Thursday, March 31, 2016

What the?

Remember the little guy in Chicago, who's heart I needed to win over? Well, we had a rough start. Fresh out of the airport, as I climbed into the car, he saw me and said, "What the?" And then he repeated it again, "What the?"

He understands the context of that question, though thankfully he doesn't understand its context in the adult world where it is often paired with the horrific F bomb. My daughter thinks he learned it from the children's movie, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs II.  Over the weekend, when he unexpectedly encountered me in his house, coming up the stairs or walking into his bedroom, I heard the same buffeting, "What the?"

On my fourth day, when he realized I was not the babysitter or not there to turn his world upside down, or that maybe Grandma was someone who might love him a ton, the ice began to crack. We had both gotten up early (it was still dark). I was on my way to the bathroom, but he had decided it was time to get up--against the wishes and demands of his parents who had ordered, "Get back in your bed."

When he realized it was me, I expected, "What the?" but instead was overly pleased to hear his cheery voice, "Grandma! Can I watch a show?" Now whether he was genuinely happy to see me or saw me as a means to the iPad, I can only guess, but he hadn't said, "What the?" We were making progress.

I had until 3:30 that day to continue hoping for detente. At the end of the visit, I still wasn't a favored nation, but at least I felt somewhat liked. Tolerated. Until I tried to kiss him goodbye, but at least his parting words weren't "What the?" He said good-bye and on orders from his mom, even told me he loved me. In a deep begrudging voice.

May the universe bless the parents of strong-willed children--which brings me to the events that were to follow our visit.

This strong-willed child has a strong attachment to his binky. A three and a half year attachment. His devoted parents, each with a doctorate in Child Psychology, had slowly weened him off the binky so he was only allowed its comfort during nap time, bed time, airplane time, and as previously mentioned, when he could hoodwink his grandfather into pulling it off the shelf. The day after our visit, the new rule was no binky. A visit to the dentist the week before had made this mandatory--the binky was shaping his mouth with future-astronomic-orthodontist-expenditure-consequences.

My daughter was waiting until after we left to eliminate binky, because she knew, all hell was about to break lose.

Today, thousands of miles away, I followed the binky war via text, and it turned out more mild than expected.

My daughter wrote: So how is Ezra responding to not getting the binky for nap time today? Every ten minutes or so, he opens his door and says loudly, "I need binky!" And then he slams the door and informs me that he will not be going to sleep, though he's saying everything kindly. He's in his room reading now. If I tell him to go to bed, he just gently says, "No," or "I'm not going to sleep."

A text update followed a few minutes later, "He just came out of his room and said, 'Mommy I read a book!! I can read all by myself.' I said, 'That's great. Now go take a nap.' Then he said, 'Uh...never.' and shut his door. It is so funny because he's in such good spirits."

He never took a nap and he also informed his mother he wasn't going "to sleep tonight either." With a devious little smile, he warned his mother that she too wouldn't be going to sleep.

When night came, he was still his sweet self and tried to convey to his parents why it was going to be hard to go to sleep. His expected defiance was still missing, but he was a little emotional.

First day of the binky war ended on a good note--the last update came at 7:47 p.m. and despite his resolve not to go to sleep, he had in fact, fallen asleep.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Importance of an Opposite

I just hung up the phone with a best friend of 30 years.

"Love ya," I said.

"Love ya too," she replied, "and happy Easter."

"Um, happy Easter to you, sort of," I smile when I hear her giggle that hasn't changed since the day we met. She still sounds like a junior in high school.

Melissa lives in LA, I live in Utah. She's never had children or ever wanted them. I've had four and couldn't imagine life without them.

She has an enviable career: Currently, she is VP of production for a major television star's company.  Her card has an address and number for a Beverly Hills office and a Miami office. She's worked with the best; she's been part of Emmy award winning teams. The actors and actresses she is well acquainted with are the A listers of features and television. I am a school teacher.

She wears Clergerie. I have one pair of designer shoes bought at a deep discount store.

She's Jewish, I'm Mormon.

The opposites continue like a long strand of DNA.

I'm thankful she's not like me. She's thankful I'm not like her--in this we find joy.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Must-Do's In Life

Always take the walking route closest to the water.

Never waste calories on bad tasting food. 

Apologize immediately rather than later.

Never miss the chance to experience Handel's Messiah.

I'd heard there was a Handel's Messiah sing along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Christmas' ago, I'd bought tickets to a chorus sing-in and had loved the experience. But this time when I called for tickets, the man informed me they'd been gone for weeks.

"You can always go standby," he suggested.

"What is the likelihood of making it in?" I thought of the cold March weather and wondered if standing in line for an hour would be worth it.

"I really can't say," he answered. So, I put the idea of attending the concert on the back burner of absolutes.

The next day, a friend texted: I have three extra tickets to Handel's Messiah. Do you want them.

I leaped from my chair. YES!

I can't wait to sing the Hallelujah chorus with the MoTab! Tony doesn't think it is a sing along and the tickets are mum.

"I'll sing along anyways," I say with a smile.

It's not a sing along, and it's the full oratorio of 2.5 hours, and the benches in the old 1867 tabernacle are harder than stone.

When the music starts with a complete symphony, a maestro conductor named Mack Wilberg, the four soloists of national acclaim, and a choir that makes me wonder if a choir of angels could get any better---I feel privileged to be here for just 2.5 hours sitting on a hard bench. Every song brings tears to my eyes, and the time floats by in sublime grandeur. I feel deep gratitude for my hearing and ability to see what I can hear. In this moment I vow to never be sad because I now need glasses and may one day need a hearing aid--for I have seen and heard enough to be grateful for the rest of my life.

Praises to the Messiah, fill my soul with a desire to be a better person, to think of others more than myself, to look to the Messiah in all things, to praise his glory. Who is this Jesus that could inspire such beauty? I want to know him better.

In the Amen culmination, the organs reverberates the balcony; I feel the music through my entire body.

I am sorry when it ends at 10:00 p.m. I have forgotten that I skipped dinner because there wasn't enough time. I am filled.


"I see why it wasn't a sing along," I say to Tony. " I recall how disturbing it was when the two people in front of us had a short conversation during the concert--imagine if all of us blue collar singers had had tried to blend in with the gifted professionals.

Never miss the chance to experience Handel's Messiah.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

History of the Cold War #6

"We waited for them to come ashore. We could see their faces. They looked like ordinary people. We had imagined something different. Well, they were Americans!" Liubova Kozinchenka, Red Army, 58th Guards Division

"I guess we didn't know what to expect from the Russians, but when you looked at them and examined, them, you couldn't tell whether, you know? If you put an American uniform on the, they could have been American!" Al Aronson, US Army, 69th Infantry Division

From: The Cold War by John Gaddis

April 25th 1945, two great armies traveling from opposite directions met in the east German city of Torgau. Because of the ideological war started years ago, what should have been a great celebration was a cautious meeting.

