Precious Presents

images-4

I have a small group of friends that know me pretty much inside and out…and bless their hearts… they are still my friends. We were brought together by virtue of some shared characteristics of our children. The bond that we have gone on to form transcends our original purpose of providing support to one another. Our relationships are now based not so much on our children’s issues but on our real concern and love for each other. We now enjoy a Friendship that begin with a capital F even if it is mostly virtual.

Many of these friends I have met in “real” life. A few I have yet to meet except out in cyberspace. We have shared our joys and concerns. We have lived each others ups and downs. We have been there for the little victories and some major defeats. We have watched each others children grow and been there when a diagnosis threatened to overwhelm. As a result of sharing such intimacies over the years we read each other fairly well.

Recently, I found myself at a crossroads… a low point so to speak. My friends gave me the encouragement that usually brings me to my feet again. Most important they took the time to give me ideas and options that they thought might make my life just a little brighter. Yet, I remained on my knees and they knew it. Then yesterday I went to our group and found that a member had posted the start of the most beautiful and meaningful gift I have ever been given. She started a list entitled 25 Random Things We Love About You. The list was sincere, uplifting and once again reminded me of who I am and who I want to become. Some things were funny, some serious and some were eye opening but all the things on the list were written with love. When I read the list I laughed and cried. I was truly touched and beside myself with delight. Because of that list I am standing on my feet once again.

A present that affirms you for who you are…warts and all… only comes along once or twice in a lifetime. It is a gift are as rare as the most precious gem. It’s a gift that teachs, stirs, and allows you to remember yourself as you were at your best. It restores confidence, grants healing and puts you back on the path to yourself. It is a gift that everyone should give to at least one other person in their lifetime. Everyone should be so lucky.

I have yet to comment to my friends how I feel about such receiving such a treasure. I mean it is truly like winning the lottery. I find it hard to contemplate about what was said without feeling such a overwhelming sense of gratitude that I have such a group of wonderful women watching my back…I almost dissolve in tears. So lacking any real gift that could compare in return I just wanted to say thank you my dear friends. I want to thank you for giving me your time when I had none to give back and thank you for giving me your strength when I was too weak to support myself much less you. Thank you for giving me your love and your truth. You have given me your best over the years even when I fell short. I am truly blessed to have known each and every one of you. All of you have taught me so many things but most of all you have taught me the true meaning of friendship and for that I will always be grateful and in your debt.Someday I hope I can give back to you what you have given me over the years. For now….all you get is this IOU.

*I wrote this several years ago and just looked at it again. I feel just as blessed remembering this as when it happened. Thank you friends!*

imgres-4

An Eye For An Eye

imgres-4

Ever since I saw this story in 2009, I cannot help but think about it and the ramifications. The story is here:http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/02/19/acid.attack.victim/index.html?iref=mpstoryview

The story is about a young woman named Ameneh who lives in Iran. She was unfortunate enough to have a young man sit next to her in college. He purposely brushed up against her and she was outraged. It was then that he began a two year pursuit of her. He harassed her and threatened her and even asked her to marry him. She however refused his advances.
One day after work she was approaching the bus stop when she heard someone behind her as she turned around she saw him and the next thing she felt was intense pain. He had thrown acid on her face. It immediately burned her entire face, her eyes, her arms and hands. Her mother kept the clothes she was wearing which shriveled and burned too. She was left permanently scarred and blind.

She has asked her government to blind her attacker with acid in the Islamic law tradition of “an eye for an eye” known as qisas. My understanding of qisas is that when used the punishment cannot not exceed that done by the perpetrator. Recently the courts in Iran have denied her attackers appeal and he could at any time be blinded. It is my understanding that he would have acid dropped into his eyes not sprayed on him in keeping with what qisas demands. She says her request is not one of vengeance but so that he can never do the same to another person and basically to show men that they cannot get away with this type of behavior. Human rights activists are outraged. I for one have been sitting on the fence quietly digesting the facts of this case and trying to come to some conclusion, none of which appear very satisfactory to me.

