We just dough-not know…

It’s June and I haven’t written here in 2023. Where does the time go? I’m retired and busier than ever, but what is it I actually do all day? I know one important thing; I spend time with Daddy.

On National Doughnut Day this past week, I took Pop his weekly supply of snacks and drinks along with a favorite special treat: chocolate glazed doughnuts with sprinkles. Please don’t tell his doctor, but our local shop might know our names and what he likes, only because his huge smile when he enters this store is infectious. He wasn’t with me this visit, but they knew where this order was going.

As we spend time together, Pop usually shares stories and remembrances while partaking of his special treat. Mind you, even his deeper memories are not always chocolate glaze and sprinkles (with ALZ, it rarely is), but he holds his own and witty observations often surface. His biggest revelation this past week was the time he and his friend, Bill, walked from his house on Windomere Avenue to a local doughnut shop to take home a dozen to share with their families. Unfortunately, by the time they got home with the box, it was empty: “We just told my mom, ‘Sorry; we dough-not know what happened to them!’”  Daddy laughed and laughed.

On really good days, we have deep and meaningful conversation in snippets with daddy carefully verbalizing his thoughts. Stories, family lore, vacations, dog show adventures, friendships, and more tumble into vibrant stories of delightful conversation. He speaks and I soak up all I can, especially when his sense of humor takes over.

On the toughest days, I help him dig deeper inside his mental well to encourage him. Often times, he simply chooses to sit quietly in my company, look at family pictures, and wait for me to share the familiar stories with him. As he observes on occasion: “I haven’t forgotten, Bethy; I just can’t remember most of the time.” 

Sometimes, without warning, he looks deep into my eyes, straight inside my soul, and says, “I forget, but thank you for remembering for me.” Those moments of clarity are a divine gift. While often overwhelming, walking this path with him as the keeper of his memories in his greatest time of need is a gift to both of us.

June is National Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. 2023 marks ten years our family has “officially” been affected by ALZ. A decade…and according to St. M, 16.666% of my life. From mom’s diagnosis in 2013 to dad’s in 2017, we’ve tackled the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. Some days are diamonds and some are stone; some minutes golden and others are full groan.

Alzheimer’s may be robbing the vibrancy of Daddy’s witty mind, but he has us and we have him. We continue to forge ahead on this unique journey together. We understand well how some things in life cannot be fixed, but are shouldered with love, help, and strength of others. His heart and soul continue to hold what his mind cannot, so we choose to follow his lead to “take what you’re given with grace and dignity and move on.” After all, we simply ‘dough-not’ know what the future holds anyway, but doughnuts, they make it all a bit easier to swallow some days.

Take care of yourselves, friends, as you care for others; be blessed and be a blessing.  

What’s to be in ’23?

I don’t know about you, but it appeared the holiday season zoomed by, sometimes quite literally. From Thanksgiving through Christmas I intentionally chose to put certain expectations on the back-burner in order to simply BE—be present, pay attention, and savor the moments of precious time together. Overall, it was the easiest holiday because we were together. I let go of over-the-top expectations and anxiety about detailed perfection. The meals were not lavishly chic or garnished. The back porch tree fell over and broke during strong winds and icy storms. The cats were circling and hissing. Laundry piled up. Outdoor water faucets froze. Daddy didn’t know it was Christmas and struggled to make sense of it. The greatest part: we were together. We laughed and cried (it’s not Christmas until someone cries). Played games and watched movies. Baked (until we ran out of sugar) and ate. Talked and stayed up too late. We were together. Several airport runs later, everyone is safely back in their home places and our home is far too quiet. The memories prevail; we were together.

So here we are and here we go. This year is soon passing and the next one is on the horizon in a few hours. Frankly, I am thrilled to still BE. New opportunities, possibilities, hopes, dreams, and our stories march onward as Chapter One of 2023 begins. The history of each of us has always been in our collective stories. The new year gives each of us unique ways of crafting and sharing those stories. Even as we continue to reflect on the past year, we cannot help but crave a peak of the one ahead.

