Longest Nights

It is the 10-year anniversary of one of the longest nights of my life.

It starts with a 9-1-1 call, a just-occurred home invasion and homicide. Officers enroute Code 3 (bat-out-of-hell-speed in English). As they arrive, they see the suspect’s vehicle fleeing, and the officers pursue.

Dispatch is always a beehive of activity, and now it’s just been banged on with a stick. We’re calling surrounding agencies because the road they are on will intersect with a freeway in about a mile, and not long after that will enter another jurisdiction. It’s 4 in the morning, mind you, so the more law enforcement we can get the better. The four dispatchers on duty are going Mach 2 with their hair on fire. Radio channels are split to handle the pursuit and the officers responding from the rest of the city, another of us is on phones calling -everyone- and I am on an interagency frequency giving out the vehicle description and responding to other agencies who are now enroute.

The vehicle is stopping. Officers are calling their formation to approach.


“998-999 OFFICER DOWN!”

Shots fired–officer down.

Time sped up. Time stopped. Bullets were still flying.

At this point, everything important that was happening was out on that street where one of my officers was lying in the road bleeding, and another had already dived in front of bullets to drag him out of the line of fire, and then laid on top of him to protect him.

Officers became freaking superheroes in an instant, and a deputy from the Sheriff’s Office had shown up to get my officers to a place where the Fire Department could safely attend to him and get him transported to the hospital.

Other people, men who were there, can tell about what happened much better than I can.

What was happening on the other side of the radio was that four women were pouring their hearts and souls and doing everything they possibly could to get help to the scene, to make sure the right people knew what was happening, to call down the very angels of heaven to take care of their officers.

Eventually, things calmed down after the murderer had been shot until he stopped shooting, after the fallen officer had been transported to the hospital, after everyone else was accounted for as safe.

Deep breaths taken. Hands shaking, voices breaking but speaking so fast only other dispatchers could understand.

Then the not knowing. Was he okay? What about his vest? Where was he shot? Is he going to live?

Officers sometimes forget that even though the voices of their dispatchers are right there, their eyes are not, and that we didn’t know what was happening–and that we always imagine the worst.  Eventually someone called and ended that agony.

I knew that the people sitting–well, mostly standing, now–around me, wouldn’t ask for a break to defuse a little. So I started sending them out, taking over their job for a bit so they could take a walk, breathe, and decompress a little. I started calling staff to come and relieve them because I knew we would need to have a short defusing session.

I was trained in Critical Incident Stress Management as part of a department-wide committee. I sat in and help to facilitate Critical Incident Stress Debriefings, but the reason why I wanted that training was to help my fellow dispatchers. This night was one of the times I thanked heaven that I was trained. I couldn’t erase what happened, but I could help as much as help can happen in these instances.

Sometimes I can hear the voices of my officers saying words that I had trained to respond to, but never really thought I’d hear. Sometimes I dream that I’m on the radio. Sometimes I’m standing in the road watching it happen, powerless to do anything.  My car mysteriously slows down when I drive by the site.

I received a medal, as did everyone else who played a part in that call that day. I would give anything to never have earned it, to never have needed to earn it, but there it is on my shelf, reminding me of the heroes and the angels of that longest night.

In the Red-Thoughts on Gratitude and Humility

I got a new job just before Thanksgiving. This employment was an answer to many moons of prayer, fasting, work, and heartache, and we are so incredibly grateful to Heavenly Father for the blessing. The job is downtown whereas I live in a suburb, so I have about a 35-45 minute drive with light traffic—the perfect environment for deep thinking and not just a little prayer.

I’ve been pondering and studying about gratitude for a long time now—months. It started with President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk from the April 2014 General Conference, titled “Grateful in Any Circumstances.”  In it, he explains:

“True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life but trusting that one day we will.”

He talks about gratitude being a state of mind, a way of being, instead of just something we do when we receive blessings. In my family, we have been trying to foster this attitude through a daily gratitude journal and through trying to find the good in our days, even when they are challenging. More than once, statements such as, “I only threw up for a half an hour last night instead of the whole night,” were listed as things we were grateful for.

One of those moments for gratitude in trials came this month:

“I am grateful that the car didn’t actually light on fire and that it broke down on the off-ramp and not in the middle of the freeway.”

Yes, my car gave up the ghost (and all of its oil) on the way home from work. Our dire financial circumstances not having changed much (I hadn’t yet received a paycheck at the time of the breakdown and many, many bills were due), we were down to one vehicle—our lumbering hulk of a van, plagued with its own reliability (and gas-guzzling!) issues. My husband and children had to walk to and from school/work (about a mile each way), and they were then stuck at home with no way to Cub Scouts, Scouts, Mutual, or any other activities after I left for the night. The long commute meant more wear and tear on a vehicle that needs to not be worn nor torn upon, and half of my check eaten up in gasoline expenses. We needed a vehicle, and essentially had no way to purchase much of one, but were saving and finding money where we could toward that end.