In researching this issue I was stunned to find out that in Bangladesh alone there have been over 2,600 acid attacks since 1999 against woman and young girls. According to IRIN, The UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs most of these were a result of land disputes, refusals of love declarations/proposals or problems with dowries. According to human rights groups these sorts of attacks are common in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq and India. Often times women who take their cases to the courts find that they are met with disdain in which they are told that if they had only agreed to what the man had wanted they never would have had this problem.

In many countries women who have failed to dress modestly, meaning that their legs or heads may not have been covered or improperly so according to an arbitrary set of standards; have also been victims of acid attack.

Especially chilling is the story of the 11 girls and 4 teachers attending the Mirwais School for Girls in Afghanistan. On November 14, 2008 three men on motorcycles sprayed them with acid. The act was meant to intimidate the girls of the valley to remain uneducated and to stay away from school. In an incredible show of bravery almost all have returned to school refusing to be intimidated.

In 2002, parliament enacted two laws against acid violence: Under the Acid Control Act of 2002, the unlicensed production, import, transport, storage, sale, and use of acid can result in a prison term of 3-10 years. Those who possess chemicals and equipment for the unlicensed production of acid can get the same prison term.

One doctor sounded an optimistic note: “Since then, acid violence has been showing a rapid decline,” said Shamanta Lal Sen of the burns and plastic surgery unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).

According to ASF, 221 and 192 people were subjected to acid violence in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In 2000 and 2001 their number was 234 and 349 respectively.

Combating the crime of acid throwing is not easy as it appears to be a fairly common occurance in some countries. And little is done to the perpetrators except for them being ordered to make a minimal financial payment as a form of restitution. Two thousand dollars hardly begins to compensate for the intense medical care required when skin is melted and burned to the bone. Further, in a country in which beauty means so much and disability renders one invisable and obsolete, permenant disfigurement is tantamount to sentencing one to death because eventually there will be no one or no system to take care of the victim. First the victim is victimized by the attacker, then often by the courts and finally shunned by society as a whole. And the offender knows all of this and delights in it.

If it is true that prison terms have reduced the number of acid attacks then perhaps it is possible that even tougher mandatory sentences would help to decrease the number of incidences. But then again,perhaps, if Ameneh Bahrami is right, the blinding of her perpetrator may have more of an effect on stopping acid attacks than any laws presently on the books. Furthermore,if she does nothing and he attacks again her refusal to take action will make her accountable to the next victim for their injury.Lest we try to forget the man who is to be blinded is not an innocent man being used to advance a cause but he is the man who knowingly plotted and planned to disfigure and rob an innocent young woman of the life she knew and loved. He succeeded.

According to a story in the Washington Post… More than two weeks ago, Movahedi was led into court by two policemen. He showed no remorse when the court ruled on the case. When the judge asked whether he was ready for his punishment, Movahedi said that he still loved Bahrami but that if she asked for his eyes to be taken out, he would seek the same punishment for her.

“They must also completely empty out her eyes, since I’m not sure that she cannot secretly see,” he said. “The newspapers have made this a huge case, but I haven’t done anything bad.”

Ameneh Bahrami has the right to ask for an eye for an eye and has sound reasons for doing so. First and foremost her attacker STILL doesn’t believe he has done anything bad as quoted in the article by the Washington Post.

Preventing harm to others is Bahrami’s goal and it is a noble one in a country where there is no justice for women. May her goal of eliminating acid attacks be the outcome of her quest and may women everywhere never have to fear such a barbaric act being perpetrated on them or their loved ones.

As John Stuart Mill has expressed, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”

 

 

A Sad Day In America

voting-dead

No matter who wins today… it is a sad day in America. It’s a day in which our citizens were forced to pick between two bad actors. A day in which our differences are magnified and our tolerance reduced to rubble. It’s a day everyone wishes had happened months ago so we would have been spared an election in which ugliness triumphed over decency and the worst in bad behavior was seen by our young.

