Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pizza and politics - Si se puerde!

I was eating a slice of New York pizza at a local eatery yesterday afternoon. It was chicken and broccoli - not your average pizza chain fare. Were I not on a stringent budget, I would have ordered a glass of Chianti.

Adjacent to me sat a union man - retired. I asked him if I could share his table - hey - it's me - it's the way I do things! He looked a tad uncomfortable, so I set about cleaning off the next table, including the cheese crumbs used my hand sanitizer, set my stuff on the chair and sat next to him.

We talked about the need for unions, living for 7 years in a "right to work state." We talked briefly about the UAW issues in Detroit. He was blissfully unaware. Interesting for a union guy, I mused.

What he DID know what that American citizens have the right to stop "those" people from coming over the border, getting welfare, using our hospitals, etc. etc. etc.

According to Wikepedia - yes, I know, not the best oracle for truth, but it works sometimes.

The largest per-capita source of immigrants to the United States comes from El Salvador, for which up to a third of the population lives outside the country, mostly in the United States.[7] According to the Santa Clara County Office of Human Relations.
Despite the fact that the U.S. government’s role in the Salvadoran conflict was unique in sustaining the prolongation of the civil conflict, the government and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) extended little sympathy to the people affected by the war. In the 1980s, the INS granted only 2% of political asylum applications, claiming that democracy existed in El Salvador and that reports of U.S. and government-sponsored “death squads” were overblown. As a response to the U.S. government’s failure to address the situation of Salvadoran refugees in the U.S., American activists established a loose network to aid refugees. Operating in clear violation of U.S. immigration laws, these activists took refugees into their houses, aided their travel, hid them and helped them find work. This became known as the “sanctuary movement”.[8]
The United States will accept 70,000 refugees in FY 2007. President Bush stated that his eventual goal is a program that resettles 90,000 refugees in the United States each year. In 2006, the State Department officially re-opened the Vietnamese resettlement program. In recent years, the main refugee sending-region has been Africa (Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Ethiopia).[9]

Additionally, for the edification of my lunch companion and those other misinformed "citizens":

The chief cause of illegal immigration is considered to be economic. Illegal immigrants in the United States traditionally have been portrayed as seeking jobs and wages better than those available in their home countries. For example, the 1994 economic crisis in Mexico was associated with widespread poverty and a lower valuation for the peso relative to the dollar. The United States Department of Labor calculates that the Zone A (most industrialized) minimum wage in Mexico in 1999 was 34.45 pesos, or about US$3.50 per day. The Zone C (rural/agricultural) minimum wage was 29.70 Pesos a day, or roughly US$3.02 a day. By contrast, the U.S. minimum is set at $5.85 per hour under US federal law, and many States required rates higher than the federally mandated minimum.[14] Natural disasters and overpopulation[15] can amplify poverty-driven migration flows. According to CBS 60 Minutes, U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez, one of the first U.S. servicemen to die in combat in Iraq, a former street child in Guatemala having been orphaned at age 8, first entered the United States as an illegal immigrant in 1997 to escape poverty, and dreamed of being an architect.[16] Sometimes the person moves over the border because the wage-labor ratio is much higher in the neighboring country, as is the case with the illegal immigration to the United States from Mexico. Over 75% of illegal immigrants living inside the United States live below the poverty line.[

Call me crazy, but here is my view: My parents came from Jamaica to England. Before that, their parents were from Jamaica - before that, their parents were slaves in Africa.

Let's take all the "citizens" - "undocumenteds" and "aliens" out of the country and give the country back to the Native Americans - it is THEIR country and "we" - not me, but the American government has raped, pillaged and plundered their land.

Am I a tad frustrated over this issue? You had better believe it!

Si se puerde - yes, it is possible!

This is America, land of opportunity - the government - you know, the ones who fight wars, can't get the mail delivered on time, even with tracking numbers, threaten men to register for selective service so they can have bodies to fight untold numbers of wars, and my favorite - the FDA - they are supposed to be working for us - how can we fire them for incompetence?

I seem to recall an election is on the horizon.

Choose carefully, my friends.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mission accomplished

There are certain milestones that are held near and dear in the hearts of many - baptisms, communions, Quinceneros, christenings, baby blessings, Bar Mitzvahs, Bat Mitvahs and so on.....

My youngest son was baptised yesterday. Remarkable? Not particularly - then again - he was 2 years and 5 months past the "age of accountability." The decision did not come easily to him, just as it had not come easily to his brothers before him. I would tell my children during family meetings (Family Home Evenings is the standard LDS term) - that they might one day come to realize that the LDS faith was not for them - it is not for everyone - it is not for me any longer - another story for another entry. I told them under no uncertain terms that I would always love them unequivocally no matter what they decided about religion. And not in that "we love all our children, even though, so and so is inactive, and so and so married a non member, and so and so didn't get married in the temple, and so and so did not serve a mission." We have all heard the expressions - in casual conversation and on occasion the LDS ritual of once a month "Fast and Testimony" meeting - or - in the words of my dear friend: "Lie and Cry Sunday."

The first Sunday of the month is an opportunity for faithful Latter Day Saints to fast or abstain from food or drink (except for those with health reasons) - for two meals/24 hours and donate the proceeds to the fast offering fund so that the local Bishop can distribute the monies accordingly to members in need.

Bryce had the fortune to be born of goodly parents - well - sort of - Dan and I are good parents for the most past, but tend to let our feelings get in the way of acceptable co-parenting on occasion. Bryce has been going to church on and off for the last 7 years with his dad. How do I know this? There is an amazing woman - I met her at Girl's Camp years ago - she is Jenny - I gave her a set of Primary Children's songs on a CD when she converted to the LDS faith years ago. Primary is the junior Sunday school in the LDS faith. She asked me last year, after seeing Bryce at church if she could give them to him. I don't know if Bryce ever got them. I do know that Jenny spent hours online trying to convince me not to leave the LDS church when she realized that my beliefs no longer aligned themselves with the teachings of the LDS church. Jenny joined the LDS church alone - just as I did - all those years ago - I am not sure what support she received from her family, but I suspect it was not 100%. Jenny is great - she is a returned missionary, is feisty, is working on her Master's degree in nursing and will be an awesome mother one day, if she chooses to be.

What I do know, is that in the last 7 years, Bryce has had birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and a myriad of holidays without me - yes - 7 years of missed events. It has been incredibly sad for me, but I put it away in a place where it is not too painful. Honestly, if I thought about it enough, I would not even get out of bed some days - it is that sad. I am learning to live with it - Bryce is getting older, I am finally working on getting some good parenting time/visitation worked out with his dad and so it goes.....

When Bryce called me a week ago last Friday and shared the news that he had finally made the decision to be baptised, I was elated and told him I was incredibly proud - that decision did not come lightly to him. And then I realized that I would not be able to get a flight at a reasonable price. I promised him that I would be there. I figured I would fly standby if needed. It so happens that I am on a very limited budget right now - I had to choose between medicine for me or a ticket for Bryce's baptism.

I chose the medicine, so that next month, I can be healthy and go and see this son of mine whom I have not seen since he left Utah in February of 2005. For the life of me, I don't quite know how I made it through that day - I stood there in the frigid temperatures, in my pre-shower clothes - I watched him being driven away by his dad. His brother, Tye and I clung to each other and sobbed. I don't remember what else happened that day, but I did know for sure that the feeling of seeing him leaving was the very same feeling I had experienced when I knew for sure one morning 10 years ago that my marriage to Bryce's dad was over - no more hours and hours of counseling, no more tries - it was over. I was on the floor in a pink nightie. I got it so I could look somewhat respectable in the hospital. How ironic - I had a new baby and was filing for divorce.

Tye - his older brother - baptised Bryce yesterday. I hear Bryce got some new church shoes. I have his scriptures here and will take them to get them engraved. I will write the inscription in them, as I have for my older 3 sons, and will bring them to him when I see him at church in a few weeks.

I am reminded again of Tye's first tattoo: "Only God can Judge Me."

Now if only I could get one of those boys to serve an LDS mission - peace corps - something :)

President Gordon B. Hinckley - you will be missed

I know as a mother that we are not supposed to have favourite children - I have four sons and they are all my favorites - not really. They each think that they are my favourite - I have told them so on various occasions.

President Spencer W. Kimball was my favourite prophet. Yes, really. He led the Church when I was baptised on January 9, 1982. He wrestled for a long time with the issue of blacks and the priestood, and ultimately received the revelation on June 7, 1978. I was reading his autobiography in a hospital in Germany, on bedrest awaiting the birth of my firstborn son, Ryan David Daley. I was moved and touched by the humility of this man. I wanted to write him a letter telling him how much I appreciated his spirit, efforts, forward thinking manner and a myriad of other things. I never sent the letter - he died shortly after Ryan was born.

President Gordon B. Hinckley became my favourite prophet after Spencer W. Kimball. I know that there were a couple of others in between, but these two men spoke to me from their hearts and what they said resonated with me on a deeply personal and intimate level. Maybe I loved President Hinckley because he served a mission to Great Britain - personal bias - maybe I loved him because he was a master communicator, as I am becoming - and because he had an incredible vision to heal the world. I loved hearing his jokes at General Conference and other places where he was always in demand as an amazing orator. He was able to do the great things he did, including raising awareness about the mission of the LDS church, increased temple building, increased humanitarian efforts because he had a grand view.

Some years ago - I attended a German Stake Conference and heard Thomas Monson speak for the first time. His voice resonated through the cavernous building. I do not remember everything he said that day (too bad I don't keep a journal faithfully), but I do recall he stated that there would be a temple built in East Germany - that might not sound remarkable to some, but it was to those in the congregation, including my friends the Huelsewische's and Erdhutters - at least one of whom had family in East Germany - this was years before the wall came down. The shock/awe/surprise was evidenced by the audible gasp in the congregation. Elder Monson continued to indicate that the reason a temple would be built in East Germany before West Germany was because the saints there were more faithful.

