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Friday, November 27 2015 @ 06:12 PM PST

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Two Grandfathers

General NewsThanks to the wonders of Facebook, I got a reminder that my grandfather died a year ago yesterday. As I've written before, we didn't have the closest relationship, and that adds a different tang to the loss. I've talked it out with family at various points and it all comes down to one thing: he didn't know how to show his love. It's frustrating and heartbreaking, but all too common. Even from me. (Chip off the old block? I had a conversation last night with my living grandfather, KNOWING he doesn't have much time left, and while the affection between us was apparent we still didn't find the words.)

If we've learned anything from this era of terrorism, it's that death doesn't do schedules. If we wait for to say what we feel, odds are high that we'll be saying it at a gravesite, unable to see the impact of our words. That's not to say that our loved ones can't hear us; they do and it is always worth saying what needs to be said. But we are made for reciprocity. Our relationships need grounding in two-way communication.

We all have different emotional ranges and corresponding abilities to communicate those thoughts and feelings. It's not about pouring your heart out to all your battle buddies, unless you want to! Rather, it is about the next step forward...

The email response.
A warmer handshake.
An awkward hug.
One extra kind word.

...All to let somebody know that they MATTER.
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Paris Bookstore Sheltered Customers During Attacks

General Newshttp://www.buzzfeed.com/jarrylee/pari....ynna4jl2o
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Back to Basics

General NewsI live between two worlds. My days now are filled with laundry, driving to school, running the HOA and being the “company wife” in partnership with a man who is far too good at his work. I’m blessed in many ways and I choose to embrace this season of life. Yet there’s another side of me, the part unsurprised by the recent attacks in Paris (and Beirut, and Baghdad.) It’s the part of me that lived in London during the “Troubles,” the part that navigated more crazy situations in other countries than I want to remember, the part that found a home when studying the Special Operations Executive of WWII. That part of me looks at the mom part of me and quietly announces:

Game on, NOW.

It’s Game On for all of us. Whether we’re on the front lines or the sidelines, we need a sharper attitude to deal with mass shootings, suicide bombers and borderless wars. It’s less apple-pie and more occupied France or blitzed London. When I lived in London, we had absolutely no tolerance for unattended packages. My favorite stories were about people who accidentally left their lunch on a bench only to have it destroyed by the bomb squad. In Heathrow, an unattended suitcase instantly drew attention, and everyone held their breath until it was claimed.

“Tolerance” gets us nowhere. Tolerance allows a stench in the community and accepts a lower standard of behavior until we become the victims, then yowls for justice. In short, tolerance cannot stand up to reality. Compassion, on the other hand, says that we all screw up but we’re going to work together to make this better. Compassion can withstand harsh reality unchanged. Compassion demands more, not less. Compassion builds a stronger community and is intolerant of evil.

What does this mean for Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, Syria, New York or Portland? It means we report suspicious behavior to the authorities. It means we speak up when good people do stupid things. It means we build a mindset of preparedness so that when things go wrong, we know our options and can make a rational decision to act in a way that improves the situation. There’s a beautiful story about a Paris bookstore that sheltered people during the crisis. This is what is required of us: to hold on to those nearest to us and to act. Most of us will never be heroes of the headlines. That’s okay. We probably wouldn’t look good in the limelight. It’s far better to be able to look yourself in the eye the next day, knowing you did everything in your power. Make no mistake; the battles are coming.
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General NewsI haven't been this torn in a long time.

National security... I'm a hawk. I tend toward pragmatism first and ideals second when it comes to keeping our nation safe. I don't like it but I'm strangely astounded when I meet those who are squeamish regarding what is necessary to protect a nation.

Yet the Syrian refugee crisis and the parallels with WWII eat at me. I think of the Syrian monastery that deepened my faith and the friends who have family still in Syria. The choices before us are horrific. The threat of terrorists posing as refugees is acute. If we welcome large numbers of refugees, I am certain there will be terrorists among them. Many will be unsuccessful, but still, people will die.