When I was a kid growing up, I was excited about the possibility of someday having the privilege and honor of voting for president. It was taught that it was my duty to vote and I felt lucky to be able to exercise my right to determine which way I wanted our country to go. No more. Today as a fifty-five-year-old, I feel defeated and pessimistic by this system I once felt so comfortable in.Even worse, I feel scared and vulnerable that this experiment in Democracy is failing before my eyes and there are few alternatives available to replace it with.

These days, I no longer believe that my single vote can make a difference in which direction our country moves. And if I, an indoctrinated child of the 60’s can feel this way, why would any young adult, who now sees the world through the eyes of social media, believe that their vote would make a difference? In these days of declining voter participation in the electoral process, how can we expect our children to want to vote, much less hold the process sacred, when they hear so many people dissatisfied with the candidates and the deadlock we have been enduring? Why would they want to participate in any election when they have been told that it has been rigged? Why would they have faith in the system when so many of their elders no longer do?

Today, when I went to vote, I realized I was stooped over like an old lady, the weight of this election bearing down on my body, crushing my spirit and soul. Instead of being joyful I felt sorrow that our country had come to this…so many words without substance, so many promises that will never be fulfilled and so much hatred that neighbor has turned against neighbor. And I wonder whatever happened to the enthusiasm I once felt and I question if I can ever get it back?

Yes, today is a sad day because the possibility of new beginnings and the excitement about exercising our right to vote has vanished; replaced instead by an obligation to vote for the lesser of two evils. This election and these two candidates have brought this country to new lows we never should have reached and today I wonder if it is even possible to dig us out of the hole we find ourselves in. The promise of America has been compromised and it is a sad day indeed.

You Say You Love Me But…

images

You know my story. Three homegrown kids, three adopted from Korea. Two with autism and other disabilities. You know how hard we have worked to create this family by pouring our souls and our finances into getting exactly what our children need to succeed as they inch closer to becoming tax-paying adults.

You have been with us through our pregnancy issues and through our long and precarious adoption processes. You have stood beside us we were challenged to take on the school system and the medical establishment. You listened to my tears on those days where hour-long meltdowns were a common place occurrence and when our hearts were broken by  diagnoses that initially seemed as if they would be impossible to traverse. (They weren’t).

This YOU I am referring to is…you… my aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, and best friends. The people I have known and loved for a life-time.You… the people who have stood by my side through thick and thin for so many years. You…the people who have treated my kids like their own. I adore you, but at this moment in time, I must confess that I am confused. You tell me you me and love all of my children equally.  You assure me my boys are amazing. You also say that my daughters are intelligent and talented young women. And you tell me you would like your Caucasian son to marry my Asian daughter someday.  And yet, you also tell me you are voting for Trump. I just cannot wrap my head around this because the YOU that I know cares deeply about others and asks WWJD?

And so I have to ask, how can you vote for a man who makes fun of people with disabilities? People like my children who struggle for acceptance. Individuals, who like my boys, just want the same opportunities as those who aren’t in wheelchairs and are sighted. You of all people know of our family struggles because you have held my sons hands when they were sobbing because they have been bullied, yet again, and you were livid at the way they had been treated. Yet, you support a MAN who should know better yet makes fun of the disabled anyway. Where is your righteous anger at him?

You know that there are millions of disabled in this world who are thrown off public transportation or denied jobs because of their autism or missing limbs. We’ve talked about this and you have expressed your dismay. So why is it that you do not understand that if the leader of the USA bullies the disadvantaged, that he setting the framework for how we are to treat one another? That Trump is, in effect, telling the school yard bully that it is okay to intimidate your kid and anyone within arms reach . Don’t you realize that these kinds of hurtful/shameful behaviors will increase and once again reach into my home? The home of people that you say you love!

