Monday, July 18, 2011

Looking Forward

Let's face it. It's time for some forward thinking. I mean, take a look at my last post. There is no doubt that a blog post about a colonoscopy is a glimpse into someone's state of mind. And I was definitely in a state of mind.

Yes, there was that single moment of inspiration when I thought someone might possibly benefit from reading about my experience, but it was Fleeting (oh, excuse the pun). I was tired of doctors and office visits and packing, and it showed in every word. From beginning to end (and again, please pardon the pun).

Now I'm past all the medical probing and prodding, healthy as a horse, and unpacked from the NOVA/DC to Henderson, NV move. We have driven over 3,000 miles in a 26-foot Penske truck in the heat of summer, loaded or unloaded the truck a total of five times as we road tripped from Virginia to New Mexico to Nevada to Utah and back to Nevada, picking up belongings from storage units/locations in 3 states. We are moved in. We are unpacked. We are settling into our new home. We have boxes in the garage, but very few. Now it's all about sorting and filing and getting rid of excess. It's a lot of hard work. But it's the next step to our future and we are looking forward.

This I can do. Without a doctor. Without an appointment.

Praise the Lord.

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's All Behind You

It's been a long time since I was cheered on while sitting on a commode, over 50 years to be exact. I think I was two.

And yet, today I found myself cheering silently for me (while my husband murmured his own encouragement from the living room "you'll get through this, honey").

And that's what preparation for a colonoscopy does for you. It reminds you of those toddler days when a diaper was quite often the best option: with every form of laxative known to man lined up on your bathroom counter, and a corresponding time chart taped to your bathroom mirror, life as you knew it (as a grown adult) is about to end.

It's not just the lack of food that makes a grown woman (me) want to cry, but the recognition that there is no where in the world she would rather be than within 10 feet of a bathroom, newly recognized as Laxative Heaven.

And that is how my past 36 hours were spent - NO diapers, but always within 10 feet of our tiny bathroom. However, in our 640 square foot, 1-bedroom condo that means I could be in any of our three rooms and STILL make it to Laxative Heaven in just a matter of steps, so I probably should not complain. Doing this in a 5,000 square foot home would add another level of difficulty.

In all seriousness, the past 36 hours were much less uncomfortable than I had imagined they would be during the past six years. Yes, I have been dreaming of this day that long. Why, you must wonder. Well, it's simple. Six years ago I turned 50, the recommended age for your first colonoscopy screening. I've put it off that long.

And yes, dreaming is probably a bit of a stretch. It was more like a nightmarish fear of the unknown. If you've read Dave Barry's Colonoscopy Journal, you can understand how unknown and imagined expectations (17,000 feet of tube) can feed an unnecessary fear which will grow and fester inside us until the only cure is a regimen of laxatives and a colonoscopy.

Reading Barry's column was the best medicine I could have taken, I laughed and laughed late Thursday evening as I read his hysterical "journal" of his colonepic experience (yes, that's a new word - colonepic).

But, leaving the humor behind, here are the details. I have survived a colonoscopy and I am here to tell you about it. Read along.

Per the good doctor's orders, I stopped eating solid foods on a Wednesday at 7 PM (dinner). This was easy since I was tired and ready for bed at 10, and I was not hungry after dinner. I sipped some water in the middle of the night and slept well.

The following day, I started seriously drinking clear liquids at 7 AM (Thursday). I am a Starbuck's junkie so I hit my favorite haunt and ordered several iced drinks to go. I enjoyed green tea, and passion tea, and water all day long as I was running errands and keeping appointments. I was never hungry. And certainly never thirsty.

In the evening on Thursday I had a few Popsicle's, one bowl of clear chicken broth, several cups of green and red jello, and more passion tea and water. I still wasn't really hungry, however, I discovered that habitually I would get off the couch and check out the frig every hour or so, looking for anything I might want. It was rather enlightening to see my own habits in action, and not be able to act on them.

Earlier that day, at 2 PM on Thursday, I had taken the prescribed laxative pills. At 5 PM on Thursday I drank a full bottle of laxative, followed by a large glass of water. And again at 5 AM on Friday, I drank a full bottle of laxative, followed by a large glass of water. All per doctor's orders.

Word of CAUTION: the liquid laxative is dangerous, I was very happy the doctor's directions included a suggestion to be VERY close to a bathroom after (while) drinking the bottled laxative. And without any gruesome details, let's just say I lost more than a few pounds that night.

And I'm not going to lie and say it was a great night's sleep. It wasn't. I slept, but I also woke up to visit Laxative Heaven several times. But it wasn't miserable or painful, it just wasn't all that restful.

