Brooching the subject…

Madeleine Albright was wearing her customary brooch on her left shoulder. I stared and squinted, trying to figure out today’s selection, but I was sitting too far back in the audience of the Washington Post’s “Securing Tomorrow” program to see it clearly. David Ignatius, who’s been covering the president and foreign policy, was the Q part of the scheduled Q & A.

I don’t often write about, or even refer to, this president.

Albright, you’ll recall, was Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton. She’s written a few books, and she was there mostly to talk about her new one, “Fascism: A Warning.” When told that the title seems alarming she says, with characteristic Albrightism, “Good.”

When asked what advice she would give this president regarding his, as of this writing, on again, meeting with Kim Jong-un, she pointed out that the North Korean leader has spent his life studying for this meeting. He is technically adept and smart. He is his father’s son. Albright met with Kim Jong-il in 2000 and was surprised at his note-less grasp of information – or propaganda – depending. She had been briefed by many experts. She was prepared. Her suggestion (which she joked she might tweet) to Trump: Don’t be extemporaneous. It came across, less as a piece of advice, and more of a punchline.

Being a one-time refugee from Hitler’s Europe, she calls herself “appalled” by this president’s stance on immigration, recalling that when she became an American citizen, while she was at Wellesley College, she was encouraged and felt welcomed. She says empathy is an essential part of presidential leadership.

She recalls Putin as “cold and reptilian,” and an “expert” at weaponizing information. He is intent on separating other world powers from the US. He is so passionately trying to restore Russia to its previous strength and status, he is willing to infiltrate American elections.

Then, she talked about Hitler.

She says Hitler rose to power as the division between the rich and the poor deepened.

There was disagreement over who were the true victims of war. Mussolini exacerbated the situation by promising to “take care of” his supporters. Both promised people things to the exclusion of others, then created scapegoats. Scapegoats who needed to be eliminated. The German business establishment, by most accounts sophisticated and schooled, initially dismissed Hitler as a lightweight. They hoped and figured he would go away. But he appealed to those who felt ignored, outweighed by the culturally elite.

She says her Republican friends are also dismissive of their leader, hoping this president, who promised to “Make America Great Again,” just goes away. Immigrants have become scapegoats. This president works to pit American against American. Albright reminds, “Good guys don’t always win, especially when they are divided.”

She understands this president’s motivations. She calls him the “most undemocratic president” in American history.

Albright says this president’s disrespect of the press is “outrageous.”  This is when my stomach tightens. Like it did when, earlier this month, he threatened to revoke the white house press credentials of those who his administration deemed “unfair” to him. He may be planning, via limited access, to censor the news.

Fascism occurs step by step, says Albright. She says it all makes her very nervous.

I wanted to stand up in the audience and yell, “What can we DO?” I am wary and frustrated. “Calling my Congressman” feels, at the moment, tantamount to “Thoughts and Prayers.”

Ignatius’s last question, appropriately, came via Twitter, from an Albright fan, asking which brooch she had selected for today’s program.  She revealed that she’d worn it for David and for his colleagues at the Post, in honor of their profession, their commitment to journalism and to the truth.

It was a feathered quill pen.

I haven’t often written or referred to this president. I’ve been mostly sticking to a cute puppy picture posting policy, hoping that he just goes away. But what truly has made America great is speaking out, and writing, responsibly, against what’s wrong.

Thank you, Madam Secretary.L&D wearing brooches

Delilah and Lillian sport brooches in support of the former Secretary of State.

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The Pull of the Pack

l face of america arch 2

“SLOWING! SLOWING! SLOWING!”

I see the lowered palms of fingerless gloved hands, signaling the universal sign for “stop.”  Six hundred bicycle riders pack up, waiting for the front to re-gain momentum. They’d come to a small hill and were inching up. Now moving too slowly to stay vertical – and having demonstrated the Charlie Chaplin static “stop and drop” one time too often, I kicked my cleat out of my pedal and stepped one foot onto the asphalt. We were about two miles into a 110 – mile ride.

This was going to be a long weekend.