Why would you support a man who promotes bigotry and hatred especially when you know that this increases the chances of MY children being hurt or killed by people who profess a dislike for those that are “different” from them? You’ve heard other children call my kids “Chinese eyes” as they pulled back on their own, mocking them, and trying in some way to make them feel “less than.” You have seen first-hand the hurt in my children’s eyes and their confidence shattered. Why would you throw your weight behind someone who promotes the worst in human behavior instead of the best? Why would you stand behind someone who promotes an “us vs. them” mentality that will be divisive instead of uniting? And when this promotion of hatred undoubtedly explodes into something unfathomable will you willingly acknowledge the blood on your hands because you stood with the man who was promoting it?

As if the above was not enough; what I really don’t understand is how you can support a man who disparages women, cheats on them and makes inappropriate sexual remarks about them. We all have mothers, sisters, and daughters that we value and love. If your mother or daughter was being treated in a disrespectful manner or subjected to sexual harassment by their boss or a man on the corner would you laugh about it and dismiss it the way you do with Mr. Trump? I would hope not because if you do what kind of person does that make you? Seriously. THINK ABOUT IT.

I could go on about Mr. Trump not paying small business people which quickly puts them out of business. And I could wonder why you would elect someone who can’t keep his own financial affairs in order and refused to rent to people of color. And I could wonder about a man who cheats on his spouse, lies under oath, and takes only the best for himself. But what I really care about is how Trump treats others… and that is what worries me. He acts as if he is entitled…. to dismiss reporters doing their job… to tease people who are different from him…to bully women and minorities while promoting discord and hate. These derogatory ways of treating others are the signs of a man who has lost his sense of humanity, his ethics, and his ability to promote and live in a virtuous manner. He is a man who lacks the understanding that most people are not born in the lap of luxury that he was and has no clue of what it is like to live the way most people do. He didn’t earn his wealth. It was inherited. Why would you vote for someone who is that out of touch with you and your situation?

So, when November rolls around and you go to cast your ballot, before you do, I want you to think about my children and how much you love them. I want you to remember all the wonderful women in your life. I want you think about the disabled, the poor, the elderly, and all the people who you respect and love who do not look like you. And consider this… that a vote for Trump is a vote against people like me who love their children with challenges. A vote for Trump is a vote against all the females in your lives. And a vote for Trump is a vote against kids who do not have the same invisible privileges that their white parents do. So think of me when you vote. Consider why I might be fearful for all those beautiful faces within my family if you vote for this Republican. Please… just yourself in my shoes… because someday you or a loved one might be walking in them.

“Principles of justice are principles that rational, self-interested people would choose to govern the society in which they were going to live, provided that they did not know, at the time they chose the principles, exactly what their own place in society would be.” – James Rachel’s forward  to John Rawl’s  book, Two Concepts of Rules.

I Wonder…

I bought a new rug. The former one, the one that occupied the place by the tan sofa in the family room was old. I bought it 25 years ago. Between dogs and kids it was badly frayed and the bottom was literally disintegrating. Oh, it smelled too. Like wet dogs who had caroused in the boggy woods on a hot summers day.

So yesterday, I went to World Market to buy some wine. They were having a discount, buy 3/ get one free. They have some yummy wine so I thought I would indulge. But as I entered the store I noticed a 25% sale off of rugs so I meandered over. And there I saw it…a caramelly jute rug embedded with threads of rust, sage and icy iron blue. Best of all it was 40% off! What a bargain! The hell with the wine…this rug is mine!

I took it home and laid it out on the floor and it looked delicious like peanut butter spread on toast. And as I inspected it I came across its tag of origin: India. And I wondered…who made this rug?  Where in India do they live? How do they live their lives? Were they paid fairly for this work of art that I now possess? Do they wonder where it now lays?

imgres-2

As I thought about all of this it made me nostalgic. How sad it is that we no longer personally know the people who make most of the items in our house. There is no cobbler who knows the size of my feet and that I have a bunion on my left little toe. No longer could I find a knife sharpener/iron forger on my block. The butcher is employed by a big conglomerate now and an hour-long discussion about the best cut of meat for sauerbraten is a thing of the past. I have no idea where the nearest woodworker shop is nor a trusty mechanic with his own back-alley garage. I no longer know that Mrs. Tartini’s store sells the best brooms for the cheapest price. Where I live there is no neighborhood. No sense of community. No loyalty to Sam’s Welding because he lives on my block and I see him pushing his kids on their tricycles as they ride by.

