Saturday, August 27, 2011

But ... I Made It

A couple of years and several pounds less ago, on a walk with my twin brother Kelly, he asked if I would want to climb Mt. LeConte in the Smokies as a recognition of our 50th birthday. Since Kelly has never asked me for much of anything and since we've gotten closer as we've aged (no, we didn't have that "twin thing" everyone wants us to have when they learn we are), I said "yes!" almost immediately.

Really, it didn't take a lot of thought. We were giving ourselves two years to get ready. Kelly used to minister in the area and had great connections for a place to stay. We thought we might even get two houses close together, invite lots of friends and family, and make a week of it. The planning walk was so much fun, I was really looking forward to the reality.

We checked in on our 49th and were still committed. However, I was having to curb some of my enthusiasm. I was starting a new career venture without much of a financial safety net. That meant I wasn't going to be able to rent the extra house or the van I had hoped my friends might travel in to join in the festivities. Kelly toned down his guest list as well. But we were still game.

Spring of 2011 brought me some sense of job security and a little less stress which was good because my internal activity was not matched by my external and I had gained some weight. Probably too much weight to be thinking about climbing a mountain. July 20 -- our actual birthday -- came and went with me committing mentally to get healthy but physically only managing to test my grit on the treadmill with an incline of 15. When I made 6 miles, I felt like I had a fighting chance but I still worried. AND I still wasn't training like I should have been.

When I saw Kelly's birthday photo, I thought, "Well at least he's not in his best form either so maybe I won't slow him down." Little did I know that that day he committed to daily 3 mile walks ... on the hills of Nashville, his home! When I saw him at the airport, the night he and my sister-in-law Karen picked me up for our birthday adventure, I noticed he wasn't quite the same. A lot less pudge!

I fretted much of the ride from Tennessee's capitol to Tennessee's vacation paradise. I had visions of having a heart attack on the side of the mountain and having to be Lifelined out of there. It didn't help when Kelly and his might-as-well-be-a-son-boarder Brent started going all MacGyver when prepping for the hike and discussed how to use a couple of branches and some jackets to make a gurney to carry someone down the mountain when injured.

My anxiety was lessened somewhat when I saw the incredible lodging Kelly has arranged. A friend of his had taken advantage of a foreclosure and we were living the high life -- literally and metaphorically for a few days. Log cabin exterior on the side of a mountain with a view of the tree-covered valley from each of the three floors. Three huge bedrooms, jacuzzis, incredible kitchen, hot tub and porches with swings and rockers. Definitely a Smokie Mountain pleasure spot.

In fact, I began to wonder if climbing the mountain was really THAT important. I could let Kelly and his friends make the trek for me and just enjoy some girl time back at the house with Karen and my niece Bethany.

But that thought passed quickly as I remembered my commitment. I gave the guys (one other friend of Kelly's joined us) the "out" of going on ahead (which they gallantly refused to do). I made my excuses -- too big and living at sea level. I grabbed every bit of help offered -- poles, Kelly took part of the food, and I prayed.

We got to the trail at 7:30 a.m. I was drenched in sweat by 8:15 a.m. I heard Kelly mention that he had considered turning around on his first trek up when he and his friends reached the bridge. We hadn't reached the bridge yet and I'd already plotted how I could spend the day back at the car waiting for the boys to return.

But I made it to the bridge, and then Inspiration Point, and then the Pulpit, and the salt mine, and finally to what Kelly called the "Yellow Brick Road" part of the trail -- a tree-lined, flat expanse just before you make it to the lodge on top. It wasn't pretty -- I huffed and I puffed and I stalled and I preached whole sermons to myself about taking just that next step, but I made it.

Coming down was no problem. I actually was ahead of one of the guys who was in much better shape than me. By this time, I'm sure I was delirious though. I began to easily relate to Young Frankenstein's dance number as my feet seemed to take on extra poundage in the clomp, clomp, clomp of those 5 miles back to the car, I still did it. And I must admit, I didn't mind when the boys were having to stop for rest breaks rather than just tending to me!

Getting in and out of the vehicle before making it back to the lovely surf and turf meal we'd planned was not a moment of ballet beauty but I made it. And up the stairs to my jacuzzi? Not graceful at all. But I soaked.

I was once told that "but" stood for "behold the underlying truth." I wasn't a model of "50 and fabulous" climbing Mt. LeConte. But I made it ... with my twin to encourage, wait on and support me, I made it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ahhhh ... The Simple Life

I began yesterday at Omega House, came home to do a couple of massages, picked up Roger to go to an art gallery event that a new friend had invited us to attend, and ended the night at a Montrose hole-in-the-wall known for its fries, flirtatious waiters, and salads.

