If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention

As a mother, I want my children to be in a safe place.

As a preservationist, I honor a sense of place.

As an American, I am having trouble finding my place.

 

IMG_6513An early summer visit with my son and future daughter-in-love was a lovefest, consisting mostly of sips and savors of sunshine, local spirits and spending a little West Coast money in an East Coast city. Though the temperatures soared, I saw my first fireflies, watched a lightning storm flash and roll through the distant sky and experienced many cultures at the City Market, the popular farmer’s market held downtown.

 

This city has been my son’s home for about 13 years and my husband and I are content that he and his beloved are in a good place that offers them stability, growth, entertainment and security.

 

One of the places I always like to visit is the downtown mall. It’s rich in history (the East Coast has really embraced adaptive reuse) and small businesses thrive. There’s an amazing artist collective that I always patronize and I marvel at the variety of interests that coexist in the space.

 

The kids and I were walking off a delicious lunch from Rapture on the mall when we turned down a brick street covered in chalk, tributes scrawled to a young woman who died during one of the blackest days in recent history. My heart stopped, frozen in grief. The sense of place struck me. This was where, a year ago, things went horribly wrong.

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My son lives in Charlottesville.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning shot of the moment of impact by Ryan M. Kelly for the Daily Progress (via Reuters). From the Pulitzer Foundation Site
Photographer Ryan Kelly was watching the crowd that was peacefully singing, chanting and slowly marching, when he felt a car approaching at high speed and instinctively raised his camera and started taking pictures, capturing this horrific moment. When driver James Alex Fields Jr. threw the Dodge Challenger in reverse and sped away, he left Heather Heyer dead and several others seriously injured.

That short block is where 32-year-old Heather Heyer was struck and killed by a Dodge Challenger driven into the crowd by neo-Nazi James Alex Field, Jr. during a day of terror brought by white supremacists who – exercising their First Amendment right of assembly – marched into Charlottesville and spewed hateful messages of racism and intolerance. Heather was there to try and stop the vicious message of hate. Her last Facebook post is the title of this blog – “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

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Also killed that day were Virginia State Troopers Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates, whose helicopter crashed as they were surveilling the conflict growing downtown. All three deaths were directly caused by invaders from out of town, bent on attacking Charlottesville’s heart of kindness and compassion. This disturbing trend of outsiders fomenting unrest is something spreading nefariously across the country, seeping into city council meetings and otherwise peaceful settings.

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The news media has descended upon Charlottesville for the anniversary and I’m sure some of the images I am sharing will be the backdrop for many standups you’ll see this weekend. The brick walls are filled with messages of hope and love, sentiments felt by the overwhelming majority of the area’s residents. Visitors to the walls are invited to continue to contribute their own comments, invited by a box of chalk placed near the point of impact.

IMG_6516Those of you who have not been to the downtown mall may not know that it is also the site of what Charlottesville officials dedicated as a First Amendment Wall – a 50-foot long two-sided wall with a chalkboard surface and a steady supply of chalk for people to use to express themselves. The walls are cleaned weekly, so the messages are ever-changing. Some artists have created images, writers have posted inspirational prose, lovers emblazon the wall with hearts and flowers and others simply write their favorite quotes or salutations. Near the wall is a small platform where speakers can share their messages verbally. This area is very near Charlottesville’s City Hall complex, embracing the city’s dedication to freedom of expression.

 

Heather’s walls are a few hundred feet from that symbolic area.

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I was too overwhelmed with feelings to walk those hundred feet to see the First Amendment wall during my visit. The tears filled my eyes at not just Heather’s loss of life, but also the loss of innocence and safety I hold dear for my children. How could anyone have so much hate to come into another’s neighborhood and be so cruel, hateful and un-American?

 

So much hate vs. so much love. So much hurt, breaking the collective nation’s heart.

 

What holds true is that, on that day, the streets of Charlottesville were filled with passion – some misguided, some true. The racist marchers were met by peaceful counter-protestors, filling the streets to tell the interlopers that they were not welcome in their community, that there was no place for their hate. Without criticizing any response from authorities, the situation exploded out of control quickly and innocence suffered the most severe injuries. All the hindsight in the world cannot change what happened, but we do have control over how it plays out in the future.