imgres-6

I have come to realize that this is no way to live. Because a sense of community is important. It promotes trust, understanding, and consensus amongst neighbors. It brings as sense of place and security to those living together. Trust in our craftsmen’s work developes because we see what they do and how lovingly they do it over time. It’s those kinds of ties that bind us to one another and give life meaning but, unfortunately, so many communities today no longer have this. And its those personal ties to community which make police think twice about gunning down the people they are supposed to protect.

And so, as I look at my beautiful new rug, I wish I knew who crafted it. I wish I knew everything about them, and they about me, just to give us both a place in the world where we could interact because we are bound together by our shared humanity. A place where concern and understanding prevailed just because it feels good and right. I wish I lived in a community of love and concern…I wonder if the rug maker does too?

imgres-4

 

Religion’s Impact On Marriage

Religion

My husband and I come from very different religious backgrounds. He was raised Catholic with a mother who fought for the anti-abortion movement. His father, in his later years, returned to the church where he attended on a daily basis with truth and conviction on his side.

I was raised Methodist. My father is an agnostic who doesn’t have much time for “religious nuts.” His term not mine. He met his current wife at church while still married to my mother. A divorce ensued. For this reason and others that have occurred within my marriage religion to me often feels problematic, unsafe, and hypocritical.

Anyway, B is much more of a straight line liberal Christian believer and I am what I would call a seeker of religious tradition from several faiths. I attend a liberal church with B and our family but I also like attending the local Buddhist Temple and the Unitarian service. This has at times caused issues in our marriage. B believes we should go to church almost every week and feels if I do not attend with him it sets a bad example for our children. He believes church should be a family affair not two people going to separate services at differing religious institutions. And while I agree that might be ideal I don’t want to be bound to convention or ideas of what one must do to prove that they are indeed religious a/k/a a “good” person. I want to be free to explore/learn those things that meet my spiritual needs whatever they may be that week.

religion

Along these lines it has recently occurred to me that if we are indeed a unique creation of God then that must carry through to all parts of our lives. I am unique. I like books, horseback riding and meditating every day. B is also unique. He loves to play his bagpipes, he rarely reads a book, and he wakes up in the morning (every morning) to read the Bible. It seems to me that while religion gives a nod to the uniqueness of us all that it should follow this would also be true concerning religious preferences and beliefs. Why is it we expect that because we are all unique we will have different preferences and yet somehow, for the most part, couples are suppose to have almost identical beliefs when it comes to God? In almost all areas of life this is not expected but in regards to religion the expectation is there held fast and tight by society and often by couples themselves. I mean up until recently people of differing faiths were often ostracized by their own families if they married outside of their religious traditions.

Personally, I like to think that by exploring different religious perspectives, I have the kind of faith needed to fill in the cracks that most people find exist between the discrepancies  in what they personally believe and what they are taught they must believe if they are following their religious traditions “correctly.”

Sometimes I wish that B could just accept that for me attending church with him is a gift for us both. It shouldn’t matter why I am there just as long as I am and I want to be. My reasons should be mine alone and not some sort of test regarding whether those reasons are “good enough” or if this makes it so we are not “compatible.” And while, for the most part, B is not that uptight when we don’t see eye to eye on how we both practice our spirituality; I know that he wishes that we had this common bond in which our ideas meshed together in a way that would strengthen our relationship instead of  emphasize our differences.

Perhaps someday my spiritual believes will align more with B’s… or maybe not. But one thing I do know is that I don’t want religion to further divide our marriage. It is foolish to expect that we will be thinking and feeling the same way at the same time. So I just hope that God’s love will shine bright enough to light the way along both of our spiritual paths, whatever they may be, as we journey through live/marriage together.

images-2

Departing Wisdom

Running-Late

Recently I saw a sign which read: WHEN ANGER ENTERS, WISDOM DEPARTS. These words touched my heart as well as the profound which rests in my soul. I felt as I read this simple truth that the words were meant for me alone and that they were there because I needed that gentle reminder.