Five years earlier:

We are all familiar with December 7 1941-- Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter, Hitler declared war on America and invaded the USSR. Previously, in August of 1939, the USSR and Germany had signed a non-aggression pact, but Hitler later revealed it was only temporary. He'd long had his eye on the USSR's rich land, and he'd had a determination to eliminate the communist threat too close to his own borders.

Because of Hitler turning on Stalin, the USA, UK and USSR were now allies fighting the same enemy. All three powers knew they couldn't defeat Hitler without each other. The USSR urged America to invade sooner; America held off, and the Soviets resented its delay.

Roosevelt had high hopes for post war relations. In his plans for the United Nations, which included the USSR, he proposed a consultive general assembly and an executive security council with powers to act.

Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met for the first time in Tehran on November 1943. Different photos show a serious group of men, another photo shows a spirit of camaraderie. However, Stalin had their rooms bugged and read the transcripts each morning.

On June 6, 150,000 American troops landed in Normandy. Three million more British, American and Canadian troops would follow. As agreed, six million Red Army troops started the offensive march in June too.

All looked well until the Soviet troops betrayed the quest for freedom in Poland. When the Nazis were fleeing, the Soviet troops paused--just long enough for Polish citizens to rise against the Germans. They knew the Soviets were close and erroneously assumed they would have their support--but it never did. The pause was long enough for the Nazis to return. For sixty-three days the Poles held on to Warsaw. With only rifles and small arms, they were soon crushed by the enemy. Two hundred thousand Poles murdered--nine out of the ten were civilians. The allies had asked for the use of Soviet airfields to aid the Poles from the air. The Soviets had refused. Their purpose was to take over Poland, so why not let the Nazis finish them off? In the past 30 years, they had been invaded by the Germans through the corridor of Poland. This move destroyed hopes for a post-war, peaceful collaboration. "Hopes for genuine democracy in Eastern Europe after the war were destroyed in the ruins of Warsaw." Isaac and Downing.

The three powers, Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt, met again in Yalta on February 1945 and it is clear that their only cohesiveness was in defeating Hitler. Stalin fears the UN will have too much power. The allies do agree to divide up Berlin into four sectors, each country in charge of one: France, England, USA, and Russia.

My friend Lori was a little girl when Berlin was divided. As German citizens, her family was told to stand in the French line-they would be under rule of the French, but her father knew their best chances were with the Americans, and stubbornly, he moved his family into that line and refused to do otherwise.  Years later as an American citizen, she looks back on her father's stubborness as a great blessing to her life.

On April 12 1945, his relationships with Churchill and Stalin solid, Franklin Delano Roosevelt dies.  Churchill loses re-election. Would the course of history been different had both men lived? Vice President Harry Truman had been kept out of the negotiating loop; he'd only met with the president twice in the past five months. Consequently, what a mess he stepped into. It was this president who would decide whether or not to use the first atomic weapon in history.

How much did the atom bomb cost to develop?

Two billion dollars. That's what it took to end a war and to begin another.

Friday, March 25, 2016

History of the Cold War #5: The Spanish Civil War.

We have a daughter named Paloma. Paloma is the Spanish word for dove, and dove is a symbol for peace.  Pablo Picasso's La Paloma, or The Dove, was chosen in 1949 to illustrate the poster promoting the French Congress for Peace. Yet, a more famous work of art by Picasso is Guernica.

Paloma's father's patriarchal grandmother came from Guernica. Tony has stood in the very square, that on a peaceful, late afternoon in 1937, where the civilian villagers had gathered, bombs hailed from the sky killing 4000 people in two hours. They were Tony's people, and it is why in part, we named our daughter Paloma--in honor of those ancestors.

What conditions would allow such a heinous crime?

In the 1930s, Spain voted to abolish the monarchy and the king went into exile. In 1936, a republican government was formed, but it didn't take long for an uprising against the new republic. The coup came from a group who called themselves the Nationalists--they consisted of landowners, Catholics and the military led by General Francisco Franco. Franco led the coup in what they anticipated would be an easy takeover. The Republic government's resistance was a surprise.  Spain erupted in a bloody civil war. The fight lasted more than three years and took the lives of an estimated one million people.

Neither side fought alone. The republic was supported by laborers, the educated middle class and the USSR or communists.  Their interest and participation came from a strong beginning desire to see Spain embrace communism. The Nationalist rebels found their allies in fascist Italy and the Nazis. Not only countries, but individuals around the world saw the Spanish Civil War as an international conflict. "The civil war of Nationalist conspirators against Republican loyalists became the ideological battlefield of Europe: Fascist order versus Communist fanaticism versus democratic liberty." Harold Evans, The American Century

Germany and Italy backed the Spanish rebels, but the backing came at a price to the people of Guernica. Guernica was a kind of test case. Like new toys, the Nazis had new bombs and wished to experiment; Franco allowed Hitler's fleet to attack the Spanish Basques. I almost hate to mention, because it creates a justification for Nazism, but Spain was chosen because it was a northern stronghold of the republican government.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

The timing, the location, the worldwide jump-in to fight fascism, the hope of communistic implementation was a precursor to WWII, and a precursor to the conditions that led to the Cold War.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Peaceful and Proactive

Many years ago, enough years that allow me to write about this subject, Tony acting has department chair, hired a temporary professor. The man didn't meet expectations and at the end of his contract, he wasn't rehired.

The first letter the man wrote to Tony blamed my husband for not rehiring him. The letter was rash but still written in the parameters of reasonable. A second letter followed. This time, the letter included threats to my husband. Tony contacted campus security and they advised my husband to be careful, to lower the shades at night, and basically become a prisoner to the threats of an unhealthy man.

I saw the situation differently.

I, like most people, spent Tuesday morning, mourning for the chaos of irrational hate that drove humans to act inhuman. I dared to watch the immediate videos taken by the people who survived the very moment of a suicide bomb. It was so real, I could imagine being there--the day before we had stood at an airline counter, our luggage by our side, vulnerable in a sense to a terrorist who might have walked in, stood by our side and yelled his praises before ending his life and the lives of those around him--including mine and my husband's.

In the aftermath, most of our presidential candidates have responded with a knee-jerk plan, a cut and dry, absolute answer to combat terrorism, and in the aftermath, I have read nothing but criticism of their plans. I am absolutely against a move that would take us into another kind of war--the knee jerk reaction that took our troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, that led us to dispose of ruthless leaders, that opened the floodgates to the power of even greater despots and evil. Yet, the word proactive comes to mind.

Proactive is what I chose for my own family's war on terror.

I realized if this man who threatened my husband continued down his deranged path, the people who would suffer most would be the man's wife and me. If her husband injured my husband, she would be devastated, her life interrupted and flipped on its backside. Mine too.

I called her.

I laid it out very straight. This is what your husband is doing. If he acts on his threats, he will ruin your life, your family life, your childrens' lives. It will never be the same for you. If my husband is hurt or killed, my life will never be the same either. I don't want my life to be ruined. I don't want your life to be ruined. The end.