A pretty typical day in the nontraditional world of Karen Campbell. Yet, throughout the variety of experiences there was always an anchor moment, reminding me that the path I've chosen is simultaneously odd and familiar.

For instance, at the AIDS hospice -- after mopping all the floors, cleaning the kitchen post-breakfast, and attempting to chat up a couple of non-responsive clients -- I took a break and watched the Food Network. Watching other people cook is something I do every day. I find viewing creativity and making mental notes of things I can try incredibly relaxing. I just don't usually do it with a former massage therapist and nurse who now weighs about 80 pounds and who has extremely strong opinions on Rachael Ray's ineptitude in the kitchen.

A weekend massage is pretty typical for me as well. Two? Not so much. Two back-to-back? (yes, massage pun intended) Definitely not. But these were returning clients and both needed what I had to offer ... and they liked the back rub as well. I've learned that not everyone who walks through my massage therapist's door is solely in need of touch. Sometimes they also want to be heard.

At the art gallery, I encountered new friends who have great connections. As a networker and a passionate supporter of passionate people doing good work and using fashion to do so, I, well, ... I connected. By the time we were through touring the cute old cottage that had been expanded into a three story studio and artist's residence, I had secured the space for a potential fundraiser and gotten a promise of introductions to much needed jewelry designers.

At dinner, I laughed and willing received the good natured barbs coming my way as I enjoyed Roger meeting my new office suite mate Lyn. Both extroverted, they barely needed me to inject as they explored the why, when, where, and how of their pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness to date.

When I settled in at home at the close of the evening, I had an incredible sense of "rightness" to my day. People often comment on how good it is that I volunteer and work with nonprofits. They get this look in their eyes like I used to see when members of the congregation talked of pastors or missionaries. The "wow-there's-no-way-I-could-do-what-you-do" distant stare they suggests they aren't going to hear how ordinary it all really is.

But it's true. Doing the right thing can come naturally. I know how to cook and clean, so I do so at the hospice. I know how to make people feel good physically, so whatever they want when they're on my table -- be it silence or conversation -- I'm there for them. I know how to tell a story so I tell the story of passionate social enterprisers at an art function. I know how to listen so I do.

At every turn of my day, I'm rewarded. At every turn of my life, I'm blessed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Disney Was Right

Dianne volunteers at The Rose on the days we have artists come in and lead our clients and their friends/family through some activity designed to help them take their minds off the fact that we exist because breast cancer exists. She's a friend from my previous life in politics and I'm thrilled she's as committed to causes as I am.

On our last Pink Day at The Rose -- that's what we call them -- she was reacquainting herself with her past passion for needlework as she waited for someone in the waiting room to take us up on the offer to take up needle and thread. I guess it was all that embroidery surrounding me (subliminally suggestive of altar cloths) because I felt the need to confess.

"I still haven't had the chance to get a note out to your friends who might lead one of these days for us. I love the idea of healing drumming. . . . "

Without looking away from her work, "Then go do it now." Dianne is both artistic and pragmatic.

Recognizing that she, Terri, the needlework artist, and Jill, the other volunteer, had the situation in hand, I scooted off to type up the email and copied her on it.

When I got back to the conference room, I began to explain to Jill that in a couple of weeks that very space would be transformed into a pop up shop for Sweet Notions. While The Rose is my primary client, Sweet Notions is another nonprofit in which I invest my time. The two founders started it with very little money (and still have very little which is why my time is an investment and not a paying gig) and collections of jewelry from family and friends. They turned that into a social enterprise that benefits vulnerable women. The London version of it -- where one founder lives -- has proven to be very successful as far as life transformation is concerned and is making some strides at sustainability. The Houston manifestation is in a reinvention phase.

"We are trying to arrange with a local group who works with women coming out of human trafficking to provide jewelry-refurbishing as art therapy. When we get pieces in the collection phase that are outdated, we utilize artists' input and create templates for how to reclaim the piece in some way. We call that part Design Camps and they've done very well in London. But in Houston, we're lacking a partner. I've got a lead that the Y might be a connection but we haven't heard back from the contact there," I told Jill.

At that moment, Dianne's phone dinged, indicating she had an incoming text or email. I noticed she had a slight smile on her face as she picked up her smart phone. The smile turned into a bonafide grin as she read and then said, "You have now."

"I have now, what?"

"You've heard from your contact at the Y."

"What? How would you know that?"

"Because the healing drummer friend of mine, the one you just emailed, is the same woman who runs the program for human trafficking at the Y and she just replied to you!"