It is very important to remember that you should not have ANYTHING (liquid or solid) within 4 hours of any type of surgery requiring anesthesia (with the exception of doctor ordered laxatives and liquids - in my case, the 2nd laxative bottle and a large glass of water).

Early Friday morning, we drove to the hospital, where the nurses were professional, quick and thorough with the paperwork. And eager to share the locations of all nearby bathrooms.

I was then presented with a lovely hospital bracelet and designer backless gown - I felt like a princess.
Well, not really, but so far this had not been a terribly unpleasant experience. Of course, it wasn't what I would term a pleasant experience either. But I was resigned to the fact that it needed to be done. I was not nervous or anxious. I just wanted it over. And I was dressed for the occasion.

There wasn't any "real" prep (like when you have major surgery), just vitals, an IV drop (for the anesthesia) and a warm blanket over the legs (absolutely say "yes" when they ask if you want one).

The anesthesiologist wanders in, makes sure you are who you should be and are there for the same procedure she thinks you're there for, then explains that it's an IV anesthesia, no needles in the arms, no tube down the throat, simple, easy. A nap of sorts.

And then the doctor arrives, looking all dapper in his crisp cotton shirt and silk tie, to say hello, make sure you are who you say you are and are there for the same reason he thinks you're there ("I have 3 questions for you: What's your name? Who's your doctor? Why are you here? Perfect. Thank you. Good night.")

And you're out.

And then you're awake. About 30 - 45 minutes later.

And surprisingly, feeling just fine. No memory of what just happened (which is nice, because you can pretend that your dignity is in tact and nothing at all happened while you were napping).  And there are no lingering signs of the long feared procedure either. A smiling nurse offers you juice and pretzels, and compliments your hair (which I always find hysterical in a hospital bed).

Following your awakening, you "stabilize" for maybe 15 minutes, the nurse checks your vitals, the smiling doc comes in to tell you all is well,  and you're done. Discharged. It's over.

In and out (please pardon the pun) in less that 2 hours. Check-in to check-out.

And it's off to brunch, cuz you are hungry. Nothing spicy, please.

In hindsight, I suppose if I had it to do all over again I should have done it at age 50...

But then again, you know what they say about hindsight - it's all behind you.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Just Bury Me in a Moving Box

I can't count the number of moves I've made since I  married my children's father in January 1976. However, I am certain my children can.

It all started because I married a building contractor. You know the type - "If we build it, they will buy." Anyway, that was the theoretic plan. We would build a home, move in, and then sell it for a profit which was to be applied to the purchase of our next home. Somehow, no matter how good this sounds, it never really happened, but we managed to move around from one Hi-land Mountain Homes new-build to another for two decades (from Lake Arrowhead, CA to Running Springs, CA to Lake Arrowhead, CA to Crestline, CA to Lake Arrowhead, CA and to another home in Lake Arrowhead, CA...) I hope you get the picture.

And we weren't just accumulating and moving belongings over the years. We were accumulating and moving children.  Often, or more accurately, almost always, I was pregnant when we moved, or had a newborn. Such fun. So each move included at least one more child, until we were moving our six children from house to house.

And then we weren't. When I moved from California with the kids, the number started dropping. (we moved from Lake Arrowhead, CA to Provo, UT then to another home in Provo, UT).

Karynn was the first to bolt. I can't say I blame her. The divorce between her Dad and me had been hard on everyone, but our children took the brunt of it - as children of a divorce always do. She was ready to head off to college and didn't waste a minute doing so. And it was there she met her husband. Cedar City (home of Southern Utah University - SUU) has been her family home ever since. Her four children were born there, and there have been less than a handful of moves in their 14 years of marriage, and all within a 5-mile radius. Lucky for them! Karynn has a successful photography business, Bloomshoot Photography and continues to be an amazing mother and wife. (we had moved from Provo, UT to Holladay, UT to Cottonwood Heights, UT to another home in Cottonwood Heights, UT and then back to Lake Arrowhead, CA while Karynn was at college). 

And while I was moving around, her Dad and his wife were doing the same, so the kids always remind me to DOUBLE the number of moves I've made when calculating their individual moves.

Kurt was next. He was off to Honduras (yes, he preferred the stability of a third world country over mine). Two years later, returning with a newfound appreciation for our country, he wasted no time before heading off to Cedar City, UT to attend SUU (and meet his wife), before landing at BYU to complete his Juris Doctorate and Masters in Accounting. Since then he has traveled the world with his wife and children, visiting Europe, Guatemala, Honduras, and beyond, then spending several years on Wall Street and dedicating six months to an economic program in Chile before returning to familiar territory in Utah.  He manages his two successful online businesses Rocket Relief and Settle My Tax. We will see how long the former homebody (although he was never unadventurous) stays planted (we had moved from Lake Arrowhead, CA to Yucaipa, CA while Kurt was in Honduras).

