Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I will not honor Williams’s death

Robin Williams: 1951-2014 (Publicity photos)

But I will remember a comic and acting genius who gifted us for decades with laughter, tears.

The suicide of Robin Williams came as a shock to many of us. His genius was as readily apparent in his manic comedy as it was in his insightful, incredible talent as an actor. There is no doubt that the world has seen a shining star fall from the sky, its dazzling brilliance extinguished.

That his death was a suicide actually angered me for so many reasons — my own experiences dealing with depression throughout much of my own adult life, watching the pain of others struggling with the beast that Winston Churchill dubbed as his own “black dog,” and ultimately seeing the effect suicide has had on members of my own family.

Then, to my dismay, I started seeing Facebook posts asking people to “honor Williams’s death” by promoting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Missing ‘Time on the Water’

Several men wet their lines in the Fox River near Slade Avenue Park in Elgin, Illinois, as the sun sets on July 9, 2014. | Credit: Ted Schnell

Sometimes the things that matter require sacrifice.

Some may scoff, but I have found that fishing is a spiritual activity in many respects.

Just as water is a focal point for life, a lake or river that is habitable to fish and other aquatic life is a focal point for the beauty of God’s creation. The reflections and the motion of the waves have an allure that is almost hypnotic, demanding inward reflection that can bring clarity to clouded thoughts, peace to troubled minds, comfort to broken hearts. Such is has been my experience when fishing, times I have used as much as for prayer as for pleasure.

I have not been fishing since late summer or fall in 2010, just a few scant months before my first layoff in late 2010.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Wildwood Revisited: We've Changed Along with Our Fields of Dreams

A white-tail deer pauses beneath a willow tree that stands in a pasture area that once was home to a large pond in Burnidge Forest Preserve, west of Elgin, Illinois, on Thursday, July 3, 2014. | Credit: Ted Schnell

Childhood friends reunite after nearly four decades

The 1989 film Field of Dreams starred Kevin Costner as an Iowa farmer who follows the mantra, “If you build it, he will come,” building a baseball field amid his crop of corn, ultimately to recapture a piece of his childhood with his father.

Twenty-five years after that film’s release, three friends returned to their fields of dreams — the former pastures and farmland now known as Burnidge Forest Preserve, west of Elgin, Illinois. We had no need to build anything, for the fields in which we played and formulated our dreams for the future are still there.

Granted, things have changed. Thick brush and small woods of 30- to 40-year-old oaks, shagbark hickory and myriad other trees now cover the slopes of gentle hillsides once covered with waist-high grass that rolled like waves on a breezy day.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Not much to celebrate this Fourth
Credit: Beverly & Pack,

Independence loses meaning when you’re not working

Before I begin, I want to express my greatest respect and admiration for those who have fought for this country, who have sacrificed their lives, or were willing to put their lives on the line, to preserve our freedom.

You did not fail.

I fear, however, that many others have, from the citizenry to corporate America to those we have elected to public office.

That is why I find it incredibly difficult to celebrate a holiday centered on the theme of our nation’s independence, when in fact we live in a nation where much of the citizenry has been left little more than indentured servants. We’ve sucked fast to the empty promise of an American dream that’s really a marketing gimmick to get people to spend, not save.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

When did bigotry return to fashion?

Intolerance, lack of respect encourage double standard

I was shocked, saddened and, initially at least, more than a little angry over an encounter I had on Facebook in the middle of last week when I publicly shared a link to a story about an ACLU report critical of what it called the militarization of our police forces.

The encounter also left me asking: When did it ever become OK to refer to people as “white trash?” It is racist and reminiscent of the equally reprehensive term “trailer trash.” Ultimately, both terms are expressions of disdain or hatred based on economic status — in other words, they are class-based slurs. How can these kinds of terms be any less hateful than other racial or ethnic epithets?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Growing up in Wildwood

Burnidge Forest Preserve once was a largely grassy pastureland that was the playground upon which my neighbors and I played. | Ted Schnell

Former neighbor's death  recalls a great place to grow up, a remarkable legacy 

The legacy you leave behind is reflected, I think, in the quality of the people who loved you, knew you, respected you.

I write this not as I look back on my own life per se, although I find myself doing that a fair amount these days. I am at an age when men often do look back. I weight my failings against my accomplishment, all the while wondering such things as:
  • Have I changed the world as I once imagined I could?
  • What kind of legacy will I leave?
  • In a hundred years, will the way I lived, loved, worked, and believed have any relevance to anyone?

Ultimately, I suppose, it boils down to, “Will I have made a difference?”

I ponder these things once again just a day after attending a wake on Tuesday afternoon, May 27, 2014, for Phyllis O’Rourke, a St. Charles woman and former longtime Elgin resident.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Free speech and Donald Sterling

A constitutional right does not mean you are immune from consequences

I was appalled Tuesday, April 29, 2014, to see some people on Facebook citing the First Amendment as the basis for questioning the NBA’s decision to ban and fine Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

 I find it both ironic and sad that the amendment that lays out some of our base freedoms is so clearly misunderstood by the citizenry it protects: