Welcome to The WatchCat
Tuesday, July 28 2015 @ 10:41 AM PDT

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Rebuild

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.


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World building

General NewsLast night was a short night, with long conversations about the future that lingered long past the final goodnight.
Today I woke up to the news of the shooting rampage in Paris.

I'm not eighteen or twenty five or even thirty any more. I'm a wife and mom with a smattering of health issues and I can't just hop on a plane to apply at INTERPOL or any of the other "usual suspects" that come to mind when there's an insidious enemy to fight.

Many of you who have been on this blogging journey with me through the years are facing similar changes. Both abilities and priorities shift, but these terror attacks bring a sting of the old callings.

Now what?

Now, we build. Our fight is not in destroying what is evil, but in strengthening what is good. Our mission is promoting health and creating beauty and raising the next generation of builders. We are made in the image of God and as such, we are meant to create new things.

We will build faster and stronger than our enemies can destroy.
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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.