Saturday, October 22, 2016

History Lesson, Part Four (Mothers and Daughters and Sons)

Dear Harrison,

Okay, so we better move this along because you'll be here soon and there will be very little time for a while to sit and reflect on our past because you'll keep us busy trying to care for our future:  you.  But even though it seems like the time is barreling down on us, it's probably not going to get here quick enough for your mom - while your due date is large on the horizon, you're just looming large for her.   But speaking of which, we have two more photo groupings to explore to, and this week we're taking a look at someone who will be very near and dear to you:  your mom.  And her mom with her (yep, that's right, that would be me).

You'll see as you are almost down the stairs a grouping of photos from the same shoot taken on a summer's evening at Zilker Park in Austin by my dear friend and talented photographer, Mel Cole.  She gave us the session as a gift right before we headed out for your mother's freshman year in college and then gave me this collage when I got back from dropping your mom on campus in North Carolina.  The fact that we're dressed nearly alike is pure coincidence; we did not coordinate our wardrobe at all, but I always supposed that said something about us and how we think.  Not exactly alike. many ways...

On that evening, at that moment, things were pretty good with our lives.  By this point, we as a family had come through a lot and your mom, in particular, had really battled to overcome all the dysfunction we had thrown at her.  We had no idea that we had more trials to come.  But life is like that - you can't see too far ahead.  And I think that's a good thing because life is not always sunny days, but knowing the storms that lay in your path will keep you from enjoying the ones that are.

But what the most amazing thing is about these photos, in my opinion, is that here we were, your mom and I, being so happy in one another's company.  It's not a given that mothers and daughters, particularly at that point in a young woman's life, will be "friends".  We're not even really supposed to be.  As a parent you have to be careful:  you're not there to be their friend, you are the parent.  But you do want to have a good and solid relationship with your children as a parent.  Dad's probably want the same thing, but I got to think it's more intense for a woman because we have a connection with our kids that is unique - you grow inside of us after all.  But mothers and daughters can be tough.  I was reading books in high school to try and figure out how to navigate my relationship with my own mother and, despite my studious best efforts, I'm not sure we ever got it completely down.

Plus, I can tell you for sure, you can love your family, but not really like them.  (As a matter of fact, when my mom was really mad at me, she would say that a lot, "I still love you, but I really don't like you right now.")  But we did both love and like one another.  We still do.  I often am not sure what I did to deserve it, but I count it as the single biggest blessing in my life.  And that's saying something.

So maybe you can take it with a grain of salt that I say this, but your mother is an amazing woman.  You should be proud to have her in your life.  From Day One when she told us we'd be grandparents, she's done nothing but take good care of you and try to make everything ready for you to be comfortable, safe and happy.  She's had a lot of support from friends and family, I in no way want to belittle that, but she's been fierce and determined in wanting what's best for you.  You weren't here to see it and later you'll take it for granted.  Which is why I think it's important that I point it out so that someday, when you're older, and I'm either gone or just not able to tell you these things, someone can dig this up and let you read it.  Because, take it from me, there's a lot of sacrifice that goes into raising a child that starts right from that first moment when you realize he or she is in there with you if you're going to do it right.  Your mom's done it right.

What I sincerely hope is that you get to a summer's evening like the one in those photos - where you've graduated from high school and are on the eve of heading off to college.  If someone takes a photo of you two on that day, there will be ghosts of your past standing in the frame along with you two:  the remnants of fights that you had, tears you made your mother shed, and vice versa probably.  You will have had times when you thought you hated her and maybe actually did.  There will be times she might wonder if the feeling was mutual.  You'll scare her to death when you miss curfew or do something worse.  I hope I'm wrong about some of these things, but I doubt I will be - it's just part of the maturation process we all go through:  the unfailing ability to be a complete and total dumbass.
And because she's human, your mom will screw up raising you sometimes.  Not as many times as you probably blame her of doing it, but often enough.  We don't get a manual on how to do this thing called parenting after all.

Yet, as long as you can come together at some point, accept all of that has just part of the family gig, forgive one another, respect one another and realize that all things were done and will be done out of love for you, then you'll both be fine.  And, while I'm already very proud of your mom, I'll be very proud of you on that day as well.