Kollin didn't last much longer. He bounced back to California with me, after our five years in Utah, but was soon out and about as an 18-year old living on his own. Florida beckoned and he accepted the call to serve a two-year LDS mission, working with the hearing-impaired and speaking through American Sign Language. From there, he traveled to Washington state to visit Hal, Kelly, Kalen and me, where he met his soon-to-be wife on a road trip from Washington to Provo at the beginning of a school year. Since then he's bounced back to Lake Arrowhead, CA once, but has landed  firmly in Salt Lake City, UT with his wife and two girls, where he hangs his 3rd degree black belt at his own Jeff Speakman's Kenpo 5.0 studio. His classes include young children (he is the best martial arts instructor I've ever seen with children especially), teenagers, young professionals, mature adults, and he also teaches the hearing-impaired. (we had moved from Yucaipa, CA to Roslyn, WA while Kollin was in Florida). 

Kyle might have stuck around after high school, but decisions (not mine) about college funding effectively led him to leave family behind and head out on his own. He went north to Arcata and Humboldt to start his college education, then back to Southern California and UCLA to finish his degree. He supported himself through college and is quite an amazing person. Following graduation (and I mean immediately following graduation, we had barely swallowed the celebratory dinner) he was off to DC for a new job, with his girlfriend soon to follow. And he has been in DC and at the same job, ever since. I think he will move west again someday, but for now they are happy and love the DC life. They have good friends and a beautiful penthouse apartment - Kyle has been featured in an online apartment magazine for his keen decorating skills (URL coming soon!) (we had moved from Roslyn, WA to another home in Roslyn, WA to Salt Lake City, UT and then to another home in alt Lake City, UT while Kyle was in school).

Kelly made Washington state her home. She graduated from Cle Elum High School where she had discovered her passion for customer service and hospitality while also working at Suncadia Resort. She still calls Cle Elum her hometown, although she left Washington soon after graduation, having only lived there for a few years (I sobbed for two days straight when she left). She headed to Utah for school, landing in Cedar City and graduating from Southern Utah University. She met her husband in Cedar (do you see a pattern here?) and they have chosen to make their home in Cedar, with only two moves so far in their less than two year marriage, the last move landing them in a gorgeous new home that we all love to visit! Kelly is a personal trainer and photographer (URL coming soon!) :) (we had moved from Salt Lake City, UT to Albuquerque, NM (and Kalen had moved to Brazil for one year) while Kelly was in school).

Kalen, although my youngest, left the roost relatively earlier than her brothers and sisters. I cried my eyes out when she left for Brazil at the age of 16 for a year-long Rotary Exchange. She bounced around in Brazil from host family to host family before returning to Utah and the scattered reality of her Mom (and dog) living in Albuquerque, her Dad living in California, her step-dad living in Utah, and her brothers and sisters dotting the country in DC, NY, CA and UT. I am certain she felt a bit homeless. It didn't take long for her to stubbornly choose to live "on her own" and state clearly and firmly that she wouldn't be living with any of us, all at the age of 17. If she was going to move in the future, it would be her choice, not ours. So off she went from Utah, to California, and  finally to DC in February 2011. So she's in DC, where I thought I would live for a decade or more, but instead I am leaving. Life is putting me on the road again. So sad. So sad. But Kalen loves it here. She is finally launched; attending NOVA until she figures out her major, and working as a full time manager at Real People. She's found a great guy and I am feeling as if maybe I can finally let loose of the apron strings, the same strings she cut long ago and I tucked carefully into my pocket. Kalen's sense of style is flawless, and a future as a bilingual designer/buyer or personal shopper is inevitable. Brazil has stuck with her, both the couture style and the Portuguese language, but she will always be my baby. (URL coming soon!) (during Kalen's time in Brazil I moved from Salt Lake City, UT to Albuquerque, NM).

And there you have it, the saga of my many, many moves and the reactions of my children - either to plant their feet where they landed, or explore the world, but wherever they are each one has chosen to become an entrepreneur. No one's going to move them around the country, they will move when they want to. They are in control. They have no fear. They adapt. They are unlimited in their energy. And they are bright, optimistic, ethical, hardworking, grounded adults. I couldn't be prouder.

I will mention that nearly every move in my life has been because I had been recruited for a new position with a new organization, or found a new a single Mom with six kids, better opportunities were difficult to turn down. I am ever grateful for the offers that came my way, but the long-term effects of all those moves are very real. Some of my children say they are grateful for the experiences, it made them who they are; some don't quite feel that way. And I agree with both positions. As for me, I have the paper-cut scars on my heart to live with, knowing that no matter how  many positive effects there might have been, there were also negative effects that linger here and there with my kids.

