Thursday, April 3, 2014

Just Decide Something Else

I was watching Chicagoland on CNN earlier this evening, a show that I've seen bits and pieces of, and while I haven't been following the series regularly, what I've seen so far is very interesting.  It's a non-scripted documentary style show covering the current state of social, education, and political issues in Chicago.  Tonight's episode pulled me in, and overall it was so many things: fascinating, frustrating, inspiring, depressing, and thought-provoking, all at the same time.  Robert Redford, one of my favorites, is one of the executive producers, and at the center of the social and political issues is Rahm Emanuel, who served as a senior advisor to President Clinton, was the Chief of Staff for President Obama's first term, and is now the Mayor of Chicago.  He's a no non-sense type of guy, and while he rubs many people the wrong way, I like the guy.  He is the personification of strong work ethic, and doesn't take b.s. from anybody.  I can respect that.

In this episode, it was the first day of school, and it seems that city officials have partnered with school officials and the police and fire departments to establish "safe passage" routes to school, since many kids have to cross competing gang territories in order to get to school.  It was inspiring to see a large community rally like that, but at the same time very frustrating that this is even a need.  The issue of gang violence is so multi-faceted, and it's all too easy to over-simplify the causes and solutions, across a broad spectrum of socio-economic issues.  So I'm not going to try to cover all of them.  What I am left wondering is this: What if gang members, or any group that is violent toward another group, just decides something else instead?  Just decided to stop and to focus their energy on uniting instead of dividing, on working together instead of tearing apart, on a shared humanity instead of ways to divide.

I've often thought this about a whole host of issues, like deciding to be positive/happy versus negative/unhappy, or deciding to be proactive about your life path versus reactive, and it is my current thought about gang violence.  What if all of those currently impacted by gang activity, whether active members, or family members, or neighbors, schools, businesses, etc. all just decided to stop.  Not just individual cases of people leaving the gang life, but 100% end to it.  You may say that gang members are a product of their environment, and cite all of the reasons that lead to such a lifestyle, and how the entertainment industry and media continue to glorify it, but to me, it's still a choice.  And a choice means that there is more than one option.  Rather than cite all the reasons that have lead to this place, why not imagine the possibility that it could all just end if everyone decided.

My favorite version of education, news, art, or entertainment of any kind, is the kind that makes you think, opens the mind, challenges the status quo or what I think of as the "blind norms" that we just accept as part of our world.  And that is how I wrapped up my day: Wondering "what if" and "why not".  When I consider what that could look like, it gives me hope that the power of the human spirit will win out in the end and that such a thing is possible.  I think this is what Lennon meant when he wrote "Imagine".  Wouldn't it be nice if that came true?  Just decide.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Year Later

It's hard to believe that it's been a year.  I wasn't sure what today would bring, and decided to go with the flow of wherever it would take me physically, mentally, and emotionally.  The start of the day took me to Alki for an impromptu brunch and long walk with a West Seattle friend, and it was good to spend time down there where you used to live.  

Late afternoon I decided to go.  I haven't been able to visit before, as I wasn't sure what it would be like to be in the place where it happened.  A year later and I found the strength to go and take it in.  Somewhat faded, but still present, are the signs that something still so uncertain and unanswered happened there.  I sat on the curb at the edge of the parking lot, next to the scuff mark, running my hand over it, and gazed at the road below.  Part of me wanted to run out into the street to stop the cars going by, asking them how could they just drive by -- didn't they know what happened here?  

The sunlight was streaming through the trees and across the road, in that warm early Fall light that is so magical, and my attempt at a photo to capture it at first seemed to not turn out, but when I looked again, I realized that instead of any indications of the red spray paint on the pavement, the entire area was all awash in bright white light and it took my breath away for a few moments.  And that is how I shall remember it.  Not the signs of a tragedy, but just peace.

This evening, I watched the sun set down on the water on the shores of Lincoln Park, which is one of my favorite places.  There are still so many feelings, from sadness and anger to comfort and acceptance, but the dominant one is gratitude.  For having had you as a friend versus not having known you at all. You had a way of making all of your friends and loved ones feel special, and it's why we all adored you so.  You looked for the best in people and in situations.  Time passes and the days, weeks, seasons, and years will come and go, but I'll never forget you.  You continue to inspire me to be a better person.  You were one of the most generous people I've ever known, and if I can be even a fraction of that, then mine will be a life well lived.  

