In Memoriam and Gratitude

In Memoriam

My family is a military one – has been for generations. At one time, my grandfather (an inveterate veteran) declared, “If you’re from Texas and you’ve served your country, you’re an American, for sure!” He wasn’t from Texas, ‘nope, siree’ (as he would’ve said). But he did end up retiring in that great state. Sure he’d found God’s country, he adopted it.

For generations of our family, the terms “soldier” and “military” have never been equated with “anonymous.” It’s my shy and slender aunt who proudly sent back photos of her slight, feminine frame next to the towering military vehicles she drives. Inspired to join by stories of the patriotic WASPs, you can see how proud she is to be in charge of a vehicle so large a stepladder is required just to climb the huge tires to the driver’s seat. It’s Uncle Roy, who faithfully sent back his WWII paychecks to his orphaned siblings, who survived off his service. It’s our dear friend Dave, who is manning the local Buddy Poppy station in memory of all of our country’s fallen veterans this Memorial Day weekend, despite the physical and emotional scars he brought back from deployment.

Because it’s inherent in the very makeup of our genome, each culture has a tradition around the passing of life. Time is in the driver’s seat and Death is the passenger. So, the saying It’s not the destination so much as the journey has always rung true for me. We’re all travelers on a profound quest for experience and knowledge. And, while we don’t actively move ourselves toward that final destination, Death is one of only two shared primal commonalities – the other primal commonality being Life.

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Life is the supremely awesome journey. To that serviceman and that servicewoman who has given life up so that others might continue with theirs – or begin it – our inexpressible gratitude. To those whose own lives were forcibly shunted toward that final destination, even if your name isn’t on a tribute to your service, you live through us. Without you, the rest of us around the globe, of different nationalities and creeds, those of us who hold faithfully to the concepts of free will and the freedom of self expression, we might have ended up living only the basest of lives – one of bodily survival – if it weren’t for you.

We worry about where nations’ elected leaders are steering us to.  We worry that humans around the globe continue to be used as pawns for narrow-minded and selfish ends having so little to do, really, with self-defense.  So, on this Memorial Day, may the rest of us, world-wide, remember our own most basic duty to fight as civilians against any government’s abuse of its most precious resource: our loved ones.

A Playful Day on a Rainy Day’s Commute


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Depending on the day, I fill my travels with music, an audio book, simple silence or a podcast. Windshield wipers parting rivulets of spring rain at a traffic light, the right half of my brain lights up: my phone has just alerted me that the newest episode of A Playful Day has been uploaded. Immediately, I’m off. I’m mentally traveling to Dorset.

Watching the rain drenching the landscape around me, I wonder, “What’s the weather like right now in Dorset?” In my location, the weather has gone from a rainy 42 degrees Fahrenheit (5 C for my Celsius friends) to 72 F (22 C) and sunny and back within three days. Mostly, though, I’m thinking of my week and what seems like a never-ending treadmill of errands, chauffeuring and household chores. A Playful Day, however, energizes with the sense of possibilities.

What did Kate just say? Catching up with the new season of A Playful Day podcast, I’m excited about her new program format. The message is this: “A Playful Day is a place for makers to celebrate their craft, travelers to rest and friends to gather. This is a safe space that I created as a reminder to seek playful moments that invigorate us and make our hearts glad.” She asks us to share what creating means to us. On this rainy morning, I needed something sunny.

To me, creating is fulfilling my wish to join with my fellow life travelers in nourishing one another. This is akin to Kate’s vision of creating and promoting a community mindset vital to a world meant for us to enjoy. And now my thoughts aren’t running downward with the rain on my windshield but are reconnected with how excited I am about a chance to share the road with a community of fellow artists and travelers.

After a long day, and during our more difficult times, it’s easy to forget that we have some real control over our thoughts, feelings and energy – even for those of us that may be sensitive to seasonal affective disorder or depression. Take a moment right now – really, right now – to note what lifts you. Keep those things in mind and turn to them when your heart needs them. I made my way home that day through rainy thoughts with Kate’s soothing podcast and was reminded of how important it is to be mindful of where we choose to spend our energy. Do our choices reflect caring for ourselves? Sometimes, for me, it means taking the longer but more beautiful way home because it gives me time to decompress.

What resources do you turn to on “rainy” days? What lifts your thoughts and energy? I’d love to hear from you in the comments and to be a part of sharing with one another.

Sunny travels to you, my friends.

No Good Deed…

It’s dusk on a fairly lonely stretch of highway, and I see a stranded motorist several miles ahead. As I approach, my headlights show me a guy whose hood’s up.  He has flares and assorted things around him, so he’ll be okay – right? As happenstance drivers, we’re rarely able to guess with a fair amount of certainty what the problem might be. And me? I’m always conflicted when I: don’t slow down and inquire because the hapless could be dangerous; don’t know how I’d pull over without posing a potential traffic hazard; or, when I reach for my phone and hope it will be enough.  Technology enables us to not stop and extend our persons to the stranded motorist.  It frees us from a sense of the obligatory:  I don’t need to stop and have a conversation, I’ve made the phone call letting someone know of the existence of a stranded motorist.  Help is on the way.  (Give myself a mental pat on the back.)