Life is rarely what I expect it to be. And now I am off to another adventure in Henderson, Nevada with my husband Hal (who is no longer living in SLC, but is right here with me in DC - and the official moving truck driver). My kids don't have to move with me this time and they don't have to move me either (believe me, they are cheering right now), but I will be leaving two of them in DC, and there will be tears flowing down my cheeks for days.

I've loved getting together with Kalen and Kyle. It's been good to spend time with them, especially since Kyle has been so far away for so long. What a joy he is and how proud of him I am. And Kalers, well, what can you say about your youngest child who happens to be a beautiful, willful, strong, fun, intelligent daughter? I can only say one thing. She lights up my life and I love her to pieces. I will miss them both terribly.

But as I leave (again), Kalen and I can look back on some unique segments of time when it's been just the two of us - Cle Elum in the hotel and our first rental, Salt Lake City in our rental and the condo, and then the long drive from Victorville, CA to Washington DC and the time we've spent together since she's been here. In spite of the many moves in her life (over 20 and she's only 19), we've had some pretty precious time together, something none of my other children ever really had - with the exception of those first 3 years with Karynn which I remember much better than she will.

But there's always a silver lining, and now I am looking forward to being close to more of our kids and grandkids. We won't be in the same city, but we will be within driving distance. I can go to baseball games; I can be at birthday parties!  I can attend concerts; I can enjoy my grandchildren! I can hug my kids! I can take them to Disneyland or to California beaches. And DC is a flight away...and I will visit as often as I can.

Life is so crazy, it's never calm. At least mine isn't. And now I'm back to packing. But I'm excited and can hardly's a new challenge, a new opportunity. Honestly, I don't know what I would do without all the fun memories of my past life, in all the wonderful places I've lived, with all the amazing people I've met. I have very few, if any, regrets. It hasn't been smooth, I've hurt myself and others along the way, but it's my life and I own it. And truth be known, I love it.

My kids are incredible. Patient, long-suffering, strong, valiant, honest, loyal and brilliant. They have made my life joyful, as I have bounced around from place to place. I will be eternally thankful.

And when my moving days are over, I will have the memories of friends and family to keep me going until it's time to just pack me away for good.

And when it is time...just bury me in a moving box. That's where I will feel most comfortable. And who knows, you might find a better plot for me someday... and I will already be packed. For the move.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Treading Water

When I was a young girl, my sister Melanie was like a fish in water. She not only tanned beautifully, she swam beautifully. She was the quintessential Southern California beach babe.

I, on the other hand, was a redheaded, fair-skinned treader. I was very, very good at treading water.

When we were in grade school, our parents kept our bathing suits and beach towels in the trunk of our car. This may seem a bit odd, but in Southern California in the 60s, not everyone had a pool in their backyard and we were a member of the pool-less club.

Often, we would head out to see friends on hot summer days, especially on Sunday afternoons following church. We would be sweating against the plastic covered back seats, wishing for a/c (something else not everyone had, and we again were part of the a/c-less crowd) until we parked at the curb in front of a friend's home and jumped out of the car. And then we would hope....!

Hope was everything on those hot days to two Southern California girls.

We were never allowed to ask our parents' friends if we could swim, even if their kids were in the pool. Even if we were sweating rivulets. Even if HOPE was beaming from our silently begging eyes. And even if Marco Polo (our favorite game) was underway.

My parents made it clear that asking was rude; so we waited, mutely counting the passing minutes of lost swim time until finally someone would comment that it was too bad we hadn't brought our suits. But wait! Weren't our suits ALWAYS in the trunk of our car? Yes!! (My mother was brilliant!)

And off we would go, my sister and me, quick-change artists diving into a deep, cool swimming pool without a moment's hesitation. One tan, one white, both thrilled to be swimming - or treading - again.

Life isn't much different than swimming. Some of us easily swim along with the flow, some choose to make it more difficult and swim upstream, some are show-offs and love to cannon ball through life, some of us never really learn to swim at all (my grandma Mimi never learned to swim, she wouldn't even fill her bath more than 2" deep for fear she would drown), and sadly, some of us do drown; then there are those of us who end up treading water when we least expect it, no matter how many swim lessons or life lessons we've experienced.

Treading is not my chosen way of life, it just happened. Swim lessons began when I was 5, and I loved them and always passed; I even certified as a Junior Lifeguard (Melanie, of course, was a full-fledged Lifeguard). The point is, I have always enjoyed swimming, but I often prefer to just tread water and watch everyone else frolic around, making mental notes as I wait to join in the fun at the right moment, or in the right game, or with the right partner.

