All You Need is Love

The first time I read the article, The Last Children of Down Syndrome, I had the same visceral gut reaction as many others who may have just skimmed over it, “What?? Don’t the people of Denmark know the blessings that people with Down Syndrome bring into your life? I will need to educate them.” The second reading, I was less emotional and more impressed with the depth of the journalism in covering a sensitive subject. By the third reading and after talking to several people close to me, I had my “aha” moment. This story is not about a few parents in Denmark having to make a heart-rending choice. It is the cover story in The Atlantic Magazine, in December of 2020, because it is a metaphor, a much deeper “story” that affects every single one us and how we respond to choices, choices that everyone of us will or have faced. It is not a story targeted at a small select group of parents, it is aimed at the heart of every single one of us, who, perhaps, have faced one of the most difficult years of our lives. It has been a year that has disturbed our foundations and made us realize what things really are important.  With that realization, my response comes from a much different place, a deeper place. It is a subject that after 60 years of living, I am only beginning to understand myself, but still, I can speak confidently about.

Unlike most of the families interviewed in this article, my son, Andy, was born before genetic testing was the norm. I was not faced with any “choice”  to make while I was pregnant. I was 24 years old, prime child bearing age.  I learned of Andy’s condition about an hour after his birth, when my husband came into my room holding our first born son in his arms and told me that the Dr. said he had “Down Syndrome.” Any “choice” as to whether to continue the pregnancy had left the gate. I still remember my words, as my eyes welled up with tears. “Who cares, we will take him home and love him like the rest.” Because whether to take him home was not really a choice either, I had nursed him, I had bonded to him, he was mine. As far as the “choice” as to whether to keep him, that ship had sailed too, even though some parents were still given an option of institutionalized care at the time. A nurse came in my room and spoke of a genetic anomaly—whatever the hell that meant—and told me that these kids could dance and knit like no other. With that helpful advice packed in my diaper bag with a sample can of baby formula, I wrapped him in a blue blanket and headed home. At home, I had an almost three-year-old, a one year old and a birthday party waiting to greet me. I didn’t have any time to ponder what his disability would mean. I had very little time to grieve or even sleep. I was too busy taking care of three babies. It has pretty much been the same for the past 36 years. More siblings eventually arrived and Andy just blended into the love and chaos. We were The Down family. We stood out and we stood up for each other. We all had Down Syndrome to some degree or another. Although, Andy is quick to remind all of us, that he is the only one with the secret line across his palms, a Simian Crease…common to most people with Down Syndrome. In an argument he would always raise his hand, to show he was the one with the true secret superpower. 

 Over the years, imperceptibly, Andy changed us, he defined us. If you ask any one of my children they will tell you that having Andy as a brother, helped make them who they are. All of my children are kind and caring and look out for each other and for those who may be the underdog. I am now seeing these same traits in my grandchildren as they look out for their “Uncle Andy” as he looks out for them. They are who they are because of the homes they have been raised in. We would not be the same family or the same people without him. He has made us better.  Did I know any of this in that hospital room on that cold, dark January day, so many years ago? Of course not! We are never given the luxury of seeing the end from the beginning in this adventure we call life. We see through a glass darkly. Most of the time we just muddle through. The Universe has a sense of humor, sometimes a twisted sense of humor. We know, we are the Down family!!

This is the dilemma, the dilemma laid out in the magazine article. What are we supposed to do today, when we don’t know what tomorrow brings? How do we make life altering choices with  very little information? In the case of Down Syndrome, the primary information that expectant parents are given comes from Doctors who have very little real life experience in such matters. So what are we to do when faced with decisions, decisions with real, life changing consequences. I know now what you do…you roll with it, you muddle through, even if all the info you are given is “hey, they can really knit…and dance.”  And you alway choose love. And that is pretty much it my friends. It’s easy.

Fortunately, I learned this early from my Vacation Bible School teacher who sat with us in a circle, under a palm tree in Phoenix, strumming her guitar singing, “Everything is Beautiful…in it’s own way.” and “What the world needs now, is love sweet love,” as a bunch of nine year olds swayed to the music. The hippie generation I was born into have really screwed some things up, but the main message that my generation was sent to share has withstood the tests of time. In the words of our modern day apostles, John and Paul…Love is all there is. 

Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love

There is nothing you can know that isn't known
Nothing you can see that isn't shown
There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be
It's easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need!

When asked about this song, later, John and Paul  said “it was inspired and we didn’t want the message to ever get lost, ever.” Love is all you need.

