Sunday, December 9, 2012

"A date which will live in infamy"

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's speech asking Congress for a declaration of war against Japan following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

It's one of the most powerful speeches in American history.

Pearl Harbor survivors return

This video follows a group of Pearl Harbor survivors from Wisconsin who return to Hawaii and reflect on a day still vivid in their memories more than 70 years later. It's riveting stuff.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Those farm boys go Gangnam Style

The Peterson brothers, whose video spoof of "I'm Sexy and I Know It" went viral earlier this year, have come out with a new music video.

This one is take-off of Gangnam Style. Enjoy.....


Friday, November 23, 2012

This is why they call it Black Friday

Greed brings out the worst in people......desperation for material things.

This happened at a Walmart this morning as people fought to get new phones:




Shameful. But you would witness scenes such as this all around the country....and every Black Friday in recent years.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Glimpses of autumn

I spent a few days at the farm earlier this month, before the trees had changed their clothes. But one tree, down by the Sawmill Creek, was a vivid exception.



On the drive back to Wichita, I decided to take a photo of an old grainery along U.S. 50 near Sylvia. Its timelessness, shrouded in autumn's leaves, has always tugged at me.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Indiana Jones is a lousy professor

At least, that's what I infer from the fact that he was denied tenure by his college.

An entertaining read for fans of the movies.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A dusty day in the Great Plains

Strong winds and dry conditions have created blinding dust storms in Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma today.

I-35 just south of the Kansas border has been shut down after a multi-vehicle pile-up. I'm hearing there are injuries and perhaps even a death.

Cognizant of the wind threat today, and recognizing the wind would be worse this afternoon and evening, I returned to Wichita from the farm this morning. Fields were already blowing by 9 a.m., but highways weren't obscured for more than a second at worst.

Things had deteriorated significantly by the time my brother was driving back late this afternoon. He said the dust had dropped visibility to zero several times on his drive home, and he still had another 60 miles to go.

Days like today offer hints of life during the Dust Bowl, and always remind me of this classic song:


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's time to crack down on bullying

This anti-bullying public service announcement is compelling.



Yet I find it ironic that we're trying to stamp out bullying with one hand while championing cheaters and jerks and game-players on reality shows scattered all across modern television.

It's an oxymoron, and sends a very different message to today's youth.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

If it wasn't for those deer crossing signs.......

This phone caller is serious.

Sigh.






And to think she votes. And probably has children.

Sigh.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A little boy in a big cowboy hat

I was on my way home from Mass on a recent Sunday morning when something caught my eye.

It was a little boy in a big brown cowboy hat nearly as large as he was. He was wearing it proudly, along with shiny cowboy boots, and he was pulling something up a small set of stairs leading to a front porch.

It was a wheelchair.

An old one at that - the kind on which the wheels fold toward the center when you lift on the back of the chair. He had reached the step next to the top by the time I spotted him. His face was a picture of determination.

I wished I had a camera to catch the moment in the late-morning sunlight.

I thought about stopping to help him with his task, because he couldn't have been more than 5 years old. But as I thought about how it might appear to have a grown man stop his car and approach a young boy he doesn't know, I decided against it. An innocent gesture might be perceived as something far more sinister.

He was just one step from the porch, I rationalized. I wondered who the wheelchair was for. There are no ramps leading up to that old poch in the old shotgun house on West Douglas.

Perhaps he was there visiting his grandparents (or great-grandparents). Perhaps this was his way of lending a hand to someone he loved. Perhaps it was a "toy" he was going to take a ride in on the porch.

I knew the answers to none of those possibilities.

I just know I'd caught a glimpse of a remarkable scene - one that sticks with me to this day. I do wish I'd had a camera with me, though.

Monday, September 24, 2012

How good is the Farmers Almanac at forecasting the weather?

Judging by how they predicted 2012 would go....not very good at all.

Jan Null of Golden Gate Weather Services compared what actually happened in 2012 against the almanac's forecast.  

I'm not saying you shouldn't buy the Farmers Almanac next time around. Just don't bet your last dime on the weather forecasts.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

On this first day of autumn....

...the weather for once matches the season. It was sunny and pleasant, though the breeze had a bit of bite to it. I was reminded of this clip from NFL Films:



It was the brainchild of Steve Sabol, the legendary mythmaker and son of NFL Films founder Ed Sabol. Steve was the creative genius behind the countless NFL Films products that helped transform football into the most popular sport in America.

Steve died last week at the age of 69. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for a story some years back, and he loved telling stories even to a journalist he'd never heard of out in the middle of America.

Rest in peace, Steve. You changed the sport you loved, as well as the medium with which you chose to do it.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

This little piggy's a hero

Another example of compassion by an animal for another species. You'll watch this more than once - I guarantee it.


Monday, September 17, 2012

A very special touchdown

Years from now, the players at Maize and Maize South won't remember the final score of the middle school football game they played in the suburb of Wichita last Tuesday.

But they'll remember the touchdown they let Brett Loving score late in the game. Brett was born with a muscular disorder that makes something like playing football out of the question. His parents allowed him to join the football team so he could enjoy the camaraderie.

Late in last Tuesday's game, the coaches for both teams agreed to a play that would let Brett score. I get tears in my eyes every time I watch it.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Floating, indeed



I had never heard this piece of music before a friend shared it with me. I found it captivating and aptly named......and I'll be looking for more of Dave Eggar's music.....

Daughter introduces father's at-bat

It happened in Saturday's Major League Baseball game between the archrivals San Francisco and Los Angeles (which actually has its roots from when both teams were in New York).

Regardless of your rooting interest, however, this moment can't help but touch your heart.


And the crystal ball says.....


