From the News, Home

In Like a Lion

Happy March!

Yesterday I woke up to a winter wonderland, again.

Felt like the movie Groundhog Day.

groundhog1Remember Bill Murray waking up day after day and experiencing the exact same thing over and over?

“I’ll give you a winter prediction: it’s gonna be cold , it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last for the rest of your life.”

When I watched Groundhog Day, I felt a sensation of rising panic in my restless soul.

I hate routine and the idea of living the same day over and over endlessly made me feel like I was trapped in a funhouse that wasn’t fun. (Oh, that sounds like pregnancy..)

That’s how I expected to feel yesterday.

But, as I watched a heavy, endless stream of snowflakes dancing around in the sky and piling up on every outside surface, I actually felt happy, amazed really.


Here we are in what is often considered the power center of the world — the all-mighty American bastion of democracy, and yet, snow — that innocent-looking white, fluffy soft stuff — manages to shut down the U.S. government, close schools, stop major transportation systems, and keep all the powerful people either stuck at home or stuck in a snowdrift off the side of a road somewhere.

You’ve got to respect the weather, not just here, but everywhere.

In a metaphoric game of rock, paper, scissors, it always wins.

There’s no controlling or subduing it.

What that means is that we need to stop and control or subdue ourselves.

So, yesterday, I thought, I can hate this day and whine about the cold and the cabin fever. I can rant about how it should be spring OR I can enjoy it and honor the fact that weather always wins and make the best of it.

So, that’s what we did.

We shoveled, scraped and chipped ice with everyone else, but we also marveled at the beauty of our neighborhood blanketed in what we hope was the last gasp of winter.

DSC_0001According to Al Roker on the Today show, it’s over. He’s getting ready to sport his pink spring coat.


I’m ready for his pink suit coat. I’m ready for anything pink and flowery.

I’m choosing to believe Al and believe that yesterday’s storm was the last big hurrah.

Yippee! Spring is on its way.

Let the thaw begin!

I need to get the frozen Christmas decorations out of the planter on the porch.


Bring on the tulips, the pansies, the daffodils, green grass and leafy trees.

Let’s “march” toward spring.

I’m so ready.

Family, From the News, Memoir

Lessons from NYC 9-11 Memorial

We recently visited the new 9-11 Memorial in NYC, which commemorates the lives of those lost in the terrorist attacks.

One word: sad.


a piece of an original staircase from the World Trade Center
a piece of an original staircase from the World Trade Center

Visitors streamed through the museum in silence; many with tears running down their cheeks.

There were some parts of the museum that were so moving, I stifled outright sobbing.

People lingered over the exhibits, especially the ones with recorded voices of passengers on the hijacked planes calling their loved ones to tell them goodbye.

It struck me that in those final, horrific moments of their lives when they knew they were going to die, they called home and said, “I love you. Tell my family I love them.”

That was all they had to say.

That simple but common message summed up what mattered to every one of those victims; and in the end, their messages reminded every museum visitor what really matters to all of us.

A friend of ours, Walter, recently died from cancer and when his daughter spoke at his funeral, she said that as he was in his last days of his life, going in and out of consciousness, each time he awoke, he just wanted to repeat the words, “I love you” to his surrounding family.

He needed to make sure they knew.

I read an interesting quote that said boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend — everything has an “end” except family.

I didn’t hear any 9-11 tapes of people saying, “Tell my boss that report he needs is on my desk!” Or even “Throw out my incriminating personal journals and delete all my emails.”

A 33-year-old equity trader left a message for his mother as he saw people began falling from the windows above him in the Twin Towers.

“Mom, my building’s been hit by a plane. And right now… I think I’m OK, I’m safe now but it’s smoky.

“I just want to say how much I love you (voice breaks a little) and I will call you when I’m safe. OK mom? Bye.”

According to the above story link, “more than 1,000 phone calls were made in just 10 minutes after the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, struck. And thousands more kept calling as the horror unfolded. Some reached loved ones, others left heart-rending messages.”


A real estate broker who had just accepted a promotion at another firm was clearing his desk for his move when the towers were hit.