And you can look to the the other modern prophets too…the words of the prophets written on the subway walls.  They all say the same thing….Rumi said it….”“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” Joseph Campbell said it, ““The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” And Leonard Cohen said it in another way. “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” So when you are “wounded” or “cracked” or find yourself in a dark cave…as all of us will—you wait and the light will get in…it always does. Always! 

Thinking that we are going to have some Utopian society without disabilities, without illness, without poverty, without challenges, without viruses, is the Brave New World that none of us want to live in…for it would be very dark indeed, with no cracks letting the light in. But Aldous Huxley already laid that out for us much more succinctly than I can. The Atlantic just stirred our memory and reminded us. Instead, we must once again come to terms that we will never know the end from the beginning, regardless of what a well-meaning nurse or doctor or teacher or politician tells us…that is not how it works.  We must take what life gives us, wrap it up in a blanket, learn to roll with it, love fiercely, and then crank up the music and dance.  Andy and my Yellow Submarine album taught me that!

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The Ladies Room

I was seventeen, a senior in high school and flying cross country to visit my dad and stepmom for Christmas vacation. I had a layover in Chicago. The times were so different then, no TSA, people milling around the airport like it was a shopping mall. My dad always warned me before a trip not to talk to the “Moonies,” the tambourine playing, robe wearing hippies of the seventies who panhandled at the airports. I kept my loose change securely in my purse in case I needed to call one of my parents, collect from a pay phone. That was my only safety net on these adventures. This trip, I had entered the ladies room and encountered a very long line, as often is the case in airport bathrooms. While standing in line, the door opened and an elderly gentleman pushed his wife in a wheelchair into the restroom. Seeing so many people, she said with a worried look on her face, “Oh dear, you can’t wait in here in this line, we will need to leave.” Another older woman towards the front  immediately took control of the situation. “Of course you’re not leaving, everyone step back and you help your wife get to the stall.” We obeyed and both of them looked relieved that the situation solved itself. He pushed her chair past all of us to a handicapped stall. We patiently stood and waited for them to leave.

That day, I made a mental note to myself. “I am going to be like that lady when I grow up, a take charge person.”  She knew just what to do. She taught me, an awkward restroom wallflower, that sometimes kindness requires stepping out of your comfort zone and being the one to solve the problem. She taught me that you can learn to be kind by watching what other people do in hard situations. She taught me that kindness often means you break the rules….even silly public bathroom rules.

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Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. The truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen; room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” —Pema Chodron


We made the drive for Mother’s Day, my sisters and I. We were going to take her out for a nice dinner. We knew there would not be too many more Mother’s Days with her in our future. We arrived in town and called her, she was at the hospital. She was in the emergency room and before the afternoon was over she was in ICU. The nurses taught us the drill, wash your hands, put on the rubber gloves, put on the face mask, no visitors except family. She slept mostly, except when they came in to poke her with a needle. So many needles. So many bags of fluid. So much blood being drawn. So many different nurses. We tried to stay out of the way. We sat at the foot of the bed. We tried to blend into the wallpaper as doctors came and went. Because we were also dealing with him and he was confused and when he was confused he was angry. So we let the professionals talk to him, to calm him, to explain to him, to help him try and make sense of all the bags, all the blood, all the needles. We, the sisters, the granddaughters, the womenfolk sat at the back of the room, laughing occasionally, behind our masks, with our rubber gloves on….like we were going to catch death or in this case, like she was going to catch life. It was all absurd. It was all surreal. Mostly though, I watched the monitor, the monitor at the head of the bed. Three lines, rising and falling: her heart, her respiration, her saturation. I watched the numbers rising and suddenly falling, beating out time. The end of time. “You can’t die in a hospital anymore, they won’t let you,” I thought to myself. There is always something else they can poke you with to keep those waves cresting. And at night, after he left, I moved closer. I fell into breathing along with her. I dozed and I remembered. There were so many things I wanted to tell her in the silence, but only two did she seem to understand. “You were a good mom and we will take care of “him.” And she would respond with one word- “Really?” Until one morning she woke up and told me to skedaddle.

Things fell apart quickly after that for all of us….he did, then she did, then she was gone, then finally, I fell apart. Grief is funny that way. It takes a while. Yet, life goes on. The sun rises and sets. People need to be fed. Lawns need to be watered. Dogs need to be walked. The moon quarters, halves, gibbous and fulls… and your heart does too. But a grayness settles in and you slow down while life speeds by. Tears fall at the strangest times and you yearn for a mask. And you can’t find your words. You fall asleep with grief under your pillow and in the morning it is still there. You want to blend into the wall paper to disappear and you want to shout, “Hey does anyone know I am here!”