OK, I know the NFL season began Wednesday night when the Cowboys whipped the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

But for all practical purposes, the season gets under way today. And I can't seem to let each year kick off without predicting who will win (and who won't come close).

If you want a chuckle or two, here are my predictions for last season. Nobody saw Denver winning the AFC West, thanks to Tebow Magic. Then again, nobody saw Eli Manning and the Giants winning it all, particularly when they were just a .500 team late in the regular season.

And now Tebow isn't even with Denver anymore. Peyton Manning is, however, and that still is hard for this fervent Bronco fan to believe. If he can stay healthy, it makes the AFC West arguably the most compelling (and wide-open) division in the league. Any of three teams could make compelling arguments that they'll win it - and even Oakland fans can devise a scenario that's not three parts fantasy and one part folly. Keep an eye on Kansas City, which had an awful preseason but still retains one of the deepest rosters in the AFC and has several key skill players coming back from major injuries. I think Denver will be much stronger than it was last year, but faces such a tough schedule it won't make the playoffs.

It's hard not to go with New England again, because Tom Brady is still taking the snaps, but Baltimore was a short, shanked field goal from the Super Bowl last year. Both the Patriots and Ravens have significant questions about their defense, however.

Houston is a trendy pick, but if quarterback Matt Schaub gets hurt...

Over in the NFC, Green Bay's going to have fire in their eyes after going 15-1 in the regular season and then losing their first playoff game to the Giants. Unless the Packers are decimated by injury,however, the NFC goes through Lambeau Field.

Green Bay in winter will challenge the young, hungry 49ers, who are probably the second-best team in the NFC. New Orleans remains mighty strong, but the absence of their head coach through suspension has to have an impact on how far they go this season.

I think Dallas is poised for a big season, along with Philadelphia. The Cowboys have underachieved for a few years now, and Philly's had a year to gel after bringing in a boatload of new players last season.

It'll be interesting to watch all the rookie quarterbacks - with five set to start, that's the most in NFL history. Ironically, most look like they have what it takes to do well.

Although Brandon Weeden in Cleveland is likely to flame out if for no other reason than he plays for the Browns and is likely to take a severe beating.

But I hope I'm wrong, simply because no one should suffer such a fate. The NFL is such a brutal sport it commonly shortens the lives of its players.

Here's to a great season. I hope another Manning is hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, only this time it's Eli's older brother.


AFC

East
1.       New England
2.       Buffalo
3.       NY Jets
4.       Miami

North
1.       Baltimore
2.       Pittsburgh
3. Cincinnati

4.      Cleveland

South
1.       Houston
2.       Tennessee
3.       Jacksonville
4.       Indianapolis

West
1.       Kansas City
2.       San Diego
3. Denver
4.       Oakland

NFC

East
1.       Dallas
2.       Philadelphia
3.      New York
4.      Washington

North
1.       Green Bay
2.       Chicago
3.       Detroit
4.       Minnesota
 
South
1.       New Orleans
2.       Atlanta
3.       Carolina
4.       Tampa Bay

West
1.       San Francisco
2.       Seattle
3.       St.  Louis
4.       Arizona

 Playoffs

 AFC
New England, Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City
Wild cards: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati

NFC
Dallas, Green Bay, New Orleans, San Francisco
Wild cards: Philadelphia, Chicago

Championship Games:
Baltimore over New England
Green Bay over San Francisco

Super Bowl

Green Bay over Baltimore

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"America needs no words from me...."

So said Mother Teresa of Calcutta in an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994, the full text of which you can read here.

But her words in that brief are powerful indeed. And I found this segment of the letter particularly compelling, after watching recent news clips of women criticizing other women for having large families....or simply having children at all.

"America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father's role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts - a child - as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters. And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being's entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign."

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The little boy on the train

I heard the train whistle as I was walking at Towne West mall late Sunday afternoon, so I moved to the right to let the little choo-choo pass.

The train is usually crammed with kids. But this one was empty - clear to the last car.

A young father sat snugly, his arm curled protectively around a son who couldn't have been more than three years old. The boy was standing so he could have a better view.

He was completely bald. I wondered why a child that age would have no hair on his head, and then our eyes met - and I knew.

His luminous, coal-black eyes had a sadness to them, a wisdom, that comes from deep suffering - both his own and what he has witnessed. I've seen that look numerous times in children who were battling cancer or other grave illnesses.

Such battles make children grow up in a hurry. But this lad still had enough little boy left in him to grin when I smiled at him.

As the end of the train moved past me, he raised his arms above his head so he could feel the air rushing ever so gently past him.

When the train passed the front of a clothing store, he turned and waved at a handful of mannequins in the window, as if it was a crowd standing next to the tracks.

That's when I saw the scar.

It had the shape of a half-moon, perhaps three inches from point to point, and had healed well. I found myself wondering if surgeons had removed a brain tumor, and said a quick prayer for his recovery.

Part of me wanted to run ahead, catch the train and introduce myself. But just then a woman came over the loudspeakers and announced that the mall was closing. I realized I'd never make it to the debarkation point in time, and without my reporter's ID the father would probably question my sanity and motives.

And so I'll be left with memories of that fleeting moment in the mall, and how things we commonly take for granted can mean so much to a little boy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Identical infants dancing in unison

This video of identical twins gettin' down in their high chairs as daddy plays the guitar in their Kansas City home has gone viral in cyberspace.

It's easy to see why. I'm a twin, though not identical to Steve, yet I totally understand their reactions.



I love how their faces light up when their dad first starts strumming the guitar. Methinks they'll marry guitar players some day.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Who's going to win the English Premier League?

The Premier League kicks off the 2012-13 season today, and let's get one thing out of the way immediately: Don't expect to top last season's finish.

