Thursday, February 28, 2008
That was 1917, a very long time ago. Now Buckles has the distinct honor of being the last surviving American WWI soldier. At the spry age of 107 he has much to look back on and talk about.
He's been interviewed many times by most every magazine and archival entity with an interest in veterans. The Library of Congress's Veterans History Project maintains extensive audio and video interviews with him.
Not only did Buckles serve in WWI but he survived 3 years in a Japanese POW camp during WWII. In 1940 he went to Manila to accept a job with a shipping company. He was captured by the Japanese when they invaded the Philippines and nearly starved to death before his rescue in 1945.
Buckles is a true American hero. He has an incredible memory and loves to talk about his earliest childhood memories listening to voices from the cradle in his family's kitchen. He vividly remembers meeting General "Black Jack" Pershing in 1920. He jokes that he's probably the last person alive who personally knew the man.
When Mr. Buckles dies we will lose a living touchstone to history. World War I was the last war fought without modern methods of bearing witness. There are virtually no film reels, only a few battle photographs, a smattering of reliable front line news reports, and much of what exists was either produced under strict censorship or made as propaganda. Case in point, Frank has only 3 photos of himself in uniform during that time - all are formal portraits.
Even with all he's given to his country, the United States has no formal plans to mark the passing of its last WWI veteran. Great Britain plans to hold an elaborate ceremony in Westminster Abbey when the last of its 3 remaining vets passes away. Canada and France, each with one remaining WWI veteran, plan to hold state funerals.
So why is our government so ambivalent where Mr. Buckles is concerned? I don't know but I'll quote Phil Budahan, director of media relations for the Department of Veterans Affairs, "Frankly, we're trying to keep the focus on the living."
Shame on you, Mr. Budahan. I hope your department changes its mind and when the time comes we honor this man in the way he truly deserves.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
He doesn't think he's extraordinary or special or heroic. He's just living life to the fullest for as long as it lasts and teaching his students at Carnegie Mellon University a few things along the way. But, unlike me, he has an approximate date, a fixed point in time when all the fun will end. Randy is dieing with pancreatic cancer.
When he found out he was terminally ill he gave his last lecture to his students, one designed to teach the most important lesson we can learn - how to truly live before we die. A short version of this lesson is the basis for my 2/24/08 post. Please watch it. It is powerful.
Today I found a Randy's update site where he keeps his students apprised of his health and progress. Six months after his lecture he's had positive results from chemotherapy that will buy him more time. He's written a book with Jeff Zaslow to be published in April. And he's testified before congress about pancreatic cancer.
I'm so glad I found out about this man and will never forget what he said in his lecture about brick walls. They are not there to stop me. They are there for me to find a way around them and to prove my determination and worthiness to reach my goal, not to stop me.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Please take 10 minutes to watch this incredible man. It will help you redefine how you think about life.
The entire lecture is on youtube. Just search Randy Pausch.
If his words touched you...leave a comment, let's have a discussion.
Friday, February 22, 2008
As for the world, instant access to news, streaming video feeds, fast airplanes, and the unfettered opinions of bloggers are causing us a few growing pains. Sometimes we don't know how to process all the information. There are too many causes, too many voices crying out in the dark.
But there is an upside to our new global closeness. Just as problems become more immediate and intimate (an example yesterday was the burning of the US embassy over the independence of Kosovo. So far away but so close at the same time), solutions and problems solvers can be quickly implemented and identified. That is if they are willing to step forward to offer their services. I do worry that the Internet has spawned a revolution of talking instead of doing.
In my life, blogging has definately brought this point home. I have lots of big ideas but how often did I do anything about them? Not often. Articulating them on this blog through the stories of the accomplishments of others was a start but soon it wasn't enough. I reached a critcal mass of information. I had to do something about all that I'd learned.
Now, I'm in the phase of networking with other bloggers, working at the grassroots level for a candidate I believe in, and speaking my mind when I get the chance. And when I begin to promote my new book I hope to use it as a platform to discuss the state of foster care in our country.
I feel part of the global community. Blogging was the catalyst for my revelation. I'd like to recognize a few blogging friends from around the world who are intregal parts of "my" global community.
August, an inspiring friend from Denmark.
Lisa, an American ex-pat in France.
Wen, a beautiful woman living in Malta.
Anna, my photographer friend in Canada.
Peter, my insightful friend from Australia.