Like yours.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Goodbye My Friend

It is the night at the end of an emotional week full of tears, laughs, and reflections, all culminating in the memorial service today for my dear friend Gerald and his brother, Eldon.  There was a profound sadness, but also joy, and a calmness and beauty in all of it that was really humbling.

I wasn't sure that I would be able to bring myself to attend the visitation and viewing on Friday evening, yet part of my own personal grieving process with death is to have some moments with the departed person as part of making it real.  Knowing that their spirit has left the physical body of this lifetime, and having those final moments with their physical being, while I absorb what I can to then carry on with their spiritual being.  

At one point in the evening, I was able to have the honor of meeting the two women who were first on the scene of the accident, and who tended one each to both Gerald and Eldon, caring for and staying with them until the paramedics arrived.  One of the women was a trained first responder, and the other had lost a son of her own to a tragic accident.  They were truly two angels who were meant to be there at that moment for that purpose, and to then be present last evening to share information and answer questions for family and friends.  It's difficult to put into words what a blessing it is to know that Gerald and Eldon were both being cared for so well, and what an honor for me and others to be able to speak with these women who were there in those moments, and are the bridge connecting their lives to their passing.  There was a real beauty in all of it, knowing that such kindness, care, and tenderness were returned to two people who spent their lives giving those same qualities to others.  

Today's service was literally overflowing with people, and it was very touching and lovely.  The eulogy for each of them, the slideshows of photos, and the personal tributes all told their life story beautifully, with the perfect amount of humor and wit, as well.  I didn't have any planned remarks, and wasn't sure that my voice would hold, but I decided to say some words about the friend and person that I knew Gerald to be.  It was a small fraction of what I wanted to say, but I managed to find some words in the swirl of thoughts and emotions that have taken shelter in my head and in my heart.  The real sentiment, which I wasn't able to get out, is that for a time he was my best friend, and I loved him.  Gerald adored his family, and he cared deeply for his friends, and it is one of the profound honors of my life that I was one of them.

I returned to the water this evening, and walked to the same bench where I sat on Monday night, and watched the sun set across the still of the water, in a beautiful setting, bringing to close the day that I say goodbye to one of the most generous and true friends that I've known.  

So goodbye my friend, and off you go to the endless roads across the sky.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

For a true friend


With last night's post, I was just trying to deal with the initial shock of the news of your passing.  Today there is a profound sadness, but also gratitude, and that is what I would like to try to express, in some small way, through these words to you (this is where you would insert a joke about haunting me if you don't like what I say, with your usual evil laugh).  So here goes...

We had an instant connection when we met all those years ago, and became fast friends.  Our friendship felt like home to me, and you were a kindred spirit in many ways.  I knew that I had met someone who was as big of a dork as I was, and who would always appreciate that about me, without explanation or expectation.  I was always an advocate for you and for your team, and you knew it and appreciated it, and returned the favor to me.  Your kindness and care for others was one of your many gifts, and it is incredibly evident in the outpouring of notes from your family and friends.

Those five years flew by, and we had since moved on to other companies, but remained good friends, and it was always great to get together from time to time to catch up, share stories, seek each other's advice or perspective, and have some laughs, which were always plenty.  You reveled in the art of the pun, and would always find a way to make a joke, and the cheesier, the better.  I would ping you with "G!" and you would reply "Spacy!" and it would be off to the races from there, whether it was just a quick hello or making plans for the next time to have lunch or coffee and catch up on each other's lives.  You were always fully present when we met, and I appreciated that about you, especially in this age of constant electronic connection and interruption.  Your friends knew you were making time for them, and it didn't go unnoticed.

There are so many memories from your time of living in West Seattle, and those have come flooding back the last couple of days.  I know that you loved this area like I do, and I will be reminded of you for a long time to come, from the beach to the restaurants and cafes.  And how could I forget the visits when you lived on Alki, and the special reaction my presence seemed to get from Rufus, who was all too pleased to take it out on his stuffed bear, which brought fits of laughter from us.  

I admired the father that you were, and the love that you had for Daniel.  I was fortunate to witness that first-hand at a precious time in his young life, where the innocence of his sweet personality and demeanor was evident, and you were such a significant part of forming the person that he is and will continue to become.  You were his hero, and your family and friends left behind will all surround him with the love and care that he'll need now and in the years to come, always reminding him of what a remarkable man his father was, and how much he loved his son.

Your love for Rachel and for your family, and for all of your friends, was pure, deep, and true, and we were all so very lucky to have known you, and to had you in our lives.  I am but one of many, many people who are heartbroken by your passing, and it's really quite impossible for me to express what you meant to me through these words, or any others, but it brings me some comfort that I believe that you knew, and to also witness the outpouring of comments from your friends and loved ones in the last few days.

