Things About Remembering

For some people, Memorial Day is really about remembering - faces, names, events... Some of the people we know have looked the Monster of War in the face and lived to tell about it. For many of us, myself included, there isn't a direct memory I can connect to, a lost loved one, a first hand impact that changed my life forever. But then again, maybe there is...

How would my life look if almost 5 million American Troops hadn't deployed to the battlefields of France in World War I? What if more than 16 million US Soldiers hadn't shipped overseas for World War II? 5.7 million in The Korean War, nearly 9 million in Vietnam, and over 2 million in the first Gulf War. And still counting. Since 1775 we have lost over one million active duty soldiers. How can the death of 1 million US citizens not have impacted my life, or the life of any American, directly? Another 1.5 million of the nearly 42 million veterans that have served were wounded in battle.

Freedom isn't free. It comes at the high price of our best, brightest and strongest young men and more recently, women (144 female soldiers have been lost in recent conflict in the Middle East. In Vietnam as well as the first Gulf War, 6 female soldiers died). It is won on the backs and blood of a part of each generation - the ones dedicated to a cause, to service and to their country.

War is evil. There is no reason behind it. It is an insufferable plague on humanity much like any epidemic that cannot be avoided. It is dictated by greed and power and the most basic human depravity. This evil must be answered, and lives lost unjustly for a just cause.

Memorial Day was created in 1868 by the Grand Army of The Republic, a group of Union Veterans, after the Civil War. Originally called "Decoration Day" it was set aside to remember fallen soldiers and decorate soldiers graves with flowers. It was renamed Memorial Day in 1885 but not federally recognized until 1967. Memorial Day has become synonymous with a three day weekend, barbecues and beer. It is frequently confused (by yours truly in the past) with Veteran's Day in November, which is set aside to honor veterans of the Armed Forces, living and dead.

Some times, in the sunny end of May, as school schedules are circling the proverbial drain and the lawn is finally starting to look good, it's easy to forget that Memorial Day is more than mattress sales and flag flying. Remembering can be difficult on any day, but distracted by recreational demands and family reunions, forgetting becomes easy.

But Memorial Day is personal for every American. Whether your life was forever altered by a lost soldier, or you have lived an existence that is unconsciously reliant on the liberties that were hard won with human life, you have a reason to remember. The tragedy of every battlefield death lies in the havoc it wreaks at home, and the victims of these losses are around us and among us. Remember the fallen, remember the remaining. We owe our freedoms to the Lost Ones, and their families. Let's never forget that.

Things About Doing It

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about running, or more accurately, not running.

I mentioned the personal life goal I had of passing the pack test. The 45 minute, three mile, 45 pound wildland fire fitness test, required for all line personnel. It's not a big deal, right? Thousands of firefighters pass this thing every single year like it's no big deal. Thousands of young, whole, healthy firefighters who aren't me...

I haven't been able to pass it for the past five. Five years ago, in Bend, when I tried to pass it, twice, I didn't finish it time. That was after 6 years of passing it. I even passed the moderate when I was pregnant with Aspen, because, you know, I am a badass. But there I was in 2010, testing with a new fire organization, a bunch of strangers... a bunch of firefighting strangers. Nothing like making a fool of yourself in front of a slew of firefighters. Twice. Turns out I had a vertebral disc that was working it's way out one side of the space between my L5/S1 junction. It just wasn't happening.

Then the Forest Service decided that too many people were dying of heart attacks taking the arduous pack test, so only firefighters with jobs that absolutely required that level of fitness were allowed to take it. For a few years, they considered line EMTs a non-arduous qualification, and I was spared the agony of not passing it for awhile. This was good considering I had three surgeries to try to fix or remove the female organs that were killing me slowly during this time, so I was heavily entrenched in excuses.

