Focus on Caring: Boundaries that constrain us

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How are you defined?  What kind of box would you fit into?  Here are a few characteristics some might assign to me:

  • White American
  • Baby Boomer
  • Pacific Northwest resident
  • Wife
  • Mother
  • Sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend
  • Seattle Seahawks super fan

Box with color cubesAll items on that list are correct but if that’s all that people see about me, they’ve greatly reduced the trueness of who I am because my box also contains the following:

  • spiritual but definitely not religious person
  • free-thinker (is that redundant?)
  • writer of things that matter to me
  • advocate of the elderly and just about everyone else who crosses my path in life

Setting boundaries between who I am, and who you are, benefits no one.

Compassion facesLeonard Pitts, Jr. spoke at a TEDx event in February of this year.  His 20 minute talk, The Boundaries We Choose, is readily available on YouTube so I strongly suggest you seek it out.  He suggests, “Our labels shouldn’t define who we are and place us in a strict box.”  He then spoke of labels one might put in his box: African American, Christian, Husband, Father, Fan of the LA Lakers.  If you’ve read any of Mr. Pitts’ literary pieces in the Miami Herald or any of his books, you already know that he is more than the contents his box may imply.  (To be sure, there is a very valid reason why he was named the 2004 Pulitzer Price Winner for Commentary.)

During his February TEDx talk, he provided a fabulous story that illustrates the downside of labels or identifying markers.  I’ll let you discover that beautiful and clarifying story by watching his TEDx video, but for the purposes of this blog posting, I will provide you with one of his statements from that video.

Our bonds are more than connecting with certain markers that define people.

Examine, if you will, your way of describing something that happened to you during the course of your day.

Cup of CoffeeWhen you relay a story about a person taking his or her time in line at the Starbucks store, holding everyone up for far too long a time, do you define the person this way?

This Asian woman in front of me acted like she owned the damn place.  She was so selfish, taking her damn time ordering her fancy drink when all I wanted was a damn cup of brewed coffee.

Or did you simply say

This damn person in front of me took so much time ordering a fancy damn cup of coffee that I  just about ran out of time to get my plain and simple cup of brewed coffee.

Read the rest of this entry »


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Football 2I’d like to shift the focus from footballs and their degree of inflation, to “indecent” gestures that draw fines.  In particular, let’s look at the actions of running back, Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks.  This beast of a Seahawks player has been fined twice this season – so far – for “grabbing his crotch” after making touchdowns.  Interesting.

The NFL is so hell-bent on harassing Marshawn, that in addition to fining him for not talking to the media in the manner expected of him, they’ve taken to harassing him for adjusting his cup in public.

Wait a minute, Irene.  What he did was obscene.  He touched his crotchal area and moved it up and down.

Read the rest of this entry »

Teamwork: playing nice together

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Children with Seahawks colorsAs a child, do you remember being admonished to “play nice together” with your siblings or friends?  Or perhaps you’re a grandparent who has encouraged your grandchildren to behave better with others by using that same phrase.  I like it, and I think playing nice together needs to be a part of our daily life strategy. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ll write what I damn well please

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Where has freedom of the press, and freedom of speech gone?

Must we concern ourselves with offending every element of society – friendly or adverse – with the words we choose to express ourselves?  to express our views?  Whether political or religious views; whether mundane topics such as fashion or dining; are we supposed to produce euphemistic journalism so as to avoid ruffling the feathers of another person’s beliefs or opinions?

That’s not my plan.
Read the rest of this entry »

2014: The year of no ideas a/k/a red states vs blue states

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2014: The year of no ideas | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

Opposing sides of the field
Opposing sides of the field (Pixabay)

Syndicated columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr. did it again: he wrote about issues that most of us are very concerned about and at least for this one reader/writer, he spoke for me.  The above article addresses the precise way that I feel – and that many others feel – about red versus blue.  Here’s a few quotes from the article that you should take the time to read in its entirety.

First a quote from President Obama, a quote that he premiered ten years ago and reiterated after the recent mid-term elections:

“I continue to believe,” said President Obama, “we are simply more than a collection of red and blue states.  We are the United States.”

Now a few paragraphs from Mr. Pitts’ article addressing that statement:

“People for whom everything is about politics tend to forget that most of us do not see the world that way.  Red or blue, left or right, most Americans simply want a government that works, that gets things done, and a nation that stands for something, that means something in the world beyond just a parcel of land where a bunch of people live.  This is why Obama’s words electrified 10 years ago; they seemed to connect people to ideals larger than their own lives.