I can hardly wait to meet you for real.  Won't be long now.

Much love,


Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Banner Day

My Dearest Harrison,

We have two last steps to go down, and they're the most important, but indulge me a detour this week so I can share with you an experience that I had this week that was the kind of thing I started this blog to hopefully push myself into having more of and, maybe - just maybe - find the meaning of a single life along the way.  Because you won't credit this for a long time, but our lives are fleeting.  It seems like not so long ago that I was just a little girl myself.  Now my little girl is about to be your mom.  Where did that time go and what did it all mean?  And is it worth it?  Somedays you won't think so.  On those days, you need to remember that there will be other days like the one I just had.  And those are the days that sustain you through everything else.

Let me set the stage a bit.  Lots of people know about this, I realize, but you don't know, so... You'll find out - it might be the very first cognizant memory of me you have - that I really like the Steelers and the Penguins.  I've been a Steelers fan for decades, but hockey - well hockey came along a little later, but when I finally fell, I fell for it hard.  On June 12, 2009 the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.  The Steelers were already Super Bowl Champs.  What an amazing feeling for any sports fan - both of your favorite teams winning the highest prize in their respective sport in the same year.  It was beyond imagining.  Then on June 20, 2009 something bad happened.  You'll learn about that too, how can you not?  I don't remember much of that summer and on in to the fall - bits and pieces here and there.  I have no memory whatsoever of the banner raising at the start of the next season.  None.  I'm sure I watched it because I'm sure it was on TV.  Maybe I didn't even.  Who knows?  Ever since that time, I felt I was robbed of that experience.  Not by any individual.  By Fate, I guess if you have to label it.  It's complicated psychology for a young boy, but it was just something to hang some of the weight of my sorrow on really.  But whatever the reason, I've clung to that disappointment for all these years.  I vowed I would NOT miss another Penguins banner raising in my lifetime.

And I wanted another Stanley Cup for the team too, although players and coaches changed over the years.  They deserved it for what succor I took from watching them in these intervening years.  I've blogged about all that before too, so I'll cut to the chase: long story short, exactly seven years to the day from the last Stanley Cup they finally won another one.  Thursday night they raised the banner, and I was there.

Sometimes the enormity of the desire to experience something daunts the actual experience itself.  It'll happen to you over and over again.  It's disappointing, and often not for the fault of the actual thing - it's our own build up that destroys it.  We'll probably try and preach patience and temperance.  You'll undoubtedly ignore us and well, things will happen and leave you underwhelmed at best, and maybe even devastated.   But here's the way to look at them:  if everything was awesome all the time, you couldn't possibly take it all in and truly appreciate those rare moments that just blow your doors off.  Those moments make everything else worthwhile.

Thursday night was such a moment for me.  I mean, it would have been great to have had your mom at my side, but she was at home about ready to bring you into the world, and that's okay.  But the experience matched the dream I had held in my head for seven long years other than maybe that.   I could try and describe it to you, and I could paint a fair picture - particularly after you start going to the games with me and have that frame of reference.  But, there aren't words really to capture the emotion of the moment and that was really the essence of it - not the nearly 19 thousand glow sticks, not the slick video presentation on the video board, being mirrored on huge white banners hanging from the rafters.  Not the gleam off the Stanley Cup as Sid laid it on the pedestal.  Not watching the banner unfurl for the first time and be hoisted into place where you will see it in the years to come.  No, it was the collective emotion of all of us.  It radiated in waves.  That joy; that moment of sheer joy.  For that brief time, none of us were thinking about credit card debts, or fights we had with our significant others maybe, or jobs we don't always like.  We were just all in that moment.  Sharing a piece of a championship.  We were winners.  The other thing you'll experience plenty of in your time is people saying, "You had to be there."  Yeah, sometimes that's just true.

For me just personally it was more than all of that.  It meant I had survived.  I had come from that low, low time to this moment in one piece.  And all the times I didn't feel like I even wanted to, but somehow soldiered on one more day and then the next day because I had to - well...all those times were rewarded by giving me this incredible, immense moment.   If I had given up on myself and life, how could I have ever found myself sitting there in that arena, watching the team I love so much give us all this great gift?

