Saturday, May 14, 2016

To Share Is To Be Safe

I just watched the movie Spotlight during a recent 4 hour flight. It was the story of the Boston Globe's investigative reporting team that uncovered widespread and systematic child abuse by Roman Catholic Priests and what's more; shared the story with the world.
While watching the movie, I thought of my days as a reporter. I thought of my friends and loved ones so closely associated with the Catholic Church. I thought of my own siblings as we grew up in a less than perfect household. But mostly I thought of my own children and my desire to protect them from absolutely anything bad, let alone horrific. 
Then I visited Facebook and scrolled through the updates of friends and loved ones. With the story of the thousands of young boys molested at the hands of their trusted Catholic leaders fresh on my mind, I scrolled through many comments about how transgender bathrooms could potentially allow child molesters to gain access to our vulnerable children. Some comments are neutral but most are filled with fear or vile one way or another. There is an obvious divide when it comes to the hot topic of transgender bathrooms, but I question if that is the real issue. Is it not the ability to protect the vulnerable in our society that we are all concerned about?

Since moving to Australia, most of the public bathrooms I have used have been all-gender bathrooms. Some even have timers on them, telling me I have 10 minutes to pee before the door unlocks automatically. Others are make-shift bathrooms that a number of businesses share. Some are well-kept and some are absolutely unbearable. Restaurants do not have to offer patrons public bathrooms, like they do in America. I'm not really sure why but that doesn't matter much. At the end of the day, it's not a question as to whether or not a person has balls, but a personal choice.

And that's the issue. It's about making things more personal and allowing the world to get a little more personal, too. Making it "okay" to share and even, dare I say, encouraged to slow down long enough to make a real connection and actually care about something. I'm talking about getting involved and staying involved and evolving as the world around us experiences painful growing periods. Because when we stop growing, we start dying. And who, among us, wants to try and thrive in a world where death becomes us?
The concern to protect our most vulnerable is a shared characteristic of human beings that I, for one, adore. It's this desire to want to help, protect, to love and be loved that cuts across religions, gender identities, communities and continents.
This last thought for today is an image that I grabbed from a friend's Facebook post after riding the roller coaster of emotions that comes with staying grounded and growing at the same time. Landing on this screen shot gave me peace and I hope it does the same for anyone taking the time to read it. I guess the point of this story is that Facebook is not all that bad, and either are we.

Did you know that in more than 60% of all sexual offenses, the victim knows the offender? 

The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) is an unprecedented public safety resource that provides the public with access to sex offender data nationwide. NSOPW is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Justice and state, territorial, and tribal governments, working together for the safety of adults and children. For more information, please visit 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Fear vs Hope; what influences you to action?

We are tired. We are poor.

We are now huddled masses yearning to breathe free. 

And we have come to a crossroads in American political history. In world history, really, if you listen to the rest of the globe as they watch with personal interest while holding bated breathe. 

What will America do? How will America vote? 

Consider, for a moment, the etched bronze plague on the Statue Of Liberty. The words so heavy and true in 2016 just as they were penned in 1883 by American poet Emma Lazarus (1849-1887).
Here is the original sonnet titled, "The New Colossus."

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Who is the brazen giant? What is the Mother of Exiles? Who is the tired, the poor? 
What does America need now most; to be protected or to be a safe place? Can one element really exist without the other? 

These questions are soul-searching, painful and dangerous to address, but we need to. As a group, we are tired of the current scene and even more weary of personal politics, agenda setting and ego fighting as a strategy for the leader of the free world. We are ethics-poor and humanity-starved. The rest of the world is watching as we huddle together to determine what to do, where to go and who to follow home. It's easy to see that America needs a servant leader now more than ever. A leader who will lead by example, with truth and compassion, but with strength both of character and virtue. We need to be able to trust our leadership, trust each other and trust ourselves. We do not need to be scared. We already are fearful of even ourselves. A servant leader is what we need most. 

The one question every voting American needs to ask themselves as they head to the ballot is this:
"Am I voting out of fear or am I voting with hope in my heart?" 

Godspeed America. Please make yourself well again. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

It's All In A Word. Vote.

Have you been watching what's happening in America lately? 

If you are alive and exposed to virtually or literally any form of media, no doubt you've come across a few stories on Donald Trump and his bid for the leader of the free world.

No doubt you've seen some of his performances, where he engages in a back and forth sort of conversation/shouting match (previously referred to as a political debate) in front of a crowd of cheering & leering fans/protesters.  