Our good friends texted us and asked us to come over before I left for work, they had a Christmas present for us. My husband and I went over, hoping that they weren’t going to go overboard and give us money or something. (Yeah, I know. Pride.)

Imagine the shock and awe when our friend walked us to his garage and handed my husband a folder full of documents and a set of keys. He started talking about the title, registration, the tires are good, the oil just got changed, etc., as I tried to understand exactly what he was saying. When it sank in, the tears started—and didn’t stop until after I had driven this Christmas present to work and had some time at my desk to compose myself.

The whole way to work, I was thinking:

There is no way to thank our friends sufficiently for what they have done for us. We are “in the red”—so in debt to them for this gift, and there is no way we could ever repay them. Perhaps someday we will be in financial circumstances to be able to pay back the monetary value of the gift, but the emotional value, the rescue—there is no way to place a price on that. It was overwhelming to think of. It IS overwhelming to think of. Just writing this brings the tears back to my eyes.

As grateful as I was, and am, I also felt uncomfortable being in a position where we couldn’t “balance the books.” It is such a huge thing—this isn’t a couple hours of babysitting that we can pay back with a dinner or some brownies. It’s a blow to pride, if one is a prideful person, to be helped in such a substantial way.

All the same, my love for my friends grew. I feel their love for me. I feel more fully the love of my Heavenly Father, in providing these wonderful friends and their amazing selflessness.

I began to see parallels.

Didn’t my Heavenly Father provide another Friend to rescue me in such a deep and meaningful way that I could never, ever settle that account?

Jesus Christ, my Savior, gave a gift I can never repay. I am forever “in the red,” indebted to Him, with no way to even put a price on what He has done. How often have I felt completely incapable to even begin to make it up to Him? That’s because I absolutely am incapable of repaying that debt.

Like my friends, He doesn’t want me to “make it up”—He did it for love. He did it with no desire for honor, or glory, or reward.

“In the Red” has new meaning when I realize that I am truly saved in the red—the red blood that flowed from the pores of my Savior’s body as he agonized for me, and later as He died to pay the physical cost of the sins of all creation. We are all in the red.

I am reminded of King Benjamin’s sermon to his people in Mosiah 2:

20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—

21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.

24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?

25 And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.

There is no way to “settle the books” with our God. We are all “in the red.”

Back to President Uchtdorf’s talk about gratitude:

In any circumstance, our sense of gratitude is nourished by the many and sacred truths we do know: that our Father has given His children the great plan of happiness; that through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ, we can live forever with our loved ones; that in the end, we will have glorious, perfect, and immortal bodies, unburdened by sickness or disability; and that our tears of sadness and loss will be replaced with an abundance of happiness and joy, “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.”

How blessed we are if we recognize God’s handiwork in the marvelous tapestry of life. Gratitude to our Father in Heaven broadens our perception and clears our vision. It inspires humility and fosters empathy toward our fellowmen and all of God’s creation. Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christlike attributes! A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues.


I think gratitude inspires humility exactly because we can’t repay—we can’t settle up. We have to acknowledge that this thing that has been done, whether it is someone meeting a physical need, or the ultimate gift of the Atonement, is something that cannot be repaid. The gift of our lives, our bodies, our families, our Earth with all its beauty, this great plan of happiness that we have been given—all of these things are beyond anything we can repay. That gratitude should underscore everything we do, everything we are! Understanding how powerless we are to ever repay is exactly what links our gratitude with our humility.

We are all, forever, in the red. That’s exactly how it was designed to be. To the extent that we remember that, we can turn our lives over to our Heavenly Father and with gratitude and humility in our hearts, take full advantage of our Savior’s Atonement and the plan of happiness.

NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH is coming!! I KNOW that month!!

NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month–begins November 1st. This is how many writers feel about it:

giphyYeah, you know that movie, don’t pretend you don’t.

I have not in the past participated in this gloriously horrific event. I just didn’t have the time, the brainpower, the energy, or the inspiration to do so.

Or so I thought.

I’ve had an epiphany the past few months that has translated itself into a big ol’ glass of NaNoWriMo Koolaid, and I’m ready to chug it like a 9-year-old sugar addict.

No one has the time for Nano. Unless you’re, say, Dean Koontz or Mary Higgins Clark or Veronica Roth or something, and this is what you do for a living.

One of my heroes, Deirdra Eden Boyd (author of the amazing new book Watchers: Knight of Light which you can check out at www.knightess.com) once said that EVERYONE has the same amount of time. No one “finds” time anywhere–what we have to do is PROTECT our time, and dedicate it to our craft. I have to protect my writing time from Facebook and anything else that encroaches on it, once a day, for 30 days, in order to write a 50,000 word novel.

Can I do it?

Oh–my epiphany.  I almost forgot. The epiphany I’ve had goes along with Deirdra’s thoughts about protecting time. I realized that I’ve been putting off writing until I have time. I will never have time. I will never have energy. I will never have brain power. Mainly, these things were just excuses.