Similarly, downtime following the loss of a job has its moments, and I've certainly made the best of them, but surrounding those fun-filled moments of travel and leisure are large pools of empty time that must be endured. So here I am, treading again, only this time I'm treading time, not water. Still watching, still making mental notes. Just waiting to jump in at the right moment, or with the right company, or for the right job.

Treading definitely has its benefits. It allows a person to save their energy, plan their strategy, breathe evenly, enjoy the view, think clearly, strengthen their talents, assess their assets (and maybe some others), and bide their time, all the while staying involved from a safe distance on the sidelines - observing quietly, considering the next move. Treading has been good for me.

Soon, as always happened in the pool, someone or something will come along and force me to take a deep breath and duck under the water with a quick push off the side, or break into a still-not-perfect crawl stroke to carry me to the other end of the pool.  In any case, I will love the rush, the thrill of change, the soothing satisfaction of knowing that, as nice as treading has been,  I can - and will - do whatever it takes to get wherever I need to be. All with appropriate exceptions, just as my parents taught me so long ago - I won't be rude, or mean, or dishonest, or unethical.

I may regret that I was never really a fish in water, but I am ever grateful that in my life I've never felt like a fish out-of-water. Even now, between jobs, between homes....I'm in a good place and treading easily.

I think I'm almost ready; I may need a little more treading time before I finally drop to the bottom, bend my legs, pump my arms and push off, but I'm close. I love that moment when I burst upwards and break through the surface with a smile on my freckled (and now wrinkled) lily-white face. I love it when life finally makes sense again, after a period of tread-ful wondering.

It feels triumphant. It feels joyous. It feels new, and life-giving, and right. It's rejuvenating. I can hardly wait!

Those are the moments we live for, we work for, we strive for, but treading is part of the plan. After all, isn't much of life spent "treading water" as we wait for those exceptional ah-ha moments of clarity, of love, and of success? What would we do in between, if not for treading? Treading keeps us honest. It keeps us busy. It keeps us out of trouble. Sometimes it saves our life.

Treading - patiently waiting, planning, pondering - has a place in our lives, even if we think we are ready to jump.  So tread on....I know I will, because as I said above, "I am very, very good at treading water."

As for Melanie, she's still tall and tan....and a swimmer, but oddly after decades of summers apart, we are finding ourselves in the same pool again. Unemployed and treading. But not for long...

Hey Melanie?


Monday, March 14, 2011

Life As I Know It

I'm one of those people that always thinks the best of others.  I trust. I hope. I believe. This isn't always good.

But, in spite of my inclination to be positive, there are days when it's not as easy as it should be. I've had a few of those recently, and splattered throughout my life; dotted between the highs of children and grandchildren - births, weddings, graduations, missions, performances, or even those rare family vacations or amazing road trips, or when immersed in a good book or soul-touching music or conversations with good friends.

If it wasn't for the highs of faith, friends and family, those dark splotches of disappointment would have blotted my life to a dull shade of gray. And yet, it's so easy to take them for granted. The highs are often underestimated and undercelebrated.

How grateful I am for simple faith, family time, leisurely strolls and honest talk. We spend our lives racing around on the fast track , walking and talking at a rapid pace, and making time for family and faith only when it's convenient.

But then, there comes a moment of clarity as we mature. It's painful. It's hard to accept. But it's real, and it me. And in the moment we realize, with a remorse beyond description, that somewhere along the line our focus shifted, our life spun out of control, the darkness took over and we missed the point. We let our life race by, or run over us, or drag us along. We didn't live our life, it lived us. We suddenly realize how much time we wasted.

I've done this. I am guilty. And I am sorry. Sorrier than anyone could ever know, except someone who has experienced this sudden awakening, this reality that there isn't a second chance.

Early in life, you have the opportunity to marry the right person, you have one chance to raise your children, and you have one shot to start early and build a life of  financial responsibility. Once that "one" time has past, all is not lost, but you can never go back and redo what was done, or not done.

I don't think kids realize this. I know I didn't. It was something that I just didn't think about. If anyone had asked, I would have told them that at 56 I would be happily putting my last kid through college, looking for a place to retire, and enjoying time with my grandkids. But life didn't turn out that way, and part of the fault is mine - maybe all of it - because I didn't have a real plan. I could have answered the question, but I didn't have a plan.

I do now. It's too late to go back and redo. It's too late to be less trusting and more cautious. It's too late to enjoy curling my fingers through Kurt's blond curls again, or snuggle in bed with Kollin, or make it to Kelly's parade, or spend more time reading with Kyle, or be home more for Karynn, or listen more carefully to Kalen. It's too late.

It's too late to look at the kid's Dad and say "This isn't about us, it's about the kids. We're a family, let's do this."

