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Archive for October, 2010

Oct 30 2010

Beware! The Magnet

Posted by Mugs @ 10:54 am in Family,school

Each year in the autumn, the school (for a fundraiser) has each child draw a picture that can be purchased by the parent to print upon cups, hats, calendars, clothes, and magnets.

For complete disclosure, I must confess that I greatly dislike any and all fundraisers. I don’t like asking people for money, I don’t like my kids asking people for money. I don’t like buying things that I really don’t want. I don’t like asking friends to buy things that they really don’t want. Paying for four kids worth of clothes, food, and school fees, sours me on fundraisers. It is also possible that I simply operate with a sour attitude and fundraisers bear the brunt of my annoyance.

Last week, Zeke came home with his picture for the fundraiser, a drawing of him and Blaze. I set it aside to order the cheapest item on the fundraiser list: a magnet.

Yesterday, Gabe came home with his picture: green grass, blue sky, and a large brown sign with BEWARE written in black letters.

I took one look at it and said to him, “Don’t you think that if you had drawn a nice picture, it would be more likely I would have bought a magnet?”

He replied, “It doesn’t matter what I draw, you never buy a magnet of it. You only buy Zeke’s.”

I declared, “That is not true!” and went over to the Fridge to point out his purchased magnet. On the fridge, I found one Josiah-made magnet, one Abby-made magnet, and three magnets made by Zeke. There were no magnets made by Gabe.

“That cannot be true. I find that remarkable!” I proclaimed. “You must have sent it to Grandma and Grandpa.” I then got on the phone with Mom to verify that Gabe’s magnet was on her fridge. She had no idea what I was talking about and was no help at all.

Gabe said, “I told you. In third grade, I drew a sunset and me and Blaze walking on the beach, and a verse on the bottom. The sunset was too big and everything was squished on the bottom and you said I should have put the verse in the sun. You didn’t buy it. Another year, there was no choice to buy just one magnet, you had to buy two magnets and you said two magnets were too expensive, so you didn’t buy it. You never buy my magnet!”

I have no evidence to refute this “horrible Mother” charge although I continue looking for it. There must be a magnet somewhere. Somewhere in the mess of his room, it must be hiding. Otherwise, I must admit that the endless accusation of “It’s not fair!” has clear cut evidence to back it up.

Dale, only occasionally looking out for my best interest and ever in pursuit of the “Best Dad” moniker, immediately proclaimed, “I’m buying the ‘Beware’ magnet, even if I have to buy two!” He then proceeded to scan in the ‘Beware’ picture, print out copies and affix them to all the magnets on the Fridge.

“Mom of the Year” looks pretty remote for 2010, and now “Wife of the Year” is out as well.

Beware

Oct 29 2010

Run, Run, Run, Punt!

Posted by Mugs @ 1:52 pm in school,Sightseeing

Many individuals are die hard fans of their collegiate sports teams, especially college football. However, I must admit that I am not a die hard Army football fan. Although I love professional football and the Chicago Bears (I disregard all claims that there were years when the play of the Chicago Bears did not qualify as professional football.), I never completely warmed up to the Army Team.

This might have resulted from the fact that throughout four college football seasons, I never completely warmed up at all. For all cadets, it was mandatory to stand and cheer throughout the entirety of each football game: no matter how wet, how cold, how miserable, how exhausted, how much homework needed done. Stand and cheer. Cheer a team that played the option and on occasion won a game.

This really was no fault of the players. They played their hearts out. This really was no fault of the coach. He coached his best. This was a result of the fact that all cadets must serve in the Army after they graduate. No one gets an exception and goes on to play professional sports. The Air Force makes exceptions, the Navy makes exceptions, the Army makes no exceptions.

All graduating players, just months after the end of the season, must make Army weight standards and be ready to serve. This is what makes the option the only option.

These lack of options inspire cadets, forced to watch loss after loss, to come up with other ways to stay warm and entertained throughout each football game.

Dale and his company mates found their entertainment by periodically yelling “dog pile” and then all jumping on top of some poor individual until there was a massive pile of bodies. (Amazingly, throughout all four years, they never grew tired of this.)

In shape individuals found their entertainment by jumping down on to the sidelines after an Army score and doing the number of push ups equivalent to Army’s current score. (Luckily for their egos, Army’s score was never too incredibly high.)