Then somebody up top got smart: of course the line EMTs need the pack test - they're on the freaking line. But for us broken old EMTs, they made it optional, with a pay raise for the young bucks who could crank it out. The choice was mine, and something inside of me wasn't ready to roll over and play dead just yet. Even though the disc that was slipping before had now degenerated to nothing, I started practicing with 10 pounds, then 15, then 20... All the while reminding myself that I probably couldn't pass it this year, and didn't have to, and that extra $4/hr wouldn't make THAT much of a difference.

But in the back on my mind there was this thing. I saw it in a counselors office, as I sat there and listened to how my trust issues and lack of money management skills were making me impossible to live with, and trying to think how I could prioritize these things over keeping four girls alive to adulthood and somehow not lose myself in the process... It was a little sign that said only : "She Thought She Could and So She Did". It haunted me. As if I knew deep down that the only thing holding me back was the permission I was giving myself to not succeed.

With the gentle nudging of my best friends, I began to buy into it. Maybe I can. No, I know I can, if I can just meet this one goal first. And then the next... I met each of my workout landmarks, and I started to panic as I removed my excuses for not at least attempting the test. The reality that I understood was that if I started it, failure was not an option. I would not strap that pack on for a second attempt this year. I would not admit defeat again, like I had to in Bend. So I lost sleep for two weeks, arguing with myself about the ridiculousness of it all. I kept practicing, and psyching myself up. And then it came.

The day of the test, my buddy promised to pace me. Just like my best friend at home, I told him to keep on pace, just ahead of me, so I knew where  I needed to get to for a passing speed. The guys administering the test were good friends of mine and I watched with sweaty palms and minor palpitations as they weighed the vest and adjusted it to be sure it wasn't an ounce over 45 pounds. I have some awesome people in my life, you guys. The boys helped me get into my harbinger of doom, which almost didn't feel that heavy, until the walking started.

I could feel my hips creaking and my back grinding with every step, and the shin splints were burning within the first quarter mile. But it was do or die. I almost quit at a half mile. The pace seemed impossible and the weight was literally choking the life out of me. But I kept chanting in my head "she thought she could. she thought she could. I think I can, I think I can." I was like the Little Engine, chug-chugging across the pavement, red faced and not pretty at all. My buddy was a few steps ahead. Every time I gasped or grunted he turned to make sure I wasn't face down on the sidewalk in a puddle of aged regret.

I almost quit again at one mile. I was losing steam and my pace was barely on time. My shins were screaming, and if I had been able to see out of my eyes I was pretty certain there would have been a steady flow of blood pouring out from under the bones in my legs. "One more step. She thought she could. One more step. A little quicker. I think I can."

Two miles in and I was over time. I wasn't going to make it.  I almost cried but I was too exhausted. Clearly I hadn't trained enough. As if any amount of training makes the weight seem OK. Sometime after the second mile marker the burn in my shins started to die down, the spasmed muscles let go and my pacer turned with a concerned look when he heard my sigh of delight. I put my head down and picked up an awkward joggy rhythm that probably looked sort of like an emu running in place. Not finishing on time was clearly an unacceptable end to this mini-drama that I had created for myself. I had half a mile left when one of my good buddies showed up along side me and started to give me crap, which is always a useful motivator for me. A little while later and another bestie popped up on my other side. Then my boss was there, and some random lady I don't know. With a quarter mile left I had half a dozen cheerleaders jogging alongside me like my own personal fan club. Even my the guy formerly known as my husband got in on the pep rally.

The pacer kept me moving, and as I crossed the finish, with 30 seconds to spare, he came back and somehow wrung me out of the vest that had become one with my frame. There were at least 5 people pawing at that stupid vest to get it off me, half of them I am sure because they wanted to be ready to hook me up to a defibrillator when I collapsed. I was done. It was done. I had passed it one more time in my life.

The pep squad made me walk a little longer to cool down, which seemed like the cruelest part. But they did all offer to buy me a beer. I have every intention of holding them to it sooner or later.