If we don't welcome refugees, many will certainly die.

Our politicians have a responsibility to our citizens rather than to the world. That said, their responsibility is complex. Protecting our nation is paramount but requires a perspective far beyond an election cycle. If we welcome refugees on a scale with the vastness of our freedom, such hospitality will ripple for generations of Christian and Muslim Arabs.

We are America, saying that freedom may be dangerous but we will embrace the uncertainty because freedom is this important. We've been preaching it; we need to live it. Let them come see a land where they are innocent until proven guilty but we will sacrifice our lives to take down a murderer.

Yes, it will be the most dangerous of humanitarian missions. But instead of looking at all the reasons why we can't, let's put our energy into the logistics of making "welcome" a reasonable option.
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General NewsGood morning everyone!

I wrote last night about rebuilding our nation through individual excellence. This morning I would like to draw your attention to a group that is working to help Iraqi women and children rebuild their lives and stabilize their nation.

The core problem they seek to address is the backlog of congenital birth defects, particularly cardiac defects, caused by the past decades of malnutrition and exposure to mustard gas and depleted uranium. Yes, it feels as though it might be politically controversial, and I don't have personal experience with them to know how the back room conversations go. But in providing heart surgeries for children, they are doing something powerful to heal the damage of the past thirty years and to create stabilizing goodwill.

Choosing a charity to support is a tough decision, but the medical professionals reading this will know how powerful this work can be. Check out http://www.preemptivelove.org/problem
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Not the Time You Were Looking For

General NewsCaitlyn Jenner and gay marriage didn’t upset me.
Clinton, Trump, Walker, Bush, etc. etc . etcetera…
Immigration…racism... Labels.
The Cascadia Faultline.
“Planned Parenthood.”
Domestic terrorism.

I don’t think I’m the only one who feels strapped to a powder keg tonight. Divisiveness has marked the past decade, and in this time of comprehensive turmoil we are on a dangerous trajectory. We have too many options for banner issues. Emotions dictate too much of our public discourse, and we are vulnerable to anyone who shows any promise of leadership.

Why do I write this now, in the wake of the Chattanooga shooting? I’ve been listening to loyal Americans, including military families, talk about their disappointment with our country. Our Sheepdogs are frustrated as they gear up yet again. All political sides within the nation seem to despise the others. Add the Planned Parenthood scandal and the attack on our dis-armed Marines, and we are ripe for a groundswell of “we’ve had it.”

Our society has devalued human life, undermined the police and military who protect us, and divided ourselves not so much by class or race as by our opinions. We are ruled by blame, whether for ourselves or for others, and we use the blame and labeling as an excuse to avoid getting our hands dirty in the quest for real solutions.

We are drifting due to lack of leadership, and we are justifiably afraid that new leaders may lead us astray.

There’s an old church joke: parishes get the priests they deserve, not the priests they want. I think it may be true for nations too. Therefore the solution is not to ask for a better leader, but to build a better nation from the ground up. I’ve been studying one of my heroes, and in recent weeks I haven’t been able to shake one recurring comment: He wasn’t the most talented one. But he was the hardest worker. Meditate on that concept. Where can you challenge yourself? What opinions have not undergone the test of fire? Do your loved ones get your best or your worst? What do strangers get from you?

What can you do for your country? It’s time to answer that question.
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Memorial Day 2015

General NewsDay of unseeing eyes
Empty hands
Sales and beers
No time for tears
Words too sharp to speak
So we hoist a leaden glass
Or dance alone on grass
Reaching through the memories.
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Climbing the Walls

General NewsThe blog has been quiet but life has been anything but. The medical sagas continue both for myself and my family. Mr. WatchCat has transitioned to a leadership role. Friends have drawn near, pulled away, and in some circumstances, both. My writing career is taxiing for takeoff but still hasn’t gotten clearance from the tower. I feel old and young at once, with a long list of lessons learned yet still feeling like I might make all the same mistakes again.