The phone rang early in the morning, before the sun was up, in the middle of a meteor shower. “She needs you can you please come.” I hadn’t planned on being there for the birth of my new granddaughter, but of course I wanted to be. I hurried to the car and raced to the hospital and a large meteor streaked across the sky, just as it was turning pink in the East and Venus was rising. Soft music filled the room and calming voices reminded her to breathe. The contractions were coming regularly now, one followed another, breathe, relax, rub her back, wipe her brow. The hours passed. The pain was intense. Pain that was going nowhere. We moved her, this was not going as planned. Doctors and nurses surrounded the bed. I looked in her face and reminded her to breathe. I looked at the monitor. Three lines, going up and down in so many different directions. Three lines assured me this was labor, hard labor and the baby was still o.k. Finally, she slept and they became more stable. The lines began to look like waves not an erratic stock market. I sat quietly at the end of the bed as she slept. A bed now holding a very young mother. A bed ready to usher in life not to usher it out. We spoke in whispers the nurses and I, we listened to the regular beat of the monitor. This time her he was also next to her, this time he was sweet and loving and attentive. So much the same—so much different. The sun set outside the window and the lights came on. Finally, just like death, a threshold opens, a crowning, blood and water, tears and pain, silence and moaning. But this time the end brought unspeakable joy.


And then things began to come together—a baby, happiness, new life. We swaddle her in love. And as the days and the weeks have passed we have spent time together under the trees, watching the sun rise, seeing her first smiles. The seasons are beginning to change. Today there is calm. Nothing has been solved, but I have grown. There is room for it all, the healing and the grief.

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They come, just like the ubiquitous hot flashes of middle age springing out of nowhere. They are as unexpected as the minutes of intense heat- rising and burning away the dross of guilt, regret, mistakes made during the childbearing years. They come without warning and can be triggered by anything, a song, a poem, a sunrise, a fading photograph. It happens when I least expect it, escaping one drop at a time. I don’t sob, my face doesn’t get red, there is no tell-tale noise, no runny nose. Most often no one even sees them, they are quickly wiped away. What I can’t seem to do is stop them or predict them. They just happen. One teardrop at a time, rising not from my body but from my soul. A tiny drop of salty water escaping from my heart. Sometimes, it is so full of pain,  my being simply cannot hold it inside anymore and it must be absorbed by the universe. At other times, it contains a drop of joy that falls in gratitude upon the ground. Most often, it is a drop of love mixed with a memory or a hope. It is the only form of prayer I know these days. It pleads for nothing, it doesn’t pretend to know anything, it just is. It trusts, it accepts, it let’s go and it falls to the ground, leaving an almost imperceptible trail on the path where I have walked. Perhaps, like the small droplet of rain falling high in the mountains, these soul drops will gather with those shed by others, forming a small stream and then a great river until they are combined in some mysterious ocean to wrap us in the love that will one day welcome us all back home. Perhaps, as we die we will smell the salt water, run into an ocean of love that we have helped create and realize that this has been the meaning of our lives. Perhaps.

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Fear Not

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The yellow legal pad is open on the table. The opening paragraph seemed pretty good, rough, but I had what I thought was a good opening line.

“What are you afraid of? My spouse practically yelled the words at me from the driver’s side of the car. We were arguing-although as in most of our arguments he did most of the talking and I sat staring ahead, silently, trying to find my words. It has been so long ago now, that I have no recollection of what we could have been fighting about. I just remember the question. The question that has been frozen in time, like a cartoon bubble over my head, a question followed by dot, dot, dot. “What are you afraid of….?

I turn the page over on the pad and draw four columns.1) What was I afraid of as a child 2) What was I afraid of as a teen 3) as a young mother and 4) what am I still afraid of. I smile as I make the first list watching each childhood fear float away like a bubble and pop. Fears that once gripped me, now cause me to smile. My early fears of thunder and lightening, now comfort me as I fall asleep. The fear I had of my neighbor’s rose bush, which grabbed my coat and would not let me go, brings back a fond memory of a childhood home. A fear that turned into one of my passions, gardening and roses. I look at the yellow pad, the words lie there on the paper, the thoughts and memories spin in my head. I stand up and walk to the kitchen to fix a cup of coffee. Why is this so hard? On second thought, forget the coffee, maybe tea will settle my stomach. On third thought, maybe I should get some fresh air.