If I am a writer, I should be writing.  That’s what we do. So my goal, at least for the month of November, is this:

1)I will PROTECT my time, and write about 1500 words a day.

2)I will write even when I don’t have “energy” because I know that I am ENERGIZED by the act of writing and creating.

3)I will write even when I don’t feel like my brain is working. The brain has to be exercised in order to gain power, and writing works it out. The more I write, the more I’ll write. The more I’ll create. The sharper my mind will become.

I saw a billboard the other day. Actually, I see it all the time. It’s been sticking with me lately though:









I am afraid of committing to NaNoWriMo–to writing 50,000 words in a month.

I am afraid of writing the story of REMNANTS–what the hell do I think I’m doing, writing a science fiction dystopian family adventure? A TRILOGY no less?

I am afraid of what happens when I finish.

I am also afraid of what will happen if I don’t do this. I worry that my creative soul will dry up and die if I don’t get back to the business of writing. Since that idea terrifies me more than the fear of failure, I am jumping into National Novel Writing Month, and I am determined to win!






Why My Family Did the #IceBucketChallenge; or, Dear Leslie, this one’s for you.

My sister Leslie is my favorite of my older sisters. Sorry to the rest of you, but 1)she’s probably the only one who would’ve read this web blog anyway so you won’t even know I’ve said it, and 2)c’mon. She’s your favorite too.

My earliest memory of Leslie was when I turned 7. I had just been part of a merger–meaning my dad had married her mom. I had 6 older siblings already, and then became “#11 of 12” in another family. It was cool, because Rachel, my actual favorite sister (but not older, so there’s no contradiction there), was my best friend so it was kinda an extended sleepover, at first.  Anyway, that’s another story.  My 7th birthday, I got a package! From California! It was a red Minnie Mouse watch from my sister Leslie.

Leslie lived far away, in California–so when she came for Thanksgiving or other visits, it was a HUGE deal for me. Leslie taught me to play poker (don’t pick up the cards until they’re all dealt. They’ll cut your hand off!). She laughed at my jokes when everyone else just rolled their eyes or told me I was inappropriate. She called sometimes when I was a teenager, just to talk to me (don’t let any boy treat you like anything less than a princess, no matter how cute he is). When all the sisters got together to go shopping and elected me to watch all their kids instead of going, Leslie was the one who thought to buy me a shirt. It was black and white striped and I wore it until my midriff hung out the bottom and it was mercifully disappeared. I never felt like the goober of the family around her. Leslie got me.

Leslie was an artist, a sculptor, an interior designer. She was so creative and talented. She was so beautiful. She was full of life, spunk, sarcastic wit, fire.  This is a picture of her, popping up out of the sunroof of the limo–this was classic Leslie:img086
So what does all this have to do with the Ice Bucket Challenge? Well, my favorite older sister was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral sclerosis. ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It started with her having problems with her hands. My sister, the artist, couldn’t use her hands anymore. It progressed so quickly. We kept hearing things–look at Stephen Hawking, he’s been around for decades; it might stop progressing at some point; it could be quick; it just depends…..

I started calling Leslie to talk to her, to hear her voice, because she was losing her ability to talk, too.  Oooh, how it broke my heart to hear the slur, and the frustration because her mouth, her vocal chords, couldn’t keep up with her perfectly untouched, amazing brain. I wished I could record everything, because I knew it was going to end soon.

I had the opportunity to travel to California when I could take time off from work, and help out when her sweet husband couldn’t be there. Those times were bittersweet. I remember hanging out on the couch, watching HGTV with my sister, just having conversations. I still hear her voice from time to time, berating me gently for not following my dreams: “Don’t wait! If there’s something you love, that you want to do, don’t wait! You never know what is going to happen, you have to just do it now. Don’t wait.”  I never wanted to leave, but I also could just feel the hopelessness of knowing that no matter how long it took for Leslie’s body to kill her, she would be trapped in there, perfectly sound of mind, with no ability to speak, move, swallow–yet strangely she was still able to feel pain. I would cry myself to sleep every night while I was there, and pray for the strength to be positive and to be as cool for my sister as she was for me when I had needed her.  I hope I was. I really tried, even though there was often nothing I could do but…..well sometimes there was just nothing I could do.  img087

My sister passed away, leaving her awesome and wonderful husband, and my niece Andrea (who is pretty freaking amazing too).

When I talked about Leslie, I would say she died from ALS, and people just shook their heads. I could say, “you know, Lou Gehrig’s disease” and then they might get it. Usually not. When Leslie was sick, there was like, one or two experimental drugs she could try, that might help, might slow things down. They didn’t. There isn’t a lot of demand for research for cures or treatments when people don’t even know what ALS is.  Usually fundraising for ALS gets lumped in with Multiple Sclerosis fundraisers.

