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Monday, October 17, 2016

Stop Calling Me A Killer

    This is a post that I've ruminated over in my head for several years. It will include very personal details that I have hesitated to share but now I feel it's time because so much is at stake with this election. I have heard so many of my evangelical acquaintances state that they feel they must vote for Trump because it's the only ticket that isn't full of "baby killers", meaning that it doesn't support legal abortion. A second concern embedded in this position is what is at stake as regards the nomination of supreme court justices for the coming period, again, much of this focused on the issue of legal abortion.
     My position on legal abortion is that I am pro-legal. I refuse to use the words pro-choice and pro-life because both are inadequate descriptions of what lies at the heart of legal abortion. Being pro-legal does not make me a baby killer and I am so tired of that accusation being levied at national leaders because they also support the legal practice of abortion. We can argue for days on end about why I don't believe that abortion is the same thing as murder and on this point my detractors and I will never see eye to eye. It's a fundamental difference of opinion for which there is no easy or clear answer. Unwanted pregnancies are painful for all involved. And dare I say that no one I know who supports legal abortion is pro-abortion. In my experience as a pastor, when I encountered young woman who were pregnant with an unwanted child, I talked extensively with them about their options, their resources, what it would mean for them to birth the child, if they had enough support surrounding them, what it would mean for them to give the child up for adoption. And then, if they felt the only way out of the sad and tragic situation was to end the pregnancy, I also promised to hold their hand and see them through what would likely become one of the most devastating days of their lives. No man will ever face the life changing realities of bearing an unwanted pregnancy. The choices are just not the same for men. And so we must be careful about how we dictate to women what they should and shouldn't do. Abortion is costly but so are unwanted children and most of the ardent anti-legal folks I know are not willing to walk alongside those who face the incredibly difficult decision to either carry to term or terminate. Let me be utterly clear: No one likes abortion. No one celebrates abortion, but some realize that bringing a child to the fullness of life under such circumstances that would prevent them from thriving in the fullness of life once born creates a painful reality for some that leads them to terminate the pregnancy before it becomes a full blown human life. No, I do not believe that the living DNA that is formed in the womb is the same thing as a life that is breathing outside of the womb. And here's in part why.
     What makes being called a baby killer so painful is the reality of my infertility. My husband and I tried for years to conceive a baby and were unsuccessful in these attempts. The last attempts were done via in vitro fertilization while we were living in Sweden. We had a very good process of harvesting my eggs and the Drs. were optimistic that this procedure would yield a healthy pregnancy and eventually a baby for us. But alas, both attempts failed. There were leftover created embryos that we chose not to use because after two attempts the risks for an unhealthy or miscarried pregnancy increased dramatically and frankly, by this time we were emotionally spent. So we left our DNA frozen in the Swedish hospital. I do not consider whatever happened to that DNA murder in any way. It insults me more than you could ever know to think that we would murder our babies when we longed for a child for so many years.
     Because here's the thing with that DNA. It's not our children. It's not alive. We didn't celebrate birthdays or Christmas. We didn't take photos of it and watch it grow, see it go off to school, graduate, and maybe get married. Our DNA will never produce grandchildren for us. WE DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN so how in the world could I ever believe that even if what is happening in the womb is life in some form, it is the same thing as a living, breathing, thriving baby?
     I understand why legal abortion is such an affront to people. But I also hope that those same people can offer some measure of understanding and empathy to those who feel it is a necessary, legal procedure in order to preserve the life of the woman making the choice and even for the unborn. For in making the transition from unborn to born, the anti-legal position must be willing to ensure that the born have a chance to thrive in the fullness of living, breathing, human life otherwise they too are guilty of killing...for they kill the potential ability of the woman to create a better life for herself and they kill the hopes and dreams of a child who is born into an unwanted situation where poverty, disease, and neglect might represent a less than bright future for them.
     So please, stop referring to those of us who believe that abortion should be legal as baby killers. There are few things that offend me more deeply than that. And when you call Hillary Clinton Killary, remember, you are calling people like me the same. When you talk about the slaughter of innocent babies in the US, remember that my womb, even when implanted with an embryo, never brought forth a baby so I find the reference repugnant. And if you are anti-legal, please do something to help women see their pregnancies through by offering financial and emotional support either to help them keep their child or helping them find the strength to give it up for adoption. Without these things, your empty rhetoric about life sounds ridiculous to me.
     Finally, if indeed you are voting for Trump because he's "pro-life" I urge you to think again. Trump tramples on human life through his actions of disrespecting women and plowing over employees. Perhaps he's even impregnated some "throw away" woman along the way and I'm confident that he would not hesitate to recommend an abortion in that situation. He is verbally abusive to most any human being who doesn't fall in line with him. His campaign has represented the worst of human life so don't fool yourself into thinking that you can discard all of his incompetence and brash behavior and justify your vote because he isn't a "baby killer." As for the Supreme Court...well, given the rigorous process of approval any candidate has to go through, I think it's safe to say that most justices won't be hanging out on either end of the political spectrum. More and more, we're headed for the middle and that is why I just don't think the issue of appointing justices justifies a vote for Trump.
I'm sure I won't change minds with this post, but maybe it will encourage some to ratchet down the rhetoric around abortion and killing and at least encourage us to create a far more civil dialogue than this election has given to us. But to those who are anti-legal, just remember those of us for whom conception, birthing, and parenting have painful associations and so to refer to us as baby killers just pours more salt into an already gaping wound.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Backyard Beautification