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Charlottesville city, Albemarle County and Virginia State officials have banded together, closing many of the popular gathering spots (including that delightful City Market) for the weekend. Merchants at the downtown mall are banding together, many of them vowing to stay open as long as it remains safe. A ridiculously long list of prohibited items has been established to keep “implements of riot” away from the downtown area. Conspicuously absent from that list are two deadly weapons: guns and cars. The governor has declared a State of Emergency, allowing federal authorities to assist should the situation get out of hand. The National Guard is on standby.

 

As an American, and as a journalist, I am committed to defending the First Amendment; to preserve and protect the people’s right to free speech, assembly, religion, press and petitioning the government. Whether the cause falls into my beliefs or not, the rights are critical to our country, but I will not defend violence or hate of any kind at any time.

 

The peaceful, friendly, safe place where my children live is on lockdown for the weekend because the passion of hate threatens to burn brighter than the flame of hope. We must make sure that Heather and Troopers Cullen and Bates did not die in vain.

IMG_7166Friends in my neighborhood may have noticed the turquoise sticker on my car and wondered “What’s C’ville?”  It’s a place we love. We will continue to visit and embrace Charlottesville as our own, because so many people we love live there. We refuse to accept that hate is stronger than love.

 

 

For an unbiased, thorough, excellent accounting of the events of August 2017 in Charlottesville, I highly recommend “Summer of Hate” by Hawes Spencer, a journalist who has reported for the New York Times, the Daily Beast and NPR who has also taught journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University and James Madison University.

 

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years’ experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

Make. The. Time.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 4.47.51 PMA few years ago, I made a resolution to reconnect. Reconnect with people who molded and influenced me, made me laugh, saved me from jail, lent an ear to my drama queen moments, or were bumpers in my pinball journey through life.

I promised myself I would be selective – that I would reach out to the people that I really missed and wondering where their adventures had taken them. So not everybody.

No offense, Susan Watts, but you stole my Popsicle money in elementary school and I’m still pissed. We will not be visiting.

Everyone has a handful of people whose orbits have veered away from ours, whose fates intrigue us, making them hover on our map of stars, just a short distance away. We might exchange Christmas cards, or even text messages, which always end with “let’s get together soon!”

Show of hands: how many people have actually follow through?

It’s hard. We’ve all got schedules, work, kids, families, and obligations that pull us in different directions. Sometimes it seems impossible to make time for another lunch or an impromptu road trip.

Nothing is impossible.

I’m here to tell you to make the time. Make. The. Time.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 4.50.01 PMI will soon celebrate what I’m referring to as my Beatles birthday – 64 – and what I’m about to say usually applies to those of us with a shorter balance on our dance card.

Make the time. When someone says, “let’s do lunch” or “gee, it would be great to see you,” be the person who answers “OK, when? Let’s make a date. Now.”

Because nobody knows who is going to be around if you put it off and regret is sometimes more painful than loss.

When I first made that resolution, I had two main targets for immediate reconnects – my best friends from school; Vicki, who became my ride-or-die in second grade and Margaret, who I was partnered with when she joined our sixth grade class as a recent emigrant from Canada. We were assigned to be buddies; my job was to show her around and help her get comfortable in her new home. Little did those teachers know that our relationship would get stronger and we would be joined at the hip as we moved through junior high and high school.

We were even christened “Kochaltoosh” – a mashup of our last names, long preceding Brangelina, by one of our civics teachers because when there was one in the room, the other was not far away.

Both Vicki and Margaret lived in Central California, and I love road trips. It had been at least 28 years since our family of five visited Vicki and her husband, Preston, and the last time I saw Margaret, it was at a baby shower my family threw for me in the Bay Area. Her appearance was a surprise and I was even more surprised that she was pregnant too. Our daughters were born one day apart – 37 years ago.

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of course, there were more serious pictures, but why not show us in our natural setting?

In the spring of 2016, I drove up to Tracy to visit Vicki. Her brilliant smile hadn’t dimmed and her firecracker spirit was undaunted, despite some health challenges. From the first hug at the curb, I was awash with gratitude that we were able to pick up from where we’d left off. The next two days were spent talking, learning about each other’s subsequent lives, laughing and catching up. I did feel the mantle of responsibility she shouldered, as her husband had recently gone to an assisted living facility because of his dementia, but she soldiered on because … well, life. Gotta keep going.