Two sober women hung up the phone that day. I acted, she acted, and our lives weren't ruined by the seed of senseless hate and blame.

I now had concrete meaning to what was previously and only a buzzword of the era: proactive.

The university police were aghast when they heard what I'd done. I shudder when I think of what could have happened had I followed their passive, hide-away, advice.

I wish the war on terror were as simple as a phone call--but the key isn't the phone call--it is in the word proactive--acting in a peaceful and powerful way with a strong desire for a solution and resolution. Perhaps terrorists are beyond the possibility of peaceful intervention and hope--but we are not. Some of the candidates' suggestions are peaceful and hopeful, but they require a proactive approach, and we need to act.

The man's wife realized the precarious situation, and she acted. She asked for help; she got her husband the help he needed, and a year or two later, she and her husband showed up for a faculty, alumni dinner. We didn't talk about the situation, but their presence, their conversation, the way her eyes met mine--we were both grateful to be present and in peaceful circumstances--with our husbands.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

History of the Cold War #4 Lenin's Communism vs. Woodrow Wilson/United State's Free Enterprise

After WWI, the US Senate was swayed by isolationism and failed to ratify the League of Nations, Wilson's dream for peace and part of his 14 points to make the world safe for democracy. Wilson read his plan before congress which called for, "general association of nations...formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike." However, this called for regulation and enforcement. The US was justifiably reticent--no more regulating and enforcing the tempestuous relations in a distant land.

Meanwhile, back in the USSR, Stalin spends ten years crushing, or murdering his internal opposition who resist the change and consequences of turning a peasant nation into an advanced, communist, industrial nation. Starvation, brutality and immense suffering--millions of Russians die while sacrificing for the greatness of the state. Stalin also starts his reign of terror with "show trials (what would become a communist practice in China too)," of the old Bolsheviks. Forced to denounce themselves and confess to crimes they couldn't have committed, two-thirds of the communist party leaders were shot or arrested. Then came the artists, scientists, doctors; Top army generals came next; millions of peasants and workers became "enemies of the state." Between 17 and 22 million citizens were killed through these purges, including the starvation and maltreatment victims in Siberian labor camps during the 1930s. The craziness, the abuse seems to be a necessity of fear practiced by communist leadership to gain complete control--such an evil accompaniment seems to naturally attest to the evils of communism or the abusive power that emerges within communist controlled countries. All the while, Stalin predicts and preaches that capitalism must fail. His dream comes true when the depression of 1929 began.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt fights back in 1932 with the New Deal: 1. Increased federal spending, 2. Recovery programs for family and industry, 3. Poverty relief. The US economy slowly revives.

Insults and differences subside when in 1933, America offers diplomatic recognition to the USSR-however, they are the last major country to do so. With this new diplomatic relationship, the United States now has an embassy and ambassador in Moscow--enter George Kennan, a man who would set the stage for US-USSR relationships in the years to come. Kennan saw the Soviet Union as "unalterably opposed to our traditional system...There can be no possible middle ground or compromise between the two...The two systems cannot even exist in the same world unless an economic cordon is put around one or the other of them."

Kennan's words prove to be true and false: middle ground couldn't be reached until both powers had the capacity to obliterate each other and in doing so would have obliterated themselves. Compromise would eventually come, but at a cost of millions of lives, at a cost of economic progression, and at a cost of billions of dollars that could have been better spent.

The Spanish Civil War seems to play a huge role in the continuing saga, development, and tragedy of the Cold War--Next in History of the Cold War #5: The Spanish Civil War.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Sleeping Sweetness

After watching Anne of Green Gables, we head up to our rooms. I catch my daughter coming from her three year old's bedroom.

"I just had to cuddle him," she says.

"You really cuddled  him? You don't worry about waking him up?"

"Well, I don't really cuddle, I just have to see him before I go to sleep. It renews his sweetness--him lying there like an angel."

We head to our respective bedrooms and then I remember while brushing my teeth, that I too, at day's end, had to see my sleeping darlings. Especially if I'd had a rough day with the two year old, the four year old, the twelve year old, and all my love had been ripped from my heart while battling them to go to sleep or arguing over an unfinished chore, or an un-eaten vegetable at dinner.

The angel in the bed put my heart back where it belonged.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Smarter Than You Think

Ezra convinces Grandpa to help him find his binky. The three year old's request seems reasonable, so Grandpa reaches high on the shelf and finds: the binky! It is then that Grandpa realizes it might be hidden and up-high for a reason.

Latest universal Manipulation child-over-adult count win:
Child: 1000000000000000000
Adult: 100000

Sebi starts closing his eyes in what I call his blind man's bluff game. He looks uncomfortable, even like he's in pain.  It alarms his parents and his grandma. The doctor and his auntie child psychologist are consulted. The consensus? Ignore the child. What?

If I hadn't had my own experience with my own two year old, I would have doubted the recommendation.  My once two-year-old child stopped breathing and passed out when things didn't go her way.

"What is wrong with her? What do I do?" I desperately consulted my pediatrician.

"Next time she's upset, walk out of the room."

"What?" I was incredulous.

He was nonchalant.

I resolved to give it a try.

Sure enough, the next tantrum, I walked my bleeding heart right out from under that child. And never again did she stop breathing and pass out while angry.

I'd scored another point for the adults in the child manipulation wars.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


An acquaintance of Tony's is road biking when a man in a truck passes him too closely and clips his shoulder. The biker is angry at the too-close encounter and flips his arm angrily at the driver.

The pick-up truck driver pulls in front of the biker, exits his truck and begins his verbal assault. The biker tries to pedal away, but the trucker pushes him over. The biker's feet are clipped into the pedals and he lands hard on the ground, vulnerable, and the trucker continues his attack with kicks and punches.

The biker ends up with broken ribs, cuts and scratches. The trucker ends up with an assault charge. Fortunately, witnesses were close at hand.

When Tony finishes the story, I repeat what I often say in response to any story about road rage, "You never know who has a gun." In this case, the trucker's gun was his short fuse. I add, "You never know a person's situation. Did his girlfriend just break up with him? Did he lose his job? He was looking for a fight."

Indelible in my memory, is the night my father was an angry driver. Before we left for dinner at my aunt and uncle's home, Dad had come home tense.  When a diesel came up close behind him with his brights on, my father over-reacted. In memory of my father's goodness, I will leave it at that--- which forever proved that road rage can over-power the sense of good people.

To Tony's credit, he told me the story to validate my repeated warnings to him, because  he used to let bad drivers get to him. Yet, I don't need validation to keep up my fight against road rage. When we lived in Los Angeles, there was a rash of road rage that resulted in a few drivers who pulled out guns and shot the offending drivers. The birth of my aphorism: You never know who has a gun and is looking for the slightest provocation to use it.