Two goals by Manchester City in stoppage time not only stole the trophy from Manchester United (the New York Yankees of English football, for those unfamiliar with the Prem), they gave City its first championship in 44 years.

Granted, that's not as long as fans of the Chicago Cubs or the Cleveland Indians over here in America have endured in baseball, but when you've been second fiddle to your arch-rivals across town for more than a generation, and the legendary coach of United crows City won't wear the crown in his lifetime, it's a sweet title nevertheless.

The question everyone is asking now is whether City can repeat or Sir Alex Ferguson will reclaim the crown for United. Considering the teams finished even on points and City won on goal difference alone - the first time that's happened in the history of the Premiership - there clearly isn't much of a gap between the two teams coming in.

I don't claim to be an expert on world football, but that won't stop me from offering some predictions....so here we go.

1. Manchester City: The blue half of Manchester hasn't spent much to strengthen its squad this summer, but it's still the most talented - and deepest - team in the league. I'm convinced they'll be even better this year because a team that saw numerous changes in each of the past few seasons will benefit from continuity. Players know each other better, and that'll shine on the pitch. Plus, petulant Carlos Tevez sounds settled for a change, and he was gone for so much of last season it's almost like adding a new striker. City is vulnerable in defense, and if YaYa Toure in midfield or GK Joe Hart or defender Vincent Kompany go down with injury the title may be beyond them. But they're well-positioned to repeat.

2. Manchester United: Buying Robin van Persie lands Alex Ferguson the leading scorer in the Premiership from last season, weakening hated rivals Arsenal in the process. It also gives United the most prolific striker partnership in the league. But will Wayne Rooney flourish with RVP in the side? Can the notoriously fragile RVP stay healthy? I like the addition of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund, but United's midfield creaks with age and the back four is a question mark as well. Nemanja Vidic returns from a serious knee injury. Can he be the force he was before he was hurt? How much does an aging Rio Ferdinand have left? Sir Alex is the best squad handler in the league (perhaps in Europe), so he'll find a way to threaten. And if City slips up much at all, he'll claim yet another title.

3. Chelsea: Some familiar faces have departed London - Didier Droga, Jose Bosingwa, Solomon Kalou, even Nicolas Anelka. But the Blues have dipped into Russian billionaire owner Roman Abamovich's pockets and spent heavily to bring in some impressive replacements, and how well Eden Hazard, Oscar (Brazilians only need one name) and Marko Marin settle in and begin to contribute will say much about Chelsea's success this season. Has the mercurial superstar Fernando Torres finally shaken his status as an under-achiever? We'll find out this season. But the Blues finished 25 points behind the Manchester clubs last season, and that's a massive deficit to make up in one year.

4. Arsenal: Iconic manager Arsene Wenger is taking a lot of heat for selling his top scorer to Arsenal's bitter rivals. But RVP wanted out...at 29 he won't be at his peak for much longer.....he has a history of being injury-prone....and Wenger can use the money splashed out for RVP to strengthen his club. He's already made some wise buys in Olivier Giroud from Montpelier in France and Santi Cazorla from Malaga in Spain. Lukas Podolski, coming over Cologne in Germany's Bundesliga, could thrive in Arsenal's flowing brand of football. But the Gunners need shoring up in defense, as well as someone who can control the midfield. RVP money could make those buys more possible.

5. Tottenham: Losing midfield maestro Luka Modric will hurt, but the diminutive Croat wanted out so badly he was becoming a distraction. How the Spurs replace him will be key to whether they can challenge for a top four finish and the lucrative Champions League competition that comes with it. Andres Vilas-Boas will be out to prove his short-circuited tenure as Chelsea boss was merely a blip, but he needs to boost the team's firepower and find a replacement in defense for the talismanic Ledley King, whose troublesome knees finally said "no more." Frankly, the Spurs appear more likely to fall behind Newcastle or even Liverpool than threaten the top of the table.

6. Newcastle: One of the Prem's most pleasant surprises last season, Newcastle managed to hold onto its most influential players over the summer. A few more astute buys - particularly in defense - could see Newcastle threatening for a top four finish. Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cisse were revelations last season, but the strikers must learn to thrive together on the pitch to lift Newcastle up the table.

7. Liverpool: This legendary club of English football had its lowest point total in the 20 years of the Premier League last season, and new manager Aaron Rodgers will find it challenging to stamp his brand of football on a team whose fan base is not used to rebuilding. These are going to be bumpy days at Anfield, but with Steve Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Glen Johnson and (for now) Andy Carroll still on roster, the cupboard's not exactly bare.

8. Everton: The "other club" in Liverpool finished above their hated rivals in the table last season, and if David Moyes' club can avoid its typical slow start the Toffees may well do it again. If Nikica Jelavic can continue his goal scoring form, you may see the threadbare Evertonians threaten for a place in the Europa League. For the uninitiated, that's a European competition for clubs that didn't win titles but finished high in the table the previous season. To high profile teams, playing in the Europa League is a disappointment. For smaller clubs on smaller budgets, it's still an achievement.

9. Fulham: This London club has become a Premier League mainstay by managing to finish in mid-table mediocrity year after year. The one exception came when the Cottagers made it all the way to the Europa League final a few years ago. Dutchman Martin Jol is a solid coach, and he'll steer this club to a decent season even though Fulham appears destined to lose Clint Dempsey. The American was the team's top scorer last season but wants to move to a team playing Champions League football. The problem is, no one has put in a bid of note for him yet, and the transfer window closes in less than two weeks.

