Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

She was the first to show me that a princess could save the day, both in fiction and reality.

She used her talents to entertain and educate, both on the screen and on the pages, and used her battles to show us all how to recognize and defeat our personal demons. She was sharp and acerbic, could disarm internet trolls in seconds, and proved that no matter the adversity, you can always make a comeback.

She will always be royalty to me.

 

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Cordé, the Loyal and Loving

 

Cordé, the Loyal and Loving
(2003-2016)

corde pose

 

Sunday was tough.

We had known for a while that Sunday was inevitable, but that didn’t make the choice any easier. Sometimes the right choices aren’t the easy ones. The vet told us that she was willing to do anything within her power to help us, but the desperate plea for thirty more years with our beautiful girl was not something she could manage.

Cordé had been with us for nearly thirteen years. She was a road-side rescue in South Carolina, and when she came to our home, she was a tiny ball of scraggly brown fur infested with ticks, fleas, and worms. I was adamant that a dog wouldn’t fit into our military lifestyle, but Rosalyn asked me to hold the puppy and think about it. All of my apprehension disappeared in the smallest of licks on the chin, and as my heart melted, I agreed to welcome her to our family under one condition: I got to name her.

I presented Rosalyn with a list of names, most of which came from Star Wars. The memories of the prequel era were fresh in my mind and I knew that this pup would fill a place in Rosalyn’s heart that our ornery cat never would. She would be a good companion for those lonely days, nights, weeks, and months that take me away from her side. Rosalyn chose Cordé.

We went to PetSmart and picked up supplies. When it came to toys, we quickly discovered two things: Regular tennis balls were just as big as she was, and someone had the foresight to make the most adorable miniature versions for smaller dogs. Cordé loved those little tennis balls, and she chased them all over our small fenced-in yard on the naval base. She was so upset when she outgrew them, and she never accepted full size tennis balls, settling on stuffed animals as her toy of choice.

 

Corde rocks

 

Cordé went on so many adventures with Rosalyn, including hikes in the mountains and trips to the beach. She loved the ocean from day one, from splashing in the waves to rolling in the warm sand, and it was almost second nature to her years later when we took a long weekend to Charleston and visited the beach again. The years rolled off that old dog as she trotted into the salty waters and immersed herself in her personal fountain of youth.

When we moved to Connecticut, our southern dog discovered snow. She fell in love with the cold white flakes, and any time that it snowed, she was so excited to go outside and play. After years away from it after we left Connecticut, she was overjoyed to visit family in Utah during the winter, and refused to come inside during a storm. After we pulled her inside, she raced down to the dog door and let herself out again, letting the snow bury her until she had her fill.  Nothing beats the sight of seeing a large mound of snow shake itself down into a medium-sized dog.

 

corde snow

 

Cordé’s heart was bigger than she was, and all she knew was how to give. When Rosalyn was upset, Cordé would dig a favorite toy out of the basket and drop it at Rosalyn’s feet. With all of that hair, she overheated easily, but if someone needed consolation, she offered just enough cuddle time to make things better. When things were good and the world was right, she was content just to lay on your feet and let you know that she was thinking of you. She loved visiting her friends and family, especially when it meant taking a ride to visit her aunts and uncles, and she was always overjoyed when we mentioned the airport because that meant we were bringing her a surprise guest.

She never forgot about how we met, either. I typically don’t like being licked by dogs, but she took great joy in waiting for the right time to stealthily reach out and give me a small puppy kiss on any exposed flesh she could find. I’d give her the most annoyed of looks and play up the drama, but still pet her on the head and scratch her ears in the way I knew she loved.

 

Corde Papers

 

When Cordé was a pup, an Army veterinarian told Rosalyn that our girl wouldn’t make it past the age of six. Cordé’s heart beat a bit fast, and she always panted, even when she was at rest. The doctor was concerned that she would simply exhaust herself at a young age, and after she turned six, we treated the next few years like precious gifts. Unfortunately, I started to take that time for granted. Cordé was our girl. She was a constant anchor of love that was always there and never failing.

Honestly, that’s my biggest regret.

Time slowly marched across her fur in waves of grey. She developed diabetes in her later years and slowed down as the years moved on. We introduced a pup named Jango, and his youth and companionship reinvigorated her for a while, but her moods began to shift as her mind started to go. Her eyesight faded, and her steps were less sure. She became forgetful and, at times, aggressive. She even started giving up her position as leader over Jango, including her second-favorite toy, the manatee.