I don't know when another moment like that one might come again.  It might be years.  But I have a sneaking suspicion for me the next big moment is actually only another couple of weeks away when I hold you in my arms for the first time.  But, the bottom line is this:  you'll have days when life is all black and horrible.  You just will.  I can't, your mom can't, no one can shelter you from all of that.  We'll try.  We won't succeed.  Not entirely.  So, on those days, just remember that there will be other better days and those are the ones that sustain you.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

History Lesson, Part Three (The In-Laws)

Dear Harrison,

Well, it won't be long now until I get to meet you in person, so in the meantime, I'll keep working my way down the stairs and introducing you to the family.  This week, we're down to the in-laws.  Like my dad, you'll never get to meet your grandfather's father.  I'll tell you about all of that someday, but for now, let's look a little at his life.  What I know of it anyway.

In-laws are tricky.  They aren't your family, but they are.  You weren't raised by them and didn't share these long years of experiences and common moral codes and family traditions.  And then suddenly, you're in the middle of this family dynamic that took years to form and gel.  It can be tense.  But, overall, I got incredibly lucky in that regard.  I'm not sure they felt the same way.  Here's a condensed version of the story.

I actually met your great-grandmother before I was dating your grandfather.  A group of co-workers were invited to the house by his oldest sister who was pretty new to the store where I was working - I've forgotten why.  I don't even remember what we did while we were there.  What I do remember is that, as we were leaving, her mother hugged us all.  My friend Deb and I were flabbergasted.  Neither of us came from a family of huggers, so having a woman who was a virtual stranger do that left us bordering on speechless.

Flash forward a year (and a juicy story you're definitely too young to hear yet), and I'm dating the little brother.  I thought I had found heaven.  The only child of an older couple, I had longed for siblings and a bigger family.  Your grandfather was one of four.  They seemed tight knit, were upper middle class, educated, and above all, seemingly very happy.  They embraced me into their world.  Well, Greg's mother did.  I think my future father-in-law tolerated me, but that was about it. Looking back on it, that was fair.  I was just barely tolerable, to be honest.

As a couple, they were seemingly polar opposite from one another.  As overly warm, gracious and generous as my mother-in-law was, he was reserved to the point of shyness and bordering on reclusive.  He was brilliant, so everyone - even his family I think - put it down to a Beautiful Mind kind of thing.  And I think it was.  But, later we would learn there were demons in that big brain, so - a product of an earlier generation - he drank and smoked to cope with them rather than work them out in healthier ways.  He would sit in the same chair in his study with his vodka and his cigarettes and read or work crossword puzzles, and that was enough for him at that stage I think.  My mother-in-law was much more outgoing. She loved being out and about and socializing.  If you really look closely at the photo of them together that I have on the wall, his smile didn't reach all the way up to his eyes.  Her's does.  I think he looks more natural, relaxed and happy in the photo taken when he was working next to it.  Yet, they somehow made it work.

I learned a lot from being around them over the years.  While my parents loved me without a doubt, it wasn't comfortable and natural for them to show a lot of outward affection.  Greg's mother taught me to be more loving.  I'm not like her entirely - I'm still a product of my upbringing, but I'm definitely a warmer person than I would have been.  I learned to accept and love my children's friends as my mother-in-law did me.  I've tried very hard not to judge people in my life.  My mother-in-law gave me the tools to do that.  I definitely always have her example in my mind when I interact with the people in your mother's life - like your dad, for example.  We've tried to welcome him in as an unreserved part of the family, because that's the example she set by folding me into theirs.

Not that I can tell you everything stayed in that utopian state between all of us over the decades.  At this moment, I've been estranged for some time from the same sister who brought me into their house for the first time.  We're gingerly trying to mend fences, but we'll never be close again I don't think.  Family dynamics are complicated.  Another trite, yet true, saying, you'll sadly likely find, is that there really is a thin line between love and hate.  Sometimes a fragile neutrality is the best compromise you can reach.