Loud individuals chanted along to their favorite inane cheers led by Mike Man (The guy on the microphone or megaphone): “We got the Spirit…Yeah, Yeah…We got the Spirit…Yeah, Yeah…We got the Spirit…Yeah, Yeah…What, What, What, What, What, What.” They would also whistle repeatedly in an attempt to goad someone (the Supe, a professor, the red cross lady or any poor sad sack walking past) into doing the rocket: “Boom…Ah…USMA…Rah! Rah!…USMA…Rah! Rah!…Hoorah! Hoorah!…Army…Rah!…Team…Team…Team!”

My favorite time of the game was just prior to the fourth quarter when the pep band would play the William Tell overture. All the cadets would grab their hats in their fists and pump them up and down to the beat of the music. As a firm believer in the rally cap, this was my biggest show of support.

Unfortunately, in the name of decorum, many of these “keep yourself entertained” actions are no longer done within the Corps of Cadets. I am quite certain “passing people up” (grabbing someone walking in front of the Corps and transporting them over the heads of the cadets from the bottom of the bleachers to the top and, unfortunately, assaulting them along the way) and “dog piles” were officially banned.

I do not know if pumping your hat in your fist for the William Tell was banned as well, but cadets no longer do it. We old grads stood up to pound our hats for William Tell and looked across in dismay at the current cadets just standing there. It was a sad sight to see.

Thankfully, the cadets still do push ups, and although I couldn’t hear to be certain, I believe Mike Man, painted all green, was still leading them in inane cheers.

One thing was certain. Cadets continue to shout “Beat Navy!” at every possible occasion. It is written everywhere, it is engraved everywhere, and there is still the undying hope that it will someday happen again. Even my class of old grads, as the Corps passed in review in front of us, upon spotting a midshipman in the ranks, began to yell out, “Beat Navy!” over and over. The midshipman, kept his eyes forward, but smiled slightly, understanding well that it is more of a wish then a likely event.

Therefore, these unwritten words will ever remain within the Army Fight Song:

The Army team’s the pride and dream of every heart in gray. The Army line you’ll ever find a terror in the fray. And when the team is fighting for the Black and Gray and Gold, We’re always near with song and cheer and this is the tale we’re told: The Army team…(At this moment in the fight song, the band plays a tune that cadets accompany with the following unwritten words: Run! Run! Run! Punt!) On, brave old Army Team. On to the fray. Fight on to victory, For that’s the fearless Army way.


Oct 28 2010

The View From the Back

Posted by Mugs @ 11:08 am in school,Sightseeing

Drill and Ceremonies were a significant part of daily life for most cadets. Unless you were blessed with great athletic ability that propelled you onto a varsity team, you suffered through Drill and Ceremonies with the rest of the Corps.

It was a part of the daily afternoon grind. We practiced drill a couple afternoons a week and had parades every Saturday morning and whenever else a “Dog and Pony Show” was required. On the other afternoons, we played intramural sports for our companies. (Yet another Rock Swimming Tale: When I was a Plebe, my company forced me to do intramural swimming because they were lacking swimmers. I presented my case that West Point had verified that I could not swim. They would not listen. I DQ’d every time.)

There were no optional events at West Point. You would be where you were told to be when you are told to be there, and in the uniform designated. The uniform for Drill was no joy to wear. Everything had to shine and line up right, and the hat was ridiculous.

When Mr. Kilkenny (Sean’s dad, a 1961 grad) attended West Point, they assigned a cadet to his company based on height. The tallest guys were in A1 and the shortest guys were in M1. Mr. Kilkenny, who is short, was in M1. In 1961, there was only one regiment with 13 companies. In 1990, there were 4 regiments with 9 companies each.  Unfortunately for me, they did away with the height assignment rule.

Having attended the Prep School, I had hoped to be assigned to 4th regiment, because it was the laid back regiment. Cadets referred to company C4 as Civilian 4. It seemed the perfect place for me. However, the Academy, having tossed out the height assignment rule, assigned me to A1. Somehow I managed to survive, by the skin of my teeth, a company whose motto is “Be Straight or Be Gone!”

Although the entire Corps no longer parades from tallest company to shortest company, within each company, a cadet is assigned a marching position based on height. I spent my parade years marching at the end of the line in the back left corner (orientation is from my view). The tallest guy was in the front right corner and is the right guide. He is given the command to “Guide on Line,” and the rest of us have to line up off of his position.

