Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dear Benjamin Netanyahu

Dear Mr. Netanyahu,

I know it's crazy...this idea of a mom from California...just a teacher and mom presuming to talk to you...but somebody's got to.

Have you noticed what's happening?

Is it working out well?

You getting attacked...and you attacking back.

It's timeless.

It's pointless.

It's clearly not working.

You know the definition of insanity, right?  Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Let's back track:  your strategy isn't working.

Hamas continues to bomb and Israeli soldiers continue to die -- not to mention a whole bunch of children and mothers and fathers and people who have the sheer bad luck of being stuck right there at ground zero.

So...what can be done?

Well, you can continue doing what you're doing and it can continue not to work...or you can think outside the box.

You can be radical.

Radical for peace.

Imagine how powerful it would be to have Hamas launch rockets at Israel and to have Israel respond with silence...
how about with prayer?

How about if the entire state of Israel spent a day in prayer...deep in prayer all day long?

All of the businesses shut down...all of the schools closed...all of the vacationers paused...
paused in prayerful peace.

Would the world take note?

Would your enemies?

Last week, we had a horrific crime happen in a neighboring city.  Three guys robbed a bank and took three hostages and then proceeded to drive all over the city shooting to kill.  The mother of a 12 year old who was taken hostage was killed...while her 12 year old waited in their car at the bank...killed for no reason.

Guess what her sister chose to do?

In a terrible moment of grief, with a bald head from cancer treatment, the sister of the woman killed ask for people to pray for her and for her family...and then she asked that the crowd pray for the robbers and for their families too.


It takes two to fight -- that's what I tell my kids all day long -- two.

What if Israel just chose not to fight and instead chose peace.

Over and over again.

It might feel like the weakest thing you've ever done as a leader but in fact it would be the most powerful act you have ever done.

(I call this the Yoga Yield -- it's counter-intuitive -- but the moment when you yield when you really really want to push and force it, is the moment it yields and becomes right.)

We've seen what peace can do --

and it's a whole lot more powerful than weapons.

We know this.

You know this.

Be radical.

Think outside the box.

Stay silent in prayer.

Use your Iron're protected.

But change it up...let your enemies be shocked.

And let the world see your goodness.

Let the world see you working for peace.

Make peace your goal.

Make peace your prayer.

Never stop believing in its possibility.

And watch what happens.

Give peace a chance.

You can be a hero for the ages -- like Nelson Mandela -- or you can be just another world leader who has missed his chance....and played an old game.

You choose.

Hint:  Choose peace.

Sincerely, Beth Foraker -- mom, wife, sister, daughter, Catholic, ignorant of so much  -- but a citizen of the world praying for peace.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

To Thine Own Self Be True

The guy likes Shakespeare.
I've told you that before...over here.
He walks around with a beat up MacBeth book in his hand and yes, he has huge chunks of it memorized.
For his birthday, his wise and thoughtful aunt got him a similar version of Hamlet.
It's called Shakespeare Made Easy.
On the left hand side of the page is the original text.  
On the right hand side is the translation or an easier version.

So, he's been walking around for a few weeks with Hamlet in restaurants, carrying it to speech,  thrown into my bike basket.  I had a friend who saw him in the waiting room at speech reading Hamlet come up to me and kind of ask out loud if this was real.

Did he like Hamlet?

He does...really.
As soon as she thought it was real, she turned to Patrick and started to dish...
who was his favorite character?  
What did he think of Hamlet?
We had stumbled onto another lover of the British playwright.

I think that as a way to diffuse, explode and crack away the myth that people with Down Syndrome are stupid, we should just have them carry around some texts of Shakespeare.
It blows people's minds.

Like looking in a fun house mirror they just aren't sure of what they see.

We like to place people in tiny, little, immovable boxes.
It's more comfortable that way...
but sometimes they don't fit in.

Sometimes the stereotype cracks.
People have to stop and rethink certain givens that they've trusted their whole life.
And if they stop and rethink that one, who knows, maybe there are a whole bunch of other certainties that just aren't that certain any more.
Powerful stuff.