Along comes the Ice Bucket Challenge. The rules are simple. You have 24 hours to dump a bucket of ice water over your head and donate 10 bucks to ALS research, or you donate $100 to ALS research instead. You take a video of your ridiculous reaction to being freezing cold and wet, and challenge others. It started with one man, and then his friends, then it spread through the pro athlete community, then celebrities and then EVERYWHERE.  It’s gotten to the point where people are bothered. There’s a backlash. People are angry because it wastes water.  Or because they have info that the ALS Association doesn’t spend the money it gets on research, just salaries for officials. Or that ALS cure research means stem-cell research, which of course means that if you support it, you want babies aborted.  All, as my Brit friends would say (or Doctor Who), bollocks.  Here’s my thought.  This challenge is spreading because people can do something good, and have fun, and challenge other people and watch their videos. Enough evil and sadness and negativity is spreading, and people are super-psyched to pass on all of THOSE Facebook posts. Why can’t we do this and just spread the goodwill, ya know?

There is so much more….. every time I see someone I know, or don’t know, or celebri-know, dump a bucket of water over their head, and then freak out, and then laugh, I picture my sister laughing along with me. I know that as a family member  of someone who died from ALS, I feel the comfort of knowing that other people are learning just what our family, and my sister went through. Then there’s the money–the kind of money being thrown at this disease could very well fund at least some treatment, if not a cure.

Project ALS is an organization that funds and facilitates research for a cure for ALS. They have a 4-star, 91.4 percent rating on CharityNavigator.org. Here’s a link for them:  www.projectals.org . There’s the ALS Therapy Development Institute, also 4 stars and 97.31 approval rating through Charity Navigator. Their link is www.als.net.  (For the record, the ALS Association also has a 4-star, 90.73 percent rating through that website).

I’d love for you to go watch this video on YouTube. It’s Anthony Carbajal, doing a rather burlesque Ice Bucket Challenge. If you don’t want to see a man in a bikini top and tight shorts, washing his car (sometimes with his butt), then fast-forward to about 1:44 into it. What I REALLY want you to see is his explanation of what the Ice Bucket Challenge means to him.

Then, go to http://www.bostern.com/blog/2014/08/15/what-an-als-family-really-thinks-about-the-ice-bucket-challenge/  and read.

If you need some fun, you can watch the Williams family Ice Bucket Challenge. There are cute kids and stuff, too.  Then maybe YOU can jump on this bandwagon. It’s a worthy cause, I promise you.

But for me, it’s personal. This one’s for you, Leslie (I still get choked up when I see Design on a Dime).


Making Sense of the Senseless: Some Thoughts on Suicide Which Won’t Make it Any Less Incomprehensible

Robin Williams is not the first person I’ve known who has committed suicide. It’s funny to say “known” because I of course only know the outward persona of Robin Williams–the side he chose to let me see by portraying characters in film and TV, and through interviews, stand-up comedy, etc. So, I don’t really know him–but I knew him enough that his death effected me. It effected many of us. Robin Williams was a comedic genius, who also had such heart and depth of feeling  that the roles he played just stayed with us. So, when it was announced that he had committed suicide, we the public reacted with intense feelings.  Sadness, of course. Shock. Disbelief. Anger. It’s the same myriad of feelings that comes with any death, especially suicide. This was just played out on a globally public stage. Matt Walsh, a popular conservative blogger, posted “Robin Williams Didn’t Die from a Disease: He Died From His Choice.” The backlash to that was fast and furious. People were angry , not just because of what Mr. Walsh wrote about our beloved Genie, but because of the implications for ALL people who are depressed to the point of suicide, who have succumbed or who have somehow been brought back from the brink. He was accused of being everything from insensitive to the devil incarnate. But….Was he wrong? In reality, Matt Walsh is both right AND wrong. It’s never been a secret that Robin Williams suffered from depression and addictions.  He talked about it during his lifetime, and he was always open about his struggles. His family has been fairly open, or at least matter-of-fact, about the details of his death.  It is accepted that depression is an illness, as real as cancer, diabetes, dengue. So, is suicide the same as dying from kidney failure if you’re diabetic? Or is it a choice, as Mr. Walsh proposes? As I’ve said, I am no stranger to suicide. My grandfather took his own life when my father was two years old. I will never know why–it wasn’t discussed–but I can imagine that it may have had something to do with the Great Depression, with being a veteran in WWI….and I don’t know what other demons he may have battled. Judging from poetry I’ve found that my dad wrote, my own father struggled with depression, and I know that I have had my…. we’ll call them “moments.” I’ve had more than one coworker take their own life. I worked with cops for 15 years, so that was inevitable. Suicide is a major cause of death to police officers and retired police officers.  I have had other family members take their lives as well. So I’ve felt it. The sadness. The guilt. The RAGE. How could they make that choice? Honestly, it’s a question that gets asked, in our heads and hearts. The reason we ask, is because everything we do, every day, from rolling over in bed as we wake up, to pulling up the comforter as we lay down to sleep, involves choices. So, obviously, the choice to step off that chair, or pull that trigger, or swallow those pills, is clearly, a choice. Here’s how we need to look at it, though:

What Hopelessness Looks LikeCan you see the door in this room? Can you see where the light switch is? If I told you to just open the door and leave, could you? Can you even choose to turn on the light if you don’t know where the switch is? Now imagine that this “room” is infinite. It’s your life. Everyone around you offers you hope, and maybe you find it for a time–but at some point, you wake up, and there you are in the middle of the oppressive blackness again. At some point, “choice” becomes a meaningless word because it doesn’t seem there ARE any choices anymore. If there are, you can’t see them.  An option you can’t take isn’t really an option, is it?