Standing outside, I see my beloved mountains, so firm so unchanging. Each morning, for the thirty plus years I have lived in Utah, I wake up and walk to a window to look East. With the Psalmist I say, “I look to the mountains, from whence cometh my strength.” My God has changed over the years, but the mountains they have remained firm. This morning, the clouds finally parted and when I looked east to the sky just beginning to turn pink, I saw Venus, Jupiter and Mars-all lined up in a perfect row-the only lights in the pre-dawn sky. As I look down the street, it is in full blown splendor. The reds, oranges and yellows form a tunnel for the cars. The pines the only green left now. It is my favorite time of year, but it always brings a sense of change and uneasiness that only the sound of the geese flying overhead seem to articulate.

IMG_8675I have to get something written. I sit down again. Teenage fears, start swirling in my mind. Fears of embarrassment, embarrassment from not wearing the right clothes, hanging with the right friends, saying something stupid, fears that accompany moving to new schools and new cities. Fears that have turned to strengths as I have sought to be aware of the new neighbor, the new employee, the new kid at school. Fears that have helped me venture beyond my comfort zone. Teenage fears of dating and rejection have been replaced by a long, comfortable relationship. There must be words to express this, maybe I will just write a paragraph. I grab my pen and stare off into space while my hand draws circles, round and round. Tea, yes tea, the tea will calm my stomach.

Focus, Colleen, focus! I am already past the day we are supposed to send in our writing. And this was an easy prompt. “What are you afraid of….? “ I am practically shouting at myself now. Well, I am certainly not afraid of the long list that used to haunt me. Like Dorothy, I have thrown a bucket of water on so much of what used scare me along the yellow brick road of life. Lions, and tigers and bears, Oh my! Satan, and sinning and hell, not really! Dorothy and me, we have pulled back the curtain and figured out a few things along the way. Maybe, I should find a Rolaid or Pepto Bismo. Maybe I will scroll through FaceBook again, then I will finish this! Write for ten more minutes, just ten more minutes, don’t you dare click on FaceBook!
Why didn’t I ever read Alan Watts before? How is it that some people can connect with us over space and time and speak to our very souls? I pick up one of his books off the coffee table The Wisdom of Insecurity and begin to thumb through its pages.There it is underlined with a little star by it. “If we cannot live happily without an assured future, we are certainly not adapted to living in a finite world where, despite the best plans, accidents will happen and death comes at the end.” It is one of the few books I have marked up. I have always had an aversion to writing in books, maybe for two reasons. My mother always taught me to respect books and treat them very kindly. I had a hard time marking up college texts. Second, you can always tell what “issues” people have in their life by what they underline in a book. I hate being that transparent and I lend out a lot of books! But this book is different, and I won’t ever lend it out! This one is mine! It is now marked and underlined and yes, I have issues!!

What am I afraid of now? Hmmm. Maybe it always boils down to a phone call, the phone call. The one in the middle of the night. The one about “the accidents that will happen.” The one that involves my children. The phone call that I am yet to receive but still haunts me. The phone call my best friend received when my boys found Jeremy’s body at the bottom of the canyon, next to his crumpled car. The phone call Anne received when her husband ran to his office to pick up some papers on his motorcycle and never came home, where “death came at the end.” The phone call to meet my daughter at the hospital where her husband was being rushed with a broken neck. The phone call that requires me to live everything that Alan Watts teaches, the phone call that requires the wisdom to Let it Be, to Let it Go, to Let Them Go. The phone call that I have absolutely no control over. I walk outside again. There are dark clouds over the mountains. I watch them move. The shadows are lengthening. There is an eery glow to the sky, beautiful, black clouds and an orange sunset. It is October. A few roses still cling to the bushes, beautiful bushes with thorns. Oh how I love them, oh how I hate to see them go.

IMG_8408 (1)I need to finish writing, I need to get my thoughts on paper. I need to find something to settle my stomach. The phone rings, my daughter is on the other end. “Mom, I had another terrible night, I am so sick, I need to check myself into the hospital, there is a large dark spot on my chest, they are doing a CAT scan, we get the results from all the blood work at the end of the week, I see the oncologist again on Monday. Mom, I think I am going a little crazy. Please don’t tell anyone, yet.” I switch on my Mom voice, “I will come as soon as you need me, We are in this together, this will all work out, everything is going to be o.k., please let me know as soon as you talk to the Dr. again. I love you.” I hang up the phone, today, just today, I know what I am afraid of….

