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Friday, May 10, 2013

Embrace Your Inner Cool: Drive A Minivan

The minivan is awesome, and I'm tired of the self-righteous bashing of the minivan that has always accompanied its ownership.

My sister-in-law recently posed a question on social media about whether she should get an SUV or minivan, and although there was a lot of support for the minivan, many responders said the same thing, "You're too cool for a minvan."

What? Really? We're in our mid-30s and people are still trying to "be cool" by driving the right car?

I Know Cool

I've seen every episode of Happy Days. I studied the Fonz. I know how Zach Morris got away with everything at Bayside, and I modeled my high school years after him.

Okay, maybe the shoes I wear on the weekends cost less than the sushi lunch you ate today. So what if I have memorized all of the two-letter scrabble words? I suppose I do like to wear T-shirts with words like "Epcot" on them.

And, yes, I'm probably not up on all of the hip lingo, and how to properly use phrases like "just sayin'" or "see what I did there."

I'm still cool.

Okay, so that was a little tongue-in-cheek. The truth is, I think I'm cool for entirely different reasons than what I just addressed.

How Do You Define Cool?

Maybe the people who think they're too cool to drive a minivan feel that way because they are still thinking of "cool" like they did when they were 16. Maybe to them, cool is defined by wearing rolled up jeans and smoking a cigarette, riding a motorcycle, wearing leather jackets, and being a smart alec to authority figures.

But maybe cool, instead, means being comfortable with who you are. I've always admired people who are willing to be themselves, regardless of what others think. I think that is cool.

I guess I've always been comfortable in my own skin, more or less. Although I'm a white guy with marginal rhythm, I don't mind dancing in front of others. I'm not the most talented singer, though I'm not afraid to belt out a stanza or two to add a little fun and frivolity.

I say it's cool to be who you are, to embrace your station in life, and to forget about what your friends-who-are-still-trying-to-impress-each-other think.

Now that we've settled that, let's get back to the original question.

Why is there such an aversion to the minivan? Is it because the minivan so much uglier than an SUV?

Uh, no.

So what is it? I think part of it stems from a fear of growing up. It's the fear that you're turning into parents, or maybe even (for shame!) your parents. Is that such a bad thing?

What Does the Minivan in Your Driveway Say About You?

1. You don't care about others' definition of cool.
2. You're not afraid of being a parent, and announcing that fact to the world.
3. You're not afraid of being that guy who loves that his life is filled with noisy, stinky kids who aren't perfect.
4. You're not afraid that your high school days with slicked back hair and snarky Zach Morris comments are over.

The Top 10 Reasons Why Minivans Are Awesome

1. You can open and close the doors with the push of a button while carrying a crying baby, a screaming toddler, and 12 sacks of groceries.
2. 16 cup holders. That's not a joke. I counted.
3. Your 120 lb wife can throw a 26-pound double stroller in the back end without laying down seats or moving spare tires around.
4. Decent gas mileage.
5. There is plenty of room for a cooler, a box of toys, diapers, wipes, books, a purse, sports equipment, and a small refrigerator for trips.
6. Grandparents and other human beings over the age of 60 can sit comfortably, and they don't have to use a ladder to climb into your vehicle.
7. You might be able to squeeze in some people who aren't even family!
8. It's like a Delorean with the doors opening all by themselves!

9. If you buy one that is just a few years old, it can be quite affordable.
10. Did I mention the keyless doors?

We have literally travelled across the country, with kids, 5 1/2 times. We've done it in a station wagon, a 27-foot moving van, and a minivan. There's nothing like travelling in a minivan.

So, embrace the new cool. Embrace the fact that you're a parent, a soccer mom, a dad who wears cheap shoes, and that you want to be comfortable in your vehicle.

Listen, there are lots of reasons why buying a minivan may not be for you. But, your little "they aren't cool" excuse isn't a good enough reason to dismiss buying one.

Just sayin'.

See what I did there?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Military Silencing Religious Views? Maybe Not.

[Disclaimer: This is not an official statement by the Army, the Department of Defense, or any other organization. Opinions are my own. No legal advice is being given, and nothing within this post should be construed as such.] 

I have a message for members of the military concerned about their ability to express their faith: Don't worry. It hasn't yet come to that.  