He left a frantic message for his wife and daughter, Nicole, as he became trapped. He said: “There’s a fire. I love you, tell Nicole ‘I love you’. I don’t know if I’m going to be OK. I love you so much.”

One phone call, one urgent message.

In the last moments of their lives, they only wanted to call home and tell their families they loved them.

Isn’t that what we would all do?

It made me ask myself a series of questions:

Does my family know how much I love them?

Do they know how hard it would be for me to leave or lose them?

Have I loved them all individually and fully enough that they would always remember my love for them?


Is there such a thing as enough love for a family?

Does my life reflect that my family is my absolute top priority?

One thing I know for sure is that if I were on my deathbed, like my friend, Walter, or going down in a plane or into a pile of rubble like the 9-11 victims, my only thought would be just like theirs — tell my family I love them.

I’d pray a desperate, crucial prayer that somehow my family could grasp the infinite, boundless depth of that love.

The obvious, looming question here is Why wait?

For me, having my life show that my family is what I value most means small things like moving away from my computer when one of my family members calls and focusing completely on our conversations.  

It means remembering to add our new son-in-law to our silly group text conversations, and even trying to consider what he might like to do other than shop when he is with us. (I’m not used to boys.)

It means scheduling time to be together as often as possible, and never forgetting to verbally say, “I love you!” I also think it means being specific about what I love because we can all go a long way with a genuine, specific compliment.

Going to the 9-11 museum didn’t teach me the importance of family. It just reinforced it. And it reminded me that in all the horror of 9-11, and all the other bad things that can happen in life, we have to circle the wagons around what matters most to us and then live like it really does.








From the News

Thank You Costco

I opened the Costco magazine today — The Costco Connection.

You know, the one disguised as a news magazine that’s really one big Costco promotional document.

It’s “the lifestyle magazine for Costco members.”

I’m a Costco member.  I carry the card, push the cart through the warehouse, and feel the rush of excitement when I see the lady giving out pumpkin pie bites.

I thumb through the magazine and notice some pithy articles about things like how to calm down angry customers, and how to fight back against abusive debt collectors. Neither of these apply to me but hey, some Costco members might benefit, right?

English: Oh no! not Costco And just to think, ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are probably lots of cart-pushing, sample-pursuing, bulk-size purchasers out there that need to fight off abusive debt collectors and calm down angry customers.

What interests me most in the November issue of the magazine is the article on “Holiday Countdown — how to plan the upcoming Christmas holiday with ease and convenience.”

Exactly what I need this year since we have three wedding events in three different places, two office parties, a church party, a neighborhood cookie exchange, bridal showers, an annual holiday party on Christmas Eve, and wedding guests arriving on Christmas Day.

Thank you, Costco for the helpful tips! And, just in time, too!

Grab a pen and paper because I’m going to share some amazing tips so that your holiday can be quick and convenient like mine.


Step one: Download the Costco app. You’ll need it for all the product descriptions, shipping information and special offers. Oh, now this is going to be good. They even have an app to help my holiday go smoothly.

Sounding good already, right? First to-do of step one:  Order your holiday cards from the Photo Center.

I’m moving on to step two already because I can tell you now, don’t look for a card from me this year. After going through the design, printing and addressing of wedding announcements, I will not be repeating the process for a Christmas card. Sorry. But, thanks for the tip, Costco.

Step two: Buy a new mattress. Yep, you read that right. Get a new mattress. Everybody needs one right before Christmas. Call Costco and they’ll take away your old one for $79.99.

Still part of step two:  buy new furniture, and splurge on a limited edition print from an emerging artist.

Buy new furniture?


We all need to refurnish our homes just before Christmas, right?  While we are at it, we might as well re-carpet, repaint, and add on a sunroom. Maybe I’ll bust out a wall and expand my kitchen too. If I do that, I might need even more furniture.

Thank you HGTV for this great idea.
Thank you HGTV for this great idea.

Not to fear, Costco is there to help me.

Don’t even think we’re moving on to step three yet because part two also recommends buying a stash — yes, they recommend “a stash” — of folding or stacking chairs.

How many are in a stash anyway?

While I’m remodeling my house for Christmas to accommodate all that new furniture, I think I’ll add on a storage room for my stash of folding chairs. After all, they come in contemporary and traditional styles that can blend into any room or table setting.

