Thursday, December 30, 2010

Alex Is Famous!

Yesterday I posted photos on Facebook of my cat Alex standing on the roof, meowing at me that I should catch him if he jumped. I declined, but took some photos of him in the meantime.

(It's a favorite game of his, going on eight years now - he gets on the roof via the tree in the back, then stands there meowing about the injustice of it all, that he can't figure out how to get down and how he needs help and all - when he was a lot younger, I'd walk him back to the tree to remind him how he'd gotten there - now, I just tell him he'll have to get down on his own - I'm sure he understands every word! but he does get the gist of things, and sooner or later has solved his dilemma.) (and yes, that's fresh snow on that there roof!)

My friend Cindy - who is running the local newspaper's blog Huckleberries this week - decided to use the photo as her "parting shot." So there is Alex, on top of the roof! She calls the entry "Cat on a cold snowy roof." Funny. And though I do recall mentioning to her that he didn't actually jump, she writes in the entry that he "jumped into Beth's arms, which is better than on her head." Well, that last part is true...

Here's the link:

And here are the two photos - Cindy only used the first in the "parting shot" entry:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I've been organizing a packet of material on the baseball novel I wrote - "Until the End of the Ninth," based on the true story of the 1946 Spokane Indians minor league team that died in a bus crash midway through the season (nine of the 16 men on the bus died) - so I've been going back through old material that I got back when the book first came out, in 2006 - have been reading notes and letters that I received back then - handwritten notes, from wives whose husbands were on that bus, back in 1946 - from nephews whose uncles were...

And I'm remembering how sad this story can make me feel. They were such great men. I say it at book signings, over and over - I sign it into print, as one of my phrases when autographing books - I mean it, I do. But just now, re-reading these notes, I'm feeling it again too. It seems almost unfair and unreasonable, to feel agony for untimely deaths of men who today - almost 65 years later - most likely would not still be alive anyway. But I can, and I do. Today will be one of those days when my heart breaks for the rest of the day, thinking about what those men and their families went through back then... Maybe that's the agony part. Knowing what people felt back then. Knowing that the novel brought back those memories for loved ones. Reading about it in letters that they wrote in 2006, telling me that - thanking me for writing the novel, but explaining how it's filled their hearts with sadness, to remember those days from long ago.

Don't know what else to say. Don't know that there really is anything else. Just... it hit me hard today, remembering with the heart.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


"Even a poor tailor is entitled to some happiness."

-Motel to Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof," when Motel is asking Tevye for Tzeitel's hand in marriage and Tevye accuses him of being too poor...

And then Tevye says yes. And Motel sings, "Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles..." I love that song. "David slew Goliath, yeah - that was a miracle..." and manna in the wilderness - a miracle too. But the most miraculous miracle in Motel's eyes? "God has given you to me."

I could use some of my own miracles right now. Little ones, from God's perspective, but really big ones in my own life. Like in the song. Small, for God. But the most amazing of all, for me. Three of them, would be a perfect number. You know who you are (she said to the miracles-in-waiting - all intertwined, as they happen to be, so they know each other too).

There happened to be one - miracle, that is - in the Eagles/Giants game this past Sunday. (Eagles fan here.) They are calling it the "miracle in the new Meadowlands," so amazing it was - and a play on the original "miracle in the Meadowlands" back in 1978 (also a play that went the way of the Eagles). (The Giants just got a new football field this past summer, making it the "new" Meadowlands.)

I keep watching this past Sunday's miracle on youtube - the clock runs down to 0:00 as DeSean Jackson runs a punt back 65 yards for the winning touchdown. Un. Believable. (is what I wrote on Facebook, and how the announcer said it too, turns out). Actually, I kind of like this version best, because it shows how Jackson waves the ball to himself ahead of time - hands to the sky, waving it down to himself, even before the ball is punted. I remember watching the game, so relieved that the Eagles had tied it up, waiting for the clock to run out, for the overtime, seeing DeSean ask for the ball with his hands, and thinking - well, it's nice he has some bravado in him...

And then. Un. Believable.

A lot led up to that 65-yard miracle. The Eagles were down - twice - by 21 points, the second time with only eight minutes left in the entire game. They had to have faith - had to believe in redemption in the same 90-minute period to regain ground sufficiently enough to be able to have a punt return win the game with 0 seconds left on the clock. No need for overtime, that time...

So it was an explosive miracle at the end, yes. But we needed mini miracles along the way for the end moment to make a difference.

Last night was an full moon lunar eclipse as well as the solstice. It was a miracle of coincidences, I suppose. When I went to sleep, I asked for a dream to help me understand where things are going in my life - and how, and when. (Now, please.) And I dreamt - well, a lot of things, but what I remember most vividly ... I was at a church service, and the minister was doing the readings that led up to the sermon - a sermon that I was going to give. It was on miracles. I felt confident - I could speak with authority on this one (is how I felt in the dream). So the minister gave the readings, and I got up to the pulpit (looked more like a podium - the church was more like a rec room, actually) - the audience looked expectantly... And I said, "The thing about miracles is... they come unexpectedly. Think of the last time you had one. And now, remember the day before it happened. You didn't know it would happen, did you? One moment, it didn't exist. The next moment, it did. That is part of the magic of a miracle. Not just that it is one. But that there is the space before it occurs, when you don't know it will occur, when you wonder if it ever can occur, that makes the gift of the miraculous feel just that much more poignant..."

I woke up and thought - I better keep my eyes open for what happens next.

Even a poor tailor is entitled to some happiness.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I'm just back from another week of babysitting nephews - ages 3 and just-5 months. My sister and her husband were taking a just-vacation trip to Paris (lucky! their first actual no-work vacation together, just the two of them, since the 3-year-old was born), so I offered to come babysit again. This time my mom came to help too. It was a godsend, really, to have an extra pair of hands. I'm always so impressed with my bro-in-law - the primary caretaker - when I spend a week in charge of the household that he runs so smoothly. How does he do it?? My forte is not in keeping the house clean, or keeping up on the laundry - but my mom was great at keeping track of all that. At least one of us was good at that.

It's just two months since I babysat the two of them most recently. Last time, there was still some tension for the older one (I thought), in having a new addition to the family. This time though, the tension had dissipated - almost completely, it seemed. Across the country, there are three-year-olds adjusting to new family additions... these tiny miracles of adaptation are taking place in households all around us... it doesn't make it any easier, though, to know that it happens everywhere. So I marveled at the change that I was privileged to witness. These two boys truly have become brothers.

The three-year-old has always said how the baby is cute. "He's so cute!" The older one says periodically throughout the day. As the baby has gotten bigger (and he is big - a little Kahuna, my friend says), he has gotten more like a little person, and the two boys have been able to start interacting. In fact, there is nothing more fascinating to the baby than to watch his brother whirl around the room with his toy cars, or a ball, or whatever. If the baby was fussing, we'd ask the older one to play in front of him. It would calm him right down, so distracted he would be by his fascination with his older brother, reaching out towards him (just out of reach).

At one point, my mom suggested to my older nephew that he stand close to the baby and let the baby touch him. So he bowed his head towards the baby, who grabbed at it - and then grabbed at his ears, got his nose, his eye... not so much that it hurt (or so I imagine). We all laughed. It started a trend that lasted off and on all week. So much fun.

There was no sleep for the weary, as there are still middle-of-the-night feedings. At one point, as I got up at about 2 a.m. in response to the baby's cry, I looked into the bassinet where he was lying. He saw me and smiled, and cooed a little. "It's a good thing you're cute," I told him. (They must make them cute to make sure we'll take good care of them, my mom said at one point.)

One high point for me was watching football with the three-year-old. I explained to him that his hometown team is the Bears, but that he should feel free to root secretly for the Eagles at all times. He may have taken that to heart, because after the Eagles won Sunday night (they beat Dallas - always a nice achievement), he started carrying around a stuffed Eagle toy with him. Every so often he'd show me the toy, and I'd spell out the team name: "E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!" I'd say. He so loves to spell.

I got home late Wednesday night. I miss them already! But I'm glad to be home too, if only so I can sleep the whole night through.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Planning Ahead

I'm headed to Southern California in early January.

My publishing house asked if I would be one of their featured writers at the American Library Association semi-annual meeting in San Diego. (Actually, it's called their "mid-winter meeting.") It was hard to say no, especially since my dad and family live there. So I decided to go. It's the weekend of January 7. I'm hoping the trip also helps me organize some meetings in Los Angeles, both before and after the weekend.

I have a winding story behind the publishing of my baseball novel ("Until the End of the Ninth," which is based on the true story of the 1946 Spokane Indians team that died in a bus crash midway through the season). Initially I had no patience for the publishing world as I wanted the manuscript in print by the 60th anniversary of the bus crash. So I self-published with Authorhouse. They were great. They always have been great, actually.