“And it is why the same words seem flatter than left-out cola 10 years later, the hope of larger ideals having been sequestered, government shutdowned, PAC’d and gridlocked down into a sobering realization of how truly small American politics can be.

“Cowardice squared off against cynicism Tuesday [2014 election day] and cynicism won.  But there is something wrong when those are the only options on the ballot.

“We are supposed to be united states, the president says.  But there are too many days lately when a sentiment that once grounded and ennobled feels fanciful and unlikely.”

And now my statement:

Whether we’re talking about State/local government or Federal – year after year, too many employees of each have failed to do their job.  These employees don’t work behind desks in the hallowed walls of government; they square off on the football field where at least two opposing sides refuse to give an inch for fear that the opponents’ goals might be reached.

And I might add, goals that could very well benefit the American citizenry, but are turned down simply because the other team proposed them.

Doesn’t that seem shameful to you?


R.B. Bailey Jr.’s Blog – A site you all should visit

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R.B. Bailey Jr.’s blog comes close to being a one-size fits all website because of its inclusion of multi-facted and varied postings that attract the viewing needs of a broad population.

Check out and follow his blog as I did just the other day
Check out and follow his blog as I started doing just the other day.

I hope you’ll visit – and even follow – his site.  It deserves to be in your Favorites folder.

Fahrenheit 451 – sort of

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The 1953 Ray Bradbury novel, Fahrenheit 451,depicts a future American society where books are outlawed and those that are found are destroyed by fire via that society’s “firemen.”  The premise of the novel has been described as representing the suppression of dissenting ideas from those deemed correct and appropriate: censorship at its worst.  This blog entry is not about censorship; it is about the possibility of losing the tactile, hard or soft cover media that has entertained billions of us over the years: the non-electronic book.

I crave books and I am never without a selection from which to choose,

Paper vs Digital
Paper vs Digital

but maybe the vehicle by which I read books – and that so immediately satisfies my hunger for more books – will bring about the demise of the tactile tome.

I’m talking about e-readers.

From June 3, 2010 through June 8, 2014, I have spent just under $3,000 on e-books.  If that shocks you, imagine how I feel seeing that number because I have to admit it doesn’t feel like thousands of dollars when I download a new book in less than a minute.  I purchased books now and then prior to purchasing my first e-reader four years ago, but most of my reading addiction was satisfied compliments of the local library system.

My completed novel, not yet published.
My completed novel, not yet published.

Caveat: I can justify a certain percentage of my e-book purchases by telling you that quite a bit of the research I perform for my writing career comes from fiction and non-fiction works that focus on aging – most specifically on Alzheimer’s and other dementia.  But even I will admit that it’s a very small percentage.

I would gladly give up my e-reader if doing so saves soft and hard cover books.

One of my family members stopped using his e-reader; he lost the passion for reading – or more accurately – he found it difficult to find a book he could dive into.  He kept going from book to book and nothing he read captured his attention.  He had a light bulb moment, however, when he discerned that the content he was reading was not lacking, it was the electronic apparatus that was at fault.  I’m not parting with my e-reader yet, but the anxiety I have been feeling the past couple months haunts me each time I pick up my e-reader and swipe the page from right to left, instead of lifting the top right corner of the page and laying it down on the left.

Sarah Jio’s most recent novel, Goodnight June, hints at what has already occurred and might very well occur completely: an absence of book stores and readers to keep them in business.  Another voiced concern in Goodnight June is that the childhood love of reading is waning.

What do you see children doing when they have free time?  Do they pick up a book like so many of us did when we were their age or are they cozying up on the couch with an electronic device?

Is it just me?  What are your thoughts?

Theological bullying

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Forced faith is not faith | Opinion | The Seattle Times.  The syndicated columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr., has proven yet again how fabulously he writes.  His writing can only attain that quality, however, if what he writes comes from a sense of justice, compassion, and truth.  Therefore, hands down – his writing is fabulous.

The title for this blog piece comes from Mr. Pitts’ article where he quotes Martin Luther King’s definition of faith as being, “taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  The columnist says that given what the Sudanese Parliament has done by imposing the death penalty on one of its citizens who wouldn’t disavow her faith, “faith has less to do with hope and assurance and the courage to take steps in the dark, than with justifying just this kind of theological bullying.”