It was timely that we discovered that our yin and yang, discovered so many years before, was stronger than ever.

The next day, we both headed for Manteca to visit with Margaret and her husband, Roland. They lived in a beautiful little house that was the perfect setting for their happy existence and occasional party-throwing (something Margie excelled at, I learned). Seeing her, I physically felt my past come back, remembering the years we spent growing and learning about life together. She looked the same, albeit a tiny bit grayer, but still excited that we were together. We looked at yearbooks, wedding pictures, talked about friends past; she whipped up a delicious lunch and the three of us spent the afternoon doing a lot more laughing. When we finally had to part, the connections had been strengthened; the determination to stay a little closer cemented and all of our hearts happy. I drove the next leg of my trip, up to Sacramento to pick up my daughter (the one that’s one day younger than Margaret’s) and we headed back to Southern California to surprise her sister.

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The original Kochaltoosh. Or since the Toosh is on the left…..oh never mind.

A few months later, I got a text from Margaret, telling me she was being treated for myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood cancer. She was optimistic and said that so far, the chemo was not too bad. She was scheduled to receive a bone marrow transplant in June, and when I checked in on her, she said the transplant went well, sending a picture of her and Roland enjoying missles (frozen treats), proudly displaying her “chrome dome.” Doctors were pleased with her progress and I started thinking about bringing up a stack of LPs she would enjoy.

In the meantime, Vicki’s husband was moved to another facility. She came down to visit and we went to LACMA and a few wineries near my daughter’s house, so she could see the countryside and meet my granddaughter. I cooked dinner every night and we were happy and content to just enjoy each other’s company. When she returned home, we started texting more. I sent texts to Margaret, but didn’t hear back, but I figured she must just be busy.

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Then, as we celebrated my granddaughter’s birthday, I got a panicked phone call from Vicki. Preston had died. I dropped everything and drove up to her new home (she now lives with her daughter on a farm) for the funeral. I put the LPs in the car, intending to make a quick trip up to see Margaret and drop them off before I headed home. I texted her that I was in Northern California, but still no answer. I left the stack with Vicki.

A month later, I saw a posting on Facebook that she had died – on the day I had arrived in Tracy for Preston’s funeral.

Vicki and Margaret weren’t the only friends from my past that I had reconnected with. About 10 years ago, I found Olivia, a friend who showed me the ropes of Southern California when I was a newbie and working for LAPD, on Facebook and we started corresponding. She visited a couple of times when she came home to Santa Paula to check on family and we spent a lot of time on Memory Lane, remembering parties, dates and escapades that went back more than 40 years. She had moved across the country and we had both changed careers, but we could still talk for hours about everything.

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We loved our friendship and Mexican food almost equally

Last week, she went in for surgery to take care of a small growth in her abdomen. She goofy-posted while she was coming out of anesthesia (if you’d ever met Olivia, you wouldn’t try to take her phone away for any reason), then made us all feel better when she was coherent and grammatical the next day. Everything had gone well … until 24 hours later, when she threw a blood clot and suddenly died.

I love social media, except for when I get news flashes like these. The posts seem unreal and we hurriedly scroll through and jump from page to page looking for verification and feeling our hearts sink when we find it. While we hate the messenger temporarily, we seem to draw comfort from the worldwide community of our friends in common – one of them even likened it to “an online funeral” because people from all over could share their memories and sorrow and start our collective healing.

I didn’t write this post to start a flood of “sorry for your loss” messages, although I deeply appreciate those I received when Preston and Margaret and Olivia shuffled off this mortal coil. Vicki is fine and I am considering protecting her with bubble wrap so we can celebrate our 100th birthdays together (she will be free from harm and have something to do at the same time. Good thing both of us are easily entertained).

While my heart hurts for their passing, I am eternally grateful for having taken the time, making the drive, sending and answering texts and being present.

We blow off too many people because of time, politics, and inflexibility. If someone means or meant something to you, take a moment. Gas up the car. Make the reservations. Hit the road.

Trust me, the feeling is better than you can ever imagine.