And, that my friends, begins the story of how Sweet Notions now has a partnering entity to assist women coming out of human trafficking. Houston maybe the fourth largest city in the U.S. but it's really just a small world after all.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Happiness is ...

An editor who I've lunched with once and who has seen me move from the political sector to the nonprofit world thanked me this week for a press release I'd sent.

For those of you who may not be in the wonderfully wacky world of media, that's not something that happens every day. So I thanked her back. She replied, "We appreciate your eye for a terrific story and your wonderful writing!"


Now, in the grand scheme of things, that compliment is not a big deal. I mean, really, one of my friends is well on her way to starring in and producing a television show and another just completed a writers training in Africa and has a blog that simultaneously inspires me to grab a keyboard and start typing and/or grab an apron and work at the Dairy Queen again because I couldn't possibly be a writer of his caliber.

So, I'm not exactly examining doors to ascertain if my head will fit through.

But I am pleased.

And on that delightful little high, I hear my dear friend and the longest-tenured one I have in Houston say today -- in an almost off-handed, of-course-you-are way -- that she's programmed her phone to play the theme for "Mission Impossible" when I call. When I check for why, she responds as though it's totally obvious, "You don't ask 'what can I do?', you ask 'what else can I do?'. You're always looking for what needs to be done and doing it."

I gave up wealth, position and power a long time ago. I'm glad to know that instead I now have a reputation.

I am a very happy woman.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Happy Pride!

Perched on the back of a hot convertible with her partner by her side, she was ready for the parade. I took a moment to remind her how far she'd come -- from bible school to business school, from wide-eyed to savvy, from uninformed to advocate and organizer. She smiled and said something I would hear her repeat several times during the evening, "Amazing. Simply amazing."

As the Female Grand Marshall of Houston's Pride Parade, Tammi had a fairly good perspective on the evening. As her "wheel guard" during the walk/ride along Westheimer in Montrose, the area of the city known for its nurturing of life's alternatives to what some would deem the "norm", I had a chance to reflect as well. I marveled at the crowd of surely more than 100,000, at how the parade has grown in just the five years I've been participant rather than observer, and in many ways, how it had matured.

I still remember my first Pride Parade. Sitting on the curb at one of the less populated points at the beginning of the path, somewhat startled at how "typical" the entries were -- businesses, church groups, families, friends -- all supporting the LGBT community. I cried when PFLAG came by. To see older Mothers and Fathers loving their adult children by supporting them publicly moved me. I wanted to hold the friends that surrounded me closer in that moment, and assure them they, too, had a support system near.

My volunteer and political work has offered me the chance to drive the parade route, walk and cheer along it and with this last parade, get through early enough to come back and sit in the VIP section.

With risers constructed several feet above the route, I had a great view of the rainbow colors and could hear the musical entries as they paused for a moment for the announcers' introductions. I had to smile when I thought of what they'd had to say as Tammi came by. They noted her political activities, her advocacy, her family's support. But they didn't point out one of the most amazing things about her entry because they didn't know. She didn't either until we were all gathered at the starting point. That's when she began to take it all in -- two young family members were holding the banner, another woman and I who had worked with her on campaigns stood by the front wheels, and two college students and one-time interns covered the back. The reality hit and she smiled.

"Oh my!" pausing, she looked at me. "You know what I'm about to say, don't you, Karen?"

The others were waiting and checking us both. And it was her partner who prodded us to share.

"Everyone of Tammi's crew is straight," we replied. Had she intended to do it, surrounding herself with allies would have been noteworthy but the fact that she had simply reached out to representatives/relationships from various aspects of her life and come up with six who supported but had no letter designation in the LGBT acronym was somehow even better. At that moment, my Pride Parade truly began.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Life Well-Lived

We looked at the bag. Carolyn was so petite, the contents looked more massive than I assumed it would be. We then looked for a way to spread the ashes. Some clam shells she had collected and spread near the flower garden would do. Soon we were digging in and spreading her ashes on the very flowers she had planted and tended over a year ago.

To be a part of the last memorial for a life well-lived was an honor. Her husband, best friend and I ensured that what remained of her physically would continue to nurture that which she loved.

"Would you mind if I prayed?" I asked my two companions.

"We'd love it," they responded.

I then asked the Creator to help us remember, to laugh, to embrace all that would make Carolyn smile. We hugged and our memorial was complete.

She lived more than 7 decades and after helping hundreds of school kids know what it means to live in good health, she pursued a balance between emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being.

Carolyn was my friend. Carolyn was a do-gooder. Carolyn was a teacher. And now Carolyn's ashes nurture and encourage growth. Seems reasonable to me!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Stories That Don't Come Easy

We can't help ourselves. We humans love our heroes and happy endings. Dramatic tension is fine when it's limited and measured, but soon enough we're jumping ahead, desperate for the tidy feel-good moment of knowing all is well in storyland.

