"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

John Lennon Had It Right

An unexpected gift of aging—the gift of waiting. Used to be, every thing had a time, and that time was yesterday, immediately or right now. Living in the moment meant exactly what it said. “But, Mom—I need it RIGHT NOW!”

Right now is good. In fact, it’s perfect. I find nothing to change or deplore about the present moment. But, surprisingly, “Soon” is good, too. And “Maybe” doesn’t pack the emotional punch it used to. If “Maybe” never happens, well that’s okay, too. I can live with dubious promises if that’s the best a person can give.

Three of my friends fell ill with potentially life-threatening issues this month. Each is waiting to see what their tests reveal. My mother is in the later stages of assisted living. I look at 2014 and see big changes. Waiting doesn’t hold the tight clutch that it used to when I was multi-tasking, afraid that something on my list would go undone at the end of the day. Now, waiting is simply—waiting.

I spent half an hour tonight watching the fog bank at the coast nibbling away at a strip of butterscotch sunlight just above the gray hills. Not much to answer for if I were to add it to a list of things I accomplished today, but maybe the most important.

Publication dates for my novels are underway. They will be released sometime in 2014. April and November, I think. I’m busy getting ready to bring them home. At the risk of sounding cheesy, it really is like the birth of a baby. But this baby will be with me for a long time. A week or two delay isn’t important, only that it is healthy.

"Wait a minute!" is what we used to tell our children, to teach them the value of patience. All I’m saying is, I think the lesson finally took.

Peace be with you.    

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Power of One

For all his teachings, good works and radio shows, Bishop Fulton Sheen is best remembered for one statement: “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

The imagery fits my purpose. A life of small steps where every step counts.

Let me start from the top. I always carry a copy of my memoir, Ordinary Aphrodite, with me. It’s in my gym bag or in the trunk of my car, a reminder that I need to open the dialogue. And who is it I am supposed to talk to? I’m never sure. All I know is that when I pay attention, we meet. She’s often pudgy, sometimes standing with her head down, lonely or sad. Sometimes it's a young married woman. Sometimes it’s a guy. Eyes connect, I smile and the connection is made.

We talk about life and paying attention, and feeding our inner selves. About the parts of us, our spiritual, sexual, physical and mental selves, and how we become healthy and whole. These are things that matter to me, and when I find a woman who feels the same way, we energize each other, and when the conversation is over we are each bigger, better and bolder than when we met. Maybe it’s a twenty-minute conversation on the treadmill, or maybe a one-minute chat at the bank. Many times I pull out a copy of my book and give it to her.

It’s like an innocent flirtation of the soul—where the memory remains with us of a life-changing conversation with a seat mate on a flight to Phoenix or a chance meeting in the gluten-free section of Safeway.

I suspect it is God using us to lighten another’s load—it feels like that when it happens—as though we are each other’s angel. And it’s happening more frequently. Every time I leave the house, call the mortgage company to see if it’s a good time to refinance for a lower rate or order a shirt online, I find myself making a heart connection. People tell me fragile secrets and I am a respectful listener. I never worry about what I’ll say because God  provides the words. It’s nothing I do—it’s what I have agreed to become. I have said “Yes” because there are hungry hearts out there, waiting for an honest connection with another human being.

So that’s the power of one, a single candle lighting the darkness.

Just a reminder for today. Stretch your comfort zone. Look up from your smart phone, smile and connect.    


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Where is Your Spine, America? A Guest Blog by Laura Hollis, Professor at Notre Dame

I am not normally political, but I am a grandmother. I remember watching "Dr. Zhivago" and seeing him at the end of the movie meeting his granddaughter who had been totally assimilated into the Communist mentality, and feeling his sorrow for the world that was lost to her that she would never know. 

I feel that we are on the verge of what Dr. Zhivago was watching, and my tears are falling once again. Please read and respond according to your conscience. 

Laura Hollis is a professor at the University of Notre Dame
November 20, 2013

The unveiling of the dictatorial debacle that is Obamacare absolutely flabbergasts me. It is stunning on so many levels, but the most shocking aspect of it for me is watching millions of free Americans stand idly by while this man, his minions in Congress and his cheerleaders in the press systematically dismantle our Constitution, steal our money, and crush our freedoms.