I took a walk this afternoon, down along the water, which was calm and peaceful.  I came across a bench, like many of the ones along the shore, and sat a while, thinking of you, and continuing to try to process all of this.  After sitting a while, I looked down to see the tribute that was there for another passed soul, and saw these words:

Cherish yesterday
Dream tomorrow
Live today

And somehow it was perfect.  You taught me so many things, all without trying or knowing, and this sentiment was the summary of those lessons.  You were kind and patient, caring and thoughtful, and always the diplomat.  You truly lived life, and took every opportunity for adventure and fun.  You truly saw people, saw their value and their strengths, and focused on that, always there to lend a helping hand, a kind word, or a joke to lighten the mood.  

I will visit that bench from time to time, and take time to catch up with you, sharing updates on my life, and honoring your memory in the only way that I know how, which is to always try to be a better person.  And to always remember to make it cheesy.

I'll never forget you, G.  

Your friend, 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Heartbreaking Loss

There are moments that seem to pivot your world on a dime, and send it in a completely different directly in a single moment, and perhaps none so sudden and profoundly sad as the news of the loss of someone dear.  I'm still trying to wrap my head around the news that my dear friend Gerald is gone, along with his brother, in a tragic motorcycle accident last night.  I found out this afternoon, by viewing some comments on a photo of him on Facebook, and the words "rest in peace" were left pounding on the door of my brain, where my heart was yelling to not let them in.  I just started saying "no, no, noooooo!" out loud as the tears began to fall and my heart broke in two.  For the friendship lost, for the loved ones left behind, for time lost between visits, for the words not spoken.  

Everyone who loses someone talks about what a great person they were, and Gerald was not only no exception, he totally set the bar for others.  His Facebook page is overflowing with countless comments from others who feel the same.  The shock and devastating loss of his sudden passing has started a flood of memories that span the seven years that I've known him, and it's hard to try to put into words what he meant to me and so many others, which feels rather impossible as I'm still trying to absorb the news.

Gerald was one of those people who made friends quickly, and people were drawn to his good nature and true care for others.  He adored his family and friends, and had this way of making you feel like the only person in the room when he was speaking with you.  His relationship with his son, Daniel, who is like a miniature version of Gerald, was very special to witness.  They truly delighted in one another.  Gerald was fiercely loyal, and steadfast in his convictions, but without judgment toward others, always willing to listen.  I was fortunate to first know him professionally, and then to become one of his good friends, and it was one of the dearest friendships that I've known, even when there would be many months between catching up with one another.  He had a fantastic sense of humor, and we shared too many laughs to count.  Gerald truly cared about doing a good job at everything that he did, and he often went the extra mile whether it be for work, for his friends, or for his family.  He was the type of person who made you better by knowing him, and while my heart is broken with the news of his death, I am profoundly grateful to have known him and been able to call him a true friend.  His brother Eldon, whom I did not know as well, was very similar to Gerald in many ways, and they were both fine men whom their family and friends truly adored. Their passing is a huge loss for all of us who knew them.

His mother lost both of her sons in this tragic accident, and while there are no words to describe that type of loss, my hope is that there is comfort in knowing that Gerald and Eldon's spirit lives on in each of their children.

It is often the tragedies of life that teach us to appreciate the joys, and this is all too sad of a reminder to take the time to tell your loved ones what they mean to you while you can, as things can change in an instant, and the brightest of lights is dimmed too soon.

I have been fortunate to have had some great friendships in my life, with each of them having a unique meaning and impact.  Some friendships have passed or changed form, and others may have long periods in between coming back together, but they all have not only shaped me, but are engrained in the very fabric of my being.  Gerald was one of those friends, and I don't think I ever told him that.  But hopefully he knew.  

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year in Review - 2011

Just like last year, here is my look back at this year, inspired by Sundry's annual list:

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

Something that I've always wanted to do: Go flying. I signed up to take a flying lesson, which I thought would be sitting in the passenger seat and taking the controls for a few minutes, but much to my delight, I actually flew the plane. So, so fantastic, and I'm hooked. Whee!

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I'll look 'em up and add here, and comment on each.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My cousin-in-law's sister, my friend, Karen, had her first child, an adorable baby boy, Lincoln.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

I lost my last grandparent this year, and it had a profound sadness for that reason. My friends also lost their very special dog, Smokey, earlier this year, and it just completely leveled me. I had a bond with her, which was probably true with anyone who knew her, but to me it was special.