It's too late to not rush into a rebound marriage. It's too late. It's done. But as I told my daughter, I can only hope that my kids have learned how NOT to do things because of my mistakes, as much as they may have learned how TO act when I've made correct decisions. It's the only silver lining in this mess of a once-only life that I know. I pray that they learn from my mistakes.

But I refuse to let remorse or sorrow darken the days I have left on earth. I refuse to let disappointment in people whom I trusted send me spiraling into depression or despair. And I refuse to waste even another minute of my life on someone else's dishonesty or immorality or disloyalty.

I still believe in people. I still wake up positive and ready for a new day. I still refuse to let the dark splotches of disappointment and negativity and betrayal and failure - in others and in myself - define who I am.

Because I am happy, I am excited, and I am about to begin the next chapter in my life! And this is the life that I know and love. My life. And I claim it, I own it, I take responsibility for it - the good and the bad. And I have a plan this time, so watch out. I'm going to take charge, but I am going to hold others accountable too.

We all have a moral responsibility to be cognizant of how our lives weave into the lives of others, and to be careful, and respectful, and responsible when dealing with friends, family, coworkers, partners, colleagues, those we pass on the street, employees and employers. And those who don't realize this and live by it, will not succeed. Those who do, are not promised a smooth ride, but at least they can bounce over the bumps with head held high.

It's a new day. And my chin's up.  Bring it on.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Speech is Powerful.

My last blog entry was made when I first became aware of the self-righteous and insensitive Westboro fanatics (I was a little late to the so-called party). Maybe my head-shaking astonishment when facing the reality of this group's hateful actions is what silenced me - I don't know.

And to refresh your memory, the Westboro "church" speaks out, especially at the funeral services for fallen soldiers, to publicize their belief that God hates the United States because of its tolerance of homosexuality. Their sense of heavenly entitlement is stunning.

This week the Supreme Court delivered their absolutely correct decision regarding the Right to Free Speech in our country. However, it doesn't change the fact that although we can litigate rights, we can't litigate kindness, sensitivity, tolerance, respect and common sense and decency.

In the words of Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr:
“Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.”

If a narcissistic person or group  chooses to "speak" from a self-serving, self-righteous and self-appointed place, they have the right to do so, even when it offends or further breaks the hearts of grieving parents who are burying their courageous son  - a Marine, Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder -who was killed in Iraq, or causes added anguish to already tormented friends and family attending the funeral.

As confusing as this might seem on the surface, the 7-1 decision by the Supreme Court is rock solid at its core. Our freedom of speech  allows discussion, debate, the sharing of ideas. And ideas change the world. We can only hope that an idea will change the hearts of the Westboro "church" members and their leader.

Tough times call for tough decisions. But in spite of what seems obvious, this wasn't one of those tough decisions. I am sorry for those who weren't allowed to grieve or bury their dead in peace. But they should find solace in the integrity of their actions and the courage of the son they buried. I am sorry for those who feel entitled through self-dictated, erroneous actions taken in the name of a God who would never stoop to such levels.

This is not about a Supreme Court judgment, it's about unrighteous judgment.

The real lesson isn't about free speech. The lesson is about love. And love is an action.

The actions of the Westboro Baptist "church" have nothing to do with love.

Yet another thing that can't be litigated.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Come, Follow Me

I'm stunned that the so-called Westboro Baptist "church", professing to be Christian,  has issued official 'hate' statements through its founder regarding the deadly massacre last weekend in Tucson.

They plan to picket the funerals of the 9-year old innocent girl who was killed, "because the family is Catholic".

The church founder posted a video in which he said, "Thank God for the violent shooter, one of your soldier heroes in Tucson. However many are dead, Westboro Baptist church will picket their funerals. We remind the living you can still repent and obey."

I'm stunned. Literally was in tears when I read this. It gave me creepy chills. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, what a cruel thing to do, what a hateful, superior attitude. How non-Christian can you be? Not much more than this group.

When Jesus said, "Come, follow me...", the Westboro path of hatred was not on the map. And it never will be.

Come, follow me. Such a simple request. Humble, simple, pure, quiet, embracing, inclusive, loving.

Everything the Westboro group is not.

I don't hate these misguided people.

But my heart aches because of their hate.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Target Practice

"The world will end soon, because Heavenly Father won't put up with the evil abuse to his innocent children much longer." These were the words of my friend, Carolyn Fenn, probably two decades ago. And we're still here, and children are still being hurt.

She's right, our days are numbered, but we could have one or thousands of years ahead of us, and free agency is still around, bringing with it pain and sorrow for the choices made by those who don't care about anything or anyone but themselves.