But, if I'm looking for the less gloomy lesson to leave you with here - besides don't smoke or drink - is that family is larger than a bloodline.  And extended family and close friends can teach you great lessons in life - so pay attention and take the best of our behaviors from all of us as things to pattern.   Oh, and, that you will experience great love and acceptance from not just us, but from others as well, and they can become as much your family as we are.  And that's okay.  It's more than okay.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

History Lessons, Part Two (the Rosy Cheeked Girl)

Dear Harrison,

Next we'll move on down to my favorite family portrait.  In fairness, it's only one of two formal family portraits I recall or ever saw that we took, but...I do love it.  That's me in the middle at 9.  I love the way I look in that photo.  That was my favorite dress - brown velvet with bell sleeves that made me feel like I was a character in a King Arthur story.  My mother let me wear one of her cameos and we put as much curl in the bottom of my hair as that heavy mop on my head would allow.  But, I think if I'm being honest, I love it for two reasons:  the old time painting quality that the photographer was known for made us look like we came from another time, which I thought was more fitting.  I always thought I was born too late when I was young.  I would have done better as a child in the 40's or before I always thought.  The world was too fast paced for little bookwormish me, and that was hilarious because I lived in Bozeman, Mt.  Not exactly a whirlwind of activity.  (Ironically, ten years later, I had fled sleepy Bozeman for the bright lights of the big city, but that would have seemed a long way off to my 9 year old self.)  But it's also because I looked not at all like I looked on a daily basis.  I thought I looked pretty, with rosy cheeks painted on, which contrasted with the reality of my alabaster skin, which was not a prized asset at the time.  And on a daily basis, I wore glasses, had buck teeth that wouldn't be corrected for another couple of years, and my hair was as thick and heavy as a wool blanket and wouldn't hold a curl.  You'll notice that so far, I've barely mentioned my parents in the photo.  To me, they just looked like my folks.  They always seemed to have a yesteryear type of appearance in my mind - they had come from another, older time as far as I was concerned.  I guess, in a way, they did.

I also remember the day, in somewhat striking detail if you think of how many thousands of days you spend as a child and how many decades have passed since.  But I remember what the weather was like (a slushy early spring Saturday when the sky couldn't decide whether to rain or snow, so it did a mixture of both), how we couldn't fit my coat over those bell sleeves, how the photographer had set up his temporary studio in a room in the old Bozeman Hotel, which at the time was just an under utilized building with a history.  I'm not sure what ended up making it such a memorable day, other than something happened that I don't quite remember and we had to come back to finish the session.  So we hung out downtown for an hour or two before we could go back and finish.  We had lunch.  I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times my father had lunch out with me when it wasn't involving a road trip.  As a matter of fact, it was twice.  I asked for them to go to lunch with me for my birthday a few years later at a little place I liked, also in the Bozeman Hotel, and they did.  Mother and I would eat out fairly often, but Dad was not an eat out kind of guy.   I think it was that time we spent together that was unique and therefore special that makes that day stick so clearly in my mind.  Just like I remember the times Mom and I would tag along when Dad went hunting.  Or when he would take me out fishing on his little boat.   I didn't like to fish, but I rarely missed the chance to ride all the way up to Hebgen Lake with him when he asked.  Until I was older and it wasn't cool.  Or so I thought.

So anyway, here hangs the evidence of that long ago day on my wall.  There are a couple of morals to the story of that photo I think.  The first is:  trite as it might sound, don't judge a book by its cover.  And if others decide to judge you that way, don't let it bother you.  It's their small minded misjudgment, and it has nothing to do with you or who you really are.  I never felt pretty and therefore valuable as a girl.  I looked at that photo of me as potential that there was something better in there somewhere.  I think that was true.  Your grandfather seemed to think so anyhow.  I turned a head or two back in the day.  But it is never about what we look like.  It's about who we are - there's a line in one of my favorite movies that I'll undoubtedly force you to watch at some point that goes like this, "It's not what I am underneath, but what I do that defines me."  Well, people will often not even give you a glance long enough to see what's underneath before they conclude in their mind who you are.  But you can't let their vision or lack thereof define you.  You define you.