5. What countries did you visit?

None, sadly. Still have the travel bug, but the financially responsible thing hasn't allowed world travel. Party of one. SINK looking to go DINK. In part, for this reason.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

Less drama, in general. More joy. Happier times for family & friends. And if I'm being honest, in my heart of hearts, knock-my-socks-off love. It's been a while since I've felt that, and there's nothing like it.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Nothing stands out, but if I have a memory revelation, I'll add it here.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Re-starting a 401(k) plan. I've had two in the past, and used those funds for college. And after that, I was helping my mother in her retirement rather than saving for my own, so I made some adjustments in the last year to change that.

9. What was you biggest failure?

Letting a few people get under my skin, and letting it show. Not because I find them particularly valuable of such a pathetic little honor, but because I don't. Gaining back some weight that I had lost last year, and not making a bigger commitment to my health.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Well, since I can be occasionally clumsy, injuries are sort of a matter of course for me. Probably my most brilliant this year was dropping a window sash on my leg. I also got that awful cold/sinus bug that went around in the fall this year. But no major illness or injury, thankfully.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Like many people, the iPhone 4S. I was still using my original 3G from several years ago. I never upgraded to the 3GS or the 4, so I finally upgraded to the 4S this year. I asked Siri once to bring me George Clooney, and she told me that she's sorry, she can't send me to the Cayman Islands. She's funny.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Since buying my home in 2004, my mortgage and all related house expenses take the biggest chunk. And I also started a retirement account this year. Other than that, I spend a bit too much on eating out, since I typically buy lunch each work day. Since I don't have any expensive hobbies (unless I start flying lessons, that is), this is my one thing.

13. What did you get really excited about?

See #1. It was one of the coolest things that I've done. Ever.

14. What song will always remind you of 2011?

I'll get back to you.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
- happier or sadder? About the same.
- thinner or fatter? Fatter. I don't own a scale (I refuse), but clothes are tighter, and it's obvious.
- richer or poorer? About the same; maybe a little better off.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Made more time for me, and getting to a few more of my "bucket list" things. Travel. Made healthier choices. Clutched fiercely to joy and not let stress take hold.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

See #9. Letting people get to me that don't deserve to take up that much of my time & effort.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

Annual Christmas Eve dinner with family, and saw the new Sherlock Holmes film on Christmas Day. I love me some Robert Downey, Jr. I also had some lovely evenings with my closest neighbors as part of the limited gift exchange that I did this year. I chose to forego gift exchanges with friends in lieu of charitable giving, and making commitments to just spend time together in the coming year. The dearest things to me don't cost money, just time & effort.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Gotta go with Modern Family, again. Love that show. It's just pure comedy.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

I didn't do a lot of reading this year, but I got through several books that I enjoyed, including the very poignant, A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. And I think I also read another one of Jon Katz's books, which are always a good read.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

I don't have a particularly great answer to this. I listened to more NPR than anything. But when not doing that, you can usually find a compilation on music on my iPod, including DMB, Kings of Leon, Snow Patrol, etc. A new artist that I discovered is Brian Ellefson, who plays out at my uncle's winery, Matthews Estate, among other places.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

I didn't see many new films this year, as I tend to see most films via Netflix, but I did just see the new Sherlock Holmes and enjoyed it. I also saw The Ides of March, but haven't yet seen The Descendents. I tend to see anything with George, of course, not just because of the obvious aesthetic reasons, but because he's wicked smart and deliciously funny. He's dating someone with my first name, and the Ides of March is my birthday. Coincidence? I think not.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Had a spa day, which is a new tradition the last couple years and I'm a big fan. 40! Whee! Although, I told people that I was turning 50. If 40 is the new 30... That and they would then think that I looked awesome. Ha.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A less sucky economy and all that goes with that. A sober mother. Not for a few weeks or months, but for good. The most difficult aspect of my life is this area.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

Sundry plans to drop this question for next year, which is good for the non-fashionistas like me. My closet is largely Eddie Bauer, CAbi, and a little Ann Taylor for flavor.

26. What kept you sane?

An awesome boss -- such a blessing. Spending time with anyone who gets me, when it's easy and fun. Humor, found in a variety of sources.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

Not really new lessons, but just reaffirmed several existing ones:
- That no one will ever truly be able to put you first but yourself
- That you can't wish/hope/pray/whatever sobriety for someone else; they have to want it
- Life can turn on a dime, so spend it in a way that is in alignment with your key values & interests
- Once out there, words can't be taken back; so treat them like the cash of your reputation

Friday, December 31, 2010

A Look Back, A Look Ahead

I took this list from one of the blogs that I read,, which is a series of questions about this year and a few looking forward. This is my first year doing this, so it will be interesting to look back next year.

