Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day 2014

Think of it, less than 2% of our nation's population carries upon their shoulders the defense of this nation. In earlier times, when the Selective Service Draft was in play this number was a little higher and far more representative of this nation's diversity.

Men, women, some mere children, some like myself, who are much older have given of our time, our lives (too often, literally), our financial security and sometimes (again, sometimes too often) sacrificed our home and family lives, all for love of country.I thank my fellow servicemembers for their conscious efforts to guarantee that our nation's security is continued seamlessly.

I think of the men and women who served before me... my father, his father, my uncle Jim, my brothers Rob and Bryan, my sister Teresa, my friend Beth's father, my friend Shane's father and so many millions more.

This is a shout out, if you will, to them and to those who gave their all--like my former student Hospitalman Ben Rast, who was killed in action in Afghanistan.

We, who serve, have asked so little and I am constantly moved to tears when I think of those who make a concerted effort to thank us, which is why today is so special to we servicemembers. I remember coming home from Afghanistan in March 2009 to be greeted by hundreds of total strangers standing in line to shake our hands as we entered the terminal at Baltimore's airport. I won't lie. I was in tears as each thanked us.

Happy Veteran's Day, colleagues!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

End of Argument? Hardly

The other day a family member, someone with whom I have a great deal of respect, pulled a uncool maneuver on me that I don't agree with. It is no secret I lean left, so does my son, so does my Uncle Garry, most of my friends and a few members of my family so when someone pulled an "end of argument" statement on me, I was 1) sorely disappointed. 2) angered that someone would attempt to shut down a conversation that way.

Today, one of my friends with whom I served in the Navy posted that someone told him to keep his opinions to himself. Frankly, I am appalled! My friend is one of the most fair-minded, middle of the road I know, leaning neither left nor right. In my experience, he has always considered all opinions and given them fair due, which is why he was such a great Navy Chief. He often gives me pause and food for thought.

First off, I cannot imagine anyone telling someone to keep their opinions to themselves. Even when I disagree with someone I enjoy the conversation and debate. Something can be learned from discussion. Too bad people don't try it more. Telling someone to shut up, keep their opinions to themselves, name-calling, end of argument, blah blah... only serves to shut down the opportunity to seek common ground... I say shame on whoever told him that.

Secondly, I may lean left but at least I am willing to give an ear to opposing thoughts. I cannot say, again in my experience, the same of some from the far right. I all too often find them condescending, smug, unyielding, always convinced they are right and all who disagree are wrong. AND yes, I can imagine some from that bent feel the same of those of us on the left.

"End of discussion," to me, reeks of someone not willing to consider motivations of what makes people tick, the "why" they do what they do. "End of discussion" means shut up.

I'm sorry, I do not accept... "go back to your corner of your room and shut up."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Saving the world from liberals one book at a time


I don't want to hear (or read) anyone saying, "Oh, the liberals do it too" because I will tell you you are dead wrong. I have worked at Barnes & Noble now for nearly five years and I can tell you little pisses me off more than this.

Whenever someone the likes of Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, President Obama, Michelle Obama, Al Gore, Jr., or Jimmy Carter write a book or are featured on the cover of a magazine I can bet you my entire week's paycheck that every single day I will find that some customers have turned the item around so that its backside is face out so that we cannot see its cover.

Really? REALLY???

Those who do this have so much time to go around creating extra work for us? You might ask what's the big deal? I can tell you right now that Ms. Clinton's book Hard Choices is featured in at least four locations in our store and somehow these people seem to know where each location is and find the time and energy to turn the book around at each location. 

It is utterly ridiculous that someone can act with such immaturity.

These brave people have the time go around saving the world from nasty liberal commies... one book at a time. They are sooooo brave.

Last week, someone pulled a bunch of books entitled History's Greatest Lies from the bargain section and interspersed them with Ms. Clinton's book on the bestsellers' shelf and a table featuring her book.