If I have the succession thing right, Elder Thomas Monson will be the next Prophet/leader of the LDS Church.

I think that some more exciting times are ahead.

I am glad that Gordon B. Hinckley is reunited with his sweet wife and companion, whom I also had the fortune to hear speak during my years in Utah.

I shall light a candle in their honor this week. I will say a few prayers too.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Ihre Papiere bitte." - Immigration, baptism and the LDS Church

When I lived in Germany decades ago, I was required to register with the police department. If I moved two blocks down the street, they wanted to know where I was. It always felt to me like a holdover from the days of Hitler - he wanted to know the comings and goings of German residents - papers, Yellow stars, passports, birth certificates, even their geneology. He did not want to take a chance that some "undesirables" would slip through the cracks as he tried to create a "Massen Rasse" - mass race - or "Wirtschafts Wunder."

I still carry papers - Social Security Card, drivers license, green card and passport when I am traveling - even within the United States.

Some years ago, I was part of the group of staffers at the SLC Mayor's office who gathered needed items to take to the families affected by the raid on the airport. You remember - the woman who was breastfeeding her baby comes to mind - more individuals who cleaned the bathrooms, planes and those other jobs that many of us would not want to do (for the record, I have cleaned a few houses for money in my life). As only Rocky could do - with his amazing vision - he held a press conference calling out the proponents of this raid and set about creating "Families to Families."

I drove to a beautiful WVC subdivision - there was a mother, 2 children and a grandmother. On the wall were pictures that are seen in many homes in Utah - the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a picture of the Savior in a red robe, a picture of a Temple - the place where Mormons aspire to go at least once a month to renew their covenants.

I was struck - how could this be? This family was living the American dream and was now risking deportation because of safety concerns at the Airport - granted it was a pre-emptive strike to ensure the safety of the Airport in preparation for the remarkably successful Olympic Winter Games in 2002. Mitt Romney moved heaven and earth to accomodate guests from all over the world - alcohol laws were changed (one could get a drink on the grounds of the City and County Building, for example) - the welcome mat was rolled out - it was like a beautiful Persian rug. Those Olympics were so successful because of Romney's ability to see things from the 10,000 foot view - he has reorganized and restructured companies in America for years - he has made a significant portion of money in so doing.

The LDS church baptises those who wish to be baptised, myself included. I was not asked for "my papers" though my baptism took place in Germany. That is as it should be - this country was founded on freedom of religion.

That's my view.

Tony Blair's conversion to Catholicism and immigration in the U.K.

Tony Blair is a formidable man. Much of his strengh comes from his amazingly intelligent, articulate and powerful wife, Cherie. He was beloved in my country of origin for his tenacity, wit, intellect and persuasion skills.

Tony and Cherie had a "mixed marriage" he was Church of England, I think, and Cherie is Catholic - I had not heard that term "mixed marriage" to describe what I had historically known as "interracial marriages" - that is individuals marrying out of their race, as had I some 23 years ago.

The question is - why did he wait until he stepped down as Prime Mister before converting to Catholicism - the religion of his wife? Would the British public have sanctioned him, called for his impeachment? I would hope not. I have not lived in England for some 26 years or so. I am however saddened to hear Mr. Blair speak of not allowing Moslem women to wear their sacred clothing - the Hajab. Would he consider telling Christians not to wear crosses or crucifixes? What about Jews? Would their sacred Star of David be off limits too?

Where does freedom of religion begin and where does it end?

I heard recently an Englishwoman speak about how America is a Christian nation (I have no idea what tabloid she got that information from) and that those who come here or to England should (assimilate) and get with the program, and not wear their religious clothing - this even as she wears a beautiful cross around her neck.

I just moved to New York. I am a fairly intelligent person, speak 3 languages and am having a very difficult time navigating the Westchester county bus (it depends on how the day is going for the customer service rep on the other end of the line). The staff at the Transit Center in White Plains are only too happy to accomodate. The MTA staff are clearly frustrated, suffer from low morale and make it a tad too difficult for me to navigate the system. I use the Internet instead, except their schedules are several months old - older than the schedules that are sporadically available on some buses.

I wonder how Americans would fare overseas without their military bases, embassies, international schools, and other enclaves.

I wonder why we expect and even DEMAND that newcomers to the country speak OUR language. I am having a difficult enough time speaking English as a first language, and understanding what on earth I am supposed to do.

But hey - it is just one person's opinion

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Barack Obama - answering the call

I was not particularly surprised to see the NY Times' editorial board endorse Senators McCain and Clinton respectively. They are insiders, have been around for a long time and are clearly committed to seeing change in the country.

The question is: who has done the most in their decades of public service? I am thankful to Senator McCain for his military service - I am a former army wife, and know firsthand of the passion, honor and integrity required to serve. I have long admired the Clinton's - Bill Clinton is one of my favorite presidents in recent history. I was so hoping that Senator Clinton - when she was First Lady - would be able to get some kind of healthcare reform. We all know that her efforts were stymied by the powerful lobbyists et al at America's insurance companies. According to some sources, Senator Clinton has received some $800,000 from health insurance companies - I have concerns about this on many levels. Senator Clinton states categorically that she will not be beholden to "special interest groups" if elected President, and yet, while she has returned campaign donations from some questionable/nebulous sources, she has not returned those from healthcare lobbyists.

It is clear that America is ready for a change - will Obama continue his swell? I hope so. I believe that he is the one candidate we can believe in, and not because of the color of his skin. Yes, he is a political neophyte, as have been others before him. He is not a career politician. It is obvious that Senators Clinton and McCain are career politicians who speak of their efforts to assist minorities - I am not doubting that this is true to some extent. The question is to what extent specifically have they made efforts to not only assist and reach out to minorities, but do they have minorities in high positions in their respective campaigns?
What I do know is that President Clinton had less minorities in his cabinet than President Bush. This should be considered as the American people go to their various voting booths. Is Bill Clinton an elitist who has friends from ethnic groups, but does not have them serve in cabinet positions. Senator Clinton's staffers on her campaign are mostly women - I think that is wonderful - I am a woman and a former political appointee.

I hope that the American public will make informed decisions based on the record of those whom they elect in the primary elections - actions clearly speak louder than words.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Power couples

Bill Clinton got "testy" with the media recently. Hillary "broke down" and shed a tear. I don't know what makes their marriage work, but there is clearly lots of give and take going on. He gives her space, she gives him space. According to Bill, she gave him plenty of space during the Monica debacle - he slept on the couch - as he should have. Alison, my friend who is also an attorney and advocate gave me a piece of advice recently: "Annette, if you get that Clinton job, DON'T have an affair with him." I joked back: "Honey, if I WERE going to have an affair, it would be with him" - he is hot, sexy, intelligent and has a great vision. He is on the recent cover of GQ. I kissed his picture yesterday when I saw it in a local taylor shop where I am interviewing the owner, along with the other small business owners in the beautiful village where I presently reside. I must confess, I kissed the picture of another guy who was running for political office, when I saw his picture on a flyer in my mailbox before I left Utah - hey, a girl's got to dream.

John Edwards and Elizabeth are another power couple. She is dying of cancer - they have experienced the pain that breaks marriages or makes them stronger: The death of a child. They have created a foundation for their son, Wade. Their two youngest children would not have come into being had Wade not been cruelly taken from the world.

Barack Obama and Michelle are a strong couple - equally matched, with their attorney minds, brains, intellect, and passion. Their family just looks good - hair, clothing, love, togetherness - the American dream. Who is the most influential black man in America? Much has been written about that in recent days - they all had a place, and continue to have one. Let's not quibble over who the better man is, let's fix this mess in our country but good!

My mum commented earlier this week, how tired Obama looked on the cover of a magazine - "Why Barack Obama should be the next president" the header reads. Barack looks just like my oldest son - only my son is cuter - yes, he is. I'm the mother and I said so! She noted that Hillary is worn out too. I have been on two major campaigns - one with Rocky and another with Peter. I saw exhausted men - campaigning is intense work - exhausting. Peter had a wife, the indefatigable Amy - she has a bunch of little ones - I know - I babysat them once with a girlfriend - I was exhausted. Amy has an MPA - all while being a full time mother. Peter is lucky that he had a wife to go home to in those wee hours, Rocky was in between relationships, as I recall.

Of note is that John Edwards looks great, refreshed and like he just left his yoga class, spin class or meditation. John Edwards knows a little something about life balance. He was ridiculed for his $700 haircuts. Hey - women have been spending a fortune on hair and makeup for decades - we know how we feel when our hair looks good - men are apparently the same. John Edwards does something that we should all do - which I do even now on a limited budget - take time for myself, have a bubble bath, meditate, listen to good music, surround myself with uplifting people.

Do I know this for sure? Of course not, but I know people. I have never met any of these people, but their interviews are becoming increasingly candid - they all want it - really bad - not because they are egomaniacs (though I hear it often said that one has to be a bit of an egomaniac to run for public office).

Nisa and Henry Sisneros are another power couple - she ran for the Utah state Senate. She should have won that race. She met Henry at Stanford where they both graduated with I am pretty sure - amazing grades - Henry is from Layton. Nisa is a Californian. She has given up much to live in a state that preaches diversity - "Contrast, Culture, Courage." Strange that when she moved to her new home in the Bountiful/North Salt Lake area, neighbors asked her if she were renting, and how on earth she could afford to live there??? The nerve of some people. I never made it to Nisa's "Festivus" party. I might do that one year - who knows? I have sang karaoke with her at a place close to the SLC airport. That woman can sing and is hot! How on earth were the voters on Salt Lake City's westside going to vote for a strong powerful woman - great fashion sense, perfectly manicured nails - bright, articulate, happy, passionate and outgoing. Nisa is not done - she will be back - in what form, I don't know. Maybe Henry will run for something instead. Place your bets - oh that's right - no gambling in Utah - how quickly I forget. p.s. Nisa is Catholic and invites her neighbors over for those same parties I had at my homes in Utah - I think she even serves alcohol - but don't let everyone know.