As I’ve shared before, the Scottish phrase “auld lang syne” literally means “old long since” or for “old time’s sake.” I cannot ignore the Scottish blood running in my veins when it comes to reflection and pondering “for old time’s sake.” This lifelong practice offers sacred opportunities to take the wisdom and experiences from the past year forward in order to build on their lessons. The changes, growth, missteps, triumphs, sorrows, and JOYs bring focused perspective. I want to do better, to give more, and to love more.

So, my friend, may I offer these reflections of gratitude and gratefulness as we open the Book of 2023:

Thank you for everything you do…the big things and the million little things each day.

Thank you for the unique gifts you give throughout the year…most especially the priceless ones from your heart.

Thank you for bringing JOY to others fortunate enough to know you; I’m grateful to be one of them!

Thank you for marveling at ordinary days in the most extraordinary ways.

Thank you for simply showing up, paying attention, speaking your truth, and letting go.

Thank you for understanding that it’s ok to not be ok.

Thank you for taking the blank page of each day to write the words as your story unfolds.

Thank you for rewarding others with your smiles, hugs, strength, and comfort.

Thank you for trusting your “circle of persons” as the real treasures in life and happiness as true wealth.

Thank you for doing your personal best and allowing the rest to take care of itself.

Know you are seen, heard, and loved for who you are and what you choose to be in your story. I’ve come to accept how little in life means more than faith, hope, and love, and choose to sprinkle these generously. Gentleness and humor keep my faith, hope, and love alive because they are everywhere when we seek them. These “big three” are most prominent for me in ordinary things like cooking a meal, sharing a conversation, singing children, laughing from the belly, making music, reading a book, dancing when no one is watching, hugging, helping my daddy, and walking in the woods—simple everyday actions where cream gravy soaks in and homemade grace shines through. The world and our souls crave this. May this be so in 2023. May wondrous dreams and wishes take you to remarkable places. When the storms of life swirl, may an angel gently hold your hand in comfort and strength as you prevail. May quiet time with yourself allow your everyday actions to soak in and grace to shine through as you celebrate all that is in 2023. Happy New Year!

A vet’s remembrance…

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
  That mark our place; and in the sky
  The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
  Loved and were loved, and now we lie
      In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
  The torch; be yours to hold it high.
  If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
      In Flanders fields.

The first time I heard the words to this powerful poem, my father-in-law, John Van Amburgh, was quietly quoting them from memory. He shared with me how he first heard the poem while serving overseas in the Army during WWII. The poem, written by Canadian physician, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. John McCrae in 1915, describes the haunting loss of a friend and fellow soldier who died in the Second Battle of Ypres during WWI, the war to end all wars. Dr. McCrae’s poem is one of the most quoted from the first world war, and its reference to the red poppies growing over the countless graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the Remembrance Poppy becoming a recognized memorial symbol for all soldiers lost in conflict. Poppies were considered the battlefield flower because they were the first to grow back after war destroyed the landscape.

So on this 11th hour of this 11th day of the 11th month of this year, I pause to gratefully salute Poppa Van and all who bravely gave time, talent, and service to our country. With profound gratitude we honor those living among us who served and those who currently serve, as well as their families and loved ones who courageously “crack on” during the long absences of their loved ones in service. We all know someone…so…Who will you take a moment to reach out to in gratefulness for their service? 🙂 

Sister, Sister!

It’s no secret; I absolutely adore my sister. No, we don’t always agree and we often both try to boss the other (even though I am the oldest and wisest, don’t you know). We definitely have a mutual admiration and deep respect for one another. We genuinely care for and love each other. We are forever the two Folsom girls. And thanks to our formidable parental upbringing, we appreciate the fact we have each other as we age. As I speak with others, sadly, this is not considered the norm. I’ve been told on many occasions we’re quite unique; “freaks of sibling nature.” Hmmm…

I’ve spent the greater part of the past month with my sister. She and her wife recently purchased a stunning home. “Daisy” is a cheerful sunny abode in the trees of a quiet, quintessential New England town tucked into a beautifully peaceful neighborhood. While they both commute a little further for work, the idea of retreating back to Daisy on those select days makes the miles roll by in anticipation of the calm to come at home inside their Daisy.