A few years back First Lady Michelle Obama published a book on healthy eating and home gardening. I cannot count how many times I heard customer comments "who does that b**ch think she is?"

Oddly enough, I didn't hear similar remarks when Ann Romney's cookbook was released in time for Christmas in 2013. Believe me, if you really think Ann Romney personally cooks her family's meals, I have some prime real estate on Ganymede for sale just for you.

In the time I have worked at the store I have yet to see anyone do the sort of thing to the coloring books from Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Ben Carson, Glenn Beck, Laura, Barbara or President(s) Bush. Not once!

For God's sale. we are a bookstore. We are a bastion of words, ideas and philosophies. We are a place where we share knowledge and discussion over a cup of coffee and a slice of cheesecake but somehow these freakin' small-minded idiots going around turning books around seem to think they that by their actions they are saving the children, saving the undecided, converted the wretched from the words of their supposed enemy. 

Oh, how brave! I think, in reality, they are cowards. They are afraid of those who think differently, and anyone challenging their dark narrow view of the world. They think they are saving the world! 

Part of me thinks that a bookstore rule should exists that command for every Bill O'Reilly book someone purchases that they have to, in turn, buy one from Rachael Maddow or (shudder) from President Obama, but then (gasp) that would mean I would have to buy one of O'Reilly's books. Noooooooo!

Libraries and bookstores are harbingers of discourse and free thinkers. If people cannot handle OR abide by that, maybe they shouldn't go there!

My thoughts on all of these people? Grow up! You're not in high school anymore!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

To our Dads...

There is little doubt that the men (or women) we become is largely shaped by our Fathers (and Mothers, but then, today is Father's Day). Whether we want to admit it or not, when we grow up we become our parents.

I am reminded of a line from Harvey Firestein's "Torch Song Trilogy" that has served me well throughout my life. Harvey turns to his Mother and says something like this: "Mom, when I am faced with a problem, I think of how you would handle it--and then I do exactly the opposite." 

Now mind you, I look at life and reflect on how both of my parents would face a problem, and in nine cases out of 10, I would do exactly as they. Good people that they are (or were), I often look to them for guidance. Lead by example, ya know?

Dad, Grandma Valda, my Mom and baby me on Christmas Day 1957.

My father Douglas Robert Mappin left us on March 23, 1985 at the age of 47. He was too damned young to be leaving a wife and eight kids behind. I'm sure Dad would have said the same of his dad Robert (who also died at the age of 47). 

I can honestly say everything I am is because of Dad. Dad was a great father and grandfather and a good son. 

He was hardworking. For a good number of years he worked three jobs (as a tool and die maker, a small business owner and a First Sergeant in the Indiana National Guard). With seven boys and one daughter, he toiled to make a good home for his kids. I suspect we kids would have cared little if we had had a little less so that we could have had more time with him.

Dad (second from left) at his workshop, probably around 1978.

Dad was curious about life, he was athletic and a craftsmen. Dad had a small shop to build furniture. He loved assembling models (apples do not fall far from the tree). He loved being out of doors. He loved taking his pontoon boat with we kids and Mom out on Lake Manitou. He loved to fish. If the air was fresh and there was sunshine, you could be Dad was there.

I gained my social conscious from my Dad. I am, like my Dad and like his father and his grandfather before him, a lifelong Democrat. He believed in ensuring everyone have an equal opportunity to a better life. Dad was the president of his local UAW union in his shop. He seriously believed that unions was the answer to ensure all his co-workers be treated equally. 

I remember with pride that Dad was a jungle warfare expert. Dad was so proud of Bryan when he joined the United States Air Force and later when Teresa joined the National Guard. If he had lived, I am sure he would have been similarly proud of Rob  when he enlisted in the Army. My Mom told me once not long after I joined the Navy Reserve, "Your father would be very proud of you right now."