Tony created his own way to deal with drivers who tempted his good nature and patience. My best friend in high school, Melissa, is a delightful, loveable person with some wickedly bad driving skills and weakened peripheral vision. When I rode in her passenger seat, I saw the trail of angry drivers which she was completely unaware of. Tony imagines the driver who almost ran him off the road is Melissa.

And me? Every driver who mistakes the fast left lane for the left-turning-lane, and causes me to slam on my brakes, I see as my father driving in his later years. I'm filled with compassion and patience for someone who could be going through the same decline as him.

Bottom line: driving defensively is more than a catch phrase-- it's a necessary skill--as necessary as  patience and self-control.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Fool

During my red hair stage, it was extremely difficult to keep the red. It continually faded until it faded away forever, but before it did, my hairdresser did her best to keep it vibrant, and that included one afternoon when she decided to set my head on fire--with bright red. I don't think I realized its intensity. A few days after, I was scheduled to play harp at church, on the stand, in front of lots of people. Not one to give into self consciousness, I didn't think twice about the flame on my head. I only became aware, when my friend met me in the hall and her face filled with sorrow and pity, and she said with an amused smile, "I love you." Which translated into I admire you for looking absolutely ridiculous and still carrying on. In front of a crowd.

The Fool is an important character in the king's court, in the circus, in Shakespeare's plays and comedic films--and in real life.

The fool helps us realize we are all fools and it's okay to make mistakes, and that making restitution for our mistakes is critical. Sometimes this includes confession, admitting to, and apologizing. Or paying back, cleaning up. We learn most from our mistakes, yet we are most reticent to admit our mistakes. Without realization, admission, confession and restitution, it's easier to condemn people for their foolish mistakes, and that's no fun.

In the spirit of all the above listed requirements of playing the fool, I share with you:

Each Friday, school includes a half hour gathering of students for what is deemed "mentoring." Students listen to me all week, so I prefer to ask guests to teach and bring different perspectives. For this auspicious Friday, a senior test was planned, but it was canceled a few days before: terrific! I can ask a speaker and I had the perfect guy in mind. I went to a lot of trouble to secure his coming at the last minute. It involved rides, a caretaker, and possibly canceling an appointment. OH was I excited for the students!

I then received a text that all the seniors were instead meeting in the cafeteria for a senior meeting.

Why hadn't I been notified! Who dared to schedule?

Can you see where this is going?

Fortunately, I calmed down before I sent an inquiring email to administration. I explained how much trouble I had gone to and if administration hadn't scheduled the meeting, could they please let me know who did? I didn't hear a word back and assumed they were scrambling to accommodate my efforts.

Within a few hours, it got back to me that I had scheduled the senior meeting in the cafeteria. Three weeks prior, I had arranged for a different speaker.

I had only been very mad at myself.

I apologized, I canceled, I re-arranged, and yes, I felt like a fool. And then I laughed. And shared. So you may laugh and be encouraged to admit when you too, are the fool.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Illusion of My

My bees survived the winter.

Hmmm, there's something amiss in the sentence above. My bees. What a foolish assumption I have learned.

The use of my is a simple determiner to show possession. Using my is simply a way of using speech and is entirely appropriate; but that isn't what throws me. It is in the thinking that I possess a hive of insects that belong to nature, or to them-insect-selves, or to no one. Possession implies control. Managing beehives does not mean control. A hive may abscond, swarm or disappear for no apparent reason at all. Last year, I lost two queens. Where did they go? A hive may be inflicted with mites, to which we may try to control. We position the hives facing the south, we cut down all the limbs that block the sun, yet the wild hive around the corner that lives in a fence post, thrives in total shade. We think we know.

My children. Ha! Even more of an illusion, though it's very important to claim one's children. Sad would be the day if I referred to them only as Tony's children or the earth's children--they are distinctly and gratefully all mine. Yet, they never really were. Again--control is the theme word of the day. Yes, we guide, nourish and bring-them-up, but all the control rests within their own mind and spirit. To think otherwise is perpetually trying to tether a wild horse, which brings visions of Sisyphus rolling that stone up the hill, only to have it roll back down.

French philosopher Albert Camus wrote that it was in the moment that the stone rested at the bottom of he hill, before Sisyphus rolled it up again, that he was interested in. In that moment is when man takes control of his destiny--even though that control is lacking at every other step of the way. It is the one slice of hope that we can control our circumstances, our bees, our children that helps us push that rock, to start over, to buy another queen, to ground a child for insubordination, or to enter a classroom. That space where we think, "I will make a difference; I choose to roll this boulder up the hill." In the doing, the practice, the patience, we become, even if nothing is "ours."

Hence the importance of my: my life.

Postscript: the myth of Sisyphus, is well, a myth. While discussing it in class, a student raised his hand to point out that his version, has Sisyphus eventually rolling the boulder over the cliff and defeating his life of punishment. It's not the version I was aware of, but it brings yet another perspective of hope and possibility: defeat and control is imminent when we persist.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Favored Nation

I rolled over this morning and pinched Tony because he was not wearing green. Safe I was, with the green-shirted skiers on my pajamas.

"How appropriate it is to be going to Chicago on St. Patrick's Day!" I exclaimed.

The day begins differently when one knows she is flying to Chicago at 1:40 in the afternoon, on St. Patrick's Day.

I thought of the parade and the green dying of the Chicago River. How I would like to see a fluorescent green river, but it happens on the Saturday before St Patrick's Day.

 I remembered the un-planned coincidence, years ago, of being in New York City on St. Paddy's Day. Completely unaware, we were surprised to catch the parade of the Irish, which consisted of hundreds of proud Irish police and firemen. Today in Ireland, the celebrations will last the entire day, for the day is meant to celebrate the coming of St. Patrick and the introduction of Christianity.

But we are not going to Chicago for St. Patrick's Day; we are going to spend time with Mandi, Silas and Ezra.

Ezra. Our own little leprechaun. I had to look up leprechaun after misspelling it three times. It's not a word used often in my lexicon; from a lack of use, I was't acquainted with its spelling. Just like Ezra. Not the spelling of his name, but with his little three year old self--and he certainly isn't familiar enough with me, which can be a little difficult; the little guy sometimes tolerates me. Barely.

I understand. We go months without seeing him. In those months his development grows exponentially without the word "grandma," or "grandparents." Tis a hard thing, and sometimes I get discouraged and back off completely. It would be worse if I didn't. I think.

As he grows, he will better understand who we are and maybe why we are hardly around.

In the meantime, I can't give up. Yet, the truth gnaws at my conscious--Ezra loves Tony. Not me, just Tony.

"Does he know we're coming?" I ask Mandi, his mom, the day before our visit.

"Yes, he's talking about hiding in the closet, and turning off the lights, and..."

"Those are all the things he does with Grandpa," I lament, "maybe I need to have my things I do with him."

My daughter's enthusiasm bubbles, "Yes, he loves to hide under blankets. Whenever he's in a bad mood, I throw a blanket over myself, he finds me and joins me, and it takes him right out of his bad mood."