10. West Bromwich Albion: This small club in England's midlands used to be known as one of the yo-yo clubs that would earn promotion to the top tier only to be sent straight back down through relegation. But West Brom has found stability in the Prem over the past few years and looks poised for another strong season. I really like Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea, and Shane Long's speed and the sniper's touch from strikre Peter Odemwinge gives the team firepower. The Baggies' big problem last year was a leaky defense, and how well new manager Steve Clarke patches that up will determine how high the team climbs the table. I don't think relegation will be a worry this year, though.

11. Stoke: Everyone thought Stoke would drop right back into the Championship after they were promoted in 2008, but the Potters have defied skeptics with a run to the FA Cup final and a deep run in the ensuing Europa League campaign. Goals look to be an ongoing struggle for Coach Tony Pulis' side, but as long as the stalwart defense holds up, it'll be another solid season.

12. Swansea: Losing two or three of its best players and Brendan Rodgers, the coach who brought them into the Premier League, sounds like a recipe for relegation. But new coach Michael Laudrup has brought some nice players into the team, among them Jonathan de Guzman and Miguel Perez Cuesta from Spain - a league he knows well from his storied playing career with Real Madrid and Barcelona - and he favors the brisk passing game that made Swansea a delight to watch last season. So the Swans may not suffer as much as some prognosticators think.

13. Sunderland: It's been an uninspiring off-season for Sunderland, Newcastle's near neighbors and bitter rivals, and I'm picking them this high primarily because of Coach Martin O'Neil's ability to get the most out of teams with limited squads and small budgets. That and the fact that the teams beneath them have more holes than the Black Cats.

14. Queens Park Rangers: Another London club with a wealthy owner, QPR barely avoided relegation last season with some late wins and Bolton's inability to win its last two matches. More players have been bought as the chop-and-change continues, and expect Rangers fans to suffer a bumpy ride this season as the team slowly tries to gel. Fingernails will not grow long at Loftus Road this season, but I expect Coach Mark Hughes to pile up enough points to stay in the Prem again. It will be close, though.

15. Aston Villa: Once upon a time, Aston Villa was a mainstay in the top half of the table. But the Villans dangled near the relegation trap door most of last season, and they haven't done much to strengthen this year. Paul Lambert parleyed his success at penny-watching Norwich to land the Villa job, and he'll need all of his coaching nous to turn this club around.

16. West Ham: This London club returned to the Premier League on its first attempt, and has the best chance to stay here of the three teams promoted after last season. They have a number of players with talent and experience at this level, as well as a coach - Sam Allardyce - who can bring home points against difficult opposition. But if the Hammers struggle in front of goal, it could suck them right down the relegation trap door.

17. Norwich: The Canaries held onto Grant Holt, but lost Coach Paul Lambert. It's much the same squad that managed two consecutive promotions and survived its first season back in the Prem, but they're not likely to surprise folks this season. If Wigan pulls off one of its great escapes again, the Canaries could be headed down.

Relegation
-------------------------
18. Southampton: The Saints scored goals in bunches last season in the Championship, but how much of that will play in the Premier? Another team that used back-to-back promotions to reach the Prem, the Saints are counting on much of the same squad to survive. I just don't see it, though, because asking players from the third tier of English football to thrive at the top level is difficult at best. Like Blackpool before them, the Saints will be plucky and spirited, but fall short.

19. Wigan: The Latics have been "locks" for relegation virtually every year since they reached the Premier League for the first time ever eight years ago. They're still here, though it took remarkable rallies late in the last two seasons. Shorn of their best attacking talent, the Latics look destined for another battle against the drop - especially if Victor Moses moves to Chelsea as expected. Houdini has nothing on Coach Roberto Martinez, but even Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid eventually ran out of bullets.

20. Reading: The Royals went on an amazing run to close out the Championship season and earn promotion. With new owners, Reading even has more financial punch at its disposal. But the defense that was the stingiest in the Championship last season will find the Premier League a challenge altogether different, and the strikers don't have a track record to suggest they'll have the success needed to keep Reading in the top flight.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What should you do if a gunman opens fire at your job or your school?

It's not just a hypothetical question these days. Aurora. Texas A&M. The mosque in Wisconsin. The Family Research Council in Virginia.

Even a Burlington Coat Factory store in Wichita.

The Department of Homeland Security paid to have this video produced by Houston police. It's gone viral in cyberspace. Give it a look. It may just say your life.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Longtime teacher: Who to blame for education's failure? Students

A longtime Utah teacher wrote a provocative column in the Salt Lake Deseret News recently in which she said it's not the fault of the teachers, the systems or the tests that so many students are failing these days.

Most of it, she says, is the students themselves. Read her column, and let me know what you think.

I believe her declaration has a lot of merit. Too many kids today don't want to work. Heck, a large percentage of 20-somethings won't even read a comment on Facebook if it's more than two lines long. "Too much effort," several have told me in one way or another.

I'm convinced parents play a significant role in this as well, in that too many aren't involved enough - or take the steps necessary - to get their kids to complete their assignments.

But shifting societal trends is like trying to turn around a battleship - it takes time...and a lot of room.

With technology available today to do so much for us, how do we teach our children to work...to think...to solve problems....when Siri can do so many of those tasks for us? With movies and television programs clipping through scenes and story lines so fast the brain can barely keep up, how do we teach them to build patience and attention to detail?

I'm not asking "How do we turn back the clock?"

It's more, "How do we drive home the significance of learning in this new environment?"

Because it's not just that they're failing in the classroom that's significant. This failure to learn will cripple them once they enter the world of employment. And that, in turn, will cripple our economy as well as our society.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Here's why I prefer summer --- even with all these 100s

I loathe winter, and this video clip offers several reasons why.

There's something wrong in Frisco

They're taking their football entirely too seriously, as this Rick Reilly story on ESPN.com shows.