And the other moral to the story is that it's the small moments sometimes that mean the most.  You'll be in a hurry to grow up.  We all are.  But you'll someday realize that being a kid isn't all that bad.  And hanging with your folks is pretty special because it's a limited quantity kind of thing.  Neither of my parents are here anymore - those two people on either side of me that I never really considered as being anything less than permanent fixtures in my life are both long gone.  Your mother never even really knew my dad; he died when she was very small, so there were no opportunities for trips to that sleepy manmade lake for her.  So don't take time with your folks or us, your grandparents, for granted.  I know I will hold my time with you as precious because someday it will, sadly, come to an end.



Sunday, September 25, 2016

History Lessons, Part One

Dear Harrison,

I hope to be around for many years to come and be spry enough still to dance at your wedding someday.  But, since life is an adventure that keeps one guessing, I didn't want to leave some things to chance, so just in case, there are some things I want you to know and hopefully if I'm not around to tell you myself, someone will read these to you when you're ready.

One of the things I hate about being adopted is that I have no idea what my birth family was like.  It's a vortex.  Not just who are my birth parents and what were they like, but who are my ancestors - were they great nobles in the homeland or simple farmers.  It doesn't matter that much in terms of who I am really - I was shaped by others, but I miss knowing the content of my fabric if you will.  I also hated being so isolated from family.  I didn't grow up with aunts and uncles and cousins nearby.  Unfortunately, on our side of your family tree, the branches are a little less leafy than I would have liked, given that feeling of isolation I always had.  You have family, but they're not close by.  But, you do totally come from a rich tapestry and have lots of people who love you and loved your mom and still do.  So, when we were decorating this house you are about to be born into, I wanted you to have a true sense of who shaped all of us who will be responsible for shaping you, and I wanted you to be surrounded by them everyday.  I want you to walk down the steps every morning and be greeted by these people who may not be right here with you, but are a part of you, because they taught us to be who we are.  Let me introduce you, starting at the top.

You'll find that my father, your great-grandfather, is over-represented in the house.  It's partially because I'm the sole caretaker of his legacy, but it's also because I'm proud of his service.  He was an Air Force bomber pilot even before it was called the Air Force, which I'll hopefully explain about.  He served over two decades in the military and fought in two wars.  What you see at the top of the stairs are his medals.  He served with distinction and retired a Lt. Colonel when I was very small.

Immediately below them is a shadow box of your great-great-grandfather's stethoscope and uniform insignias from his service in the same war my dad fought in first.  That's his picture you see next to it, taken many years later.  He was every bit as kind and calm as he looks there.

While we're proud of what both men did to serve the country, I think it's very safe to say we all hope you never have to follow in their footsteps.  They felt the call to serve when the need was great, but I'd rather we all try harder to live in peace for your generation.  I can't really say what demons Dr. Veldman may have carried away from the war, but I know my dad never really got over it.  There were things that haunted him all his days, right up until the moment he died.   I think he would be the first to tell you he wouldn't want you to have to experience those same things.

I will say that Dr. Veldman went on in peacetime to deliver babies, so one would wonder if the decision to bring new life into the world was a reaction to watching so many young men leave it so violently.  Maybe that's something your grandfather can speak to; you'll have to ask him someday.

Whatever you learn of these men, you'll find that both men are living in us still.  My dad instilled in me a powerful work ethic.  Both men believed strongly in education and took good care of their families.  Beyond that, they differed in their temperament and interests.  You'll find I've got more of the fiery temper of my dad, whereas your grandfather channels that calmer demeanor of both sets of his grandparents, although he's got a limit, which I'm sure you'll test.  Your mom is a combination of both of us, and I know you'll test that.

I'm sorry you'll never meet these two fine men that you see on the walls, but hopefully over time you'll come to learn more about both them and our time with them and what they meant to us.   While my dad was complex, and I had a rocky relationship with him, he was beyond a doubt the single biggest influence in my life, so his values and life lessons will touch you.  And that's really the thing that I think allows all of us to carry the sorrow of our lost love ones - that realization that they live on within us and they'll continue on through you.