But only if you're given the chance...
only if the opportunity is seized.

So, we took a chance and signed Patrick up with other teen-age Shakespeare fans for a two week camp.
It was all day long with typical kids and real actors and directors who are staging some Shakespeare for a festival in our town.
He got up each day energized and excited to go...but wouldn't tell us too much.
He didn't get the script for Much Ado About Nothing until midweek of the second week.

What had they been up to all this time??

Patrick got the part of Benedick for Act I and Don Pedro for Act II.
That, right there, was something he'd never considered before...
he fiddled with that idea, resisted it for a few days, but gradually came to know that you could play two parts.

The play of Much Ado About Nothing was going to be presented on Friday, 
just two days after getting the script.
Patrick began memorizing, repeating and rehearsing in his room...
but he didn't have enough time.
Thursday night he was worried.
He was used to knowing his lines (and everybody else's) -- he couldn't believe he wouldn't be ready.
But the joy of being a part of the play and a part of this group motivated him to accept the truth and just use the script when needed.

So today at 3pm, Caroline and I showed up for a little Shakespeare.
I'm always on pins and needles at things like just never know how it's going to go.

But this was a group who shared a passion.
A group where he spoke the language.
A group where he belonged.
He didn't have to earn his way in...he just had to love Shakespeare and that was good enough.

The little play was a whole lot had improv, movement, singing some explanation of who Shakespeare was as a person...and yes the entirety of 
Much Ado About Nothing.

Patrick was a part of everything.
Before my very eyes I watched a metamorphosis of unsure junior high kid into full high schooler...
confident and true to himself.

I was teary thinking of my friends with young children with Down Syndrome who continue to be denied entrance into this world of acceptance and inclusion.
If only those naysayers could have seen the improv!

I'm so grateful to a group of actors who have created a sanctuary for kids who love Shakespeare and allowed each teen the freedom to come as you are and take away all that you can.

For costumes for the show the kids were supposed to wear black.
We missed the memo.

Patrick came home the night before the show and created the costume he thought would work.
It wasn't black...
but I got no last minute phone call...
no rescuing the situation...
no tweaking or freaking out.

It didn't matter.
No one seemed to care, 
and the production went off without a hitch...

so refreshing.

Shakespeare with a chill pill.

And after the play came this quote,  "You can go now.  I'll meet you at home."
Full teen.

Tonight, I am grateful to the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble.
I'm grateful to this group of actors, directors and musicians who share their passion and work to make Shakespeare come alive.
Grateful for their hard work and ability to engage with teens of all sorts.
I'm grateful to live in a town that is accepting and tolerant and inclusive.
I'm grateful to an 8th grade teacher who taught Shakespeare to an entire group of middle schoolers, never dumbing it down or diluting it, thrilling them with the action and the language...
and lighting a fire.

Most especially, I am grateful to the Bard of Avon...
the witty, the insightful, the tragic and comic Shakespeare...
who has touched the heart and soul of my son hundreds of years later.

There's no doubt that Shakespeare has shaped my son...who would have guessed?

Friday, July 11, 2014

In Praise Of Those Pesky Dandelions In The Middle Of Our Manicured Lawns...and Other Thoughts On The Pursuit Of Pefection

Stop for a moment and take a look at this...
piece of perfection?
natural mystery?
perpetual propeller?

We pass it by every day.

Sometimes we are annoyed with the dandelion fluff as it teases us, even mocks us, as it stands so tall among the well-behaved blades of grass...daring you to try to remove it.

Good luck!

Just by the very action of plucking it, you spread its seeds...such a clever mode of transportation.

Maybe you could pick it and make a wish...transporting yourself to a more carefree chapter in time.

Or you can wish it didn't exist with its bold brand of yellow...wish it away...and there's always the option of raining down a little poison.  

Round Up Ready.

So much of our life is just like this...
trashing the miracle...
wishing it away...
trying to change it...
and pouring on the poison.