After about 15 minutes of tottering on the brink of death, I recovered, and I felt like I had just won the lottery. I even jogged through the parking lot, humming the Rocky theme triumphantly, on the way back. I thought I could, and I did, but more importantly, all of them thought so too, and they made it happen. That's the beautiful thing about friendships - there is so much confidence in having the right people around you to hold you up when a 45 pound vest has beaten the shit out of you. I wonder if this means I have to split my wage increase with them?

this is me in the weight vest, pre-test. the smile is fake. 

PS - I haven't done a single lick of exercise since the test. FOR SHAME!

Things That I (Don't) Understand

This wasn't how it was supposed to go. When my oldest daughter called me for dating advice, I never imagined it would be on these terms. If I was talking to a son who was taking a girl out for the first time, I would say many things: Be sensitive. Be kind. Be a gentleman. Be curious about her: listen, learn. Have fun - without the pressure of expectation. But what should I say when it's my daughter that is taking out the girl? Maybe that advice doesn't change...

Even though the signs were there from day one in the curious, indomitable tomboy who would never wear pink. While her friends were being princesses, she had an imaginary cowboy named Jarrup for a best friend. It was there when she challenged the dress standard norms for gender suitability in early middle school. When she watched the other girls with peculiar fascination, as though they were alien creatures. 

Gay wasn't a thing in my family. In fact, it was an abomination. While my own beliefs had bent and swayed as my understanding of God and The Whole World evolved, GAY was still something that I hadn't made eye contact with. Avoid the awkward conversation, and dealing with rigid, archaic religion that still surrounded me. It was a conversation that we didn't need to have, that I didn't need to have with myself.

Halle came home for Christmas from college and there we were, sitting in my messy bedroom. In an awkward talk full of medium smiles, stifled tears and uncomfortable silences, she was telling me that she didn't know about sex, or about love, but that she was pretty sure that men weren't in her future. She cried about a girl that she adored - one who had pushed her away, and used her, and hurt her. She had been devoutly committed to the girl. All of her words painted the picture of the loyal hound dog that would do ANYTHING for his friend and master. To keep the one she cared about free from pain and anxiety and stress were paramount motivators in Halle's life.

I knew this story. I had lived these feelings. The emotions she described and the dedication she expressed were a mirror image of thelove that I once felt for a man. As she cried, I flashed back to the physical pain I experienced when the one I loved was hurting - Halle was expressing total empathy. I UNDERSTOOD, but somehow, it was different. It made no sense to me, feeling the draw of intimacy, of discovery, to another woman. I had moved beyond the absolute belief system that would give me cause to reject my daughter for her lifestyle, but there was still some flimsy cardboard wall inside, keeping me from embracing the Whole Halle. I couldn't fathom her absolute desire to please another person who wasn't a man. I have very close girl friends, but what Halle described were feelings that I had only known for the love of my life, who was very much male.

I couldn't translate it. Or figure out how to take it away from that conversation and into the real world. How to say to Everyone Else: "yes. I understand her heart. and I support her love. for whomever she chooses." But that is truly as simple as it needed to be. Even so, I couldn't speak that language to her. I tried, in a clumsy and brutish way, to express my unconditional love for her, but the words that came out sounded more like tolerance and avoidance than support and compassion. I was doing it wrong, but I wasn't sure what right looked like.

It took me a few weeks and some less-than-gentle moments of introspection, but it finally occurred to me that the dating advice that I would give my daughter, as well as the things I would say to the Whole World were no different than they would be for a straight kid. Be sensitive, be kind. Whomever it is that you love, love unconditionally, the way that I have taught you.

More than being gay, she is my daughter. The fears that I have for her and the mistakes that she could make are universal. The risks are the same for all of us, gay or straight, every race and creed, down to the last imperfect person on the planet. Fear is born from ignorance, and while I might not understand her attraction, I understand my daughter, and I understand the love that she experiences. I know her, and as time goes on I will know her better. None of this can change my love for my girl - but my curiosity to know her has grown.