The President, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid (with no small help from Justice John Roberts) take away our health care, and we allow it. They take away our insurance, and we allow it. They take away our doctors, and we allow it.They charge us thousands of dollars more a year, and we allow it. They make legal products illegal, and we allow it. They cripple our businesses, and we allow it. They announce by fiat that we must ignore our most deeply held beliefs - and we allow it.

Where is your spine, America?

Yes, I know people are complaining. I read the news on the internet. I read blogs. I have a Twitter feed. So what? People in the Soviet Union complained. People in Cuba complain. People in China complain (quietly). Complaining isn't the same thing as doing anything about it. In fact, much of the complaining that we hear sounds like resignation: Wow. This sucks. Oh well, this is the way things are. Too bad.

Perhaps you need reminding of a few important facts. Here goes:

  1. The President is not a king. Barack Obama does not behave like a President, an elected official, someone who realizes that he works for us. He behaves like a king, a dictator - someone who believes that his own pronouncements have the force of law, and who thinks he can dispense with the law's enforcement when he deigns to do so. And those of us who object? How dare we? Racists!

And while he moves steadily "forward" with his plans to "fundamentally transform" the greatest country in human history, he distracts people with cheap, meaningless trivialities, like "free birth control pills"! (In fact, let's face it: this administration's odd obsession with sex in general - Birth control! Abortion! Sterilization! Gay guys who play basketball! -- is just plain weird. Since when did the leader of the free world care so much about how people have sex, who they have it with, and what meds they use when they have it? Does he have nothing more important to concern himself with?)

2. It isn't just a failed software program; it is a failed philosophy. People are marveling that Healthcare.gov <http://healthcare.gov/>  was such a spectacular failure. Well, if one is only interested in it as a product launch, I've explained some of the reasons for that here <http://townhall.com/columnists/laurahollis/2013/10/22/what-obama-could-have-learned-from-entrepreneurs-n1729682> . But the larger point is that it isn't a software failure, or even a product failure; it is a philosophy failure.

I have said this before: Obama is not a centrist; he is a central planner. And this - all of it: the disastrous computer program, the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted, the lies, the manipulation of public opinion, the theft of the public's money and property, and freedom (read insurance, and premiums, and doctors) -- IS what central planning looks like.

The central premise of central planning is that a handful of wunderkinds with your best interests at heart (yeah, right) know better than you what's good for you. The failure of such a premise and the misery it causes have been clear from the dawn of humanity. Kings and congressmen, dictators and Dear Leaders, potentates, princes and presidents can all fall prey to the same imperial impulses: "we know what is good the 'the people.'

And they are always wrong.

There is a reason that the only times communism has really been tried have been after wars, revolutions, or coups d'├ętat. You have to have complete chaos for people to be willing to accept the garbage that centralized planning produces. Take the Soviet Union, for example. After two wars, famine, and the collapse of the Romanov dynasty, why wouldn't people wait in line for hours to buy size 10 shoes? Or settle for the gray matter that passed for meat in the grocery stores?

But communism's watered-down cousin, socialism, isn't much better. Ask the Venezuelans who cannot get toilet paper. Toilet paper. ¡Viva la Revoluci├│n!

Contrary to what so many who believe in a "living Constitution" say, the Founding Fathers absolutely understood this. That is why the Constitution was set up to limit government power. (Memo to the President: the drafters of the Constitution deliberately didn't say "what government had to do on your behalf.") They understood that that was the path to folly, fear, and famine.)

3.Obama is deceitful. Just as the collapse of the computer program should not surprise anyone, neither should we be shocked that the President lied about his healthcare plan. Have any of you been paying attention over the past few years? Obama has made no secret of his motivations or his methods. The philosophies which inspire him espouse deceit and other vicious tactics. (Don't take my word for it: read Saul Alinsky.) Obama infamously told reporter Richard Wolffe <http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.1746/article_detail.asp> , "You know, I actually believe my own bullshit." He has refused to be forthcoming about his past (where are his academic records?). His own pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, told author Ed Klein <http://dailycaller.com/2012/05/17/new-rev-wright-audio-controversial-pastor-thought-obama-became-a-liar-video/> , that Obama said to him, "You know what your problem is? You have to tell the truth."

Did Obama lie when he said dozens of times, "If you like you plan, you can keep it. Period!"? Of course he did. That's what he does.