I'm a big football fan, but.....seriously? Whatever happened to having fun? What is that kind of physical punishment doing to still-developing bodies? What long-term damage to the brain is occurring?

All for a few wins that will be forgotten in five years at most? (and perhaps because the player has had multiple concussions by the time he's 15)

It's pathetic....and it would be a joke except for the fact that these are real children being placed in danger.

Wake up, Frisco.

It's pee-wee football, not the invasion of Normandy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A miraculous story of survival from the Aurora shootings

I received this via e-mail from a family member, who received it from friends who have friends attending the pastor's church. It's an incredible story......

A Miracle Inside the Aurora Shooting: One Victim’s Story
.
Shooting Victim Petra Anderson
At Columbine, I have seen this before. But not up close. As a church pastor in Denver, I have worked as a chaplain with several police and fire departments. I was privileged to counsel parents just hours after the Littleton Columbine shootings. However, in this new tragedy at the Aurora Theater Dark Night shooting, one of the victims was a 22 year old woman from my church, Petra Anderson (pronounced Pay-tra). Petra went to the movies with two young friends who are biking across America. You and I have been inundated with news about what happened next. A joyful movie turned into bloody, unbelievable chaos. Petra was hit four times with a shot-gun blast, three shots into her arm and one bullet which entered her brain. This a bit of Petra’s miracle story.
With awesome people from our caring and pastoral team, I spent all day Friday in the ICU with Petra and her family. Her injuries were severe, and her condition was critical. A bullet had entered Petra’s face through her nose, and then traveled up through her brain until stopping at the back of her skull. The doctors prior to surgery were concerned, because so much of the brain had been traversed by the bullet. Many areas of brain function were involved. They were hoping to keep her alive long enough to get her into surgery. The prognosis was uncertain—if she lived, Petra might struggle with speech, movement, and thinking due to considerable brain damage. With Kim, Petra’s mother (who is in the final stages of terminal cancer), we simply cried, hugged, and prayed.
It is pressed into my memory now. Motion and emotion…
Other families come and go into the ICU waiting room. Some sit with us, and we talk. Others are visited by doctors with “Family Advocates” in tow. The families listen, sob, and then are moved like stunned cattle to a more private space to grieve. We pray. Petra is finally taken into surgery, using two different surgical teams. One team of neurosurgeons will open up the back of her skull to remove the bullet and clean up brain damage as best they can. Another ENT-specialty surgical team will then work through Petra’s nose by scope to follow the bullet’s path up into her brain. Their hope is to remove bone fragments, clean up damaged brain tissue, and reseal her brain to reduce infection.
If you have lived any of your days in a hospital waiting room, you know how long the enduring process is. It has a woeful pattern to it. Sit. Walk. Grab a drink. Sit. Walk. Answer a phone call. Sit. Walk. Hug someone. Sit. Talk to the FBI. Sit. Pick at the food. Sit. Walk. Go down the hall, but not too far because you’re afraid to miss something. Back. Hug. Pray. Sit. Sit. A picture of a five year old waiting for next Christmas from January 1st comes to my mind. FOREVER. Only this feels worse: a heavy forever, with no promise of presents, Santa, or good news at the end.

Petra Anderson and her world class violin.
After the waiting drags for over five hours, tired doctors and nurses spill back into the room, one or two at a time. I look for “Family Advocates” but can find none. I exhale. The doctors update us: “It went well, and she’s recovering now. We found very little damage to the brain, and got the bullet out cleanly. It went better than we hoped for.” Each brings a warrior’s smile, and a bit of information—information that we turn into hope as we regurgitate it over the next hours. Still, the medical team remains professional and reserved, “Something might still go wrong. We just need to wait and see if she makes it for the next 48 hours.”
Tears and thank you’s abound. We are so thankful for these men and women. We hug. Everyone hugs. Then, round two. Sit. Wait. Pray. Fully dressed people cuddle into small snails and try to sleep on the floor. Some are shuttled to a room donated by the Holiday Inn across the street. Thank you, Lord, for every little thing. We sit. We pray. “We’ll understand better tomorrow.”
Petra is moved back to ICU. She looks, surprisingly, wonderful. With a small hole in her nose, and her arm wrapped, she almost looks uninjured. She is medicated and sleeping when I come to visit her on Saturday. I sit, talk, and pray quietly with Kim amid the darkened room, lit by glowing medical screens and power switches. Nurses, like quiet soldiers posted on guard, come in, march attentively through the machines, and go out. These men and women really care. Finally, one of the surgeons comes in to check on Petra. He has had some sleep, and looks more like a movie star this time. As Petra sleeps, he retells the story of the surgery, and we ask questions. The doctor reads the perfect script, as if he is on Hallmark Hall of Fame. He fills us in on the miracle. Honestly, he doesn’t call it that, he just uses words like “happily” and “wonderfully” and “in a very fortunate way” and “luckily” and “we were really surprised by that.” Kim and I know a miracle when we see it.
It seems as if the bullet traveled through Petra’s brain without hitting any significant brain areas. The doctor explains that Petra’s brain has had from birth a small “defect” in it. It is a tiny channel of fluid running through her skull, like a tiny vein through marble, or a small hole in an oak board, winding from front to rear. Only a CAT scan would catch it, and Petra would have never noticed it.
But in Petra’s case, the shotgun buck shot, maybe even the size used for deer hunting, enters her brain from the exact point of this defect. Like a marble through a small tube, the defect channels the bullet from Petra’s nose through her brain. It turns slightly several times, and comes to rest at the rear of her brain. And in the process, the bullet misses all the vital areas of the brain. In many ways, it almost misses the brain itself. Like a giant BB though a straw created in Petra’s brain before she was born, it follows the route of the defect. It is channeled in the least harmful way. A millimeter in any direction and the channel is missed. The brain is destroyed. Evil wins a round.
As he shares, the doctor seems taken aback. It is an odd thing to have a surgeon show a bit of wonder. Professionally, these guys own the universe, it seems, and take everything in stride. He is obviously gifted as a surgeon, and is kind in his manner. “It couldn’t have gone better. If it were my daughter,” he says quietly, glancing around to see if any of his colleagues might be watching him, “I’d be ecstatic. I’d be dancing a jig.” He smiles. I can’t keep my smile back, or the tears of joy. In Christianity we call it prevenient grace: God working ahead of time for a particular event in the future. It’s just like the God I follow to plan the route of a bullet through a brain long before Batman ever rises. Twenty-two years before.
While we’re talking, Petra awakes. She opens her eyes, and sits up, “Mom.” Movie-star doctor spins to grab her, to protect her from falling. The nurse assures him she’s been doing this for a while. He talks to her, and she talks back. He asks questions, and Petra has the right answers. “Where do you hurt, Petra?” “All over.” Amazed, but professional, he smiles and leaves the set shaking his head. I am so thankful for this man.
Petra is groggy and beat up, but she is herself. Honestly, I look worse before my morning coffee. “I’m thirsty,” she proclaims.
“You want an ice cube, honey?” Kim replies.
“Please.” Wow. She lays down, back to sleep, a living miracle who doesn’t even know it yet. Good flowering out of the refuse pile of a truly dark night. “Thank you, Jesus,” I whisper.