We poison ourselves with the pursuit of the perfect lawn, the perfect abs, the perfect wrinkle-free skin and see no joy in any of these gifts.

As I watch all of my neighbors kill their lawns because of our severe drought, I sure wouldn't mind a lawn or two with dandelions.
As I notice people with so many health problems, I'm pretty happy with my abs of imperfection.
As I slather on the sunscreen around my eyes, I can't help but feel those laugh lines as they get deeper and more pronounced...almost everyday I wonder what I've been laughing about.
Too many good memories.
So fun to imagine which joke, which comedy, which unexpected joy made those lines.

I must have been having one heck of a time along the way.

Perfection is a hollow pursuit.
We know this.
In our heart  of hearts we feel its truth.

Yet, still we let the illusion allow us to abort babies that we wanted but have suddenly been identified with an extra chromosome.

No longer satisfied with ordinary seeds we literally add toxins to the DNA of seeds to resist the pesticides and call them natural.  We praise genetic engineering while pouring on even more pesticides on our crops.

Not good enough.

We berate ourselves internally for our "muffin tops", our "wobbly thighs", our age spots, our gray hair...never cherishing the stories behind each of these changes.
We can't have our houses clean enough, our clothes pressed enough, our children well-behaved enough or our spouse sexy enough.

We are always asking for more.
Me included.

Which brings me back to the dandelion.

Thank God for them.
Thank God for mine.

I'm done with the poisonous lies.
Done with the fractions of truths.
Done with it.

Today, I was reintroduced to a piece of art that I learned about in 2006.
It's called "Sam and The Perfect World" by Peter Lentz.
In 2006, it won the National Portrait Gallery's Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.

Here are Peter Lentz's words:

"My wife Rosemarie had just given birth to our son Sam, and although he appeared perfectly healthy, something, nevertheless, didn't seem right. There was an awkward silence in the room, no words of congratulation or comments about how cute he was even though he was cute. Five minutes later the diagnosis was given: Sam has Down Syndrome. "Are you going to keep him?" a nurse asked. Later that evening someone else came by to "console" us. "It's every mother's worst nightmare," she said.

Welcome to the world, Sam.

In America today, perfection is highly valued. We dump loads of chemicals on our lawns to try and get rid of every weed, every dandelion. Models and supermodels are tall, impossibly fit, their clothes stylish and wrinkle-free. Images like this tend to change our perceptions, our ideals, until finally they leave us looking around at the peeling paint on our own houses, and our less than fit bodies, and it leaves us wanting.

Perfection, I would submit, is overrated. And besides, I like dandelions.

In the painting Sam assumes the role of presenter, host, even tutor, of this most revealing examination of the civilization man has made for himself. Sam is not society's accepted definition of perfection. In spite of that, or perhaps because of that, he really does have an important message for everyone to hear."

Umm, I like dandelions too.

I'm blowing it off.

Making my wish.

Enjoying the bright, bold yellow in the thick of the green.

Perfection deserves some Round Up.

Not us...not a single one of us.

Your job today: accept and love the people in your life, 

most especially, yourself.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Susan Branch font :)

Yesterday I was smiling...all day long.
Magically, it had happened again, the calendars were free, pockets of time were secreted away and I could make my way to have dinner with my girlfriend.

I got the kids handed off and properly freshened myself up from the dust of the day and got in the car...
hooked up Pandora...and drove like the wind.
Singing out MY music...rocking out inappropriately, dancing in the car I could feel the tension of daily annoyances, lists of things to do, and chores that hang over my head just melt away...
an hour in the car all to yourself can be a very good thing.

Along with significant time with your dear friend.

This chick and I have been hanging out, spending hours on the phone since high school.
My dad would just be mystified as I laid on my bed and gabbed the hours away with someone I had already been with for six hours at school.

What did we talk about??

Looking back, I have no idea.
(Note to teens today: keep copious notes and journal like crazy so you can remember these things.)
I'm guessing it was:
Life's injustices.
The good stuff of high school.

