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Thursday, December 25 2014 @ 07:44 PM PST

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So this is Christmas (Eve)

General NewsI've written before about spending Christmas in foreign lands, about the meaning of Christmas, and of course remembering those who can't be home for Christmas.

Today, though, has the ache of death nearby. I'm grieving my own losses, and wishing I knew a way to send flowers to a particular Gold Star mom. Moreover, my last remaining grandparent is in the hospital, and while treatment is progressing well, the concept of "borrowed time" is quite apparent.

So this ain't Pinterest.

This is more like the cold, painful, frightening journey to Bethlehem.

Christmas is faith that God shows up.
Christmas means that death may surround us but it doesn't defeat us.
And the only truly empty hands are the ones that are clenched too tight to allow anything or anyone in.

Christmas says that everyone on the naughty list gets the most extraordinary gift known: God with us.
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Friday Scramble

General NewsWar Clouds on the Horizon?

The Irish Slaves: What They Will Never Tell You in History

The Scientific Evidence Against Spanking, Timeouts and Sleep Training (The core science is quite interesting, although I'm not sure about how they're applying it. But a good, mind-bending read.)

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A Grateful Nation, a Grateful Family

General NewsWe buried my grandfather yesterday.

We buried my grandmother at the same national cemetery years ago, but that was different. I was running late that day, so I barely spoke to the staffers, and since she was "just" a spouse there of course were no military honors. But yesterday is forever etched in my memory, not only for our own loss, but because of walking the same path as the Gold Star families.

The VA administration is profoundly screwed up, but the people working at the national cemetery were wonderful. When we arrived we discovered that multiple issues had been mishandled by the funeral home. On a half hour's notice, they got 3 National Guardsmen and 6 VFW Marines to perform full military honors, including a bugler and rifle volley. Words cannot convey the depths of my gratitude that we could give my grandfather his proper sendoff.

Yet it was also a stark reminder of the road other families must walk. We knew my grandfather's death was coming. But how does someone stumble through it all when the death is a shock? How do you keep the scream from bursting out of your chest when the last salute is fired?

I've been to a lot of funerals. The worst ones are the structureless ones, where the people present are left to the sum of their emotions. Grief needs structure. It needs familiar words and days off work and black clothes to tell the world to back off. My family hasn't been able to take time away from other responsibilities, and that has taken a terrible toll over the last two weeks. But at the cemetery they reminded us to silence our phones, effectively shutting out the rest of the world for a time. It was a time for honor, a time for grief. We shut out the world but connected with the unique brotherhood of all who grieve there.

The gift of the national cemeteries is the reminder that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and our immediate families. Every time I visit, I enter in grief but leave in gratitude.

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Ferguson

General NewsThere are times when I understand why certain governments control their media. I would love to squelch ours right now. I would love it if no news story included information on race. It's not that I don't think that racism is a problem still. I don't often see it in front of me, but I'm a white gal in a liberal northern state. Yet what I hear from my "non-white" friends tells me that there's more work to be done.

But trial-by-media does nothing but fan the flames of hatred on all sides.

What I've read of the grand jury transcripts is a far cry from the street narrative. Here we see two critical issues: 1) The media's disregard for truth in their pursuit of sensation, and 2) people's belief in the media above the judicial system.

It's hard to do anything about either issue when whites and blacks still harbor suspicion about each other.

I have a friend, a middle-aged black writer, who has done a great job of sharing her experiences without lapsing into hatred. I've written before about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the issues that arise when an entire community has been scarred by mistreatment, and I believe that there are parallels. Yes, "reverse racism" is a problem. My friend admits it. But affirmative action won't fix this. More legislation won't fix this. It is a social problem and it needs a social solution.

It needs invitations to coffee.
It needs doors held open.
It needs less edginess and more laughter in the checkout line.

There are different cultures and different struggles, and deep resentments on both sides. Much will not be understood without active engagement. We've lost the ability to draw out the opposing side; we're so busy proclaiming that we're right that we don't bother to find out why someone thinks we're wrong. There's no harm in asking, "Why don't you trust the police? Why don't you trust the judicial system?" The answers might surprise you. I have a personal reason to distrust the judicial system, but I don't let it end there because I recognize it is the best of the options. We need to encourage each other to work for solutions rather than just complain about other people's behavior.

Blame begets hatred. Compassion paired with clear thinking stops the cycle.

Here's the thing: I posted "Pray for Ferguson" on my Facebook wall and did not get a single "like." I have both liberal and conservative friends on FB. What is wrong with us if we cannot even agree to pray for a place that is getting sucked into hatred and violence?

You might start by looking someone of the other "color" in the eye and saying hello.
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Beware of false hit men!