Kim and her daughter.
Petra, you are amazing. Kim, you, too, are amazing. I am so proud of you both. But God, you are in a league of your own. (Duh.)
There is much ahead. More surgerys. Facial reconstruction, perhaps. And for Kim, chemo therapy to stretch every moment out of life. But life remains.The ending is yet to be written for this family.
One final note: I am told Petra will take her first steps today. Time for the miracle to go for a walk.
Kim and Petra need our help. For more on the Andersons, or to help with their medical costs, please visit here. This is a great site.
More information about supporting Petra Anderson and other shooting victims is also available at Hope Rises:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Robert Rogers tells his story to EWTN Radio

Robert Rogers, who lost his family in a flash flood on the Kansas Turnpike on Labor Day weekend in 2003, tells his story in this appearance on EWTN Radio on July 14.

I co-authored "Into the Deep," a book about the life Robert had with his wife, Melissa, what happened on that awful night in 2003, and how he persevered through the dark days that followed. You can click on the link to order it through Amazon.

 Into the Deep: One Man's Story of How Tragedy Took His Family but Could Not Take His Faith (Focus on the Family Books)

Robert now makes his living traveling the country speaking about his experience. To hear his testimony, you can contact him through his ministry's web site, http://www.mightyintheland.com/.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A 2-year-old's reaction to "I'm Farming and I Grow It"

Even wee ones are being drawn into the spoof video put together by three Kansas farm boys that has exploded in cyberspace in the past week. This clip starts a bit slowly, but stick with it. You'll be glad you did.





To date, the "farming" video has been seen 2.3 million times in just five days.

When a family member dies....

....it rips a hole in your heart...your life...your sense of belief.

In a very real way, it ends life as you know it. Your life will never be the same again. The sense of shock, of grief, of gut-wrenching pain is so intense it's as if the rest of the world fades into the distant background. Your world stops.

It can be startling ---- painful, even ---- to see the rest of the world go on as if everything was normal. "Can't you see?" you want to scream. "How can you act as if nothing has happened??? My world has been shattered!"

When you lose a loved one, you no longer know what 'normal' is - particularly if it's a child or someone with whom you were still sharing a roof. Their absence, that gaping hole in your life, is palpable.

Adapting to the way things now are is a slow, painful process filled with pitfalls and moments when your loss feels as fresh as if it happened just yesterday.

Relatives and friends can try to help. But when Dad died in 2006, most of what people said or did in trying to comfort me made me wince.

And for the first few weeks, especially, it was jarring when people would ask, "How are you doing?" I wanted to say, "How do you think I'm doing? I'm doing horribly!"

It was painful and exhausting to even try to answer the question.

I'll never forget the one long-time friend who asked me, about 6 weeks after the funeral, "So, are you about back to normal now?" When I said, "no," he acted as if I was doing something wrong.

As if losing a parent was like spraining your ankle.

A friend of mine lost a niece to a horrific, senseless traffic accident this past week. She was only 6. There was nothing anyone could do to save her, though they tried desperately.

Everyone close to her is understandably devastated. I find myself wishing I could say something to ease their overwhelming pain.

But what words can help? I'm not sure there are many.

In such times, I guess it's the ministry of presence that is the most powerful, through a hug, or holding a hand, or performing a simple household task or errand so they don't have to.

It's always a difficult journey when we have to say goodbye to a loved one, no matter how many times we've had to do it.  And it can only be managed a day at a time. Sometimes even just an hour at a time.

It's the cycle of life, they say. There's something to that, I think. Those who have endured such grief can be helpful for those who have freshly entered that dark, seemingly endless valley - simply because they've made that walk themselves.

It seems to be a natural way to have some good come out of something so painful.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"I'm farming and I grow it"

This humorous video about life on a farm has gone viral on the web. The three brothers from a farm in north-central Kansas tinkered with "I'm Sexy and I Know It."

You'll get a kick out of it. Many others have - more than 300,000 views in three days alone.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The power of a father's words

The remarkable story of Irena Sendler has its roots in some advice her father gave her when she was a child: If someone is drowning, you must jump in and save them - even if you can't swim yourself.