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Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

It’s on the web, it must be true. Aren’t you?

socialPotentially disgruntled journalist. Liberal activist. Occasional snarkmaster. Fierce grandmother and don’t even think of messing with her kids.

Active on social media, posts pictures on foodie pages and contributes to the discussion of local politics with guarded insights from her reporter past.

Casually but frequently promotes caffeine use, positive body image, pit bulls and the correct use of their, they’re and there. Grammatically correct. Politically flexible, but rumored to be a left-leaning conservative. Laughs a lot.

Hates lima beans and intolerance (irony noted).

Frequents live theater, cover band concerts and is a vocal advocate for arts in the schools and community. Writes like a fiend because the voices in her head all clamor to be heard. Looking for the positive is her strongest survival skill. Ambiguously ethnic look.

Guilty?

160612111152-14-orlando-shooting-0612-large-169What would your profile say if you were the suspect in a horrific crime like the slaughter of 50 (and possibly more) patrons of a gay nightclub in Orlando?

Would they look at your name and make assumptions? What can you tell from something as innocuous as Rock? Maiden name? Unpronounceable in some circles, but no clear indicator as to politics or motive. Presumably not Muslim. Definitely Czechoslovakian with a large dose of Irish.

Would we be judged by what we do? Who we friend? Words we post? What we ate for dinner? What events we attend? Our pets? Politics? Passions?

We share our secrets with the world liberally on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other networks; we worry about privacy and identity theft, but don’t consider the overwhelming ability of reporters, politicians and the general public to cull our online pedigrees for accusatory ammunition.

160612054737-orlando-nightclub-shooting-pulse-large-169With breakneck speed, the Speculation Avengers assemble and create a creature that provides “answers” to questions that inquiring minds insist upon, accuracy be damned. In their attempts to scratch and claw their way to be first or on top without allowing time for fact-checking, media outlets post assumptions, generalizations and wild-ass guesses as to the suspect’s background and motivation.

Sadly, with a certainty that drills to our very core, people online eat it up, chew on it for awhile and take their own spins, some with extra vitriol, taking the violence from the blood-stained nightclub floor and spreading it out with their own broad brushes across America.

How the hell did we get here?

What’s even worse, if there is a hint of controversy, the trolls and master spinners work double time, creating poisonous posts and justifying them with their own anger. We know volumes about the American-born-and-raised Muslim shooter in Orlando, but what do we know about the non-Muslim plain white guy who was arrested in Santa Monica early this morning with a carload of weapons on his way to the Los Angeles Gay Pride parade? He came from Indiana, something easy to surmise from the license plates on his car. It’s been hours since he was arrested, and we know nothing about how he got his weapons, potential explosives, who his alleged “friend” that he was meeting might be or gotten a statement from his parents. Biased much?

os-orlando-shooting-pulse-nightclubI have spent far too much time on the train wreck we call social media today, unable to look away (if I did, I would only see the TV playing an endless loop of tragedy). I read far too many vicious comments about discrimination, suggesting that we ban all Muslims or rush to gun stores to arm ourselves so we can shoot back if attacked. There is no good that will come of either of those proposals.

And I’m not going to touch the political commentary; racists taking credit for the terrorism call or homophobic elected officials expressing their sympathy because it’s the right thing to do.

The only redeeming quality of today’s posts were expressions of sympathy and frustration and horror at the events in Orlando. They significantly outnumbered the nastiness, bolstering my faith in the greater good. They all cried for a solution to the violence, to build up love to overwhelm the hate.

In a perfect world, politicians would listen to the people and better the situation. Solutions are hard and require working together toward a better day.

Would that it was that easy. But it’s worth giving it a shot.

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I welcome your feedback and thoughts. Solving these problems call for a lot of good communication – why not start here? Thanks for reading. Please share!

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

 

Taking a trip to Who Knew Me When

keep-calm-and-go-on-a-road-trip-1So I’m hitting the road this week. Me and my Mazda, Pandora on my phone, lots of coffee and water and a protein-heavy lunchbox so I can resist those nasty road snacks. (Hmm. That would make a great band name – “Appearing tonight for one night only, the Nasty Road Snacks!!!”)

But I digress.

