Wednesday, January 30, 2008

We lost something today....

I say we in a collective sense, us as in all Americans. The one person in the whole campaign who isn't beholden to big corporate money, the one person who I thought might actually begin to turn us from the path we're on where the corporations control the agenda and conversation with the amount of money they can muster compared to We, the People.

The generation coming after me isn't going to have it as good as I did, that's been pretty well documented by now. There are plenty of my generation who's main thought is "I got mine, fuck you" Sadly, there's too many of them. I'm not really sure where it goes from here - but one thing I feel certain about - whatever voice we had, the great unwashed masses who make up this once great country, lost a champion today. Obviously, the big corporations didn't want his populist message to get out - way too many studies by way too many groups from all sides of the political spectrum that show Edwards only got about 7% of the coverage given the corporate blessed candidates - Hillary and Obama.

After flying to PA and back this week, I was already feeling bummed - trying to figure out how we could possibly undo some of the damage that's been done. It's really a different perspective to be up at 20-30,000 ft and looking down on the US. The incredible network of roads that aren't being used at that time of night, the endless number of lights left on in case someone comes along, the fact that a strip mall seen from that height is just as ugly as it is on the ground, and looks just like every other one in America.

So we wind up with a couple of candidates who are owned by the big corporations. Who would rather spar over who has the most experience (a pair of first term Senators!) who act like a couple of 6 year olds in a pissing contest - neither of them really inspires me to think that they want something best for everyone in the country rather than that they want to be called Mr or Madam President.

Oh well, I've never really counted on anyone besides myself for whatever I needed, I don't know why I was actually allowing myself to hope that someone was actually going to make a difference.....

The following is a transcript of this moving and memorable speech by John Edwards. Please share it with your friends and family, and ask them to put pressure on whichever candidate they support to incorporate Edwards’ anti-poverty mission into their platform:

John Edwards in New Orleans, Jan. 30, 2008

Thank you all very much. We’re very proud to be back here.

During the spring of 2006, I had the extraordinary experience of bringing 700 college kids here to New Orleans to work. These are kids who gave up their spring break to come to New Orleans to work, to rehabilitate houses, because of their commitment as Americans, because they believed in what was possible, and because they cared about their country.

I began my presidential campaign here to remind the country that we, as citizens and as a government, have a moral responsibility to each other, and what we do together matters. We must do better, if we want to live up to the great promise of this country that we all love so much.

It is appropriate that I come here today. It’s time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path. We do not know who will take the final steps to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but what we do know is that our Democratic Party will make history. We will be strong, we will be unified, and with our convictions and a little backbone we will take back the White House in November and we’ll create hope and opportunity for this country.

This journey of ours began right here in New Orleans. It was a December morning in the Lower Ninth Ward when people went to work, not just me, but lots of others went to work with shovels and hammers to help restore a house that had been destroyed by the storm.

We joined together in a city that had been abandoned by our government and had been forgotten, but not by us. We knew that they still mourned the dead, that they were still stunned by the destruction, and that they wondered when all those cement steps in all those vacant lots would once again lead to a door, to a home, and to a dream.

We came here to the Lower Ninth Ward to rebuild. And we’re going to rebuild today and work today, and we will continue to come back. We will never forget the heartache and we’ll always be here to bring them hope, so that someday, one day, the trumpets will sound in Musicians’ Village, where we are today, play loud across Lake Ponchartrain, so that working people can come marching in and those steps once again can lead to a family living out the dream in America.

We sat with poultry workers in Mississippi, janitors in Florida, nurses in California.

We listened as child after child told us about their worry about whether we would preserve the planet.

We listened to worker after worker say “the economy is tearing my family apart.”

We walked the streets of Cleveland, where house after house was in foreclosure.

And we said, “We’re better than this. And economic justice in America is our cause.”