With that in the back of her mind, she would go on to save 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto in World War II:



All fueled by words her father shared with her.

It's a powerful example of the impact fathers can have on the lives of their children.

Happy Father's Day to all fathers around the world.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Oh, those Dutch fans

A Ukrainian television journalist desperately tries to video a piece at Euro2012 with enthusiastic Dutch fans in the background. But they turn out to be a bit too enthusiastic. It makes for entertaining video, but not in the way the broadcaster intended.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"They allowed this problem to fester into something hideous"

Journalist Buzz Bissinger spoke to Piers Morgan about the Penn State sex abuse scandal. Sadly, what he has to say resonates with truth.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ready for summer

I was on another evening walk late last month when I spotted this artwork on a sidewalk not far from where I live.



Can you tell they're ready for summer??? It gave me a big smile.

Listening to that tiny voice

I try to get a walk in most days of the week, in part to continue the rehab of my back and hips from a significant whiplash injury suffered in 2010 and also because it's simply good for you.

I vary my routes to prevent boredom from curtailing my appetite for ambulation. One of them is simply heading out the back door, across the grassy play area and into the residential area east of the complex.

Typically, I cross St. Paul and walk north on the sidewalk to First Street and then head east for several blocks. And on an early May evening, as the north wind began to flex its muscles, I started that way again.

But as I reached St. Paul, a tiny voice told me to stay on this side of the street. I paused to activate the pedometer on my Smartphone, and as I started walking north toward First a powerful gust of wind roared down the street and snapped a large tree branch off at the corner of First and St. Paul.

The branch fell right onto the sidewalk where I would have been walking, and bounced into the front yard of the house at the corner.




I paused to calculate where I would have been had I taken my normal route and not listened to that little voice. Chances are I would have been next to that tree when the branch snapped.

Do you listen to that little voice within you when it speaks? Those who are Catholic may call it their guardian angel. Others may have different explanations.

I know it's served me well countless times in my life, and this was one such occasion.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Stories I would have loved to hear

I went to four cemeteries this Memorial Day with Mom to decorate the graves of loved ones. While I was there, I photographed the graves of several veterans.



I didn't know any of these men...more than one served in World War I, in fact.


It would have been fascinating to sit down with them in some way to hear their stories. My experience as a reporter is that it is easier for combat veterans to share their stories with strangers than it is to talk to loved ones. Why? They told me they didn't want those close to them to know how much they suffered, because they knew it would be hard on those who love them.


There's really no way to convey in words the horror of war, the helplessness of being pinned down on a beach, the absolute terror in charging an enemy fortification such as the Seigfried Line with machine guns mowing down your buddies or flamethrowers incinerating men so close to you the odor of their burning flesh singes your nostrils.


For those who served in the trenches of World War I, how do you convey the sense of impending doom when you've been ordered to charge well-established, well-armed trenches through No-Man's Land? How do you explain the feeling that sweeps over you when someone yells "Gas!" and your gas mask has been shot to pieces?

My father served in World War II, from January 26, 1945, until late April, when he was hospitalized with pneumonia that he contracted after inhaling poison gas. He was still in the hospital when Germany surrendered, and he rejoined his unit at Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgaden about a month later.

He told me decades later he wasn't concerned when the buddies in his unit admitted they were scared. It was the ones who never felt fear that worried him. They wouldn't know when to take cover, when to hold back, when to push forward in a coordinated attack that gave the mission its best chance to succeed. Those, he said, were the dangerous ones.

These soldiers are silent now. They stand in the pantheon of Americans who stepped forward when freedom was under fire, when our nation was under attack. The price they paid is a too-often-ignored reminder that freedom isn't free.

Memorial Day is a wonderful opportunity to tell them "thank you," but our gratitude shouldn't need calendars as reminders.

I salute you, gentlemen.

Remembering a snowy day in France

 
 
His first day of combat was in the woods outside Holtzwihr, France. The halftrack Audie Murphy used to singlehandedly repel a German counter-attack - for which he was later awarded the Medal of Honor - was still burning. Soldiers on both sides were still moaning in pain from their wounds. He would suffer his first war injury that very night, and should have been killed more than a half-dozen times. But he fought valiantly and returned home to build a life on the Kansas prairie. He always said the American flag was one of the most beautiful sights in the world, because it symbolized freedom. Rest in peace, Dad --- and thanks for your service to our country.

Thank you, soldier

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Young daughter tries to cheer up devastated father

Had a tough day? This video clip of a daughter trying to cheer up her father on the field after his team has been relegated from the Eredivisie in Holland is simply adorable.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Four Things Boys Learn From Their Fathers

This blogpost about the role of fathers is a potent reminder of just how key a role they play in the lives of their children.

The muse is a fickle mistress

I have several writing projects in various stages, above and beyond the work I do for the paper.

One of them is a children's book based on the stray who wandered onto our family farm last October. He had clearly been on his own for months, and based on his timidity toward humans must have been badly abused by his previous owner(s).



The heartwarming story of Curly's journey toward trust and acceptance as Mom coaxed him back to health and happiness touched many folks on Facebook - some of whom urged me to write a book about it. It seems best-suited for children, so I'm trying that approach. Mind you, I've never written a children's book, so this has been something of an adventure for me.

I'm learning the best place to work on the story is anywhere but home ---- the laundromat, a bar, a restaurant booth.....each of these locations has seen things flow like they never have here in my apartment.

It's become such an evident pattern I'll simply have to honor the muse's preference while I finish and then hone the project. That's part of the mystery and majesty of writing, though, so I'm hardly upset.

These small discoveries are always part of the ride.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Here's why you should get underground if at all possible if a tornado nears

This is footage of the waiting room at St. John's Hospital in Joplin on May 22, 2011. It was posted on the Joplin Globe's web site.....