I love road trips. When I was dating my enamorada, whose parents lived in SoCal, I thought nothing of throwing a few things in the car and heading down the 5 for the weekend. It was a quick trip from San Jose to Newhall. Had Sunday afternoon return timed perfectly, if I left by 2, I was back in NoCal in time for dinner.

Then came life/marriage/kids and that ultimate closing act, responsibility.

Life is pretty good now and the marriage is running swimmingly after 40 years (yes, he deserves a medal). Kids have spread out – Sacramento, Anaheim and Virginia. Most days, it’s just the sweetie and me and our two fur kids, 170 pounds of pit bull snuggles around the house.

So it’s a travel day, heading north to Tracy and Manteca, which are kind of near the Bay Area. Not close enough to hit The City, but that’s not why I’m going. I’m not a tourist this time.

The 5 to me is a road filled with familiar landmarks. I’m leaving really early, planning breakfast at Harris Ranch and ending up in the land of the Giants (3 World Series titles in five years, just sayin’) around lunch-thirty.

imagesI’m going to visit two women who have more dirt on me than the huzzbee himself; women who knew me when, before kids, before LAPD, before NBC, before journalism and community volunteering and politics.

They remember the rough clay when it was thrown on the wheel of learning. When I was an ardent, unquestioning supporter of what we now call a questionable conflict; when I worked for an underdog Republican challenger to a juggernaut Congressman (yes, he lost), then moved on to work on the Nixon campaign (we all know how that ended….)

Together, we learned to dance, gave each other noogies, protested pollution, held farting contests, sang ditties about janitors, anguished over having a date for the prom, studied, complained about and had crushes on teachers, athletes, and  played baseball in the intersection. We cruised down the street where two of our crushes (students, not teachers) lived in the hopes of seeing them outside, knowing we’d just die if we did.

Image-1The friend I’ve know the longest was deemed a little too risky by my mom and I wasn’t allowed to go away for the weekend with her family, but the other my parents got to know better and mom was more comfortable with. I loved them both.

Both held my secrets, laughed with me at my awkwardness and inconsistencies and all three of us proudly walked out of Washington High School in 1971 with diplomas. I threw daisies over my shoulder as I walked to the stage, which might not surprise people who know me now. But then, I was a rebel.

images-2One of them used to hit the road with me, throwing a sleeping bag in the back of the car and pulling over to the side of the road to sleep under the stars. Yes. We know we were idiots. Thank God for park rangers who kept an eye out for us.

I introduced one of them to her future husband and I was a bridesmaid at their wedding. She chose yellow for my dress in a semi-flattering cut. I still have the dress. They’re still married, and from the pictures and postings on Facebook, it looks like the years have treated them well.

The other started college at San Jose State with me, then her father died suddenly and life turned upside down. Her father’s funeral was the first I ever attended – I had to ask my parents what to do and say. I would deal with the same loss a few years later and I realized it doesn’t matter what your friends say, knowing they love you enough to show up to help you cope with the loss is everything.

I don’t remember the circumstances of her first wedding, but I remember the second one was so much better. They are still married, although that bastard Alzheimer’s is robbing her of his companionship. I see the resilience and strength that she’s always had when we chat online.

images-1That’s part of the reason I decided to make good on the promises I would make when we’d touch base – “We need to get together soon,” “I’m going to try and make it up there sometime this year,” “Gosh, life got busy and time got away from me” were easy to type, but something clicked lately, something that reminded me that life is short, there are far more people that love you out there and we need to make good on those promises. To say I’m excited is a huge understatement.

There will be much laughter, some tears, lots of “holy cow, I forgot about that!” and “Geez, we’re getting old” over the next few days. Like I said, these girls hold the secrets. There is no pretense with them; they know the real me under the smoke and mirrors, and I can’t wait to be reminded.

My point – have that lunch with a friend you’ve been trying to see. Even if you just meet at the Bucks for a cuppa, catch up. Don’t wait until they’re sick or moving or worse. Remind yourselves how good life is and how much you love and are loved.

But now, you’ll have to excuse me. The road is calling and it’s an old familiar song.

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Please share this and let me know what you think – I love feedback!

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

A Little Squishy Changed My Life

So it’s been awhile since I’ve been here. I really have to work on that. Sorry.