I play along, "I can do that," but later realize hiding under blankets would make me miserable. Dark, claustrophobic, static electricity pinging my hair and clothes. I'l be throwing the blanket over grandpa.

Maybe I can play cars, or legos, or...none of it sounds fun. Maybe that's why he likes Grandpa Tony so much more.

I try to figure out what does sound fun: taking him on walks, and patiently waiting as he strings together sentence after sentence, slowly, consciously, as he realizes the exploration that language is--or as I realize. Fun to me is not fun to Ezra. Maybe that's okay. Maybe it's okay to not have favored nation status.

That I even care about favored nation status reveals the heart of the problem.

No matter who we are, and who we're with, whether it was on the elementary playground, the middle school lunchroom, the high school gym, with the ladies at lunch, or with a grandson: when we care how much people like us--we can't be ourselves.

When we can't be ourselves, not even we are comfortable in our own skin--how can we expect others to be comfortable with us?

It's time to be myself--even with the intimidating three year old.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

History of the Cold War #3

I want to step back and answer the question: What was the Cold War?

The Cold War was 43 years of alternating conflict and cooperation between the newly communist countries of the east and the democratic nations of the west. I say that communism was new because relatively speaking, it was. Democracy had been tried and proven true. Communism was the implementation of the ideas of Karl Marx developed only in the 19th century and only implemented in the 20th. The followers of Marxism had hopes for a better world, but as communist countries change and adapt in the 20th and 21st century, we see the failings are epic and theories are not always realistic.

The east was led by the USSR and China--the west by the United States and her allies--the oddity is that at the beginning of the Cold War, the USSR, China, and the US were all fighting on the same side. Their dependance upon one another was not because of commonalities; they simply knew they could not defeat Germany and Japan with out their combined forces.

No wars were ever proclaimed during the Cold War but the idealogical battles led to physical, bloody conflicts: The Korean and Vietnam War. Koreans and Vietnamese suffered greatly as the bigger interests watched the fight between democracy and communism play out far from their own lands.

The Cold War brought out the worst in leaders of nations. Both the east and the west engaged in and supported:
*covert military operations—coups, revolutions, assassinations and insurrections
*Shooting down airplanes, the taking of hostages and hostage victims
*economic sanctions
*built walls

*manipulated the price of oil and production
* nuclear arms developed and  grew in number until the possibility of global destruction became a possibility

When the super powers realized the possibility of global destruction, only then did their "best" capabilities rise to the surface. When the very lands, people and ideas could have been destroyed by what war was meant to protect, change became a possibility. Only when they realized the entire world could be destroyed did they try to keep it from happening.

From The Cold War: Great speeches in History edited by Louise I Gerdes
The Cold War by John Lewis Gaddis

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

More Than Gifts

This morning I spoke to Uncle Fred. He's now 71 years old and sounds like an old southern gentleman. I don't speak to him often; maybe every few years when I'm with Mom and he happens to call. No matter what the conversation centers on, we always talk about the same thing: a gift he gave me and my sister almost 50 years ago.

Uncle Fred had joined the army and was shipped to South Korea. The years were 1963-64--the Korean conflict had begun right after WWII and the country was divided into the north communist run state while South Korea remained a democracy. Uncle Fred was there as part of the peace keeping commission; Americans were stationed to keep the north from invading the south.

When Uncle Fred's tour in Korea finished, Mom's little brother pulled up in the passenger seat of a car in front of our house. He was wearing a uniform,  was tall and handsome, wore a big smile, and in his hands were two big packages. I remember opening the boxes. In one of the cases was a beautiful Korean doll dressed in red embroidered satin. The other doll, chosen by my sister, was identical except for her blue satin dress.

I can still see the dolls; I can still see the moment.

Today, I asked Uncle Fred how he got those glass cased dolls back to the US in one piece. It seemed like an impossible to answer question considering it was 50 years ago, but Uncle Fred remembered.

"I carried those by hand all the way for my two nieces."

When I write this, when I remember, I cry.

My mind is flooded with many of the gifts I received as a child. I remember the person, the reason, the thoughtfulness and I wonder how much it impacted me as a person.

Sometimes I hesitate to buy presents for children. They already have too much, or I don't want to add to their junk collection or an already cluttered closet, or make my daughter have to deal with more little pieces that will eventually be vacuumed up or disposed of. But I think I have been wrong to hesitate, especially since my conversation with Uncle Fred when I realized once again, how much that special gift meant to me then and how much it still means to me now.

Monday, March 14, 2016

I Will Be A Surfer

While biking around the island, I ride along the street that runs through the center of high school. It must be just after lunch because students are walking from all directions towards the school--except one boy: he's flying by on a skateboard and in his arms he cradles--- a surfboard. The waves are unusually high due to last night's storm, and I'm sure he's headed to the beach for some adventure. I'm thankful as a teacher I don't have to compete with big wave days.

I have surfed. While just a teenager, friends took me to Dana Point for a one morning tutorial. I rose, surfed a few feet, got back up and did it again. But then I headed back to the desert. As an adult, my sister and I, rather naively, rented surfboards on Waikiki beach. We lasted maybe fifteen minutes and after a near collision with horrified Hawaiian faces paddling a canoe, dragged our boards back to the rental shop.

 One summer I even arranged for surf lessons for the whole family. I think I caught one ride before toppling forward over my board. At this point, I gave up the idea of learning to surf for myself, but bet your bottom surfing dollar, the daughters went to surf camp and I make sure Max and Anni go to surf camp. Max seems to have caught the surfing bug--even for a landlocked child.

My own incapabilities cannot keep me from enjoying the thrill of watching real surfers, and this past weekend, they flocked to the beach to ride the continual high swells.

Surfers make waves look like nature's ultimate toy. On the cusp of the curl, a surfer paddles, stands, and works the wave like a pastry chef spreading cream. The wave forcefully, gracefully, moves the surfer forward. He rides it out and pops down to paddle out for another.

A few days later I'm walking the beach in Santa Monica. I pass an instructor on this weekday morning who is teaching kids how to read a wave. He points to the variation of the curl and explains the presence of a sandbar. What are kids doing at the beach on a week day?

I look around and see the ocean is full of what may be students. Could this be a PE class? 

On my way back down the beach the surfers are carrying boards back up to the parking lot and the instructor is removing orange cones from where he blocked off his part of the ocean.

"Is this a high school PE class?" I ask.

"It's actually middle school, and yes, it's PE class."

"Do they know how lucky they are?"

"Probably not," he responds.

I learn that other middle and high schools in the area also have surfing PE: Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica High.

I love being in my wet suit in the cold surf. My body is warm but if I miss a wave in my surf kayak, it tosses me and spits me out. The cold stings the back of my head and the pungent smell permeates.  I'm awake and exhilarated. When I walk out of the surf, regardless of the weather, I'm warm. Warm and feeling good about life. Nothing feels better than salt water and the pull of a wave.