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Redefining Marriage


There is a lot of talk these days about the definition of marriage. Even Supreme Court justices have been confused as to its meaning. Perhaps, like light, it can never be fully defined. Is it a wave or is it a particle? Is it an institution or is it a space to grow. Do we pass through it or is it eternally binding? Who owns it, the church or the state? Is it simply a piece of paper and a way to file taxes? Are there two marriages– Marriage with a capital “M”—signed, sealed, delivered and registered at the courthouse, ritually recognized and contractually binding, and then another marriage—with a little “m”… the one set apart with a possessive pronoun…my marriage, our marriage, their marriage that involves the laughs, the tears, the shared bedrooms and dented fenders. This marriage, with a little m, is the wave, the word that SCOTUS will never define, the one that only poets have been able to capture with a pen. This is the marriage that I have been thinking about quite a bit lately.

They were married young by today’s millennial standards. It was an arranged marriage of sorts. Arranged by a culture that places the utmost importance on couples being bound together for all eternity and having lots of babies along the way. He said, “I noticed her when she came to our door working for a Right to Life campaign—she was articulate and ambitious—and cute.” He asked her to dance at the first church dance of the new semester. She said, “I noticed his car, a baby blue Corvette Stingray—he must be going places.” And so they danced and dated and she quit wearing high heels so they were equal in height and six weeks later they were engaged. And six months later they were married by a slightly senile farmer in Sanpete County, in a temple on a hill while their parents sat outside on a park bench and waited. Married with a capital M in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the State of Utah. They were madly in love, hormonally anyway, and so they began their adventure in marriage with a small “m”, young and naïve, which is probably best in cases like this.

Scan1“And they twain shall be one” …or so all the Sunday School lessons on marriage seemed to espouse. Is that what marriage is really about? Two separate people with different personalities, interests and views becoming one amalgamation. Is oneness and sameness the goal? What if he likes life in the fast lane and she likes to stop and smell the roses or at least to take pictures of them? What if he likes living on the edge and she likes staying securely behind the yellow line? What happens when he is a night owl and she is a morning person or he prefers his food hot and spicy and she…well you are starting to get the picture. There is no way two different people become one. That is biblical baloney, just like the rules about not wearing an outfit made out of two different types of fabric or eating a tuna fish sandwich with a glass of milk. It’s passé. It’s metaphor. That is not what marriage is, marriage with a small “m,” the marriage that poets sing about. Two people don’t become one person, except for those couples on FaceBook who think it is ok to share an account. No, marriage does not mean becoming one. I have been “M”arried long enough to know that.

So what is marriage? I think I have a definition that even SCOTUS can get behind. Marriage is about sharing. Marriage is sharing your life or even part of your life with another person. Sharing everything. Sharing your home, sharing raising your children, sharing your heart, sharing your joys, sharing your pain, sharing your name, sharing your fears, sharing your money, sharing your bed, sharing it all, whatever your orientation. It is having one person in your life that you can share the sickness and the health, the richer or poorer, the triumphs and the failures, “til death do you part or for time and all eternity—I guess we will see.


They have been married for a long time now, especially by millennial standards. He still thinks she is beautiful and she still is attracted to guys who drive in the fast lane. They know each other now and they aren’t as young or naïve as they once were. She knows how important his work is and he knows how important her art and books are. And they both have learned how to share and they have shared almost everything. They have shared the birth of children and the deaths of parents. They have shared the joy of toddlers and the angst of teenagers. They have shared a small window to a delivery room watching their twin granddaughters being born, grasping onto their mother’s hand and then taking their last breath and they shared the hot tears that followed. They have shared the accolades of successful business ventures and the closing of doors on those not meant to be. They have shared the flu, hotel rooms stuffed full of children, broken down cars and first-class flights. They have shared child rearing and in-laws. They have shared the stares of people counting the kids on flights to Disneyland and in crowded restaurants. They have watched ballet recitals and Broadway plays together. They have listened together to late night phone calls from the police and excited phone announcements of “It’s a boy” and “It’s a Girl.” They have shared sitting up all night in hospital emergency rooms and the anxiety of surgical waiting rooms. They have shared the sweet letters from grateful employees and the bitter gossip of neighbors. They share the title to houses and cars and the stock in companies and the stress of jointly filed tax returns. And they have shared the bills and the paychecks and the dings on credit reports and car doors. And now they share the fruits of their labors. They have shared the care and shaving and driving of an adult son who also shares their bathroom and date nights and heartspace. And late at night, they have shared their bodies, their love, their dreams and fears and somehow they have made a marriage—with a small” m”—the marriage that the poets write about.

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That’s “A”-bsurd!