It’s been a little busy in my universe.

We became grandparents. I watched my granddaughter come into the world with my very own eyes and am still in amazement of the miracle. Grandparenting is everything my friends told me it would be – and then some. Holy crap, what an adventure!

The day she was born was crazy enough, starting with a 6:30 am call of “time to ride” and her arrival around Starbucks time midafternoon. Our oldest daughter spent 8 hours on the freeway making the normally 5-hour trip between Sacramento and Orange County to get to her sister’s side. I watched her anxiety melt away as she sat next to the new mama’s pillow and held her swaddled niece.IMG_0006

My “Free Gift With Purchase Son,” the new uncle also known as my son-in-love’s brother, proudly wore his Mickey Mouse ears that read “Uncle Travis” over his Kings cap as he strode proudly into the room.

Two of their friends who I consider my children from other mothers fought the traffic as well, arriving just soon enough to spend an hour before it was time to tiptoe out to the parking lot. One great-grandmother, four grandparents, two siblings, two friends – good thing it was a big room.

Have I mentioned Sadie Jane is just peaches? We call her Squishy.

What a day. What a whack to the normal orbit.

Along with the world-changing event of her birth, we had holidays.

Her first Thanksgiving was less than a week after she came into the world, surrounded by family. Preparing for her first Christmas. Decorating. Cooking. Getting work done so I could kick back for a couple of weeks. Feeding a house full of people, more than once, during that magical week.

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Sadie’s first Christmas turned out to be the most perfect Christmas our family has ever experienced. All my cubs were home – our son from Virginia, who fell so hard in love with his niece that I saw his heart blossom right before my eyes, our daughter from Sacramento making it  home in the normal 5 hours this time and of course, the sleep-deprived, but blissfully happy new parents, my youngest daughter and son-in-love and Sadie.

Group (85 of 100) copyAfter the dinner dishes were cleared, the guests departed and it was just the principal cast left in the living room watching a Christmas music concert, you could feel the love. Seriously.

Thick enough to envelope all of us. Strong enough to make every motion hesitant. Nobody wanted to be the first to get up, because it would bring the inevitable round of endless goodbyes.

And tears. We are shameless criers.

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What magic. What a great visit. And what a welcome new beginning.

 

Running quietly beneath this was a subplot, something I’ve been working on all year that was finally coming into focus. But that’s a story that I’ll unfold on another page. This one is too perfect.

 

Forty Years of Love, Laughter and LIFE!

October 26, 1975.Boise, Idaho, in the home of Ed and Jean Jacoby, these two kids tied the knot
October 26, 1975. Boise, Idaho, in the home of Ed and Jean Jacoby, these two kids tied the knot

Oh. My. God. Today, I will celebrate my 40th wedding anniversary.

With my husband, of course.

Two score. I mean that as two chunks of 20 years each, but it does bring about a knowing grin when you think of it in Married Life Terms, because we did. Big time.

Four decades. More than the lifetime of a car, a computer, a food processor or a TV set.

In fact, I don’t think I have any of the original appliances with which we started this roller coaster of bliss. We’ve upgraded everything but the jewelry.

I still have my original wedding ring, as does he. I noticed this morning that his band that used to have deep leaves carved into it has been worn smooth in places. Mine is still pretty three-dimensional, although the bands in the back are blended into a solid gold line. I did have the diamond replaced when I lost the original at an ill-fated chalk festival a couple of years ago. Same size. I don’t need anything bigger or flashier. It’s been working for 40 years, and it is ready for the next 40.

We looked like an old married couple from the start...
We looked like an old married couple from the start…

Forty years. Holy crap. That’s a whole lot of patience and laughter and worry and happiness and stress and celebration. In those years, we’ve lived in three places; a very cold cinderblock apartment in Caldwell, Idaho, a lovely duplex in Burbank and in the Rock Hacienda in East Valencia Heights for the last 33 of those years. Our house is nontraditional, (he’s a painter and I’m a writer; we have no white walls whatsoever) but the comment we always hear is that people love to visit. Frank and I work every day to make and keep it that way.

One of many Christmas dinners
One of many Christmas dinners – Frank, Casey, Kerry, Sarah and me, wearing an apron from the LA County Sheriff’s Homicide Division. It was red…..