Is it wiser to fight out an issue with someone you love, or should you just let it go?
When does the quest for perfection become self-defeating?
When is it better to just fix someone’s problem for them?
When do you just cast it all upon the waters and see what comes?
(And when do you send a second email and risk sounding desperate?)

April had some tremendous moments but May feels shaky. Death is all around, a mentor’s divorce caught me by surprise, and there’s a shortage of adult conversation in my life right now. A new book, Ashley’s War, rocked my world and raised a few new regrets, but also inspired me to take ownership of my life. I have mid-year resolutions to write in the coming days.

Forgive me for not making a clean break with the blog. I don’t know who still reads but I need this place to think via my keyboard. Is someone out there walking this crazy road too?

Oh, one more thing: I did my first climbing wall a week and a half ago. I loved it, want to do it again. And I messed up my back further in the process. It’s pretty typical of how life goes these days.

Keep climbing anyway.

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Policy Amok

General NewsFort Hood Shooting Victim Denied Benefits Despite Purple Heart Decision

I read this 24 hrs ago and I still can't wrap my head around it. I can only hope that it's a case of policy-in-progress and not a final decision. What possible logic could support this?

The most recent document cited in the article states, "Nowhere in the act, however, does it offer combat benefits for service members permanently disabled in attacks inspired or motivated by foreign terrorist organizations. Although subsequent legislation and guidance may change, currently, the Board has no authority to award V1/V3 (service related) designation to soldiers disabled during the Fort Hood attack."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we provide full benefits to those injured at the Pentagon on 9/11?

Also from the article: It [2012 statement] went on to state Manning’s injuries were not caused by an “instrumentality of war” because Hasan’s “weapon was a private semi-automatic pistol. The army did not issue this weapons to the soldier.”

757s aren't Army-issued either.

I never thought I'd miss 2002 this much. Can somebody please find a presidential candidate who can fix this mess of a government?

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The problem of the victim-hero

General Newshttp://www.jpost.com/International/IS...lot-390949

A discussion of the reactions to Kayla Mueller's death by the Jerusalem Post recently gave me a bad few hours. Amidst the feel-good commentary we all know, there were also statements amounting to "she got what she deserved" because of her Palestinian sympathies, "cultural marxism" and past activities with a nonviolent group that "interfered with Israeli soldiers." Let's break that down. The blogger in question cites 1) Beliefs 2) Feelings of guilt over blessings, and 3) participation in noviolent protests.

The devaluation of human life due to an individual's beliefs Must. Stop. Now.

The story and the criticisms of Kyla Mueller hit hard, because it so easily could have been me years ago. I saw injustice in the Middle East and I considered working for a similar organization. I said and wrote things which I regret. My peers did the same, and some did go on to do the same kind of things Kayla Mueller did. Their intentions were and are good. Yet the push for cultural understanding often overrode critical thinking. How does one prepare for hearing a mother scream that it's American money that paid for the bombs that leveled her home and left her children as refugees? Where is the balance between compassion and critical thinking when blood spills? It took me years to unpack the realization that guest speakers had lied to us.

I remember hearing that one of our government agencies didn't like it when people learned the language in country, because it often created sympathies for the host country. I thought it was moronic at the time, but now I'm not so sure. My experience with international programs says that counter-American opinions are always rewarded, while opinions which are in line with American politics are punished as narrow and unenlightened. It reminds me of Stockholm Syndrome; one assimilates to avoid a psychological crisis. But foreign affairs ARE a psychological crisis of hard choices for the welfare of a specific group. It is to our shame that we produce so few people who can wisely operate at that level.

Kayla Mueller will remain controversial, as any person who dies for a cause is controversial. I don't ask you to like her. I don't even know if I would have liked her. I don't think I like the person I was in the Middle East years ago. But she could have been your sister or neighbor or classmate. She was a victim of terrorism and of human frailty.

We preserve our humanity with our recognition of others', regardless of their fate.