No doubt you are familiar with the American business tycoon known as "The Donald," and all the good, bad and ugly tales that would make for an absolutely unwatchable biography should it be narrated by Donald himself. 

Here's why: he acts like a kindergartner.

I know this because I own one myself. I've been through three of them and I am here to tell you that I adore kindergartners. Their mannerisms, their stories, their colorful way of embracing and sharing all that life has to offer; their boundless energy, unnerving passion for the most idiotic things (for example; I LOVE CUT UP CHEESE x 500/daily) and most of all, the way they can talk for hours uninterrupted about absolutely nothing but immediately complain of being too tired for words when the sight word homework book hits the kitchen table. 

It's a kind of frustration reserved for the 9th circle of hell, but it's also the magic ingredient that makes angels fly. 

So when I say Donald Trump acts like a kindergartner, for now, I mostly am referring to the words he chooses because I don't want to insult any kindergartners. 

It's his choice of words, how he uses them, how he does (or doesn't in most cases) make sense and how he eventually ends up avoiding the original question entirely. Does that make him a kindergartner? No. It makes him a salesman. 

A really good smarmy salesman. A very successful salesman. Potentially a salesman that will say anything to close the deal.

Don't take my word for it. 

Another gem. It's a parody, but it's all REAL THINGS TRUMP SAID, in his voice, in your head, almost like Comedy Central's Drunk History except a lot more terrifying. 

This one, while only an image, is pretty special, too. 

And Trump is not the only one being analyzed for his words, but he certainly is the most entertaining, as is nearly every kindergartner I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.

But is 'entertaining' dangerous when it comes to policy-making? Is rudimentary commentary really something we should worry about or something we should embrace? As informed American voters, is political commentary something we should know more about? The author of this piece on phrases most often used by each GOP published in Nate Silver's* suggests so and I think it's right on.

And I'm not alone. This is much bigger than us. The whole world is watching and wondering what the hell is going on. 

I'm also not in America, so I get to witness firsthand what others think of US right now. And it ain't pretty. 

Of course, that's not to say that "It's (Only) All In A Word," because sometimes there are no words. 

Sometimes body language carries more weight than even the loudest loud mouth. 

*Need more proof? Be sure to check out the facts found at GitHub site. "The debates are exhaustively transcribed and annotated by The Washington Post. The version used in this analysis, combined and edited slightly for syntax, can be found on GitHub. "

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How Our Vision Changes as We Travel

Moving from one side of the planet to another means a lot of things. 

It means, quite literally, the longest recorded flight on the books, which is really all I can say about that, mostly thanks to Ambien and her sweet, sweet warm blanket of uncompromised slumber. 

It means weeks, if not months, of wading through 20 plus years of combined households and definitively placing every single item in one of three bins: water container, long-term storage or donate. 

The status of those three bins, you may be wondering, just as I am? The water container still has not arrived even though we are well past month number 2 of this 36 month adventure. We've been through all seven stages of death with our unforlorn water container, now joking that our belongings are at the bottom of the ocean next to Leo and his doorframe to nowhere. The long-term storage goods and wares were sent off to a local long-term storage facility a few weeks after Halloween of last year, so please don't ask me what I am storing long-term. That part of my life seems like a dream. As does the amount of trips I took to load my car with what I thought was treasured and useful belongings (mostly my clothes and accessories) to the chosen charities and donation centers. Those things, what I did and how I lived and loved those things, are now but a blurry memory in my minds eye. 

My memory, in general, is a lot like my vision. Eerily similar to how my own vision is morphing from myopic to presbyopic as I age, I am losing sight of what I once thought was a reality within my own reach, or in the very least, surrounding me. 

Now, more often, I find myself in a place of discomfort and curiosity in what could be, but without the crisp edges of focus on things closer to me.  It's altogether unsettling and romantic as can be. I find myself ping-ponging between enjoying isolation and investigation on so many levels one minute, but then desperately lonely and out of sorts the next; looking for familiar scents, places, faces and experiences. I see my child endure the same and am reminded to focus on her; next to me, holding my hand, asking to climb into my lap or laughing at something foreign that would certainly only happen in Australia. It's then that I realize how lucky I am to get to experience this, as unpleasant and unrelenting as this amount of change can be. How lucky for a grown-up to get to endure a child-like lens on life a second time around? To relocate, to age, to grow up; they all mean the same thing. Our vision matures. 