And we spent a day, a summer day, in Wise, Virginia, with a man named James Lowe, who told us the story of having been born with a cleft palate. He had no health care coverage. His family couldn’t afford to fix it. And finally some good Samaritan came along and paid for his cleft palate to be fixed, which allowed him to speak for the first time. But they did it when he was 50 years old. His amazing story, though, gave this campaign voice: universal health care for every man, woman and child in America. That is our cause.

And we do this — we do this for each other in America. We don’t turn away from a neighbor in their time of need. Because every one of us knows that what — but for the grace of God, there goes us. The American people have never stopped doing this, even when their government walked away, and walked away it has from hardworking people, and, yes, from the poor, those who live in poverty in this country.

For decades, we stopped focusing on those struggles. They didn’t register in political polls, they didn’t get us votes and so we stopped talking about it. I don’t know how it started. I don’t know when our party began to turn away from the cause of working people, from the fathers who were working three jobs literally just to pay the rent, mothers sending their kids to bed wrapped up in their clothes and in coats because they couldn’t afford to pay for heat.

We know that our brothers and sisters have been bullied into believing that they can’t organize and can’t put a union in the workplace. Well, in this campaign, we didn’t turn our heads. We looked them square in the eye and we said, “We see you, we hear you, and we are with you. And we will never forget you.” And I have a feeling that if the leaders of our great Democratic Party continue to hear the voices of working people, a proud progressive will occupy the White House.

Now, I’ve spoken to both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. They have both pledged to me and more importantly through me to America, that they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency.

And more importantly, they have pledged to me that as President of the United States they will make ending poverty and economic inequality central to their Presidency. This is the cause of my life and I now have their commitment to engage in this cause.

And I want to say to everyone here, on the way here today, we passed under a bridge that carried the interstate where 100 to 200 homeless Americans sleep every night. And we stopped, we got out, we went in and spoke to them.

There was a minister there who comes every morning and feeds the homeless out of her own pocket. She said she has no money left in her bank account, she struggles to be able to do it, but she knows it’s the moral, just and right thing to do. And I spoke to some of the people who were there and as I was leaving, one woman said to me, “You won’t forget us, will you? Promise me you won’t forget us.” Well, I say to her and I say to all of those who are struggling in this country, we will never forget you. We will fight for you. We will stand up for you.

But I want to say this — I want to say this because it’s important. With all of the injustice that we’ve seen, I can say this, America’s hour of transformation is upon us. It may be hard to believe when we have bullets flying in Baghdad and it may be hard to believe when it costs $58 to fill your car up with gas. It may be hard to believe when your school doesn’t have the right books for your kids. It’s hard to speak out for change when you feel like your voice is not being heard.

But I do hear it. We hear it. This Democratic Party hears you. We hear you, once again. And we will lift you up with our dream of what’s possible.

One America, one America that works for everybody.

One America where struggling towns and factories come back to life because we finally transformed our economy by ending our dependence on oil.

One America where the men who work the late shift and the women who get up at dawn to drive a two-hour commute and the young person who closes the store to save for college. They will be honored for that work.

One America where no child will go to bed hungry because we will finally end the moral shame of 37 million people living in poverty.

One America where every single man, woman and child in this country has health care.

One America with one public school system that works for all of our children.

One America that finally brings this war in Iraq to an end. And brings our service members home with the hero’s welcome that they have earned and that they deserve.

Today, I am suspending my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency.

But I want to say this to everyone: with Elizabeth, with my family, with my friends, with all of you and all of your support, this son of a millworker’s gonna be just fine. Our job now is to make certain that America will be fine.

And I want to thank everyone who has worked so hard — all those who have volunteered, my dedicated campaign staff who have worked absolutely tirelessly in this campaign.

And I want to say a personal word to those I’ve seen literally in the last few days — those I saw in Oklahoma yesterday, in Missouri, last night in Minnesota — who came to me and said don’t forget us. Speak for us. We need your voice. I want you to know that you almost changed my mind, because I hear your voice, I feel you, and your cause it our cause. Your country needs you — every single one of you.