General NewsThis is nasty business. On the other hand, I'm tempted to say that no reputable hit man would operate this way... ;)

Authorities Warn of Hit Man Email Scam

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Another Goodbye

General NewsOne of my grandfathers died this weekend.

We'd been expecting it for a long time, and it's pretty amazing that he held on as long as he did. Knowing his service record in the USMC, though, it wasn't a surprise that he held on for a few extra years.

It makes the "if onlys" a bit harder. We weren't close, but it still feels like the rug got pulled out from under me. He was part of my foundation, a key piece of who I am, and that piece is part grit and part too-hard shell. I broke through that shell with him once, and he told me about the blood sloshing around on the floor of the hospital ship.I hope that in that moment, he knew that he was heard. I could love and accept and be proud of the warrior he had once been. But he kept those memories locked down most of the time, maybe to protect us, maybe because he just couldn't bear to relive them.

A good friend of mine recently made an offhand comment about me not being a very affectionate person. It wasn't a criticism; she was just making an observation while discussing an issue. It surprised and stung me a bit, because I don't think of myself that way. But I realized that my deepest feelings do get buried. Thus I'm more like my grandfather than I realized.

Did my grandfather love me? The more I think about it, the more I believe that he did. But we primarily knew each other's walls, not the things inside. I wish we had given each other more of a chance to be real; I think it would have turned out well.

If you love someone, no matter how imperfectly, don't let them doubt it. Hug them a few seconds longer, send a two line email just because, give them grace when they screw up. Someday one or both of you will have to say goodbye.
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Veterans Day 2014

General NewsOne of my closest friends is a newly-minted sergeant. She's no glory hound; in fact, I remember her commenting about her trip home from Afghanistan and how problematic it was when people wanted to talk about her service all the time when she just wanted to get a nap before coming home. So it surprised me yesterday when she remarked about going into a particular store while in uniform, and no one there made the slightest acknowledgment of her service. I know the store in question. It's a hotbed of liberalism, so I wasn't really surprised. Just...sad. She's an amazing woman who has truly found her niche. But liberals probably see her skin color and the uniform and pity her at best. I almost wish someone had actually said what they were thinking; they might have learned their lesson.

Long ago, I thought only the old guys were the veterans. But then after Desert Storm, it was the dads, the uncles, the older cousins. Then it was the brothers, the classmates, the husbands... Now, fellow moms are veterans, and the older kids are enlisting.

I cannot imagine how not knowing any veterans would feel. No wonder liberals want to legislate the heck out of everything; their world must feel totally insecure. To know a veteran is to know sacrifice and honor and backbone. We understand it to varying degrees, but the collective character of veterans is a gift to our country that extends far beyond time in service.

So, to my family, friends, and those veterans I don't know by name: Thank you. You protect our freedoms, you keep our enemies at bay, and your character makes this a better country. We are truly blessed to have you.
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November Challenge

General NewsMen get Movember. I'm doing the 30 day push up/sit up challenge with some friends. Pushups have always been my nemesis, so I wasn't sure if I could do this. I started out easy, doing mostly modified pushups and then trying to work in a couple standard ones. Learning proper form made standard pushups possible, and one week into the process, I'm now doing ALL standard.

I'm so grateful to my friends for pulling me into this and to my heroes for keeping me inspired to keep building on this foundation. Starting every day with an accomplishment like this...awesome. Burning stress, taking 5 minutes to do something good for myself...this could get addictive.

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Hey, look, the blog is back online!

General NewsI'm still not sure of what happened with my hosting service these last few months, but thankfully it is sorted out and the old posts are back, so I might dare to write a new one or two someday.

Life has changed. The Great Move has been accomplished, although we still have crazy amounts of boxes to still unpack. We love our new house and moving back to an old haunt feels right. But it has been more than ten years since I've had any kind of residence here, so it's an odd experience. We're planning to stay for at least five years. Still, I wonder if I'm jinxing myself by throwing away the boxes and the bubble wrap.

Politics... I'm fed up and and yesterday's election showed that most of the country is fed up too. We'll see if the new government can do any better.

I'll do some mass postings of Wednesday Hero to catch up and then I'll try to work through all the things I flagged for attention these last couple months. Thanks for sticking around.
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A word of explanation

General NewsI don't want to waste your time with ongoing apologies in lieu of posts, but I feel a brief explanation is in order.

I have a 2 year old. We're selling our current house. We're buying a new one in another town. There's also a possible job change in the works.

And for the moment, it's next to impossible for me to give the critical issues of our world the deep attention they require. I'm reading what I can, but I don't feel ready to write about them yet. But I intend to revive this blog just as soon as I can. Thanks for sticking with me.