I don't want you to think of that as a burden.  More like your birthright.  Maybe you'll find that of all the things we give you over the years, the true sense of family will be the greatest gift of all.

More to come...

Much love,

Your grandmother-to-be

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Making the House a Home

We have a ceiling.  Wow, we actually have a whole, intact ceiling!  And after all the hassle and all the stress, it was worth the wait.  I hate to think what it's going to do to my insurance premium next year, but that's a worry for another day.  For now, it's time to finally, finally finish what we started and get settled in.   And thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Marissa's friends, mine and our family, if Harrison decided to announce his presence today, we'd be ready.   Time to re-enter the world and see what we've been missing.

To that end, Greg and I went down to the Strip two weekends ago as a first foray back into the world - the ceiling was in flux at that time and all our stuff was jammed into the dining room, but that actually seemed like a good time not to hang around the house.  The Strip, for those of you who don't know, is not what the name might imply.  (Which, sadly, it took me all week long to figure out when Marissa and I came to visit here in 2007, and I almost didn't realize the wonder of the place until our very last day here.)  It's uniquely Pittsburgh.  A hodge podge of shops and sidewalk vendors - some hippy-dippy, some all Black and Gold, and a lot of good (really good) food to be had.  The original Primanti Brothers is there, as is the first Pamela's.  And then there is De Luca's.  It's hard to describe De Luca's outside of saying it's a diner with a wall mural, and a more detailed literal description would have any reader coming away with the concept that it's a dingy diner at that - wall mural and all.  But there's something about it.  The food is good, bordering on great, but you sort of wonder why we all stand in long lines waiting to get in - it's not that great.  Well, yes it is despite its simplicity.  But there's a lot of great food in this city.  It's got more to do with the feel of the place - the 'Burghness of it.  And you never know who you might see there.  While we were there, we saw a giant of a young man walk up to the counter to pay.  Clearly a football player.  I saw him on TV last week on the Pitt sideline.  He's an offensive lineman.  A HUGE offensive lineman.  There's a plaque on one of the table benches where Rosamund Pike sat when she was in town filming Jack Reacher.  But really, it's more about how easy it is to just chat up total strangers while in line and have a great time doing it.  Pittsburghers may be sometimes off-puttingly blunt if you're not used to it, but they are also open and friendly, and there's always something to talk about in a busy town like this one.  And you can drink it in at a place like De Luca's.  And I did.  I immersed myself in the atmosphere of this city I love so much, but had missed so much through the spring and summer, and felt so at home even after a long absence.


So I'm sitting in my newly intact living room with my furniture finally in place and pictures going up on the walls, football on TV in the background, and wonder why it's not quite feeling homey yet when I can feel so totally at home in someone's else diner.    And it begged the question:  what defines home?

Maybe the answer is different for all of us.  But I think I've decided it's an acceptance, first of all,  and a comfort level with a place.  Of course, having loved ones with you is key, but we were never lacking that here.   But I finally decided that if I had to point to one thing above all others, it's the ability to feel perfectly free to be yourself.  We did lack that here in a weird way, through no fault of our own or anyone else's, but because of circumstances that were topsy turvy, it's felt like we were camping in someone else's house for the last couple of months and always slightly on edge - waiting for the next shoe to drop, and then the next one.  At long last, while we still mourn the two beloved family members lost since we got here (Charlie and Ripley), we can settle in and make the place our own.  So I think it won't be long until we relax and get into a flow and begin to put the strained beginning to our time here behind us.

But, putting our individual situation aside for a moment, I was thinking more about this as I was driving back home today (from buying yet more dog toys to replace the stash that never materialized after the move) and decided it's not about who has the nicest house or the most expensive furniture.  I drive past houses everyday that are both way more elaborate and far more humble than mine.  In the same neighborhood, I might add.  I have no idea what the interiors of these places are, but I can guess.  Yet, if my new definition is right, one has just as much of a chance to be a great home as the other one.  It has nothing to do with the trappings and everything to do with something else entirely.

