Change, From the News, Memoir

A Peaceful Transition of Power

1989 Presidential Inaugration, George H. W. Bu...
1989 Presidential Inaugration, George H. W. Bush, Opening Ceremonies, at Lincoln Memorial (Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution)

Many years ago, in what seems like another lifetime, I had the privilege of working for a U.S. Presidential Inauguration.

George Herbert Walker Bush had just been elected President of the United States the week before I got married.

When Doug and I returned from our honeymoon and I returned to my job as the communications director for U.S. Senator Jake Garn, I got a telephone call from a friend and former colleague wondering if I would be willing to advise the inaugural committee on media relations and public affairs.

With my boss’ support, I left the office that day and went to the inaugural committee’s headquarters in SE Washington where they had transformed an old empty warehouse into a frenetic, exciting workplace for the President’s inauguration.

I walked in as a volunteer adviser and ended up as the new director of communications and taking a leave of absence from my Capitol Hill job.  I’d never worked in such an intense, fast-paced, exhilarating job in my life, and I never have since.

We had meetings for all the directors every morning and every evening and had a clock ticking the entire day, counting down to the swearing-in and all the traditional festivities that celebrate that historic moment.

I learned three of my most important life lessons in that job. At my first early morning meeting, the executive director, Stephen M. Studdert, went around the table and asked everyone to introduce themselves. I glanced around and noticed that I was one of three women at the table. I was 31 years old. Every one else had more experience, what I viewed as more prestigious jobs, and a history working with President Bush, either in the campaign, in Texas or in the White House when he served as Vice President.

The closer they got to me, the more nervous I became. The thought crossed my mind, “I have no business in this room with these people.” Right before it was my turn, an inner voice shot back, “That’s the last time ever that you are going to think like that. The minute you doubt your abilities, you’re done. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t qualified. If you give in to that way of thinking, you’ll fail. Now, just dig in and do this thing!

If I’d continued to compare myself to every other person in that room, I’d have walked out powerless and weak. And, I knew that in an environment like that, there was no room for insecurity and no time to nurse a case of fledgling confidence.

At every morning meeting, we received and/or shared our day’s goals. At every evening meeting, we reported on our progress. One of the directors got a little too long-winded in his report, and was quickly told, “Look, I don’t want your life story. Just get to the point.”

It’s true. We were marching toward inauguration day and didn’t have time for chitchat. The clock was steadily clicking. I learned to get to the point — fast.

The other more philosophical lesson I learned was the utter beauty of a “peaceful transition of power.” As I wrote press releases, arranged media interviews, and shaped messages, I marveled over the unique American ritual of a peaceful inauguration.

Capitol 9
Capitol 9 (Photo credit: afagen)

Today, as President Obama takes the public oath of office, I remember the day I stood in the press stands during President Bush’s inauguration and looked out at the throngs of people packing the lawn and the streets of the nation’s capitol.

Nothing brings greater feelings of patriotism that seeing all our American pageantry on display with our military bands; red, white and blue bunting around the Capitol building, and citizens from all over the country representing our nation’s uniqueness in the inaugural parade.

Despite your politics, take a minute today to appreciate America. In a world full of conflict, we should celebrate the honor of living in a country where a “peaceful” inauguration will once again occur — something we should never take for granted.

Pets

Dog Whisperer Mojo

Now that we have work to do in North Carolina to get a beach house ready to rent, we have a little Nikki conundrum.

IMG_1871

 

He’s not a good passenger in the car.

 

I prefer passengers who can sit still, not drool on my seats, and not hang their heads out of my windows with their tongues and ears flapping in the breeze.

 

When I take Nikki to the dog groomers or the vet, I always put him in the back seat. He immediately steps on the window button, sticks his head out the window and pants and wags his tail like he’s the happiest dog ever born. He seriously smiles because he’s so happy with that breeze on his face.

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I love seeing him that happy until he decides to leap up to the front seat and sit  on my lap. He’s too big for my lap and I’m afraid he’s going to kill us both when he pounces on me while I’m driving.

 

I’ve tried to train him to be a better car rider. Really, I have.

 

I took him to PetSmart to look at the traveling, soft-sided crates. I pulled one down from the shelf to see if he could fit in it.

 

“Come on Nikki,” I said repeatedly, encouragingly. “Get in the crate.”

 

He backed away like I was guiding him into a heated oven.  Then, I saw a dog harness that I could use to strap him into a seat belt.

 

I bought the harness, went out to the car, and tried to strap him in it. As I struggled to hold the straps, pull him into the harness, and buckle the seatbelt, I looked around the parking lot looking for Allen Funt, thinking my struggle felt like one of those old Candid Camera episodes I used to watch on TV when I was a kid.