As a result of my location, I did not see much during parades other than the back of everyone else. My one glimpse of the muckety mucks we were marching for came during the eyes right salute as we passed the reviewing party. They were usually in uniform and if not, they were most likely wearing black, dark blue  or gray.

When we marched for the old grads, they were almost always in somber colors. At some point, during my four years I determined that if ever I returned as an old grad (thereby forcing the cadets to parade for me), I would wear purple or red to liven up the scene.

During reunion, while watching the pass in review in my purple sweater, I had to finally accept that there was one advantage to being in company A1. A1 finished marching and was back at the barracks, long before H4 (They did away with the I’s) even left the Plain.

Oct 26 2010

Grateful, I Am, to Remember Dear Friends

Posted by Mugs @ 11:19 am in Family,school

For all those worried that my reunion was completely miserable: Fear Not! Surviving adversity, usually brings you some dear friends. Friends for the thick and thin. Friends you don’t see for years, but you talk to like you saw them yesterday. Friends with memories and stories full of adventure and laughs. You laugh together now, because you survived it way back then.

One of our favorite stories of survival was being in Rock Swimming with O’Neil Miller. Everyone gets tested on their swimming ability when they arrive at West Point. Those occupying the bottom rankings were called rock swimmers. (To keep things consistent, if you were in the bottom level of Calculus, you were in rock math.)

I was a rock swimmer, because I couldn’t sink. Dale was a rock swimmer, because he didn’t know any swim strokes, O’Neil was a rock swimmer because he had no body fat and he sank like a stone.

To pass rock swimming, you had to bob and travel, and swim the length of the pool. One day, O’Neil was determined to pass. He started swimming the length of the pool. All of us fellow rock swimmers clung to the sides and watched with a sense of horrible fascination. He was swimming almost completely under the water with only an occasional burst upward for air. He was doing well. He was going to make it. We were silently cheering him on.

Then 2/3’s of the way to the end, O’Neil suddenly lifted his head out of the water and looked at how much farther he had to go. He then promptly dropped to the bottom of the pool like the rock that he was.

We all looked around in sheer terror. We loved O’Neil and really did not want to watch him die, but there was no way any of us could help. We were rock swimmers just like him, and we feared we would end up in the same place.

Luckily, our swim instructor (who had a heart with as much feeling as a rock) said simply “I’ll save him.” He then stepped off the side of the pool and went straight down and a few seconds later came straight up dragging O’Neil with him.

We laughed with relief to be able to retell this tale to O’Neil and his wife Allison.

Most fond memories and tall tales were told with company mates. After 4 years together in the same company the memories and laughs come easy. Seeing my Beast and Plebe Squad mates really made me smile. All those horrible minute calling memories to relive. Plebe year, my roommate Kristin, so worried over my endless lateness, would ping (walk very quickly along the wall) to hand me notes in the shower. (You’d get in trouble for talking in the shower, so Kristin was forced to write me notes to tell me to hurry up.)

Dale’s old roommate, Sean, is just as surly today as he was twenty years ago. I used to have to bring him food to placate him so that I could visit Dale in his room. I believe, from the moment Sean was born, he was destined to be a cranky old guy yelling at the neighbor kids to get off his lawn.

In a bit of repeating the past, we went to Sean’s dad’s (1961 grad) tailgate after the football game just as we used to when we were cadets. He is still there in the same spot, making the same chili all these years later. That, of course, was the highlight of the reunion for Dale.

Grateful, I am, to remember dear friends

Old stories retold and laughed at again.

A face you behold, and think…”There’s my friend!”

A handshake, a hug. “How are you? is asked.”

The time goes too quickly, the day goes too fast.

And sometimes you fret, “Why do I know him?”

You smile and nod, but the retrieval is dim.

Then on the way home the memories come.

Of cards played together to a significant sum.

When it resurfaces, you regret a lot.

He was my dear friend and I forgot.

Oct 24 2010

Making Peace With It

Posted by Mugs @ 9:10 pm in school

One of the lessons I was taught when I attended the writer’s training workshop was to capture an event as soon after it happens as possible. When you do this, you capture the emotions and feelings in your language and the event resonates more accurately from your perspective.