I'm not rich, but I'm not poor and my furnishing reflect that.  We inherited a lot of what we have.  Maybe you did too.  Or maybe it's all from garage sales - mine was early on when I was just starting out.  I still have a couple of those pieces.   But it really is, I'm more and more convinced of it, building a home has far less to do with having the grandest house with the best furniture on the block.  It's whether you feel like you have the comfort level to be truly who you are when you kick your shoes off after a hard day's work.  And that lies within more than without.  So it has nothing to do with the house (of course, I say this from the security of living in a safe neighborhood - so...take all this with that grain of salt).  We haven't been at home here yet because there's been too much tension and grief.  As I stated, that sense of waiting for the next bad thing to happen has been pervasive.  But it won't last.  And it hasn't all been bad.  We just need to take a little time to breath, relax and reconnect with ourselves.  We can and will be happy here.  And we'll have a ceiling over our heads when we do!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen Years On

I know I've done 9/11 theme blogs before - probably most notably on the 10th anniversary, but five more years later and the world is a very different place, and we're all different people, so I thought it might be worth taking a look back to the lesson we seemed to learn temporarily from that horrible day and seemed to have forgotten.

I was working on the company newsletter and thought it would be fitting to do a little tribute to 9/11 in an area I reserve for just fast tips and tricks, so I went trolling for quotes and found one that struck me.  Then I saw who said it.  Barack Obama said it in a radio address back in 2011 (I believe).  I loved it above anything else I found, but I almost didn't use it because the President said it.  The black President.  The black Democratic President.  I worried it might be too polarizing in today's weird world of racial  and political tension where if you're not of a like mind with your neighbor, you're suspect.  My hesitation was despite the fact that I campaigned and voted for him twice and continue to believe in his integrity and leadership, but I still hesitated.

Therefore, while I'm reflecting like everyone else on this anniversary, I'm thinking back to how we all reacted seemingly as one mind to mourn those lost that day.  We didn't ask what color their skin was or where they had worshipped or who they had voted for in the past.  They were Americans and we mourned them as lost brothers and sisters.

What happened to that sentiment?  What, nearly fifteen years later, caused Colin Kaepernick to decide to take a controversial stand (or I guess I should say sit) on racial inequality in 2016?  What makes me hesitate to put a I'm With Hillary yard sign in my yard in my all white neighborhood?  Why do I live in an all white neighborhood (meaning, why are there all white neighborhoods - not why do I live here because I like it here)?

In the years since 9/11 the pendulum has swung back in a bad way.  To an extent, I get it.  I might not excuse it, but I get it.  The world view we had on September 10 was shattered irrevocably.  There was no longer a sense of security that we had always lived by in this country - at least in my lifetime.  Enemies walked among us, we learned.  We couldn't tell who they were because they were civilians - the rules of war had changed. That sense of fear has been stewing for a decade and a half and it's now at a boiling point.

I know, I sound like I blame 9/11 for racism and religious prejudice.  I don't.  It's a problem as old as time, we all know.   But I personally would have thought that as that time progresses we'd learn the lessons history continually tries to teach us.  Yet, it would seem that we resist those lessons, and I do honestly think that the general unease we've lived with since that fateful day has worn on us and made us increasingly suspicious of anyone who isn't a cookie cutter version of ourselves.  And, further, I think it's a fire that's being fanned by politicians who want to use that fear for votes.

Why should I feel uneasy to tell you whom I'm supporting for President, because that's a cornerstone of our country - that freedom to participate in selecting our representatives in free and open elections? And I seem to recall something about all men being created equal too.  But I do tend to keep it close to the vest because I worry about being harassed or worse.  It's not without precedent in my personal experience.   But that makes me mad.  Go ahead and disagree, but don't make me feel I'm unsafe or my property is at risk because I differ in opinions from you.  That's nuts.

And why should we worry what color skin others have?  I don't know about you, but I couldn't help the color skin I was born with, so it seems ridiculous that I would hold it against someone else.

Anyway, as we remember the lives lost on that day fifteen years ago, I think we honor them best by remembering how it brought us together as a truly United States of America.  Like President Obama said, "Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11."