I’m telling you, Costco’s tips are making my holiday seem as easy as 1-2-3 just like they promised. I hope they are helping you just as much!

Step three: Finally, we are at step three. Pick a pretty party outfit for all the little girls in your life. I love this one. Let me think of all the little girls in my life, there are probably 40 of them at church, a couple of them next door. Gosh, maybe I should get 50 to be sure. After all, they sell out quickly and come in organza, satin, embellished taffeta, glitter mesh and sequins. What little girl doesn’t want to be draped in all that for the holidays?

Still part of step three is to order flowering bonsais and arrange to have them delivered to the hostesses of every party I might attend. Everybody loves a good bonsai for Christmas. Can’t have too many bonsais.

മലയാളം: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, still on step three, buy a pre-lit Christmas tree, garlands and wreaths; a luxury version of a British Christmas cracker with the Royal Warrant of Approval, and don’t forget to order an extra one for New Year’s Eve.

Holiday HDR
(Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

Step four: From the serenity of a favorite coffee shop, order shirts, pants sweaters, and outerwear. Dang, they forgot to tell me who gets all those clothes. The girls get the 50 taffeta, glitter mesh and sequin dresses. But who gets the expanded collection of clothing in regular, big, tall and plus sizes? They failed me on this one.

I’ll figure out who gets the clothing later, I’m moving on to part B of Step four and getting fruits, nuts and sweet treats in beautifully decorated baskets for whoever’s left on my list after I give the plus-size, big and tall clothing to the yet-to-be-named recipients.

Next, one-of-a-kind diamonds for everybody and photo books and custom calendars.


In four easy steps, Costco has outlined the quickest and most convenient holiday season ever.

Doug gets the limited edition print because he can always use another one in his office. Oh, wait, he has no more wall space. I’ll give the emerging artist piece to my friend, Caren. But, she might prefer the diamonds. Okay, Caren gets the diamonds. Sara gets the big clothing. Wait, she wears a double zero petite, bless her miniature little frame. So, Sara gets all those baskets of food or maybe the glitter mesh dress will fit her.  Annie and Josh get the mattress because they’ll need it in their unfurnished apartment. Maybe they can have some of the stashed chairs and all that old furniture that will need a home after I get all the new furniture . My mom gets the bonsai, but wait, those are for the party hostesses. So, mom gets the calendar.

I’m a bit overwhelmed, but I trust Costco so I keep reading.

This is working out swimmingly.

Oh! There’s a step five disguised under the heading “post-holiday” gifts.

And, these gifts are for me!

I love you, Costco! Thank you for thinking of me!

You see, they know we might experience a tad of stress even though they’ve been so kind as to walk us through every step of a quick and convenient holiday season.

They believe in rewards for a job well done and guess what? We get some well-deserved R&R!

All we need to do now is go to Costco’s travel department and choose a travel package to help us relax on a tropical beach or explore a faraway land or sail the seas on a world-class cruise.

This is going to be great. When everybody else is dragging themselves back to work in January, we’ll be resting on a tropical beach.

When I get home from this much-needed vaca, I can jump back into a healthy routine with the new exercise equipment I pre-ordered from Costco and had installed by Costco’s white-glove installers.

And there’s more…To get help me ease back to work after all this pleasure, and fun, Costco helps me stock up on printers, copiers, paper and toning cartridges, pencils, pens, binder clips and rubber bands.

And guess what? Costco delivers all of this to my door!

My personal holiday countdown begins now.

Step One: Toss my Costco magazine. This “lifestyle” publication is targeted to someone else, not me. And unless I want to be the customer that needs the tips on dealing with abusive debt collectors, I better forget Costco all together.

Besides the lie about convenience and ease, No body on my list wants those Costco big and tall clothes or those gift baskets.  The little girls will hate the scratchy mesh dresses, and I will not be shipping a new mattress to Utah for Annie and Josh. That bonsai is the last thing my mom wants.  And, give Caren a Costco diamond? Seriously? I can already see the look on her face as she searches for the Tiffany blue box with a luxurious  white satin ribbon, wondering if the Costco box is a joke.