As expected, and most especially during big life events, my sis and I share everything. This recent moving venture was no exception. With my toolbelt packed and a credit card I wasn’t afraid to swipe, I flew north to tackle all duties as assigned. From borrowed t-shirts when we couldn’t find something clean to wear to the sharing of a sibling COVID outbreak during the move, nothing was off limits (and thanks to science and due diligence, all are recovering well!). Uniquely throughout our lifetime together, whether it’s marriages, births, deaths, surgeries, cancer, aging woes, life decisions, moving homes, climbing mountains, or celebrating milestones, we show up for each other and participate in the experience side-by-side. This move was no exception. One of us can call and say “please come now,” and the other does. When one is down, the other picks up and runs.

Most gratefully, our close bond has proved beneficial when working together on behalf of our parents, especially in the past decade. While daddy and his humor are still with us, his former guiding compass now manifests in the gentle reminders my sis and I share with him on his journey. Dad was an only child and while he and mom raised us to respect the other, he gently reminded us we had each other when they were no longer with us. He also noted that whether we want to or not, “we all quote our moms and dads.” And, fun fact, daddy never misses the opportunity to remind us of this. Most importantly, he is very aware of our “team” approach now to his daily care and well-being. Little escapes the notice of “his girls.” Roles have reversed; together we are his advocates and softest landing no matter the situation. When he sees both of us approach him, or anyone on his “team,” he warns everyone to “brace for impact.” And sure enough, we never miss an opportunity to remind him we are this force of nature because of him. 😊

So today, I’m beyond grateful for my sis! I’m filled with gratitude for the life experiences and adventures we share, the sorrows we half, and the JOYs we double on this life journey. Whether you have sibling or not, I hope you to reach out to a person you consider a brother-from-another-mother or a sister-from-another-mister. Share a story, a laugh, or a walk down memory lane along with your gratefulness for their important role in your life. May you be blessed and be a blessing as you care for yourself and others. 😊

Gracious Saints…

All Saints’ Day…All Souls’ Day…All Hallows’ Day…Sabbath Soul…Dia de Muertos. From my perspective, this particular day provokes an emotional reaction. The first Sunday in November is marked as a day of special remembrance for those who have gone before in our worship service. This remembrance is sprinkled with responsive readings, special hymns, lit candles, the presentation of a white rose to a surviving family member, and clergy reading aloud the names of those saints from the congregation who gone beyond in the past year. As my Granny B. often observed, All Saints is the time “to open and honor the ‘thin space’ where all the saints meet.”

My parents, around 1991.  My mom NEVER liked having her picture taken; it was a big deal to catch her unaware in her beautiful clothes, jewelry, coiffed hair, and spotless makeup. When she was next to dad though, he would make her laugh and coax her gently into relaxing so the snapshot was natural. She passed in 2016 and I miss her every single day, but especially on certain remembrances like today.

Ironically, I find myself deeply nostalgic and profoundly grateful every year on this solemn day. Grateful for all who came before me, whose shoulders I continue to stand upon. Grateful for the treasured stories, the powerful memories, and the lasting legacies of these saints. Grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the transformational stages of my own life journey. Grateful for each new day and the chance to clear away the broken parts while exploring new paths to grow in grace and hope. 

So today, take a moment to reflect on the saints in your life.  Who are you particularly grateful for and why?

A longtime friend sent me this poem early this morning; she was thinking of my mom and me:

In the ­struggles we choose for ourselves,
in the ways we move forward in our lives
and bring our world forward with us,

It is right to remember the names of those
who gave us strength in this choice of living.
It is right to name the power of hard lives well-lived.

We share a history with those lives.
We belong to the same motion.

They too were strengthened by what had gone before.
They too were drawn on by the vision of what might come to be.

Those who lived before us,
who ­struggled for justice and suffered injustice before us,
have not melted into the dust,
and have not disappeared.

They are with us still.
The lives they lived hold us steady.

Their words remind us and call us back to ourselves.
Their courage and love evoke our own.

We, the living, carry them with us:
we are their voices, their hands and their hearts.

We take them with us,
and with them choose the deeper path of living.

— Kathleen McTigue, “They Are with Us Still”

Here’s hoping we never lose sight of the gifts gratefully given to us by those who come and go before us…for when one is missing, the whole is somehow less. “For all the saints who from their labors rest…” May you be blessed and be a blessing as you care for yourself and others, my friends.