We’ve raised three kids in this house; hosted countless birthday parties, baby showers, graduation parties, Christmases and New Year celebrations, let wayward teens live with us for awhile and always made sure that our kids’ friends knew there was always a meal, a nonjudgmental ear and usually some fun thrown in if they stopped by. That doesn’t happen without two people working together to balance each other’s tolerance and wisdom. I think it was that mixed bag of patience and love that earned us the nicknames MamaRock and PapaRock, which we cherish.

Love. Patience. Teamwork. Forty years of teamwork.

Laughter is an important part of love.
Laughter is an important part of love.

Things haven’t always been easy. We are more than familiar with the term “starving artists” and sometimes we have had to make do instead of taking fancy vacations or buying extravagant gifts. It’s frustrating, but rewarding at the same time. We have each other and that’s enough.

If I had to describe being married, I would talk about comfort, security, safety and responsibility. I would touch on agreements and not always having the answer and facing adversity with a hand to hold so we stand tall and don’t fall over. It’s driving home after a rotten day at work or having great news and there is no one else on the planet that you want to share it with more. No one else can dry my tears or make me laugh like him and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In his arms, my stress level drops and I am at rest. It’s a great feeling.

Greetings from the Top of the Rock - the kids sent us to New York City for our 35th anniversary.
Greetings from the Top of the Rock – the kids sent us to New York City for our 35th anniversary.

I’d also mention that the most important element of a happy and successful marriage is a sense of humor. Life is a funny old raccoon, a wise friend once said, and he was right. Just when you think you have the solutions, the problems change. Over the last 40 years, we’ve found ourselves in situations that left us no alternatives but to laugh, gather our composure and start over. Our family has had some health challenges that could have ripped us apart, but we stood strong. We worried when our son served in Iraq and when relationships weren’t so good for our young ones, we cried with them. If adversity was at the door, we took a breath, gathered our composure and faced it. Together.

Laughter. Strength. Love.

When I wanted to pursue a career in news, he was behind me all the way. He saw how it excited me and made me feel worthy. When he had a career adjustment and I encouraged him to start muraling and exploring his passion for painting, I saw his eyes light up. I am his biggest fan and I know he’s mine. This is as good as it gets.

Forever, for always, no matter what...
Forever, for always, no matter what…

I will admit I am the luckiest girl in the whole damn world. My beloved puts up with my often insane reasoning, my spontaneous nature, my procrastination, and my mood swings. He celebrates every one of my little victories, sometimes even more than I do. He is, without a doubt, my biggest cheerleader and I hope he knows that I am his as well. He is my staunch defender, my arm candy, my partner in crime and the absolute love of my life.

At the greatest party Hart Mansion has seen in a long time - Casey and Tim's wedding in July 2013
At the greatest party Hart Mansion has seen in a long time – Casey and Tim’s wedding in July 2013

He listens and laughs, most of the time in the right places. He is passionate about a lot of things, lucky for me that I’m one of them.

As we approached this milestone, I tried to remember some of the early times. They’re getting harder and harder to recall, except the constant that whatever we did, we did it together. Through all the years, the pounds, the varying hair colors and lengths, crazy fashions and hobbies, he’s been there. Though some friends have come and gone, I know that the two of us fit best in the big chair in the living room and if it’s just us, that’s OK.

Comfort. Satisfaction. Togetherhood.

And the family grows! Papa and Mama, Tim, Casey, Sarah and Kerry
And the family grows! Papa and Mama, Tim, Casey, Sarah and Kerry

Now that our nest is empty, our first granddaughter will be here very soon and we’re excited to have all the kids home for the holidays – I’m looking forward to the new times. We’ll share new experiences (beyond the maze of Medicare and Social Security) as we enter a new chapter of our lives and I’m excited beyond belief that we get to do them together.

Frank, thank you for the easy-to-say last name, the hugs and the cuddles, the joy and the laughter. I love you to the moon and back. I believe in you and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead. All I know is that it’s gonna be great.

To the next score, and the one after that, and the one after that…….here we go!