So it is with envy that I watch the surfers. In part it is their youth, their agility, that they can take a natural phenomenon and play with it, roll it, manipulate it, like a little ball of clay. That they dare to swim into a monster, harness it and feel its power. It seems the ultimate mastery of nature.

When people think about dying and going to heaven, they most likely want to be angels; but for me, I will be a surfer.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

To Church or Not to Church

My sister and I are walking along the Santa Monica boardwalk on a beautiful, sunny morning. We are deep in conversation, but still we notice the few homeless people scattered along the beach.

The next morning, when we wake, my sister suggests we take money to the homeless people.

"What if we take food instead?"

She's puzzled.

"If they're alcoholics or drug abusers, they might use the money for their habit."

"What if I don't care what they use the money for?"

"If they're not taking care of themselves, food would be the best offering."


So we grab three cups of free coffee from the lobby and my sister takes a handful of ten dollar bills. We start searching for homeless people.

But we don't find homeless people who will take money, or who are capable of conversing. It confirms what I have read and heard for years-- that homelessness is in part from mental illness.

We almost give up. We offer coffee to people who are just out on the beach, and two women take it with gratitude. We look deeper.

We find two different men who upon first glance don't look like typical homeless men. But as we talk, we learn of their circumstances and the changes that put them out on the beach. They are reticent at first, but grateful in the end to take a bit of help.

That night, we contemplate the next day. It will be Sunday and my sister asks,

"Should we go to church, or take care of the homeless?"

She tells me of the time she was in Panama visiting a beautiful cathedral. When she sees a homeless beggar outside of the church, she is moved to give him money. A caretaker of the church notices and rushes outside. There is an exchange in Spanish and my sister's tour guide explains what just happened. The caretaker demanded that the beggar move on because my sister would have given the money to the church had he not been there.

We both see the dilemma. What is the greater good? Go to church on Sunday or care for the poor?

We contemplate ideas.

"The Lord asks us to give him just one day," I say.

"Okay, I guess we can go to church then," my sister answers.

At the end of church we quickly learn that serving and attending church are not mutually exclusive. Mom, my sister and I are all drawn to different people.  For mom, it's the missionaries who may have needs; for Loraine it's a handicapped older man wearing a frayed shirt. For me, it is the woman who proudly announces "I take care of all the broken people in my city."

The even greater find is that I too am broken-- attending church and caring for others has the power to heal.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Learning From Others

The best thing about being a teacher is when I realized I didn't have to know everything. That happened fairly quickly in my later-in-life teaching career. I was then open to bringing in various guests who were experienced and even experts in different fields.

When the Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, died, I wanted my students to understand the importance of the Supreme Court. I started reading, studying the best I could, but again fairly quickly I realized a few days of reading was nothing compared to a JD and a law career. We had two scholars well versed in constitutional law who brought a new vision and new ways of thinking to our classroom. It was invigorating.

When we finished our book that focused on the plight of refugees during WWII, we had a guest who works with refugee high school students, most who are just off the boat--literally and figuratively.
He speaks Arabic, had lived in Middle East, and his current college major is Middle Eastern studies. He loves the people, the culture and the religion, yet, he couldn't dismiss the violent tendencies of some factions fueled by religious justification and fervor. The young man needed divine intervention to help him overcome the hatred he felt for the evil that infiltrated the lives of so many people--worldwide. As a teacher who respects and agrees with the separation of church and state, I cannot share spiritual experiences, but my guest could, and his sharing of spending a night in prayer asking for charity, was humbling and reverent--in front of 90 high school seniors.

He shared personal stories of his students and showed drone footage of a destroyed city in Syria. "This is why they must leave, this is why they are refugees."

At the end of March, we will have another guest with experiences I could never come close to replicating. My neighbor, my friend, a one time professional wrestler "The Terrible Turk," also lived as a young boy during the WWII occupation of France. He's coming to share those memories and especially the memory of the time when he was almost drafted by La Resistance!

How wonderful it is to know how little I know!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Grandma, Great Grandma, and the Twins

My thirty + year old niece has been deliberating for at least five years whether or not to have children. She loves children; both she and her husband are kind, patient and....they don't want to break the spell. As it is now, they can be the fun aunt and uncle who special order shark pinatas, who buy little Tom's shoes, who can hand the baby back when it cries. They enjoy everyone else's children without the late nights, the no-sleep-nights, the spit up, the babysitter-just-canceled moments. Can we blame her?

But this isn't about my niece, because we're not allowed to talk about her recent come-to-terms with the BIG decision. She's decided to try and have children! And this is what her mother, my sister, wants to talk to her about! All the time! But she's told her mother, "You're not allowed to talk about it."

To which she responded, "You're lucky I haven't gone shopping yet."

My niece knows that having a child is a gift--with everyone knowing her desires---so much pressure. Is she pregnant yet? Fertility isn't always a given and she knows not what the years ahead hold for her I want a family journey.

Since the future grandma can't mention it anymore, neither can the future great grandma mention it anymore, ---they only have each other.

Their conversation this morning:

Grandma to be: "I told her a long time ago, that she couldn't depend on me to be her babysitter. That sort of killed it for her."

Great grandma to be: "Well, when he or she is little, I can even take care of it. It's just when it gets older and it has to be chased around that I can't. I have a friend who had so much fun caring for her first great granddaughter, but when the mother had a second and had to hold the second while chasing the first, she told her granddaughter she was too old to do it."

Grandma to be: "What if she has twins? We don't know one side of the family's history and we don't know if there are any twins."

Great Grandma to be: "Twins would be a dream come true for her. She'd have her family in one package.

Grandma to be: "I would help her out."

Great Grandma to be: "We can both take care of them together."

Grandma to be, "I can go to her house everyday and help. You could come to."

Great Grandma to be: "Of course I'll come help."

Grandma to be: "That will be so much fun."

Me ( a distant part of the conversation on speaker phone: "You two are hysterical. There is no baby yet and you've already planned your schedule for watching the twins."

They laugh-- not even the reality of no baby can damper their happy anticipation.

Since the gag order was implemented, they only have each other to imagine the possibility of another person, a baby in their lives, and so they secretly plan their new lives together. All four of them. Shhhhhh.....

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Too Late To Take It Back, But Never Too Late To Change

I had to stop by school and interrupted our AP class for a short five minutes. It's a small class of six  and both Deb and I have become very close to the students. So when I interrupted, we had to talk. The end of the year looms and already the students are feeling nostalgic and so the conversation went to end of year parties. They know they are the apple of both their teachers' eyes, so they don't hesitate to ask for favors.

"We need a swimming party."

"Of course," I responded, then slipped and said the worst thing an adult can say in the midst of teenagers. I turned to Deb and jokingly said, "We're starting our diets now."

Deb responded, "I'm not swimming. I'll be serving food."