I don’t remember the first time I heard the words, “Play nice,” but I am sure it was when I was toddling around the house. I vaguely remember being told to “Be kind” while playing with cousins in the sandbox. I am sure by the time I reached Kindergarten it had been engrained in me by my mother, my aunts, my Nana, by Sunday School teachers, treat others like you want them to treat you. By elementary school, I had learned to not exclude people, if someone wanted to play Jacks or Tether Ball you simply made the circle a little bigger or waited a little longer for your turn. It wasn’t until Junior High that I learned that everyone didn’t “Play Nice” and everybody wasn’t always “Kind.” Sometimes, there are “Mean Girls” and “Mean Guys” who don’t open their circle big enough for everyone to join.

Fortunately, junior high school is just a glitch in normal human development and most of us look back and cringe at the whole experience. We are embarrassed about how we may have been treated or even worse how we might have treated others. Life marches forward and we grow up and become mature adults who reach out, are inclusive and seek to understand. We become the mothers and fathers, aunts and teachers, reminding the next generation to “Be Kind.” Which is what I feel I like I need to do in response to the events of the past week in my community. I want to remind everyone to “Play Nice.” Lately, I feel like I am stuck watching a bad reality T.V. show, waiting to see who will be voted off the mountain; voted off by the very people who claim to “care for the soul.”

Two current events go hand in hand, and they both need to be called out for their ludicrousness. I am speaking of the Press Conference where the LDS church claimed to support non-discrimination laws while in the same breath proposing legislation to protect the rights of the “the religious” to continue to discriminate in the public square. The second is the excommunication proceedings of John Dehlin for acts of apostasy concerning his stance on LGBT rights and supporting Ordain Women. Both of these events have been sufficiently and thoroughly covered by the press, bloggers and a lot of random Facebook posts. So why can’t I, in the oft quoted cliché, “leave it alone?” Because both of these events have a ripple effect that impacts real people, real people whom I care about. Real people who should not be forced to live in the borderlands.

John Dehlin has chosen to put himself in the public spotlight for his own personal reasons; you may or may not agree with these reasons, but in so doing he has put the entire church disciplinary process under public scrutiny. Most outside the culture have been surprised to hear that such an archaic process till exists in the twenty first century. This is because in the majority of cases, these disciplinary courts are kept private and confidential. Mercifully, excommunications (what a vile word) are no longer announced over the pulpit like they were during my teenage years—where victims become the subject of gossip for years to come. However, for every John Dehlin or Kate Kelly there are thousands of others who suffer the shame and alienation of these sexist, abusive courts, Shame is still a powerful psychological motivator for those who are in power Public shaming is held over the head of the community as a method of control.


Fortunately, John Dehlin has had the support of hundreds of people this past weekend as he faced disciplinary action. Many waited outside the church holding candles and signs and offering support. However, the vast majority of LDS members face their accusers alone. As has often been touted in the Dehlin case, church courts are “a local matter.” This is what makes the process so insidious. This means that a person struggling with any number of human frailties is judged by a group of “friends” and neighbors with equal human frailties as to their worthiness to be part of the “in” group. Just like Junior High—on steroids—and even crazier and crueler! Should you be “excommunicated” you are then forced out of your social network and church participation in a public manner. Ask any deacon passing the sacrament…who is part of the “in” group and who has been forced to wear the Scarlet Letter of shame? All in the name of a loving God, behind closed doors in a “court of love.” I call it bullshit!! I call it bullying!

So, many may say of the John Dehlin matter or the Anti-anti-discrimination legislation being debated by on the hill—“not my circus, not my monkeys”—except that is where we are all wrong. It is our circus! It is our community and it is our people, people we love. It has become a sideshow for the rest of the nation to point fingers and laugh at, because it is not kind, it is not good and it is time for this to end. All this casting aside of humans in the name of God, all this marginalization, while shaking hands and patting each other on the back and calling each other brother and sister is hypocritical. Starting feel good campaigns saying, “I will sit by you” while supporting legislation with the words “except when it interferes with my deeply held religious beliefs” is Orwellian Doublespeak. Both the recent news conference and the Dehlin court are black eyes for Utah, both are absurd and both should be left in the past.

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Under Construction


It begins with an eye roll and a loud sigh, followed by an excuse for why it can’t be done then an incentive is given to make sure it will be done. Eventually an agreement for a time frame is established, a form is filled out (to keep the lawyers happy) and finally, the alteration is made. I have been in the building business long enough now, to witness many times, the step-by-step process of what is called in the construction business—“The Change Order.” In the beginning, blueprints are drawn up and contracts put into place and then, according to Wikipedia, the average construction project makes 56 changes. In the beginning, God probably said, “Let there be Dark,” but then discovered it was just too hard to get anything done -so a change order was created and He said. “Let there be lighting first—so we can get something accomplished around here!” Change orders are a part of the process, unfortunately blueprints still get all the credit! Self-help gurus love the blueprint metaphor. They love preaching about LifePlanning. “Plan your work, and work your plan.” –until as Mike Tyson says, “you get punched in the face!” Blueprints for Life are no less subject to change orders than blueprints for buildings.


