Memorial Day in the USA - May 31, 2010

My friend and current "American Club of Sweden" (link below) President, Gary Baker wrote some heartfelt and informative Memorial Day words that I received via email.  His eloquence inspired me to write this article.

( - The American Club of Sweden

For an American in Sweden, we can sometimes forget the wonderful celebration of family, food and relaxation that Memorial Day affords us while living in the USA. I fondly remember many great weekends on the east and west coast during the end of May.  One thing we should never forget is the sacrifice made by our men and women (current and deceased) in uniform and the huge sacrifice they have made in order to give Americans and those around the world a better life.

A little known fact about me is that I seriously considered a life in the military having received an appointment to the prestigious US Naval Academy. Many thought I was crazy not to take the opportunity although they respected my decision to have a more typical collegiate experience. Who knows how my life would have been had I decided to take the military route?  From what I hear, it could have been just as good as it is now but I would surely be a much different person.

Let's all remember or say a prayer for our soldiers each Memorial Day if only for a tiny portion of our day. Enjoy Gary's words below.

Happy Gswede Sunday!
Today, May 31st, is a national holiday in the United States. For those who grew up in America, it may bring images of fallen soldiers from two World Wars, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War or the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the roots of Memorial Day date back to the days following the American Civil War when, in 1866, “Decoration Day” was officially enacted to mark the end of the War and to honor those who had died in its battles.

Perhaps there is no place that symbolizes the debt paid by American soldiers more than Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Created in 1864, it is the final home to some 300,000 fallen soldiers. Smaller memorials are found in communities throughout the US and, indeed, the world.

For Sweden, a country free of armed conflict for over 200 years, it can be difficult to understand America's patriotism, or how the United States perceives its role on the world's stage. The American ideal of “promoting peace through a strong defense” – illustrated by an eagle holding an olive branch in one talon and arrows in the other, in the Great Seal on the back of the $1 bill and elsewhere – may not always be fully appreciated.

While armed conflict can unite a nation’s people to a common cause, it can divide a country, as we saw during the Vietnam War, and as we now witness in respect to US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in America’s history, no war has ever divided our nation more than the American Civil War. It was this war that gave birth to what we celebrate today as Memorial Day.

Therefore, the Board of Directors of The American Club of Sweden asks you to join us in honoring those soldiers who have given their lives to defend the freedoms we enjoy and which we all too often take for granted.

With best regards,

Gary Baker, President

We can never forget the sacrifice of our American soldiers.

What the Doctor said about Stress

My wife visited the doctor recently and posed an interesting question to her. She asked, “Why is it that I seem to get sick from all the ailments my children bring home from day-care while my husband is unaffected”? The doctor followed up the question with two direct questions of her own:

How is his stress level? My wife said, “Very low”.

How is yours? She answered, “Much higher”.

Nothing more needed to be said.

It must be noted that I have never been seriously sick other than 3-4 days of not feeling 100% along with the occasional stuffy nose. In addition, the last three years of our children’s day-care have been enormously healthy for me.

I learned a long time ago about the negative effects of stress on one’s health and vowed to keep a close eye on mine – making sure to keep it low in order to deal with the challenges of life with the full capacity of my mind, body and soul. I believe that most people know that high stress levels limit life’s enjoyment yet choose to ignore or not address the issue for a variety of reasons.

I hope the moment with the doctor was a wake-up call for my wife and can serve as inspiration for those of you who struggle with the ill effects of stress. Throughout my life, I’ve seen many individuals consumed by stress with the worst cases resulting in physical and mental burnout.

My father-in-law (doctor also) believes that one’s inability or ability to fight off sickness is determined primarily by one’s DNA. He could be right but one thing is certain, stress doesn’t help the situation if that is indeed the case. Let’s also remember that other issues come into play in regards to health including but not limited to our food choices, sleep, environment and exercise.