Our project list continues to be whittled away at and the latest update involves the back wall of our property along with upgraded chaise lounges.
The back wall along our property has this lovely shelf upon which sat horrible plants. We had them ripped out and have finally decided upon the scheme we wanted to replace them. After much pondering we landed at a beautiful combination of Tacoma (yellow), Duranto (purple) and Jasmine (white). I was quick to point out to Doug that these are Laker colors to which he quickly responded, "Vikings". Touchè. We're both happy. 
It will be delightful to watch this row of plants grow up. The color they will provide to the back of our property will be just lovely. This is the last of the big planting projects. Whew. It's been a busy season of landscaping.
The other project was repairing our lawn chairs. Outdoor furniture is ridiculously over-priced in our humble estimation so when we found these metal chaise lounges on Craig's list for $100.00 we snapped them right up. Those frames alone can run well above $200 a piece. The straps were busted out and upon looking around for solutions, Doug discovered a great solution that was much easier than re-strapping the chairs. He purchased wooden slates for a bed. Cut them into the right size and fastened them with bolts and clips usually used with PVC pipes. With the purchase of spray paint that adheres to metal, we were able to erase the pinkish hue on the frames and turn them into a lovely tan. The last step was choosing the cushions. I love what we picked! The color palette fits in great with our backyard and the thickness of the cushions ensures a comfortable spot for lounging and star-gazing.
The only things missing at this point are an outdoor fire pit, which is coming soon and of course, finding Tanner relaxing on his favorite lounger.
We may not have allowed him on the new cushions anyway.
But we still wish he was hanging out with us.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

From the Grid to Solar

Today was a big day. We had our solar panels installed. Minutes after they were activated we were generating power back to the grid. This is one of the most exciting decisions we've ever made. After paying our electric bill all summer, it wasn't really that hard of a choice. Especially since we live in a place where the sun shines approximately 350 days a year!
The crew arrived at 7.30 and the noise began almost immediately. Lots of drilling. But 6.5 hours later the panels are in and we are already sending power back to the grid. I cannot wait until we get our next electric bill. Usually I am waiting for our electric bill with fear and trepidation. Not anymore. We are no longer dependent on the ups and downs of the electric company. We are guaranteed that our electric bill will not exceed $10.00/month and in most cases, it'll be even lower.Guaranteed. That is peace of mind. Doesn't matter to us anymore what the electric company does to rates. We are no longer dependent.
We were particularly lucky with the way our roof sits. We get sunshine all day so needed quite a few less panels than we originally expected. And you cannot even see the panels from the front of the house.
Beyond the economic savings, we are genuinely excited to be able to lessen our footprint and use a source of power that the good Lord provides for us. 
I never thought I'd get so excited about something as mundane as electricity. But we need a/c out here all summer long. We want to add a hot tub down the road and that won't jack our power bill. And we are doing something that is good for our earth. I'm thankful we have the means and the opportunity to take advantage of this good and important product. 
If you live in California and are interested in hearing more about experience, we'd be happy to talk with you. We thought that Horizon Solar gave us an excellent offer, lower than all others, and the service has been great. My love affair with the sun just went a bit deeper!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Landscape Artistry