Then the next year, the book got picked up by Rooftop Publishing - a new, private publishing company that had some connections to Authorhouse but operated independently. They too were great. Really great. Example: when I was doing a book tour in the summer of 2007, and was on my way to Wisconsin and Minnesota, the bridge in Minneapolis gave way. Overnight, I decided I wanted to donate all of my own proceeds during the WI/MN leg of the trip to the victims and victim families of the bridge collapse. It was the only thing that felt right. I told Kevin King, my publisher. He immediately said that Rooftop would donate the publishing cost as well. In the end, the teams where I had book signings (Eau Claire Express, Duluth Huskies - even the Minnesota Twins) all agreed that any of their proceeds also should be donated. I felt lucky to have teamed up (so to speak) with Rooftop.

Then the company went the way of 2008 and 2009. It no longer is in business. I am now back to Authorhouse.

I have thought about finding another publisher. But the book is already out there - it's really easy to get a copy off the Internet - and my next goal really is to adapt it to film, so I've just left it as is, with Authorhouse and the first edition.

So it is Authorhouse's booth where my book will be featured - in the sports/literature section (or so they tell me). I figure I will be there all day on the Saturday of the conference. I may try to be there on Sunday as well - but definitely I'll be there all day Saturday. It just feels right, to make the trip. We'll see how things go.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Terry Corrigan

I cannot believe that I am writing yet another entry about yet another special person who has passed away.

Terry Corrigan was 75 when he passed away, in a freak accident in his own driveway just a few short weeks ago. He and his wife Ann were two of the most precious people I have ever met. My heart breaks at the thought of them separated, especially under such tragic circumstances.

I almost didn't hear about his passing. I happened to read about it in the newspaper, as I was flying to my grandmother's funeral and running out of reading material... so I turned to the back of the newspaper I had brought, and started reading obituaries... and I saw Terry's face and thought no - oh no...

I wonder at how Terry's passing affects me so. Unlike other people close to me who have died this year, I did not know Terry well. Although - somehow, that doesn't feel exactly true. I did not see Terry often, is a better way of phrasing it. Because somehow, I feel like I did get a chance to know the essence of Terry, in spite of our relatively sporadic interactions over the years that I knew him.

I wish I could say I met Terry under joyful circumstances. Instead, I am honored to say that I met him under important ones - that I had the privilege of witnessing, first hand, Terry's quiet, determined integrity to do the right thing, always. He was that rare kind of person who steps forward when others stand back. He and Ann stood together that way.

I know this because I met Terry through the Catholic church - or, should I say, through the people who were trying to keep the Church accountable for all it had done, and hid, when protecting pedophile priests from prosecution and consequences these past many years. Back about six years ago now, I felt that I should actively support those abused by priests in Spokane. So I started attending meetings with SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests) and VOTF (Voice of the Faithful). At these meetings, I met Terry and Ann - heard from them about their son Tim, who committed suicide on August 29, 2002, the day an article was published about his abuser, then-priest Patrick O'Donnell. Over time, as I got to know them, I saw how they listened quietly to people's stories, felt the pain in their hearts, did what they could to lessen it. Sometimes - often - just their willingness to act as witness was what made the difference. They knew they couldn't bring their son back to life - they never even knew, before he died, that he'd been abused - but that didn't stop them from reaching out to others. I think now of how important it was, what they did back then... especially then, when emotions in this town ran dangerously high, when abuse victims stepped forward almost daily, saying, "He did that to me too..."

I know that Terry and Ann were public about their fight for justice - articles were written in the Spokesman Review and the Seattle Times - and I know that the steps they made to take on a church that they loved were some of most courageous steps that any person may ever take. "If you ever did an autopsy on us, you'd find Catholic in our bones," Terry told the Seattle Times back in 2004. My gosh, they chose to live right next door to their parish so their kids would have access to the church at all times. They kept a passel of cards in the basement, and sent two cards a year to every priest in the Diocese - one on his birthday and one on his ordination anniversary.

But there is a difference between right and wrong - and Terry and Ann knew it. They left the Church over it. "The crisis in the church is not the scandal," Terry told the Spokesman once. "It’s the hierarchy’s abuse of power. It’s the cover-up." And: "Some day I may be able to forgive O'Donnell [the abuser priest]. But I don't know if I can ever forgive those involved in the cover-up."

For all that bravery, what I remember best about Terry, and Ann right next to him, is watching them listen to people's personal stories in these meetings, and nod their heads - watching them act as true support for people who may not have had anyone else. I wonder how many victims the Corrigans comforted just by giving them support when their own parents didn't. It's like they were surrogate parents to all who came - quietly, but firmly, in their corners. For the Corrigans to be that way, when grieving the loss of their own son... what heroes they were.

I have flashes of other memories... like the time Terry came to my office and we drafted a letter together for the Voice of the Faithful to distribute to all the parishes and finance committees, about how the Diocese was hemorrhaging money because of all their attorney costs (one additional step to distract and delay getting to the root of everything). (We had little luck with that letter - from what we heard, the Diocese told the parishes to refuse to speak to us. And virtually all of them obeyed.)

I remember too, when we were at a vigil once, Ann talking about their grief in the aftermath of Tim's death. She told us that out of all the priests in the Diocese - all 150 or so, who got two cards a year from the Corrigans - only seven sent condolences. Seven. I can see her in my mind's eye, telling us this story, and then how she went down to the basement one day looking for Terry, and there he was, sitting at the desk, tears streaming down his face, trying to fill out the next batch of cards. Ann gently put her arms around him and said, "You know we can't do this anymore." And Terry said, "I know." A silver lining around that black cloud was that two Catholic friends came over within a half hour, took over responsibility for the cards, and took them from the house.

I remember one time, at one of our meetings, Terry sharing with the group how he went to Tim's grave - on the anniversary of his death - with purpose and ritual - how he told us of the mementos he brought, special to his relationship with Tim (they shared a love for the outdoors) - how he had finally reached a point where he was able to do that sort of personal ceremony. I was really happy for Terry that day, hearing him talk about what he had done, and what it had meant to him.

And I remember a few years ago, how the Corrigans so graciously bought a copy of my baseball novel - based on the true story of the 1946 Spokane Indians team that died in a bus crash midway through the season - and how they told me later how they read the book aloud to each other - how they had to hand it back and forth numerous times because one person couldn't read it very long before getting choked up. I cannot tell you adequately how touched I was by that story. I think now of how, in that book, I worked so hard to find a silver lining to that dark cloud, of those baseball men dying. And maybe I succeeded. But today, thinking of the unexpected, tragic loss of Terry to the lives of his family and friends, I don't know that I can be so optimistic. The best I can do is hope for the best.

Here is a story written in the local newspaper about Terry after he died (likely not accessible to non-subscription holders, sorry): The article's first line is: "Did Spokane just lose its greatest man?"

One thing that struck me, at his memorial service a couple weeks ago: Terry touched so many lives. I knew about the world in which I met him, how helpful he was. But from his business, and through friends and family, everyone remembered this quiet man of integrity. It was a way of life with him, to be like that. Our lives were richer because Terry was a part of them.

And then the other morning, it was the first true snowfall of the season. That first snowfall is beautiful, really - when the earth turns white. The world slows down. People smile and wave as they navigate the streets. There is a charity in the air that is less present on other mornings. The sweetness of that morning made me think of Terry, how much he would have enjoyed it all. I miss him.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Won!

Well, I think I won...

So Monday morning I was watching "Morning Joe" (awake too early again!!) and saw Kerry Kennedy on the show, talking about the RFK Center's fundraiser auction. The auction people had extended the bidding deadline, they're raising money for a good cause, etc. So I decided to check it out on line. And saw, lo and behold, an entry to bid on the chance of talking to a screenwriter about screenwriting - Jeff Van Wie, who wrote "Love Song" with Nicholas Sparks. It isn't a movie I've seen - but I do think of my work as having similar heart quality to Mr. Sparks' work...

So I thought well, I'll bid on that.

But then the day got away from me - yesterday did, too - and suddenly there I was, this a.m., in between phone calls (I'm currently doing my "shark" imitation when it comes to my writing career - you know, keep moving or die), and I thought - oops - I meant to bid on that screenwriter thing...

So I went to look it up on line. Ten minutes left. What?? Ten minutes? Left to bid? For all time?? Yikes! I'm not even registered! I'm typing like a maniac, trying to register and bid all at the same time, pulling out my credit card (now six minutes left)....

I submit a bid. Done! Success.

Wait. What does this mean?

