Living outside the lines

I have no home on this Earth.

I have an address – I’ve always had one of those – but there’s no place I call home any more.

Born in Cleveland, I moved to the Detroit area when I was 8 with my parents and sister. After six years there, we relocated to New Kensington, Pa., on the Allegheny River northeast of Pittsburgh.

We lived there four years. That’s where I graduated from high school.

I’d never been back to New Kensington until last month, when my high school class hosted an afternoon picnic at the local park. I remembered playing one year of Little League baseball at that park. It’s in a shady spot with newly redone pavilions, which came in handy during a five-minute downpour.

After high school my family moved to northern New Jersey, near New York City, where my sister graduated from high school. They made the move during the fall semester of my freshman year at Michigan State University, so at Christmas break, I went home to a house I’d never seen before.

Summer during my college years took place in three states – back in Pennsylvania as a camp counselor, one summer in New Jersey and then I stayed in East Lansing, Mich.

After graduating from MSU, I landed a job in my career field – journalism – with a weekly newspaper based in St. Ignace, Mich., on the northern side of the Mackinac Bridge in the Upper Peninsula. I was the reporter in the Cedarville office, 30 miles east and a long-distance phone call away from my boss in St. Ignace. I lived in Pickford, 11 miles north of Cedarville.

It’s nothing to drive 10 or 20 or 50 miles to attend a meeting or a social function in the U.P. There’s very few traffic lights, so you just jump in your car and go.

I basically learned how to drive up there – in a Chevette. Of course, it snowed in winter. A lot. And got very cold (40 below zero temperatures one time). I invested in an engine heater to keep the coolant circulating all night so it wouldn’t freeze. Just unplug the car from the wall outlet, and away I went. No problem.

They plow the roads. Snow wasn’t a problem for me; ice was. The Chevette was so light, it didn’t take much to get it sliding into a snowbank.

A year and a half after moving to Pickford, I got married and transferred to the main office in St. Ignace. That’s where we spent the first year of our married life.

My wife found a job in Saginaw, Mich., about three hours south along Interstate 75. So we moved there. I showed up at The Saginaw News and basically said, “Here I am, hire me.”

Little did I know that my boss in St. Ignace knew the news editor in Saginaw, and gave me a good recommendation.

We lived in Saginaw for 27 years, raising our three sons. That’s by far the longest I’ve lived anywhere.

As we all know, the newspaper industry has struggled mightily in recent years. The entire industry underestimated the power of the World Wide Web. Instead of embracing it, newspapers fought it as the enemy – and lost. Big time.

My job disappeared when our youngest son was in high school. I worked in a call center in Saginaw until he graduated, then started job-searching again. The Saginaw chapter of my life had ended.

We landed in Rockford, Ill., west of Chicago, and were there about 14 months. During that time, the company I worked for announced it was relocating to Austin, Texas. We decided that was too far from our sons, my parents and other family members, so I dusted off the resume again and landed in Elyria, Ohio.

That newspaper job lasted 13 months. I was an outsider. The newsroom management were (are) not. We never clicked. My St. Ignace-Saginaw-Rockford ideas did not mesh with their longstanding traditions. Both are valid, but we couldn’t reconcile. I was the odd man out.

We decided not to move again. I changed careers and found a job I enjoy here in Elyria.

Will we remain here for the rest of our lives? Possibly. But I thought we’d stay in Saginaw until we retired, and that didn’t happen.

During job interviews, the interviewer often asks, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I always tried to tell him what he wanted to hear. The truth is: I haven’t the vaguest idea. Maybe here. Maybe someplace I haven’t even thought of yet.

Even a year ago, did anyone foresee a Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump presidential race? Who can possibly predict the future with any accuracy?

In the Spring 2016 issue of the Pioneer Press, an Elyria Schools publication, Superintendent Tom Jama included this paragraph in his report:

 

We’re focused on hiring qualified residents and graduates of Elyria for vacancies in the district, because we have an “all-in” attitude and we believe that it matters when you’re rooted in your community.