This wasn't the way I planned it, and yet here we are. Without knowing how, it's my job to include my daughter as she is, who she is, into the greater world of our extended family, the church, the judging masses. It's my job as her mother to speak love and acceptance to her, and bridge her way through self-discovery. Halle has an opportunity to live her life as an answer to how she was created by the same God that the rest of us will negotiate our own expressions of life with. It isn't necessary for me to understand, it is only necessary for me to love.

Always My Hallelujah. 

Things That Make You Stop

I had an awesome weekend. I learned so much, met some great people, and slept in a top bunk, which is therapeutic in the same way as those weird shrinks who make you squeeze your way out of a fabric tube to re-experience birth. If you haven't heard of that then you aren't watching enough Law and Order SVU. I came home knowing that I would have a lot to catch up on. I mean, I have been gone for the last 23 out of 30 days, so if you were beginning to wonder where I live anymore, me too. It's almost the end of May now and my yard hasn't been mowed since April. Of last year. Ok that's a slight exaggeration, but it does look a lot like no one has lived at my house for four years. The good news about me ignoring my yard is that I haven't had a chance to kill the surviving raspberry plants that are back there defying the odds of existing in Liv's world.

I have had work to go to since I got back, which is great because no matter how much laundry I do, or dishes, or how many times I mop the floors, nobody will pay me for it and the Bill People don't like that. The downside of working when I am home and then leaving is that All Of the Other Things don't get done. Yesterday, before hitting it hard on a mission from hell to Do It All, I took a night off with the kids and we went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was awesome.

So I came home from work today all psyched up to get shit done. Like, f'reals. This was after a long day of data entry, directing a bunch of eye-rolling sophomores in the school production of Mean Girls, and having my 17 year old daughter tell me flat out, NO, that she would not come home with me on the school campus in front of God and Everyone, then ride off into the sunset on a bicycle with her boyfriend. In my heart, I grabbed her by the hair and drug her down the sidewalk, but luckily my shoulder wouldn't have endured it, and I probably would have ended up in my best friend's cop car, parked conveniently 10 feet away from the altercation. Turns out that in spite of the fact that she is FAILING two classes that she must pass to graduate in three weeks, her dad told her she can run wild and free all over town with her boyfriend. Effective parenting right there, folks. Also: PUBLIC SHAMING.

Anyway, Aspen cranked up an odd mix of Frank Sinatra, Fun., Justin Timberlake and Pink and we started cleaning out the camp trailer that has been inhabited only by a colony of ants, a family of small spiders, and MacKenzie and her boyfriend over the last few months. When even got in on the spider killing action, and then we moved on to the back porch which has been doubling as a garbage dump/where we put all the crap we have no idea what to do with it, and let the spiders take over. We swept and stacked and tossed and hosed and got that junk wrangled. Then I cleaned the bathroom, organized the laundry room, washed ALL of the rugs from the floors, the shower curtains, and nearly every towel we own.

I was washing the trays from two food dehydrators that we discovered under a pile of cardboard on the back porch when it happened. I was bent over the sink a little and all of a sudden I couldn't breathe. Or move. Or anything. There was something that I can only compare to The Hammer Of Thor pounding into this spot in my spine and I was rendered completely useless. After a few minutes of dry heaving in the sink from the pain and planning my funeral, I managed to slowly twist down onto the floor, where I belly crawled out of the kitchen. I learned two things in this moment: my core strength could really use some work, and the floors need to be mopped badly.

I tried crawling onto the inversion table to "stretch it out" which ended with Aspen helping me get back on to the floor. Then I got on my feet in a very graceful knees-to-couch rolling twist up again and figured out if I stay perfectly straight upright I could finish making dinner. I did a stint on the foam roller which my kids watched in amusement, and Dagny thought was strictly so I would have a better ball throwing angle for her. Now I am in bed on an icepack with a bottle of wine.