I shivered, breathing in the fog separating me from the sun and studied the shrouded landscape, flecked by 400,000 simple white grave markers.  The route, which began in Arlington, had taken us through the National Cemetery, then would go on through Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, next passing the silent, swanky homes in Potomac, up the substantial climbs of Poolesville and into Fredrick, Maryland for an overnight stay. The next morning we’d head out toward Gettysburg, where the hills would grow steeper and closer together, the road finally flattening a bit through the battlefield then on toward a celebratory finish line.

Leading us was a group of wounded or otherwise disabled riders, mostly military veterans, using hand cranked, three – wheeled bikes. It took an extraordinary amount of effort to ascend. But they screamed downhill like cannonballs. All the hand cycles had push poles, so able-bodied riders could assist at any time.

push pole on bike

The pack began to inch forward.

A few minutes later I hit the same small hill but had so little momentum, I slammed into a higher gear, grinding up. We were all still packed in pretty tightly, which normally gives me the jitters. But the pace was slow, so I didn’t worry too much about crashing.  I glanced at my husband, Jon, who looked as cold as I felt. I longed for a bigger hill to warm me up. He told me to be careful what I wished for.

This was our first “Face of America” ride, in which hundreds of cyclists come from all over the country, having raised hundreds, some, thousands of dollars for the organization which hosts all sorts of similar rides across the country.  Our friend, Colonel Greg Gadson had invited us to be on his team.  He was one of the guys up front.

Fifteen miles of jamming up- then spreading out later, we came to our first rest stop. Normally, on an organized ride, these stops are optional, but safety on this one stipulates that everyone stops together, then heads back out together. Normally the stops are brief, as most riders are in it to cross the finish line as soon as possible, leaving nothing on the road. We were probably stopped here though, for more than 30 minutes. We chatted with Greg. We nibbled on bananas and homemade cookies, Jon seeking out my favorites: chocolate chip. Finally, we heard the sound of the escort motorcycles revving up and headed back to re-mount and be paced back onto the road. About fifteen miles later, we repeated the exercise. By now the sun was breaking through. It was becoming a beautiful day. I tilted my face toward the warmth and removed a layer of clothing. I thanked the volunteers. I offhandedly began receiving cameras passed to me to take photos of their owners with Greg. There was a constant stream. I listened to countless stories of how they knew him, wanted to know him, saw him in The Movie, or had met him along the way of seven other Face of America rides he’d done. Jon fetched coffee and water for the two of us. Then the motorcycles cued us back to our bikes.

It was like any other organized ride we’d done, but in slow motion.

“SLOOOOOWWWWWING!!!”

I tapped my brakes. A guy wearing Mardi Gras beads pulled up next to me.

“Hey, did you have to take your shirt off to get those?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said the man, who was slightly paunchy and well into his 60’s. “It got pretty crazy last night.” We laughed and talked. He had come from Myrtle Beach and was riding with his son, who’d traveled from Missouri.

The pack thinned and we hammered on.

The lunch break lasted around an hour. There were sandwiches, and a band. Everyone stood in the food line, asking about home towns and how many times you’d done the ride. The veterans (military and non) welcomed both of us, treating us as new club members who would surely be back again. Jon and I both peeled down to our base layers: Our “Face of America” jerseys. Now, we blended.

The terrain rolled ahead, and we rolled with it, churning on the ups, braking on the downs. Just when it seemed we were no longer wheel to wheel there’d be an urgent bellow from the back.

“MOVE TO THE RIGHT!! HAND CYCLE COMING UP!!!” Then everyone would smush over, pedal to pedal, while a hand cyclist, being pushed by a ride marshal would scream by, the low-rider’s fists, a blur, the marshal barely breathing hard.

There were probably thirty marshals all together- all tall and lean and cool as cucumbers passing easily through what at any moment could become a slow speed peloton derailment.

As I ambled along, another tall, lean one pulled along side me. I recognized him as Jon Brideau the newly anointed Executive Director of World Team Sports, which organizes Face of America.

“EVERYONE STAY TO THE RIGHT, PLEASE!” he called ahead. “WE ONLY GET ONE LANE HERE. THERE IS ACTIVE TRAFFIC!”

“You have a hard job,” I remarked.