Coincidentally, my dearest friend lives in that neighborhood. She has 12 children - I am attending her son's missionary farewell next month. They have been married forever - I have known her for 22 years, so it is at least 23 years. Her husband was VP at Salt Lake Magazine - he needed life balance and more time with his family. Kyra stays home with her children and is pretty amazing - I don't know how she balances her schedule, but she keeps it up. Two sons on a mission, a daugher working full time and younger ones - down to a little princess, Tess - they keep her hopping. Pat now works in the Great White Spacious Building. I wonder how they can afford to live there? I wonder if their neighbors have asked them, or if they even care. Pat and Kyra are LDS.

Kyra and I had lunch once a month in Salt Lake - between orthodontist appointments and my crazy schedule, we still connected. We were going to lunch at a great restaurant in the 9th and 9th area and I ran into Steven Goldsmith and his female companion. We greeted each other warmly - Steven and I kiss each other on the cheek - not everyone gets that close to me - trust me. On this occasion, he kissed me on the mouth. I think he was so glad to see me (healthy and well). Kyra asked me after we were seated "Annette, does he know you well enough to kiss you like that?" She is pretty liberal for a Mormon - she grew up in the Avenues, her dad was a professor at BYU, taught Russian and several plays censored for "inappropriate language" - I replied: "Kyra, THAT is Steven Goldsmith - one of the hottest men in town. When he kisses you on the mouth, you enjoy the moment, thank God and ask to be struck dead so you can die a happy woman." She laughed.

Another power couple sat across from us that day. I don't know their names, but they were clearly into each other. They sat next to each other, poring over some architectural plans. Their body language exuded what most couples seek and yet it eludes them - closeness - finally, I could stand it no more. I asked them how long they had been married - years, they said - how do you manage to look like newlyweds - I mused - they said something like - we spend lots of time together, work on common projects and are crazy about each other.

Behind every successful man is a woman (telling him what to do) - hey, it's not my quote - I just report it, I don't write it.

Atomic bombers upset over Enola homesexual exhibit

I found this in on a calendar from May 18, 2007.

"On isn't this taking political correctness a little too far?"


Headline in the Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, Illinois), referrinig to the Smithsonian Institituion's exhibit on the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hisorhima by the plane the Enola gay.

I wonder if this is where Gayle Ruzicka and her minions - whoops - Eaglets - get their information from.

See what happens when you take things out of context?

Utah's men - a series

"Fairness, & justice, dignity and worth. Families, honesty and openness." That was the slogan of his campaign to win the legislative seat vacated by Duane Bordeaux and awaiting an election against the formidable Jen Seelig. The slogan is the result of the meeting Gordon and I had over dinner at some fabulous restaurant downtown SLC one night while brainstorming. I was working with him to come up. I find meetings over meals very productive - that is why companies provide expense reports. Personally, when I am working on "personal" meetings, my hobbies, my advocacy work, I love a glass of wine - it adds to the ambience, and the ideas flow freely - everything in moderation.

Gordon Storrs is a Log Cabin Republican ran for the Legislature against a certain individual after a close friend of mine stepped down after the death of his mother. Gordon has served in his community council, on the board of Neighborhood House, is a member of Equality Utah and lives in a fabulous house in the City's Fairpark area - it should be on the "tour of homes." It is not necessarily the house that is usually featured, but the architecture, interior, landscaping and small and narrow lot size make it a perfect place for those numerous odd-shaped and reasonably priced lots in Salt Lake. Maybe I will contact my NY Times contact, Christopher Gray, renowned architect and author of "Streetscapes" and see if he wants to do a story on that, along with some other homes of note in the city - not those ones, the ones that divide communities. You all know them, or should.

Gordon has been in my home more times than I can count - he drives up in his yellow Mercedes 280 SL or something (pretty embarrasing for a woman who loves cars and went to the Frankfurt car show for years when living in Germany). I can tell it is Gordon because the engine purrs. I have sat on my couch and sobbed over teen drama a few more times than I can count, and he drove me to the ER on the night I was suffering from shakes and horrible side effects - aka - a HORRIBLE reaction to Lithium. I was worried - when they wheeled me into the room and brought the CAT scan machine. Gordon had just moved in with his partner and they were trying to figure out how to get two homes into one - they succeeded, it is an eclectic mixmatch, but it works. They were having as many of us - a little stress in the relationship as a result of the move. Finally, at 3 a.m. I told him to go home. I had $5 for a cab if I needed it. I suppose I could have called the home teachers, but I only saw him twice and really didn't want to impose. I had not suffered a stroke, thank God. I took a cab home dressed in my nightgown and a hospital blanket. I had to bang on every window in that well-insulated duplex of mine - try waking a teenager under any other circumstances - in the middle of the night - it was around 5, I eventually roused him. Yes, he could have come to the hospital with me, but he had done it a few too many times and I needed to spare him this one. He should have been able to drive me, but his driver's permit was "lost/mixed" up in the transition from Kearns High to West High.

Gordon and I ate a lot of dinners before I left Utah. He really did not want me to go. Lots of people said that, actually - it became annoying to be truthful. I was homeless, that is, living doubled up on the loveseat of a friend because I could not find "affordable" housing on my $9 an hour job.

I went to a fabulous Halloween party at Gordon's place and met his wonderful friends - he served as the counselor for gay students at SLCC. We laughed, talked, drank wine, ate delicious soup - yeah, I know the stereotype, but I am here to say that they can't all cook:)

As I was leaving, I joked for the hundredth time that I was going to take that male nude - created by Rick Graham the gifted artist and SLCC professor - and stick it under my jacket - pretty hard to do, since I was dressed as a gypsy and there would have been no place to hide it.

As only Gordon can do - he surprised me - he took the picture down and gave it to me. The picture is carefully stored in Utah to be hung in my bedroom when I get my "own" place soon.

One day as he dropped me off, he brought a sign for one of the Mayoral candidates - hey my roomie worked for Hatch - I can't help it! I spoke to Gordon the night of the election - I knew how hard he had worked on that campaign. I commiserated with him. It is what friends do. Hey, I was married to a gay man who is also a Republican - we had Bob Dole signs up in our yard one year - that is what love is - yin and yang - give and take. I attended a rally for Bob Dole, not because I wanted him to win, but because the man I loved was working on the campaign ceaselessly - I wanted to support him. One of my kids asked me about that recently - he was convinced I had been a Republican while married to his dad - funny - kids do say the darndest things.

Gordon served as a counselor to an LDS Bishop. He spoke frankly to neighbors about his coming out and painful decision to leave his wife Carol. I am sure he was ostracized - that is the way it goes, I hear over and over again. He has found a new family, and whenever I see him on the arm of Orlin, his partner - I am reminded of love, and the relationship I hope to have with a great guy again someday. Then again, maybe I already know this guy - I have quite a few on my dance card these days. God, I love New York!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Never assume anything......

I love American expressions - some of them make lots of sense, others are nebulous, and some just tell it like it is - never assume anything - if you do, you will make an ass out of you and me.....something like that.

My resume was recently reviewed by Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff for his Global Initiative. It is in many ways, an ideal job - advocacy, healthcare, education, blah, blah, blah, blah.

My associate from Utah (friends in high places, I think they call that) - was only too happy to pass my resume along with a personal recommendation. I love networking. It is the only way to get things done. Will I get an interview? I don't know - do I care? Not particularly. There are tons of jobs out here in NYC. I am having fun playing with headhunters and recruiters as they try to entice me to their various companies. Ideally, I want to work for a nonprofit - that is where my heart lies - it is my passion, my raison d'etre (French for "reason for being"). Lately, I have spoken, in no particular order with the President of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the President of Zions's bank, a member of the Presiding Bishopric - that would be the temporal arm - devoted to the moneykeeping, investments, welfare work and stuff of the Corporation of the President of the LDS Church, the Vice President of Time Incorporated, the Chair and CEO of ITT corporation. Church Headquarters - you know - the great white spacious building - hey, I worked in Frankfurt at the area office of the LDS Church/Corporation of the Presiding Bishopric - the picture hung on our wall, and that is what we called it, tongue in cheek, my German co-workers and I all those years ago. God, I love irony.

At the end of a long conversation, my associate told me to be sure and register with the Clinton campaign in NYC. Why on earth would he assume that I was a Hillary supporter? I might just settle for a job with the UN where one of the most powerful and remarkable women in the world works. You should Google her sometime. I predict that she will be the head of UNICEF one day. She doesn't do the unrighteous dominion thing either. In fact, I think she gave up her green card - she was tired of getting "harrassed" by TSA workers about her "taking their jobs" away when she would come in to the country between assignments to check in with UN HQ. She went to high school and undergraduate school in New York. She has a Master's Degree from a University in England - the degree is in Postwar recovery - who knew that such a degree existed? Why does such a degree need to exist. Then again WE don't pay our fees to the UN - we don't like them very much - we blow the hell out of the world, the UN fixes it, my sister lives in danger and we don't pay our fee. And so it goes, and so it goes.......

Just before I left Salt Lake, I was unofficially visiting with neighbors in my beloved Avenues neighborhood - hey, I was shopping, and minding my own business, but they seem to know me by name. One by one, they would approach me in the local Smiths - who should we vote for? Who do you recommend? Are you endorsing anyone? Who is the best candidate? I would turn the question around and do the grammatically incorrect thing: "Who do you think is the best candidate?" Mostly, they didn't know who the best candidate was, except that there were a lot of yellow signs in my neighborhood - he lived right down the street. They knew that the daughter of a former Mayor was running. They didn't quite seem to know what their respective positions were on anything. How could this be? I mused.....Fairly affluent neighborhood - the Governor is in my former Stake - diocese or geographical boundary - Jessica Smart played her harp at a woman's conference I attended, she is amazingly giften. In addition, several of the LDS who's who had passed through the hallowed walls of the Avenues stake with which I was affiliated. Funny how I don't recall the stake where I attended stake conferences 2 or 3 times in the 2 years I lived there. Not great church attendance my LDS friends might be thinking - great for me, I thought - I had anxiety every time I stepped into the ward house.