This story centers around choosing one religion over another.  My writing on this story does not pit Christianity against Islam, (or vice versa) rather, it’s a story showing a conflict between two religions that very well might end horrifically.   It’s a dramatic story because the “guilty” party, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a mother of two who married a Christian man, will receive 100 lashes and then she will be killed after her youngest child has been weaned – nothing short of outrageous and barbaric.

Can you require/force someone to have faith?

Can you require/force someone to love you?

Mr. Pitts asks:

Can faith ever truly be faith if it is imposed by force of law or threat of violence?  Is faith faith if it is not freely chosen?  If someone swore at gunpoint that she loved you, would you believe her?

Faith can move mountains; religion can't.
Faith can move mountains; religion can’t. (Painting by artist, Mary Riesche)

The Sudanese Parliament has no concept of what faith is.  Again, I’m not talking about Islam in general, I’m talking about the actions of the Sudanese Parliament.  Its members are simply trying to force this 27-year old woman to leave her Christian religion and follow their religion, Islam.  They are proving that they are a bunch of fearful wimps – so afraid are they of any religion that differs from theirs.  But we all know the truth: the strongest person represented in this travesty is Meriam Yehya Ibrahim.  She’s not holding on to her religion, she’s holding on to her faith.

Bullies are weaklings in disguise whose only weapon is to assert a strength they will never have.



Same sex marriage: we don’t have to agree

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Fanaticism on both sides of gay-rights issue | Local News | The Seattle Times.  by Danny Westneat  Please read the attached article if you have not already done so.

A friend from college found me through Facebook the other day and we’ve spent a couple days catching up with each other via e-mail because it has been decades since we’ve communicated with each other.  I told Angie about my work with the elder-care community and I also mentioned that I’m a contributing writer for Grandparents Day Magazine (an Australian online publication), I have my own blog, and I’m writing my first novel.  “Irene, did you major in English at the University?”  “Nope, I majored in French.  I write not because I’m an exceptional writer, but because I have something to say.”

As is the case today.

Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times wrote another brilliant column in such a way as to make you say, “Hmmmm.”  What I mean is that at least for me, he opened my eyes as to how demanding some of our opinions can be.  For example:

Whether you support same-sex marriage or you don’t, you have the right to say how you feel about it.

Six years ago, Mozilla CEO, Brendan Eich contributed financially to Proposition 8 in California – a proposition that opposed gay marriage.  It was discovered that he had done so, and the newly installed CEO was immediately ousted.  He had, however, been with the company since the 1990s, and as Danny Westneat pointed out, “There was no evidence his views against legalizing gay marriage had any effect on his various jobs at the company, including his treatment of gay co-workers.”

Putting a more local perspective on this same subject, Washington State’s 2012 Referendum 74 that would allow same-sex marriage in our state, had 5,700 names on the anti-gay-marriage monetary contributor list, including those from Amazon, Starbucks, T-Mobile, F5 Networks, Microsoft, and Boeing, to name a few.  Many others were opposed to the Referendum and financially contributed against it: medical professionals, public-school teachers, a school superintendent, and a couple college instructors.  The measure passed, with the voters split 53.7% to 46.3% of valid votes placed.

Is this where we're gonna place those who don't believe the way we do?
Is this where we’re gonna place those who don’t believe the way we do?

Isn’t that grand?  Everyone was allowed to vote which ever way they wanted; a fabulous example of the right to believe/speak the way you want through the democratic voting process.  But do or say something that might give ones business a bad reputation in the eyes of the majority – or even the minority – then by God, you’ve gotta go.

Where do we draw the line?

Personally, I passionately voted the way I wanted to vote regarding Referendum 74, and although I might disagree with those who voted differently from me, I respected their right to vote which ever way they wanted.

In his article, Danny Westneat talked about the fanaticism that the Boy Scouts exhibited by ousting a gay Boy Scout leader because of who he is, not because of his work performance.  But the columnist added that the same fanaticism was displayed when the Mozilla CEO was ousted for what he believes.

If we are now requiring everyone to believe the way we believe; think the way we think; or vote the way we vote, aren’t we exhibiting a radical intolerance that nullifies our right to believe and speak as our conscience leads us?

I hope I never live in a world where someone figuratively puts a gun to my head to force me to think, believe, or vote the way they want me to.

Anyone who knows me, knows that would really piss me off, and it should make you pretty darn angry as well.

Chatter that matters

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Irenes StoryMy adult life has been an open book; just ask my husband.  He would tell you that on our very first dinner date at a Kirkland, Washington waterfront restaurant, I pretty much told him my life from A to Z, and then some.  That’s why it was so astounding that at the end of our date he asked, “Would you like to do this again?”