While some construction changes are minor-changing the color of a wall or moving an outlet, others require tearing down the wall or jack hammering through a newly laid foundation. Even concrete is not always set in stone. In a design-build, changes can happen almost on a daily basis. And once the building is finished, there are certainly changes before the next blueprint comes off the architect’s drafting table. So why do we get all crazy, emotional when our life plan doesn’t take us from beginning to end, when a simple eye roll and loud sigh will suffice.

Everything is subject to change. It is part and parcel of the creative process. Life is a creative process. Therefore, life is subject to change. And that is as far as my philosophy 101 logic can get me. Mistakes happen. Plans go awry. Doors swing out where doors should swing in. Water pools up where water should flow out. Committed relationships simply don’t work out. Child rearing principles crumble under the weight of new technologies. Financial setbacks are followed by financial gains. Shit happens and new pipes must be laid. Walls built of stone can be replaced with glass windows, opening up new vistas. And, entire foundations can be lifted and moved to new locations.


As a young girl, I watched the London Bridge come falling down, and be rebuilt half way around the world in the desert of Arizona. As an adult, I watched the Berlin Wall tumble down. I have seen the World Trade Center destroyed and I have watched The World Trade Center be rebuilt. Construction followed by destruction followed by construction. And, still, we think a blueprint for life—is for life? How naïve. I have seen dreams dreamed and then dashed and new ones take their place. I have watched mistakes painted over and relationships restored. And within a short lifetime, I have seen entire social constructions leveled and replaced by kinder more equitable structures.


Change order forms are available at any office supply. They are official. They are legal. They should be kept by every nightstand, along with your life plan. When the tears fall and the stomach churns and the blueprint is no longer adequate for your expanding heart, fill out a change order and submit it to the universe. Decisions cast in iron can still be changed with a cutting torch. Plans set in concrete need only a jackhammer and burly arms. Of course in construction and in life, there is the cost—everything has a price—but knowing that changes are possible is what allows us to risk it all and be design builders of our own lives. And, as with any construction project, eye rolling, deep sighs and four letter words are still allowed on site!

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Change of Seasons


I hear it before I see it or feel it.
It is the sound that wakes me in the morning now,
Before the sun comes over the mountains,
it’s ahead of schedule, in the same way Christmas music on the radio
the day after Halloween, is still out of place.
It has a haunting feeling to it, as it stirs me from my slumber.
It is a melancholy sound in the evening sky,
sinking into my soul as I close
the windows against the slow chirp of crickets and a cool breeze.
It is the sound of the geese returning and flying in formation overhead,
looking for recently harvested cornfields to glean.
Like the bell on a metro train, cautioning scrambling passengers
that the doors will soon close, the honking of the birds is a warning
of the closing of a season, a reminder that time and tide
wait for no man…or woman.

Then I begin to notice it around me,
the slight chill on early morning walks,
I no longer need “wick away” clothing,
but I don’t need a jacket either.
When I take the dog on an evening walk,
we have to leave earlier,
so we aren’t caught by the dark,
walking home with the bats flying overhead.
Starbucks begins to sell Pumpkin Lattes and the
Snow Shack has not even closed its windows.
Pine needles fall and
clog the pump in the pond outside,
long before I am ready to give up the sound of falling water
next to my favorite reading chair. Besides,
I am only half way through my summer beach book.
The shadows from the house are longer and cover my sun loving zinnias
with a blanket of shade in the afternoon. The hummingbirds have
quit coming to the feeders too.
But there is still sticky red syrup on the deck for the ants.

Jacob got his driver’s license last week,
a little later than the rest of
the kids, seems like it is not quite so important
to have it on your sixteenth birthday anymore.
Still it is a rite of passage. He hasn’t stopped smiling,
and doesn’t seem to mind that I yell
“Drive careful” as he walks out the door—
and then I say a prayer to the Road Gods and hope they are mothers, too.
I calculate once more in my head how much money
I spend each month on insurance, but he is the last child,
the last one I will have to sit at the DMV with,
the last boy I will have to slam on imaginary brakes, while eyes roll and he says, “Mom, chill out.” (I hope the Road Gods eyes are watching as closely as I did!)
They are all independent now, almost anyway.
No more late nights, reading to stay awake so I can
pick someone up from work. I just turn off the lights,
lock the doors and crawl under the covers. I tried watching
Jimmy Fallon for a while, but I get sleepy earlier now, since Jay Leno left.
I still make Jake wake me up, though, when he comes home, so I know
he is safe and sound!