I can still recall sitting on the plane enroute to New Orleans for Navy mini-boot camp and hearing her words. I sat there crying wishing Dad could have seen me then. Dad and I once sat in a local Rochester pub and he asked me why wouldn't I join the military. I knew he would have liked to have seen his eldest child sharing in his dream of defending our nation (at the time, I just couldn't do it as a gay man. President Clinton later made that possible, if only Dad had lived to have seen it).

After my parents divorced in 1967, Dad did all that he could to remain a part of our lives. We four from his first marriage knew he loved us. He may not have been a part of our daily lives but we all knew he was but five miles and a phone call away.

Dad loved a good laugh, was quick to a joke and not above playing a prank or two. On the day I married back in 1975, Dad and Abe (my father-in-law), for an hour or so, refused to leave Phyllis and I alone--both jokingly muttered about "not letting us defile one another in matrimony." Our Moms had to come to our rescue to save that day. 

Dad was an only child and in the years of my youth, he was a doting son. When Grandma Valda's condition (Parkinson's Disease) became more and more pronounced. He did the best he could to see that her medical needs were well-tended. 

Dad never got to see his last four boys graduate from high school. He never got to see any of us become the adults we are today. I do know he was proud as could be when I began school. He told me he wasn't in a position to offer financial aid for my education but he would be there for me if I needed him. I was gratified he offered but really, I was 27 at the time, why should he be responsible?

For all of the great things that I can say about Dad, I wish I could say even more. Dad was robbed of the opportunity to see Rob, Chris, Scott and Matt grow into the great men they became. Except for my son Wes, Dad was robbed of meeting his grandchildren. 

Each of my siblings (except Chris) have had children who never got to know the wonderfully wise man he was--and oh how the grandkids would have loved him! Teresa, Bryan, Mike, Rob, Chris and Matt's kids were robbed of the opportunity to have known him. Even my son Wes barely remembers him.

I wish we could see the man at age 77 and I wonder how life would have treated him. I'm sure he would have done well. 

In 2008, while I was serving in Afghanistan, journalist Ann Allen interviewed me for a piece in The Rochester Sentinel. Not long after that, one of the finest compliments I have received in my life came from a man who served with Dad in the National Guard. He said I sounded "just like my Dad." Frankly, I was honored to be mentioned in the same breath.

If I have but one regret in life, it is that we never told each other "I love you." Men just did not say such things back in the day. BUT I know he knew it (and I knew it too)... That lesson has not been lost on me... my son and I tell each other that daily.

In any case, this is a loving tribute to the man we knew. Dad, we love you. We miss you... and we honor you today. Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Who are you?

This is a big rant... sorry. I am probably opening a can of worms here, but I am so utterly disappointed when I read pages like what I am going to describe.

I am not going to name the person who inspired this, but I have seen plenty of sites that have done this, so in some ways it is not really aimed at anyone in particular. Whenever I visit this particular Facebook page--or those like them, 99.9% of the posts are like this. 

Almost.every.single.post is anti-President Obama, anti-Democrat, anti-liberal. Each meme is pure snarky hatred. So I have to say, "yes, I get it, and so does everyone else who reads your page." You don't like the President. But don't you think we'd like to know more about you than this?

And yes, I am a big boy and can take it. That is not the point I want to make.

What bothers me most about this and other similar pages are that I know this person (very well, I might add) and know he is so much more than this. Instead of seeing all this hate, I want to know about his/her hobbies; I want to know about his family; I want to know what's going on his life. What I do not need, want or need to see is all this dripping pure sarcastic hate. It bothers me how someone could focus on nothing but hate.

Mind you, far be it for me to tell someone what they can, cannot or should or should not post on their own page. And I suppose some would say this is me "calling the kettle black" as I have posted my share of memes addressing the ills of today's society.

After all, there is no doubt when reading my page how far left I lean or how much I detest how the Tea Party has hijacked the GOP in the past 15 years or how the farthest right of some religious denominations have come to believe their faith supersedes the rights with those whom they disagree.