With the weather finally veering away from the hellacious temperatures of summer, Doug has once again been on a mission to get the yard looking good. I got a bit more involved weighing in on the plant choices and becoming chief waterer. It is absolutely amazing how lovely everything looks. (Photos don't fully capture it all.) It will be very fun to watch how the plants mature and grow. And now that we are heading into the season where we can spend lots of time outside, it's a joy to see and take in the beauty.
Is: Bougainvillea, Arabian Jasmine, Hibiscus and a variety of cacti.
Transplanted beaver tail cacti and aloe plants. Small barrel cacti.
Flowering sage between the grapefruit trees
Look at those pink grapefruit! Can't wait until they are ripe.
The backyard is almost complete. We will put some decorative rock gravel around the plants and we have one more big job of landscaping, the ridge that sits above the wall on the back of our property. We are probably going with torch glow bougainvillea as it will fill in nicely and blooms often throughout the year.

So, onto the front yard where lots of muscle was required. Doug's big design feature is the dry rock creek. He figured out the "flow" and moved every stone into place. Then, he moved it all again, put down plastic, and moved it back into place. I admire the work, but did not participate in this aspect of the landscape. It is truly stunning.
View facing the house
Arabian jasmine sits astride the dry creek.

View looking toward the street
Surrounded by desert grass and lantana
The interior of our front yard is a really nice space and we filled it in red/yellow lantana. Lantana loves the desert and grows very well. I am happy with the combination color. Additionally, we purchased two Mexican fan palms to surround the lantana. These plants are memorial trees for my parents that my Stockholm book club had purchased for us. They aren't the original plants as we had to leave those at the previous house we owned, but they are replicas and now have a wonderful spot in the front of our house.

Mexican fan palm and lantana. Texas Ranger is the large tree behind the wall and flowers in purple.
Desert grass, Mexican fan palm (mom), Lantana, Mexican Fan Palm (dad).
Ocotillo, with green leaves, waiting for fire orange blooms, a prickly pear cactus that will bloom red, a large barrel cactus that should also bloom on top and a new
lantana round out this lovely front of the house look.
There is now a warm welcome to our front door with lantana and sago palms along with barrel cactus providing a nice look. 
This view had been partially obstructed by the large yucca we transplanted to the backyard but now we can enjoy this gorgeous sight.We sat out last evening and soaked it all in. These chairs are beckoning company.
Desert landscape is so much diverse and beautiful than most people think. It is dry and sandy for sure but the plants that flower and thrive in the desert are so colorful and hearty. The hummingbirds and bees really like them too so it feels good to be doing our part to feed and support that part of the eco-system. We're happy to introduce you to the delights of the desert. Why don't you come on out and have a seat in our chairs and take in the beautiful view?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Why I Am With Her: Election 2016