So I go back and read the fine print. It appears that I haven't offered to sell my first born or anything. (Not that I have a first born. Well, there's my cat Annie. But you can't have her!) I refresh the page... four minutes left. I'm still the highest bidder. Oh my gosh! I might win!

I "refresh" the page again. I'm still the highest bidder. Refresh. Still the highest.

I start pacing around my living room. Am I going to win? (Never put a lawyer in direct competition with anything where the goal is simply to win.) I refresh again. One minute left. I pace. I refresh. How can there be zero minutes left, and no result???

And then - it's done. Closed! I've won! I've won, right? I check the listing. There's no winner listed. So, we go for ten minutes listing in detail all the bidders, all the bids, but once the bidding's closed, there's no indication of anything?

I think about posting an entry on the blog, saying I've won. But - well, have I?

Then I get an email - I've won! They say I won! "Unless there's a live auction at a later date..." Wait. Huh? What? Have I won or not?

I pace a little more. It's pretty funny, actually. Here I am, vested within moments in something that I've just done ten minutes earlier. I love the synchronicity of it - think that Jeff will enjoy the story once we sit down and talk... "had I waited ten more minutes..." That's assuming that I've won, of course, and that we end up talking.

Wait. I do get to talk to him, right? I go back to the auction entry. "Learn from Jeff Van Wie the ins and outs of screenwriting." What, is he going to write me a letter? (And shouldn't a lawyer read the fine print before committing money to an auction bid?) (But I had only ten minutes, I tell you! There was no time!!).

So I go back to the original entry. It says that he arranges a conference call with the winner. Okay. Whew. So we will talk. Because I have questions - lots of questions. I feel simpatico with him again - both of us coming at the profession as a second career (which is Jeff's story on IMDB, though he's younger than me and already established)...

But when do I find out if I've won? I am thinking and wondering when...

Voila! In my in-box arrives an email. "Winning Bid Invoice" reads the topic.

Wow. So I did win, after all. That was an exciting half hour or so. Can't wait for the phone call.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Snow

We've had a week of it now. Almost a week. It'll be a week tomorrow. And there are no underachievers here. According to weather reports, this series of snowfalls is angling to add up to the most accumulated snowfall in November in Spokane. We are at 20 inches. The record is about 24 inches. And there are three days left in the month.

It isn't two years ago - when we had crazy snowfall in 36 hours. But it's steady.

Somehow though, I don't mind it. It's actually kind of nice. Maybe I like it because it happened to accumulate on a Thanksgiving weekend when I had no travel plans. So all the world's quiet fits neatly in with a weekend intended for peace. That must be it. Also, the snow isn't too heavy to shovel. (Having lived here too many years now, I have finally learned the difference between wet and dry snow.) I even bought some insta-logs for the fireplace earlier in the week, and have had a couple fires to warm up the house while snow has fallen outside. Very Norman Rockwell of me. Or Crazy Cat Lady. You pick.

On Wednesday (or was that Tuesday?), it was so cold that it was miserable. It hardly reached the single digits. But that lasted only a day. Perhaps that's another reason I'm enjoying the weather now. It's a balmy 20 degrees outside right now.

Or maybe I've enjoyed the snow because I've been hosting archangels. Suffice to say they are fun to have around. And without going into details, the dreams this time around have been a sort of "This Is Your Life" review. So it's been interesting.

Thanksgiving was very sweet. I went with friends to their parents' home. It was great turkey, and lots of cheer. I made a carrot raisin salad - had to borrow my friend's salad shooter after learning that using my chopper/grinder would not be wise... yes, I had not known that until my sister told me ... (in amongst her laughter, ha ha ha ha ha). At the dinner, we debated whether a cold salad was "cooking." The cooks in the room said no. I, on the other hand, said that it was. It certainly was a lot more cooking than I normally do!

After dinner, we went back to my friends' home to hang out a bit. Finally it was time for me to go home. I said my good nights, and walked down the driveway to my car, parked at the side of the road. I must have been watching my step, because I was almost to my car before I looked up and saw him - a young buck, antlers shining in the moonlight. He was standing in the middle of their snowy road, watching me walk towards my car, and towards him. I gasped. He took my breath away. And then he nodded - didn't he? - as he casually loped to the woods there, on the other side of the road. I heard a rustling and realized he wasn't alone. I never did see who was there with him. I guess it was Thanksgiving Day for us all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Angel Invitation

Well, I decided to host the archangels a third time. Seemed like a nice, balanced number. Three visits from five archangels when, after each visit, I "send" them to three friends. Three time's a charm. Something like that.

And when I say "host," that means host them in a fairly ethereal sense. It isn't as though they eat a lot. Or make a mess. Or knock things over. There's no statue that gets mailed to symbolize that they've arrived. It all plays out in the mind's eye - simply, but powerfully.

I do think this is the final formal visit for me. (Of course, they're always welcomed at any time!)

So far, it's been really great - again. It all will evolve as the days progress.

With the past two visits, I've written about them after it's over (here and here). This time, however, I'm writing about it while in progress. This is because I'm including in this entry an invitation to anyone who has wanted to host the angels but either didn't, or couldn't, for whatever reason, ask me if I would include them in the next round.

So here's the invitation: if you are interested in hosting the archangels from December 1 to December 6, you can. You don't even have to email me to let me know (though you can, if you want).

All you need to do is think it (or say it aloud) no later than this coming Friday by 10:30 p.m., that you want to host the archangels, and they will appear on your doorstep at 10:30 p.m. on December 1.

Normally what has happened is that, when they leave my house after five days (always at 10:30 p.m.), I have given them the names and addresses of three people who have agreed to host them next. And I could do the exact same thing this time. But it feels like there is something more that can be done here.

So this time, when I give them the names and addresses of three people, the third "person" will be all the people who have said (aloud, or in their minds) that they want to host the angels after me on December 1 - with the address known by the angels themselves.

I figure - hey, angels know. Don't they know? They don't really need a zip code, do they? Also, I figure that if my third "person" is a multitude - well, that doesn't matter either. Really, a big part of this archangel hosting is that we ask. We invite. Angels can be everywhere, always - if they are invited.

So that's my experiment. And my invitation. That you agree to host these five archangels for five days. Tell me, or don't tell me. But be sure and tell them between now and Friday at 10:30 p.m., so they know that you are one of the households included in my "everyone who's said they want you to come visit on December 1" statement on this coming Friday night.

This is how it works. There are five archangels - Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael, and Metatron (who apparently was first mentioned in early Jewish writings, as well as the Talmud - protector of children, is what I've gathered). They arrive at 10:30 at night on the designated day. They stay for five days, which are counted according to 24-hour periods (five overnights total). You get three wishes - one for the world, one for your family, and one for yourself. Write them down. Get a candle that stays lit while the angels visit. (I've used a battery-operated candle for when I'm out of the house, so that there is no danger of fire while I'm gone.) Also, get a white flower and an apple. (You'll eat the apple after the visit's over.) Put the written-down wishes under the apple. Right before the angels arrive (at 10:30 p.m. - time zone unimportant - on December 1), light the candle and then open your front door at 10:30 p.m. and let them in - they've arrived!

Thank them for coming - thank them (in advance) for granting your wishes - and then, the next five days... see what develops. You may want to sit with them and talk. You may want to invite them along for your daily events. You may want to journal, perhaps in a free association way, and see what comes up. They seem to get most active at night - when all else is quiet - so anticipate interesting dreams and/or waking up in the middle of the night, restless.

Expect little miracles - or big ones, I suppose. Mostly, expect the unexpected. Be aware of things beyond the daily routine. By staying alert, you will see more, I believe.

If you want, you can line up additional people to host the archangels after you're done. The angels "rest" for five days between visits (again counted as 24-hour periods), so that the next hosting period is December 11-16 (and so on). But it isn't mandatory to line up additional hosts. It's just nice. (Imagine all the households hosting angels around the country, and the world, because of this additional piece.)

Actually, I imagine that all parts of the process are optional - the candle, the apple, even the wishes... I think all the concrete gestures are to solidify for us the process of hosting angels. We have free will - if we want something, we can ask for it - or we can refuse it - up to us each individually... I did have one friend who never wrote down her wishes, used a lamp as the candle, and ate the apple halfway through the angel visit because she was hungry! So - totally up to the individual, how to interact with these heavenly hosts. (Oh, how interesting - we are "hosting" these heavenly "hosts". I never noticed that until just now.)

At the end: At 10:30 p.m. on the fifth full day (in your case, December 6), open your front door. It is time for the angels to depart. Be sure to give them any names and addresses you have for them, for the next hosting location(s). After they're gone (for me, it's been the next day), burn the paper with the wishes on it and put the ashes in a stream of water - it's a whole "return to the Earth" sort of thing. You can wash them down your sink if you want - that's a stream of water (though I've been taking the ashes down to the Spokane River). Also, put the flower somewhere that it can biodegrade (I've taken the flowers down to the river as well, and placed them in the bushes there). And eat the apple! It's got nutrients of all sorts, by this point.