I am thinking of yesterday's massacre in Tucson, AZ, at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (shot and in critical condition, and the assumed primary target of the gunman)which took the lives of many, including a 9-year old girl. An innocent 9-year old girl, a student body officer recently elected at her elementary school. A daughter. A sister. A granddaughter. A friend. A little girl. An innocent.

Born on 9-11, Christina Taylor Green "came in on a tragedy and now she's gone out on a tragedy," said her father, John Green.

And there were others, 20 or so hurt or killed in this tragic incident. My heart goes out to all of the families who were hurt or have lost someone, but today I am focusing on an innocent 9-year old girl.

I love to shoot a revolver. One of my favorite things is to head to the shooting range for target practice. I have a gun. It's in a safe place in my home. I don't carry it with me, although I'm beginning to think I should.

But this is not about guns.

Yes, political targets were illustrated on US maps in last year's elections with gun sights and bull's eyes to identify their locations.

But this is not about Sarah Palin or the tea party.

To label either as responsible for this horrendous incident is like labeling all Muslims as terrorists. Or all Mormons as polygamists.  Or all liberals as abortionists. Or all conservatives as war hawks or millionaires.

This is about an innocent 9-year old girl. Shot and killed in the open public spaces of Tucson, Arizona.

It's not about maps. Or guns. Or political parties.

It's easy to point fingers, but that's child's play. It's time to be adults.

We need to stop the madness. Our madness.

This country will not fall at the hands of another, if it falls it will be of our own doing. Neighbor against neighbor. Brother against brother.

We can no longer place blame elsewhere. The ugly, damaging fighting within our country, between parties, is not something we can afford to ignore any longer.

It's time to get back to common sense, even when no sense can be made of this terrible tragedy. We need to remember that we are all on the same team, even if we look at things from different points of view.

We need to elevate the position of every individual, every person, every human being, in the minds of our youth, and in our own minds. We need to value life and teach that same value to the younger generations.

We need to respect the opinions of others, even when they don't align with ours. That's what the United States of America is all about. 

We need to teach our youth to value themselves, teach them that they are important. And we need to treat them as persons of great worth.

We need to teach and remind our children how to manage their anger, how to treat others. We need to teach them how to walk away. We need to teach them how to succeed in this life, but just as important, we need to let them fail when they are little and then teach them how to jump up and try again.

We need to set better examples, not just in our own families, but to those around us. We need more humility.

We need to pay closer attention to those who seem "different".We need to be aware,  and act on promptings or hunches, not pretend they do not exist.  We need to watch for warning signals.

And we need to care about others and be aware of their lives. We need to pay attention.

We need to be careful about the imagery we invoke through our creative marketing efforts.

We need to choose our words carefully.

Maybe we do need to pack. Maybe not.

We need to think about gun safety and availability. We have rights, but we also need common sense.

But in this terrible incident, there will be no sense. There can't be.

It's about a 9-year old girl. And her family. And all of the families affected by this tragedy.

Families who will never have dinner together again, because someone is missing. As Christina's father said, "We were four people and, now we're three."

We need to have dinner as families.

We have to stop the killing of innocent people. Of innocent children.

Soon our children will not feel safe outside of their homes. And this is our own doing. We can't blame the Muslims for this one.

This tragedy is about a 9-year old girl, and about our nation and whether we will divide amongst ourselves or unite for truth and freedom.

Yes, this tragedy was a random act of violence, a crazed man with a gun, but somewhere, sometime, maybe there was a moment when someone looked the other way, or didn't care, or lost interest. Somewhere, sometime, maybe something was missed that could have prevented this loss of lives. Maybe not. But I would rather err on the side of doing more, than doing less.

Maybe the world is going to end soon, maybe not. If my friend's observation of so long ago is based in truth, I don't know how He's held out this long. I know I couldn't. Too many innocent children are being hurt through abuse, war, slavery, and incidents like the Tucson massacre.

Innocent children. Probably with more common sense then many adults have.

We need to listen more. We need to love more. We need to be more childlike, not childish. Teachable. Eager to contribute. Happy, like Christina Taylor Green, who often would say to her mother, Roxanne Green, "We are so blessed. We have the best life." And we need to get past the sorrow and anger of today, and work for a more unified tomorrow.

We need to use common sense. And keep target practice on the range.

May they rest in peace. And may their families find peace.

And may we all find peace in this chaotic world.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Country Strong

As sad as Country Strong was, there is something about country music that lifts my spirits - broken trucks, cheating lovers, drunken nights and missing dogs excepted.

When I hear country music, I smile. My toes tap. I want to dance. To laugh. To be with friends.

John Denver said it long ago, "Country roads, take me home, to the place, I belong.....", maybe not to West Virginia, but to home. Wherever that is.