The title of my first article in 2009 is called, “Life is (and should be) All about the Benefits”. I encourage you to read it. (link is below)


There is NO BENEFIT to constantly being sick especially if you are not doing the proper things to maintain a healthy YOU. If YOU are not the most important person in your life, I would be willing to bet that some invaluable elements for maintaining a healthy lifestyle are missing from your weekly routines.

In our increasingly busy and complex world, we often forget these 7 simple yet profound words:

NOTHING is more important than our health.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Stockholm, Sweden

In Sports, Don't "Feel Bad for Yourself"

I wrote an article earlier this month on my sports blog ( called "Comparing Lebron to Jordan MUST end Now". Having frequently heard this comparison in the media and privately was irritating.

One of many reasons why comparing the GREAT Michael Jordan (MJ) to one of the current NBA's (National Basketball Association) top professional players is the language that Lebron James used after a 2010 game 5 playoff loss to the Boston Celtics.

Lebron said:

"I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to be great, to try to be the best player on the court. And when I'm not, I feel bad for myself because I'm not going out there and doing the things that I know I can do. I'm not going to hang my head low or make excuses about anything that may be going on. That's just not the type of player and the type of person that I am."


I couldn't believe what I was reading as I knew words like this would never enter the mind of MJ. "Feeling bad for yourself" takes one's focus away, can create self doubt and has one thinking of issues unrelated to WINNING on the basketball court.

After this surprising comment, I knew Lebron and his team would lose the series. It didn't take long as they were eliminated in the next game, the 6th.

Lebron is a special player and has been spectacular in the regular season and often stellar in the playoffs. In my opinion, his failures in the playoffs can be attributed to his inability to deal with those "Moment of Truth" moments - times where he should have been able to propel his team to victory. He has come up short time after time in these moments and "feeling bad for himself" is probably one of the main reasons why.

Lebron is a free agent this year which means he has the opportunity to change teams. Every team that is able to afford his services will be doing whatever it takes to sign him. If I were a General Manager of an NBA team, I would think twice before making him the centerpiece of the club. Yes, he will fill the seats and make a ton of money for any organization although an NBA Championship (the goal) is no guarantee if he continues to "feel bad for himself".

Below are a few paragraphs (and the link) from my article:

Let's hope he can bounce back from this recent negativity. This criticism should make him stronger. If not, the all important NBA championships could remain elusive.

Now at 25, he is on the verge of being defined negatively for the first time in basketball. What he may not realize now, but will learn to appreciate at the far end of his career, is that he needs this criticism. Each of the biggest winners before him failed in his own way -- Michael, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird -- and each was driven by that failure to succeed. The question for James is whether this failure is put to an end with victories in the next two games, or whether it is carried forth throughout the long summer ahead, carrying him like a flooding tide away from Cleveland and to a new home entirely.

"Feeling bad for Yourself" in any walk of life is counterproductive and not a positive thing. In sports, displaying this self-defeating feeling can be the difference between being GREAT or very good.

They call Lebron "King" James and he has lived up to the hype during the regular season. Time will tell if he can keep that crown (and his throne) as one of the NBA's best by casting away the doubt, displaying a fiercer attitude, performing at a higher level in the playoffs and winning the award that matters MOST- an NBA championship.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede having some fun during his youth basketball program ( at Lidingö in Sweden. (Photo by Tony Friede - the program's photograher)

Chicago - 150+ children SHOT during school year

Violence in any form is disheartening especially when it involves our children. By now, most Americans should be aware of the frightening problem in Chicago, Illinois. For those here in Sweden and around Europe, the details of the happenings have not been as widespread.

A portion of the chilling article from Bob Herbert of the New York Times is below:

Right there, on South Manistee Avenue, is where a 7-year-old girl riding her scooter was shot in the head and critically injured a few weeks ago

And here, on East 92nd Street, is where a toddler, just 20 months old, was shot in the head and killed in the back seat of her father’s car.

During a meeting with about a dozen men and boys on Thursday, some of them violence outreach workers on the South Side, I asked for a show of hands. “How many of you have been shot?” I asked. Five raised their hands.