One piece (optional, I suppose) is to put the wishes in an envelope. While I've done that, I haven't known what to do with the envelope. Do I burn it with the wishes? I ended up feeding the envelope to our mechanical goat at the river. He is like a vacuum - you push a button off to the side, and he sucks in whatever trash you "feed" him via that vacuum. Here's a photo of our goat:

So, hope you take up the invitation. If you do invite the angels for December 1 - have fun!

AND - for anyone reading this later than December 2010 - I do think you can create your own invitation cycle - the idea is that we are opening our doors to them by asking them to visit - not necessarily that they are coming from someone else - so why not issue the invitation spontaneously, even if there is no friend currently hosting to send them on to you? It's like inviting an old friend to come visit again. I know friends who have done that very thing. Well, and the angels are always there - as I say above, this is about creating our own consciousness and deliberately inviting them to visit.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I've just returned from Eau Claire, Wisconsin - and more particularly, a town just south of there called Mondovi. Mondovi is where my grandmother lived for her adult life. It is where she passed away last week. We gathered there for her funeral.

At 94, she was my last surviving grandparent - my father's mother, the matriarch of the Bollinger clan. And a clan it is - while my mom's family has just a handful of people, my father's family is expansive. I suppose it didn't hurt that his father was one of 16 children - and that my father and his two brothers had a total of 12 children between them. So going to Eau Claire on Wednesday (where many of my family still live - uncles, aunts, my brother, his wife, kids galore...) was like going to a family reunion. With one caveat. We were missing Grandma.

It was a truly wonderful service at Grandma's church - one of the local Lutheran churches there in Mondovi (yes, there is more than one Lutheran church in this town of just-over 2500). The pastor had named his sermon "A Class Act," and then, as he began, got choked up as he remembered what a special lady Grandma was. Which she was. Always helping where she could - and then, when she really couldn't anymore, living in peace, day to day, allowing life to fade away.

My grandmother always had a kind word about, and for, everyone. She kept track of every family development. Every photograph of every child was on her refrigerator and all around the house. She did not expect divorce, but learned to accept it when one of her children and some of her grandchildren - good people, she knew them to be - had to go through it. She didn't balk when some of her great-grandchildren were Jewish due to her granddaughters' marriage to Jewish men - she just wanted to learn how to pronounce "batmitzvah" when the great-grandkids turned 13. Perhaps that was a shining glory of hers - to accept people as they were, and work from there.

My last visit with her was just in October. I was in Chicago helping my sis and her husband with their two boys, and I took a day to drive up to Mondovi and hang out with her. She had been living in a group home - had moved from that lovely home on the hill where she had lived ever since I could remember - and in recent months had moved into a room that allowed for more caretaking. It still wasn't a nursing home - but she was getting close to that.

I guess that day that I visited was one of her last "good days." She couldn't really say a lot. But still she had comments to make. When I told her I was having hot flashes, she said, "Get used to it." (Thanks, Grandma. I was looking for a little sympathy!) When I told her how much my sister's new baby - her most recent great-grandchild - weighed, she said, "At birth? Big baby." That was Grandma. Even with her fading memory, she was interested in knowing those kinds of details. As the day went along, she was able to say less, so I just kept her company and said things as I thought of them. When I told her how much I liked that photograph of her and my grandfather together (he passed away in 1987), and what a great person he had been, she seemed quite moved. I didn't want to make her cry - but look at all they had built - the foundation for entire generations. So I told her that too. And thanked her for it.

There was no rush to death for my grandmother. It was a gentle passing, over time. At the church service, the song verses that choked me up the most were the ones that talked about being in heaven. For that is where my grandmother would be. Instantaneously, or so I feel. The minister based his sermon on Revelation 2:10: "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." That was my grandmother. She will rest in peace, I know.

We had a dinner later, after the funeral. We told stories - about her wonderful cooking, and graham cracker pie (need I say more?) , about the featherbed in the basement and the comic books there - about how she always stuck up for people, gently but firmly. I thought about how, when the pastor spoke of her myriad children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, he did not know that, early that morning of the funeral, her great-great-grandchild had been born (to my nephew and his fiancee). One more member to add to the clan.

So life will go on, even as Grandma departs from this world. She leaves behind a wake of tears, a never-ending supply of beautiful memories, and a lasting legacy of goodness.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Angel Central Station

Well, I just had the angels for a second time. I'm really enjoying these visits.

As I described a couple weeks ago, a friend of mine had asked if I wanted to host five archangels and I had said yes. It was a phenomenal experience (not using that term lightly), and I was sad to see them go. Well, sad but also a little happy. It had been an intense time and I needed rest!

Here's the story: if you want, you host five angels for five days, and then you send them on to three friends. They rest for five days in between. They "arrive" and "depart" at 10:30 p.m. (via the mind's eye). You get three wishes - one for the world, one for your family, and one for yourself - and you hang out with them, however you choose to do that. Often you wake up in the middle of the night with dreams. Or you can choose to journal about the experience. Or - whatever. And then the possibility of miracles surround you. And because you've asked... well, you know that saying. "Ask and ye shall receive." I think the whole visit is structured around that principle. That we need to learn to ask.

There's something tangible for me in having the experience right now - as though they can help facilitate my life's current transitions. So I decided to bring the angels back for a second round, and had one of my friends (who had received them from me) send them back to me.

The first visit - wow. This second visit... a little more unsettling. It is as though the first visit was for fun and laughs, and the second visit was for building strong foundation. Also, in the first visit, my "wishes" had been a little open-ended. Generalized. This second time - and at the suggestion of a friend - I was more specific. So I think the wishes up-ended systems a little more than the first set of wishes did. Well, and my wish for my family this time - it was that they each have the courage to take the next step(s), whatever the step(s) may be. And I decided that my "family" included not just my blood relatives but anyone who is part of my larger clan - those people who are family to me, even if we don't share DNA. So if you see me that way, or if you think that I see you in that light... sorry. I probably should have warned you! That feeling you've had, all last week, like there's a pebble in your shoe that refuses to leave you alone? It may have been my wish for you that generated that feeling. Again - sorry! If it makes you feel any better, the wish for my family boomeranged back to me. So I had that pebble feeling, too. All week long. Oh, and - because they are archangels, the wishes are always taken in the brightest and best light. So it's all good. Even if you felt the pebble.

The other part of this experience that is extraordinary is the process of finding others to host the angels in their homes. While optional, it is a nice part of the ritual. The first time, I needed only to find three hosts. And I did. One of my three hesitated, as she didn't think she would be able to find three people to host them after her. I told her not to worry about that - my gosh, she should host the angels anyway! - and that I would help her locate hosts. Then my other two friends called me. They couldn't find hosts either! They both were shocked. I told them both I'd help them locate people.

Nine hosts later....

And then this past week - I've helped locate another 10 or so, either for now or in the near future. It's been interesting, to see when people say yes and when they say no. I support whatever choice. Though I don't fully understand why anyone wouldn't want them at their home. And then some people have decided not to send them on. Which is fine, too.

It's been interesting to watch the choices that people make, and hear about the experiences they are having. Several of my friends have spoken about the perfect timing of getting them when they did. Others have felt a nice warmth and calmness without a lot of fanfare. One friend lost five pounds, inexplicably (and it had been part of her wish too). One friend told the angels not to wake her up in the middle of the night, and they didn't. As she put it, they were excellent guests. One of my friends forgot what night they were coming - so he thinks they "sat" in his car from the point of arrival (10:30 p.m.) until he got up in the morning, realized what day it was, apologized. and confirmed that they were indeed invited to his house for the week. And then they drove around town all day with him! He was thrilled. And then one friend who agreed to take the angels had forgotten to tell her husband that they were coming. Apparently he felt that he should have been consulted first. I mean, don't we always tell others in the household when we are having house guests? This is how I imagine the scene: it's 10 p.m. or so, this past Monday night. My friend is fussing around the kitchen table with a candle, an apple and a white flower (all part of the process), and is humming a little. As she sits down to write out her wishes, her husband says, "What are you doing?" Oh, she says. We're having archangels visit this week. Didn't I mention it? ...