Years ago, when the news became "infotainment," we bore witness to the struggle. "Law and Order" can investigate and resolve a case in one hour. So why do we wait weeks, even months (and some would say we're still waiting) for justice to be leveled on O.J.? We saw the chase! Now tell us the bad guy gets what he deserves! Right?!

Decades haven't pushed us much closer to coming to terms with our need for instant gratification on justice issues. I was reminded of that today when I read an update on Congresswoman Giffords' status after surviving a gunshot to the head months ago.

She's in rehab here in Houston so we hear tidbits now and then. And, of course, we all strained to see her as she traveled to see her husband Mark take off on his shuttle ride.

The deal is ... the news is good and it's not yet good enough.

From the story ... "Although Giffords continues to improve, Caursone said, 'She's alive. But if she were to plateau today, and this was as far as she gets, it would not be nearly the quality of life she had before. There's no comparison. All that we can hope for is that she won't plateau today and that she'll keep going and that when she does plateau, it will be at a place far away from here.'"

If you've ever dealt with someone who has experienced an injury to the brain -- stroke, accident, whatever -- the phrase "far away from here" carries the weight of the world.

I've seen it, felt it, and cringed at the realization of how superficial I can sometimes be.

Once, after heroic attempts to rally the troops and come to the aid of a colleague and friend who had a stroke when she was in her early 40s, I wanted to be more than I wound up being for her. But I didn't want it bad enough. The first days of her ordeal were triumphs for those of us coming to her aid, taking care of her family, reaping kudos from all who witnessed our all-night vigils and efforts to maneuver the medical system to ensure the best of care. Weeks later, she was in rehab, and some were there by her side. Without an immediate fire to put out, my attention waned. Months later, she became a visit I "should make this weekend" or a "call I've got to get to" but didn't.

A couple of years later, she was back at work. But if you're holding your breath for the happily-ever-after part, you better breathe. Because she wasn't back in her same leadership capacity. She was in a position that had been created for what her level of expertise now was. The stroke didn't just take away the full use of her arm and leg, it took the woman I had known. This new manifestation had similar memories and her desire to be all that she could be, but conversations weren't just slurred, they were missing the wit and wisdom that only totally firing synapses can bring.

At one point, in a workshop I was doing on change, I used a video of Tigger losing his stripes. Winnie the Pooh and the gang were doing all they could to give him a new identity since Tigger without his stripes just couldn't be Tigger. After several failed attempts, Eeyore finally points out that "just because you don't look like Tigger on the outside, doesn't mean you're not Tigger on the outside. It's all in the stuffin'." My friend approached me afterwards and haltingly reminded me that she was still the friend I'd cherished on the inside. I nodded in agreement and said, "I know."

But I didn't.

She simply wasn't my happy ending. She didn't turn out "all right in the end." She was alive, yes. She had new relationships, new dreams, new opportunities. But they weren't the ones I'd shared with her. And many emotional miles had been traveled in opposite directions for us to ever reclaim what had been.

I think about her when I see articles like the one I read today about Giffords. The media are clamoring for a that tidy end to the story. They thrust the mic at whoever is available and demand a date for when she'll be back on the House floor or racing down the campaign trail. In each line between the lines of today's piece, I heard a familiar tone, a resignation still tinged with hope but also a need to redirect expectations.

The staffer quoted is all too aware of the post-celebratory reality of most survival stories -- healing is not a return to what was. The characters have changed. The story is new.

May grace be given to all who have ears to hear.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Busy, Interesting, Challenging, Fun Days

As I typed the title of this post, my fingers got a bit carried away and "fun" became "fund." Interesting because the intent of this update is to chat about that very subject.

Raising funds can be fun. And not.

For the past four years, I've been looking for what would be my new career path. Politics didn't quite work out for me. Big nonprofits didn't want me. Emerging or smaller nonprofits did, but couldn't pay me.

That's when massage school seemed as reasonable an option as any other!

Last Friday, the state of Texas finally got around to sending me my license. So now, I'm officially an LMT. I'm also the "community manager" for a breast cancer organization, a strategist for a health and human services collaborative, a mentor for fashion social enterprise benefitting Uganda school children, a consultant for another fashion forward group benefitting vulnerable women and a storyteller for one of my former employers.

So, yes, I'm legal, but no, I'm not making a living as a massage therapist.

I have a few clients who check in with me every other month or so. I barter services with my hair stylist. And I still give birthday massages. That's about it. Frankly, that's about all I could do. (Please see previous list of other jobs for the reason why my massage is limited.)