It was easy to slink out of the room after I'd made the comment and had introduced the idea that somehow our bodies weren't good enough for a class pool party. I'd also planted the idea that if we weren't in good enough shape, then neither were they.

Hopefully no one really did pick up on that message. Hopefully they brushed it off as two mature women talking foolishly and self consciously. But if we want to change body hang-ups, we have to start with ourselves.

I was overly disappointed in myself that I'd let that old/outdated/unnecessary/sometimes debilitating self conscious-body-image self flare in front of the students.

Each time I say something I shouldn't have, or didn't mean to, I suffer. Sometimes an apology is timely and appropriate, other times I just have to walk out and hope no one heard (how sad to speak and hope no one heard when words are so valuable). The diet comment wasn't worth explaining or deliberating over. To give it more attention might have been more foolish than the initial comment. But because of my own weakness, regrets, and wish-I-hadn't-said-that goofs, I give other people a wide berth. Instead of feeling bad or criticized from other's comments, I take them in the spirit they should have been spoken. I understand my own weaknesses, why not give the same compassion towards others?

It happened the other day in a heart to heart conversation with a student. She told me she didn't like me at the beginning of the year. Her reasons were superficial.

I could have been hurt (I was just a little), by her comment, but I took it in the spirit of how it should have been expressed. She wanted to tell me that she liked me now and the easiest way was to contrast her feelings with how she felt in the past. It's okay. I also conclude she needed to learn from her mistake. Just like I will never make a body conscious comment again, hopefully she will remember how she felt when she revealed her personal, hurtful feelings.

At my doctor's office, a small plaque sits on the receptionist's desk, "Be kind, you never know what kind of day a person is having." I've re-written the sign to end cap my thoughts: "Be kind regardless of what a person says to you--he probably didn't mean it and wishes he hadn't. Treat it as if he hadn't."

A little humor to lighten up the subject--Found in a boutique yesterday--a sign that read: How to have a beach body: 1. Have a body 2. Go to the beach

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


I came down to the coast all excited to take my kayak out with my stickysounds ( a shameless plug for my son-in-law's company). It was windy and bitter cold. When I started walking to dinner, I turned around to get the car to drive to dinner. I've never driven to dinner, but the wind was too much to fight. Even for dinner.

This morning I kept putting off my beach walk because it was still too cold. I kept checking my weather app and by 10:00 a.m., when it hit 55 degrees, I headed out into a beautiful sunny day. When I met the ocean, I was amazed at its power and destruction from the night before. It was churning, thundering and rolling. I wouldn't be kayaking with my new stickysounds (shameless plug repeat). I was sad, but marveled at the ocean's mood swings, and today it was fiercely angry. The kind of day one avoids.

The storm had taken out the vegetation berm along the boardwalk and covered it with an inch of sand. The surf had jumped the beach and flooded a street. Chunks of aggregate were missing from beach stairs. The police had blocked off a portion of the boardwalk and lifeguards from the main tower were warning people to stay out of the water. The red flag was flapping in the wind.

When Max was just a four year old, his aunts and Tony and me had all flown back to Indiana for a visit. He had a soccer game and we were excited to see the little guy perform. Soccer for four year olds is quite amusing and its entertaining to watch the little guys bunch together to scrum for the ball. There was one moment when every player was in a tight circle trying to get control over the ball. Max stepped away, turned to the sidelines and called out, "There's no way I'm getting in the middle of that."

The little guy had no idea he'd created an aphorism for my sister and me. When things got complicated, we'd imitate Max, "There's no way I'm getting in the middle of that." Even at such a young age, Max saw the futility of fighting for ball control or kayaking into a storm.

I once had a tendency to enter storms with an in-law. Then one day everyone else entered the storm with this in-law, and I was as distant as a rainbow. As I stood back and watched the storm brew, I had a perspective I wanted to have for now on and forever--far away from the storm.

It doesn't mean I haven't failed to stay out of storms, but each time I do, the lesson of having entered choppy waters reinforces my previous resolve. Because of this resolve, it seems that everything I'm involved in is a peaceful, loving environment and from my perspective, probably problem free. Oh the joy of staying out of the storm!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The History of the Cold War #2: "The World Must Be Made Safe for Democracy"

The war to end all wars, as it was called, was a failed cliche. Over 9 million soldier deaths. Twenty one million injuries, ten million civilian deaths. France and Germany had sent 80 percent of their male population, ages 15-49 into WWI. 

The United States had mostly lived by the principle of isolationism; desire was supported by geographic separation and distance from the broiling turmoil in Europe and elsewhere.  President Woodrow Wilson wanted peace; almost a year and a half before the official end of WWI, Wilson proposed to both houses of congress his 14 point plan for peace and safety. Some of his ideas went forth to The Treaty of Versailles-- meant to stop the futility of war--but instead, fueled the next war only 20 years later. ***

On January 8 1917, Wilson read his 14 points. His desires: It is that the world be made fit and safe to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice and fair dealing by the other peoples of the world as against force and selfish aggression.

Wilson's 14 points called for:
1. Open diplomacy: peace keeping should be public and for the public good. He called an end to secrecy in diplomacy.
2. Freedom of the seas
3. Removal of economic barriers--or free trade
4. Reduction of armaments: the less the killing capabilities, the less will be killed
5. Adjustment of colonial claims--with respect to all: sovereignty as well as people under rule of another nation
Points 6-13 deal directly with settling specific land hostilities among the nations involved in WWI: redrawing of boundaries, restoration of lands, and independence for certain countries.

Point 14: A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike. The precursor to the League of Nations, which the United States would never be a part of.

Needless to say, not everyone in Europe was happy with the distant American proposal, but the need to rely on American monies to rebuild after the war's devastation, made some countries more compliant--at the time. 

For Russia, the 14 points fueled the fissure between them and the US. Lenin's Bolshevik uprising was made in part against the capitalists responsible for this terrible world war. Wilson's 14 points was in part a stab at the Russians. John Gaddis, Harvard professor of history explains in The Cold War:  "(Wilson) found himself waging two wars, one with military might against Imperial Germany and its allies, the other with words against the Bolsheviks (Lenin). Wilson's 14 points, speech of January 1918, the single most influential statement of an American ideology in the 20th century, was a direct response to the ideological challenge Lenin had posed. There began at this point, then, a war of ideas--a contest among visions--that would extend through the rest of WWI, the interwar years, WWII and most of the Cold War (87).

And so it begins...

***Because Wilson became ill at the Paris Peace Treaty, the French foreign minister changed the German reparations into drastic and debilitating responsibilities from which Germany felt it could never recover. The Treaty of Versailles, the treaty signed to end the war, required Germany to take responsibility for the war and accept and pay financial reparations. The Germans were required to pay the allies 132 billion gold Reichmarks or 32 billion US dollars in addition to the 5 billion already demanded by the treaty. The return of German aggression shortly thereafter, is what I believe helped the US take a future benevolent stances against the countries they conquered and who started the wars of destruction. After WWII, the US helped Germany and Japan get back on their feet. Both economies have thrived in the post world war years.