The thing I have learned about relocating to the other side of the planet is that relocation does not mean that everything stops or that everything changes. In month 2, relocation to me means adjusting to a vision that is entirely blurry; equal parts frightening and exhilarating and 100% exhausting. 

Oh, and one last thing. Bacon. Bacon is not bacon in Australia. And baseball?!?!

 Don't get me started on baseball. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Clear Need For More Diversity in Australia

So the good news is that I have finally memorized my Australian phone number. 

The bad news is that Australia does not have Twizzlers. Which means I am very close to sending a resume and business proposal to the Twizzler head office back in the US and make a case for why they need to expand into the land down under in a big way. 

I realize the hilarity of this scenario. Australia. Australian licorice. Perhaps Twizzler decided to strategically avoid this market due to magic and wizardy of the unknown Australia licorice underworld; a black market, dare I say. I mean, I KNOW we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. It's the wonderful world of Oz. Land of cricket, rugby, football, spiders, ants and snakes. All that jazz. But seriously, where have all the Twizzlers gone?

And more importantly, how to bring them here. It's not as easy as bringing sexy back. But I think it may be worth it. If there is anything that a land full of one thing (black licorice) needs most, it's Twizzlers, or ya know, diversity. I would probably settle on my luggage arriving from America, now that I have been in my host country for more than a month. But Twizzlers would be nice, too. 

Also, I would enjoy cars that drive on the right side of the road. Because now I can do both. I drug my feet at first. I whined. I complained. I was super afraid that I was going to kill my whole family or another carful of decent human beings. But then I charged through all the discomfort and made it to the other side. Now I'm a little embarrassed that I resisted so much. It's not a perfect relationship, but every day gets a little easier. But when I'm tired, eating, drinking, chewing gum, reaching for a pen, trying to scratch my calf, checking to see if I forgot something or something just fell over and is spilling around in the back of the car, well I gotta admit, I default to driving on the right side of the road. And let's face it. Rarely am I simply just driving around, paying attention to the road like a grown ass adult should do, not trying to multitask or daydream or maybe take a little extra mental time for myself. Which means that I now celebrate being able to chew gum AND drive at the same time. 

Which is not much to celebrate, I realize, but if there is one thing I am learning in this adventure 9000 miles away from my comfort zone, it's to celebrate the small stuff. 

Like Twizzlers. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Exercise Your Words Carefully

Words matter, don't you think? 
Writing is an art that can be difficult, depending on what you are writing about & who you are writing for. Reading can be difficult, depending on how much the reader gets out of the writing and how much the writer actually put into the writing. But at the end of the day, words are what tells the stories of our lives. 
So it got me thinking. Just how much do words really matter?
Let's try something. Read these sentences and concentrate on the emotions you feel as you move from word to word. 
1. The hot fudge quickly melted the ice cream into a thick, rich chocolate milk slush. 2. Feel your ribcage melt into your spine and your sitting bones melt into your mat.3. Getting rid of sugar in her diet, she sat back and watched the pounds melt away. 4. She melted into his arms in a warm embrace. 5. Your puppy dog eyes melt my heart. 

Now consider a similar word that has an almost similar meaning.
That's a pretty gross word. Most rational people will agree, don't you think?

Some lovely irrational yet politically poetic literary wonders seem to agree on the importance of words in our world. Here are just three of my favorite things to keep in mind when writing, reading and living.

I consider looseness with words no less of a defect than looseness of the bowels. ~ John Calvin

Be obscure clearly. ~ E.B. White

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. ~ Mark Twain

Be careful. Be creative. Be conscience of others.
Clear. Concise. Compelling. 
Know your audience. Trust your audience. Trust yourself. 
What other writing advice do you follow?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A New Adventure

So, there is this one job...

And with that, we were off. 

We packed our house; sent a ton of shit to long term storage and even more crap collected over lifetimes of overindulgence to donation centers. Sweaters, coats, extra handbags, boots, books, toys, games, clothes, clothes and more clothes? All gone. 

Our material world has been replaced with sand, wind, salty air, new places and faces, new creatures, a new school, a new job, driving on the wrong side of the road and using technology to stay in touch with loved ones left behind on the other side of the planet. 

We relocated from Chicago to Brisbane in the blink of an eye. 

It's been more than a month, but yesterday I forgot my iPhone at home and ended up discovering something amazing. 

We moved to Australia. We really did. 

I would show you proof, I really would. But I left my phone at home.