It's jaw-dropping...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Delirium, thy home is Manchester

In the most incredible late twist I've ever seen in a major sporting event, Manchester City scored two goals in the last 5 minutes to win a match that gave them their first championship in English soccer in 44 years.

Manchester City had to match hated cross-city rival Manchester United's result to win the title on goal difference, and United defeated Sunderland 1-0. In fact, when the final whistle blew for United's match, the Red Devils were poised to be crowned champions - for the 20th time.

And then this happened:



Manchester City swept both matches against United this season and were consistently the better team throughout...so the right team won it.

It's all the sweeter for me because I'd adopted ManCity as one of my favorite teams in England several years ago when I first began paying attention thanks to storm chasing friends I made who live in the U.K. Thanks to new (and insanely wealthy) owners, they've been able to assemble an impressive squad that has shifted the tide of power in Manchester...and England.

If you want to see it in English, here you go.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

A soldier returning home sees his son's first steps

That may hardly seem noteworthy....except Michael is 6. He was born with cerebral palsy, and doctors said he would never walk.

Good thing he didn't listen. He learned to walk while his father was away on deployment, and his family decided to surprise his father with the great news upon his return.

I was in tears before the video ended.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

It's been five years now since a massive tornado obliterated Greensburg, Kansas....

....this raw video shot by Lanny Dean that night - May 4, 2007 - shows the tornado's development and monstrous size. A caution for viewers - there's some adult language on it, and I'm not surprised given the gravity of what was unfolding.




A killer tornado in Japan

Speaking of tornadoes elsewhere in the world, here is video of a tornado that killed a teenager in Japan earlier today.




Storm chaser Reed Timmer reported Japan has had at least 16 tornadoes since 1950....many of them large and deadly.





Here is video of damage caused by that tornado.

Ach du lieber! A tornado near the Stuttgart airport

Yes, they have tornadoes in Europe, too. Here's one that touched down today near Stuttgart's airport.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A smoking joke

A Wichita fire investigator told me today that an apartment fire started after a smoker put a just-extinguished cigarette butt into a plastic water bottle full of old butts out on the balcony.

"How many butts," I asked, "does it take to make an ass of yourself?"

Monday, April 23, 2012

Drama in Belgium

There's a red button in the town square of a quiet Belgian village. What happens when somebody pushes it?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A tip for Earth Day

Want a "natural" way to kill weeds? Here's a good tip from the web site A Garden for the House.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012

Serious tornado threat for much of Kansas and Oklahoma Saturday

If you live in central and eastern Kansas or Oklahoma and have somehow missed the alerts, there's a very high risk of strong, long-tracked tornadoes striking Saturday.

Here's the Storm Prediction Center map outlining the danger:



Supercell thunderstorms figure to be isolated, but any tornadoes that develop are expected to be especially dangerous --- not just because of their intensity but because they'll be moving at 50 miles an hour or more. If you live in the areas shaded red, make tornado safety precautions now and be prepared to take shelter on short notice.

As fast as these tornadoes will be moving, there won't be much time to react. Weather officials haven't issued warnings this serious this much in advance since the deadly Deep South outbreak of April 27, 2011.

Weather researchers I know say this atmospheric set-up is very similar to April 26, 1991, when a significant outbreak produced numerous tornadoes in Oklahoma and Kansas. One of the tornadoes was an F5 that struck Haysville, south Wichita, McConnell Air Force Base and Andover. 17 people died.

What was likely an even stronger tornado touched down in Cowley County and killed one person.

Keep an eye on conditions Saturday and be prepared to take shelter.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Had a rough day? Rough month? Listen to this

"To be loved is the thing that gets you up in the morning"

Phillip Seymour Hoffman talks to National Public Radio about the play "Death of a Salesman." Compelling stuff......



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A UFO sighting over South Korea? Millions are pondering that question

Some say this video shot by an airline passenger over the city of Seoul, South Korea, last Saturday is a hoax.

Others say it's clear evidence of a UFO - unidentified flying object. To be honest, I can't land firmly in either camp.

It looks suspicious, all right, but that doesn't mean it's an extra-terrestrial visitor. Give this video clip a look and share your thoughts.



This YouTube clip has already been viewed millions of times. It's likely raised nearly that many questions.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The PGA's version of a boy band

They call themselves the Golf Boys. It's a pretty entertaining video.



Oh, by the way --- one of these guys just won the Master's tournament. Without ever taking a golf lesson.

A hint? It's the bare-chested guy in the overalls.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Another moment of musical magic from Britain's Got Talent

In case you've missed it, here's an appearance on Britain's Got Talent that surpassed all early expectations. Prepare to be blown away.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In Tornado Alley, the sky is our classroom.......

......Mother Nature is our instructor.

She is a demanding teacher
insisting attention to detail
if we are to reach her

and learn that day's lesson.

Every field trip is rich with learning
if we are willing to work
and not be blinded by yearning.

Seasoned eyes
can read stormy skies
like a road map as clear
as lines far and near.

Weather has rules
So say the fools
For storms do as they please
And that includes tease
Chasers scurrying on those tiny lines
like rogue ants eager to dine

on the feast that is a savage storm
from which tornadoes form.

Mesmerizing seduction.
Horrifying destruction.

Days of infamy
born from atmospheric symphony.






Sunday, March 25, 2012

To succeed, one often has to fail - and fail often

This is a wonderful motivational video. I've heard most of these examples before, but they're still worth hearing again......

Monday, March 19, 2012

A blonde does math

I'm not really into "blonde jokes" ---- but this one will drop your jaw....if for no other reason than she's serious.


Blonde Chick Explains MPH - Watch More Funny Videos