He smiled. “No, it’s not at all. I mean, you can just tell people, and after that it’s up to them. So how did you get involved in this ride?”

I explained our connection to Greg, how I’d met him at Walter Reed and had written a book about him, but that it now needed to be re-written.

“How does one go about doing that, re-writing a whole book?” he asked.

“I have no idea,” I answered, marveling that the guy in charge of this whole glob of potential biking chaos was pedaling along side me, talking as if I were the only one on the road.

He laughed.

“That’s why I’m going to start an MFA program at Pine Manor in Boston this summer,” I said. “This way I’ll have a whole faculty to help me.”

“That’s so cool, really awesome, great,” he said, looking right at me. “I’m from that area. I’ll tell you a secret about Pine Manor.” Then he told me the secret.

Something got his attention and he pedaled on ahead.

How was it that someone who’s devoted his career to helping less -able people, thinks I’m doing something cool?

The last rest stop was shorter, as clouds darkened overhead. The rains came just as we pulled into our last stop for the day- at the Flying Dog Brewery. A beer, a quiet dinner with our team captain, and a short night later, we were back on our bikes. Temperatures overnight had dropped significantly.

The shiver-fest was compounded by 18 mile -per- hour winds. We warmed in the pack and howled through the down-hills.

The countryside was beautiful and endless. It was occasionally dotted by people who came out of their warm homes to stand in the icy wind to cheer us on. It made me feel less scared about America than I have been in recent months. There were still so many good people.

“Mommy’s all right, Daddy’s all right…”

From somewhere nearby I heard Cheap Trick singing “Surrender.”  A rider with a small orange speaker mounted to his handlebars was passing.

“I think that song was popular during my senior year of high school!” I laughed.

He slowed down, confessing to being old enough to appreciate the song in much the same way. We then mutually confessed to various dorky high school concerts and discussed more recent performances by artists who were aging out. He was somewhat grossed out at a “Meatloaf” concert while I was still mesmerized by a 70-ish Cher.  After a few minutes he peeled off to meet up with his team. I looked at my odometer. We’d killed quite a few miles.

Increasingly, the pack-ups became like alcohol- free cocktail parties.

One woman, around my age, talked about wanting to meet Greg to show him a picture she’d taken the year before. I assured her he’d love to see it and we had a great conversation about one lesson Greg had taught me several years ago, when I’d complained about him taking close-up pictures of my face. And my wrinkles. “Do my legs define me?” he’d asked. “No.” “Well your wrinkles don’t define you,” he’d advised. The woman, whose name was a more European version of Terese, said she’d bet he’d taught me a lot. I said he had.

A marshal slowed down long enough to say he’d been recruited to the job by a friend he met through his work in disabled ski instruction. Then he spun up to grab a push pole.

Another rider explained that he came all the way from Puerto Rico to do the ride because he really liked it – “…and it gives my wife a break from me!”

I turned to my right to suddenly see the monuments of the Gettysburg battlefield.

“Look at that!” I gasped, involuntarily. One rider, clearly a multiple- timer, smiled knowingly. I’d always wanted to ride through this park. Now I was. And I didn’t have to rush.

I was thrilled, but a little sad. Two days ago, this ride had stretched ahead interminably. Now I didn’t want it to end. I felt the tiniest of lumps in my throat.

We are always pushing to move forward with our lives, our careers, our relationships. They stretch ahead, and we lurch toward the finish line, missing the markers, the perfectly aligned tombstones, the volunteers who baked cookies, the fathers and sons, the push poles and even – even the impact of our own goodness.

“It’s about the journey,” our team captain had said.

We should stop trying to finish it so soon.

 

 

A Bit About Two Veterans

 

They are zooming toward us like cannon balls, screaming past the black diamonds, on plastic seats attached to a single ski. They are butt-slaloming. Meantime, my co-worker is being a butt.  He’s complaining. He’s rude to guests. He’s yelling at me. He is miserable, but I am thrilled as I watch my new friend, Lt. Colonel Greg Gadson shush past. He is followed by a tall guy in a red jacket on real legs, on two skis. This, I learn, is Lt. Colonel Chuck Schretzman. My insides are warm, but my hands, face and ass are freezing. The cold shoulder from the videographer who is apparently suffering from some sort of altitude dementia, does not help. We are on the side of a mountain in Breckenridge, Colorado shooting a story about wounded warriors learning to ski.