This summer has been hectic what with sports practice five days a week, my volunteer work and with my chauffeuring  kids to college and high school summer school. The reason for my increasing anxiety over the summer is a very tight schedule in which pick up and delivery had to be perfectly timed. Frankly, I don’t do being late well. For whatever reason since I was a little kid it was hardwired into my brain that you are not late. EVER. And I have lived by that rule my entire life. Except once. That was the time I was 5 minutes late and it haunted me for days.

“If you are late it shows a complete disregard for others and that you think that your time is more important than theirs. Your time is no more or less important than any one else’s. Don’t forget that!” admonished my father throughout my growing up years.

And so I have a heightened sense of anxiety if I have the slightest inkling that I (or anyone I am responsible for) will be late.

The lengths to which I go to ensure that I am never late come with a price…my sanity. I am three hours early before taking an airline flight. I am 30 minutes early for my Gracie’s orchestra performance. I am early enough to get my choice of premium parking spaces and my favorite pew at church. I get the best seats at the movie theater and I am always the person who is waiting for their friend to show up for coffee. Anyone who knows me knows that if I am 10 minutes late that means I am probably stone-cold dead.

images-7

And so with back-to-back obligations this summer it is hardly surprising that I found it difficult to just stay calm. Unfortunately, as my anxiety rose it often turned to anger. This is not to say that I yelled…I didn’t…but irritation crept into my voice way too often and words came out of my mouth that that are not meant to be heard by a child. Thoughts of shooting the bird to that 85 year old woman driving at a speed of 10 miles per hour entered my mind on way too many occasions. And as my anxiety/anger increased I became distracted and I once almost mowed down a kid on a bike doing stupid tricks in the street to impress his buddies.

As I reviewed my actions during these dog days of summer  it became apparent to me that in those moments of high anxiety and anger; my wisdom did indeed depart because:

I said thoughtless things.

I thought evil thoughts.

I showed my children a side of me that they do not want to see.

And I disregarded my own health by letting stress take minutes off my life multiple times a week.

So in an attempt to increase my sanity I made a change. I now have the saying WHEN ANGER ENTERS, WISDOM DEPARTS taped to my dashboard. I find it comforting. And now as I drive along and the tension starts mounting, I just look down to give myself a gentle and loving reminder that wisdom in all aspects of my life are important if I am to become all that I am meant to be.

imgres-8

 

 

Traveling Fool

imgres-1

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!

 

 

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.

IMG_8528

IMG_7927

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.

images-13

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.

images-14

images-16

Food …The Children Should Not Suffer

imgres-1

I live in one of the poorest most economically depressed counties in the entire United States. It’s a place where English is most often the “second” language and where individuals follow the fruit and vegetables, often picking in 100+ degree heat. It is a place where poverty is rampant but food in the fields is abundant, illegal drug use is prevalent and the gulf between “haves” and “have nots” is wider than the Grand Canyon. Frankly, there is no bridge big enough to traverse this giant chasm.

Make no mistake about it, I am a “have.” I have a roof over my head, money in the bank, and clothes on my back. My life is plentiful. But all around me are reminders that this just isn’t the case for so many. I do what I can…carry McDonalds cards in my car and hand them out to folks who need a meal. But that is just a miniscule drop in the bucket with what is truly needed in the area.

Today on the short drive from downtown I saw three different adults searching trash bins for bottles and cans that can be turned in for change. And while it is shameful that any human being is forced, for whatever reasons to live this way, I am not as worried (though I am concerned) about them because they are resourceful. It is the children that I worry about especially during the summer, for it is the children who suffer.

During the school year kids from low income homes have the opportunity to have free breakfast and lunch at school yet President Trumps budget calls for an elimination of this program. Continue reading