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
Trained with a personal trainer for six months as a way to kick my butt into a regular fitness program. It was hard and pricey, but I needed it. I can’t recall if it was late last year or early this year, but I saw a cardiologist and had a stress ECHO; everything was fine, turned out to just be stress. Saw a Physical Therapist and learned that my hip-to-knee alignment is twisted, which gave me a reason for my life-long intuition that I have somewhat weak knees & ankles. Went to a Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds acoustic concert, where all proceeds were donated to charity; I’ve seen DMB many times, but not acoustic or for charity.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year

I didn’t write down specific resolutions for 2010, but mentally I vowed to improve my overall health, which was a focus of this year, so I did keep it.

Let’s see, for 2011:

- Continue regular workouts & shed the remaining 10-15 pounds that are left from my starting goal

- Spend more time with my closest friends

- Not that I control it, but I’d like to meet the one; I’m ready

- Have a great 40th birthday

- Be more thoughtful with my words

- Travel somewhere new

- Get a dog, providing I can fund the overall ownership

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My friend Kelly had her second daughter this year, little Grace. My cousin Ryan and his wife Lacey had their first child, a son, Samuel.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?

Stayed in this one, but travel continues to be on my short list. At the top of the list to see someday: Italy, Africa, Caribbean.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
George Clooney. OK, he’s busy, so I’ll take the runner-up.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
May 7th: Left one job. May 24th: Started a new job.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Making a needed job change and completing a tough fitness program.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Letting frustrations get the best of me and letting it show when I shouldn’t. Let’s just say that anyone who knows me knows that I almost always speak my mind, and sometimes I do it more colorfully than others.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Of course. I can fall down just walking. So when I started working out with a personal trainer who kicked my ass three times a week, I got an ankle injury pretty might right out of the gate.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
It’s a tie: Macbook Pro and a Nikon D3100. Love.

12. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage, household expenses, etc. After that, probably food & entertainment. And way too much at Starbucks. I’m considering a home espresso machine to cut that cost, but need to do the math to see how long it would take the thing to pay for itself.

13. What did you get really excited about?
See #7 and #11.

14. What song will always remind you of 2010?
“Sweet Disposition” - The Temper Trap

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– happier or sadder? Happier
– thinner or fatter? Thinner, but not by a lot. About another 10-15 to go.
– richer or poorer? Richer, but that’s a ridiculous word for it, because I’m not rich

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Travelled. Spent time with friends. Lived in the moment.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Any type of complaining. Life is short, and compared to the majority of the rest of the world, I’m very blessed.

18. How did you spend Christmas?
Christmas Eve was our annual family dinner at my uncle’s house in Redmond. It’s always a great meal and fun time. Christmas Day was a quiet day at home. Next.

19. What was your favorite TV program?
Modern Family. I am also oddly addicted to The Deadliest Catch.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?
I’m sure I’ll forget a few, but several were: The Art of Racing in the Rain. Three Cups of Tea. Stones Into Schools. Half the Sky. A Thousand Sisters. Any dog book by Jon Katz.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?
I found that my go-to music was existing favorites like U2, Dave Matthews, and Snow Patrol, but I also enjoyed newer music like Mumford & Sons and Kings of Leon.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?
I saw so few films in the theater, so Crazy Heart was the best of those. I see most films when they’re available on Netflix, and some favorites this year were The Hangover; Food, Inc.; The Hurt Locker; Invictus; and Burn After Reading.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I had a great spa day. 39.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
That handyman-who-likes-to-cook husband that is out there somewhere.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
Eddie Bauer occasionally dates Ann Taylor.

26. What kept you sane?
My internal compass -- I have always steered my own ship, and am very self-reliant. Trips to Cannon Beach. The love of my house & yard. Dog time with my friends’ dogs. My closest friends. Being at the top of my own list.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.
One that I relearned, which is that it’s not selfish to claim your life as your own and (re)establish boundaries with family and friends. That putting yourself first is how it should be, not something that needs apologizing or explaining. That making a commitment to your own health in body, mind, and spirit, is the best thing you can do for yourself. That real friends stand the test of time and miles, and that while three of my dearest friends are all in other cities, they’re always with me.