Schretzman and Gadson met on what they call the “friendly field of strife,” in the early ‘80’s at West Point. They were both defensive ends, vying for time on the turf. From that competition, grew a life-long friendship. Weddings, kids, many deployments and one downhill run later, they ended up here, with me, at the bottom of the mountain.

Schretzman is tall, broad, blue- eyed and blonde- the opposite of Greg. Pretty stunning, actually. I chat with him, while trying to mask my colleague’s impatience. It’s like trying to casually shake a lobster off my hand. We’re chatting when Schretzman leans closer and says,

“Do you need me to talk to that guy?”

I’m embarrassed and say no, and wish I had a 2×4. But I’m also impressed by his observation and kindness.

Then it’s Casino night at the lodge and Chuck buys me a beer which I nurse for hours.  The next day we’re back outside and he yells from the lift.

“Hey are you still drinking that beer?”

Mr. Grumpy and I finish shooting that afternoon and go inside. I see Greg and Chuck sitting alone at a table. I grab beers and sit down. It’s only then I notice the tears streaming down Greg’s face. They are looking at photos of the blown-up Humvee.  I don’t want to intrude, but I don’t want to chicken out. So I sit. I give Greg a hug, which seems stupid and futile. Like that’s going to fix things.

But I learn about staying.

I’m sitting at my desk at the Pentagon Channel and Chuck calls to tell me that Greg is going to the Super Bowl and will be talking to the New York Giants before they head out onto the field. It takes me a few weeks to get the whole story. Greg had been speaking to the team all season, about teamwork, about thinking of nothing but the guy next to you, about the reason he is alive was the guy next to him. He talks to them the night before the playoffs at Green Bay. And they win. And then, the New York Giants, against big odds, win the Super Bowl. Because they had this lucky charm. It’s just this freaking great story.

I know very little about the military, and nothing about football, so I figure I’m the perfect person to write this story. And I ask Greg if he minds being the subject of a book. It takes him a while to say yes.

I spend the next couple of years interviewing his mom, his dad, his daughter, his friends, his doctors, therapists and teammates. I even get to talk to Michael Strahan and Coach Tom Coughlin. It takes me months to find soldiers who blew up in that Humvee. Kim, his wife, does not want to talk but emails wonderful excerpts from her personal journal. I learn about battlefield medicine, the golden hour and how to annoy Army public relations folks. I become exceptionally good at annoying public relations folks.

I talk with Chuck about the moment he heard Greg had been hurt- how he’d just picked up his keys and got in his car. Chuck told me about meeting Greg’s wife, Kim at Walter Reed, and watching Greg be wheeled, unconscious, on a stretcher, to the ICU. He told me what Greg’s legs looked like, before they were amputated. Best of all, he told me the story of Greg coming to, a few days after arriving at the hospital, as Chuck stood over him reading letters from West Point teammates. Greg had simply opened his eyes and said the words, “Golden Rule.” Chuck was baffled, so then Greg blurted, “Be on time!”  It was their West Point football coach’s golden rule – to be on time.

Eventually I feel like the book is done. It ends with the Super Bowl victory. I am an okay writer, but terrible at marketing and as time passes, so much more happens. Greg’s in a movie called “Battleship,” he goes to the Olympics in Beijing, he becomes a model for Ossur, which makes prosthetic legs so he makes a lot of Zoolander jokes. He admits to having suicidal thoughts, in his early days of recovery. And I feel like I need to re-write.

So I keep talking to Greg about things, because by now he is my good friend. And he calls one day to say something is wrong with Chuck. Then he calls weeks later to say Chuck is fine. Then he calls after that to say Chuck has ALS.

It is now Greg’s turn to be the rock. For Chuck and for his wife, Stacey.

I know nothing about ALS. Except that so far, no one has survived it.

So, I am the perfect person to write this book.

At least I’m going to try.

Chuck and me at Greg's - Copy

Talking with Chuck.  Photo by Greg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mind’s Eye, Blind

“Cinnamon swirl, carrot, strawberry, caramel, chocolate, mint, mocha, or vanilla – pick four.”