Why did Ralph Becker win? I heard one of his volunteers say that Ms. Wilson dug her own grave on the whole "Range Rover" choice of vehicle thing. Could be - or was something more afoot?

Ralph won for the same reason Peter Corroon won - hard work, pressing the flesh, talking to prospective constituents, tenacity and the amazing ability to be an "outsider" and see things from the 10,000 foot view.

I attended Peter Corroon's inauguration - my hospital band discretely tucked under my suit. My doctor had given me permission to be "out" to actually witness the culmination of hours and hours of walking, phone-banking, door-knocking. It was a "test" of sorts - he wanted to see how well I was doing in the "real" world. My dear friend picked me up in her car and held me close to her, as I fought the anxiety. I had to be there. I could not - would not miss this historic day. I met Howard Dean that day - He looks just like his cousin, Peter. They play football together at Thanksgiving. I had my picture taken with him. I whispered in Howard's ear that he should run again someday. I look at the picture, and see another me: I am there in body, wearing my fabulous pink suit, no jewelry or makeup (naked, my close friends would say) but my look was vacant, expressionless - traumatized by yet another hospitalization where I had to struggle valiantly to maintain my equilibrium.

Who am I supporting for President? Let's just say, I am almost a member of the Jewish Community Center here in Westchester - I am meeting with the Greenburgh Town Supervisor - Paul Feiner and will then meet with Paul Spano - the Westchester County Executive to hold crucial conversation town hall meetings. Did I mention that my four wonderful sons are half white and half black? Only two of them could ever run for president as the constitution stands now - I suspect Arnold will change that in the very near future.

Oh - and by the way - I have never registered to vote - I left England at 17, lived in Germany for 7 years - long enough to have citizenship - I did not want to have citizenship in a country where too many people claimed in the early 80's that the holocaust never happened. I have lived in America for 18 years - I have a Green Card - it does not expire - EVER! I am going to get dual citizenship this year - yes, that's right - DUAL - I will NEVER renounce my heritage, ethnicity and culture - I have been an immigrant 3 times - first generation in England, "guestworker" in Germany and "Resident Alien" in the USA. Hey - "I'm an Alien, I'm a legal Alien, I'm an Englishman (woman) in New York". - Where have I heard that song before?

I don't "endorse" anyone - I look at the person who most closely reflects my personal and political views. Not their political affiliation, not their bank account, not their religion......and so it goes.

p.s. I want to be sure I can get out and go to Canada or back to England if I am ever sick and without insurance again. Then again, we are working on that, aren't we? Did Hillary return that $800,000 that she received from health insurance companies?

A tale of two schools - part 3

I worked with McKell Withers, Superintendent of SLC Public Schools, on the SLC Reads Together Book Club, which I co-chaired for a season. I even prepared a letter for his signature and the Mayor's to attach to a grant application for the NEA, taking care to hand carry it to his office at the Administration building, not trusting the precious document to the inept US Postal Service. The state of Utah is historically underfunded when it comes to NEA funding - I wonder why? More dichotomies......

I digress - the grant was awarded in October of 2006 - the very last (major) thing I accomplished as a staffer in the SLC Mayor's office. It was quite a coup - I had coralled a group from Huntsman's staff, the SLC Library and SLC School District representatives - the grant is in excess of one million dollars.

I also met with Dr. Withers with my son Tye in person to speak with him regarding the ineptitude of the staff at West High which caused him to skip class repeatedly without consequences, not even in school detention, or cleaning up of cigarette butts - anything to provide a natural or imposed consequence for missing school.

Interesting to note that I have yet to hear back from him in response to the missive that I sent two days ago.

On the other hand, the superintendent for Kalamazoo Public Schools whom I have never met, but is clearly more responsive has already responded to me that he is having a staffer review my concerns.

Why are America's public schools failing again? Why is SLC School District allowing 40% of minority students to drop out of school? Why was Michael Clara not elected to the school board? He could see the writing on the wall and was advocating for kids at West High and he is not a "father", but he takes parenting/mentoring seriously.

Remember the referendum on vouchers? The owner of was hugely invested in the campaign - he spent a significant portion of his monies to fund the education campaign. I recall his disgust when he was interviewed on local TV after the defeat - His words resonated in my ears - I think he called the parents of Utah children - misguided, or something like that.

We are not all misguided, but that was a campaign of misinformation that was leashed on Utah's public like never before. I wonder if Gayle Ruzicka's hand was in it.

Check out Utah Council of Educators - I served as an advisory board member. I suppose I am still even from a distance. There is a force in Utah known as the NEA - -they can't quite seem to get much done for the students or teachers, except NEA week. A friend of mine is working on his Master's degree and teaches in a public school somewhere in the Wasatch Front - his wife just had a baby and is taking time off from teaching in a parochial school to be a full time mum. He will make some $39,000 with a Master's Degree. Lower than the national average, and certainly less than a superintendent of schools.

Who is doing the real work in Utah's schools? Who is in the trenches getting it done?

The parents, volunteers and those who are sick and tired of excuses - "No more excuses, invest in charter schools!" I like the sound of that.

I think I will email my friend, Laurie Fue and see what I can do to help UTCE from the other side of the country - amazing what some distance and perspective can do.

A tale of two schools - part 2

Good day, Dr. Rice.

I hope that you are well. I appreciate your efforts to teach Kalamazoo's children.

I write to you with a lengthy missive, and ask your indulgence and patience.

I am the divorced mother and quasi-custodial parent of my 4 sons, three of whom have Kalamazoo school ties. Kyle Gene Daley missed an entire year of classes at Kalamazoo Central while he was living with his father some years ago. He has still not completed his GED. At that time, I emailed your predecessor and even the state board of education, as I know that his absence was a clear violation of Michigan Law. I believe it is called parental educational neglect. I do not recall the response in specific, but do recall being amazed that a child could stay out of school for an entire year, and the custodial parent not be held accountable, or at the very least - a call be made to the non-custodial parent apprising me of the issue. I have copies of letters sent to Mr. Daley (unbeknownst to be) indicating that Kyle needed counseling and suffered from chronic depression.

The years since the divorce have been tumultuous on my sons, as on many children, as I am sure you are aware. They have gone back and forth between Utah and Michigan - the oldest, Ryan went back to Portage Northern because he wanted to get more AP credits than he could get in Utah - he is a national honor student and is currently in University in Utah. The second son is Kyle whose shoes were stolen from him the year he "disappeared" from Kalamazoo Central school - where was Kyle's keeper, I wonder - Dr. Rice? Is there a record that he was reimbursed for the shoes. Kyle came to live with me in Utah as he realized that his father's was not the best place for him. He told me the day we were to register him for school that he had been out of school for the entire year of 8th grade. He wrote a note and placed it on the seat, fearful of my fallout. Believe me, Dr. Rice, I had to move heaven and earth to get the Utah school district to let him repeat the grade and give him an opportunity to catch up. The third child is Tye who missed his dad desperately and needed a father figure.

I write to you because Tye was awarded a full time 5 year all expenses paid scholarship to Eastern Michigan University. Last week, he found out that the scholarship was withdrawn because he is missing a 1/2 credit on his transcript, and he had to move out of the dorm and wait another semester.

Tye is an amazing man - resilient, not easily flustered and is not worried if he goes to another school. He is just as happy to go to Western. I have raised my children to be resilient and go with the flow, but in this case, I want Kalamazoo Public Schools to step up to the plate for once for the Daley family and do something!

There was a miscommunication or miscalculation in the transcript when he switched from Kalamazoo Central and back to Utah.

For your information, when I found out, quite by accident that Tye had not enrolled in school for his senior year in Utah - more fallout from the divorce - I went to the vice principal at West, wondering why I had not been advised that Tye had not registered for school, even though I had made SEVERAL calls to the guidance office requesting his schedule, and several calls to the website support person as the website was down frequently at that time. Her response to me was something like: "our guidance counselors have 600 students each." Dr. Rice, I don't care about the 599 students - I care about Tye. West High has failed him, even as Salt Lake City fails the other 40% minorities. This cannot and will not stand. Given my lack of confidence in the competency of the Kalamazoo High's administration, I would like you to have someone on your staff look into this situation. Tye is missing a 1/2 credit. It should not be that difficult to track it down. The error is between West High and Kalamazoo Central. I am confident that you can resolve this discrepancy expeditiously.

You will also be interested to note that my youngest son, Bryce is attending school at Chime Elementary. Historically, I have had great relations with his teachers - I have learned my lesson - I don't trust educators to watch out for my kids whether I live in the same state and attend parent teacher conferences or not. I telephoned the principal of Chime over a month ago and apprised her that I am not receiving email notifications, school reports or even an occasional phone call to advise me of Bryce's progress. I am still waiting to get a progress report or phone call - Bryce is in advanced classes.

Please understand how frustrating this is to be trying to raise children in another state for economic reasons and not getting the follow through from the schools that I need. I am a good parent, but can only be as good as the "village" that I am forced to entrust my children to. I cannot continue to rely on their father who for his own reasons will not co-parent with me effectively even 10 years after the divorce. I know that my sons are not the only children who have suffered under the enormity of an acrimonious divorce. Please let your counselors and teachers know that they should be extra tender and forgiving of kids struggling with these issues. I have not seen Bryce, the youngest son in almost 2 years - I am going back to court to have them enforce visitation. I am heartbroken to have to resort to this, but again, I can only do so much.