Okay. I don’t know if that analogy makes sense to anyone but me.

I recently read of depression and suicide as being akin to a descent down a declining trail. At some points the fall can be slowed and possibly reversed, but circumstances (again, circumstances that only God and the person living them can understand) cause the decline to be steeper and steeper, until it ends at a cliff.  At some point, the sufferer can no longer stop the slide and has no choice in going over the edge.

I don’t know if that analogy works better but hopefully some combination of the two can make my point about choice.

But here’s the REAL gist of what I need to say.


No one can say, “I’ve been depressed, and I didn’t commit suicide.”
“I just got medicated and it helped.”  “Jesus helped me feel happy.” “I found a way to make my spirit happy and that was that.” or whatever you want to say.

NO ONE can fully understand why someone would take their life. What cross they have to bear. IS depression a sickness of the spirit as much as of the body? YES I believe it is. But not in the same way that Matt Walsh does. The spirit, that part of us that is eternal, is in the flesh–it’s in the body. When a person is born, and they have some sort of disability or sickness, that sickness can for sure effect the mind and the internal, eternal spirit. Depression, being a sickness that just sucks the life out of everything and colors the most beautiful things in a drab, lifeless, colorless nothing, can overpower the most spiritual of spiritual people.  I mean, we are told that if we have faith we can do anything–but no one tells a cancer patient “If you just had enough faith, those cancer cells overriding all your organs would just go away.”  Let’s not try to dissect something as senseless as suicide with our finite and mortal minds. It’s not our job, and it doesn’t help anyone.

By the way, here’s the guy who is capable and qualified to judge what’s going on when someone commits suicide:

128px-Christ_in_GethsemaneI chose this picture on purpose. Only Christ knows what any one of us are going through at any time. Only HE can understand fully what anyone’s state of mind is when they choose to end their life–and if that “choice” is really a choice at all at that point.

I know that God loves us all. I know that He wants to give all of us EVERYTHING. So, I KNOW that when Robin Williams left this life, God gave him ALL of the peace that He could.  God knows His child Robin, He knows what illness was in his mind and body, He knows the desires of his heart. It’s not some balance where the good deeds and the evil deeds get weighed against some absolute mystical measuring device.  God our Father and His Son have one goal in mind: the “immortality and eternal life of man.” So, they are going to provide the absolute upper limit of mercy to their beloved Robin. They will do the same for their beloved Leann, their beloved Matt Walsh, their beloved (insert your name here).

For myself, I don’t try to understand the incomprehensible horror that is suicide. To do so doesn’t help me, or the person who is already gone, or their families. What I CAN do is pray for peace. Peace for him, for his family, friends, and for the enormous extended family that was made better by his contributions, and who feel the loss at his death.



The Rope Across the Road

I saw a great video tonight…. and it has me thinking…. First, here’s the video.  It’s funny. Watch……

Pretty silly, huh…  all those cars, stopping or slowing down, thinking that there was some obstacle ahead of them. All of this based on the actions of two guys standing on the sides of the street.

Time for the deep thoughts.  How often do WE do this?  We can play all of the roles in this video.

First, how often do we let what other people are doing/saying determine our focus or our actions for the moment/day/week/year/lifetime? The controversy of the moment becomes our focus. I see it happen all the time with things like Facebook and the internet researchers we call the “news”–for example, HOW many people jumped on the “Boycott KFC” bandwagon when we all thought that they had kicked out a poor little girl with horrendous dog-mauling disfiguration. How many of us passed that news along, or shared it on Facebook, only to find out that it was a complete hoax? I know that I have been swept up in controversies from time to time, when my focus would have been better served in just driving along, doing what I need to do for my happiness and that of my family.

I’m not advocating isolationism here–just that sometimes, the only reason WE get caught up in the clamor of the world, is because it is clamoring so loudly–not because we would give it any merit if we were to sit and analyze it, but because, I don’t know, if the guys LOOK like they are pulling a rope across the road, there must be a rope, right?

I know that I sometimes doubt what I am doing, even when I’ve carefully thought about it, analyzed it, prayed about it–just because someone expresses doubt or thinks I’m wrong. I might get defensive because someone has an opinion that I see as an attack on my methods. I see ropes across the road where there are none.

Secondly, how often are WE the rope-pullers? Are we causing people to stop and question themselves, their paths, their actions, when in reality, they don’t need to? This happens a lot with friends and family, or people at church–they are tooling along, doing their thing, and we suddenly see a problem with it. So we point it out. Enough people start pulling that rope, as it were, and now our “driver” is stopping, or slowing, thinking that there must be some issue, simply because WE see one. Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t provide guidance or advice. To keep with the symbolism, of course you want to keep drivers from falling into a ginormous sinkhole just ahead…. but just be careful to not be the guy pulling the invisible ropes.

