Traveling Fool

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I am traveling today back east to the Big Birthday Bash. As I sit here sipping my cup of coffee watching all the folks pass by, I cannot help but be amazed and transfixed by all the ethnicities and skin colors I see walking around me. It is a blessing.

Most often when I travel internationally it is not like this. The airport in Amsterdam has mostly caucasian folks, the airport in Seoul is almost all Asian, and in New Zealand, it is again, mostly white folks cruising along. I have found that usually airports act as mini countries giving you a superficial glimpse of the sort of people who live there and what the country values. Way to often, it appears that many countries value segregation to some extent, the United States included.

Here in the United States we like to try to hide our discomfort with “others” that are unlike ourselves. Yet, we do not have the luxury of continuing to pretend that racism does not exist here if we want to survive as a nation. Racism is disguised in so many subtle ways … housing, education and jobs. And in your face hate is alive and well especially when I recall the time we were in New York City and someone yelled to our family, “Take those _______ kids back to their own country.”

As I take savor this cup, I see evidence all around me, that we as a species can change. For I see a rainbow of kids who are talking and laughing with one another. I glimpse a transracial family like mine. I see a so-in-love black man and white woman holding hands and looking at each other with complete adoration in their eyes. I witness such a variety of people interacting with one another knowing that I never would have seen this 30 years ago.  I see people who are willing to give each other a chance rather than remain distant from one another. And as I sit here I am renewed in my faith in people and in my country.

I  have hope that one day soon I will visit an airport in another country that appears as diverse as the ones here do. It just needs to happen for the sake of our children. For the longevity of the world. And frankly, it is just more colorful and beautiful to see people out there in the world who don’t look just like me!

 

 

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Tinder Box

This weekend we traveled up to the cabin in the woods. The valley was searing hot and the 10 degrees cooler that you find in the mountains seems like more when you are melting on the valley floor. So up we went into the foothills, into the big hills, and finally into the bosom of the mountains with all her craggy passageways and lush miles-long scenic views.

Our family loves it up here where the snow caps the peaks in winter and the abundance of Redwood trees captures our imaginations. But this year the landscape looks moon-like in some places. Cabins that were once hidden by trees stand naked and exposed. Instead of cypress and pine trees the only thing left are the oaks. After years of drought mother nature is suffering. The once majestic trees have been weakened and have become susceptible to disease and the insects that wish to take them down. And so they do…the leaf miner and the bark beetle cutting their way through huge swarths of forrest reducing the trees to nothing but huge stands of kindling. It really is a natural disaster of epic proportions that few are aware of.

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And so, as we traveled up the windy mountain passes, we watched as the air became noticeably streaked with brown from the huge forest fire that is down the road a spell. Its a fire that in  a few short minutes killed two people. Its a fire that has taken out hundreds of homes leaving people with nothing but memories. It’s a fire that has crews risking their lives in the hot blazing sun trying to put out a fire that has grown to over 50,000 charred acres. And from a distance I see the smoke that sends an ominous signal warning of worse to come.

So this weekend while in the smokey air we worked to clear the grass and debris 100 ft away from the building. We worked in the heat to try to ward off the threat of a fire destroying this 100 year old cooks cabin that the lumberjacks once relied on for their meals after a hard days work deep in the old growth Sequoia Forest. Yet, while motivated to save the natural beauty beside us, we are also realists, and we know that should fire hit this part of the world, that in just a few minutes, everything would most likely go up in flames no matter what measures we might put into place.

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So tonight, as you head off to dreamland, I ask a favor. I ask that you pray or send positive thoughts for those who have lost everything in this fire as well as the firefighters who do their best to save the property, wildlife, and the people of our neck of the woods. And please remember the families of the firefighters who worry about them out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but minimal equipment and their wits about them.  For firefighting is a dangerous and dirty job.It’s a job in which 19 firefights lost their lives on one black day back in 2013. It is a job in which flames dance above heads and threaten the firefighters life with just one turn of the fickle wind.May our firefighters stay safe this fire season so that they may return home to tuck their children into bed at night knowing that once again they can be proud of a job that demands so much and pays so little.

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Birthdays

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Next week I head east for the  BIG BIRTHDAY BASH. My Aunt M will be turning 90, my father will be turning 80, and my cousin will celebrate her 70th.That is 240 years between them which amazes me. Even more remarkable they share the same birthday each 10 years apart.

During this weekend celebration I will have the opportunity to visit with cousins that I have not seen in 40 years. But best of all, my daughter and my grandkids will travel up north too. where we will spend time visiting the towns that my relatives used to live in 100 years ago. It will be a blast.