Eventually her bad days outnumbered her good ones.

Saturday was a good day. She went for a walk, she played with Jango, she played study-buddy for Rosalyn, and she even spent time on our laps during a study break. On Sunday morning, she played fetch for a little bit before it was time to go to the vet. We went to discuss options, and the doctor offered them for everything but the mood shifts and aggressiveness. Based on indications, she speculated that it was the result of a stroke or brain lesion, and could only offer confirmation through expensive testing and the promise that it would only get worse with time.

We chose to remember the good days.

We said goodbye on the afternoon of May 22nd. We gave her a final home among the shady trees she loved so much, nestled with her favorite plush squirrel, where she will always be cool and on an adventure in the forest.

It was the hardest thing we have ever had to do in our lives.

 

Young Corde

 

I know that was the right thing to do, and that she’s no longer in pain. I believe that somewhere out there, perhaps at the foot of the Rainbow Bridge, she’s happy once again, chasing bunnies and birds and playing mother hen like she always did.

We miss her so much. I have never seen such a caring, loving, and empathetic dog in my life, and I’m deeply grateful for the years that she spent with us. It’s a debt that I feel like I can never repay, but I will certainly try by living up to the potential that Cordé saw in me.

Every morning as we got up and greeted the day, she would make the rounds and check on us. It was my turn on Monday, and I told her all of this as I made sure she rested soundly.

I will always love you, Cordé. Be good.

 

Corde thought

 

Ode to Spot

 

Ode to Spot
(2001-2016)

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Spot was our first companion.

After my wife and I got married, the Navy took us to Goose Creek, South Carolina for a year of nuclear power training. Both of us had grown up in pet-friendly households, so we adopted a small tabby, and my love of the android Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation guided us to a name. Spot loved the outdoors, but the military had a zero-tolerance policy for unleashed pets outside. Between that and the resident alligators, we chose to keep Spot confined to quarters unless she was out for a walk in her harness. My wife says that Spot would walk on leash for her, but she never would for me.

Even so, she was my cat.

When we moved to Connecticut for my tour on the Philadelphia, she was happy until the boat went to sea. I would give the furry kids a pat and tell them to be good, and my wife would drive me to the pier. When she came home without me, Spot blamed her for my absence. My wife lost so many pairs of good shoes to that cat’s misguided vengeance, particularly during deployment.

 

Spot and Corde

 

Connecticut was where Spot was happiest when she lived with us. We lived across the street from Mohegan Park in Norwich, which was a wooded haven for all sorts of creatures. We kept her up to date on all of her shots and preventatives so she could go out during the day, and every night before we went to bed, my wife would open the front door and call. Spot would barrel out of the trees and beeline for the house. During her escapades, she would bring home birds, mice, squirrels, and even fully-grown rabbits, sometimes leaving a respectful offering for us or her canine sister Cordé. Both of them were deeply offended when we wouldn’t let Cordé enjoy Spot’s gifts.

There was even a time when Spot was perched on the porch rail, hunkered down in the gentle twitches of a hunter’s stance, staring at a whitetail deer that was strolling down the road. We knew that our feline David was plotting the best way to take down her Goliath. Thankfully, she never did.

 

 

Spot Window Box

 

Her favorite place in the Connecticut house was a kitchen window box. It became her spot after she repeatedly evicted the flower pots: It was where we fed her, it was next to the carpet-covered play tree where she bounced from platform to platform and rained terror on the dog from above, it received ample sun, and it gave her a great view of the bird feeder. In the warmer months, we would open the window, and she would watch the birds through the screen, luring them with a gentle chirping noise. After a while, she’d request to go outside, and then she’d sneak up under that feeder with her chirping, lulling the birds to the ground in a false sense of security, and pounce on her next meal.

When we moved to our next duty station in Millington, Tennessee, we were surprised with a near immediate deployment, and when I got home, it became evident that I was allergic to cats. It was something that left us with a tough choice. We could keep her, but would have to survive by constantly medicating me and confining the cat from certain rooms, or we could find her a new home. We firmly believe that the choice to adopt a pet is a commitment to family, and my wife’s parents offered to give Spot a home. That way, we knew that she was a in a safe place with family, and we could visit when we were in town.