And while this week was a little back and forth for me personally, I did have some cool dreams. And then yesterday, I went to a fashion show (a fundraiser for the domestic violence prevention center in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho), bought a raffle ticket for the big prize (a weekend getaway at a house on a lake, plus all kinds of alcohol and $100 mad money) - just one ticket, mind you - for five dollars - and won. I won the whole thing! I lamented to the organizers, "but I don't have a boyfriend!" and they offered to auction one off for me... ha ha. And then they pointed out that there's so much room in the house that it could be an all-women's weekend getaway anyway. So I'll have to figure out how to use this gift, and when. It's a house on Lake Roosevelt - here's the link to the information -

I figure I have some angels to thank for it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sanity Signs

I watched the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on Saturday, sponsored by Comedy Central, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. It was great. There is a wonderful article in Salon Magazine that captured the essence of the event: And the magazine article had it right - it was goofy at times, odd at times, but overall, quite an event. The Peace Crazy Love Train was especially fun. And Jon Stewart's speech at the end - worth watching. I appreciated this line: "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing." And I loved his reference to traffic that is narrowing to get ready for a tunnel - "you go, then I go, you go, then I go..." and the occasional jerk who drives along the shoulder to take cuts - well, we know he is the exception to the rule - and we certainly don't give him a cable show. Here's the entire speech at the end:

The signs, too, were fun. I saw one: "I believe in Sanity Claus." There was another that had a smiley face with a Hitler mustache. And then here is a list of others that I like, gathered from various sources:

"Patriotism is using your inside voice."

"Hyperbole is the greatest threat of all time!!!"

"Less rhetoric, more cowbell."

"I want my country back or a pony. One of the two."

"Compromise is sexy."

"It appears we disagree. Would you like some pie?"

"Take a deeeeeeep breath."

"I have a sign."

"I respectfully disagree with your opinions but I still value you as a person."

"I'm mad as hell but I'll probably be fine tomorrow."

"Anyone for Scrabble later?" (apparently this sign generated one of the world's largest scrabble games later that day!)

"Somewhat irritated by extreme outrage"

"Is this the line for Justin Bieber tickets?!?"

"No head stomping"

"OMG! Snakes!" on a "Don’t Tread On Me" flag

Well, I think that's enough. The whole event was a lot of fun. Now, let's get sane.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Michael Smith Settlement

A case settled recently - Michael Smith v. Department of Social and Health Services. It was a case of a child in need of supervision, whose care was given to our state's government, and who ended up in the hands of a convicted pedophile. I wasn't Michael's lawyer - Bill Gilbert and Garth Dano are - but I helped on his case. Ultimately the case settled for $1.925 million (with a value of $2.25 million, since some costs to the state were waived).

It is a heartbreaking case, that the State fought vigorously. It was embarrassing for the State to be so litigious and aggressive in a case about a boy, now man, who was raped repeatedly by his foster dad (and gang raped by that man's friends). Here was a child most at risk, and the State chose - negligently or otherwise - to have him in harm's way. This is the kind of child that we ask our State to protect. And look what it did instead, in our names.

Michael is a brilliant writer - poetry, prose. I see him defining his life according to who he is, regardless of what the State did - or tried to do - to him. It has been a long road for Michael. No one would wish to go through what he went through. For all the tragedies related to child sexual abuse, having those tragedies imposed on a child by the State itself is just horrifying. Good for Michael, that he has survived. Not too many people would have.

Bill Gilbert, Michael's primary lawyer, did stunning work in the morass of this matter. This does not surprise me. Bill is just that way. And beyond money, beyond litigation - Bill got one more thing. An apology. The State will be issuing an apology to Michael Smith, for all that was done. I hope they say, "on behalf of the State and all its citizens..."

Restoring Sanity

This Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m. ET, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are hosting a rally on the Mall in Washington D.C. entitled "Restoring Sanity and/or Fear" (Colbert's preference is "fear").

What a great idea.

The rally is for all of us out here who have opinions but shy away from name-calling and stomping on opponents' heads. (Oh, I'm sorry. I mean "shoulder, which crunch into the head, and might as well have been stomping on the head itself.") Poster slogans will include "I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler."

I am one of the many who gets news from the Daily Show because it is about the only delivery style out there (television, anyway) that is tolerable. That doesn't mean I don't watch "Morning Joe," or sometimes flip on other news shows. And I do like Rachel Maddow - she's smart, and careful with her facts. But I just as often turn the channel than stay with a particular news show, even though I'm tuning in specifically to get headlines from a talking-head perspective. These days, it is just a lot more palatable to get my current events information from the Internet, where I can choose the source - where I can exchange vitriolic spew for even-handed delivery, where I can get the same story from three different viewpoints in an effort to get the full story and not just a part of it.

And then there's the Daily Show. They are - well, just funny. Pithy. And they get to the point of the craziness right away. It's hard not to watch the Daily Show.

So this idea that there are others like me out there - who just want the rhetoric toned down while hearing the news - well, it's so exciting!

And the other very-cool thing: Comedy Central is going to air a live version of the rally for those of us who can't actually make it to the Mall. In Spokane, there's a viewing party at Isabella's (near Main and Division), starting at 9 a.m. I might go.

The Daily Show has been airing in D.C. all week long. It's been really funny, especially for me since I lived in D.C. for years, before coming to Spokane. On Monday, they had their "on-the-street" reporters in various places in D.C. Jason Jones was supposed to be standing out in front of the Supreme Court, but when Jon Stewart caught up with him, he was still fake-driving his car. When Stewart asked him where he was, Jones said, "I'm in a six-lane traffic circle that leads to an underpass! And then that leads to another g-damned traffic circle! I mean this Frenchified city layout makes no f**king sense! How hard is it to lay down a grid!" When Stewart told him that all he needed to do was get to the Supreme Court on Second Street, Jason Jones said, "There are four Second streets! They don't even intersect! And the columns — everywhere! The indistinguishable columns. This town is simultaneously magnificent and useless. It's like they designed the whole thing as a metaphor."

This is very funny, especially if you have spent any time in D.C., because it all is true. Metaphor included. In fact, the D.C. audience roared. They knew exactly what he meant.

The next night was also very funny. Jason Jones went supposedly to the "legendary Avenue of Lobbyists - K Street" but when the camera panned on him, he was standing in front of what appeared to be a dump. Jon Stewart looked quizzical as he said, "Actually Jason, it looks a little more down-market than I imagined." Jason Jones said how the lobbyists "must be true believers - they're spending all their money on advocacy and not on aesthetics..." Stewart asked him, where are you, exactly? And Jones read the "gang-tagged" street sign as saying "K Street S.E." - which, of course, is gang-torn southeast, not lobby-town northwest. Stewart points this out to Jones, who says, "There's more than one K Street, too? Motherf**ker, I hate this town! It's so broken!"

Then last night - and on a more serious note - President Obama was on the show for the entirety of it. In my opinion, it is absolute-must viewing, regardless of party affiliation. For me, it helped put things in perspective. Take a look:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Getting Better ... ?

I woke up this a.m. thinking it would be impossible for me to still be sick. This will be the tenth day. Say it isn't so! But alas - sigh - here I sit, on the couch, preparing for yet another day of this dastardly cold. My energy level is fine, as long as I don't move. It's the moving that gets in the way. So I feel either really bad, or really bored. Sigh.

Yesterday, as I stretched out on the couch, resigned (by 11 a.m. or so) to another day of yuckiness, my two cats Annie and Alex stayed close and kept me company, in rare peace with each other (usually Alex is plotting Annie's demise). This is the view I had, of the two of them - those are my legs, under the comforter, with Alex stretched out with me and Annie curled up on the sofa pillow. They just hung out with me like that for most of yesterday afternoon. Aren't they sweet? to be my friends like that, when I feel so sick...

Monday, October 25, 2010


Well, I've been sick this past week, with a cold that kept me down but not away from the television (well, maybe it kept me exactly in front of the television, now that I think about it, since I was not really feeling well enough for much else). Am still not 100 percent...

If ever there was a week to be sick, however, it was this past one - with a lot of excellent baseball to watch. In the end, it's the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants that are going on to the World Series.

I was sort of rooting for Philadelphia... no matter. The Yankees lost. And to the Rangers, no less - a competitor with the Mariners, but the major league team with whom the Spokane Indians are affiliated, so - fun.

It's great to watch Ian Kinsler in particular on the Rangers team, as he played here in 2003, which is the year that I started writing the baseball novel that I have ("Until the End of the Ninth," based on the true story of the 1946 Spokane Indians team). I remember watching him play in Spokane that year, and remember that 2003 team fondly. They won the league title that year. It's pretty exciting to imagine that the kid playing Single A ball here in Spokane in 2003 has been able to go on and play in the ACLS, and is part of a team that is going on to play in the World Series. And he's been playing well, too - having clutch hits at just the right time.