 

That’s great, except that I’ll never be qualified to work there because I’m not “rooted in” my community. I’m not a graduate here. I’m an outsider and always will be, even though I live here now.

The Cleveland Cavaliers just won the NBA championship, breaking a 52-year spell that longsuffering fans endured. I wrote a blog about it:

https://billcornishwordpresscom.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/cleveland-deserves-a-celebration/

I wrote that blog as an outsider. I did not live through that 52-year drought. This region deserves to celebrate. Let Northeast Ohio enjoy this moment.

Next year, the NBA will crown another champion (unless the Cavaliers repeat). Life goes on. Another city will raise the trophy and hold a parade.

That’s my perspective. I’ve seen champions everywhere I’ve lived:

  • The year we lived in Rockford, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup hockey championship (one of three they’ve won this decade).
  • We lived in Michigan when the Tigers won the World Series (1968 and 1984), the Pistons won the NBA championship (1989, 1990 and 2004) and the Red Wings won four Stanley Cups (1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008).
  • The Spartans won the NCAA basketball championship with Magic Johnson during my freshman year at MSU, and in 2000 when we lived in Saginaw.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl in 1975 and 1978, during my high school years.

Champions come and go.

I hold on to life loosely. All of us will die someday; it surprises me that most of us don’t do more to prepare for the inevitable. Whenever my time comes, even if it’s not for another 40 years, no heroic measures for me. Let me go.

I’m ready to meet Jesus. I won’t get downsized from His home, fired from heaven, or relocated.

Nothing is guaranteed on Earth. Perhaps we take life too seriously.

Or not seriously enough.

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Cleveland deserves a celebration

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
And have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Psalm 13:1-2

 

This is terribly out of context, but I imagine longtime residents and sports fans in Cleveland understand King David’s feelings of despair.

After 52 years – half a century – without a major sports championship, this city on the shores of Lake Erie finally got its prayers answered on Sunday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the National Basketball Association championship over the favored (and defending champion) Golden State Warriors.

The Cavs are led by a king. (That’s LeBron James’ nickname. King James. A tough moniker to live up to, but he’s done it.)

Cleveland sports history

The Cavaliers began as an NBA expansion team in 1970. The franchise has won five Central Division championships (1976, 2009, 2010, 2015 and 2016), three Eastern Conference championships (2007, 2015 and 2016) and reached the playoffs 20 times in its 46-year history, but had not won a championship until this week.

The Cleveland Indians, the city’s Major League Baseball team, was one of the American League’s eight charter franchises when the league was formed in 1901. In more than 100 years playing the grand old game, the team has won the World Series only twice – in 1920 and 1948.

Diehard Indians fans remember 1997, when closer Jose Mesa gave up the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 against the Florida Marlins. The Marlins would win the game – and the Series – by scoring a run in the 11th inning.

So close, and yet …

Then there’s the Browns, the team that Cleveland fans follow with the most passion, year in and year out. Colleagues at my former workplace call Cleveland “Browns Town.”

The National Football League’s Browns won the city’s last major sports championship in 1964 – when Lyndon Johnson was president and a year after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated – defeating the Baltimore Colts 27-0.

Back then the Browns were a powerhouse. They also won the NFL championship three times in the 1950s; every year from 1946 to 1949, they won the championship of the All-America Football Conference, before joining the NFL.

The Browns left for Baltimore in 1996 as the Ravens, still a sore spot among fans, and re-formed in Cleveland as an expansion team in 1999. They have not won their division since re-forming, and have made the playoffs only once since then.

A long, bumpy road

 

Hope springs eternal in the human breast.

“An Essay on Man” (1734) by Alexander Pope

 

Since moving to the Cleveland area 2.5 years ago, I’ve felt that the residents of Northeast Ohio have an inferiority complex, almost a “here we go again” mentality, only worse. We expect our teams to come up short. We blame the refs. Karma. Bad luck. Weather. The Drive. The Shot. The Fumble.