AND I do not think I am wrong about this. I have two very good friends--one that I have known for 20 years, the other for more than 30, both were lifelong staunch Republicans who today lament and pine for the party they once loved and supported. In fact, today when I read their words espousing beliefs closer to mine, I almost suspect they are "pod people."

Frankly, all this hate bores me.

Where I think my pages differs is that yes, I have no problems posting views of mine and of those are similar and invite intelligent discourse. I don't permit people thrusting their finger in the proverbial eye. But in the pages I have described if I post anything that challenges them, I instantly am attacked for it... and yeah, again I am a big boy. A famous actor (from "Star Trek," no less) for whom I used to hold in the highest respect runs a page that makes my blood run cold. I have never seen so much hate in my life.

I think the difference between my page and those that I describe is that yes, I post all things politics, but I also post all things science, all things science fiction, all things humorous, all things of dirty birds pelting parked cars--especially Toyotas (grin), all things Ford. all things modelmaking, all things education, all things tropical fishkeeping, all things moviegoing, all things RMS Titanic, all things Star Trek... well, you get the idea, right?

My point? I do not think anyone can say my page is boring... AND no, I am not trying to pat myself on the back for "job well done," but when I visit a page that is so one track--and one so filled with hate, I have to ask why? And is this the image you really want to present of yourself? And to the point, especially when it is someone I admire or love, I really want to believe they are better than that. I guess sometimes it hurts when some people let you down.

Of course, I suppose some could say "mind your own business." AND I could but here I am, doing exactly the opposite. Have a great day... to those I agree with and yes, even to those I don't!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Katie Mappin, a life of love, laughter and dreams

Three years ago today a special, funny beautiful girl left her family behind. Unwittingly, unwillingly and way too early, you went on a journey that we have yet come to understand.

Two days earlier (on the 27th), my sweet niece Katie Mappin was found passed out, lying on the floor of her shower.

She had been ill for the past few months and this final event was but the opening of the door that would take her from her fiance 
Brian, her parents--my brother Bryan and wife Dawn, and Katie's sisters Brittany and Tonya and her brother Levi. 

While in the hospital, Katie's doctors prescribed a course of action that we would later learn run contrary to her illness. Little did we know that Katie had a rare genetic disorder that would lead to her passing. 

We would learn that one in two million people suffer the condition that Katie did. The staff at the hospital told us they had not seen someone with her condition in more than 15 years.

On this day in 2011, I was at work. It was a partly sunny and warm spring day. By all rights, it should have been a perfect day but for those of us in the family,no--we were all on pins and needles. We knew Katie was fighting the battle of her life and when I received the call at work, I think I felt the world had come to an end.

But I am not writing to lament Katie's loss. We would shed more tears in the coming days, but now I want to remember her for the little girl who, like her sister Tonya, would run to sit in my lap when I came to visit. The girl who always had a smile on her face and quick to laugh or to show me her newest toy and to give me the biggest hug when I had to leave for home after a visit.

Katie was the girl who loved life and had big plans. After she graduated from high school, she moved to South Bend to attend Indiana University. Originally, her course of study was anthropology, a fascinating if not a bit useless degree. But who was I to decide her future? 

We all must follow our dreams. I have long ago given up on telling young people they must study for a high paying career in favor of pursuing what makes us soar--what makes us happy.

Somewhere along the line her passions led her in other directions. She loved to cook and she decided to pursue a career in culinary arts. 

And about this time, she would meet a wonderful young man, Brian. Brian, who would become her fiance. These two were so good together and anyone could see how much they were in love.

A side I did not often get to see was of Katie, Katie the aunt. Katie's older sister Brittany had a daughter--and later a little boy... and Katie LOVED the earth that those two walked upon. 

Katie spoiled them, played with them, loved them and they loved her. It saddens me that Katie passed when Merc, her nephew was barely out of infancy. I doubt he will remember the great Aunt Katie he had but oh, how Aunt Katie loved them both. 