All of you who have been involved in this campaign and this movement for change and this cause, we need you. It is in our hour of need that your country needs you. Don’t turn away, because we have not just a city of New Orleans to rebuild. We have an American house to rebuild.

This work goes on. It goes on right here in Musicians’ Village. There are homes to build here, and in neighborhoods all along the Gulf. The work goes on for the students in crumbling schools just yearning for a chance to get ahead. It goes on for day care workers, for steel workers risking their lives in cities all across this country. And the work goes on for two hundred thousand men and women who wore the uniform of the United States of America, proud veterans, who go to sleep every night under bridges, or in shelters, or on grates, just as the people we saw on the way here today. Their cause is our cause.

Their struggle is our struggle. Their dreams are our dreams.

Do not turn away from these great struggles before us. Do not give up on the causes that we have fought for. Do not walk away from what’s possible, because it’s time for all of us, all of us together, to make the two Americas one.

Thank you. God bless you, and let’s go to work. Thank you all very much.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How fucked up is that?, I

So - to save the economy, we're going to borrow $140 billion dollars from China so we can buy more stuff made in China? Anyone remember the Company store?

The school has sent me a letter threatening Administrative Withdraw if I don't provide my shot records? Let me see if I can find that particular stone tablet and dust it off for them. Did they even bother to look before sending the form email that I probably had one complete set of shots (including Rabies and a few other things very few folks get) from the military 20+ years ago? Or that the original ones are about 38 years old? Nope, so short of miraculously finding these records, I'll probably have to get all new shots since I have no clue where I would begin to find this stuff.

It hit me the other day that I have put myself into the position of having a routine on a day to day basis. I haven't done that in my entire adult life - it's so strange, but I can also see the "security" some folks get of knowing something like "it's Monday, I have to do XXX"

Poor Chris, if he doesn't feel totally neglected, then he's just blind. Between running the companies and training a new innkeeper, tackling a full load at school, agreeing to go off to PA (and now maybe Wisconsin) to do presentations at conferences, volunteering to do some things for various magazines and newspapers - then toss in this whole concept of developing a property for sustainable, affordable student housing.... it's a wonder the poor man knows I'm alive outside of me saying stuff like "Hey, I need a ride to the airport...." Somehow he smiles and gives me that knowing look and just rides with it. I hope everyone who ever reads this has someone so wonderfully supportive in their life - you have no clue how much that means.

Well, off to catch a flight home (arriving 2 hours early thanks to bad weather in Chicago). I keep feeling like if I just get another couple of days, I can get it all caught up.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

An awesome night

It's 16 degrees, the stars are out, the moon nearly full and snow on the ground. Slept off my exhaustion - I never go to bed at 8:30 and sleep until 6:30 - obviously I needed it. Should be the last week of feeling like I'm behind and playing catch up at school. My belly is full with homemade chili and leftover homemade clam chowder. Probably the healthiest I've eaten this week except for lunch with Kelly (there's something about her current detox diet that makes me feel semi-guilty for eating, but I'm not giving up my wine, I'll try to drink enough for her until she can do yeast and sugar again LOL)

Curled up in front of the fireplace, feet cuddled with Chris makes me forget the earlier day frustrations of not being able to have a day for just us like I'd been planning. Seems like we've both been running a hundred miles an hour in different directions and we're due for an "us" day. Oh well, life conspired that he'd be busy when I wasn't and vice versa. We're still here, still together - always connected. Nothing special going on, a quiet night. Knitting for my family, thinking about how lucky I am. How could anyone be warmer?

Shitty day for a variety of reasons, seemed so important at the time - but now, oh well, it's past and all is right in my world. I am still going to find an Ipod, a ton of reasons. But overall, I can't complain - life is good, everyone should have it so well. Amazing how a little quiet time can really keep the rest in perspective. I have so much shit to get finished this week, but it'll all come together - nothing to worry about. Life is good. And yes, some things are just funny:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Semi frustrating week

So they finally got the computer system at school fixed to where I could actually register for classes after I'd already sat through my first course. Of course, by that time everything I wanted to sign up for was already filled. Started the day first thing in the registrar's office, grabbing a handful of slips to see if professors would sign off on letting me take the courses on an overflow basis and headed off to class. Sat through my first one on solar thermal and got a maybe, I might know by Wednesday. Of course, there's a book to buy and a reading assignment due before I find out. Wednesday morning comes and there's 21 people in a classroom for 14 - at least he told me I couldn't get in before making me sit through another day and buy the book.