Cleveland fans have stories. Oh, they have stories.

Even last week some Cavaliers fans were saying the NBA Finals were rigged against them, so Golden State could begin a dynasty and so ABC could improve its TV ratings.

And yet …

LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James. (Associated Press file)

 

The Cavaliers drafted LeBron James – who grew up in nearby Akron – with the first overall pick in 2003. After playing for seven seasons in Cleveland, he bolted for the Miami Heat. When LeBron returned to the Cavaliers in 2014 after winning two NBA titles with the Heat, the Cavs became relevant again. An instant title contender. Overnight, top players wanted to play in Cleveland with LeBron.

The team reached the NBA Finals a year ago, but with two top players – Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – sidelined with injuries, the Cavs could not defeat Golden State’s talent.

Although LeBron had won championships before, many of his Cleveland teammates had not. By living through the pressure of a long playoff run and the bright lights of the championship spotlight, they learned what it takes to win at that level.

This year, they completed the task.

Time to celebrate

The Indians today are in first place in the American League’s Central Division. After a 52-year drought, can two Cleveland teams bring home championships in the same year?

Why not?

The spell is broken. (We never had a curse, like the Chicago Cubs do or the Boston Red Sox did.)

Today, Cleveland is a championship city.

A parade to honor the Cavaliers is scheduled for Wednesday morning, with hundreds of thousands expected to flood downtown for the celebration.

Let’s keep the party rolling. With all that’s going on in politics and life in general these days, we need some good news around here.

We got some good news. Great news. Champions!

Thank you, LeBron. Your leadership, by word and by example, has proved invaluable.

It’s time to step back and celebrate.

Difficult times will come again, I’m sure. But for 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers are NBA champions. Period. They earned it.

Now, they are sharing it with us.

“Believeland” is real.

Orlando: The enemy is us

The finger-pointing is in full swing.

Violence. Guns. Islamic terrorists. Mental illness. LGBT haters. Politicians. Immigration.

Why would a 29-year-old American with Afghanistan roots massacre 50 people and injure that many more in a nightclub as it closes in the wee hours of Sunday morning?

We rant and scream. We point fingers.

We want justice. Or, we think we do.

If we knew the true cause of that crime, perhaps we wouldn’t be so quick to judge.

Massacres make headlines. Media drop everything and show us the horror.

We’ve had far too many of those in recent years. A gunman killed 27 people, mostly children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 (was that really 3.5 years ago?). Another gunman killed 32 and wounded 25 at Virginia Tech University in April 2007. The Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013 killed “only” three but wounded 260 others.

How do such things happen?

Because we allow them.

Violence

Violent crimes happen every day. Massacres don’t happen every day, of course, but the day-to-day killings add up.

For example, 278 people have died in Chicago so far this year. The city suffered 492 murders last year, 427 in 2014, 422 in 2013 and 509 in 2012.

https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/2012-chicago-murders

Why so little outcry nationwide?

Far more people have died in Chicago than died in Orlando last weekend. I even saw this headline dated Sunday morning: 5 Killed, 28 Wounded In Weekend Shootings Across Chicago

http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2016/06/12/5-killed-28-wounded-in-weekend-shootings-across-chicago/

Did anybody outside Chicago even notice?

Why do we wait for big numbers to scream bloody murder? Do we not notice day-to-day crime, especially in inner cities, because much of it is black-on-black crime?

As a society, why don’t we care? Are we so numb to violence that we overlook it, until it reaches extreme levels?

Guns

U.S. residents own about one gun per person in this country. In 2014, 31 percent of U.S. households owned at least one gun – down from 37 percent the year before. In 1977, 50.4 percent of U.S. households possessed a gun.

http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/united-states

People, of course, own guns for various reasons. The vast majority have no intent to kill or injure other people with them.

Islamic terrorists

The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, called 911 during the attack to pledge allegiance to ISIS and mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers, according to a U.S. official. His ex-wife said she thinks he was mentally ill.