Congratulations to both teams. It should be a fun World Series. I can hardly wait for Wednesday.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hosting Angels

I know I haven't written in awhile, but I've been here! It's just been a busy time. I've had a lot of law to do. And then there are the angels, who have been here since Tuesday. I'm hosting them. It's a long story. Well, it's not all that long. A friend of a friend... okay, so already it's getting complicated. Suffice to say I agreed to have five archangels at my house for five days (before they head, in five days, to the houses of three friends of mine who have agreed to host them after me). In exchange, I - well, I get to have them here. And I get three wishes - one for the world, one for my family and one for me. It's been a miraculous time. And I don't use that word lightly. Plus, it's been fun. They're fun, these angels. And very - universal. Big-picture sorts. Well, they're archangels. That's what they do.

They leave tonight at 10:30 p.m. It's been like Alaska in the summer time, when the sun never really sets. You have so much energy that you think you don't really need to sleep. But you do. That's how humans work - we sleep! Perchance to dream. And it's the dreaming that's kept me up at night - and where the universality has really been the most noticeable. I did get three wishes - one for the world, one for my family and one for myself. Each night the dreams would really - educate me about those wishes, and life in general. And while I often dream, this time my dreams would continue throughout the night. If I woke up from a dream three times, I went back to the same dream three times. That part was amazing. The messages have been a bit cryptic - a little buried within the dream. But - well, here's an example. My wish for the world is "compassion." So on the second night, I had three different dreams symbolizing three different circumstances in my life. I came away from those dreams thinking that, if I want compassion for the world, I need to start out with having compassion and forgiveness for the people in my own life. Which I normally do. But I have a couple of places where I don't. And these dreams suggested that, for the world to have compassion, I needed to release all my own sticking points, not just some. The theme emerged: "Think globally, act locally." Or, "Compassion begins in your own back yard." Or, "Compassion begins at home." So I resolved to do that. After all, I want compassion for the world, don't I? So why hold on to grudges? Why not at least see the situation from the other person's point of view - while still maintaining my own? And then I wondered - what if we all did that? Imagine.

Someone asked me if I think the angels have actually been here this week, or if I'm more just using the idea of them symbolically to help get myself focused. It's a good question. And for me, well yes, I believe there are angels here. But I'm also the one who's written about baseball men's souls surviving the aftermath of a bus crash - having time to complete a final ninth inning. I love mysticism in any form. It draws me in. So I think that I would be the kind of person that would choose to imagine that they truly are here. But even if they are here only symbolically... well, that's an opportunity in itself, where my mind can fathom the possibility of miracles because it is in that frame of mind that I can believe in them. So, it's a good question. But it doesn't really matter which answer I choose. However they are here - truly or symbolically - it's been a good time.

The cats have been going crazy. All week long, Alex has wanted to sleep in the house, curled up next to me all night. And Annie keeps laying on the table, next to where I have the candle, white flower, apple and wishes (yes, there were things like that to do!). Just now, Annie jumped from my couch to the top of a built-in bookshelf in one corner, across to the mantle, and then off to the top of the other built-in bookshelf - my favorite corner in the entire house - because she just couldn't help herself. They're big jumps, and she's 15 years old. But she had to get to that beautiful corner of the house - the one with the shot glass that I got one night on our Alaskan cruise in 2007. (Ah - Alaska!) And once she was there, she stretched up and reached high into the corner, as all the talismans around her wobbled from her force. I rushed over and gently picked her up and helped her back down. And then I took a scarf with butterflies on it, that had dropped from the candle table just minutes before, and hung it on the tiny nail that was hidden in the woodwork right above where she had stretched. Apparently the corner needed one more talisman.

UPDATE: I decided to get them a second time. Here's the post on that experience...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Deliver Us From Evil"

I just saw this documentary, "Deliver Us From Evil," directed by Amy Berg. My friend and neighbor Matt told me about it a couple days ago - I thought I had seen it, but the way he described it, I wasn't sure. Yesterday, he came by the house, library dvd in hand. That's how strongly he felt about me watching it. Here it is, Beth. A seven-day rental. Be sure to watch it this week.

It is about the Catholic church - sex abuse in the Church. It was out in 2006. I'd confused it with a book by a similar title.

I've seen a different documentary - a really good one - filmed in Boston. This one, though - based in Los Angeles, about Cardinal Mahoney and abuser Oliver O'Grady - pulls together all the pieces in such a masterful way. The children, their parents, an abuser willing to be interviewed, the hierarchical cover-ups... The lawyers, the expert... All the pieces. I listened to the interviews and could see the spontaneous comments as though part of a script. Sadly, it is a part of a script - a bigger story - the same story, over and over... of valuing appearances over the protection of children, of covering up the cover up... The details in this documentary only emphasize what I've said before - the surprise isn't that the abuse scandal includes behavior by the Pope. The surprise is that people are surprised by that.

It was interesting to see men that I know, in the film. There was John Manly, and the Manly Law Firm from the Los Angeles area, who have co-counseled cases with me. There was Patrick Wall - I love Patrick - who is a former Benedictine monk and an expert in canon law, and who is on staff at John's law firm. And there was Tom Doyle - Father Doyle, a Dominican priest, the whistleblower. A rock star, in this world of SNAP (survivors network of those abused by priests). It was Father Doyle who told the U.S. bishops back in the mid-1980s that they had a crisis on their hands - that they needed to address sexual abuse by priests before it got really out of control. They didn't listen to him. Indeed, they demoted him. And then - nothing, until Boston erupted in 2002...

Most powerful, for me, was Bob Jyono, whose daughter Ann, now an adult, was one of the 100s abused by Oliver O'Grady. Mr. Jyono speaks little through much of the documentary. His wife does much of the talking for them. But then is his description of how he called his daughter Ann to ask her - after O'Grady had been arrested for abusing other children - if O'Grady had ever touched her. She said yes. His face crumples in tears as he remembers, and then it sets deep in defiance as he describes the details of that conversation, and its aftermath. He is a man who converted to the Catholic faith, who was betrayed by his adult choices. At one point, he explains that he asks his daughter why she never told him about the abuse. She says it was because he had always said that he would kill anyone who harmed her - that she remembers asking a friend what would happen if her father killed someone, and the friend saying that he would go to jail forever, and how she resolved right then not to tell anyone about the priest's abuse, because she knew her father would kill the priest if she told. "I was wrong," her father says, to threaten life like that, even in hyperbole. "I feel guilty," he confesses, for having unknowingly erected that barrier to truth. But then he says what we all know - that it is not his fault to want to protect his daughter. It is the fault of the church, for ever exposing his daughter in the first place to this known pedophile.

The creepiest moment comes when Oliver O'Grady, the pedophile priest, speaks of wanting to bring the abused children - now adults - to his home in Ireland so that they all can sit down and talk. I know O'Grady is doing something that he thinks is the right thing to do. But it's just so creepy and controlling the way he goes about doing it, like he wants to hold court one last time. He writes letters to the victims, explaining what he wants from them - wants from them, as though he has any rights here. Had he put the letter in the context of an offer to do whatever the children-now-adults want, including meeting with him (rather than telling them that meeting with him is the solution)...

But the thing is - he's sick. He can't see it any other way. Or so I imagine. (It turns out that, as a child, he himself was abused by priest, as well as by his own brother.) This is why my anger for the abuse suffered by people at the hands of sick priests has almost uniformly been reserved for the hierarchy. The pedophile priests are sick, under a compulsion. It was the hierarchy that knew better, and had the faculties to do better. (This documentary helps demonstrate all that.)

The documentary ends on a discouraging, while simultaneously uplifting, note. (There are silver linings to dark clouds.) Watch it and see. And I love, love the music at the end - "Hallelujah," by Leonard Cohen. In fact, I have been playing Justin Timberlake's version of that song - that he played at the Hope for Haiti Telethon, back in January - as I type this summary. Here's a link to it. The song always makes me cry. This documentary - it has the same effect. Song or no song. The heartbreaking stories, the missteps that led to 100s, 1000s, to be abused.... and those same men, being still in power... with no real consequences to their actions.... as though they lack not just compassion, but the capacity for it...

It makes eminent sense when Mr. Jyono - the father I describe above - says near the end of the film that he does not believe in God. How can anyone go through all that, and not at least wonder? And yet - I wanted to cry with his daughter Ann, as he said it. I too wanted him to have at least some hope, still, that there's a God. To not let those men steal that too.

it's not a cry that you hear at night
it's not somebody who's seen the light
it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

hallelujah, hallelujah
hallelujah, hallelujah

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thomas - I promise!

Well, I'm back. From a week in Chicago, with my two nephews. Ages almost-3 and 3 months. I babysat. For the week. By myself. And the two of them. The little one is not yet, quite, sleeping through the night. And the two-soon-to-be-three-year-old is, as I have said before, in constant motion. The Whirling Dervish. So not only did I have my hands full, but I was functioning on limited sleep. Aunt Beth is very tired!