     The first debate revealed in even more certain terms why electing Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the 45th President of the United States is the only sane option. I know that many disagree with me, stating that she is a dishonest, shady, "establishment" candidate. While certainly flawed, she is capable and at this point, this is the bar we are shooting for.
So, out of the debate, here's why I am with her.
     Above all, Donald Trump is one of the most disrespectful people I have ever encountered. His constant interrupting, his need to make snide remarks while Clinton was speaking, the disdain he shows by making comments about the 400 pound blogger or his careless disregard for the lower income Americans who have paid their fair share of taxes, stating that he's smart for dodging income tax, reveals a person who is about no one but himself. Justifying his degrading comments about women, in particular Rosie O'Donnell, citing that she said horrible things to him and she deserved it, does not bode well for negotiating diplomatic relationships with difficult people world-wide. His desire to dismantle existing diplomatic ties, arrogantly claiming that he will have no trouble luring jobs back and preventing companies from leaving is just delusional. His disregard for those hurting from the economic meltdown was fully displayed when he talked about snapping up properties that were lost in the housing crisis as being good business coupled with his claim that not paying income tax is simply smart again reveals a self-centered, egotistical, supremely selfish person.
     While Trump thoughtlessly called for law and order to rule the day, Clinton spoke clearly and importantly to the issue of race in the US, addressing systemic racism at the core of the issue. The phrase, implicit bias, was brilliant, and the humility she showed in admitting that we all have implicit bias that needs to be addressed and changed revealed her heart for those on the margins and her own willingness to grow. Her answers also revealed a clear understanding of how complex the issues of race and enforcement really are. Trump instead just calls out law and order as the way to move forward, citing stop and frisk, a policy that has been deemed unconstitutional while encouraging racial profiling as the real solution to the deeply complex challenges facing our communities today. His delusion continued as he spoke of building great relationships with the African American community and lifted up the "very, very good" people of the NRA. Trump gives the impression that America is an absolute wasteland right now, a crumbling nation that will be restored the day he is elected. His hubris in communicating that he could easily overcome the complex issues that the US faces reminds me of the "quick and easy" way we approached the Iraq war. Remember the terms shock and awe? Yeah, that didn't end so well. The only shocking thing was how awesomely misguided that entire mission really was. And then he calls upon Neil Cavuto and Sean Hannity to defend his position on the Iraq war. Fox news personalities? Really? How can anyone take this seriously?
     Trump is easily provoked. I'm trying to imagine his address after a national or global crisis. His predominant tone of voice is aggressive and angry. Who would want to work with this megalomaniac? I really can't imagine him being able to get a thing done with Congress. One can only shudder to imagine the cabinet he would put together.
     I understand that for a large portion of the electorate, voting for Clinton is something that they feel they just can't do, on principle alone. Many people who are falling into this category are trending toward voting for Gary Johnson. I am having a hard time understanding the support for Johnson, especially from my evangelical friends. He supports abortion, supports gay marriage, and supports legal marijuana use, 3 areas that most evangelicals vilify Clinton for. His economic plans are not tenable to me. I know 3 people who have been libertarians for a long time. I give them a pass on supporting him. But for my Republican friends who are suddenly ardent libertarians, I will say only this. If voting your so-called conscious includes supporting someone who wants to dismantle public education in the name of getting government out of our lives (what DOES that mean?), all the while risking that your vote could help elect Trump, then I hope you can live with that on your conscious.
     I express all of this to simply say that our highest priority as a nation should be ensuring that Donald Trump does not get elected. We have to live with the choices we've brought forth at this point. Johnson will never be elected. Votes for him will only promote a smaller gap between Trump and Clinton. Trump or Clinton will be our 45th President, like it or not. We all have to decide how we want to influence the outcome of the election.
     In support of Clinton, I do believe she has the experience in the political realm that is important for this moment in history. I am impressed with her long support for children and people with disabilities. She will fight for the rights of women in society. She shows compassion for those less fortunate and knows how to work towards public policy that will help those most in need. Clinton is a policy person. She knows how to attempt to get things done. Of course, she, along with no one else, will ever accomplish anything alone, but at least she understands how to go about changing the system. Others are concerned about a Democrat appointing the upcoming Supreme Court Justices. Again, if you think for a moment that either Johnson or Trump would be better at this, think again. This process does not exist in a vacuum and there are no guarantees that a liberal candidate will produce a liberal judge. This concern is over-rated. It should not be a driving reason to vote against Clinton. In spite of the errors she's made, and she has made them, I still believe she has more foreign policy experience than any of the other candidates. She has been in the oval office. She has sat in the situation room. She understands what it means to have a tough, but diplomatic conversation. She has, in her own words,"traveled to 112 countries and negotiated a peace deal, a ceasefire, a release of dissidents." She knows what it takes and she is still willing to take the challenge.
     Finally, I have confidence that Clinton is the only candidate that will work toward fewer incidents of violence, more stringent gun control, and be the one can keep us out of more wars. I have no confidence that any of the other candidates are even close to being qualified to do the same.
I know there are a cacophony of voices out there that will vehemently disagree with me, friends and enemies alike. I've decided that among my conservative friends, I'm the liberal they hate to love! It was important for me to write this blog to reveal in no uncertain terms why I voting for Hillary Clinton. I also happen to think her choice of Tim Kaine as VP is excellent and shows a willingness to interact with someone who is not exactly like her. The cabinet that Hillary will eventually put together will no doubt be smart, educated, experienced people who will help the US be a country that the rest of the world can take seriously. I know that for many Americans, what the world thinks is of no concern to them, but after living abroad for 18 years, I also cannot state emphatically enough what a privilege the US holds as the most powerful nation in the world. We should not take lightly our need to build strong relationships of trust and cooperation. In order to do, we need competent, steady leadership at the top. Like it or not, Hillary Rodham Clinton is the only candidate on the ballot that ensures this.
     And this is why I am with Her in 2016.