No Good Deed

Sometimes, when we want to help someone, we worry. After all, there are good reasons the Good Samaritan Law came into being – in summary, ‘No good deed goes unpunished’.  Am I guilty of having overextended myself when I’m asked to give the vehicularly-challenged a ride to a destination that’s not in the direction of my own?  What am I taking on when there are children involved?  If I find myself alone in a car with a stranger that might be high, intoxicated, mentally ill or emotionally unstable?  Even before the internet, drivers had been made much more aware of the “diversity” out there.

Maybe our decision to actually physically stop or not stop is not a matter of ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  Maybe it’s just a matter of personal judgement that makes sense for the situation and that moment.  Still, without having taken the time for a one-to-one connection, have I erred on the side of omission?  Will the motorist I now see in my rearview mirror suffer because of my neglect?  Am I my brother’s keeper?

Verbal Drive-By’s and a Happy Mother’s Day

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A tired-looking young mother holding an infant and her toddler’s hand slows her pace to look around as she exits a store. It’s plain she intends to guide her babies through the busy parking garage.  The head of a teddy bear is visible through an opening of the diaper bag she carries over one shoulder.  She’d just reached her car and was attempting to carefully negotiate the placing of all within when a woman in a jeep came to a nose-dipping stop, rolled down the window and shouted: “OH!  MY GOD!  AND WITH A BABY?!!!”

The mother had not walked carelessly in front of the jeep.  She’d done nothing to endanger the lives of her young family.  The driver of the jeep had been driving too fast for a busy parking garage – and it’s a fairly sure bet she’d been on her phone, instead of paying the attention all pedestrians deserve of drivers.  In all likelihood, the driver had looked up just in time to avoid hitting the young mother.

I was already watching this vignette; however, the volume and anger in the woman’s voice stopped several shoppers mid-step.  Now close to the young mother, I saw the moment of startled confusion turn to embarrassment – then hurt – then protective anger.  She resumed caring for her family and purchases, but it was evident she’d been shaken.
I think few of us have been spared an aggressive “drive by.”  It’s an inevitable part of living that, at some point, something will come completely out of left field and leave us reeling.  This was several months ago, and I still remember the effect of the negligent driver’s verbal onslaught on that young woman’s face.

Listening to a recent episode of the One Bad Mother podcast, this particular memory came swiftly back to me. Today, I want to echo a pivotal message ~ recent Episode 149 includes a “Fail,” where a mom had an upsetting, startling moment with her young baby, to which co-host Biz responds: “Don’t turn this into ‘everybody’s doing something wrong, everybody’s out to get somebody’. You go up and you tell somebody they’re doing a good job, and you’re here, and it’s okay, and they’re fine.”  The caller shared what it meant to her “They took care of me, so I could take care of my baby.”  For the human species, this is the be-all, end-all of why we have got to be supportive of one other.

I didn’t approach the young mother.  Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me that she might welcome a gesture of kind support.  If she didn’t in the moment, it still would have been a good thing to do.  Just a quick check in of support.  This is a failure I continue to regret.  So on this day, I want to send out a message of love and encouragement especially to moms.  In whatever capacity you have mothered, to anyone who has used the feminine self to care for another, I thank you.  I cherish you and the role of motherhood on behalf of our precious young.

Happy Mother's DayHappiest of Mother’s Days

As the ladies of One Bad Mother would say- “You’re doing a great job.”

Who’s On… ?

Who's On...

Defensive driving really is the way to go. You never know if it’s a “who” or “what” behind the wheel. In other words, the caution to “drive defensively” is just another way of saying watch out for drivers under the influence.

While I’ve written about self-regulation of one’s thoughts and emotions when behind a moving vehicle, we must remember that we are sharing the road with drivers who are unable to self-regulate due to circumstances largely beyond their control in the moment OR those who have chosen to step away from the responsibility to self-regulate through unwise choices.

What…?

We are amazing creatures. Our bodies are profoundly wonderful! Nonetheless, there are limits we have to respect. We are all working with whatever condition our body is operating at any given moment. The brains of our young are still developing through their early twenties. And (while it’s true that many adults never learn to), our young are still learning to restrain their impulses (for example, texting while driving). There are drivers who are insulin-dependent diabetics, those with poor night vision, and so on. We have to be responsible for recognizing our own limits and thereby hold ourselves accountable for the care of not only ourselves but others. It’s like the driver who follows too closely and rear-ends the one in front due to convulsive sneezing.  There’s no intent to do harm.  What we’re dealing with here is a failure to respect our human condition.

Who’s on…?

Conversely, if another driver is being unwise (or aggressive, arrogant, inconsiderate – whatever term comes to mind with their behavior), remember that you may not be “arguing” with a driver capable of having a constructive vehicular discussion. What’s really pressing the accelerator? Steering the wheel? Remember, there’s no arguing with a drunk nor with those otherwise influenced. With the changing laws around the use of alcohol, spice, marijuana, and the new-becoming-old phenomenon of prescription drug misuse, sober drivers are under a whole other kind of threat – we would do well to remember this.

How many addicts would honestly respond to “Are you an addict who regularly gets behind the wheel while impaired?” When we take a driver’s test, our limitations are often only addressed on a somewhat superficial level: Our night vision isn’t tested, impulse regulation isn’t assessed, neither is a driver’s IQ when it comes to making wise choices.

Drivers who endanger others are not as well synched as the vehicles they’re driving.  Don’t wait until you’ve lost a loved one, until you’re hearing the bad news from a hospital bed or having a frustrating (even frightening) discussion with an insurance company before realizing that making an argument of another driver’s incompetence or that seeking to “even the score” is driving on STUPID.