When I asked how many knew someone who had been shot and killed, they all raised their hands.

The crazed, almost apocalyptic violence that is destroying the lives of so many young men, women and children here and in other major cities across the country is a crisis crying out for national attention. But, so far, it’s been met mostly with a shrug.

Dozens of children school-aged and younger are murdered in Chicago every year. More than 150 have been shot (but not all of them killed) during the current school year.

This is occurring in a city that, in terms of its murder rate, is not even near the top of the list of most violent American cities. (In 2008, for example, Orlando, Fla., home of Disney World, had more murders per capita than Chicago.)

That we tolerate this incredible carnage, that there is not even much of a national outcry against it, is a measure of how sick our society has become.

“It’s so different now,” said Ester Stroud, a hospital worker who lives in Northwest Chicago. “When I was young, if a child was murdered, it was a big deal. Now, I’m sorry to say, it’s somewhat routine.”

Mrs. Stroud’s son, Isiah, a 16-year-old who dreamed of dancing professionally, was stabbed to death a few days before Christmas in 2008. He had just won a dance contest and was planning to use the prize money to buy presents. He never made it home from the contest.

I would think the most important question in a situation like this is - Who is helping to improve these heinous actions? The aforementioned columnist wrote a follow up article about a group whose mission has been successful in taming a horrific problem in Chicago. The unfortunate thing is that the group needs more money or its impact may be minimal at best.

These violent behaviors are learned,” said Dr. Slutkin. “They are largely formed by modeling, the almost unconscious copying of one another. And then they are maintained by the social pressure of peers. It becomes normal to reach for a gun.

“What happens is these guys have a grievance, just like everybody has a grievance. Most of it is interpersonal. It’s not so much gang-related or the stuff of television dramas. They’re shooting each other over things like, ‘He looked at my girl,’ ‘He disrespected me,’ ‘He cut in front of me in line,’ ‘He owed me money.’ And then, of course, there is the retaliation: ‘He shot my brother or my friend.’

“These grievances require that they shoot somebody, primarily because ‘my friends expect this of me.’ ”

With an organization that he formed in Chicago called CeaseFire, Dr. Slutkin has been trying to intervene in potentially violent situations to ward off tragic outcomes. Individuals who are most likely to be involved in violence, either as offenders or victims, are personally engaged, talked with, counseled, cajoled — whatever it takes to prevent bloodshed. Those who intervene know the streets firsthand, and in many cases are former gang members and convicts themselves.

Dr. Slutkin’s immediate goal is to stop the killing. Longer term, he wants to change the violent norms of big-city environments.

Funding for CeaseFire has been erratic, but its record has been impressive. The neighborhoods in which CeaseFire has deployed its cadre of “violence interrupters” and outreach workers have seen significant decreases in shootings and fatalities.

A study of CeaseFire’s efforts in Chicago by the U.S. Department of Justice found substantial reductions in homicides, ranging from 41 percent to 73 percent, in nearly all of the neighborhoods in which CeaseFire was operating.

With two of the world's most popular and influential figures (President Obama and Oprah Winfrey) having spent most of their lives in Chicago, maybe they can lead the effort to help raise donations for CeaseFire or similar forward thinking organizations.

If you are looking to give to a worthy cause, this organization is not only a good way to give back to the community but will also help to stem the growing tide of violence amongst children in Chicago.

If we ignore this problem, it wouldn't surprise me to see more communities across America being ravaged by these senseless acts of violence and murder.

Do what you can by giving yourself or spreading the word and encouraging others to give. I will be making a personal donation in 2010. The web link on how to contribute is below followed by the CeaseFire "Who We Are" web link:
Strengthen the Effort to Stop Killings
The Chicago Project for Violence Prevention

The Chicago Project for Violence Prevention is an umbrella organization with two primary goals:

1)  To work with community and government partners to reduce violence in all forms.