 

spot lounge

 

Spot moved to Utah for a time, and then to the evergreen woods of Washington where she absolutely thrived as a hunter and a friend. One time, a group of red squirrels moved into the garage, and Spot did her job of exterminating them one by one. The last one, however, gave her pause. It was the youngest of the group, and when Spot tried to deliver the killing blow, it hissed at her. Spot adopted and raised the squirrel, and later escorted it to a tree filled with gray squirrels where it made a new home. From time to time, Spot would visit the tree and meow, and the red squirrel would run down to visit, much to the chagrin of the alarmed grays.

It was in Washington that Spot said goodbye on the evening of February 25th, laid to rest where her squirrels could visit. She would have turned 15 this April.

If I could send one message to the foot of the Rainbow Bridge, I would ask that they take care of the newcomer. She’s a playful and feisty devil with the angelic heart of a conspiratorial dreamer. Most importantly, she understands love and family.

Good hunting, Spot. Thank you for being part of our family. We love you.

 

Christmas 2004

 

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

It’s difficult to fathom right now, but a legend is truly gone.

Leonard Nimoy, icon of the stage and screen, has died at the age of 83.

Similar to most fans of his work, I knew him best as the stoic Mr. Spock in the Star Trek franchise. In that role, Nimoy portrayed a half-human, half-Vulcan science officer who was (supposedly) devoid of emotions and driven purely by logic. Ironically, he was the lens through which the show could analyze the human condition. His character acted in concert and counterbalance with McCoy’s emotion and Kirk’s authority, and became an Aristotelian trifecta by embodying logos, punctuated by pathos and the ethos of expertise and (later) command. Spock was perhaps the most well-rounded and defined character in the franchise.

Mr. Spock helped me in my youth as a role model for my awkwardness and gracelessness in social situations. Spock was an outsider among the Enterprise crew, but was well-respected for being an expert in his field and was also a valued friend. He was my favorite original crew member.

Of course, Mr. Nimoy was more than Spock. Beyond Star Trek, he was an accomplished actor, both on screen and stage as well as off screen with his fantastic and easily recognizable voice. He also was a director, producer, writer, singer, poet, and photographer.

I had the chance to see him on a panel at Dragon*Con, and his candor and humor was admirable. He sparred quite well with William Shatner on that stage, and his passion for life was palpable.

He was a quick wit, a true artist, and a kind soul.

It’s easy to say that he will be missed. It’s hard to quantify just how much.

 

Spock Chair

Goodbye, Robin Williams

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Few celebrity deaths in recent times have hit me as hard that of Robin Williams. Unless I have met them in person, I usually see celebrities as people who entertain me for a living, but not as friends or family. It’s a nice touch to wave a greeting, shake hands, or even exchange a few words at a convention, but in general, they are strangers that I invite in for a few hours to make me laugh, cry, or think.

Robin Williams was different for me.

He made a mark with his unique style of original, lively, rapid-fire wit and delivery. His one-man stage shows were always fantastic – Live on Broadway had me in stitches for the entire duration – and his films were a centerpiece of my childhood’s cinematic awakening. He wasn’t family, but he was loved for the impacts he made on my life.

I first encountered him in Good Morning, Vietnam as he portrayed Airman Adrian Cronauer, a DJ for the Armed Force Radio Service. The film has always been my benchmark for his humor and zany voices, as well as his dramatic skills as the horrors of war caught up with Cronauer.

The second major slice of Williams in my life was in Disney’s Aladdin, where his mostly improvised on set lines were the lifeblood of one of my favorite entries from the Mouse House. The third biggest influence on my life from his catalog is the oft-maligned Hook, which grabbed me with the transition from Williams acting like a responsible adult to embracing the bang-a-rang child that is Peter Pan. Robin Williams made Hook work for me.

I adored his comedic turns in films like Happy Feet and Mrs. Doubtfire, and enjoyed his dramatic roles in Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting. I deeply enjoyed catching re-runs of Mork and Mindy, and even though his darker roles like One Hour Photo never clicked with me, I was glad to see him trying to break free of comedic typecasting.

Robin Williams made a major impact on both the industry and audiences, and the world is a much darker place without the light of his genius and wit. His death is both tragic and heartbreaking, and has come far too soon.

Godspeed, dearest genie, for you are free. You will be deeply missed.

May you rest in peace.

Memorial Day 2011

“In Flanders Fields”
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, Canadian Army (1872-1918)

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

History of “In Flanders Fields” via Arlington Cemetery

“Poppies in the Sunset on Lake Geneva” by Eric Hill, under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license via Wikipedia

Day of Infamy

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”    —President Franklin D. Roosevelt

May the 2,402 American military, 57 American civilian, and 64 Japanese military casualties rest in peace.