Please look into these respective situations and provide me with an expeditious response. I believe 48 hours is an appropriate time. I will be in Michigan later this year and am prepared to meet with the Governor after I request transcripts of my sons, along with filing a GRAMA request for the emails sent to your predecessor and the state board of education if I do not receive a satisfactory response.

I do not know the genesis of the individual who is responsible for Kalamazoo's Promise - she or he clearly wanted to remain nameless. What I do know, is that one of the Daley boys is going to get through college without being in debt, or a statistic because of being a child of color or product of divorce, even though Bryce went to Kindergarten late in Kalamazoo public schools because his shots were not up to date. (I am still not sure how that happened, since he had been in daycare since infancy).

You can reach me at 914.328.0620 should you have further questions.
Thanks so much for your time and consideration.

Annette James Daley

A tale of two schools - part 1

I sent the following to the superintendent for Salt Lake Public Schools two days ago - so much for government and their response time. I am still awaiting his response - I can't imagine how Tye managed to slip through the cracks in SLC public schools:

Good day, Dr. Withers.

I hope that you are well. I appreciate your willingness to meet with Tye and I after we received word that he was not on track to graduate from West High. I believe that you indicated confidence that Tye would get into college as he is a smart man. Since that time, Tye has received a five year scholarship to a Michigan University. Last week, he found out that the scholarship was withdrawn because he is missing a 1/2 credit on his transcript, and he had to move out of the dorm and wait another semester.

Tye is an amazing man - resilient, not easily flustered and is not worried is he goes to another school. I write to you because there is an error with Tye's transcript from West High. It is ironic that Stephanie Bernritter passed away recently. She is the single teacher at West who took an interest in Tye's abilities. Were Stephanie still alive, I would have contacted her to ask who the best guidance counselor is at West High so that we could get this worked out. Alas, I do not have that opportunity.

There was a miscommunication or miscalculation in the transcript when he switched from Kalamazoo Central and back to Utah.

When I went to the vice principal at West, wondering why I had not been advised that Tye had not registered for school, even though I had made SEVERAL calls to the guidance office requesting his schedule, and several calls to the website support person as the website was down frequently at that time. Her response to me was something like: "our guidance counselors have 600 students each." Dr. Withers, I don't care about the 599 students - I care about Tye. West High has failed him, even as Salt Lake City fails the other 40% minorities. This cannot and will not stand. Given my lack of confidence in the competency of the West High administration, I would like you to have someone on your staff look into this situation. Tye is missing a 1/2 credit. The error is between West High and Kalamazoo Central. I am confident that you can resolve this discrepancy expeditiously.

You can reach me at 914.328.0620 should you have further questions.
Thanks so much for your time.

Annette James Daley

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Transition time in Salt Lake

I am thrilled that Salt Lake voters have elected the remarkable Ralph Becker to lead the city for the next four years. We have been fortunate to have made many significant strides with the previous administration.

At this time of transition, as someone who worked in the Anderson administration for over 5 years, I have some thoughts to share.

There was an inordinate amount of turnover in the Anderson administration - much of it was needed, and in my personal opinion, only one individual who was terminated was dismissed unfairly - that would be Margaret Hunt, former Director of Community and Economic Development. She now works in the Huntsman administration where her skills and talents are widely used and appreciated.

Having survived through low morale and numerous changes (4 Chiefs of Staff in 5 years) of key staffers, I continued to support the Mayor publicly and privately. I admired his tenacity, his dare to dream, his passion for economic and social justice. We worked closely together on several projects, including West side initiatives, SLC Reads together and my personal and professional favorite - Bridging the Religious Divide.

Rocky Anderson, a lapsed Mormon, as am I, understands on a personal and really fundamental level that the inequities in Utah are palpable for those of us who do not fit the proverbial mould. He went to great lengths to staff his administration so that minorities were included. While this was not the case at all key levels, save for Rosanita Cespedes of the Sorenson Center and Alex Zunguze, formerly Planning Director and now CED Director. Alex Ikefuna was a wonderful man who fought the good fight as Planning Director for 18 months and finally gave up - realizing that at the core of SLC Corporation there is a mentality - even a sickness - amongst many staffers, lifers, appointees and yes, even department and division heads. Would that Ralph Becker would have the ability to truly clean house - literally and figuratively. Holding a major retreat for key staffers would be a good start. Tenure in a position is no indication of a person's ability to perform, as much as it is perhaps better the devil you do know, than the devil you don't.

Many of you may remember the training session that was scheduled for city staffers at all levels with Jerry Wilmore. I went into the session with high hopes for the city and for a transformation to occur, as Jerry insisted it would. The bickering that took place in that meeting was so unfortunate, as evidenced by the departure (again) of one of the Mayor's close advisors. A fundamental corporate change is needed at City Hall - morale needs to be boosted - the department with the highest turnover is well-documented - some 15 or so staffers in the planning division have revolved through those hallowed halls in recent years.

There are some amazing leaders and division heads in the SLC Corporation - the question is who should stay and who should go?

There is an amazing corporation by the name of TALA international - The Authentic Leadership Alliance - Please take the time to check them out. I think they would be a great help to your senior staffers and division heads as you make the transition.

I once heard it said that the Community Affairs office is the best kept secret in town. Why should that office be a secret? Why does the entire city not know of the great work that takes place in that office? Granted, I worked as a community affairs analyst, so I am clearly biased to that end, but there are many community leaders who serve faithfully and have in the past, some of whom have gone on to serve on the city council (Eric Jergensen and Jill Remington-Love come to mind), who cut their political teeth on their work as community council chairs. One of the most important meetings in town occurs at 7.30 in the a.m. on the first Thursday of the month - the Mayor meets with community council chairs and community affairs staff. If there is an issue that needs to be addressed in the community - believe me - within 24 hours of that meeting, it is addressed and either solved or the issue is being worked on - that is the strength of the community affairs staff.

Ideally, Community Affairs should become a true division within the Mayor's office, with a director and tenured/merit staff. Some years ago, the city council audit indicated that during a transition time with a new Mayor, much money is wasted because of the lack of continuity amongst staffers. Why are all community affairs staffers not afforded merit status? Dee Dee Corridini had the foresight to follow this wisdom gleaned from the council audit. It is helpful to have the same person answering the need line as has Pauline Peck for over 10 years who was also awarded merit status by Dee Dee Corridini.

What will become of the EAP contract that was awarded to the Mayor's close friend Steve Szukula at Comprehensive Psychological associates? These services served as a lifeline for me and many others at SLC Corporation as we struggled to maintain our equilibrium amidst the turmoil of the hirings and firings and constant criticism and low morale. Will there be a union in place for Mayoral appointees so that in the event that they bring a grievance against the Chief of Staff, as did I, that they have another place to go for redress, instead of HR who essentially serves the Mayor and is dependent on him for their livelihoods.

I have moved on to another journey and am finally able to breathe again after years of feeling stifled both personally and professionally. I live in a place where diversity is truly apparent and appreciated, not where it is merely a cute catch-phrase or politically correct term.

I hope that 40% of minority students will stop dropping out of Salt Lake's high schools with Ralph Becker's appointment of a liaison with the SLC school district. I had two children drop out of high school while I was busy tending to the needs of my constituents. Fortunately, one has since graduated and has received a full scholarship to a college in another state.

Recently, someone said to me: "Annette, you should never have gone to Utah - look at what you went through and what your children had to endure." I believe that in life, everything happens for a reason. The Daleys, Annette, Ryan, Kyle, Tye and Bryce, are fine and well - we are very resilient people, good, kind and loving. My children are an artist, athlete, musician and honors student - not bad for a single mum. They are a product of Utah and far better for the experiences that forced them to grow in ways I had not even conceived of prior to living there.

Good luck Ralph and good luck Salt Lake!

Unrighteous dominion - the Colonel and the Pacifist

"We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." This phrase is familiar with some people, but not all. Most members of the LDS faith know it by heart.

For those outside of the LDS faith, they have probably not heard it quoted verbatim, as I did for many years, but just as I did, living behind the Zion Curtain, they know it when they see it.

A certain councilwoman used it to strongarm her way into getting a loan from the City of Salt Lake to help out her floundering business - or is that conflict of interest?

Idi Amin used it to get rid of countless staffers in the planning division - who knows how much money was spent trying to figure out why there was such apathy and despair in that division under his leadership. Funny how that works - he did such an awful job there, he got promoted. Last I heard, the new mayor thinks he is so great and such an integral part of the city, he should remain.

The Colonel used it to strongarm me into coming back to work full time in October of 2006, even AFTER my doctor had stated unequivocally that I needed to come back to work part time, as I had historically done, to adjust to the hectic work schedule after yet another hospitilazation to control and regulate my medications for Bi-Polar. I gave up - I tried to get a meeting with Rocky to let him know what had happened - he knew I was in trouble - he even asked me if I was ok - he could see it in my face. I told him I wasn't, and should not have come back to work yet. He told me to make an appointment with his assistant - the 7th - 20th, I don't know - I remember her name was Wendy. She did finally return my call when it was too late. I had disappeared from work and not called in. How could I call in to work when I had a boss bearing down on me, exercising unrighteous dominion? I had read the bright yellow handbook on disability and FMLA - Rocky wrote it in his first year of office - I wish people would stop saying he was such a terrible mayor - domestic partner benefits, Main Street, Kyoto protocol, etc, etc, etc. His vision and passion was much-needed and not appreciated by many.

Dani Eyer heard my tearful story and told me to sue the city. How could I do that? Sue the SLC Corporation, even Ross C. Rocky Anderson, my mentor and idol, the great champion of civil liberties - he who had written a book expressly for such cases as this - I wanted to be reassigned - it was my right. I applied for a job - the assistant Chief of Police told me that he could not hire me - it would have been a perfect fit - The Chief of Staff had told him I had been fired. Not quite the same as being made to quit under great duress. I suppose that is what comes of having a limited education. Scary to think that this man is now the HR Director. God only knows what will happen under his watch.