Moving through JOY

I opened my inbox to find this message: “As one who reminds us to experience JOY and to enJOY each day, here’s a poem for you…”

I sometimes forget that I was created for Joy.

My mind is too busy.

My Heart is too heavy for me to remember

I have been called to dance the

Sacred dance of life.

I was created to smile

To Love

To be lifted up

And to lift others up.

O’ Sacred One

Untangle my feet

from all that ensnares.

Free my soul.

That we might


and that our dancing might be contagious.    ~Hafiz~

Special thanks to the Reading Goddess, R, for reaching out to share this reminder, for sensing my heart, and for singing JOY back to me through poetry. May this gentle reminder spark JOY as you untangle your feet to inspire gratefulness around you today. Be blessed and be a blessing, friends. 🙂  


I reach up to take down my favorite pair of boots this morning. They are a pair of blue Pikolinos my St. M purchased for me four years ago in our favorite shoe store outside Mt. Airy. We always stop and shop in this family-owned establishment on our way up the mountain to the Blue Ridge Parkway; excellent quality and great value for exceptional wares. M buys running shoes and I buy everything else. 🙂 This particular style of ankle boot has a slight heel and are well-formed for my achy, aging feet. I walk securely and with a slight “swag” when wearing them because I feel their steadfast power on my unsure feet…all sass and class rolled into a cute if practical boot. I notice, though, the heel needs attention on one. It’s a reboot, so off I go to town to have our local repair shop help them last another season.

Metaphorically speaking and in an effort to reboot and jump start November in the focused season of thanks and giving, these next few blogs will focus on gratefulness. Personally, gratefulness is a practiced mindset in my world, a feeling of appreciation for a kindness or a welcome experience of gratitude and thankfulness. Authentic gratefulness brings pleasure and contentment on a level all of us could benefit from in daily life. The word itself comes from the Latin derivative, gratus, “showing grace, blessing, and JOY…” Just like daily physical exercise, cultivating creative and mindful ways to practice daily gratitude is sometimes a challenge in an effort to recharge and reboot mind, body, and soul. Finding gentle ways to nurture it are paramount to daily practice.

Day One:   What is ONE thing today you are grateful for in this moment?

Me?  REBOOT.  Waking up to a beautifully blue, crystal crisp fall morn following the torrential rains and winds from the storms of last night, the air is quiet and washed clean. The woods have regenerated to start a new day, beginning with more leaves fluttering gracefully to the ground as I rake. I run to town to repair the boot; all is well once again. My personal battery is recharged today and the multitude of worries from yesterday are more distant because of restful sleep, cooler temperatures, and calmness in my grateful thoughts. The blank page in the journal of today is clean and ready to unfold a fresh story. What will the story be today?

More patience, forgiveness, kindness, understanding, and generosity are the focus for these remaining weeks of 2022. Working to right wrongs, learning from mistakes, listening more, talking less, seeking truth, and remembering to embrace the bounty…these are the touch points. Hope is not lost. Grace and mercies are abundant. “I am grateful for what I am and have…my Thanksgiving is perpetual.” (Henry David Thoreau) So, go ahead; throw caution to the day…what’s your ONE grateful thing in this moment? 

Ode to my Piano

“She’s packed with all her parts and loaded safely on the truck! We’ll take great care of her and get her there safe and full of beautiful sound.”

The She is K.Kawai, aka “KK” aka “KayKuhWahee.” Our youngest daughter named her KK because saying the full name was too challenging for her at age 2.

KK is our family’s beloved 50-year-old grand piano. She is living the sum of her life thus far through four generations of piano and vocal practice, professional voice lessons, opera workshops, family recitals, singing hat shows, choir retreats, duets, trios, quartets, oboe with other instrument accompaniments, and much more in our family. KK never complains and always works to full potential, no matter how challenging the player on her keyboard.