Thank you for showing me the world through your eyes. Every correspondence with you is priceless.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Those are impressive numbers but here's the real deal behind the movie and book - Sister Helen Prejean has spent the last 27 years dedicated to the cause that prompted the writing of Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States.
The cause? Counseling in the roll of spiritual advisor to death row inmates and victim's families in Louisiana and ultimately bringing an end to the death penalty in the United States.
While flipping channels last night, I landed momentarily on CSPAN and became captivated by a brash, no nonsense woman who with a smile on her face took on the aggressive interviewer. She leaned across the table, looked over the top of her glasses and said, "So what's your point? I have things I want to say and we're running out of time."
I thought, "Wow. Now that's the way to go after life." It took me a few minutes to realize that the woman was Sister Prejean and she indeed was running out of time to got after life - the lives of death row inmates condemned to die at the hands of their government.
This morning I read several articles which are too important to condense to sound bites and fluff statements. The first was "Would Jesus Pull the Switch?" which Sister Prejean wrote in 1997 for Claretain Publications.
After making a vow to devote her life to the service of the poor, Sister Prejean was asked to become a pen pal to a death row inmate, Patrick Sonnier. She later became his spiritual advisor and was with him when the state put him to death. She also developed a relationship with the father of one of his victims and for several years drove across the state once a week to meet the man for prayer.
In her account of Sonnier's death she solidifies her arguments against the death penalty, which she feels is not a deterrent to crime but a symptom of our society, driven by racism, poverty and violence - our three deepest societal wounds.
Patrick had tried to protect me from watching him die. He told me he'd be OK. I didn't have to come with him into the execution chamber. "The electric chair is not a pretty sight, it could scare you," he told me, trying to be brave.
But I said, "No, no, Pat, if they kill you, I'll be there."
Then I remembered how the women were there at the foot of Jesus' cross, and I said to him, "You look at my face. Look at me, and I will be the face of Christ for you." I couldn't bear it that he would die alone. I said, "Don't you worry. God will help me."
To fully understand Sister Helen Prejean's mission and life's work please read these articles.
I applaude her for her dedication to and love of the poor. I applaude her pragmatic attitude and the steadfast way she approaches her cause. She believes that eventually the death penality will be struck down and the instruments of death used by our nation will become curiosity pieces in museums. She ask us to consider, "Is God vengeful demanding a death for a death? Or is God compassionate, luring souls into love so great that no one can be considered an 'enemy'?"
Thursday, February 14, 2008
What better theme than the universal day of love to tell to you about my husband, Todd? It's perfect.
"I fell in love with you in kindergarten," he told me one day.
"What do you mean? I didn't know you back then," was my bewildered response. We'd been dating for a while and were sharing dessert in one of those fancy fondue restaurants.
"Yeah. One day when I was about 5, my friend told me he had a girlfriend with pretty blond hair and the brightest blue eyes he'd ever seen and her name was Lisa D. I feel in love with the idea of you and never forgot your name. So when I saw you for real in the 7th grade it was like you walked right out of my dreams."
I rested my head on his shoulder and swallowed the lump in my throat. So much had happened between junior high and this day in the restaurant - a winding path of close friendship, other loves, lives, and families. And some how, so many years later, we still ended up here, fulfilling a little boy's fantasy or was it his destiny?
That was a little over 5 years ago and on Valentine's Day I am reminded again that we are meant to live as one. A necklace fell out of my card this morning, a hematite donut with a moon charm suspended in the middle. He made it for me last night after holding onto the stone since last spring. He'd bought it in a little rock store in the New Mexico mountains.
On Christmas Eve I made a lapis donut necklace, wire wrapped with an identical moon charm and hid the little box under the tree. I'd carried the stone in my wallet since the day I bought it last spring in a little rock store in the New Mexico mountains.
I didn't know. He didn't know...and yet perfection.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Mike is part of the interactive community at Go! Smell the flowers. The founders created a community award for flower smellers. Here is how they describe it:
This badge serves to acknowledge others who are, in their own way, smelling the flowers and will underpin the whole reason for this community -to inspire countless people around the world.
They maybe regular visitors to this blog, comment posters, readers or active at another founders blog or someone that could contribute here who is yet to visit as we become a community.
Maybe they don’t even run a blog but have recovered from an illness, written a book, won the lottery, made a major shift in their life, won promotion, quit the rat race and on it GO!s as more examples from around the world start to surface and group hugs become the norm!