I sent a thank you note to the Colonel and the Princess - my former supervisors - I enclosed some information from WebMD for their edification. I hoped that it would help them to understand, and give grace to the next person they might have to supervise with this extremely difficult illness.

Then again, the Colonel's sister was bi-polar. He knows all about it.......or does he?

Am I my brother's keeper? You bet I am!

I was speaking with a friend over the weekend. He confided in me that he had heard strange sounds emanating from the next apartment over. The sounds progressed from what he perceived to be "rough sex" to a woman's voice saying: "stop, you're hurting me!"

He vascillated between calling Salt Lake's finest and doing nothing, not wanting to alienate his neighbors and certainly not wanting to create a stir.

I once said that I felt I had earned a Masters in Public Administration and/or Political Science during my tenure at the SLC Mayor's office. I can cite codes, ordinances, rules, regulations ad nauseum. Why ad nauseum? Because I have seen it work over and over again, and then the converse - it has not worked. In this case, it didn't.

I told my friend in no uncertain terms - or Annette speak - whichever your prefer - next time you are in doubt, make the call. If you think someone is being hurt, call 911 - ask questions later. Remember the guy who was watching porn in his apartment a few months ago? A neighbor heard loud noises, thought a woman was being sexually violated and his door was battered down by public safety officers. They are called that because they are charged with the safety of the public. I gave him the non-emergency number 799-3000 and told him to keep it close to the phone. I hope and pray that he will never have to use either number, but if it saves a woman's life, I know he will do the right thing.

In that vein, I was shopping on Sunday after a beautiful church service - yeah, yeah, I know - my ox was in the mire, I needed medication, vitamin water, the New York Times, the New York Magazine and chocolate! That was how I kept the rest of my Sabbath day holy. Have you ever experienced a manic person off their medication even for one dose? Trust me, not a pretty sight.
I miss my old pharmacist - it was like Cheers or the Bayou - everyone knew my name. They knew what medications I took, what my insurance was, what the copay was and during the last year without insurance, helped me to price match with Costco and figure out the cheapest way to keep me healthy. Kelly is from Iran, beautiful and lives in her Federal Heights home with a beautiful daughter who hangs out at the JCC. Joseph is a pharmacy tech - he has great ties and a winning smile. Another tech is from Iraq and yet another from Utah. They all know me, because they understand what personal service is - that which we lack when we seek assistance from a "Big Box Store." I am now reduced to going to another pharmacist - not a locally-owned one, a huge chain, and judging from the outspoken New Yorkers comments, they should be out of business. I have an analytical mind and have a business and customer service evaluation background - I am never not thinking about how to improve a process. The staff at the Avenue's Smiths all know of my work among the homeless. I switched veins and volunteered at the 4th Street Clinic during the year of transition before I left SLC. They will try to find time to volunteer at that clinic, along with countless other healthcare professionals, disgusted by beaurocracy, paperwork, red tape and the general mess which is sometimes called "the best healthcare in the world" - great healthcare if you can get it.

That Sunday, I asked for my prescription to be delivered for free - as advertised by the HUGE a-frame sign on the sidewalk in front of the store. I had to use the ladies room. The pharmacist said that there was one available (note - all stores have them, but they keep it a secret so that we, the paying customers, won't use them - they might actually have to unlock a door - imagine that! or worse than that - a homeless person - GASP! might actually come and mingle with the common folk. I wandered around the store - not a blue shirt in sight. I actually don't like the staff in that store, but since I am a dedicated walker, my options are limited as far as using another pharmacy.

There was some sort of meeting taking place and the usually surly staff exited the hallowed area known as the "back stock room" - I know this because in another life, I worked overnight stocking shelves at a big box store in Michigan. I did this rather than teach preschool as I had previously, so that I could be at school and volunteer with my sons during the day.

I don't know what happened in that meeting, but let's just say that there was definitely some major tension permeating the store. I didn't dare ask anyone for permission to use the sacred holy back room to access the bathroom.

I made my way to the front of the store and stood in line - the line was deep, as usual - too many customers and not enough cashiers. I am meeting with the store director to address this and will send a letter to their corporate office to share the scene that unfolded before my eyes.

The cashier needed assistance from another individual - maybe if I worked for minimum wage at a job that wasn't great I would be surly too - then again, I did that for a couple of years and was NEVER surly. He yelled at her, everything but obscenities when she asked him to please open another register. I was shocked, as were the 10 or so people who witnessed the event. She was near tears. "Does he always speak to you like that?" I asked - "I plan to call the manager and let them know what I saw here today." I have spent enough time in the store over the last few weeks to know that there is a morale problem and a staffing issue. "Please don't say anything." She implored. I told her that if he had the nerve to speak so degradingly to her in public, in front of all those customers, he was likely beating his wife, or doing some other nefarious thing.

I will always speak up when I see an injustice. I had a saying that hung on the wall of my cubicle in my Salt Lake Office - Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!

You had better believe we are our brother's keeper.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Day - A day on, not a day off

I found my MLK pins in my jewelry stash today as I was organizing my room.

Today is the first MLK day in years that I have not been "anxiously engaged." I was, actually anxiously engaged trying to organize my first true home in eight months. I hung pictures, placed candles, great books - even a NIV of the Bible - listened to Bob Marley and Rent while I worked.

I learned that in 2000, Utah was the very last state to recognize Martin Luther King Day by name, renaming its Human Rights Day state holiday. ...

Utah is a state full of dichotomies. ERA, blacks and the priesthood and now gay rights. Utahans are fiercely independent and will not make a move on civil rights issues unless COMPELLED by government and the occasional ousted BYU professor - think - Jefferey Nielson.

I read his thoughtful op-ed in the Tribune a couple of years and wondered what the fallout would be. As predicted, he was ousted from BYU - hey, he wasn't a tenured professor and Utah is a "right to work" state, so what the heck. Fortunately, he is teaching at Westminster College - a fabulous liberal arts college that celebrates diversity of thought and staff. Indeed, the Inclusion Center is now housed on its beautiful campus.

I met the quiet-spoken and unassuming Jeffery Nielsen at one of many "behind closed door" meetings I attended in Utah. What I found at that time remarkable, and still do, is that this man had no gay friends, relatives or even acquaintances. He saw an injustice and tried to make a statement - It was a brave move - He has a few children to support and a supportive wife. When I heard him say that he had been released from his church job and that "they" had threatened to take away the thing that devout Mormons hold so close to their heart - the sacred piece of paper with 3 signatures indicating their level of honesty, integrity and worthiness are such that they can enter the house of the Lord. I was outraged, and told him to sue the "church" - how dare they take away his temple recommend? He accepted his fate without question. They didn't dare take any disciplinary action - can you imagine the fallout?

Today marks the start of the Utah Legislative session. They don't take the day off. They will spend hours debating gay and straight clubs, domestic partner benefits - Gayle Ruzicka and her eaglets will be there en masse to ensure that their agenda is forwarded. I listened to Gayle speak at a debate right before I left Utah. While I admire her tenacity, passion and beliefs, organizing strengths, the woman is misguided in her mission. She compared gay rights to the "discrimination" her 12 or 17 children receive in various Utah Universities. They are treated differently by professors by virtue of their last name - she claims that she would not expect to pass a law outlawing this treatment. She is woefully misinformed and really should check in with her alleged gay friends instead of passing hateful legislation aimed at segregation and allowing only the "majority" in Utah to have a voice.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Movies, men and the writer's strike

I have become a serious movie goer in the last couple of years. This passion was fueled by a screen writer, Jim and a set designer, Les. I have had many special, important and amazing men in my life, but these two have special places in my heart for different reasons.

Residents of Utah are intimately familiar with the work of Les. If you have seen any of the legacy movies, Work and the Glory, BYU history movies and yes, even the movie shown in hallowed LDS temples, Les's handiwork and legacy can be seen. He is one of the hardest working men I know - he gives amazingly of his time, talents and resources to help those around him. He is often known to pick up the tab for friends who cannot afford it (I lost track of how many dinners he bought me in the month before I left Utah) - he buys birthday cards and gift certificates for massages, groceries, books and the like for friends and family. He plays games with his nieces and nephews and they love their uncle Les. His family is large and very close -I haven't met them all, but I met his sweet parents - his dad is a retired professor of seminary (that is the LDS required religion course at LDS owned colleges, and optional at others). He has a sister who is married to a man who was recently called to serve a mission somewhere south of the border. He loves magazines, dresses like an Amercrombie and Fitch model, works out frequently - spinning at 24 Hour Fitness somewhere in the valley. Look for the guy with the great body, graying hard and fabulous smile - what do I know, I have never seen him naked. We shared a hotel room once. Our friends had bought a home in Idaho and we took one of our road trips. Splitting the cost of a hotel room was a sensible thing - we both snored, and didn't worry about waking the other up from across the room. You can find him at any of Salt Lake's healthy eateries, Diet Coke always in hand. He served an LDS mission to Japan, is educated, intelligent, smart and deeply spiritual. He embodies all that religious people strive to be: kind, caring and his brother's keeper. He has found a great new place to worship - I went there one Sunday with Les and Mike, another friend of ours. The preacher was motivational, progressive and passionate - she was also a woman. We had brunch afterwards. It was a good day.

I attended my first ever Oscar "party" in Park City last year. It was an intimate gathering with great food, lots of wine and people from "the business" - Les's friends and associates. They work with or without unions - long hours and little thanks. We laughed and I listened as they gave me the scoop on those actors with whom they had worked. It was fun and an amazingly intimate and candid insight on "Stars." Les will come and see me in NYC one of these days - he has never been here. He had better hold on to his hat - it seems to me that there are no ugly men here - that's what comes from living in a homogeneous state for so long. The diversity of men is breathtaking. Most of them dress like they actually read "Details" and "GQ" magazines. Long hair, short hair, earrings, jeans, suits, long coats, dreadlocks - I am like a kid in a candy store. People would often ask me what on earth I did in NYC when I came to visit. The same thing I did in Salt Lake - sit in coffee shops, chat and people watch - only now the men actually come and chat with me!