CaseyAndTim-204

Love and Legislation Is All We Need

umguamournersReflecting on Thursday’s shooting in Roseburg, Oregon that took the lives of 10 people, President Obama reminded us that gun violence has numbed the country, especially the decision makers. “This is happening every single day in forgotten neighborhoods around the country,” he said. Truer words have not been spoken.

Oh, except for his earlier statement: “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough.”

Hundreds of families have been wrenched apart by these tragedies that are happening far too often. Last night, instead of having dinner together or chatting about their school days, 10 families looked at empty chairs and silent phones, forced to deal with the shock of “how could this happen?”

We know most of the victims had barely begun their life journey, while some had much experience – 18 year olds Quinn Glen Cooper, Lucas Eibel and Rebecka Ann Carnes; 19-year-old Lucero Alcaraz; 20-year-old Treven Taylor Anspach, 33-year-old Jason Dale Johnson, 44-year-old Serena Dawn Moore, 59-year-old Kim Saltmarsh Dietz and 67-year-old professor Lawrence Levine.

And for those of you who think I may have miscounted, shooter Chris Harper Mercer is included. Can you imagine, just for a moment, the horror and shock that his parents are dealing with? Not only is their child dead, but he most likely brought about the deaths of nine people. That’s a double whammy for which no parent can prepare.

Shootings in the classroom, workplace, church or public gathering places – we stuff the critical information in our collective memories and shuffle on. Thirteen dead in Columbine. 26 in Sandy Hook, 12 in Aurora, 9 in Charleston, 32 at Virginia Tech and two journalists in Virginia. We grieve. We bring in counselors. We build monuments. We promise to hug our loved ones. Then we give up.

Why have we thrown up our hands in helplessness?

The Second Amendment allows us to have guns, stating: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Good words when they were written, but worthy of regulation, such as background checks and waiting periods. I don’t think that stronger gun control would help. Oregon is an open carry state and there was a person in the thick of the action who had his own sidearm and chose not to go after the gunman because responding SWAT team members might have confused him with the actual shooter. More guns are not the answer.

And I’m not naïve enough to think that tighter gun laws would influence people like Mercer who came to the campus intent on killing people. That old “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” principle holds true. Criminals don’t generally obey the law and changing the Constitution is not the answer. I understand why we cherish our right to bear arms, but I cannot fathom why we think we need things like AK47’s that exist for the singular purpose of killing other people. Give those to the military and take them out of civilian hands.

mentalhealthIf the NRA is really supporting responsible gun ownership and safety, why don’t they use their formidable lobbying power to make mental health resources affordable and available to all? Along with strengthening and funding community programs, we need to change our attitudes to remove the stigma of being an outcast if one seeks help.

It all comes down to one simple four-letter word that needs to be addressed: hate. How do we stop the hate?

Rodgers and Hammerstein were criticized for their song “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught,” from their 1949 musical “South Pacific.” See if you can determine why:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

We really don’t like it when someone holds up a mirror, do we?

We can change this juggernaut of hate. How about starting by squelching partisan politics? How about the name-calling parts, where adults and elected officials become playground bullies in three-piece suits, turning a blind eye at any achievement by individuals of the “other party,” just because it’s popular to discredit and ridicule them?

Where do we cut the vitriol? What kind of example are we setting for our children, and for that matter, our fellow human beings? How do we justify cherry-picking the parts of the Constitution or the Bible to suit our current cause? And when do we stop rewriting the facts to reinforce our hate?

It’s got to stop. The more we operate as if it’s “Us vs. Them,” the bigger the cancer of hate grows.

We allow – and fund – campaigns to undermine each other and drive people to desperation. We disrespect each other routinely. Why are we surprised that these shootings happen so often if we treat our colleagues and constituents with hostility and anger?

Is absorbing this behavior – from Washington and the shooter-of-the-week – really the best response? Where is the outrage? Posting a rant on social media doesn’t count. Contact your elected representatives, tell them you want them to find a solution to making our schools, churches, shopping centers and others public places the safe places they were meant to be and make them listen. Don’t let them just form another blue ribbon committee either. Make them work, and when they don’t, vote them out.

It’s the only way we’re going to start the healing process we so desperately need.Kids_compassion And  one last word from our president:

“When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work together to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different…doesn’t make sense.