 

Candid Camera
Candid Camera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I probably spent 30 minutes getting him buckled into that contraption. I felt optimistic as I pulled out of the parking lot.

 

I didn’t even get out on the road when I heard the window roll down. That brilliant little scamp of a dog managed to unfasten the seatbelt and roll down the window to ride on his own terms — smiling, panting with ears flying in the wind and tail wagging so hard it nearly hit me in the back of the head.

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So much for the harness.

 

The Dog Whisperer said I should take Nikki on short 15-minute trips in his crate and let him get used to riding in the car that way. So I hauled the darn, heavy crate out of the house, hefted it up into the back of the car, and then hoisted Nikki up there and into the crate.

 

Cesar Millan, the dogwhisperer
Cesar Millan, the dogwhisperer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Off we went. I even unrolled the backseat windows to help him feel the sensation of being on the back of a Harley.

 

This is going to work, I thought. It’s a lot of heavy lifting, but I think I can make this work. Before I even pulled out of the garage, he started whining.

 

I turned up the radio.

 

He whined louder.

 

“Sing, Adele, sing!” I said as I turned up the sound.

 

Just you and me, Nikki, out on the open road, enjoying the breeze and a little Adele music. .

 

I drove aimlessly around, getting a headache from Adele’s loud singing and Nikki’s competitive whining.

 

Then, I started resenting that darn Dog Whisperer. I don’t know what it is about him, but he’s got dog magic. Dogs do everything he wants them to do. His dogs sit quietly in their crates and go for pleasant car rides. They don’t wriggle out of harnesses, roll down car windows, unlatch seat belts, jump on Cesar’s lap while he’s driving. They obediently stay in their car seats and crates because he has dog mojo and I don’t.

 

I’m not giving up yet though. We’ve got a few more short practice drives to make in the next few days before I give up.

 

So, if you see me driving around with music blaring out of my car windows and a white dog panting nervously in a crate, you’ll know I’m trying to get my Cesar Millan mojo on so that Nikki and I can be good road trip companions.

 

If not, you’ll know I gave up, found a kennel or a sucker for dogs and made other arrangements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting, Personal

Enough is Enough

At every transition in my life, I get restless, thinking I should be doing more.

When the kids used to start school in the fall, I felt an urgent need to pack my life with something more meaningful than what I was doing.

It didn’t matter that I might have organized a new early morning club at the school to teach elementary students how to produce a newspaper or volunteered to be the room mom in two classrooms, taken on the social director job for our neighborhood and organized a party with a live band and a Halloween parade on top of a demanding assignment overseeing a women’s organization of hundreds of women at church.

I still needed to do more.

Saturday, when my girls flew back to college, I felt the energy and purpose in my life go with them. The house was silent and truly empty…again.

I am not mourning the loss of my children. Don’t get me wrong on that. They are exactly where they should be in their lives and I am exactly where I should be in mine.

Our houses aren’t meant to be full of children forever.

But as soon as they left, my life suddenly seemed empty, like the house.

Yes, there are blogs to write, public affairs assignments I put on hold over the holidays, beach house work that needs to be done before the high rental season begins, and the list goes on.

But, what am I doing that really matters? And is it enough?

I’d like to be able to answer with an emphatic, “Yes!” to those questions, but I confess that I go through the “Am I doing enough?” phase as often as every other woman I know. (Maybe men go through this too and just don’t talk about it. Come on, men, weigh in on this…)

When I take the time to think it through and be reasonable about it, I know I’m just fine and that my life is unfolding beautifully. But, until I do that, I let myself worry and toil awhile with all that self-doubt and insecurity that can make me so crazy.

(If there’s a person out there that doesn’t go through this kind of downward spiral once in a while or routinely, I’d like to hear from you. I want to know how you avoid it.)

Thankfully, I pull myself out of it well and never dwell in the poor-me pit for long, but I’d be lying to say I never go there.

My conclusion is that every time there is a transition in my life — like when I quit a job I loved and left the professional world, or when my kids started a new school year or I ended my master’s program, or when any major assignment ended and I was gearing up for the next one, I lost a bit of my identity.

If I’m not a mother, who am I? If I’m not a professional woman with a career label, then who? If I’m not a writer, a student, a yogi, a public affairs director or any number of titles, then who am I?

My first response is to hurry and find a label — get a job, a degree, a certificate, a new assignment, anything that the world deems as respectable so that I will then be enough.

Last night, I reread one of my favorite articles by Patricia Holland called “One Needful Thing.” She wrote it for The Ensign magazine (and LDS Church publication) back in 1987, but it is as right today as it was then. She wrote about being a busy mother and having a demanding assignment in the church’s youth program, and even though she was exhausted from running so fast, she thought she needed to run a little faster. She worried she wasn’t doing enough.