It is bittersweet to convey the emotion of making music on a piano and what it means personally to me. One of my earliest memories is being on the bench of a piano my maternal grandfather was playing at a singing convention on the grounds of a Methodist church in Texas. On that particular afternoon, Grandpa Brock was playing gospel songs from a new Stamps-Baxter songbook while leading the congregation. Granny let me sit beside him on the bench if I promised to be “church-quiet.” When he leaned down to ask me what he should play next I told him “Jingle Bells.” As he always did, he began a gospel introduction with flair and I started singing with the congregation soon joining in. Likely there has never been a better gospel rendition of “Jingle Bells” ever created at a singing. He also sold out of the new songbooks that day. 🙂

Fast forward a bit and I’m sitting on the bench of Grandpa’s piano in their home while he’s tuning it. I traveled many a Saturday morning as his tuning assistant. As a treat for good behavior, he would play anything I requested so he could “test the action of the soundboard and make certain the tuning tines are tight enough.” He would also play popular radio tunes while showing me specific notes and chord progression. I was completely fascinated, thus it was time for “formal classical lessons.” At age 5, my remarkable teacher, Ruth Ann Lively Hoffman, merged great patience and kindness with firm and consistent musicianship. Grandpa and mom knew her well and trusted her classical method for teaching and reading music. She is also the blessed soul who nurtured the lyrical, gentle, and sensitive side of my musicianship while challenging me technically in profound ways. Ruth Ann poured her extraordinary talents and skills into three generations of our family (accompanying mom when she sang and then teaching piano to me, my sis, and my oldest daughter). She remains a treasured musician, mentor, and friend of our family always.

KK’s actual introduction to my musical world started when I was 10 one early morning with Grandpa at Oak Cliff Music Company in Dallas, Texas. This was around the time I was serious about being a concert pianist; I was a determined pre-teen. As he was tuning and I was playing afterwards, Grandpa decided it was imperative we had a “grand”er piano for daily practice, especially if one of us decided music was our intended career path. He told me that day: “Music in general, especially music created on a piano, stirs my soul. Master the art and feed your soul, Bethy.” While my sister endured piano lessons because mom made her (she wanted both of us to read music well), she was much more serious about singing. As I practiced and memorized classical piano works, B created lyrics and ran around the room singing them to classical pieces. As it turns out, sis was the better piano player AND overall musician! Not only did she complete a doctorate and make music her life’s work, but we raised another musician in the next generation as well. Perhaps DNA had something to do with it? My bet (and profound thanks) is on Grandpa Brock.

While not my forever calling, my love for music in general and piano in private continued through the formative and college years well into family life with M and our daughters. Even as an elementary principal, one of the many grants we wrote for additional funding involved an electronic set of classroom piano keyboards so our remarkable music teacher could teach our learners beginning piano. She organized three after-school clubs: Singers (choir), Ringers (handbells), and Fingers (piano). It’s no secret the research shows basic keyboarding and piano knowledge not only enhances musical talent in all other instruments; it builds stronger brain connections in reading, writing, math calculations, and problem solving. And yes, I was invited to play with them on several occasions and KK always helped me practice.

So our beloved KK is pedaling north today to my sister’s beautiful new home. While sad because I will miss her and her formidable daily presence in my life, she remains within our family where her calling and service are needed for more important missions. KK will be the wonderful sounding board to an extraordinary voice teacher (B) while living with a master pianist-in-residence who will nurture her (A), as scores of talented young opera singers encounter her percussive precision. Once she’s settled and properly tuned, I have little doubt she will vibrantly sing in her daily life as an instrumental liaison for musical excellence.

J.S. Bach noted, “There is nothing remarkable about it…all one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.” Maybe so, Herr Bach, but to me, KK’s 88 piano keys of ebony and ivory delicately balanced within a maple case will always reflect the sounds of a million, brilliant colors in my brain. When words fail, your music, KK, speaks volumes to the mind and soul; thank you. Thank you for resonating and flowing in constant service through my heart, mind, and musical soul all these years. Thank you for a half century of precious musical moments, powerful memories, and familial connections within the four generations of our family who play you. May those who encounter your glorious action and rich tones play and sing volumes of musical greatness for generations to come!

Step where I step…

It’s no secret I enjoy hiking, especially with my sister. I may be the oldest and bossiest, but it’s one of the times she’s in charge. I listen and respect her vast experience, wealth of knowledge, practicality, and sheer grit. We have racked up many miles through our years on foot with some stunning scenery, unique opportunities, and funny stories along the way.