I wrote a blog in January comparing Christianity with Islam. The Qur’an, Islam’s sacred book, includes this passage:

“Therefore, when you meet the Unbelievers (in fight), strike at their necks; at length, when you have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them); thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom; until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are you commanded): but if it had been God’s Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself); but (He lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the way of God, He will never let their deeds be lost.” – Sura 47, v. 1-4

Those who follow Islam closely see “Unbelievers” as enemies.

As with any religion, however, not all who follow Islam do so literally or passionately. To say all Muslims practice hate is very likely not true. Many people who claim to be Christians don’t really follow Christ and his teachings, either.

Mental illness

While these statistics matter, they don’t explain our country’s fascination with violent deaths.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. — 43.8 million, or 18.5% — experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.
  • 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.
  • 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.
  • An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness, and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.
  • Approximately 20% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have “a recent history” of a mental health condition.
  • Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9% received mental health services in the past year.
  • African Americans and Hispanic Americans used mental health services at about one-half the rate of Caucasian Americans in the past year, and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate.
  • Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults age 18 – 44.

LGBT haters

While gay and lesbian folks are becoming more mainstream and accepted in society at large, including a U.S. Supreme Court ruling a year ago legalizing same-sex marriage, many people in this country do not support that lifestyle.

Many opponents to the gay-lesbian lifestyle practice the Christian faith. The Bible clearly states its opposition to homosexuality, although it also talks about loving all types of people. These statements are interpreted very differently depending on which side of the debate you are on.

But as with gun owners, the vast majority of practicing Christians do not support violence against anyone – even if they disagree with a person’s lifestyle. There are exceptions, but most Christians are joining everyone else in opposing the Orlando massacre.

Politicians

President Obama is not to blame for the Orlando tragedy. Neither the president, Congress nor anyone else in Washington, D.C., can legislate morality. The president cannot force us to practice peace if we choose not to.

All the laws in the world cannot change our hearts. Laws reveal our shortcomings and show us where we need protection.

Immigration

No, Mr. Trump, building a wall to keep illegal immigrants out will not solve this problem either.

Our country was founded by immigrants. Why? They sought relief from government and religious persecution in England.

Let that sink in. Are we re-living history, because we have forgotten why this country was born?

Nearly all of us are immigrants, really. Even if we were born here, our ancestors weren’t, if we go back far enough – and many of us don’t have to go back all that far.

The root cause of violence

All of these issues may play a role in what we have become today as a society, but none of them is the root cause of our bent toward violence.

We get upset when 50 people die in one horrific scene, but not when 278 people die over a five-month period in one city. When a frog is placed in a pot of water and the heat is gradually turned up (Chicago), the frog dies slowly without realizing it. Throw that frog into a pot of water that is already boiling (Orlando), and it will die instantly.

Either way, the frog dies.

Chicago matters as much as Orlando does. Maybe more, because more people have died there.

Until we understand this and change our hearts – one at a time, each of us as individuals – the United States will continue to drown in its tears of violence. Have we not had enough yet?

The enemy is us.

We cannot legislate change. We cannot take away guns or add more guns; neither will end violence. We must respect other people, even if we disagree with their lifestyle.

Stop the finger-pointing. All of it. Look at your own heart.

That’s where the solution lies.

You can’t plead The Fifth. You can’t avoid the voting booth and let someone else decide. The answer to violence in America depends on you. And me.

The future of our nation is at stake here. Perhaps your own individual future, too. How do you know it’s not?

Which side are you on? What will you do about it?

When driving, it’s not about you

I drive for a living now, so I’m on the road a lot. I see accidents waiting to happen all the time.

I hope I never see anything like what happened in Kalamazoo, Mich., Tuesday night – five bicyclists killed and four others injured when a pickup truck plowed into them.

Apparently several 911 callers alerted authorities that this truck’s driver was acting erratically even before the collision.