As I have prepared for this joyous occasion I have come to realize that birthdays are something we don’t pay enough attention to. Sure the day you are born is random but who you are and who you become is not. When you were born you brought hope, joy, and promise into this world and you are all still doing it today. Sure the luster may have tarnished a little here and there but the promise we offer the world and each other remains the same as the the day of our birth. What we give of ourselves is still precious. What we teach others is still important. The love we share is priceless. And often the same people who welcomed us when we arrived, still hold the dreams that they held for us on that day deep within their hearts and rejoice as we achieve them.

That is not to say that birthdays don’t have their downfalls. They do. Sometimes as we age we question what our purpose is. We sometimes stall when we should soar. Often birthdays serve to remind us that we must make good of the limited time we have on this earth and gently remind us to get our ass in gear. But most of all birthdays have proven to be good for your health as studies have shown that those who have more birthdays live longer.

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So here’s to birthdays big and small. This year, may you give yourself the gift of allowing yourself the freedom to be who you were born to be and the ability to rejoice in who you are!

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Under The Strawberry Moon

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Tonight, the first night of summer to be exact, a strawberry moon rose steadily from horizon to that place so high in the sky that it appeared to take up almost all the space in the galaxy, leaving room for nothing but a few pulsating stars. The moon’s color was like a Mary Magdalene rose…fluffy and full the luscious golden pink  tinged color. I have seen better strawberry moons where the sky had the hue of a hearty David Austin Sharifa Asma rose, it’s brilliant pink filling the night sky; but if you were just looking for something like a miracle of nature, the other night would do just fine.

As B and I held hands in awe, gazing at the nights passion play, I thought about how the moon had changed from when I was a child. Back then, I would search for the Man in the Moon, who seemed to hide in delight every time I tried to get a glimpse of him. Later, as children arrived and the busy demands of motherhood intervened; I stole quick glances at the sky seldom appreciating the miracle that was unfolding above me. But tonight, my appreciation for the moon peaked when B said, “I love to see the glow of the moon as it shines over you.”

These days as I settle into the later part of my life, I see in the moon what I see in myself. A creation that is glorious in its simplicity, sparkly, and has no ambitions to be anything but what it is…a moon. Like the moon I wish to be appreciated for the light that shines outward from me and for producing those joyous high tides can help change the landscape around us.  And as moon also provides stability to the earth, its gravitational pull ensuring that we don’t spin violently out of control, I would like to be seen as possessing that kind of dependability and support to my family and friends as life shifts around us. And while the moon is moving away from the Earth at a rate of 4 cm per year, I would like to think that when it is my time to move on that I will have left just enough light in my children’s lives to guide them even when clouds linger overhead.

For I am like a strawberry moon…I am brilliant, full of life, and just freakin’ spectacular.

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Be Your Own Gardener

Drivers Ed

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It’s early in the morning and Paul is sitting at the table with me, sleep still nestled deep in his dark brown eyes. He is studying for his drivers education test and as I look at the almost 6 ft boy sitting in front of me, I ask myself, where did the time go?

When I first saw the boy in the yellow hat, I knew sure as anything else I had ever known, that he was destined to be in our family. In probably the fastest Korean adoption ever, we were on a plane bound for Seoul within 5 months of turning in our paperwork. It was if the universe knew he needed to be settled.

When we saw him at his foster mother’s house he was a chubby thick-boned sturdy 10 month-old already walking faster than the speed of light. The boy was quick and moved like a prize fighter, bobbing and weaving the entire day. Throughout the apartment the drawers were taped shut an indication of the whirlwind that was to enter our lives.

The day we brought him home, he toddled over to his 7-month-older brother, and swiftly knocked him to the floor. Thus a dynamic was put into place in which whatever Andre had, Paul wanted. It’s a pattern that remains to this day.That first day home I told B, “Mark my words there is something different about this kid.” And there was.

We soon noticed that parenting was harder this time around. First came the tantrums the likes of which I had never seen before. They were like HUGE thunderstorms…in your face, with screaming so ragged and loud that I was sure that eventually the police would arrive at our door. Often Paul would rage uncontrollably for an hours at a time. Obsessions with clocks, then water, then spoons developed which lasted for several weeks and then they were gone as if a magician waved his wand only to be replaced by another. Before the age of 2 we were already consulting with behavioral therapists in an attempt to change the path we were on. It wasn’t until Paul was 5-years-old that we got the autism diagnosis, the Tourette’s Syndrome pronouncement came when he was 7-years-old and the Central Auditory Processing Disorder diagnosis a year after that. Then for two years we had ABA therapists in our home 5 days a week working with both Paul and Andre to help alleviate the most pressing challenges that autism wrought between the two of them. Between weekly hippo therapy workouts, psychologist appointments and daily hour-long neuro reorganization exercises, we barely breathed for 4 or 5 years and when we did it was ragged, coming is fitful spasms, like a marathon runner as he crosses the finish line. Sometimes we were broken and worn only making it through the day because we were on autopilot.