Unfortunately, sometimes in life, I do not wish to capture those emotions and feelings, because they cut too sharply or are all mixed up. I can’t think straight and therefore I can’t write straight.

West Point, like always, brings this out in me.

There are events in each life (whether good or bad, liked or disliked) that shape who you are and how you view the world. My 1 year at the West Point Prep School and my 4 years at West Point helped to shape who I am. (As a bonus, they also kept me in shape.)

Although I did love the Prep School, those 4 years at West Point weren’t the life event I value the most (Primarily because it felt like attempting to survive a prison.) Becoming a Christian, The Meloch family, Growing up in Northern Minnesota, Dale, Our children, The body of Christ, and Army life (Hawaii, Australia) have in my eyes been more valuable parts of my life. Yet, West Point was and (surprisingly) remains significant to me.

Last month, as we approached our 20th class reunion, I thought I had made peace with the place and my four years there. I had a much better attitude going into the 20th reunion than I did during the 10th. Yet, there are things which remain and reemerge when I am back on The Plain that can spike my emotions so very quickly.

West Point’s motto of Duty, Honor, Country is ingrained in most graduates. Returning to the Plain, forces each graduate to assess their choices following graduation. Whether one served 5 years or 20 years, most graduates wonder if they could have or should have given more, served longer, made different choices.

I struggled with this more during my 10th reunion when my choice of family over Army was still new.  This reunion, it was Dale who stood assessing his choice of family over Army. This was his last reunion as an Army Officer. Life choices, even if they are the best ones,  are seldom without regrets.

Another thing that springs to life on The Plain are memories: some strong, some faded, some good, some bad. There are regrets for actions taken so long ago. There are people I wish I could apologize to, but they are not there. Even if I saw them, I question whether or not it would be helpful to apologize or whether it is best to leave it unspoken and hopefully forgotten. I wish to be forgiven, but, regretfully, I am not quite so willing to forgive others.

Prior to 1976, West Point was a male only University. My Class (1990) was the tenth class containing both men and women. Men outnumbered women 10 to 1. Most people, when a part of the minority, whether race, gender, etc. will encounter people who view them negatively simply because they are different. Many people adhering to this negative view, will simply ignore you. There are those, however, who actively persecute you.

In word or deed, outwardly or secretly, they actively work to push you towards failure or quitting. Purposefully attempting to isolate you from the group. During a cadet’s first year, it is the job of the upperclassmen to actively persecute the Plebes. Every Cadet received this persecution at one level or another.

However, to receive this persecution after the first year, especially from your own classmates, wears you down. This was the daily experience of many of my dear friends at West Point. Although I experienced some of it, my every day life was by no means as harsh as theirs. For receiving a reprieve, I can mostly thank the man I married.

He would often hear rants against women at West Point and then suddenly, the individual spouting off would realize who they were talking to, and hastily bring their opinion to the following conclusion:  “Well, not Mugs, of course.”

For myself, over the years, I have set the following standard: If one individual from a minority group defies my prejudicial beliefs, maybe I should reconsider whether or not my prejudicial beliefs are valid.

At the beginning of this month, I returned to West Point for our reunion, but some dear friends would not. Once again, I encountered those who chose an unkind path. I avoid the ones still consumed with their self righteous arrogance and demeaning attitudes with a simple “He hasn’t changed.” (At Mom’s 50th High School reunion, one guy actually insulted her. When he walked away, I declared “What a jerk!” Mom, a bit flustered, answered, “Yes, and he was a jerk 50 years ago too.”)

The more difficult encounters are with those who appear to have genuinely changed. Marriage, children, war, illness, difficult life circumstances, or simply growing up has transformed them from what they once were. They are nice people now with nice wives and nice families and nice things to say and hugs and smiles.

The world comforts me with the assurance that whether changed or unchanged, I don’t have to forgive them. I like that choice.

Unfortunately for my flesh, but fortunately for my spirit, I live by a different standard. One set by God. Whether or not they remember what they’ve done, whether or not they are sorry for what they’ve done, whether or not they ask for forgiveness.

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:12-15

It is a high standard God sets for us, and I often think I am in the clear. I think I have forgiven them until I am forced to see them again, to think about them again, to interact with them again.

Once again I must pray, “Lord, I forgive them.”

And hope that before the next reunion rolls my way, I can truly make peace with the place.