I personally have seen several drivers weaving across lanes, but never to the extent that I was tempted to call 911. I saw a semi-truck weaving one time. I prefer to stay behind such vehicles, since if they’re going to hit something, I’d rather it not be me.

Bikes,  motorcycles and buggies

I’ve seen bicyclists on main roads too, some in bike lanes and some on streets that don’t have a bike lane. I passed a bicyclist the other day on a two-lane, 40 mph road. I just slowed down, made sure oncoming traffic passed by, then edged around the cyclist. It slowed me down for a few seconds, but that’s all. No big deal.

I see bumper stickers and signs all the time to watch out for motorcycles. That’s a different animal. Unlike bicyclists, they move at posted speeds. I do see them – except for those who swerve between vehicles at twice the speed limit. Those I do not see.

I’ve shared pavement with Amish buggies pulled by a horse. This isn’t the Kentucky Derby. They aren’t racing. I often see them plodding along on hilly two-lane roads. I recently came up behind one as it neared the crest of a hill – which I could not see over. So, I chugged along at one horsepower speed until we crested the hill and I could look for oncoming traffic.

I passed when it was safe.

I drive slowly through neighborhoods, slower than many other drivers do. Why? Have you ever seen a child dart into the street? Or a basketball, football or Frisbee escape the driveway or yard and sail in front of your vehicle – or bump your vehicle? We raised three sons. Been there. Done that. Seen that.

I also walk or jog through our neighborhood, often on the street. Do you see me when you drive past?

Pavers and other road work machines

For those of you who are impatient drivers, I hope you don’t see as many construction zones as I do. I travel on one five-lane road that’s down to two lanes, one each way, because it’s being repaved. When someone wants to turn left, it halts the entire lane of traffic. It’s not unusual for that mile-and-a-half drive to take 15 minutes or more.

I drive that road twice a day.

That doesn’t even count utility workers who block several hundred yards of a traffic lane for a period of time, or tree service workers doing the same thing. I see this nearly every day as well. Or backhoes, front-end loaders and dump trucks in the way while their operators are replacing sewer lines alongside or under the road.

Roll out the barrel.

Oh, deer

Did I mention deer? Around here, we have lots of them. While driving, I see deer most days. Sometimes on the road in front of me. Frequently in a field or in brush near the pavement. This morning, one deer dashed into the road in front of me and another driver. Both of us were alert, and we slammed on our brakes to let the deer pass. Thankfully, the car driving on my tailpipe saw what was going on and stopped, too.

That, by the way, is one of my biggest fears: Someone tailgating me won’t see an emergency in front of me, and will rear-end my van. If you drive like that, back off, please. You make me very nervous.

What’s my point here? As a driver, I see many distractions every day. I have to pay attention to what I’m doing.

I saw one news article after the Kalamazoo tragedy saying that perhaps bicyclists should not be allowed to share the road with cars and trucks any more. Because one driver, possibly a drunk driver, couldn’t control his vehicle? That’s like saying we should shut down the Cincinnati Zoo because one child fell into a gorilla exhibit. One time.

There’s a reason we have drunk-driving laws. There’s a reason we don’t want you texting while driving. It’s to protect not only you, but the rest of us as well.

Just ask the families of those bicyclists in Kalamazoo.

My heart goes out to them. I’m so sorry.

It’s not about you

I drive defensively because I cannot afford to replace our vehicles every year, and neither can my employer. We have to take care of them. The potential for physical injuries and loss of life should be reason enough to drive safely; protecting our material assets should matter, too.

There are enough distractions outside the front windshield. You don’t need more troubles inside your vehicle, or inside your body.

Pay attention. For my sake.

The world does not revolve around you. Look up. Look out. See what’s going on around you. There’s plenty out there to keep you engaged.

When our sons were learning to drive, I gave them one piece of advice: Get there. Wherever you’re going, get there. No matter how long it takes. No matter what distractions you face. Take a deep breath if you have to.

Just get there.