Our recent exploration west (the first hiking trip together in six years) led us into the Black Hills of South Dakota. The drive west was its own road trip adventure. From the Atlantic Ocean through the amber waves of prairie and farm lands to the Badlands and majestic mountains of the west, stunning formations, exciting explorations, fresh air (Ponderosa Pine!), time together, and extraordinary views dominated each day’s adventures. We even hiked down into Wind Cave (another story for another day).

As little girls, we hiked with our dad in the summers while on vacation at the same working ranch in the Rockies of Colorado. Before each trail hike, we always looked up in awe of the daunting task ahead wondering if our momentum, lungs, and little chicken legs would get us to the top (and, let’s be honest, excited to see what snack daddy would have for us at the top). Of course, when we reached the top, taking in the view, eating our snack, and basking in our accomplishment, our perspectives grew. Daddy innately understood why we needed to climb a mountain every now and then; it was his quiet way of teaching us about life’s challenges and hardships. When we climbed mountains, we faced hurdles, obstacles, and problems to solve while on the trail using our attitude, effort, and strength. When we faltered, he always reminded us to “step where I step.” We experienced first-hand how these same personal super-powers on each mountain hike are ever-present within us as we overcome challenges in everyday life.

On our first morning, my energy and anxiety were high and ready to go. It was hot and we did a loop trail of about 3.5 miles early in the morning. On the rocks, never my favorite, Beck reminded me to “step where I step” as a way to encourage me forward. By the time we completed this first hike, my muscle-memory kicked into familiar gear. With so much to explore in the first day, I wanted to keep going but listening to my body was paramount in the moment. The temp was hovering 98 and my body was still adjusting to the altitude, so it was time for less sun and lots more hydration.

Step where I step“…simple words with powerful punch. While each of us desire our own path, it pays to sometimes stop a moment, take a deep cleansing breath, and start again with proven steps. These steps often showcase the personal super-powers to keep on climbing the path. The mountain (or the cave), no matter how big or rocky it is (and I swear it grows as I climb), is no match for the faith and desire to successfully climb. Attitude, effort, and personal strength are everything in life, especially in climbing. Mountains are meant to be climbed. Problems are meant to solved. All are critical learning experiences; some in sorrow and sadness, others in success and JOY. Each mountain serves a higher purpose to showcase how stronger, wiser, resilient, grace-filled, or hopeful we are in physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual ways.

While we often can’t control what happens to us, we do control how we see and climb the mountains in our life. We can look at the mountains as being in the way or as THE WAY to personal growth and success (or as momma would sing to remind me to, “bloom and grow forever”). We always have a choice. We can stand at the bottom overwhelmed and initially defeated, or we can dig down deep in our resource well to find the very best way within ourselves to climb onward, encouraging one another, just like Beck: “Step where I step!”

South Dakota was a fantastic adventure! The trip helped to re-center, recharge, rejuvenate, and restore after six challenging years. So here’s to each of us finding clever ways to fearlessly hike the mountains and caves in our paths on our journey. And please know I’m hiking (and singing) beside you. Feel free to step where I step. Please take care of yourself as you care for others; may you be blessed and be a blessing, friends. 🙂

May it be so…

Some days just absolutely knock me to the ground in stunned despair. On a good day for most of us, it is often a challenge being a parent, spouse, child, sibling, friend, educator (we are all teachers and learners even if not formally trained), care-giver and kind human being. Navigating an aging parent with Alzheimer’s, maintaining a company from a home office, keeping living beings alive, finding time for self-care (what does that actually look like?), cooking meals, running errands, doing homework, helping friends, assisting neighbors, writing, working on causes, making calls to politicians, sanitizing a house in a lingering pandemic…daily meanderings I take for granted. But as this next week starts, so many have no daily meanderings to take for granted.

I don’t know about you but I’m still numb, sore, bruised, and bleeding from last week. Challenging dental work aside last Tuesday, the devastating news in our country unfolding as I sat in the dental parking lot listening to NPR polarized me. My thought processes were numb from failed comprehension of who/what/why/how again and again and again. My eyes and nose were sore from ugly snot-sobbing. My soul was bruised from so many losses in a repeated way. My heart bled uncontrollably for grieving communities. As an educator, a former school principal, and one repeatedly trained in school crisis response, I quickly filled to my brim with shards of overwhelming anger, profound sadness, and raw fear. If you are as well, I am so sorry. I see and feel your sharp edges of pain.