I feel sorry for teens today who don't dish on the phone.
They are missing out on some serious fun.

We went to the same college and lived together for part of it, but we weren't joined at the hip.
We joined different sororities.
We had different groups of friends.
Our own interests and dreams.
But like a fantastic score for a movie, she was always in the background, making my world better.

We got our jobs, figured out our paths and saw less and less of each other.
We lived about an hour away from each other and would meet for dinner.

We've been doing it for decades.

There is something so magical about a good friend.
Someone who just gets it.
Who's always on your side.
Who cheers for you.
Who cries with you.
Who does crazy things on your behalf.
Who will pray or pay or play whenever you ask...and many times when you don't even say it out loud...she just seems to know.

I'm blessed to have several good girlfriends.
People who have my back...and whose back I cover whenever I can.
It goes both ways.
It's comfort and care...bravery and honesty...saying the hard stuff out loud.
Owning it...and figuring it out...
or sometimes just recognizing there's no solution to be had and finding a way to make peace with it.

It's righteous anger and hilarious mortification and breath-taking beauty.
It's the wonder and sacredness of getting to be a girl and getting to go deeper
and have those kind of friends.

Leisurely eating dinner last night, sharing salads and delicious taste treats and desserts and secrets and hopes,
I found myself so full of gratefulness  for
this right here...that moment right there...
the good stuff.
So so blessed by friendship...long lasting...

all-the-walls-down kind of friends.

It's easy to gloss over it.
So normal to not make the time
or find an excuse to not be together...
but these people are what life is about.

They are only lent to us...we can't take it for granted.
We need to carve out the pockets on the calendar and say out loud:
you are important...too important to act so casually about.
We must make the time to be together.

Time for laughter and joy and friendship --
 those are the real sparkly gems shining in our cave of life.

So thank you, Tara, for finding the time and making it happen...
today, you're my grace-in-the-ordinary...
have been for decades.

more Susan Branch adorableness!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

25 Ways

July 1st, 1989, John and I got married.
It was a sunny day filled with family, friends and a lot of good music.

We knew nothing...
we were babies.

And now, flash, ka-bam, whoosh...25 years have gone by.

25 years.

I read somewhere that Anne Lamott (whom I adore and admire) thinks that there are only three important prayers:

Although I love the simplicity, I'm not too sure about that...seems like God might be able to handle a little more depth there.

But in a marriage...that's where those three prayers just might be miraculous.


So many ways, so many days, you have helped...
with the midnight barfing,
the conundrum of children's sports/activities and conflicting schedules,
the indoor/outdoor messes that just never end,
the endless garbage taking-out chore
(traded, in a moment of sheer brilliance on my part, for the endless bed-making chore)
with the big questions of life...

which leads me to THANK YOU!
For never missing a single chemo treatment for Patrick's 3+ year leukemia journey...
that alone makes you a complete bad ass.
For always having a smile or a joke or at the very least an inappropriate remark at 
the exact right moment.
For being able to see the bright side, even in the middle of darkness.
For being the ultimate DJ, always having a playlist and a song that IS the moment.
For being one hell of a dad, daddy or dobby depending on the day --
trust me, that devotion and irrational love is crazy sexy.
For taping your eye shut when my eye needed to be taped shut...full a terrible time...
that act of love is my inspiration to this day...
I want to love like you.

which morphs into WOW!
4 kids? 
never would have believed it and yet, here they are...
what crazy, amazing gifts -- our very best dreams come true -- together.  
Out of the everywhere into the here.


One dog, one rat, two bunnies, five cars, three different addresses, 
countless hours of late-night Christmas Eve put-togethers,
hundreds of barbecues,
silent nights,
loud, obnoxious mornings, 
25 years of
slivers of time.

No one I'd rather spend it with...
my love.

Thank you for being my help, my thank you and my wow!
Thank you for 25 years...
how can that be?

Sunset selfie...June 2014.