Sustainable building was no problem to get into, in fact there's a project due where we have to design a residential building and a commercial building then run all the LEED certifications on them to see how feasible they are. Instructor said the shipping container project would qualify and might even be something to enter into a sustainable design competition going on throughout the state.

Last class of the day was Intro to sustainability - very interesting, multi discipline class. Really enjoyed the instructor and style of the class (it's a place to debate ideas!!). Will know Wed on that one as well, but after sitting through the course, came up with the perfect reason for Chuck to let me stay in it. I'm the small businessman builder/developer that we spent most of today's class trashing for their insensitivity to the environment and exploitation of the masses for their own personal profit. Should make for a very fun class to say the least, especially the one young lady who's completely convinced that all capitalism is inherently bad. I want to be on some group projects with her obviously, that will really be enjoyable to work on showing her that the unbridled idealism is just as destructive as the capitalism that she rails against (probably will turn out to be a trust fund baby as well, which will only make it more fun!) (OK, got registered for this one - if I hadn't would probably have been the biggest disappointment of all that I wanted to take) Billy had tried to get me to meet this instructor before, said I'd probably enjoy talking to him and turns out he was right.

Turns out I may be eligible for credit for 8 semester hours in military science and phys ed for being a veteran. I've also got to check what credit I can get for "life experiences" - if nothing else being married three times and a single dad should qualify me for something with one of the Marriage and Family courses! Seriously, things like Blueprint 101 should be something I can test out of. It also occurred to me that while I was active duty, I took almost 40 hours of CLEP tests - I have no clue how long they are good for or if I can still use them for credits, but if I can that would take care of alot of the core basics. None of this can be completely answered until I've gotten 30 hours at ASU and they evaluate - but at least I know who I need to talk to about this to find out what paperwork is required and gives me plenty of time to get the papers out of whatever storage silo the US Army has them buried in.

Seriously, I finally broke down and said I was going to go ahead and get the degree - don't know why I kept being so wishy washy about making a commitment like that - perhaps because not being able to go to school when everyone else did back then is really the only thing that I've ever really expressed regret about - now, after all these years, maybe I'm just not trusting that that the opportunity is actually there. Once you've turned down a full scholarship to a school like Duke due to some of your other life choices, it's kind of tough to see yourself ever getting to go.

So I've decided to focus on the degree courses for now and see which of the core courses I won't have to take. If they won't count that stuff, then I'll have a couple of very boring semesters covering the basics with none of the more interesting things, but seems like the best route to go.

Found an electronics course in the same time slot as the solar I got bumped from - it even had openings! Clicked on register and get a note that I don't have the required math class or placement testing. Kelly pointed me to the area online where the placement tests are, of course it doesn't show up for me, so I email the appropriate person who adds it to my list. Got up this am and took the test and blew it horribly - didn't even get finished with the last 9 questions out of 25 (and only got 9 of the one's I did finish right). Amazing how much you can forget if you don't use it in a couple decades - in spite of scoring incredibly high on the SAT's back then (chisel and stone tablet!) Emailed the professor and told him I wouldn't be signing up after all.

Found another class I was interested in for that time - fits the major, has openings, even in the same building as my second M/W class. Click the button and find Time Conflict - it's listed as running until 11, while the other one starts at 11. Literally down a flight of steps and 1 door away from each other. Emails to both instructors to see which one would have to sign whatever waiver to allow me to register for that class.