Jim is a long cool glass of water. I met him at the coffee shop in the Library of the Year. He had a pony tail, legs that wouldn't quit, amazingly intense blue eyes and a smile to melt a glacier. In typical Annette fashion, I invited him to my upcoming party and we sort of stuck. We were even roomates for a brief minute until my ex husband showed up on the doorstep, needing a place to stay with two of my kids in tow. Jim is a student of life and at the University of Utah. He is working on his first screenplay. It is going to be great - how do I know that? I spent hours on campus with him, patiently typing and retyping his notes, trying to figure out the format for a script - those instructions are easy if you are a screenwriter or a film student, but the learning curve for me was huge. I can't wait to see the movie - writing the script was pretty intense, shall we say. Jim is Irish-American and from the Windy City. He has lived in Utah for ages - over 10 years at least. We have watched more movies (at the dollar movie - perfect for families, students on a budget, and unemployed people). The first movie he saw was with his dad - I don't recall the movie, but it is black and white with an amazing sex scene - I have never seen the movie, but Jim has recounted it so often to me, I will know it when I see it one of these days. He is close to graduating - I think he is done this year. He taught me how to laugh, cry, breathe, meditate, eat healthy, take care of myself and maintain life balance. I have never loved a man as much as I loved Jim - not in the sexual way, necessarily - we never had sex, but I can tell you, this man can hug and make a girl feel loved. There is an amazing woman out there who will capture his heart again someday - she might be in Florida, Chicago, New York, California or the Bermuda Triangle - whoever she is, wherever she is, she is going to be one heck of a lucky woman!

I prefer foreign movies as a rule - yes, some might say that makes me a movie snob, but I grew up in London, lived in Germany and speak 3 languages - I like movies to be a cultural experience, thought-provoking, life-changing, and occasionally, a silly chick flick. From Michael Moore's movies to the Bourne Trilogy, Michael Clayton, Hotel Rwanda, Shawshank Redemption, Life is Beautiful and Schindler's List (I saw it once with my two oldest sons when they were in junior high - it was emotionally gut wrenching - I could hardly get the images out of my mind for a week. I will never be able to watch it again - too real for someone who has been to Anne Frank's House, Dachau and Auschwitz and lived in Germany for 7 years with a few too many people who claim that the Holocaust never happened).

I saw Will Smith's latest blockbuster over last weekend. Will has recently been named one of the 5 most powerful people in Hollywood. While "Lions for Lambs" barely made a blip in revenues, with its all star cast, including one of Hollywood's hottest men - no - not him, the other one - he lives in Park City, Utah. There are two people I really wanted to meet in Utah, Robert Redford and Dr. Condaleeza Rice. I tried really hard to meet the latter, and wanted to ask Rocky to let me meet Robert Redford when they had that amazing environmental conference, but didn't want to impose. What was I thinking????

Will Smith continues to amaze us with his intellect, on stage screen presence, ability to choose over and over again blockbuster making movie scripts. I loved "The Pursuit for Happyness." It spoke to me on many levels.

In the summer of 1980, I attended an outdoor packed concert in London's Crystal Palace stadium. It was the last concert Bob Marley gave in London before his untimely death. His songs feature prominently in "I am Legend". I love "Redemption Song" - I listen to his music several times a week. I wonder what he would be writing and singing about were he still alive today......The same stuff - will we ever learn?

Will Smith's performance is stellar, captivating and that body is to die for - Jada is one happy woman - I can see it when she looks at him. Will's daughter plays his daughter in the movie. The movie is haunting, thought provoking, apocalyptic and perhaps even prophetic.

Please go and see it and don't forget the writers and set designers, costumers, etc, etc, etc. who help make movies happen. They don't get millions of dollars per movie. Perhaps we should demand that the price of a movie ticket not exceed $5, that movie stars not make obscene amounts of money and that we bring a level of equlity and social justice into the business. Actors work hard, but they have lots of people on staff behind the scenes to help them look good. Conan O'Brien just bought a $10.5 million dollar home - I hope his writers get very well paid.

Lynching, Tiger Woods and the noose

As we approach the national day set aside to honor Doctor King, I am saddened and incredibly frustrated that the editor of Golf magazine is apparently not sure why he is receiving such an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the cover photo. The sign of a noose evokes fear, visions of lynchings at the hands of KKK members and other radical mobs, anger and a history of oppression carried out against mostly black males in this country.

The editorial board should consider terminating him and at the very minimum, he and the offending golf commentator should be requested to write an editorial on lynching and nooses. They should hold a series public forums explaining why the sport continues to be a sport for affluent people, and those not mostly of color. There are a set of twins who, as did Tiger Woods, defied the odds: Tony and Gipper Finau of Tongan/Samoan descent who grew up on the west side of Salt Lake City - a city with a 40% drop out rate for minorities. Both brothers graduated from West High in Salt Lake City, and are being recruited by a number of top universities. Last January the DC Congressman Faleomavaega announced that both Tony and his younger brother, Gipper Finau, will be participating in the qualifying round at the Makaha Golf Resort on January 8, 2007 in which the four top qualifiers will then be eligible to play for the upcoming Sony Open at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu on January 10-14, 2007. The Sony Open is the second internationally renowned PGA tournament scheduled for the year 2007. Golf Magazine is owned by Time Inc. Wayne Powers is the President of the corporation - I met him last year and found him to be a good and honorable man. It is my hope that he will do everything in his power to mitigate this debacle.

He used the cover story to sell more magazines. Were I a subscriber to the magazine, I would immediately cancel my subscription forever. I hope that others who share my outrage will continue to flood his in box with emails questioning his unfortunately poor judgement. There is a standard among writers in the journalism business - I cannot imagine that he will or should not be sanctioned for such an aggregious error. I too am a published writer and write about timely, thought provoking and even what some might consider to be controversial topics. I hold myself to a higher standard and so should he, so should we all. Shame on him.

Update: They fired the incredibly ignorant/naive editor - A NYC native - the most diverse and greatest city in the world. There should be zero tolerance for bigotry in any form. Can we figure out how to get Bill Bennett off CNN next?

$40, a thank you note and only God can judge me

I gave my son $40 dollars one day. He was working at the Jewish Community Center and it was his first job, but needed a little extra.

Let me tell you about Tye. He is an outstanding young man, intelligent, athletically gifted, cuter than Tiger Wood and Tyson Beckwith and my son - I am proud of him.

One day while doing the dreaded mother's task of going into the dungeon/family room/basement - I was picking up the used 7-11 cups, dishes and the stuff that generally festers in the rooms of teenagers all across America.

I came across a beautiful Japanese notecard on the floor. I picked it up and read it, thinking it was mine. The note was from a mother whose son was in Tye's program at the JCC - he was a camp counselor. He also got to earn extra money doing babysitting on the side. The mother expressed her thanks that Tye had taken her son to the movies and was spending extra time with him. She and her husband had recently separated and her son was acting out and spending time away from home and she was worried. Of course, I should not have read the note, but am glad that I did - I was tearful as I read the pain and gratitude contained between the lines in this note.

It takes a village to raise a child.

I am thankful for the home teachers, friends, neighbors, track coaches, and others who helped me raise my son, Tye - he played basketball at church at all of our 3 wards in Utah in Taylorsville, the Kearns 34th and the Avenues 1st ward. I am thankful to Wain and Mike, Craig and Dennis for taking all of my boys to church and playing basketball with them - pretty gutsy for men in their 50's to take on the Daley boys. They were the Kearns 34th ward bishopric. I am grateful for that ward for loving me and taking me in, even when I told them I was not sure that I was going to stay in the church. I am thankful to Bill who met with Tye regularly and told him to call anytime he was needed - he told me would take him to get cheese fries at a restaurant in SLC - I can't remember the name. I don't know if Bill and Tye ever went out for cheese fries - Tye is a health nut, I can't imagine him eating them - but I do know that Bishop Bill Barnes - everyone calls him Bill - was the father of my ward and went above and beyond to see that the needs of our family were met. There is a reason a lay ministry works so well - God qualifies the called, not the other way around. Bill and Wain served as mission companions in Scotland - I am glad that they were my two Bishops and friends in Utah. I cried many tears in their offices, and used more Kleenex than I probably should have - more than once, they had to refill a box during our "meetings/therapy sessions." The LDS church is not perfect, but they are trying really hard to better the lives of their members, which could account for their staggering membership - over 11 million and they are the second largest growing religion in the world.

One Sunday, long after I ceased attending services in my Avenues ward, Tye went to church by himself - "train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." He wore a smart polo shirt and clean jeans and shirt - granted, not the white shirt and dress pants that he wore when he was younger, but I have a theory that God does not really care what we wear to church, or even where we worship - he just cares that we go. Tye came home and I asked him how church went - he said that a man in the ward had come to him and said "Do you think you should be wearing that shirt? You should wear a white shirt and cover up that tattoo." Ironically, Tye's first tattoo reads in a beautiful script: "ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME." I am not sure how often Tye went to church alone after that. I went with him because that had been the family tradition - I wondered often who that man was and why he would have said that to a teenager who would come to church ALONE after his active mother of 22 years in the LDS faith had ceased to participate. I went to church because he wanted me to be there with him - I also went because I wanted to protect him - you can touch me but don't touch mine. Mothers have been known to kill for their children in the animal kingdom, and in many civilizations, including our own.

One night, I heard a prowler in the back yard. I called 911 and woke Tye up because I was scared. The SLCPD officer who showed up in minutes came to the house, light flashing. He went around the back and checked for the "prowler". He then came and rang the doorbell . I was relieved that a public safety officer was available to answer my first ever 911 call. Imagine my relief when I recognized officer Sonny Ricks. He had worked with me on the CAT team during my tenure at the mayor's office. He explained to me that there are raccoons in the avenues - that is what I had heard, and not a prowler - hey, I was raised in London - who knew that SLC had a raccoon population and in the Avenues to boot. He went on his way and told me to always call when I felt unsafe. Fortunately, I never had to call again.