4. The media is responsible. And had the media been doing their jobs, we would have known a lot of this much, much earlier.  The press is charged with the sacred responsibility of protecting the people from the excesses of government. Our press has been complicit, incompetent, or corrupt. Had they vetted this man in 2008, as they would have a Republican candidate, we would have known far more about him than we do, even now. Had they pressed for more details about Obamacare, Congress' feet would have been held to the fire. Had they done their jobs about Eric Holder, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS scandal, NSA spying - or any of the other myriad betrayals of the public trust that this administration has committed, Obama would likely have lost his 2012 reelection campaign. (A fact that even The Washington Post <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/11/19/president-romney-yes-if-the-election-were-held-today/> has tacitly acknowledged. Well done, fellas! Happy now?)  Instead, they turned a blind eye, even when they knew he was lying, abusing power, disregarding the limits of the Constitution. It was only when he began to spy on them, and when the lies were so blatant that the lowest of low-information voters could figure it out that they realized they had to report on it. (Even in the face of blatant, deliberate and repeated lies, The New York Times has the audacity to tell us that the President "misspoke <http://dailycaller.com/2013/11/03/nytimes-obama-misspoke-when-he-claimed-americans-could-keep-their-health-insurance/> .") They have betrayed us, abandoned us, and deceived us.

5. Ted Cruz was right. So was Sarah Palin. The computer program is a disaster. The insurance exchanges are a disaster. What's left? The healthcare system itself. And this, of necessity, will be a disaster <http://www.hoover.org/publications/defining-ideas/article/161901> , too.  Millions of people have lost their individual insurance plans. In 2015, millions more will lose their employer-provided coverage (a fact which the Obama administration also knew, and admitted elsewhere).  The exorbitant additional costs that Obamacare has foisted on unsuspecting Americans are all part of a plan of wealth confiscation and redistribution. That is bad enough. But it will not end there.
When the numbers of people into the system and the corresponding demand for care vastly exceed the cost projections (and they will, make no mistake), then the rationing will start. Not only choice at that point, but quality and care itself will go down the tubes. And then will come the decisions made by the Independent Payment Advisory Board about what care will be covered (read "paid for") and what will not.

That's just a death panel, put politely. In fact, progressives are already greasing the wheels for acceptance of that miserable reality as well. They're spreading the lie that it will be about the ability of the dying to refuse unwanted or unhelpful care. Don't fall for that one, either. It will be about the deaths that inevitably result from decisions made by people other than the patients, their families, and their physicians. (Perhaps it's helpful to think of their assurances this way: "If you like your end-of-life care, you can keep your end-of-life-care.")

6. We are not SUBJECTS. (or, Nice Try, the Tea Party Isn't Going Away). We have tolerated these incursions into our lives and livelihoods too long already. There is no end to the insatiable demand "progressives" have to remake us in their image. Today it is our insurance, our businesses, our doctors, our health care. Tomorrow some new crusade will be announced that enables them to take over other aspects of our formerly free lives.

I will say it again: WE ARE NOT SUBJECTS. Not only is the Tea Party right on the fiscal issues, but it appears that they are more relevant than ever. We fought a war once to prove we did not want to be the subjects of a king, and the Boston Tea Party was just a taste of the larger conflict to come. If some people missed that lesson in history class, we can give them a refresher.

The 2014 elections are a good place to start. Call your representative, your senator, your candidate and tell them: "We are not subjects. You work for us. And if the word "REPEAL" isn't front and center in your campaign, we won't vote for you. Period."

Laura Hollis is an attorney and teaches entrepreneurship and business law at the University of Notre Dame. She resides in Indiana with her husband and two children.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Don't Call Me a 'Woman Driver'!

On the road again…How many of us women deserve a set of trucker wings from all the hauling, towing and hair-raising treks we've managed behind the wheel?  

I earned my license when I was a sophomore.  Since then I’ve driven a moving van down from British Colombia and towed motorcycles on curving mountain roads. My most harrowing (and accidental) venture was driving our diesel pickup up the Road to the Sun Highway in Glacier National Park, Montana. It was early morning with black ice in the shadows and one very scared husband hanging out the passenger window. 

I’m proof that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

The other day I was cruising along on the interstate, driving our Dodge Ram 2500 (for you non-rednecks, this is a 3/4 –ton diesel that I have to boost myself into with a pull-up bar.) It has a six –speed manual transmission with a stiff clutch, both of which will put on muscle. Our particular make and model has a reputation for being the noisiest truck on the road. I won’t dispute the claim. It’s loud enough that old ladies glare at us from the crosswalk.  