Finally found potential spots in the other 2 classes I want to take on Thursday - Environmental Ethics and Science & Technology. Of course we finally get a snowfall and some classes get canceled, but so far the only one was the 9:30 - which I'm already registered for. Tomorrow is last day to add classes, so it either happens today or I'm not going to sweat about it. Would sorta piss me off since I've already hit the top tuition tier, only cost for those hours would be my time and the books. Now that I've decided to go for it, I want to be done yesterday (huge surprise, huh?) Don't get me wrong, I want to enjoy it, but it's not going to be the same college experience I would have had at 19 (I shudder to think about the number of people I would have slept with back then or how much alcohol I would have consumed LOL)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2008 Burning Man Art Theme: American Dream

And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.
~ William Shakespeare, As You Like It

This year's art theme is about nationality, identity and the nature of patriotism. One species of the patriotic urge conflates the nation state with mass identity. Governments, as actors on a worldwide stage, become a surrogate for self, a vast projection of collective ego. And yet, there is another type of patriotic feeling that attaches us to place and people, to a home and its culture. Both these feeling states (and their attendant ironies) are relevant to this year's theme.

In 2008, leave narrow and exclusive ideologies at home; forget the blue states and the red; let parties, factions and divisive issues fall away, and carefully consider your immediate experience. What has America achieved that you admire? What has it done or failed to do that fills you with dismay? What is laudatory? What is ludicrous? Put blame aside, let humor thrive, and dare to contemplate a larger question: What can America, this stumbling, roused, half-conscious giant, still contribute to the world?

Anyone embarking on this path will encounter hundreds of fellow participants – many of whom come to Black Rock City from around the world. Indeed, in order to discover the flag of any particular county amid this welter of imagery, it will be necessary to inspect the flags of many other nations. Each of these may be imagined as a dream no less radiant or precious than the rest. Each country is a source of culture and identity; yet each may also be regarded as a glimmering illusion: a sovereign artifact, an arbitrary puzzle piece, an isolated fragment on a map.

Today, Americans appear to live amid the tarnished squalor of a second Gilded Age. By nearly every measure, America has become a more unequal society. A mere one percent of the population now controls a third of the nation's wealth. Education, health care and home ownership – these now escape the reach of those who thought they were the middle class. Forty years of heedless mass-consumption have turned dreams into delusions. America's awash in debt. Embroiled in a wayward war, its citizens are told to shop.

Many feel that the United States is now adrift. Its allies, once so numerous, begin to fall away and chart an independent course. Its citizens, more tellingly, have lost their faith in progress. Polls indicate they now believe their children can't expect a better future. They distrust the institutions of government, of finance, and the corrupting power of large corporations. And yet, the native traits of any culture are deep-rooted. Freedom, opportunity, inventiveness, the power to transform oneself: these values and a love of self-expression still endure.

more at Burning Man

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Role Reversal

You said way back near the beginning that in submitting, you were actually controlling. That's when I began to understand how deep your thinking went, but I didn't appreciate just how much you understood what you were saying at that point. Somehow you understood so early on that my need to be in charge was really an invitation to be the one tamed.

By allowing you to set the ground rules about our interactions, you also got me to agree to be controlled. And I did it, willingly - a first in my life where I've given up that power to someone else - establishing a bond of trust like no other I've ever formed. Sure, there are moments that I test the boundaries established - but respectfully and not resentful when I find them still in place. Generally, the predictability of the results is both gently humorous and strongly comforting - occasionally, I find myself surprised at the latitude granted.

There are also moments where you pluck at the strings you've tied to see if they remain as tight or need some refreshing. I find that I enjoy watching that happen as well, sometimes doing things to provoke it. I'm surprised you've never noticed the mischievous grin on my face as I do. Once again, leading things into new territory - discoveries for both you and me to be made in directions not explored - a subtle specialty of yours I've come to cherish. Whenever I have cause to doubt if you enjoy it as much as I do, or feel it as deeply - I catch a certain look on your face and know that you do.