Pumpkin Pie from a *real* pumpkin.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bottom line: Look elsewhere for tips on how to have a convenient holiday. You won’t find it in the Costco Connection. However, if you want a good pumpkin pie, rush to your nearest Costco warehouse.

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.

Family, From the News, Parenting, Relationships

Trying to Find Words of Comfort

Last night I heard on the news that a post office box has been set up to receive condolence letters for the families of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings.

I felt like I should send notes to the grieving parents. But, what could I possibly write?

What words of condolence could I share that could uplift these heartbroken, bereaved families?

On September 11, when I heard that terrorists had attacked our nation, I immediately drove to the elementary school to pick up my children.

The principal met me at the door and asked me to let them stay in school because it was the safest place for them. The school was in “lock down” mode and the principal wanted the children to stay in classes and return home on the bus as usual. Then, parents could explain the events of the day to them after they’d had time to process it themselves.

I saw the wisdom in the principal’s words and went home without my two daughters. They were in the safest place for them at that time, I kept telling myself.

Those words have haunted me for the past week because the children in Sandy Hook Elementary were thought to be in one of the safest places for them. Most children spend the bulk of their time at home or in school, and both places are supposed to be safe havens for them.

Parents worry about their children every time they walk out the door — even when they leave for school. But, for most of us, school shootings of the magnitude experienced in Newtown, Connecticut are beyond our fears because they are so utterly evil that we can’t let our worries even go to that extreme.

So when I think of those bewildered parents in Connecticut, and see them on television or read their words in the newspaper, my heart literally hurts. I know what it’s like to have your normal breathing pattern halted, and I wonder when they will breathe normally again, and when will their goals of survival stretch beyond a mere second at a time?

I want to console them but I am lost for words.

We went to the Kennedy Center Monday night to see “An Enchanted Christmas” performance by The Choral Arts Society of Washington.
As we sat in the Concert Hall listening to and singing Christmas carols, I thought of the peaceful feelings and the spirit of warmth that enveloped that beautiful roomful of strangers.

Then I thought of the people in Connecticut and wished I could transport the sweet serenity that fell upon us in that Hall to Newtown, and just wrap the entire town up in a cocoon of safety and love.

Yesterday, we went to the White House and marveled over the gorgeous holiday decorations and listened to a children’s choir sing “Still, Still, Still,” one of my favorite Christmas songs – “Still, still, still, one can hear the falling snow…”

As we left the White House, we noticed all the flags at half-staff, and again I wished so deeply that just one of the peaceful still moments I’ve experienced this week could float in a cloud to Connecticut and hover there for months to come dropping heavenly dews of tender mercies on the heartbroken, devastated people there who are just trying to get their bearings.

US Navy 040609-F-3050V-009 The U.S. flag atop ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“…The tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance…”

Deliverance is what I want for them.

I guess if I were to send a letter to the new post office box, I’d say something like this:

“To all the families, friends and loved ones affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy:

I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. I won’t pretend to understand what you are going through, but I want you to know, I love you. I pray for you. My heart breaks just knowing of your unfathomable loss and acute sorrow.

I know the deep, unparalleled love that parents have for their children, and that just the fear of losing them is unbearable.

So, my urgent and heartfelt prayers on your behalf are that during this time of sadness and bewilderment that God will swoop you up and cradle you like a child in his arms, just like he is cradling your little ones. And, that you will feel his love, warmth, understanding, and compassion and know that his heart beats in sympathy with yours.

I know your lives have been permanently altered, but I also know there is a God who lives and loves you, a God who can and will carry you through this, a God who welcomed your babies home and healed their wounds instantly, and one who will heal yours too.

While I’m sure you feel utterly alone, there are good-hearted people all around the world kneeling in prayer and pleading with the heavens on your behalf.

I wish my words had the power to elevate your grieving souls and to assure you that while your heads hang down in sorrow now, they will rise up in joy again. You will be reunited with your children one day and your joy will be exquisite. I hope you will all faithfully live for that day.”

Sometimes our words are all we have, and yet, they are so inadequate and can seem so empty at times like this. I can only hope that when I send my words skyward that God will hear them and send these dear families the healing balm that they so desperately need.

Check out this beautiful piece by Jeff Benedict