Wow, I didn’t scare him off.

My earlier social networking profile.
My earlier social networking profile.

I’m pretty sure my open book living started quite young for this girl who is one of the most talkative people I know.  What can I say?  Apparently a lot.  As a youngster, I recall engaging my parents’ dinner guests in conversation, even sitting on their laps, without much hesitation or shyness.  And along with my brother and my sister, we would sing and dance for any person who would sit down long enough for us to entertain them.  I’m quite certain this ability is a Desonier family trait that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Being talkative is one thing, but if your words don’t account for much, that’s all they are – just words.

I admire those who are able to change the world – or at least improve someone’s day – with an economy of words that have more impact than any vomiting of words that I can spew during the course of an hour.  My husband, Jerry, is one of those talented people.  Forgive me for sounding morose, but I guarantee that years, and years, and years from now, those attending my husband’s funeral will remark on how he was a man of few words – but the words he spoke were golden.

We were younger then.
We were younger then.

At our wedding reception – a family-only party at our residence – I told both families that one of the things I admired most about Jerry is that he is a man of very few words, but what he says is worth listening to.  Of course seeing as his siblings were also at the reception, one of his sisters yelled out, “Yah, he’s an empty book!”

That’s humorous, but far from the truth.  My husband’s story is one of family, commitment, and protectiveness.  He’s always thinking about what he can do to protect his two adult daughters and how he can keep me safe, wherever I may be.  Sunset in Redmond  I love taking walks – rain or shine – in our rural neighborhood where dogs, bobcats, and even black bears, have been known to present themselves when you least expect it – not to mention the inattentive drivers who may not notice that I’m trekking along the side of the road.  In the past ten years, my husband has gifted me with: waterproof long pants, a sturdy walking stick, a fluorescent yellow vest, a pair of straps with strobe lights on them that I can either wear around my arms or my ankles, pepper spray, and the list goes on.  Some wives may take offense to receiving such practical gifts, bemoaning the fact that he must not love me if these are the types of gifts he thinks I really want.  I see those practical gifts as a sign of love from someone who wants me to be around for many years to come.

Words, followed up by actions, have the power to change everyone in your corner of the world.  Whether hastily spoken harsh words or well-thought out words of encouragement – your corner of the world will be changed.  Many of us need to learn to swallow our words and only let escape those that feed and nourish the recipient.  I, for one, can cut my dialogue in half, as long as what remains serves to build up those with whom I come in contact.

One thing is for certain; the less often you open your mouth, the less opportunities exist to stick your foot in it.

Rocking the boat on your life’s voyage

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Forgive me, if you will, because I am going to start this blog piece by quoting some of the lyrics from Katy Perry’s song, Roar.  You may not have heard of this popular singer or if you have, you may not follow her career, but one of her songs resonated with me and challenged me, so thus begins a few of the lyrics:

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath; scared to rock the boat and make a mess, so I sat quietly, agreed politely.  I guess that I forgot I had a choice; I let you push me past the breaking point; I stood for nothing so I fell for everything.

When was the last time you swayed in the wind of other people’s opinions and fearing ostracism, you swayed in silence even though you disagreed with those opinions being expressed around you?  What did that feel like?

You held me down, but I got up, already brushing off the dust.  You hear my voice, you hear that sound, like thunder gonna shake the ground; you held me down, but I got up; get ready ’cause I’ve had enough.  I see it all, I see it now…

How long did it take to break the hold that your silence had on you?  How much time passed before you got up and let your “you-ness” shine forth amongst the crowds – whether those crowds consisted of strangers or close loved ones?  What did it take for you to divert from the ebb and flow of popular opinion and launch your own?

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire; ’cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.  Louder than a lion, ’cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.

Break out of the prison where your stifled opinions have placed you.
Break out of the prison where your stifled opinions have placed you.

The purpose of this open-ended article is to encourage some personal internal dialogue wherein you answer the above questions for yourselves and discern whether or not you’ve been stifling beliefs or opinions that define the essence of who you are, but which you’ve held to yourself because you don’t want to rock the boat.

What are you waiting for?  The author, Eckhart Tolle would say that Now is all you have.  You can’t go back and correct the past; it doesn’t exist anymore.  You can’t rely on there being a future.  All you have is the present moment, so do yourself a favor and stop denying who you are, and what you believe in.  Take it from someone who knows – you’ll like and respect yourself a whole lot more when the real you starts living.