But then, miraculously, things started slowly changing. Fewer tantrums occurred. Less resistance. More control. More sense of responsibility. A new willingness to help out and think of others feelings. Slowly all the years of hard work began to slip into place finally resting where they needed to be and Paul began to mature.

Those younger years were often dark. They were sad. They were scary and they were the most difficult of my life but today I have come out on the other side with a newfound appreciation of my two sons, knowing first-hand all the hard work they have had to put into themselves in order to become the wonderful and engaging people that they are.

These days when I see other parents on the on-line bulletin boards struggling with their children; I try to encourage them and assure them that it does get easier as their kids mature. And when I see their pain and fear sometimes it takes me back to mine. When this happens I involuntarily shudder but then marvel at all that our entire family has accomplished together through hard work, fighting the system, and never giving in/up.

This morning I sit at the table watching as Paul studies for his drivers ed test and I wonder…where did the time go?

 

 

 

 

Spring Showers

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Where I live it is dry..usually bone dry at this time of year. If the weather follows its normal course it stops raining in April and doesn’t rain again until November. The temperature soars to over 100 degrees for days on end, sometimes months. I rearrange my schedule and begin walking at 6 am to beat the heat but sometimes that is not even early enough. So I end up sitting in my house, the air conditioner running constantly to beat the heat, and I wonder how those who do not have this luxury lift their eyes in the morning. Then I go up to the family cabin in the mountains and I remember what it is like to live with the unrelenting heat. There is nothing fancy or extravagant here. Fans twirl to move the stagnant air and I always spend the first hour cleaning the spiders and their webs from the windows/chairs for they are our only consistent houseguests.

Last night as I rested my weary head I was roused from my nearly comatose state…BBBOOOOOOOOMMMMMM… a crack of thunder almost shook the ancient cook house off its rock foundation as the lightening crackled and light up the inky black sky, now so bright, that I saw a deer shoot through the trees into the protection of the dense thicket. And then the rain started pouring down. I went and opened the door, stood in the frame, and watched the anomaly unfold before me. The first drops sounded like cannons as they hit the deck…splat… with a force so strong you would think they had been shot out of the sky. My feet started getting wet as the raindrops ricocheted off the wood and onto my feet creating a small pond to dip my toes in like I did when I was a child. By now the frogs and crickets had quieted and I listened to the rhythm of the rain which was the only thing that sounded alive in the now silent forest. And as the water seeped into the greenery bringing it back to life; the sweet honeyed linen smell of the damp earth began to waft skyward. It was then that recognized the circle of life making its silent rounds again. A blessing to behold if you choose to see it in this light.

Spring rains. They wash away the dirt and make things clean and clear again. They give us a renewed sense of the precious gift of life and they bring hope to things wilting away whether it be plants, animals or ourselves. For rain has the power to change “what is” into something grander.Today, let’s all be the rain.

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Love Knows No Bounds

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Last night my sweet aunt Nan died. She was almost 90. Nan was the one I could call and discuss family politics with. She always had an answer to ponder and at times I think she knew her brother, my Dad, almost better than he knew himself. She was the one who nurtured my interest in genealogy and the records I am going through now are a result of her holding onto those pieces of family history that she believed could improve our future if we had access to the past. Yes, Aunt Nan was the family historian and was well suited for the job.

Aunt Nan was also a go-getter. She was practical, forthright, always willing to take your call, and smart as a whip.  She was someone I admired immensely. And while the majority of her life was happy and enjoyable, the end was not, as she suffered from severe dementia for the past seven years or so.

Dementia is cruel. It is disheartening and robs its victims of their personalities. It steals away their memories and drops a steal-clad veil over what makes a person uniquely themselves. For years, Aunt Nan no longer knew her husband, her children, her life-long friends, and was unable to celebrate the births of her great-grandchildren in any sort of meaningful way. While she held a baby she had no idea who the baby belonged to. Even worse, she lost a child and never knew it. Aunt Nan became a shell of her former self. Her brain  locked away while her body lingered on.

Unfortunately, a few years after Nan’s mind started shutting down, her husband, Uncle J, also began developing dementia. It was heartbreaking to see this former surgeon slowly begin to fade away into himself.My cousins now had two parents who needed round-the-clock care. I grieved for them understanding the difficulties of having two parents who were both incapacitated. To make matters worse, a doctor recently told the family that Aunt Nan could live another 10 years because she was as healthy as a horse.