Following soon: History of The Cold War #3

Monday, March 7, 2016

When We're On Solid Ground, It's Simple to Save a Drowning Man

As of late, Tony has been wearing earphones around the house as he practices his French. Consequently, I've been having a lot of conversations with myself. He tries his hardest to be attentive, often yanking the earphones off his head and asking "What?"

Most of the time, what I say is not worth repeating; it's more that I vocalize what I'm thinking and I'm just my own sounding board. I see this new condition (Tony's inability to hear me because of his earphones) as a way to adjust to growing old. I also see that when our senses decline, eyesight and hearing, we need to sharpen our other senses--or rather our consciousness of one another.

A long time ago, BC (before children), we were water skiing on Lake Mead with my father and sister. At day's end we were crawling along at wake speed when we spotted a man treading in the water. Unsure of his state, filled with questions, we stopped and pulled him aboard. He didn't speak. When we docked, he pulled himself from the boat and walked away.


When we were almost ready to go, the man returned with his wife and another couple all of whom were well over 70 years old. The man had gotten his strength back and wanted to thank us and explain his situation.

He been drowning and was too tired to speak or move; he was too exhausted to call for help. That we saw him and pulled him aboard, saved his life. The couples had been boating and the man we had helped had fallen off the back of the boat. The others were unaware of his disappearance, until they returned to shore and saw he was missing. Perhaps their aged hearing and seeing had kept them from awareness, but the man's near drowning happened because they were not conscious of each other.

I've heard often that old age is the return to infancy. I remember the days when my child alert antennae was always on and sending out and receiving messages: where are the children and what are they doing? Consciousness and awareness of these little people under my protection ran high. I couldn't and didn't protect them from everything, but I tried.

I will never forget the aged man we pulled out of the lake, his friends, and their unawareness as to his whereabouts. I also realize that whereabouts doesn't refer only to location and the aged. It's where we and other people are at in all aspects of life: happiness, financial situations, health and emotional needs, etc.

But how can we do it all, or help without being overwhelmed by all the people who need help? The answer as well as the question comes from the drowning man. We weren't even aware of his dire situation, but we were conscious of him and acted. Simply pulled him out of the water. Even though he was wearing a life jacket and he was so close to the shore, we sensed his needs. We didn't realize such a simple act was saving a man's life. To not be overwhelmed we must be aware and simply do.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Like Him

For Mom's birthday this year, I created the birthday-book-of-the-month club. Mom is an AVID reader and this seemed like a perfect gift. I wanted to give her a variety of fiction and non fiction. In the past, I've always passed on to her my favorite reads; so this would be different--I would take risks and recommendations and let Mom be the first to read.

BBMC began with James Michener's epic Hawaii, since that was the venue of her birthday and the kickoff. It was a looooooong book, but I knew Mom would conquer Hawaii-just in time for January's read: The Boys in the Boat, highly recommended by The Tressler Women's book club. This mom and her four daughters created their own book club for camaraderie and shared intellectual exploration and stimulation. Then it was time to pick February's read. Previously, I had ordered two books I could choose from. The first was Green Dolphin Street, (Marcia's all time favorite), and a NYT notable book: The Professor and the Madman, A Tale of Murder, Insanity, And the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary.

A strange thing happened. Each time I went to gift wrap, box and send February's pick, I felt restrained. Followed by a muddled mind. Strange. It was after all, just a book, and I had ten more months to send new books. Did it really matter which book I sent her? While talking on the phone with her, the book, Jesus the Christ, by James E Talmage popped into my mind.

"Mom, have you ever read Jesus the Christ by Talmage?"

"I've started it but never finished."

Jesus the Christ is the epic study of the Savior of the World, written by an apostle of the Lord in 1949. One of the tenets/doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is that the modern day church is patterned after the ancient church of Jesus Christ. His earthly ministry immediately required the gathering of 12 good men who would serve him, his children and would testify of his divinity, his mission, his atonement. They were left to carry on after his ascension, left to build his church, and die, often brutally for the cause of Christianity.

I too had started this work on a few occasions and had never made it through.

Again, when I tried to send Mom a previous book club choice, I knew I needed to send her Talmage's great work instead. In the box, I included an explanation of how I felt compelled to send this book.

Before Mom found the book in her mailbox, I received an email from her. She wrote: I just got a note from our Relief Society Stake Presidency admonishing us all to read Jesus the Christ together. So I headed over to DI (Mormon goodwill), and found a copy for .75 cents. I've already read four chapters before church this morning and found the taking of the sacrament intensely meaningful.

I responded, When you get home you will find a beautiful, brand new copy. Maybe I should read it with you! That day, I too started Talmage's glorious work on the Savior.

My copy is also a used copy. It belonged to my dad. His underlining and notations are sparse but today I realized a few notations must also belong to my mom. The book is a kind of legacy of my parents, of me. All of us struggling to get through a book, to get through life, getting to know the Savior and ultimately the greatest challenge ever~~trying to become more like him.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Taking a Punch at the Taboo: Politics

At least a month ago, a student who is not afraid to challenge her fellow students and me, said, "You know that ________________(presidential candidate) is Hitler all over again." I thought her claim was extreme, a little frightful, and certainly not worth the animosity a discussion or rebuttal would bring to our classroom.

Yet, why had I quit watching any of the presidential debates? Because I couldn't stand the bullying. Because I couldn't stand the promises and self aggrandizement of great accomplishment and capabilities when the facts seemed to show otherwise. These men and women were giving us few logical answers, and were even dodging answers to the blaring questions of the federal deficit, immigration, unemployment etc. etc. And of course they almost all disagreed with each other. The debates became a big time wrestling match, referees included--so much that Ben Carson wanting to be part of the brawl asked, "Could someone please attack me?"

As we continued studying the passive resistant the WWII village of Le Chambon, we kept asking ourselves, How did Hitler gain so much power? How were an intelligent people, an industrialized nation duped into electing one of the most wicked men of all time?

The man was a deception and deception is always a half truth. Otherwise, it wouldn't have a chance of success. In order for the deception to take hold, the people had to look at all the goodness in his promises and shut off their consciousness to little red flags of untruth. When the pastor of Le Chambon, Andre Trocme, preached at the end of the war to the German prisoners, they defended their actions by saying they..."'were ridding Europe of the red plague, Russian communism.' When Trocme mentioned the massacres and the gas chambers, the Germans raised their shoulders and raised their hands unbelievingly and said, 'Filthy, lying war propaganda.'" In order to keep fighting for the Third Reich, they had to focus on what they perceived as the good, and shut off their consciousness and awareness of atrocity.

Me, we, together, must start demanding of our candidates the whole truth. We can't continue to shut off our consciousness to the scary untruths in order to embrace the half hope of a capability that promises to save the nation. Where are those women and men? We must find them, be them, support them, elect them.