It's a bit of a surreal dream in the midst of my waking life - secure in the knowledge that it's there, but not always forefront of my mind. And then something sparks a thought or a memory and I'm instantly blown away by this warm feeling, the one we openly speak of as love without ever having totally defined what it means between us. And I sit there in wonder at where things are - a place I never would have expected to find myself, a place I wouldn't trade for the world.

I guess it's why I've always been attracted to Orion - the strong warrior/hunter. That quiet confidence has always been an attractor, even a bit of an aphrodisiac.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Waking life....

The kids have been talking about sushi for a while now, but were waiting for a time when Chris wouldn't be eating since he doesn't like the textures.  Last night, we all got together at Nick's to make sushi and watch a movie.  It was incredibly fun - the first time all the kids have been back together since the Christmas break and everyone "doing" part of the meal prep.  Made for alot of conversation and joking, along with a very simple enjoyment of each other's company over something so basic but fun as making a meal (at least three of us had never made sushi before).

Afterwards we watched Waking Life. I don't remember ever seeing a film that struck me so intensely while watching it but left everyone so silently stunned when the credits rolled.  Evan (who's seen it many times before and recommended it as his favorite movie) was trying to start a conversation with everyone to find out their reaction, but we were all still lost in trying to absorb it.

I left this movie slightly unsatisfied and unsettled (a bit like waking up from a dream I suppose). It took me a while to figure out the reason -- the movie does not supply answers. It does not have a plot that reaches a "conclusion".

It's more of an experience, like a long, vivid, strange dream. 

While the different lecturers didn't say anything really new in terms of philosophy, their "realness" in presentation, the certainty in which they spoke and their animated character representations did make you see those theories in some new lights and provoke you to think. 

I spent most of the movie trying to decide if the train and bridge scenes were "transitions" in his mental awareness of him waking up to life or if they were more stepping stones towards eternity.

I don't remember even being conscious of the musical score while watching last night since there were so many other areas being stimulated, but I woke up this morning with it running through my head - not dominating, but as background music again.  The simple strings have almost a romantic melody to them, even though there is nothing of that basis in the movie.  It makes me feel a little still in the dream state.

Definitely one I want to watch again, the animation was such a fascinating departure from typical movies that I found myself visually distracted as the characters and scenes shifted with the conversations.  I imagine that there are things to see and here to be newly discovered with each additional watching.

Not everyone thinks the same. Not all of these topics will spark the imagination and get the wheels turning. Certainly, the animation is an experience on its own.  Waking Life is perfect for personal reflection. Dreaming can be fun. Living can be interesting. Living in your dreams will lead to adventure and personal satisfaction. Choose where you will spend your time...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Life is.....

I've realized over the past few years that life just happens, and that I'm much happier just accepting it sometimes. There are things that happen that could make you wish things had been different, or that you met someone under different circumstances, or that things just could have come together better - but the fact is, they didn't. So you deal with it. You learn to turn those thoughts aside and appreciate things for what they are, not lose life and energy over what might have been.

I find that I'm much happier this way. I'm willing to relinquish control to the fates and let things happen. Sometimes I'm even pleasantly surprised at how they turn out, exceeding what I would have tried to will into existence. It's amazing how less stressful things are now. Looking back over the years at how I had to have absolute control over everyone and everything around me - I realize that I may have cheated myself out of other experiences simply because I wouldn't let them happen, things had to go my way.

Sure, there are moments when I look at something or someone and think about how it could impact my life differently. But then I think about what I have already gained and try to appreciate it from that perspective and realize that I have nothing to complain about, nothing to yearn for to be different. I'm loved by enough, liked by more and enjoyed by many. How many can truly say that? How many can truly say that they are as happy as I am? How many really live the life that they were supposed to?

Life is.... and sometimes, the best thing I can do is to let it be. There's alot to be found in doing that.

Good night Orion, sleep well my friend.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Larry, I thought of you.....

and couldn't resist sharing.

If it won't play, just click here

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Love - a word far too short....