I sat, wide-eyed, staring at my fiancé across the tiny table. We were about to get married. We were tasting cake.  It’s a lot less fun than it sounds.

“Um, cinnamon swirl… and – what were the choices?” I asked.

She sighed and I’m pretty sure, rolled her eyes. She was maybe in her late 20’s, and she ran the place. In a slightly harsher tone, she repeated the list, we made our picks and she turned on her heel toward the kitchen. I thought about Seinfeld’s soup Nazi. Clearly, we had violated some unwritten bakery etiquette.

The cupcake Nazi returned with our cake cubes. We straightened in our chairs, delicately picking at the samples, lest our knuckles be wrapped with a spatula.

“Now, we can do a texture, a fondant, – what are your colors?  Do you have a theme?  What’s your vision?” She rounded her lips like a big cherry lifesaver.

“Ummmmm. I just- I like teal but that doesn’t seem very appetizing on cake…”

The truth was, I didn’t have a theme, or a vision. I was 53 years old and never thought I’d get married, so I hadn’t thought about it much. Did I have to have a theme? Like Star Wars or Snow White or something? Can’t “We’re getting married!” be a theme?

We paid for my chai and Jon’s coffee, eyed some confection called “unicorn poop,” and trudged to the parking lot.

“I thought this was supposed to be fun,” I told Jon tearfully. I was an old bride, and clueless about cake. And themes. And dresses and playlists and seating charts and registries. I had three bridesmaids, all in their forties, who, it seemed to me, ought to be able to dress themselves. Our guests – I suspected, would figure out with whom they would like to sit without direction. Our only goals, from the outset, were inclusiveness and revelry. I did not think anyone needed to be choreographed.

At lunch one day I confessed to my friend, Lynn, that I didn’t really know what I wanted.

“It’s really not for you.” She smiled. “It’s for everyone else.”  I agreed. And I began to think more along those lines.

Several recent brides told me that I really would not enjoy my own reception.

“I didn’t see my husband the whole night!” complained one.

“I never ate, or had a drink,” said another.

“I had bruises on my arms from people pulling me around,” still another warned.

I braced for a very expensive mediocre time and hoped to avoid injury.

In the weeks that followed, our guest list blossomed. Relatives and friends were coming from England, California, Ohio and Kentucky.  People we’d only hoped might be there were hitting “accept” on our jonandterese.com website. We were flattered. I was terrified.

While the wedding dress people were less harsh than the confection queen, they still were very interested in my “vision.” The old storybook version of Cinderella has a picture of fairies arguing over what color Cinderella’s dress should be, resulting in a half pink, half blue number. That was as far as my gown fantasies had gotten. Forty-plus years later, “white” was pretty much all I could conjure. At one very foo- foo shop I stepped out of the dressing room and saw one of my bridesmaids,  Krishna, beaming. And so, it was decided.*  I didn’t truly love the gown until the seamstress got a look. As she tucked and pulled, I looked around her shop where several heavily beaded and laced gowns were bending their hangers. Mine was bling-less, with an elegant cut, helped along by a severe protein and vegetable diet. I marveled at our good taste. She thought we’d made a superior choice.

The wedding day zooming at us like a freight train, my groom and I spent the remaining weeks adjusting crowd numbers with oyster shuckers and crab catchers, and expanding our tent and table order. Jon and the groomsmen ran extra electrical lines to support the band and porta potties. We wrote and printed a detailed program and hosted Reverend Bill for dinner. We met with Doyle our friend and bartender, compiling an intimidating list of booze, beer and wine. I poured over wildflower orders for what would be a slightly chaotic DIY project. Each day, I eyed my neighbors’ feathery pampas grasses, which they’d promised me for centerpieces. Thankfully, the bridesmaids easily agreed on dresses and shoes,** despite some early raised eyebrows at my insistence on black. I worried that Lynn, who was hosting all three events at her beautiful waterfront home,(the rehearsal dinner, the reception and Sunday brunch) would grow wedding weary.