Tye slept on the loveseat that night, armed with a knife, just in case a "prowler" came back. I was still a tad anxious. I slept on the couch. I was too scared to sleep in my room which was at the back of our home, where I would hear the raccoons prowling.

He had my back and was protecting his mother. I will always have his back.

God, I love that kid.

Domestic partner benefits

I sent the following to the President of Zions Bank this week. Scott Anderson is a good man and would make a fine Governor.

I am awaiting a response.

I hope that this email finds you well and that you have something wonderful planned for the three-day weekend to celebrate the Doctor King holiday. I believe that is a day on, not a day off, as they say in Utah.

I met you for the first time at the Legislative Preview breakfast and came away impressed with your intellect, compassion and vision. I believe at the time I asked you whether you had any political aspirations and told you to consider running for Governor.

I see that you are anxiously engaged, to quote the Utah vernacular and are working with a group in the Becker Administration. This is heartening to me, because your voice, leadership and vision is needed in the city of Salt Lake, even the SLC Corporation. I note that Mayor Becker has committed to doing business with companies who offer domestic partner benefits.

I am a Zions bank client by chance. I came to Utah 7 years ago and needed to find a bank close to my place of work - it was purely happenstance that your bank had a branch in the same office complex. I stayed with the bank because I had mostly good experiences, and believed in the concept of "we haven't forgotten who keeps us in business." Indeed, there is one Rohaib Hamid who was my personal banker at the Broadway branch who is an outstanding representative of all that your corporation aspires to see in their employees.

Some years ago, I almost closed my Zions account because of the debacle over funding for the HRC benefit. I served as a member of the Utah Pride Center board and was married to a gay man for 15 years. We married in the temple and have four amazing sons. I wanted to close my account on principle, as I am a devoutly principled person, as I know you to be.

I write to you because I received a distress call from a close friend in Utah earlier this week. For some time he has been using the EAP program because of relationship issues. He is a divorcee, and I helped him to address some personal issues with his former wife, whom he divorced because, like my husband and countless other men in Utah in and out of the LDS Church, he is gay. His partner of over 2 years called it quits this week. This friend of mine has been with your bank for over 15 years and is in management. He is scared to go to EAP for counseling which he desperately needs, because he fears reprisals in the workplace. I do not know what the statement of inclusion and diversity is at Zions Bank - I do, however know that discrimination is not to be tolerated in any way.

My appeal to you is does Zions Bank have the political and moral will to clarify the handbook with regard to domestic partners and benefits? My friend indicates that the policy is nebulous and is offered to Zions staffers in states such as California.

I appreciate your consideration and welcome your feedback.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Gayle - the mother of all wisdom

When I arrived in the Salt Lake valley in May of 2000, the first person I met was Gayle Ann Nikolaisen. I, being the directionally challenged person that I continue to be, had managed to get lost and instead of ending up at my temporary place in Taylorsville, was in what I now believe to be Cottonwood Heights - either way, it was near an impressive looking country club, and clearly not somewhere I could afford to live as a single mother supporting 3 sons.

I had been given Gayle's card by her son, and my new landlord and friend, Mike. He was out of town and wanted me to have a backup plan - those are good to have - in my case, I need several backup plans depending on the circumstances., the card stated - Gayle Ann Nikolaisen. I was impressed. It was the first business card of thousands that I would collect in my 7 year stay.

Gayle patiently talked me through the maze of streets and we met on State Street in a bank parking lot. "What kind of car do you drive?" I asked her - she said "A large grey one." "What about you?" She asked me - "A large white one."

Some time later, a beautiful woman emerged from a grey Lincoln Continental and I emerged from my white one. We immediately bonded, hugged as if we were old friends reuniting and there began an amazing friendship. Gayle is the first person I met in Utah and one of the last with whom I spoke before I left in November.

Gayle lives across from a golf course where a certain developer has obscured her beautiful views with his McMansions.

What I know for sure is that at Gayle's house, there is always a diet Coke, coffee brewing, never decaf and always sugar, not Spenda - fixings for a sandwich - hugs when needed, advice when solicited and just about anything else a person could wish for.

Gayle is a woman ahead of her time. She coined the phrase for her extremely successful online business - - "Reduce, reuse, recycle, repeat." Gayle never pays full price for anything, not at a garage sale, not at the Salvation Army, not at any other thrift stores in town - on occasion, she will go to Deseret Industries and use the discount she has earned for being older and wiser.

Often I would show up at her house and tell her that I had found Bath and Body works lotion on sale for $5.00 - she would gasp! "Tell me what kind you like and I can get it at a yard sale for 50 cents." - And get it she did - pictures, furniture, clothing, designer handbags, costume jewelry. I loved shopping at Gayle's - I never had to pay shipping, and on a great day, I could get a "friend" discount.

When Gayle realized that I had come to Utah with nothing but my important papers and some clothes to get me through a season until I could get back to Michigan, she said, as only Gayle can say: "Let's go yard saleing."

That woman knows how to shop. She can bargain like no-one I have seen - she makes Donald Trump and Bill Gates look like wimps. We would drive from sale to sale and she would pronounce: "This is my friend Annette - she has just moved here, and has nothing, nothing, nothing!" I think there is a bit of Italian in Gayle - she can gesticulate with her hands even though she is Minnesotan with German ancestry. She would plead for discounts for her new friend to furnish her humble place. We started small - a microwave some dishes, then a dining room table - we had completely furnished my 2 bedroom apartment for myself and my 3 sons in a period of about 6 months. It was a great spring and summer.

I learned where to get the best tomatoes and fresh corn. I learned where the day old bakery stores were. I learned that Gayle has people - a bag man, a book man, a glove man, a friend in just about any D.I. - Deseret Industries - the LDS church's thrift store - within driving distance of her home, so that she can get the "scoop" on great deals.

Gayle has 4 children, Julie, a convert to the Mormon church, married to Jim, her second husband a retired army officer. Mike - I never met a guy called Mike I didn't like, and they don't come much better than Mike Nikolaisen. We met using the amazing world of AOL - I was trying to get a "feel" for Utah, since I was coming sight unseen, and he filled me in - thank God I was at least somewhat prepared - someone really should write a survival/transition/guidebook for new Utah residents. Mike is divorced and lives with his partner and love of his life, Pam. He has 3 children, Jeannie, Jeremy and and Jennifer and three beautiful grandsons, Xander, Matthew is divorced and lives at Gayle's house. He had a stroke and she and her husband take turns taking him to physical therapy appointments to aid in his recovery. Matthew loves movies and kids, particularly his daughter Kathryn.

The Nikolaisens are a military family - Arnie is a retired navy guy, many of the grandchildren have either served in the military or married someone who has or is serving. They fly the American flag proudly, vote in every election - Democrat and Republican - living under the same roof.

I don't know what religion Gayle and Arnie belong to, and I don't particularly care - it is, after all, none of my business. What I do know, is that these are two of the people whom I miss the most in Utah.

We have had heated debates over their HUGE big screen tv and the latest History Channel show. Arnie has traveled all over the world and loves history and knows pretty much everything.

Gayle too has traveled all over the world, lived abroad, raised her kids in a foreign country for months at a time with a husband serving on a ship to defend our freedom - Arnie is a Republican and Gayle is a Democrat.

Emily Nikolaisen is the grandaughter whom I know the best, because she spends time with Grandma Gayle. They read, sew, cook, play on the computer, garden, play with dolls, go to yard sales and book stores and all those wonderful activities that children love to share with their grandmothers. The grandaughter whom I miss the most and probably love the most shall remain nameless for privacy purposes. She has been awaiting adoption and been in the "system" for too many years. Gayle and I have both cried many tears and written many letters on her behalf. After years of striving for family reunification on the part of the esteemed DCFS, it has been decided that this beautiful angel - this brown angel who looks so very much like my own daughter - is not "adoptable" - she awaits placement in a group home. I went to Catholic mass in the middle day on Wednesday, and lit a candle this - it was lit for this little girl who is lost in the system, and for the son whom I lost in a custody battle because I moved to Utah and did not have money to hire an attorney to file a petition in Michigan. Let us all pray for the lost in the world - I hope that we all hug our children at night or call them when they move away from home. I had a breakthrough today - my son, Bryce is now 10 and has decided that he is going to call me every Friday to check in. He is going to be baptized on January 27th. I hope that I can be there. He is a wise boy, and I have missed him for these 7 years - I think I have maybe seen him 4 times, and certainly not in the last two years - we are working on fixing that this year.

Emily once said: "Grandma - you are the mother of all wisdom." It was a revealing insight for a child so young.

In 7 years, I sat at Gayle's table, drank Diet Coke (always bought on sale), ate a delicious tomato sandwich with fresh roadside tomatoes and butter. I laughed, cried, gave her manicures, massaged her feet and poured out my soul to her as I tried to figure out why I had come to Utah and why I was finding it so damn hard to fit in. She listened sympathetically, cried many tears with me, gave me gentle suggestions and was heartbroken when I told her some three years ago that I was done - officially leaving the LDS Church. I actually wrote "the letter" - I had it notarized, per the instructions, but never mailed it. I did not need to write a letter to explain to God why I could no longer align myself with the teachings of the LDS church - he knew what was in my heart - he knew that I had given my all to try to heal the great divide in Utah, by volunteering at the homeless shelter, working on political campaigns, holding huge house parties for Democrats, Republicans, gays and straights, talking to friends and neighbors about religion and my love of the gospel. There is much good in the Mormon church and I am thankful for my 20+ years as a member in relatively good standing, with the exception of a couple of bishop's courts - let's leave that for another day.