Baby Boomers remember 11/22/1963

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Please answer the following two questions:

  1. What were you doing when President John F. Kennedy was shot? (West Coast Pacific Time for that was 10:28 a.m.)
  2. What did you feel as a result of his assassination – either right then and there and/or the days and weeks following?
English: John F. Kennedy, photograph in the Ov...
John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was in my 5th grade classroom at St. Bede the Venerable elementary school in La Canada, California, when suddenly, the school’s public address system came on in our classroom, broadcasting what appeared to be an urgent radio message.  The Principal of the school gave no preamble to the radio broadcast, it simply became suddenly audible in our classroom.  When I was able to focus, as a fifth grader, on what was being said, I recall hearing “The President of the United States has been shot; John F. Kennedy was shot during a motorcade in Dallas, Texas and is not expected to live.”  (Or words to that effect.)

My teacher, Sister Mary Fahan told us kids to put our heads down on our desk and pray.  It seemed so startling to me – it was a heavy moment for which us fifth graders didn’t have 100% understanding, but the young boys and girls in my classroom felt the heaviness of the moment anyway.  Many of us were crying at the words coming forth over the speakers in our classroom – urgent and shocking words that stuttered from the radio announcer’s mouth.

School was dismissed and when my sister, Mary, and I were picked up by our mom, we climbed into her red and white 1957 Chevy Bel Air Nomad station wagon and joined our tears and fears with those of our mother’s.

Then for the remainder of November and into early December, it seemed as though the only story being covered on our little black and white (somewhat brown and white) television screen were the news updates and somber funereal activities inherent with the death of a President.

I recall that after I recovered from the initial shock of the incident, the impatience of a nine-year old took over due to the bombardment of constant television coverage that echoed around the walls of our house.  I yearned for normalcy, and for me that meant a return to TV episodes of Lassie reruns and new episodes of My Three Sons.  Perhaps what we experienced during that 1963 tragedy is not unlike what the children of the 9/11 era felt when their lives were invaded by the tragedy that marks their young lives.

Unfortunately, there seem to be enough horrific world events going on that each and every generation’s children will have memories about which they will reflect as they enter their older years; just as us Baby Boomers reflect on November 22, 1963 and all the other tragedies that have invaded our lives since then.

My Veterans Day Hero

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My father, on the right, with his brother, Armand.
My father, on the right, with his brother, Armand, beside him.

My father, Don Patrick Desonier, born March 12, 1918 in Toronto, Canada is my Veterans Day hero.  He was still living in Toronto when World War II broke out in the late 1930’s.  A young man of approximately 21 years of age, my dad voluntarily signed up for the Canadian Army and served in the artillery division as a Second Lieutenant or – because the Canadian Army spoke both English and French – Sous-lieutenant.

My father was bi-lingual because his father was French Canadian – a descendant of French settlers in Canada.  The correct spelling of our last name was Desaulniers, but when my parents and us three kids settled in the United States, my parents grew weary of the mispronunciation – and misspelling – of our surname, so in the 1950’s, mom and dad had our surname legally changed to its current spelling.

When my father died on October 13, 2007, many of his effects were distributed to my brother and sister, and me.  I have some amazing black and white photos from WWII as well as a couple German handguns – both of which are locked in a wall-safe in our house.  A couple years before my father died from complications of Alzheimer’s, he and I had a brief, but eye-opening discussion about his war service.

My father fought in France, Germany, and England and saw it all – I know this because I asked him.  Our conversation went something like this:

“Dad, I have to assume that because you were in the artillery and served in several WWII hotspots, you were called upon to kill those who were designated as the enemy – right?”

“Yes, Irene.  No one wants to take someone’s life, but when it’s a question of the enemy taking a bullet or you and your buddies, you choose the former.”

“So dad, you saw your buddies get severely injured and even killed – didn’t you?”

“Yes – that’s the way it is on the battlefield.”

I looked at my father, tears in my eyes, and for the first time in my life, I said, “Thank you for your service, dad.  I appreciate all that you did to defend what was right during World War II.”

His response – and I paraphrase: “It’s just something you do, Irene, because it needs to be done.  No one likes war, but thus far no war has ever ended on its own.  Unfortunately wars don’t just peter out.”

Those of us Baby Boomers who have parents that fought in the earlier wars may not have considered what they endured before they started a family and got on with the rest of their lives.  I hadn’t, but I’m grateful that in my late 40’s, I asked dad about his military service, and I thanked him for it.

My hero and I taking a stroll in 2006.
My hero and I taking a stroll in 2006.