This award makes me feel like maybe I am inspiring others with my work on LifePrints and maybe Mike thinks I'd be a good member of the Go! Smell the flowers community. I am honored.
I'd like to pass this award on to a few special people. Since I can award this to non-bloggers that is what I am going to do.
1) Margaret McGlaun is a wildflower photographer who knows about 'smelling the flowers'. She's taught me so much about taking time to love the life I'm living and loving the people I'm living it with. Her photos are beautiful. I have her calendars and a set of note cards. I'll never forget taking a trip with her to see the spring blooms in Death Valley, CA. I had a blast watching her work her magic on film.
2) Jo Wilkens is the president of Henderson Writers' Group. For the past 4 years she has been my friend and mentor, giving gentle nudges in the right direction in my writing career. As the owner of Mystic Publishers, she doesn't have much free time but she always makes time for other aspiring writers. I am forever in her debt for the free editing she did on my latest manuscript.
3) Gregory Kompes has also been my mentor and friend. He is the best-selling author of 50 Fabulous Gay-Friendly Places to Live. He was the coordinator at the conference where I met my agent. He's recently overcome a personal struggle and is better than ever. He's my hero.
4) Tina Thompson, my dear cousin and friend, has found love after many years of disappointment and heartache. She is finally smelling the flowers with the "answer to her prayers", Jimmy. He's heaven sent and she is smiling again. I can't wait to meet him and welcome him into our family.
5) Candi Mitchell is a writer on the verge of discovery. Every time I read passages from her memoir, I am reminded of the raw courage it takes to peel back the layers of our lives to reveal the truth. She is a true flower smeller on the fast track to self-discovery.
Thanks again, Mike for the opportunity to give a shout out to these incredible people whom I love so much.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I agree when he says that true leadership is more about the depth of someone's commitment and the strength of their character than about the position they hold.
I once knew a great leader. She never had a title, except mother and friend. She never had an office except her kitchen table but at that table I learned more about life than in any classroom or office meeting. She inspired me to be the best I could be by the way she lived her life. Her character was strong and her heart was open and loving. So I understand what Sharma is saying.
He says that leadership is a way of being. It's about inspiring all of those who surround you to realize their gifts and stand for personal greatness. It's about taking responsibility for every dimension of your life (verses blaming other for what's not working). It's about devoting yourself to excellence in every pursuit and making things better - no matter how good they aready are.
Leadership is also about connecting with people. Deeply. Genuinely. Pasionately. Because business, politics and life are really all about people.
The University of Florida posted a list of words that define the qualities of a leader. Here are a few of my favorites: Building Trust, Dedication, Empathy, Ethics, Honesty, Inspiring, Positive Example, Know when to follow, Open-minded, Selflessness, Wisdom, and Realistic.
Americans have a big decision to make this year. We will vote for a new president. In my search I will review these traits and measure each candidate against them. A great leader is defined by more than years in Washington, military service, or great rhetoric. And certainly not defined by media hype or degredation.
Look to people like Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, John Kennedy, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther King Junior for examples. Think about the leaders in your life, the teacher, the coach, the preacher, the parent who are like the wise woman in my past.
Then you will know in your heart who to vote for and you will also know how to "be" a leader yourself.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
An easy lesson in blood transfusion goes like this - I have Type B blood. If I am in an accident and need a transfusion, the doctor cannot give me blood from a Type A donor. My body would reject it, causing my red blood cells to clot. On the bright side, as long as there is Type B or Type O blood available then I will survive.
This goes for the Type A people. They need A or O donors. Type AB people need AB or O donors. Do you see a pattern here? Everyone can accept Type O blood. Ever heard the term universal donor? Well, that's the Type O person and they become very valuable resources to the local Red Cross or United Blood Services blood bank. Once a Type O person donates a pint of blood, they can expect a regular call asking for donations.
This is because most of us don't donate and the numbers of us that do donate are dwindling. Enter ZymeQuest, a biomedical company from Beverly, Massachusetts, to save the day. A team of scientists have developed a method to remove the identifying antigens from red blood cells, rendering every red blood cell Type O.
Once upon a time, I was a registered Medical Technologist. This is so fascinating to me because I remember toiling over vials of blood, adding reagents one after another, watching closely for clotting, and the stress I felt wondering if I'd performed the tests correctly. If I didn't, someone might die for my mistake.