I bought two more hanging baskets, and some flowerpots that were
marked down to next to nothing, yesterday,
a frivolous splurge,
to extend the growing season.
I went to the store to buy school supplies.
No one is left at home that needs school supplies—except me.
Because, when I see yellow busses moving up and down the street,
I crave notebooks and pencils and erasers and a new box of crayons,
but mostly the notebooks, stacks of them,
full of white lined paper, blank pages,
waiting, for something, to be written down.
I am buying possibilities.
I am buying lines to organize chaotic thoughts.
And crayons for the grandkids,
but the smell of the new box is for me.


I also bought a box of Preference by L’oreal to color my roots.
I think about getting old more lately,
I want to age gracefully, not like the starlets on Entertainment Tonight,
And their “botox gone bad” faces with permanent smiles.
I want to age like Carole King,
who looked so hip sitting cross-legged on the cover of my
Tapestry album, when I got my first stereo, when I was thirteen.
And she still looked so natural on the Grammys singing a song from the Broadway musical Beautiful, forty years later.
Summer is not quite over yet, even though school has started.
Almost fall is beautiful, too.

It is also during these waning days of summer that I shop the
Farmer’s Market. It is at its prime.
I wish I could bottle it and save it for winter.
All the vendors are there with their bounty,
tomatoes, pumpkins, carrots, squash, berries, corn,
I fill my eco-friendly bags to overflowing. Cheese, and loaves
of bread, pour out and over the top. There is a pain between my
shoulder blades as I slowly walk to my car, under the cerulean blue
sky, sunflowers growing between buildings and in parking lots. I stop
For lunch and see my granddaughter,
as I scoop her up, I feel a tug between my should blades,
a reminder of my bounties from earlier growing seasons.

If spring brings new hope, and summer is about growth,
Autumn is for grace, the flowing, simply elegant, refined kind
of grace, not the amazing kind. The grace that allows a leaf to gradually
change from dark green, to light chartreuse to yellow and then
Quietly let go and float gently, effortlessly to the ground. Carpeting the
grass, nourishing the soil. The grace that allows
for the letting go of many things, children and grudges and silly expectations and shoes with too high of a heel, and skinny waistlines….and blooming roses, especially the blooming roses. The grace that sees beauty in everyone and
recognizes the impermanence of all things. The grace that hears the sounds of a flock of geese and senses movement, change, migration and is at peace.


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The Makers


 They are most often conceived in that hour between morning and night, between light and dark, between rational and ecstasy. With a soft moan they spring forth from other dimensions where time, money, talent and energy are of no concern. They come from the land of flying boats, winged fairies, feasts, muses, mermaids and poetry, from a faraway place where everything is possible and nothing can stand in your path. They begin to stir and expand, grow and divide as you step in the shower. The water washes away the last traces of fear and trepidation leaving courage, resolution and clarity. You step out, dry off, double check the positive sign, dress for expansion put a secret smile on your face and a bounce in your step. There is an idea growing beneath your heart in your root chakra. Such is the quest of the entrepreneur, such is the joy of an artist, such are the stories of a writer ..and then morning sickness sets in.


Weeks become months and the incubating idea begins to stir, to quicken, to expand, to show. It keeps you awake at night. You toss and turn and switch on the light. It is harder to conceal. Hastily written post-it notes and embryonic drawings on napkins become paragraphs and blueprints, sketches evolve to renderings, renderings to realities. And the ideas must be fed. A lot. Midnight cravings for capital. Searching the kitchen for words. Heartburn. Friends begin asking about due dates. Worries mount of bringing it to fruition. Showers of advice from relatives. Nesting. Advertising. Hiring. Firing. Deadlines. Rewrites. Redraws. Re-dos. Kicking. Hormonal imbalance. Breakdowns. Building. New life.


 And then the contractions begin, subtlety at first, just a tightening. Headaches. Backaches. There is no backing out. They become more regular, contractors, contracts, connections, canvases. Call the midwife. Breathe in, breathe out, focus. We are getting nowhere. Permits. Inspections. Revisions. Proofs. We need more money; always more money….it will make the pain go away. What the hell were you thinking? Damn Muses. Nails dig into the flesh. Doulas speaking firmly, you can do this. Critical voices in the background….no you can’t! The pain is much more intense now. Push, push, finally progress, a soft opening, a first printing, an art show. Blood, sweat, tears, one final push. Birth. A company. A restaurant, A book. A painting. Completion. Creation. Smiles. Joy.



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