My social media is exploding with the story about a "new policy" stopping military personnel from sharing their faith, including chaplains. I immediately met this story with caution, and I think that might be the best approach.

Based on the stories I've seen so far, I think it would be best not to rush to judgment.
From what I can glean from these stories, they all seem to point to a directive by the Air Force from 2012. I read the directive, and there is NOTHING to suggest that Chaplains or other Airmen cannot share there faith. 

It does, however, discuss a long-held standard for all military commanders. Commanders and those in leadership may not coerce others to a certain religious point of view. The operative part of the directive (which carries the force of law) states that leaders in the Air Force "must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion." All military branches teach their leaders that they may not promote one religion over another to their subordinates. Nothing in this directive would stop an Army Lieutenant from discussing his faith with his superior, another lieutenant, or DOD civilians outside of his chain-of-command. In addition, nothing in this directive would stop a Chaplain from doing what Chaplains do, and what they have always done. Commanders have always walked a fine line when discussing their personal religious or political views, and this doesn't stop them from doing that, even with their subordinates.

The stories report that Nate Christensen, a Navy O-4 spokesman at the Pentagon said, "Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense. Court martials [sic] and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis and it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome in specific cases." Taken at face value, this statement is concerning. However, there are several things to note about this statement:

1. Even if the statement was said by a Pentagon official, the statement does not carry the force of law. It is not a lawful regulation or general order under Article 92 of the UCMJ, and thus, could not be used as non-judicial punishment or in a court-martial.

2. The stories all claim this was a written statement, but only one source received this statement and reported on it (all of the other stories are quoting him, the Fox News contributor).

3.  I have to question the way the statement was delivered, and the accuracy of how it was reported. My guess is that it was an email because of a glaring error. The plural of court-martial is "courts-martial." It seems that in an official Pentagon press release, several sets of eyes would have reviewed the statement and somebody would have caught on to that.

4. Perhaps the statement was just inartfully worded. I cannot imagine that the Pentagon has decided to announce an official position to a single source, that reverses course from the entire history of military law precedent and policy.

I have seen no evidence that any branch of the military has given any directive, order (lawful or otherwise), instruction, or regulation that would stop its members from sharing their faith. 

I'm not saying there shouldn't be concern over statements like those allegedly made by the pentagon official. I'm also not saying that we shouldn't be concerned when Pentagon officials look to sources like Mikey Weinstein for guidance on anything, let alone religious tolerance. But these stories alone should not lead military members to stop discussing their faith as they always have, being cognizant of their roles as leaders.

Admittedly, I'm an outsider now, having been discharged from Active Duty nine months ago. So if I'm missing some policy that the news stories haven't shared, I hope someone will pass on the information that I don't have in front of me. Absent that, I think it's premature for civilians to panic about the state of military's freedom of expression, for our military friends to stop sharing their faith, or for Christians in the military to find civilian jobs. 

Troops, keep fighting the good fight on all fronts, military and otherwise. 

Jody Hurst spent four years as an Army Judge Advocate, and now spends his time trying to make the world a better place through writing, blogging, trying to be a decent husband to his beautiful wife and father to his three wonderful kids, and occasionally working as  a local government attorney.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Top 10 Grammar Tips for May

10. When talking about ideas, the phrase is flesh out, not flush out. It comes from the idea of taking an idea and "putting flesh on it." Kinda gross, but there you have it.

9.  Nothing is "really unique" or "especially unique." By definition something is unique or it's not unique.

8.  There are no Cs in the word supersede.

7.  You have several brothers-in-law, not brother-in-laws. Same with sisters, fathers, and mothers.

6.  In the same vein, they are courts-martial, not court-martials.

5.  If there are only two options, you wouldn't say, "the other alternative" because it's redundant.

4.  When you are writing about the 1990s, you don't add the apostrophe, it's just the S.

3.  Guarantee is a verb; guaranty is a noun.

2.  Unless your particular profession requires otherwise, only use one space after a sentence. Using two spaces is a holdover from typewriter days. I have to use two spaces in my day job, and one in my personal writing. It gets confusing. I know the over-30 crowd is screaming, "That's not what I learned!" The convention has changed.

1.  The Capitol is a building that is in the capital of the US.