Then three weeks ago my Uncle J died. It was expected for he was fading and rebounding for the past several weeks. He and Aunt Nan had been married 64 years. Thankfully, Nan didn’t know that J was gone…or did she?

It seems strange that a woman who just a few weeks ago was as healthy as a horse just up and dies. Rapidly. With only a few days notice. And it makes me wonder if love truly does transcend all. Is there some sort or life current that flows silently between long time lovers? Do we somehow “know” what we don’t? Can deep-seated love never be pulled out of you? It seems plausible. After all, I have many instances in my life where I knew something bad had happened to someone though I could not pick up on the particulars of what it was.

I think we all have invisible connections to those we love. Some of these “currents” are stronger than others but often, if we try, I think we can tap into them. Sometimes we get glimpses of  our loved ones state of mind. We can “know” without “knowing.” I think that is what happened to Aunt Nan. Although her mind was locked up somehow love held the key which let her know that J was gone and she had to go too. She really had no other reason to “live” for her one true love was gone.

So to Aunt Nan and Uncle J… I send you my love. I thank you for your kind words and advice. I appreciate the things you taught me and I thank you, Uncle J, for saving my sister’s life. My greatest hope for the two of you is that there is a swimming pool you can frolic in throughout eternity and that your undying love for one another and your family remain strong.

 

Silenced Thoughts

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As I sit here in the silence of a house

Not yet awake

Tired but happy about the 2.7 miles

I already put in this morning…

I think about the soldiers

Who have lost their lives unnecessarily

Due to greed, oil, and the war mentality

Of our illustrious leaders

The hawks making the dove

Their prey

I think about the policemen

Slain by guns so easily obtained

In a culture that worships cold metal

And puts its “rights” above that of it’s own citizens

I think about the pregnant 13 year old

And I do not understand why

In this day and age a child

Is bringing another into a world whose life will be

One of impoverishment and instability

I look around me and see children

Who don’t have enough food

And have shit for parents and who don’t

Give a flying fig about their welfare

And I see corporations who

Worship the almighty dollar

More than their employees

And pollute OUR earth

Like they own it themselves

Like they own the earth, sun and the sky

And that they are entitled to them

Their vast resources obtained

But for the pleasure of a few

And I wonder

Why so few put the needs of others

Above themselves

Where did a sense of pride go?

And a job well done?

What happened to common ground ethics?

And to individuals to give up

Their seats to little old ladies

The years they have seen

Eroding them away

Like the mining companies

That blow the tops off of mountains

And let them sit exposed and vulnerable

Self interest pushed to the front of the line

With kindness at the back, now the exception rather

Than the norm

And as I sit

In the silence of the morning

I send out good vibrations

Of peace and love

Caring and compassion

Friendship and joy

And I hear the sleepy

Words of my daughter

As she descends down the stairs

“Hey, mom I had a bad dream”

And I go to comfort her

Because it is something I can do

That makes big difference

In this small indifferent little world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Is NOT A Truly Democratic Election

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Today I FINALLY get to go vote in my state’s primary. Frankly, I think it is a crock. Unfortunately, in the United States we have a staggered primary system that eventually determines which candidates will be each party’s nominee to run for president. This means that I am often denied the same opportunity to vote for who I really believe is the BEST choice for the job. By the time my primary comes around so many candidates have already been eliminated, not because they were not worthy contenders, but because they were not given the same amount of network air time, did not yet have the money to fight a decent campaign or have folded their tents for a multitude of other reasons.

I have to admit that I am discouraged and I am tired of not having the same opportunities as the folks in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, etc. to elect our leaders. We need to have a national primary so that people living in late voting states like mine get the SAME opportunity to vote for who they really believe is the BEST choice for president.This is NOT a fair and free election when I cannot help determine who will be the nominee. It is a boatload of crap.

While I recognize that there are millions of people on this earth who are truly denied a basic right to elect their own leaders and my complaint might seem feeble in comparison, the fact is that on some much smaller level, I too, am experiencing a type of voter suppression. In the land of the FREE it is ludicrous that my freedom to choose has been taken away by a system designed to reward the “chosen” few. And thats not even wading into the issue regarding the quagmire of super delegates who further restrict my vote rendering it null and void.

So today I will go and vote. It often feels like I do so in vain. But I still believe that it is my responsibility to do so… and so I will. But I will be voting, as usual, for real change. And even though the kind of change I would like to see happen probably never will, I will not give up in the belief that my vote really does count…even if it doesn’t.