But it was a blast. The best week ever. (I did sleep the entire weekend though, after I got home on Saturday...)

The baby is such a sweetie pie! And smiling a lot. He is a little colicky, with the afternoons being hardest on his poor baby belly. I felt so bad for him, then. But he's sweet and interactive and very present. He watches his big brother a lot - watches him move around the house, eat meals - all of it. He loves the activity - luckily, since his big brother is always active! From interactive alphabet games on the computer to a posse of balls on the back porch, and everything in between, there is no slowing down the toddler.

We had our ups. We had our downs. Mostly ups - though there was the Penny Incident (as it always shall be known), when the older one wondered if the younger one would like to eat a penny.... Crisis averted (thanks to all humans and angels who might have had a hand in resolving that one...)

It was a little different than usual. Usually, when I babysit, it's been just my older nephew and me. We have bath time and play time - which is like study time, since he loves learning so much - nap time and meal time... Lots of things, all centered on his activities. With the addition of a cooing baby, though, my time was split. This was a new experience for the older one. He seems so aware - in a positive way - of the baby - once spontaneously saying, "He's so cute!" - but he is also, I think, noticing the changes in his life due to the increase in little ones around the house.

Luckily my sister and brother-in-law arranged for me to have help in the afternoons. I decided to use those daily three hours to go on short adventures with my toddler nephew. The first day though, we never could get far from the house because the baby needed extra help... so we played balls outside in the yard. One got lost. (I'm not pointing fingers or anything, but let's just say that I am not the one who kicked it into the wooded area behind the house.)

The next day, I had a plan. We would go to the Learning Experience store, and then the grocery store. The Learning Experience is a great children's store, with hands-on stations for the kids to play. My toddler nephew is in love with Thomas these days. You know - Thomas the Train. And his friends Percy, etc. In the past, we have played with a train track at the Learning Experience, with Thomas Trains everywhere. So as we drove to the store this time, I kept saying, "Let's go play with Thomas... Thomas is waiting for you!" Very exciting.

Until we got to the store. And saw that the Learning Experience had taken down its train track table. Uh oh. "But I promised Thomas," I told the store clerks. "I promised."

They suggested my nephew play with the doll house. Um - I don't know if I mentioned - but I had promised him Thomas. I didn't think he would be distracted from that.

And he wasn't. He just kept wandering around the store, looking hopefully in every corner for the train tracks, and the Thomases that must be sitting there. I couldn't stand it. So I bought him a Thomas. Oh, he was so excited! His very own Thomas! I was hoping that he would use the toy shelves as a train track - play with his new train for awhile, and then we'd go grocery shopping.

He was having none of it. He wanted a train track. He needed a train track!

So we built one. Right there, in the middle of the store. Using train track pieces that were sold there, piece by piece. We built a bridge, and we circled the track to come back under the bridge itself. This is how we started it (that's my hand, keeping the bridge up):

To the store's credit, they did not try to stop me. Under normal circumstances, they might have halted my initiative. But they knew - they knew - I had promised Thomas. And had expected a train track table. They couldn't really say "no," could they?

I told my sister of the event. She remembered that Toys 'R Us had a train track.

The next day, my nephew and I got back in the car during the babysitter hours and drove to Toys 'R Us. This time, he knew. As we drove into the parking lot, he knew. "Thomas!" he said, his face shining with excitement...

And this time, the train track table was still there. Whew! Only now, there were no Thomas Trains. There was one Percy (a green train, Thomas' friend). And a little girl was already using him.

So I bought my second Thomas, in two days.

But you know what? My sweet nephew was in heaven. It was worth the $12, to see him moving Thomas up one hill and down another, playing with that train. He would do this for hours, if he could. And now we had two Thomases, for his train track at home. Nothing like a little train activity to keep a child happy.

And now - if I could just figure out how to help that baby from getting a belly ache in the afternoons... Such a smiling baby, when his belly doesn't hurt. And a brave one, when it does. Beautiful boys, the two of them. Two peas in a pod. I can't wait to see what adventure is in store for us, the next time I'm in town.

photo credit: Ween Nee, found here

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Clinton's Initiative

Bill Clinton's been on the news recently. Just this morning he was on "Morning Joe." (Yes, I'm back to watching Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski - especially when I wake up at 4 a.m.!). He is in the midst of the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual event that he created a few years ago in which he gathers people with money - buy-in - and gets them organized to not only talk about economic problems here and around the world but to propose and then implement plans to fix those problems - or at least improve upon them.

I've seen Clinton now on a couple of news programs - which is nearly a miracle, since I've hardly been able to tolerate the news at all, and so basically have not been watching it. And here's my conclusion: he's good. He's really good. He's clear, he's got practical ideas, and - beyond that - he's working towards implementing those ideas by bringing people together and moving them forward.

One thing this a.m. that was particularly interesting is how he described the "gap." There is what private business does, and there is what government does. Regardless of who you think should do more, there necessarily ends up being a gap between business and government, where things - people - can fall through the cracks. So his Global Initiative targets that gap, with an idea towards implementing experiments on fixing problems that, if successful, can then be adopted and implemented in the future by either government or private business with either government or business taking the risk of failure. As Clinton explained it - if you aren't risking the investment of taxpayers or shareholders, you have a lot more freedom to try innovative things.

What also was fascinating was the relief - felt by Joe (the former Republican congressman who used to fight with Clinton back in the 1990s), by Mika (Joe's co-host, who is always fighting with Joe), and by me - the viewer. Listening to Bill Clinton was like a breath of fresh air - a moment of no fighting, no malicious soundbites - just ideas that answer current-day problems.

Scarborough did say how much everyone listening in today would like Clinton to run for president in 2012 (an impossibility, given our constitutional limitations on presidential terms). And well, it is nice to have Clinton speak of solutions so elegantly. But there's a reason for that, in my opinion, beyond the fact that he is articulate - it is that he is playing the role of Elder Statesman. He is playing it effectively, and he is, as always, really smart. But it's a role. The tone and conversation, from Joe et al, would be completely different if Clinton were currently president. And the games people are playing today would be played on him, if he were president. And the games people did play, back in the 1990s, when he was newly president (in the middle of his first term, when the Dems lost midterm elections...) And it's funny that Joe said how the Obama administration should have been using Clinton before now - given how freaked out the pundits were, back when Hillary Clinton was appointed Secretary of State, by the idea that Bill Clinton might meddle (oh my!). So, you gotta love the pundits for their ADHD qualities, and inability to remember what they said a year ago - or yesterday, for that matter. (Though Joe and Mika are better than most.)

But my gosh, Joe's right. It's great to listen to Clinton now. The morass is less, when he speaks - and when his interviewers allow him to speak with concise solutions, and talking points, from which a true and rich debate is begun. I've seen Clinton on a few interviews these past couple of days, so I know.

But even as Joe laments with our former president the tone of politics today - and even as they discuss the impact the Internet has had, to change how messages get relayed - the ticker tape below the talking heads reads how Bob Woodward's new book "exposes" the White House's internal arguments over how to handle Afghanistan. "Exposes?" Not "discusses?" Doesn't the media yet understand that sensationalizing the headline - even by the use of one editorial word versus one more neutralized one - plays right into the hands of those who would prefer that political tones today be taken to extremes? Thanks Joe, for speaking about the need for moderate tones in politics. Now fix your ticker tape so it doesn't say "expose." It's not more descriptive. It's just more inflammatory.

I do think it says something that I'm turning off television news because of extreme tones. I'm not alone. There's a reason Jon Stewart is having the "Million Moderate March" (officially the "Rally to Restore Sanity") in Washington on October 30. There are a lot of us out here who just can't take the extreme rhetoric anymore. You exhaust us. And that goes for sing-songy tones too, by the way. I'm really tired of being treated like a child, whether it be through extreme rhetoric soundbites or reassuring political voices that take on sweet tones but tell me nothing.

This is why I appreciated President Obama's town hall meeting a couple days ago - he was real and spoke in paragraphs, with lots of information (though I wish he'd spoken more about the things that they are doing in the future). And this is why I appreciated Bill Clinton this a.m. - things are being said that I can chew on, digest, understand, use.

I will say this for Bill Clinton - he energized me. He made me imagine possibilities. He spoke of the trillions of dollars that banks and businesses have on reserve, that they could spend if they chose. He spoke of proposals that the president has on the table - small business incentive programs, technological research tax credits, education and training ideas that would allow us to fill the too-many job openings that require more skills than our workers currently have... He pointed out that all these issues have a liberal and conservative point of view - that both are worth hearing - and that it's time to address them, one by one.