There is much to say, yet no words to say it. There is much pontificated, yet no action for change. There is much promised, yet only broken promises remain. We just keep coming back to the same insanity and expecting different outcomes while innocent lives are lost over and over and over and over again. Quite frankly, there will never be enough time or energy for more marching, donating, phone-banking, or card-writing to make this better. Period.

How is it we still keep showing up at this same unbelievable place and we still do nothing to change the pace or place for the better? Why should our children and future generations believe us? Who actually feels safe in their own home knowing assault weapons may be loaded and ready for use by your next-door neighbor? Instead of always pointing fingers (remember, three are always pointing back to you anyway), when do we finally take reasonable action to mitigate further opportunities? Few demand total gun control; we have a Constitutional Amendment to ensure this right. What is advocated is reasonable gun safety, gun responsibility, and gun “common sense” for our country. Leave the military weapons and weapons of mass destruction to “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.”

In addition to the indescribable pain from ongoing tragedies of these past few weeks, there is additional pain triggered for all who have previously lost a loved one to prior violence in our schools, markets, theaters, places of worship, streets, homes, gathering spaces, and more. These places, in theory, should be safe, yet why is it so many in our country can never put the shattered pieces of their hearts, souls, and lives back together because they were unsafe due to repeated mass shootings? There are more guns than people in the US. We’ve had over 200 mass shootings and 27 school shootings so far in 2022. Pause a moment to acknowledge this gut-wrenching fact as it sinks deeply into your soul. Everything is on the line at this moment of our collective history. We are the only country in the world with these staggering statistics. And the world is watching and taking notes. We, the United States of America, “one nation under God,” are a nation in trouble at every level and in every way. No one, no one is safe.

Tomorrow on Memorial Day as we do each May, we officially honor and pay tribute to those who sacrificed all for the good of their beloved country. We remember those who lost their very lives giving each of us the opportunity to live our lives in a country of so much possibility. Accepting this current status quo, this cycle of social brokenness, this complete denial of repeated issues is unacceptable. We must move forward. We must reverse denial. We must show up, pay attention, seek to speak truth, and allow the real work of change to occur. We know better and must do better; in this very moment. Compromise and partisanship on the part of ALL elected officials and ALL political leaders is the start of this change. Americans (especially children) deserve to be placed first before any political careers or agendas (new campaign reform and term limits would also assist in this requisite). Nothing else is acceptable moving forward. Those who previously fought and gave their lives for these American freedoms are owed the same dignity, strength, and courage in this moment of our country’s history as they did in their final moment sacrificing their life.

As I work to pick up the emotional pieces, lament the evil and sin, and search for Divine Mercy, hope emerges slowly. Hope, Faith, and Love, especially UNconditional Love, gently nudge me to realize overwhelming good exists when we allow for the common good. I affirm I am a strong, loving, committed soul who is willing to say out loud it must change. Change is now. We cannot and should not continue on the current path; a new path on this journey is possible, and most frankly, expected moving forward. And as a dear friend reminds me, “There is so much work to do…families to comfort, children to reassure, and political leaders to remind…we’ll march, donate, call, write, and show up; yes, we will.” Yes; I will continue to do all these too-familiar things. And gratefully, as my daddy always notes, “Hope springs eternal.” May we each find our own deep well of dignity, strength, and courage to make it so this time. Yes; may it be so THIS time; may it be so…

Personal note: Emotions run high when our sensibilities are challenged. Writing is one way I process my anxiety. I have other coping mechanisms and cling to the Divine along with my beloved family / friends for hope in the sorrows and joys of life. While I also remain grateful for the freedoms we have according to our Constitution; it is time to update the law. I choose to support two combined organizations close to this hot topic: http://www.everytown.org and http://www.momsdemandaction.org Most importantly, I vote. Whatever your choice, please make your own voice heard and make a voting plan to have your voice and vote counted. Every election matters because you, your voice, and your vote matter.