The one I want to be? The guy on the bike at the end, that doesn’t know what those guys are doing, but has places to be and things to do, so he just avoids the whole mess all together, without missing a beat.

An Open Letter to My Sisters on Both Sides of the Ordain Women Controversy

Nope, this isn’t going to be my point of view on who’s right and who’s wrong. Don’t worry. There’s enough discourse out there about this issue, and nothing I say is going to be wiser or more timely, or have any more of an effect on anyone than what’s been said.

What I want to say is this:

I love you.

You are my sisters—daughters of the same Heavenly Father, inheritors of the same divinity, amazing and talented and wonderful sisters of my heart and my soul.

In reality, that’s something that needs to be said more LOUDLY and more often. I love you. I really do. It needs to be said without qualifications.  No more, “I love you but….” just I LOVE YOU and that’s that.

I know—this is NOT going to solve the problems between us. They are complex. There is so much hurt on both sides, so much fighting and bickering, that regardless of anything else that happens, SATAN IS WINNING as he is driving a huge wedge between sisters. Because if a group of women gets together, hold the phone, stop the presses, things WILL get done. If that “thing” is “defeat evil and drive Satan from our midst” then by gosh, Satan is toast. So if he can get us fighting amongst ourselves, he can laugh and shake his chains and sit back in his recliner and watch us like the World Cup. All it takes is a little seed of contention, and wow. Look what it does. It makes me weep.

So no more of that from me.Sisterly love

I know that we may not agree on some things—and this issue IS awfully important. But so what? Does that make you any less my sister? Any less a daughter of God?  It does not.

Here’s what else I need to tell you:

I don’t know what is driving you to make the decisions you are making. I can look at you and try to understand, but I will never understand. I haven’t been in your shoes, I haven’t walked your path.

You do not know why I feel how I do either. That’s okay. You haven’t walked my path, and I can’t expect you to understand my point of view, either.

We can try. We can reach out and seek to understand one another. But every single word we speak or hear, every sight we see, is always going to be colored by the lens of our own experience. We can come closer to understanding, but we will never truly understand one another. If we say we do, we lie. We only pretend. But it’s okay. We aren’t meant to comprehend each other’s soul, not completely.

Only one person can truly understand each and every human being, having atoned for each of us, having taken upon Himself our sorrows and infirmities. That One is the Savior, and this is the reason why He is the only competent judge. So let me say this:

The WHY doesn’t matter. The WHAT doesn’t matter. The thing that matters is that you are my sister.  If you have made choices that have brought you to a place I would not think to go, my heart can break for you, I can pray for you, I can be your friend and your sister, but the one thing I CANNOT do, is judge you.  I can be sad if you pull away across that invisible “line in the sand,” but I cannot and WILL NOT push you further. MY arms are open—no strings attached. Not for “when you come to your senses” or any of that rubbish—they are open NOW. For wherever you are on your journey.

You are my sister, and I love you.

Poems from My Dad

I’ve been going through boxes in my family’s effort to clean and organize our home (a battle that has been going on for six years now). I opened a heavy cardboard box, the musty smell lingering in my nostrils. The box is full of pictures—hundreds, maybe over a thousand–from my Dad’s life. There are an inordinate amount of pictures of me, but also many, many pictures of people I don’t recognize at all. I have my work cut out for me.

Dad passed away when I was thirteen. He was 46 when I was born, and already had adult children, so there was a whole life there that I knew very little about. I won’t bore/sadden you with details of how just about everything pertaining to my Dad disappeared for the rest of my youth, but suffice it to say that this box is essentially all I have of him. It was given to me when I was about 24 years old. Since then, I occasionally pull things out and piece together what his life must have been like, and what HE was like, beyond the few memories I personally have of him.

My dad was many things: Teamster, welder, carpenter, salesman, bartender (I think–judging from pictures), terrible father, awesome father, good friend, genealogist, dutiful son….. and poet. I am going to put up one of his poems for all (my 4 readers) to see:Lee Lay

Restless Soul (by Lee Lay)

Like the winds that blow thru the high skies

and the waves that roll thru the sea

Like the shifting sands of the desert

is this restless soul in me.

Like the birds that fly thru the air so free

and the wild things that roam alone

Is this restless soul inside of me

that won’t let me stay at home.

To have the things that other men have

I know can never be

As long as this restless soul in me

keeps yearning to be free.


I’m like the wind and like the birds

I’m like the waves and the sand

To stay in one place very long

is more than I can stand.


All you happy people have pity upon me

For I can never be like you

My restless soul

Won’t let me free.


To me, Dad was silly, strong, mischievous, and devil-may-care–this poem, and a few others like it, taught me that he had a melancholy inside that most didn’t see. I wish I could have had more of an opportunity to know him.