A lot of discussions around here about Love - what it is, what it means, how it's expressed. Who it happens to, the differences in depth and commitment. How we fall into it or even out of it and all the ramifications each of those entails. Obviously a topic that has been discussed throughout the ages with no definitive answers beyond that it's highly subject to the people involved and won't be the same exact thing for anyone else.

Some can love many without sacrificing one, some can only give their heart to one to the exclusion of all others. Not so much a "right vs wrong" issue, simply a different way to express what they feel and what that represents to them. Each has the potential to feel that they are missing out on something the other has but also the ability to recognize that they possess something the other can't have - hopefully they can each appreciate that fully and live it well.

Talking about how Chris and I met, how we've developed and formed our bonds, how no one who knew us would have ever considered this would be a lasting thing has given me time to reflect on exactly what we mean to each other. The respect for one another's differences that has kept it interesting without ever leading to arguments is probably the strongest part of our relationship. The deep friendship that underlies it all so that we each know the the support of the other is there no matter what we choose to do (and I'm certain my random ideas have pushed that to limits I never would have predicted).

To know that we risk great hurts and go for it in spite of rather than holding back because of what "might" happen, to understand that that potential exists and take the plunge anyway isn't something that everyone can do. Probably expected for many who timidly drift through life, but occasionally we can get surprised by one who embraces everything with a boundless energy and enthusiasm that infects all around him, yet hesitates here in this one realm. A fierce hug, then a firm hand to the back and a whispered reminder to count to ten before pulling the ripcord.

Not just the romantic connections, but the family we've created and how it all inter-relates. The lack of competition, the genuine desire for all to have the best for each of the others. The feeling of coming and being at home.

Evan and I were in Big Lot's yesterday and laughing about how quickly the latest big retailer sponsored holiday was being pushed in the door as the Christmas one was already packed up and forgotten. Sadly, we were poking through the Valentine's offerings. Some were funny - like the hard plastic bra that looked like it would so comfortably inspire romance - the 9' banner of X's and O's to be hung across the ceiling. Some had potential to be fun - like the dice that said what to do and where to do it - not really spontaneous enough for me, but I can see that some would enjoy the game.

But the saddest ones were things like the deck of playing cards with questions on the back designed to get you talking with your partner - not even deep subjects that two people might not talk about in the course of day to day, but simple things that wouldn't take long to discover if one was truly interested in the other. Our first reaction was "what a shame" but it was quickly overtaken by the broader "what a shame that there are so many people missing out that there's a market for this". I just don't get people not embracing life, living it as though it might be their last day.

This past year has been our best so far for so many reasons, not the least of which has been the people in our lives and love between all. I guess my new year's wish for everyone would be that they have a season of loving, of creating the relationships that bring out the best in others as well as themselves. Of living, while still alive.

As for love, I think Margaret Atwood may have said it best in here simple, but straight to the point manner:

Variations on the Word Love

This is a word we use to plug
holes with. It's the right size for those warm
blanks in speech, for those red heart-
shaped vacancies on the page that look nothing
like real hearts. Add lace
and you can sell
it. We insert it also in the one empty
space on the printed form
that comes with no instructions. There are whole
magazines with not much in them
but the word love, you can
rub it all over your body and you
can cook with it too. How do we know
it isn't what goes on at the cool
debaucheries of slugs under damp
pieces of cardboard? As for the weed-
seedlings nosing their tough snouts up
among the lettuces, they shout it.
Love! Love! sing the soldiers, raising
their glittering knives in salute.

Then there's the two
of us. This word
is far too short for us, it has only
four letters, too sparse
to fill those deep bare
vacuums between the stars
that press on us with their deafness.
It's not love we don't wish
to fall into, but that fear.
this word is not enough but it will
have to do. It's a single
vowel in this metallic
silence, a mouth that says
O again and again in wonder
and pain, a breath, a finger
grip on a cliffside. You can
hold on or let go.

Margaret Atwood

Don't let the process of living rob you of life or the fear of loving steal what should be the best parts.