Monday, September 19, 2016

My Landscaping Man

Doug has this wonderful design gene. I have no idea where it comes from although he has mentioned that in another life, he would've loved to have been a golf course architect. He has a truly uncanny ability to look at something and re-design it in his head and then make it happen. He did this with the interior of our home, which is spectacular in my humble opinion and now he's at it with the outside of our home.
Photo not taken today. It's not that cloudy!
Our current property is blessed with lovely yard space. Because we sit at the end of a cul-de-sac, our property is pie-shaped which is awesome because the front side is nicely shaped without being a huge space, but the back opens into a lovely wide expanse. The patio is really great and once the weather cools will become a major outdoor living area. After 17 years in Sweden where we lived for the warmish days of summer when we could be outside, it is still a little weird for me to be longing for cooler days in order to be outside more! But I digress. The back yard also has 5 mature fruit trees, 3 pink grapefruit and a lemon and a lime tree. Unfortunately, one of the grapefruit trees died so we had to hack it down.
All of the trees are surrounded by brick and concrete which is fine until you want to remove it. Doug has done the back breaking work of digging out the square that surrounded the dead tree.
It has been fun to watch this transformation take shape today.
The front yard has a lovely sitting area but it was largely blocked by this giant yucca tree. And the pile of rocks and cacti behind the sitting area were not set out in a very appealing manner.
The new view, sans Yucca
Additionally, the big rock pile by the front door was also a little random and the plants around the house were also just sort of scattered about.
Re-located cacti and rocks creating a much more beautiful desert garden
Doug had the great idea of building a dry rock "creek" from the beside the front door that will go all the way down to the end of the driveway. We do have the most beautiful stones so it will be a great way to display them more tastefully.
The start of the dry rock creek
The front of the house looks so much better. 
So the major work in the front yard, included re-locating the large yucca plant that blocked our view, knocking down the stone piles, re-locating various cacti and large rocks, and moving one small palm back against the house.
So you may be asking, "Where is that large Yucca plant?" It's in the corner of our backyard! And it looks great.
The Yucca tree fills in that space beautifully. It looks so much better.

In addition to moving the large yucca tree to the back corner, backyard work included re-locating all of the rose bushes so that they are alongside of the house. 

Hauling away large portions of the concrete that Doug dug out. Horrible work, really. And transplanting formerly potted cacti into the ground to round out the desert garden.
 I am amazed at how much work they've gotten done. Fortunately, it's not too hot today (91F/33C) and there has been cloud cover so they haven't totally wilted. I've been documenting their work, providing beverages and lunch, along with some translation skills as Martin's English isn't totally up to speed. My Spanish stinks but I can still understand what he needs most of the time.
Doug is an eager learner and a great worker when he gets a bee in his bonnet. Most of the time it works to my advantage, but sometimes it drives me absolutely crazy. The phrase that I often fear most is, "Jodi, I have an idea." That man is full of ideas, albeit, mostly great ones. Best of all we haven't had to spend money on new materials yet. We will buy some new plants but mostly we've been able to move the rocks around the garden and transplant the plants in spaces that look so much better. I'm totally thrilled with how this is shaping up. Of course, we miss this little lawn ornament most of all. Sigh. Stay tuned for more developments from my landscaping man.