The good news is that I feel him with me all the time. I also see him in the mirror, and in my children. Lastly, I know that I will be with him again when at last we all meet in heaven.

It’s Tuesday! A great day for a poem!

There needs to be more poetry in the world. So, to do my part, I thought I’d share some poetry. Sometimes I will post my own and sometimes others’ work.  Then, I will talk a little about the poem.    Today will be Hero, my own work:
A small word
Such great meaning
Used to describe those
who run towards the sound of battle
not away.
Those who see need
and answer with action
Regarding others-
the helpless, frightened, needy-
more than themselves.
Standing between us all
and all we fear.
Fearlessly? No-
not without fear
But understanding that their fear
cannot stop their action
Decisions made long ago
brought to fruition in
split seconds
As they stand to face the devil-
Knowing they may fall.

A small word
Such great meaning-
Reaching out with its arms to encompass
All those things we cannot say-
The words we cannot get past
The lump in our throat.

(For Bill, and Scott, Chris, Jason, Jeff, and Jeremy
Our heroes)

I wrote this poem in the wake of an officer-involved shooting in the city where I worked. I was a police dispatcher, 9-1-1 operator, and supervisor at a mid-size department. Our squads were small enough that we personally knew all of the officers we worked with, and there was a lot of camaraderie.

The night in question, a home invasion and murder took place, and as we responded our officers became involved in a pursuit of the suspect. The pursuit ended with the suspect bailing out of his car shooting. One of my guys was hit and went down. The others protected him, returning fire while one of them dragged him out of the hail of bullets and then shielded him with his own body. The teamwork and sacrifice of the officers on the scene was inspiring and heart-wrenching–these were truly brothers willing to lay down their lives for each other, and for the city they protect and serve. Photobucket

The officer who was shot was paralyzed, but came back to work as an investigator and continues to inspire others around him. He was named as the 2009 America’s Most Wanted All-Star, and to this day is a dynamo of service and strength.

The dispatchers who were working that early-morning couldn’t be on the scene to provide physical assistance. Their story often remains untold–but they listened as the incident was going down and had help on the way before the shooting even took place. Their actions were heroic in their own sphere of influence.  I remain honored to this day to have been able to work with all of the members of my police department, they are all HEROES.

A couple of links to the story and what this hero has done since then:




Me and My Privilege

“Check Your Privilege” was never meant to be a way to end an argument.

Privilege. It’s a loaded word. Put other words in front like “white,” “male” or “American” and you can amp up the angst factor exponentially.  “Check your” adds napalm and TNT to the fire. There has been much recent backlash against the idea of privilege and more specifically “checking” your privilege, such as in articles like this and this.

After reading Tal Fortgang’s op-ed from the Princeton Tory (cited above), I identified with many of the feelings he expressed. I am a seemingly plain ol’ white female (who actually is a member of the Cherokee Nation, has strong links to Mexico, etc.) who has also had “check your privilege” spat out at me as an ad hominem argument to shut me up as I expressed a thoughtful opinion. It stings to be told that I can’t possibly be intelligent enough to come to the correct decision about something, simply because I’m white. It’s racism—as much as me telling someone they can’t be right because they are of color. I posted the article, and various people responded. Most of the responses were like mine—commiseration for being piled into a group and discredited because of our race, heterosexuality, etc. However, one friend took me to task, and resulting thoughtful discussion made me eager to delve into the concept of checking one’s privilege, and the idea of privilege in general. Is it even something worth worrying about, or just something I can put to the back of my mind as another liberal idiocy (sorry, liberal friends)?

So. What is this “privilege” that’s got everyone in an uproar? The straight dictionary definition for the context I am addressing is “A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.” For example, I would say to my teen son, “A driver license is a privilege granted to those who earn it, not a right.” From the viewpoint of the “check your privilege” crowd, privilege is the idea that “some people benefit from unearned, and largely unacknowledged, advantages, even when those advantages aren’t discriminatory…. (Rothman).” Women’s Studies guru Peggy McIntosh is credited with popularizing the concept of white privilege in the eighties. She describes privilege as a sort of invisible, weightless backpack full of tools and supplies that one group carries, without knowing it, and other group does not. For example, if I turn on the television, for the most part I will see mostly my own race in starring roles in network shows. If I were male, I would never know what it was like to have to hold my keys in my hand as a weapon as I walked to my car in the parking lot of a grocery store after sundown. The ideas go deeper than that, and get more disturbing (men will never know what it is like to be sexually assaulted and then blamed for it because they were wearing their clothing too tight, etc.).

I get stuck between being angry at people who don’t know me, correcting me because they see my (insert anything here… race, sex, sexual orientation, hair color) and assume that I have certain privileges or advantages based on those things, and being concerned that I am missing some fundamental lesson in not recognizing my own privilege and thereby marginalizing my brothers and sisters of the human race. My friend used the analogy of two fish swimming, when another comes by and asks, “How’s the water?” to which the first fish ask, “What’s water?” By not acknowledging that I have certain advantages due to my own unique situations, and also that others have certain disadvantages due to theirs, I am not making those conditions nonexistent, I am merely denying them, and by acknowledging them, I am not saying either of us is better or worse than the other.