On top of that I was hauling a toy hauler travel trailer loaded with furniture (with the pickup loaded to the top of the camper) I had a set of extended side-view mirrors, but you know those signs on the back of semi’s? “If you can’t see my mirrors, then I can’t see you”? Trust me, all true.

So I’m easing my way down the freeway with only my brakes (this time, real trailer brakes, thank you,) and six gears between me and the car in front of me. And it’s raining. And it’s Memorial Day weekend and all of California is on the road celebrating the 20-cent drop in gas prices.

And it hits me—I’m fearless.

I learned to drive in my father’s 5-ton hay truck, when I was thirteen. He took me out to the cab, showed me how to operate the clutch and we did a couple of test runs around the yard before we headed out to the field. Then to my horror, he hooked the truck up to this cumbersome side hay loader and directed me toward the nearest bale of alfalfa hay.

Years later my brother told me that I popped the clutch and my father fell off into the field from several rows up, but he climbed back on and said nothing so I wouldn’t get discouraged.

So back to Memorial Day weekend. Driving a rig in a highway lane that is only inches wider than the truck is a full-time job. Somewhere around Weed, California, my husband cautioned me that with our 10,000 pound payload, it would take a city block to come to a complete stop, before he turned over and fell asleep.

I managed the next ten hours by myself. I managed the rain, and the cars and the slower-moving semi’s. I pulled into gas stations (twice) and refilled, and remembered to swing wide so the trailer cleared the rear gas pump.

Driving consciously is a high form of living in the moment. The heightened sense of danger creates an appreciation for the harmony of the road. As the hours pass and I fight the hypnotic lull that threatens to pull me into a trance, I use my senses to stay connected.

The dance of fast cars, slow cars, slower trucks and uphill rigs on steep mountainous grades is poetic. Especially when accompanied by the ballads of Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton on my CD player. I unroll the window to smell the rice fields and the smoke of the burning piles. I savor the scent of the mountains and the smell of downdrafts from the fields we pass.

I notice that the south-bound lane of I-5 is patched and bumpy, worn out by the weight of the semi’s. There is a temptation to drive faster than the law allows, to use the fast lane like the cars and damn the consequences. At night the glare of tail lights plays havoc on my distance judgment. I find myself counting “one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two” after passing a slow tractor-trailer rig because it’s hard to judge distance with headlights in mirrors. The moment of decision, when to pull back in, is an adrenaline rush—an instant consequence for my decision

What struck me was how much I enjoyed the process--all ten hours. But that night I slept GOOD!

The next time I drove my car I found myself attending to the road with fresh eyes. The DMV is right—driving is a privilege. So is living on the edge. One of these days I plan to haul something live. (Tow a horse trailer or some cattle to market.) And take my new motorcycle out on a country road.

How about you?  Want to share your driving or other adventures in the fast lane?       


Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Case of Computer Obsession

When does the computer become an obsession and not a career tool? A fair question, and one my husband is asking as I sit in my bathrobe on a Saturday morning, “working.”

I’ve paid the bills, checked my emails and linked my latest guest blog to my social media links. http://writersofthewest.blogspot.com/  Time to cut the cord, go outside and LIVE! But after five days of marketing, writing tie-in essays for my forthcoming novel and creating a newsletter, this computer feels more real to me than my husband’s face.

If this computer screen were a slot machine, I’d feed it nickels just to have a reason to stay. (And judging by the funny cartoons and posts on my FB home page, I’m not alone.) It’s a little frightening.  This morning, faced with a decision whether to turn right and head out the door to my Body Pump class at the gym—or left toward my computer (for just the quickest check), my legs chose for me.

Needless to say, we did no body pumping today!

Husband just tucked his head in the door with a plan to run a measuring tape around our ten acres so he can map the fence line. I wanted to say, “What a dumb idea!” but I recognize an intervention when one is staged.

It’s a gloriously clear day in Southern Oregon. The sky is clear, the geese are honking and the incense cypress are infusing the meadow with sweet smells. I’m fresh out of nickels and my eyes are bloodshot from the glare of the screen. I suspect the geese are honking at me because I'm sitting at a crossroads. Like all addictions, it's time to get honest with myself. Shut down the computer, grab a tablet and make a list of things I want to accomplish next week. Take Sunday off. Start again Monday with fresh enthusiasm.   

Got to run now—nature’s calling.