Katie loved to have fun. Looking through her photo albums and one cannot help but laugh. She could be such a goof!

In the years since her passing, Brian created a foundation to raise money to study the rare genetic condition that took her from us---and especially to raise an awareness.

I think of Katie's parents. I remember Bryan and Dawn living the unfairness of  those last days. I remember Bryan, at her funeral, telling us solemnly of the sadness he and Dawn felt... and how a parent should never outlive a grown children.

Katie, I miss you but not just for me but for Tonya, for Brittany and Levi and for your Dad and especially for your Mom. I sometime think that your Mom looked at you as one of her closest and dearest friends. AND your Dad,  who under his gruff exterior, one could always tell just how much he loves/loved his kids.

Today, we wonder (and mourn) about the could have beens, the would haves and the should have beens.

Katie, you should know, every person you touched is a better person for it. If anything good can come from something so sad, so unfair, is that with your passing you have inspired all who knew you. 

Your passing reminds us to hug our our children, our loved ones, our parents and friends and tell them we are proud of them and that we love them. 

Katie, wherever you are, I know you are smiling down on us. I love you... I always will and so will the rest of us.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Love and affirmation

People are pretty amazing!

Last night I posted a line on my Facebook page that apparently confused some people... and I guess I played a part in that. I basically wrote "I'm coming out (and yes, I just heard Diana Ross in my head and if you are gay, you probably heard it too)."

The support I received was astounding.

Mind you now, folks, I have been an out gay man since 1982 after my wife of seven years and I divorced. I became a little less open, officially anyway after joining the Navy in 1994. When the government abolished the military's policy "Don't Ask Don't Tell," I think I came out again, pretty much full force... and with a vengeance.

The line that started this whole thing was a joke. Here's how it goes. One of your friends posts a line and if you "like" or post a comment you get a private message instructing you to pick one of the 14 somewhat outrageous choices and post it on your page and then sit back and wait for the fun to begin. To entice us to continue this viral thread's instructions mention that the joke is meant to raise support for women's cancer victims. How? I don't know.

One of my favorite Navy Chiefs posted a line last night and I fell for it hook, line and stinker.

For mine in turn, I chose the most obvious one (but I really wanted to post the one that said "I am out of tampons! Help!" I think that really would have confused the hell out of some people. LoL!).

What I did not envision was all of the wonderful reaffirming messages I received.

I want received some pretty wonderful things, some humorous, some endearing, some hilariously naughty. And all were welcome--all but one. Hold on, I will explain in a bit.

Some responses made a lot of sense and mentioned things I had not considered.

My friend David Gerrold--and one of my favorite authors, fell for the joke too and I privated him. I already knew he would not play the game and he kindly responded he doesn't play games like this. I do understand his feelings on the matter. Another favorite science fiction author, Robert Sawyer, brought up a great point. He wanted proof that this joke could help the cause... a similar comment came from a few other friends.

I do understand their concerns. I had them too, but I decided to go with it, just for the heck of it.

In the aftermath, what I appreciated most was the outpouring of love and support. A few of my friends who fell for it responded in kind when they passed along this viral joke.

But I do have to admit, I was a bit taken a-back when one FB friend unexpectedly unfriended me over this with nothing other than "sorry, I have to unfriend you."

Frankly, I am still scratching my head over that. I wrote back, apologized and waited for the explanation that never came. *sigh* I could be flippant and say "Oh well, it's his loss." But it was mine too.

This all goes to prove, and woe be to us all, if we do not recognize that not all FB friends are really friends. For me, in the case of this friend, I did think he was more than just a FB friend and was saddened by his actions since I don't understand them.

But back to the point of this posting. I really want to thank those who wrote warm words of support. A good deal of those were Navy folk, which to me was great seeing too. We, those who serve, have always referred to ourselves "as family."

The responses I received last night made me feel exactly like that... family

I greatly appreciated it! Big hug!