Even as we wrestled with every detail, I still didn’t have a mind’s eye.  It was all a jumble of jobs, hopefully ending with me somehow getting up the aisle, followed by some facsimile of a party.

Events began to unfold on Thursday with an almost in-law dinner. There were no incidents.

Our rehearsal was followed by a walk in the labyrinth on the church grounds. Jon and I had planned to walk it alone and were surprised and honored when we were joined by the Buckley family, bridesmaid, Jenn and her husband and groomsman, Craig. The crabs were sweet and the wine flowed freely afterwards.  Dan Haas, a local musician, played just right the sort of music. I had a fabulous time swooshing around in a splurged-upon dress, visiting with college friends, and cousins and watching a few become uncharacteristically overserved.

Saturday began with a 5:30am run with Jenn, which did a lot to settle my nerves. Then we ran the dogs which settled them as well.  A cleaned-up Jenn, along with Claire and Krishna showed up on queue with breakfast – and the hair and make- up frenzy began. All of the sudden it was time to get dressed.  Everything was coming together. I was oddly calm.

Jon and I had our “first look” photos taken at home along with some family shots. He looked handsome and happy in a plain black tux, a pocket square I’d picked out and the boutonniere we’d fashioned from a black calla lily and a rose.

I rode to the church with Claire and her husband Chris, who kept me hidden from the 200 guests, swarming the doors. As I stood outside, holding my brother’s arm, waiting for Trumpet Voluntary (Purcell) to begin, I marveled at the day. The flowers were stunning, the bridesmaids gorgeous, Lillian and Delilah, decked out in sparkly collars and haute black leashes, were behaving like perfect attend-dogs.

Because Jon was raised Quaker our ceremony included an element of “Meeting for Worship” in which everyone is invited to speak.  I’d pictured a silent, confused and bored congregation. But a few Quakers and non, spoke warm and beautiful words, sweetly bringing laughter and of course a few tears. Best of all, when the “meeting” closed with the sign of peace, Jon and I lapped the entire church. I worried that it took too long, but I loved seeing everyone close up in that moment.

Our guests gathered on the lawn for a 200 -person team photo, everyone wearing victory medals Jon had designed.  Then we were swept away to a nearby marina, where a chartered boat waited to take the bridal party to Lynn’s. It was one part of the plan I’d requested, but my “vision” had still been cloudy… how would I navigate getting onboard in my dress and shoes? What if it was windy? Would we all arrive with our over-goo’d and sprayed hair standing skyward?

We pulled away from the dock, the sun gleaming on the white deck and our rhinestone shoes. I looked around the bay where I’d spent countless hours kayaking, SUP boarding and swimming. Now my new husband and I were being motored across those same waters toward all of our friends and family.

As we rounded the point, the billowing tent and lawn party came into view.  Guests milled about with snacks and cocktails in hand as the band played its first set. It looked like a scene from movie. I scanned the crowd for Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. But no, those were our friends. This was indeed, our party.

I snapped a photo in my mind. Finally, my vision. And I understood why I didn’t have one until that moment. It was simply more grand, more elegant and more perfect than I could have possibly imagined.

cake top with bobblehead

*please see earlier blog: Say Stress to the Dress 

      **please see earlier blog: Big Box Bridal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Input. Output.

lilly&lilah helmets

Lillian and Delilah prepare for the backlash following their mother’s latest blog post. 

 

“What if I start crying?” asked the surviving wife.

“Well, then I’ll probably just start crying along with you.”

I glanced back at the videographer.

“If we all start bawling, well, then we have a problem.”

The woman, whose Army husband had only months before committed suicide, laughed a little, then settled in to tell me her story.

She cried. I cried. The camera guy kept it together.

She was brave. And I allowed myself to lose objectivity. As I am no longer with the mainstream media, it’s been a personal trend over the past several years. Reacting, that is.

I guess that’s why at 5am yesterday, when I first heard on the radio this president’s rant against the “dishonest” media, I involuntarily snorted, ‘OH MY GOD.’  It’s not the first time we’ve heard it of course. But as I laid there pondering my path to the coffeemaker, it was the first time I doubted my ability to stand in a press box, and not react. I don’t think I could have done it. I would have shaken the shot, pulled a plug or worse, yelled something back at him. The fact that so many are required to keep steadily working while being directly pummeled with insults solidly builds my faith in them.