I recently had a revelation. I realized something: on Facebook I cannot list a hometown. It has dawned on me that I don't have one.

If home is where the heart is, I suppose I'm "home" whenever I'm with my kids. But those are their homes, not mine.

I suppose I could list Lake Arrowhead. Or I could list Roslyn. Or Utah.  I could list Albuquerque. I could list DC or Virginia. But none of them are really home. Not yet. Not any more. So I'm leaving FB blank, for now.

I have no place I call home. Or maybe I have many homes.

I think there's a country song here somewhere.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Last November, I Purchased Gas for My Car

This is a true statement. The last time I purchased gas for my little Honda Accord was in November 2010. Today I filled the tank (to the tune of $45). Today. January 6, 2011. Wooohooo.

Now, granted, I was out of the country for 20 days of the seven weeks, but that leaves a month of driving on one tank of gas. I may hate traffic, I may not be wild about DC, but my commute is not something I can really whine about. I have the best of both worlds. DC and a three-mile commute. With rare exception, I can be in my office chair in 20 minutes, door-to-door. This includes parking in the parking garage and walking to my office 2 blocks away.

But today was a rare exception. It took a little over 45 minutes to drive a little less than three miles this morning, beginning with a crazy situation in my parking lot and ending with a nearly full parking garage by my office.

As my son-in-law has pointed out on Facebook, I don't waste even a minute of travel time. I make more phone calls on the road than anywhere else. In fact, that's pretty much the only place I talk on the phone. (It's not something I've ever really enjoyed).  It drives me nuts to sit down and talk on the phone when I'm at home. But driving, bring it on. I'm hands-free. I'm legal. And I'm happy to talk on the phone.

So, from gas to phone calls, my commute is a positive part of my life. I avoid the traffic, I work from home to balance the time I'm not in the office, and I listen to country western radio. Not a bad start to the day. Certainly better for me than riding the metro with a crowd of somewhat miserable-looking commuters (I can't say that they are really miserable, or not; they just look it).  Some people prefer the metro, kudos to them! It's just not for me.

I'm still getting used to DC, but that's the point. I'm getting used to it. Doubt me? Gimme a call.

And as long as I have gas and my cell phone, we can talk.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Love, Life, Liberty

Today was a day of reflection. After 21 days in South America, more than half spent working (but always having fun, cuz that's my style), it's time for me to regroup.

As always, the topics that come to mind are Faith, Friends, Family, Finances, Fysical Health :), and Fun, or maybe it's easier to just say Love, Life, Liberty. You may think I'm simplifying with the L's, over the F's, but I'm really not.

Love. It's all about relationships. And honor. Relationships with god, with friends, with family, with colleagues, with yourself. It has to be reciprocal, it has to be respectful, it has to be honest. Relationships can't be forced or pretend. And they must be honored.

Life. It's everything. Simply everything. Choices that make life better, or worse, involve everything and everyone: people, things, places, actions, thoughts. Laughter is truly the best medicine when life gets you down. Life is not a rehearsal. It's a one-time shot. So live, take chances. Learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward.

Liberty. It's about freedom. From guilt, from debt, from disloyalty, from dishonesty, from poor health, from boredom. A safe haven for life. A way of living. The only way to live, actually. Free. Aware of your limitations and respectful of them, but free to live and love. Free, that is,  to live with respect for others. Free to live with honor in your deeds. Liberty. Freedom. A cause worth fighting for. A way of life worth living.

I know who I am. It's taken more than 3 decades to figure it out. I suppose I could continue to be hard on myself for taking so long to "grow up" (I've certainly beat myself up over and over during the past twenty years), but I am choosing to celebrate the fact that I've arrived.

And I have. I'm here. I'm wide awake and smiling. No hiding, no pretending, no false hopes, no selective awareness. I've arrived. I'm here. I'm aware. I'm alive.

Life hasn't been terrible, but it certainly hasn't been what I expected. And at times it's felt like a really long haul, but I made it. I'm here and hopeful, because when one door closes, another opens. Maybe more than one.

Today I am choosing. And I've chosen love, life and liberty. And not just for me.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Chile, ciao!

My last day in Santiago. My last day in South America. I'm going to miss it.

We spent Christmas in Buenos Aires and New Year's Eve in Santiago. Every day has been fun and new!

Today we are going to the Galvez home in Las Condes for lunch. Cata's family would like to meet Kurt's family, and vice versa. A few weeks ago I had dinner in their home. What wonderful friends I made in this lovely country.

I'm thinking of returning to South America for a few weeks every year - to Argentina to take some cooking classes, and to Chile for the perfect weather, and maybe to offer some cooking classes. :)

Until I'm back in DC, ciao!