I've been so worried about people in this economy. I've had a dream that, if I did have extra money (some day, I will!), I'd want to hire people to do community improvement jobs - a day's wage for a day's work. I've wondered why we haven't done that, as a nation - gone back to the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps, that gave jobs to unskilled labor to improve national parks, etc., back in the Great Depression. The CCC provided a public service in two ways - it gave people work that had concrete results. The stimulus - for road construction - does that a bit, I suppose. And the grander scale likely touched more people's lives than person-to-job, one person at a time. But there would be a bigger sense of movement, I think - and more people would be employed - if we went to a one-person-one-job model, even if we had to modernize it for today's times, and even if that work was not permanent. And yes, I understand that if you pay unemployment instead, that frees people up to go out and find a job that lasts. But what about self esteem? It's exhausting to worry about having no job. There's got to be a way that the CCC model can be helpful today, as the economy remains in the midst of its own recovery.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Soccer season has begun for the Grand Masters League, of which I am a member. (Grand Masters = Old People...) Our first game was yesterday. We did well. We tied twice - right at the beginning of the game when it was 0-0 (;-)), and then sometime in the second half, when it was 3-3. And while we ultimately lost, we played with heart, and with - well, I can't actually call it "intensity," but with - well, a lot of effort for a bunch of - ahem - Grand Masters.

At one point, one of my players was fighting to get to the ball before it went out of bounds. He came so close... the other team's defender blocked the view of the referee - we only get one, no linesman, very rudimentary - and the ref let the play continue without a whistle for the ball going out of bounds. I had the angle that actually showed the ball go out of bounds - just barely, but it did.

Hence the title of this entry. What is the protocol - proto"call," - in recreational sports for such a situation? For as I watched the play continue and did nothing to interrupt it, I realized that such a protocol exists.

If it had been me chasing the ball, and I had realized the ball had gone out of bounds, I more likely than not would have presumed a whistle from the referee and given the ball over to the other team. This is because: (a) the ref was probably getting ready to blow the whistle anyway; (b) these games are really hard on the ref, because he (or she) can't see every play on the field with just one of their kind; and (c) why generate bad karma?

In this case, however, it was not me chasing the ball - it was my teammate. So I didn't say anything. This is because: (a) my teammate may not have realized the ball went out of bounds, so it wasn't a matter of principle and/or karma; (b) the other team failed to protest the play - other than make a few protest sounds, not enough to get the attention of either my teammate or the ref, so anything I said would just distract from the game, and not add to it; and (c) it simply wasn't my "call" to make.

As I watched the play, and realized what I was doing - and not doing - and the decades of sport experience that went behind my in-the-moment decisions, I realized that I love soccer. I love playing it, I love being with my team, I love hanging out with my team afterwards, at whatever bar we decide to fraternize. It's just a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Speaking of bars...

When I got to where we were going after the game - The "Rock," I think it's called - it used to be "Bottoms Up," but that ownership went out of business - I parked next to a car with a gekko on the side. Yes, it was a Geico business vehicle. I didn't realize people took their business cars to bars. It seemed like an odd sight, right there at The Rock, so I took a photo of it. And sat there, listening the final beats of "Desperately Wanting" blasting on the radio. "I remember running through the wet grass... And falling a step behind.. Both of us never tiring.. Desperately wanting..."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

and the winner is...

The winner of the $150 CSN Stores giveaway contest is...

... drum roll ...

Nancy Miller! From somewhere in these United States!

Almost two weeks ago now, I was asked by CSN Stores, an internet shopping site, to host a $150 giveaway of credit for their store (their money, not mine!). So I did. That contest ended Sunday at midnight. I got entries from all over the United States, and just now had a blind drawing of all the entrants. And Nancy won! Very exciting.

I did ask people to give me feedback about the CSN website and/or to tell me what they might do with the proceeds if they won. It wasn't a requirement, but most people did do just that. I had fun reading all the entries, and learning a little about people's lives, hopes, dreams...

As for what she might buy, Nancy - the winner! - told me, "I would use the GC for the OIA 30" laundry sorter, and the Farberware Classic Stainless Steel 16 quart covered stockpot, two things that would make things a lot easier around here." As for feedback on the site, she said, " I love the variety of things they offer, although there are so many products it takes a while to search there. Thanks for having this generous contest."

It's true. They have a ton of products. And while I hosted the contest, it was CSN Stores that was responsible for the generosity.

I really enjoyed reading a little about how people would use the winnings if they won. There was the couple who recently bought an 80-year-old house, and could use extra cash for an exterior light to the main entrance, and another one for the hallway. There was the soon-to-be mom (is my assumption) who wanted to order an Atlantic Furniture crib. There was another young woman who will be married soon, and probably needs just about everything, but was hoping to buy some luggage for the honeymoon...

People talked about buying CDs, or new sandals, or a Le Crusseut Dutch Oven, or a comforter set (as a birthday present for Mom), or a kid's bookcase, a food mill, new pots from the Circulon line, Abilene cowboy boots, a new office chair, a wall clock...

I wish everyone could have won.

As for CSN Stores, people said things like:

"I love CSN, they ship fast! They always email me back when I have a question and they have been so awesome, with these giveaways they do!"

"This site is extensive. Looking forward to getting back to shopping."

"CSN Stores have so many great items and deals..."

"I like the website. I found something I have been looking for for six weeks, so thanks."

"I have bought quite a few things from CSN already - everything from toys to lights to kitchen items. I love their products and they have great customer service."

"I have lost track of time when I have gotten onto the CSN site before. There is so much to look at."

Some people provided links to their own blogs, which I read and enjoyed immensely. I particularly enjoyed Nicole-Lynn's site (the one who's getting married soon). It was just fun to see all she's doing to get ready for The Big Day.

Thank you, CSN Stores, for giving me the chance to host this giveaway and meet people around the country who I would never have met otherwise. And congratulations Nancy for your win!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Escaping Death

And you think I exaggerate...

The other day - a beautiful day - I was driving to my office from Coeur d'Alene. I pulled into the parking lot, thought about parking towards our building (an old mansion), then changed my mind and decided to park away from it, facing downhill. I swung the car around towards a number of empty spots, and went to park in one place that would have given me space between myself and the next car towards the building, but then - don't know why - I decided to park in the spot next to that car instead. This was just a little weird, since I usually like my space (so to speak). But there it was.

Now normally I'd open the car door and get out of the car with my hands full of whatever stuff I need to cart into my office. Isn't that what we all do? But this time, I decided to call a friend instead - a friend who works in this building too, though I didn't see her car in the lot...

My friend answered (what if she hadn't answered?), and we started talking.

Just then, a black truck barreled past me, backwards, on the driver's side, like someone was driving it in reverse. It rolled over the curb and down the grass, towards the (historic) building in front of me. It crashed into a tree that stood right before the building. It had missed my car by a couple inches.

Turns out, there was no driver - just a bad emergency brake that decided to take that day and give out.

It all happened fast, and slow, all at the same time. I didn't have to jump back into my car, because I hadn't gotten out of it yet. I didn't even have to watch the truck tear off my driver's side door because I had decided to sit in the car with the door closed while I had my phone conversation.

But what if I had parked one spot further away from our building? My car would have been rear ended, maybe even crushed. Or what if my friend hadn't answered her phone, which delayed my getting out of the car for just that extra few moments? Or what if it I had opened the car door and stepped out while I talked to her? As the truck came racing backwards, aimed right at me...

Or what if the tree that the truck hit - which was almost right in front of me - had just toppled forward, crushing my car, with me still in it?

I can't decide if God likes me enough to spare my life, or is yelling at me about something.

Already outside was Chris Wooley, from the upstairs photo studio (Beautiful Photo - it was his dad Larry Wooley who took the photos of my office a few months ago). Chris said it was like watching a movie in slow motion - nothing he could do to stop the impending crash... Right after, he came and took photos of the scene. Here's one that he took:

And, just to give some perspective, these are some photos I took the other day. My car was in the spot where the red car is - the tree that the truck hit is the first one off to the left of the car - as I recall, the truck leaned a little away from me as it went over the curb and into the grass, which is how it got to that tree:

And the truck came backwards towards me from the spot where the maroon vehicle is parked in this photo (that's my little white car next to it):

As you can see, the parking spots don't line up. The truck likely crossed over the white line - or was near it, at the very least. It really did miss me by just inches.

The young woman who owned the truck came out of the building from her appointment and saw the mess. I guess she was pretty upset. Our building's owner told me later that he went over with her how amazingly lucky she was - not too much damage to her truck; nobody hurt; no other car rear ended (this parking lot is usually full!); no damage to the historic building in the line of fire because a tree stood in the way; no tree crashing downward...

Yes, she was lucky. As. Was. I.