I’ve always been fascinated and at the same time annoyed by the public’s distain for the media. It’s an easy target because it is inherently accessible. It’s also made to look easy, by the real pros. Those two things, I believe, combine to create an “anyone can do that” attitude.  And, unlike performing brain surgery or creating digital apps, it’s all splayed out there for everyone to see and criticize.  I remember several conversations with my own parents in which they criticized the media, citing false assumptions, when their own kid, who spent every year since age 16 in a newsroom, was right there to consult. But because they watched the news, they knew better than I, who wrote and produced it. I don’t mean to call them out. They’re just like everyone else.

Calling the media “dishonest,” and pointing at them directly, in a forum like what I’ll call the Phoenix political rally, makes obvious some ignorance about how the sausage is made.  So, I offer a brief primer.

In instances of presidential mass coverage, most cameras are on what we call “lock down.” There are usually designated, agreed upon source cameras, which feed all the networks. They cannot move. They must be trained on the president at all times. Most often it’s a live feed, directly to all the networks. If the camera pulls any fast moves everyone is stuck with it. Therefore, whether it is live or an immediate taped play-back, it is a straight feed. There simply is no possibility of “dishonesty,” on the part of the people in the box. From the president’s lips, to your ears. It’s a simple thing.

When he looks into a live, locked down camera and tells his supporters about the “dishonest media,” it’s as if he’s asking folks to disbelieve the words coming out of his mouth, even as they runneth over.

Obviously, various members of the media chose portions of the speech to re-play. Most times all the networks focus on the same things – those things they deem newsworthy. The words of a president who incites a crowd to cry against their senator who has served his country for many years including as a POW and now is quite possibly terminally ill, are newsworthy. Uh, sorry if that amounts to negative coverage. It was a negative happening. A deplorable moment. To ignore it would be irresponsible.

In these cases, the media is present to act as a megaphone, if you will, to deliver the message of this country’s leadership directly to its public. It is not there to “edit him pretty.”

If you are one of the complainers who is tired of the “negative” coverage of your president, consider these two things:  If it weren’t for the media, you might not yet even know, among other things, who is the president- you definitely wouldn’t know who’s still on his staff; and if you don’t like what the media is reporting out, you might suggest the president better control what he’s putting in.

 

Big Box Bridal: a pictorial reflection

bridesmaid blog clairebridesmaid blog krishbridesmaid blog jenn

No, these are not mug shots from the Alderson Federal Prison Camp for women. I’m happy to note that I have not been back there for quite some time.*

These are my bridesmaids and this is what a chiffon over-dose looks like.

I’ve seen the movie, “Bridesmaids.”  I’ve seen “Revenge of the Bridesmaids.” I thought those were costumes.

The photos represent a Hurricane Katrina-sized collapse in my attempt to dam the bridal industrial complex. I should have known better. I should have blocked the bridal drum beat. I should have brought booze.

I wanted to blame our lame experience on the fact that, because I am a very old bride, my support team is, while younger than me, into its fourth decade. Unlike bike pants, however, bridesmaid dresses are not necessarily age-specific. I’ve been passed on a bike by many a millennial looking great in her spandex. I’d be hard pressed to find anyone that these garments, yanked straight from a 1950’s Doris Day movie, would flatter today.

I suspect a complex underground conspiracy which seeks to make the bride look better than the maids, no matter what. In other words, there is an “ugly” requirement.

Que Sera Sera. We’ve swished on.

Our second attempt – in the cocktail dress department of a plain ‘ol department store – yielded better results.  Still, I regret that I forgot to bring actual cocktails.

Praise must be given where it is due, first to the department store clerks for not helping.

Second, to Claire,

Claire with dresses

for trying on a total of 18 dresses in one hour.

Third, to Krishna,

krishna with dresses

who got in and out of many a finely crafted garment without ever removing her jeans…

and fourth to Jenn,

Jenn with dresses

who despite being probably the most wholesome of the bunch, tried on the dress most likely to be worn by Miley Cyrus during a performance at an awards ceremony.

