that Ludo is the smartest dog I’ve ever had, but he is the most willful one, too. He literally talks back to us when we’re scolding him, with furrowed eyebrows and guttural bark.

Moxie loves him. We do, too. But I believe Ludo is the universe’s way of paying me back for Moxie. 😉

It’s amazing how different they all are.

Thinking about King yesterday on the five-year anniversary of his passing prompted this post; it got me thinking about the pups we’ve had together, the missus and I. He was our second dog and the last dog we owned that wasn’t a golden retriever. We’ll probably go gold again next time, but that story is still another 5 years away.

So there it is, the Cummings line of amazing companions. Each had their virtues and each had their vice. Each had our hearts. If I could have them all here together I wouldn’t hesitate; King would love Ludo as much as Mickey would hate him. Mickey would probably slip through a crack in the fence today and go find something smelly to rub in by the pond. Maverick and Ludo would be chasing balls while King chased a frisbee. Moxie would sneak into the house and eat all their food.

Mrs C and I would be in heaven.

I can’t imagine a life without these dogs. I’d love to hear stories on here about some of your animals, if you have the time to share. I know I’ll be sharing more in the years to come.

In the meantime, have a great day – and go hug something furry.

The Box Ate My Homework

I was asked by a friend or two what happened to my blog entry last week. That was the most touching thing I’ve ever been asked. Thank you all for your patronage; or at least both of you.

The truth is, it got lost in the move. While piling up boxes in the Durango and unloading boxes from the Durango, and lugging boxes back and forth from room to room, then emptying boxes and wondering where in the hell everything was going to go, the brain never rested long enough to write. The butt never rested long enough to do a damn thing other than build glutes from bending, walking, and climbing. I would be dead right now without beer.

Seriously.

But I’m not complaining. My favorite thing in the world, behind this activity right here and spending too many hours on Sunday mornings in bars with friends, is playing music loud and slowly consuming suds while doing chores. Unpacking is hours and hours of THAT.

And we’re nearly there, if you don’t mind a lie. All settled in and happy as a lark if you don’t mind two.

Change is hard, but it’s alright. I’m not the only one to go through this, and I know some go through this far too often. I have a roof over my head, a beautiful wife, and two wonderful golden dogs that we brought with us. Life is really, really good.

But if you must know how Tom was being Tom in the week and a half since we last spoke, I have been caught up ingloriously in rearranging possessions exactly 1.9 miles from their previous location. In the scant moments I have not been either lugging cartons of domestic paraphernalia or selling appliances to pay for it all, I have been engrossed in either political news or cramming for fantasy football drafts.

Four or five hours a night I have slept, too.

Oh, and I went to a cool party. Happy birthday, friends who had the party. Wouldn’t have missed THAT for the world.

That’s about it. I’m certain in the weeks ahead you’ll hear more of my thoughts on the end of the dumbest political season ever, I’ll write an obituary on the (finally) failing Trump campaign, I’ll divert my attention to how bad Mrs. Clinton is at being president, I’ll talk about the Rams and their occasional victory as the team in LA, I’ll start to write other things in other venues as I commit to the “career” part of my writing career, and I’ll be Tom just as much as I can possibly be Tom.

That last sentence ran on for 91 words and I’m keeping it exactly like that. To hell with the rules, I’ve been moving.

So I’ll see you all in a couple of days when, I promise, I’ll write something of substance. I’ve been meaning to tell you all for a while now about my twenty-year research in positive psychology, the Quality of Life spreadsheet I invented, Abraham Maslow, and the view from the top of the pyramid …

But I’ll probably talk about the Rams instead.

It’s almost football season.

Happiness can wait. 😉

 

Where The Heart Is

The bulk of the week, this week, has been taken up by the incredible amount of energy and attention a major move entails. Because we had plenty of time and a short distance to hop we were able to get a lot of non-essentials over early and often, but crunch-time is ever the bitch. I don’t even mind the moving of things; the stress is in figuring out where things that fit so perfectly in the old are going to fit in the new. But the hardest part is saying goodbye to the memories. That’s even harder on Suzie.

When we moved into the Cal Ore house, in 2004, we brought King, Maverick, Muse, Mischief, Marlboro, and Majesty. Two dogs and four cats. We added a beautiful bird, Baby, along the way and raised her until her unexpected death in 2014. We added Moxie in 2009 and Ludo in 2015. We lost all of the others along the way. The memories of the fallen are the hardest to walk away from; only pictures will remain.

I will miss the deck, and the living room where we had all the parties. I’ll miss the blue tile, believe it or not. I’ll miss the office where I wrote so many adventures, so many journal entries, and where I started my blog. I’ll miss the hot tub. I’ll miss the hell out of the hot tub come winter. I’ll miss all the storage.

I won’t miss the rocks in the backyard, I won’t miss the railroad ties. I won’t miss the floors or the popcorn ceilings. I won’t miss the leaking roof in the garage we never could figure out. I won’t miss looking off the back of my deck into the neighbor’s bedroom, and I sure as hell won’t miss having a neighbor looking down on me from theirs. I won’t miss that old gate. I won’t miss the ungodly amount of leaves that collected in my front yard. I won’t miss the Cal Ore hill.

Every change has an equal amount of good and bad in it. Every cloud has a silver lining and every rose a thorn, they say. I look forward to the change just as much as I regret it. The new backyard is big enough to be a park to the boys, and they already cherish their visits there. That alone makes me love the move.

I like the openness of the inside of the new house, and the privacy in the backyard. I like to look off my deck and see no one living behind me. I like that there’s carpet everywhere; I detest hardwood floors. I like the faster internet and the double doors leading into the master bedroom. I like the steep driveway. I don’t know why, I just do. I like the new deck, maybe better than the old deck. I like the extra closet we get. I absolutely love the neighborhood.

The bulk of the week, this week, has been taken up by hustle, bustle and emotion. My body is sore, my brain is tired, and my heart is torn. I’m about as excited as I’ve ever been in my life. I had to make hard choices to get here but I know they were the right ones. I leave behind a shell of memories this week and stack my stuff before a new hearth. I can’t wait to start piling up the nostalgia.

It’s good to be home again. 🙂