Please understand that this new technology does not diminsh the need for blood donation. Blood banks will still need a steady stream of willing donors but they will be able to use their resources more efficiently and effectively to pass on our selfless gift of life.
God bless those who donate regularly. I'm sure the soliders in Iraq thank you and the families of accident victim thank you. We should consider it a civic duty to donate at least one pint a year. If we all did just that much....think about what it would mean to those in need.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
She sat in the car listening to the radio, thinking about the promise of a new century. How strange it was to write 2000 instead of 1999. She turned up the heater and blew warm breath onto her palms. Frost covered the windshield. She stared through the haze, up the slope, to the summit of Whiteface Mountain. So many brightly colored skiers gliding over the snow -- from a distance they reminded her of gumballs rolling down folds of linen.
From the radio, Leanne Womack’s words cut the chill in the air. “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.”
“Yeah, right. Whatever,” she scoffed and reached out to turn the station.
“I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance. Never settle for the path of least resistance,” the song went on.
Slowly, she drew back her hand and looked again at the mountain. 34 and fearful -- that’s me, she thought. A knot formed in her throat.
“Never settle for the path of least resistance.”
Tears stained her pale cheeks. “That’s all I’ve done for so long,” she whispered. “Oh God,” she moaned. Overwhelmed by the rush of emotion she slunk down in the seat so no one would see her crying. Images of times she’d kept quiet, times she’d threatened to leave if it continued, and the times she’d believed the excuses then held his hand once more; all this poured over her like a flood.
She opened the car door and sank to the ground. They’ll be back soon, she thought. She scooped up a handful of wet snow and cupped it to her cheeks, hoping to freeze out her tears. Back into the car, she closed her eyes to wait.
She awoke to the crunch of boots on icy ground and the laughter of her children. Her family, cold and tired, rushed inside. She listened as they yelled out stories of triumph over the hill, near misses on the slope, and knee-jarring runs down the moguls.
“You okay?” her husband finally asked.
“Of course.” She managed to smile just like all the other times and inside she heard a faint echo…when you come close to selling out reconsider...
Don’t sell out. Live a life you are proud of. Don’t be afraid. Trust your own judgment. Do the things that fill your heart with wonder. Be with people who make you smile. Don’t tolerate those who make you cry.
The 'she' was me and a song can change a life.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
For a while I thought the American Government would linger too long with the disbelievers but it seems with the presidential race and presidential legacies on the line, governmental positions are changing. But will it be enough to make a difference?
The old guard of skeptics are leaving the White House and we have a chance to lead the nations of the world to solve this problem. That leaves me wondering, of the remaining candidates for US president, who has the best policy proposals to change the course of our future? Who has the commitment to make the tough decisions?
Grist Magazine has put together a comprehensive chart to help people like me make up my mind. Each of the candidates ideas and stances are laid out in an easy to understand format. Please check this out and read the information provided. It's very important.
Allow me to spotlight two of the issues: Cap and Trade Prgrams for Greenhouse Emmissions and Fuel Economy Standards.
Hillary Clinton: Supports a cap-and-trade system to cut U.S. emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Supports raising fuel standards to 40 mpg by 2020 and 55 mpg by 2030.
Barack Obama: Supports a cap-and-trade system to cut U.S. emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Supports raising standards for cars to 40 mpg and light trucks to 32 mpg by 2020.
John McCain: Supports a cap-and-trade system. Coauthor of the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act, which would cap emissions from utilities, industry, and transport at 2004 levels by 2012 and then gradually decrease emissions to about 30% of 2004 levels by 2050. Supports raising standards vehicles, but has not named a specific target. In 2002, introduced legislation that would have raised standards to 36 mpg by 2016.
Mitt Romney: Does not support a cap-and-trade system unless the rest of the world participates. For fuel efficiency he, Opposes raising standards on their own outside of a broader energy plan. Calls for other steps to make the U.S. auto fleet more efficient.
Mike Huckabee - Supports a cap-and-trade system, but hasn't gotten specific about targets. Supports raising standards to 35 mpg by 2020.
In our nation we have an important decision to make about who will be the best steward of our environment and who will inspire all of us to make the needed sacrafices and changes. Dig deep and do the research. In my opinion, none of the candidates go as far as I would like. They seem afraid to take a serious stand for consequential action but at least solutions are on the table. That's a change for the better.