It is here that I must thank these ladies for withstanding the bridesmaid fashion extremes and for agreeing to see this whole shenanigan through to the end. Only 3.5 more months.

Luv,

The  Bride

rouched top flowybottom3

*See earlier blog, “Captive Audience.”

 

 

Waypoint

girls doing dishes

I am not working so I’m pulling at this heavy, gold bedspread. It has a seam that needs to align with the top of the mattress. Once I heave that into place, I cram two pillows under one side of the fabric which folds back from the top. I do a lap to the other side of the king -sized bed and cram two more pillows under what I think is brocade but I don’t really even know.  The overall overwrought nature of the thing is nothing I would have voluntarily invited into my life. But I am not working. Therefore, it is mine to tug at.

There are some business-y things to do. But laundry left in the dryer seems more immediate so I fold it. After all, there is no arrival or departure time. Therefore, I am available to tidy up.

Lillian and Delilah have been romping around in their new waterfront yard. But they’re staring in the window now, wondering how I could possibly come home from my morning run, to this beautiful place and be crabby. Their puzzled little mugs at the window make me laugh and I let them in and feed them.

After that, I empty the dishwasher.  The pit in my stomach returns.

I’m stacking cups and I can feel the little black swirl forming over my head. I try to breathe it away. But it is determined. It sees the reality. It knows I am available. It knows that I am repulsed by my own being. It knows that I am becoming a housewife.

It’s dinner time and I’ve made us a healthy meal. I ask Jon about his day negotiating with real estate owners, sellers and buyers. He tells me what went on in the office. He makes it all seem easy.

He asks about my day. I wrote a few emails. A heron landed in the yard. The girls have been chasing bunnies. They ran circles around the pond then ambushed me when I walked out on the deck. I don’t like that gold brocade bedspread. I hear the words coming out of my mouth. How did I go from, “I interviewed Colin Powell today,” to doing play-by-play of my dogs’ antics?  I think that I am not the woman he fell in love with, nor am I the person I used to like.

How in God’s name could this have happened?

If I give myself a break for a second, I know exactly how it happened.

It happened like this. I was working on my own as a writer/producer, running my own company. I met Jon.  I had a weak financial moment and took a full time corporate job, rendering me unable to keep up my own business. Jon and I got engaged.  In just six months’ time the corporation decided to “go in another direction.” I went back to my own company, which now needs re-building.

We bought a house. Somewhere between combining households, planning a wedding and starting my business almost from scratch, I lost the person who once silenced a room full of Marines with a single phrase, the person who chased an ambassador through the lobby of an embassy, who – long ago – asked then-Senator John Edwards to declare his presidential aspirations to me, on camera. It was a Sunday and I was severely under-dressed. “C’mon, declare your candidacy to the girl in the shorts and the t-shirt,” I said. At least he laughed.

I pray that this house-wifing is only a phase.  If you were one of the people annoyed by the Hillary Clinton “stay home and bake cookies” comment, this probably irks you. But know this: I am very, very bad at baking cookies. House-wifing is just not me.

Colonel (ret.) Greg Gadson starts talking about stepping into the unknown.

I hear Greg say this because I am transcribing interviews I did with him and COL (ret.) Chuck Schretzman about their longtime friendship. About how Chuck supported Greg when he lost his legs in Iraq and now Greg is in the rock position, while Chuck learns to cope with a horrible diagnosis. I am typing and typing and it feels futile because this project – this supposed, eventual documentary – has no funding and few prospects. It is labor intensive with no promised reward. It is a great story. But we don’t know, exactly,  how it ends.

Greg talks about searching for a “waypoint,” following the loss of his legs.  Chuck calls his diagnosis an “opportunity” to say goodbye properly. To do it well. They each have received gifts, they say.

I reach down and scratch Lillian’s head. Delilah gives me her signature poke in the shin.  The typing makes me have to stretch my legs. I walk into the bedroom. The gold brocade has vanished.

My gifts, my opportunities, are more subtle, I decide. I have been given love. I have been given time. As I wrestle each to its unfamiliar core, I struggle to pin down the possibilities.

I go back to my desk, and settle into my own unknown.