I asked my sister if spines can bleed, because I am pretty sure mine is. She said no, unless someone stabbed you in the back, which we could, within rights, pin on MacKenzie today, especially considering I had just written a $50 check to cover her cap and gown and year book. I wonder if I can cancel that check?

I am curious to see how work goes tomorrow, and if they will send a wheelchair to pick me up because I can't feel one of my legs...

Things I am Winning

Mother's day is the perfect opportunity for those of us with children to step back and really take a good look at how well we are performing as parents.

On a scale of breakfast in bed -----> kids not speaking to me, I am about at a 4.5.

It's very easy to become consumed with all of the things that I am doing wrong.

For instance, my dating advice to daughter number one goes something like this: "Don't do it, it's stupid." She asked my opinion on sex in college, and I said emphatically that it should be avoided at all cost. So much for that fragile window of opportunity to plant seeds of understanding and enlightenment to grow my young child into healthy and mature relationships.

My second daughter showed up to eat the dinner I made for Mother's Day, steal the resident teenage boy's clothes and leave, while trying to hide her self inflicted belly-button ring from me. All kinds of parental triumphs there.

My third daughter scratched her long and triple jumps at the pre-district track meets today because I failed to pack her a decent lunch or snacks and she was hypoglycemic before she even hit the hurdles.

And Aspen, who is currently rocking an Avante-Garde haircut that I performed with dull kitchen shears, made no-bake chocolate cookies today with about 1/8th the called for oats. At least she persevered on her puddles of chocolate goo, while I was too busy doing Something Important to help her find a solution.

I spent mother's day trying to fix Aspen's bike, which resulted in the successful remounting of a new tire and inner tube, only to poke a hole in said inner tube directly after installation. Then I tried to mow the lawn, and since the gas mower is broken, and poured a gallon of dear-bought gas onto to lawn from a broken gas line, I decided to be brave and use the decrepit old manual push mower. I got two passes done, re-tore my worst shoulder and gave up. I did notice there are less dandelions in the 1.5 foot swath I mowed. I weeded about a square foot of the raspberry patch, then conceded my loss. I ran 150 feet of leaking wild land toy hose across my yard to wash my car, or really to give it soap scum stripes and a flat tire from the questionable yard driving. I tried to restring my weedwhacker and did something wrong, because it wouldn't go back together. Finally, after all of this, I gave up, went inside, made myself a drink and thanked the gods that it wasn't father's day, or my failures would have been catastrophic.

My bank account is, once again overdrawn.

My long haired dachshund is currently relocating half of the driveway in weeds and gravel into my bed with her fur, on freshly washed sheets.

My shoulder HURTS.

I have two days of training and a writer's retreat this week that are taking me far from home, yet again. I know that I am the luckiest girl to get to go to All Of the Places, but I am tired. This is the last push and then I can stay home and persist in failing miserably at all of my responsibilities here.

It's been awhile since I felt like I did something right. Since I nailed it. Since I was wildly successful, attractive, WINNING.

But in all this, I see my friend hurting for a daughter who is literally fighting for her life. I see families of fallen police officers trying to figure out how to go on with their hero-less lives.  I see hopelessness, homelessness, and loss all around me, and really, I am winning.

I have four(six) beautiful, smart, talented, HEALTHY girls. I have a safe, quiet, messy, wonderful home. I have a running car. I have a huge, loving, ridiculous family. I have work. I have groceries. I have dogs.  I have it all. I AM winning.

Things About Justice

I rarely, if ever, post anything political here. I am not politically inclined. I do not willingly affiliate with any political party or assert my opinions on issues very often because I have people that I love very much on every side and I believe firmly in the idea that our difference in thought is the only thing that sets us apart from instinct driven animals.

But this is too much. The injustice that I cannot wrap my mind around is too close to home, too much in the face of every neighborhood, friend, and relative in this beautiful nation we live in.