Visit the candidates websites and read their full positions. But first educate yourself by visiting globalwarming 101.com, Climatecrisis.net, and the Union of Concerned Scientists to arm yourself with the scientific facts needed to make a clear assessment of the issues.
I am optimistic about our future. There is a ground swell, a movement, an awakening that we must act now. I believe we will. To get us started on the right path, we need a leader who is bold, innovative, free of the influence of corporations who resist change, and as determined to end global warming as a past president was about going to the moon.
Monday, February 4, 2008
This is one of my favorite quotes from a very unlikely source - "If you never lie you never have to play dumb."
Before I tell you who said it let me tell you what it means to me. When a person lies they have to remember everything they say on the subject there after. If they contradict themselves then another lie must be concocted. Or the person has another option...to play dumb. You've heard it before. I'm sure someone along the way has looked at you in wide-eyed innocence and said, "I don't know what you're talking about." I'll even admit that in years past I've said those words.
That's why this quote is so important to me. It's a reminder that when it counts (which is always, unless it's my mother asking me if her latest cake is the best she's ever made. In that case, the answer is always to hug her and say yes) I should ALWAYS tell the truth.
If we've done something wrong the easiest way to atone is through the truth. If we are asked our opinion, the honorable way to answer is to speak our truth. In all our dealings with each other business, personal, family, community and any other we should be honest.
I don't mean be brutally honest or to discount the feelings of others but to tell the truth with awareness and empathy for each other and our differences. Speak your truth kindly and be proud of it.
Now, who said these words that speak so clearly to me? No one said them. Someone sang them. Check out The Red Hot Chili Pepper's album "Stadium Arcadium". The song is "Storm in a Teacup" and it's brilliant but then I'm a big fan and that's my truth.
I'm tagging 3 bloggers that I think exemplify the meaning of this quote. They are truth-tellers and truth-champions. Check them out and see what I mean.
Gina Stepp at Family Matters, the place to go for in depth information about human relationships. This woman knows what she is talking about and does extensive research on her posts.
Ellen at Positive Communication, has a blog very much like my own. We have similar views and similar ways of bringing them to the blogging community.
Catherine Hughes at A Week In The Life Of A Redhead, so funny and poignant. You'll love it, too.
Friday, February 1, 2008
Can you feel the ground swell in our country? Something amazing is happening. We are waking up to new opportunities, new ideas, and new choices. We are lifting our heads and turning away from the distractions of life long enough to realize that every individual matters. We do know what is best for our country. We are capable of thinking through and solving our complicated problems. We are an intelligent nation and don't need Washington political junkies or pundits to tell us "the factual facts". We think just fine for ourselves, thank you.
I attribute this awakening to a critical mass of discontent around our nation. No matter our political leanings, we all seem to be dissatisfied with the status quo and we are clamoring to be heard en masse.
The voter turn out in all of the early primaries has been astounding with record numbers of people turning out to the polls from every walk of life. When I attended the Nevada Democratic caucus last month, I had such low expectations and apparently so did the organizers. I walked into a modest room at a local school and started gathering a few chairs for the Obama participants. By one hour before the caucus there was no air left in the room, much less an empty seat. Over 100 people packed into a space the size of a classroom eager to help their candidate to the White House. It was beyond amazing.
This showing has become the norm around the country with lines around the corner in South Carolina. I remember hearing on the radio that by 10AM one of the large counties had already surpassed the number of people who voted in the 2004 Presidential Primary.
So if you live in one of the states on the list below, you have the right to be excited and hopeful about our nation's future. When you head to the polls next Tuesday you will become an important part of history. I think this time will be remembered as the election year when the American people took back their democracy and claimed ownership of the rights so hard won in the Constitution.
Some of the Super Tuesday States are primaries and some are caucuses. Please do the work to find out how to cast your ballot in your state. From experience, I can tell you it is very empowering to research and learn for yourself how our government works. Then go to your polling place and make your voice heard.
One of our candidates keeps saying that she has found her voice. Well, I've found mine, too and I voted for the candidate that speaks for me. I urge each of you to find YOUR voice and let it be heard. Shout from the rooftops so Washington hears us. Our opinions are valid and deserve to be heard.
Here is the list of Super Tuesday States:
Idaho (Democratic Party Only)
Kansas (Democratic Party Only)
New Mexico (Democratic Party Only)
and American Samoa
Don't wait until the general election in November to speak your mind, especially if you support a candidate that's not the front runner. Without you they may not be there to vote for when you are ready.