2)  To help design interventions to be included in a community or city anti-violence program.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

2007 - Gswede, Roland Williams and "American Basketball Coach" Steve Freeland spent an entire morning teaching a 5th grade class in Stockholm, Sweden.

A Coach's Advice (words I needed to hear)

In January 2007, a childhood friend informed me that my high school basketball coach had cancer. This came as a complete surprise as I had seen him in 2005 looking healthy as an ox. I decided to give him a call the day after I found out that his cancer was terminal. It was tough dialing those numbers as I knew it would be the last time we would talk.

Despite his difficulty, his spirit was high and he sounded positive. That demeanour didn't surprise me as he was the kind of man who could handle any adversity yet his gentle soul was my lasting memory on the telephone.

We talked about my life in Sweden and the exciting news of our baby boy due in February. He touched on his cancer and the tough battle although I could tell that he didn't want to dwell on it. He knew his time was near.

I told him how important his teachings were to me and followed up the conversation with a hand written letter. A few paragraphs from the letter are below:

I hope you know how important your teaching and nurturing were to me during my 3 years with the high school basketball team. I remember our hoop days fondly and only wish I didn't break my collarbone in my first year! It was tough watching from the bench but that team (your first) was very special. 28-4 as I recall.

I appreciate all your efforts in making me better as a player and providing opportunities for colleges to see me. Basketball has taken me a long way in life and you are a big part of that success.

We also talked about the two things he treasured the most; his family (wife and two twenty-something sons) and his church (dear to him). During this part of the conversation was when the spontaneous advice came - words I needed to hear.

He said, "Make sure you don't push your son into sports". I had heard similar advice in random discussions over the years although no one had ever said it directly to me. I had never known his sons to be particularly athletic yet I never expected my coach to be the type to push them into sports.

When my son was 13 months, he displayed a natural talent for basketball in regards to shooting on the small net we had in the house. He seemed so interested in the sport which was fun to witness. I was excited being an ex Division 1 college basketball player and encouraged him although my coach's words frequently echoed around me.

Soon after turning two, my son started to be interested in more typical Swedish sports like football (soccer in USA). In addition, his basketball interest decreased considerably. When he does take the basketball outside, he usually kicks it around instead of dribbling or shooting; a sight that usually makes me chuckle. Instead of being disappointed or pushing him into my favorite sport, I flow with his interests as any good parent should.

I'd like to think I would have acted in this fashion had I not heard my coach's words but they helped to put things into perspective. His sentence, "Don't push your son into sports" made a big impact on me then and still reverberates today.

In July 2005, I was greeting a steady stream of family and friends at my father's funeral. There were several unexpected guests that day yet no one more so than the person who came down the aisle and brought the biggest smile to my face. He exuded comforting warmth and provided a moment for me that touched my heart. It was my high school basketball coach, Paul Lavelle.

Before the funeral, I had not seen him in a long time although I was consistent in sending holiday cards over the years and fondly remember a spontaneous visit I made to his home in the mid 1990's. He somehow found out about my dad (most likely the newspaper) and made the effort to support me on one of my most difficult days. What I didn't realize then is that I would never see him again.

In March of 2007, less than two months after our phone conversation, Coach Paul Lavelle passed away at the age of 54.

Here's what my aforementioned friend Don wrote about him in an email:

I am very sad to tell you about Paul, but today he passed away peacefully after a difficult fight with cancer. He was a good man, teacher, friend, husband and father. He made a difference in my life and I will always remember him as a decent and honest man and teacher. I hope those of you who responded to him, helped him through his final weeks. It made a difference to him – He made a difference for me in my life.

God bless Paul Lavelle and those of us who knew him.

Those eloquent words capture the essence of the man and the inspiration he provided to those of us fortunate enough to know him.

Rest in Peace Coach Lavelle. Your family and church will remain in my thoughts and prayers.

Happy Gswede Sunday!
Coach Lavelle helped Gswede to soar during his final year in high school.