I believe in free speech. I believe in freedom of religion, freedom of thought, the right of EVERY man to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

These rights are forfeited when we break the established laws. Laws that have been established by governments both local and national, laws that have been established by religions of all varieties. Laws that have been established by nature. Do no harm. Do not injure. Do not steal. Do not destroy. Do not kill. When these laws are violated, actions must be taken. This is the agreement we, as free people have entered into as citizens in a civilized world. Accountability. Answering for our wrongs. The external government that WE MUST HAVE is the only answer to the self government we refuse to demonstrate.

Our law enforcement systems are flawed because they are human. Our police officers are imperfect because they are men and women, capable of the same mistakes and trespasses that every single one of us has potential for. But they are necessary and vital to the survival of a civilized culture.

I have spent this entire week in our nation's capital. Less than an hour away from where violent, destructive riots took place to protest the unnecessary death of a young man. Freddie Gray's death was tragic, and probably avoidable. Just as Michael Brown's, and Eric Garner's probably were. They shouldn't have died. Their lives do matter. There should be an investigation, and justice should be served. But in ALL THREE of these cases, these men found themselves on the other side of the law. Things that all of us, as citizens, have obligated ourselves to accountability for. Were their crimes worthy of death? Absolutely not. Should these tragedies be addressed? Absolutely yes.

But rioting in the streets? Destroying the very neighborhoods that these men called home? Injuring other people, law enforcement officers; stealing; destroying... How in God's name does this translate to justice for anyone, black, white - human?

And then we encounter the death of law enforcement officers. Not one, but many.

Brian Moore was 25 years old. Following in the footsteps of his father and uncle to become an officer of the New York Police Department, he had just enough time in to establish his reputation as a good cop. In five years he had perpetuated the good reputation of his family in the department. On Saturday, May 2, Moore was fatally shot while investigating a suspicious person.

Sergeant Greg Moore was young. A father. A husband. As a police officer he had passed the background checks, the written tests, the physical tests, the psychological tests, the lie detectors... he had proved himself not to be PERFECT, but to be accountable to the laws that we have all agreed upon. Interested in the welfare of his community, his neighborhood, his FAMILY. On May 5th, Sgt. Moore was shot while following up on a suspicious person report and died hours later from his wounds.

In neither case was there rioting in the streets. There was no destruction. There was no violence. There was no harm. Because these men had committed to this ideal: To do no harm. To bring peace, and safety. Two families are left alone, their heroes gone forever. Two departments feel the gaping hole left by the loss of  a good officer. But there are no burning cars in the streets for them. No looted shops or destroyed neighborhoods. Because these men that died believed in a different world. Not one of opportunistic greed or following an angry mob to destruction. They believed in building up - not tearing down. The BELIEVED in the system. The imperfect system. And they died from it. In the same way that Freddie Gray and Eric Garner and Michael Brown did. The difference was that these men hadn't broken the law. They hadn't violated the terms that we all agreed to as part of this society.

Where is the justice for Brian Moore and Greg Moore?

I spent a week visiting every war memorial and museum in DC. I have read about the annihilation of the dinosaurs, the founding of our country, the pillaging of Native American Cultures and the rise of this society that we call the Land of The Free. From where I stand, those freedoms are turning to entitlement and victim mentalities that result in the justification of murdering cops and stomping on flags. We are doomed. The zombie apocalypse is upon us and it is the soulless, mindless, self-destructive path that our entire nation is walking down. We are gnawing on our own tail and it's only a matter of time before we work our way up to the neck and realize that it's too late.

Wake up, America. Let your hearts be broken for the good men that are lost, who fight FOR US. Don't take our hard-won liberties for granted. Honor the standards that we all live by. Do no harm. Love others. Let the lives of Brian and Greg Moore, and countless others, mean something more than a picket sign and a burning tire. Let their sacrifice be the catalyst of change. Not more tolerance for entitlement and lack of accountability, but a reckoning for our choices, a renewal of our commitment to community and the laws that guarantee our liberty. ALL LIVES MATTER.

To support Greg Moore's family,  go to:

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