It’s a great concept, if that’s where it stays—I call it empathy, and seeking to understand others. It’s the “platinum rule”—rather than treat others how we would want to be treated, we take the time to learn how others would like to be treated, and then treat them that way. From a religious standpoint, it is to try and see everyone through our Heavenly Father’s and our Savior’s eyes—for who they are, for what they have been through, for who they can become—and then show compassion and love for all.

Here’s where it gets sticky, though.  “Check your privilege” has gone from being a call to advance understanding and inclusion, to a cry to silence dissent from those who do not agree with particular progressive thoughts. If I am having a discussion about welfare, crime, gay marriage, or any of the many hot-button topics which have even a flavor of “otherness” from my own identity, my debate opponent can (and often does) cry out “Check your privilege!” as a means to say, “What you have to say doesn’t matter, because you are (white, female, heterosexual, whatever) so all of your arguments are null and void.” Proponents will say that is not the case, but I can testify that it is. It has happened to me. It is the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and singing, “I’m not listening!” instead of taking the time to understand. Yes. Understanding can come from both sides of the argument.

What are my conclusions about checking my privilege? First and foremost, I believe that YES! Every person, regardless of your race, gender, size, sexual preference, marital status, shoe size, ring size, head circumference—EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. should be checking their privileges. What I mean is that everyone should:

1)      Count your blessings. What has God given you that has helped you be who you are today?

2)      Realize that not everyone has what you have. Try to bless others.

3)      Be compassionate and caring, striving to understand others instead of condemning. Instead of drawing little circles around ourselves to keep others out, like some cosmic Venn diagram, why can’t we find ways to lift others so that our privileges, our blessings, can be used to bless others as well?

Lastly—while everyone should be doing the above, NO ONE should be sanctimoniously shouting at someone to “check your privilege” unless the person you are lecturing is looking back at you from the mirror. One of the reasons why the discussion on privilege is getting so much backlash is become it feels like an attack—it has been described as the Privilege Olympics—only the gold medal goes to the one with the most disadvantages, and the losers are made to feel ashamed, as if they don’t deserve success because they didn’t really earn any of it. “Judge not” has no caveats.

It occurs to me that the direction we are looking as we are checking privilege determines the effect. Honestly checking my own privilege, or counting my own blessings, will lead to a sense of gratitude and inspire me to help those less fortunate. It will help me to be empathetic. Instead of judging someone based on my own paradigms, I will begin to understand that they walked their own path to where they stand. That path began in a place they did not choose, and not having traveled where they did, I have no standing to judge them. Looking inward should inspire me to be a better human being.

The opposite—looking outward to check out the privileges everyone else enjoys that I do not, will engender a different result. If I look at male privilege, tall people privilege, skinny people privilege, what have you—I start forgetting what I have. I become ungrateful. What’s worse, in the world we live in, where we are being conditioned to believe that if someone has more than we do, then they owe us something, I run the risk of feeling entitled. I am behind in the game, so someone else should make it up for me. On a political scale, this has happened already, and it is what makes the discussion of privilege so testy in the national arena.  It feels like an attack, because someone else is deciding who has more privilege, and wants to take from them to “even the score.”

Personally, I am fully aware that I am extremely blessed. First of all, I was born in the United States in a relatively technologically advanced time. Medically I had what I needed. I have never gone to bed hungry. School was awesome for me. I was teased, maybe not particularly popular, but I wasn’t really bullied. I have ALWAYS been blessed with wonderful friends. I had parents who were always around, always available. I didn’t have to worry about work instead of homework, and so I did well in school. I was raised with Christian beliefs, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have excellent work ethic, which was taught to me by good parents. I have never had to fear for my safety while I slept. I could go on. You get my point. I know how many blessings I have that others do not, and I know that they shaped many of my successes.

What I have to do, then, is be compassionate of others who do not have those advantages. I shouldn’t judge others, because I don’t know what they have been through, what disadvantages or trials they have had, or to what extreme.  For me, it comes down to truly living Christian principles as well as I possibly can.

I know that sounds extremely Pollyanna-esque to think that this will solve all of the “privilege” problems. I know that this is not the world we live in. But instead of all of these systems we set up to pit ourselves against each other, to compare ourselves and condemn each other, these pharisaical rules of political correctness, why can’t we just follow the great commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves? It’s simplistic, I know. I cannot make anyone else do it. But I will commit to do a better job of it, and in the name of doing so, I will “check my privilege” to see how I can better show that love to those who may not be as blessed as I know I am. I am just one, but I’m the only thing I have true control over in my desire to make the world a better place.

We’re all on the same path. Some of us got a head start, some of us have bicycles. Is it too much to ask that we respect each other, and help each other along when we can?



http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2014/05/the-woman-who-coined-the-term-white-privilege.html (Posted by Joshua Rothman)