“Too many of us are struggling and suffering, too many are running faster than they have strength, expecting too much of themselves…We must have the courage to be imperfect,” she said.

She quoted one of my favorite writers, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who said, “Woman today is still searching. We are aware of our hunger and needs, but still ignorant of what will satisfy them. With our garnered free time, we are more apt to drain our creative springs than to refill them. With our pitchers [in hand] we attempt…to water a field [instead of] a garden. We throw ourselves indiscriminately into the committees and causes. Not knowing how to feed the spirit, we try to muffle its demands in distractions. Instead of stilling the center, the axis of the wheel, we add more centrifugal activities to our lives — which tend to throw us [yet more] off balance.”

A Gift from the Sea
A Gift from the Sea (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

I get caught in the water-a-field mindset too often and need to remember the water-a-garden one.

I read in my journal this morning about a conversation I had with a friend after Annie started college and I experienced an empty nest for the first time. I said, “Maybe I need to find a job.”

She shot back quickly, “You absolutely do not! That’s the last thing you need. You need to learn to just be.”

(This friend, Sherry Clarke, http://www.clarkecoaching.com/also is a personal coach who said that I should just “be” as an empty nester for at least a year before jumping into anything. Very wise advice.)

Now, I don’t want everyone writing to me with reassuring words about how amazing I am. I’m not looking for compliments, sympathy or even understanding here. I’m just being honest about that little voice that can get too loud in my head and pester me with the question of whether I’m doing enough.

I know the answer.

I absolutely am doing enough.

139/365 You Are Good Enough
(Photo credit: ganesha.isis)

I am enough.

And, so is every one of you reading this blog because if I know anything about my readers, I know you live full, busy and meaningful lives.

I just want to remind you, while reminding myself, that you too are enough. So in this time of big, hairy New Year’s Resolutions, bucket lists, and fresh starts, start with the premise that you are enough and build from there.

Believe me, I’m right there with you.

Health

Flu Season? I’ve got what you need

Paregoric Elixir
Paregoric Elixir (Photo credit: Leo Reynolds)

Flu season reminds me of my mom’s medical advice and remedies.

Ever heard of paregoric? Paregoric was the go-to medicine of my childhood.

When I called my Mom when Sara was a baby to tell her that Sara had colic and cried nonstop for several hours at a time, she said, “Oh that baby needs paregoric!”

Paregoric is a combination of some form of opium mixed with a compound from a camphor tree that is used in insect repellant.  Great stuff for a baby.

Camphor tree
Camphor tree (Photo credit: wallygrom)

It was a popular cure-all in the 1950s. You could rub it on a teething baby’s gums to relieve the pain, give babies a little dab of it to calm their nerves or control a cough.  I think it was a controlled substance by the time I had babies.

Congested or have a cold? You definitely need a “mustard plaster.”

Keen's Dry Mustard 1992 113g tin front
Keen’s Dry Mustard 1992 113g tin front (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just the words “mustard plaster” make my eyes water and my chest skin burn. I will never forget the scalding hot red chest I had after one of those treatments.

Mustard plasters were so legendary in my family that my aunt included the concoction in my Grandma’s book of favorite recipes.

“1 tsp dry mustard and 3 tsp of flour. Directions: add enough water to make paste. Spread on half an oblong cloth. Fold it over and lay on chest. Place a dry cloth over to keep your clothes dry. Keep on just until skin is red. Leave it on too long, it will blister.”

This remedy irritates mucus membranes and breaks up a cold, but beware because it also can make you sneeze, burn your skin and cause boils, and make your eyes sting like crazy.

Have a canker in your mouth? Dab a little salt right on that baby, and it’ll disappear in no time.

Warning: salt on a canker is like salt on any other wound, and there’s a reason “adding salt to the wound” is a popular adage for making something worse.

My Grandma once complained about a corn on her toe. My mom said, “Tie an elastic band around it.”

“Why would I do that?” Grandma asked. “I don’t want it to fall off!”

“Well, it will take your mind off of the corn!” she said.

She had a knack for diagnosing how we got certain maladies too.

Ever have pink eye or a sty in your eye? Clearly you had peed in the road. Yes, you read that right. You must have peed in the road. Everybody knows peeing in the road causes eye problems. And, everybody pees in the road, don’t they?

Sore throat? A drop of sticky, orange methylate (mercurochrome) down the old gullet will cure you. A little drop rubbed on a scrape would heal you up in no time too. And, a little mercury never hurt anybody…

And if the chest cold is still lingering, generously slather Vick’s vapor rub on your throat, chest, and inside those nostrils. You’ll be better in no time.

Vick
Vick (Photo credit: Lord Biro)

If all this fails, call the doctor.

Actually, maybe you’d be wise to call the doctor first.