However, the day I got that license, I had somewhat of an epiphany.

I've realized the dream of several months ago when I paid the downpayment on that class.

I'm doing a variety of things that I love to do, paying off a few debts I incurred as I took the risk, and beginning to breathe a bit easier when I want to purchase the "good" cheese in the market rather than the WIC approved label I had frugally been adding to my shopping basket.

Not quite as good as a massage but definitely an ahhhhhhhh moment.

My business card doesn't say all of the above on it. I simply state that I'm "helping caring people realize their passions." If you want to know more or keep up with the professional side of my life, check out

Local Artist Is "Big" Supporter (another interesting press release I was privileged to write)

OUSTON -- If it’s been “supersized,” chances are artist Kermit Eisenhut has painted it.
A decade ago, the Cow Parade benefitting Texas Children’s Hospital had Houstonians scouring the city for where the latest interpretation of bovine sculpture would appear. Eisenhut’s signature was on 14 of them. He completed one of 75 oversized Mickey Mouse sculptures for Disney -- also auctioned for charity.

Now he can add Pink Ribbons to his growing list of philanthropic props. As an advisory board member of Pink Ribbons Project, in motion for breast cancer, he was the natural choice to paint the first of the 7-ft. sculptures which will be part of the inaugural Pink Ribbon Parade this fall. The fundraiser and awareness builder benefits breast cancer nonprofits and the effort-organizer Breast Health Collaborative of Texas which includes more than 200 nonprofit, corporate and individual members.

Eisenhut is “big” on nonprofits. He has contributed auction items to a number of local charities including the March of Dimes, Bering Omega, Special Olympics, Vivo y Positivo, PAWS, SPCA, Houston Grand Opera, Montrose Clinic and SEARCH. He serves on the Honorary Board of SNAP, works with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and for more than 20 years has taught free art classes to people who were HIV positive, living with AIDS and, now, people touched by breast cancer.

"When people do art, they are able to forget their illness for a little while. They experience healing and increased self-esteem,” Eisenhut said. "The world enlarges for them. They are able to get out of themselves, to focus on something else.”

Eisenhut’s weekly Pink Paint classes at Pink Ribbons Project in Rice Village paved the way for his latest gift of talent and time. On June 7, he will take part in a jointly-sponsored endeavor to provide clients with appointments at The Rose Galleria, a nonprofit breast cancer organization, the opportunity to “Create While You Wait.”

Pink Days at The Rose Galleria will ensure that individuals with appointments on the first Tuesday of each month from June through November have a creative outlet. Eisenhut is the first of a number of artists who will offer instruction on subjects such as painting, needlework, card- and jewelry-making.

“Kermit’s work is incredible,” said Pink Ribbons Project Survivor Founder Susan Rafte of Eisenhut’s prolific contributions to charity auctions. “I would bid on them and I always got outbid. Now his art decorates the walls as he teaches painting to survivors, friends, family – anyone who has been touched by breast cancer.”

Rafte, a soon-to-be 17-year-survivor of breast cancer, attributes much of her recovery to the arts. Raised in a family that appreciated all forms of art, she and her sister Jane Weiner dance. Pink Ribbons Project first manifestation was as a dancer-organized fundraiser in New York where Weiner was living at the time of Rafte’s diagnosis and treatment. That effort netted FDA approval for the drug Rafte would soon need to help prepare her for a stem cell transplant. Ultimately, Weiner relocated to Houston to be closer to Rafte and to launch the organization in its Texas’ expression

“The ‘aha’ moment for me,” said Rafte, “was when we brought Pink Ribbons Project to Houston and produced the first show. I was one of the dancers. Jane had initially danced to save my life and now I was dancing to save others.”

Noting that the arts encompass many different forms of creativity – dancing, writing, painting, cooking, etc. – Rafte underscores why Pink Ribbons Project continues to provide classes for experienced artists and those who “don’t yet know how to hold a brush.”

“When people understand art they can take it to the next level and see how art can help heal, help them work through things. Art separates us from where we are and allows us to open up and work through some of those really tough issues.”

Eisenhut can relate. His art career began after a back injury and classes at Houston Community College.

“My teacher encouraged me to get involved with the community,” said the now portrait artist, muralist, furniture artist, public art creator, philanthropist, teacher, and community leader. “I urge my students to do the same. Find something you’re passionate about and go for it!”

The Rose provides services at two centers and via mobile units for both the insured and the uninsured. The 25-year-old nonprofit relies on insured clients and fundraising to offset the costs of the screenings and diagnostic services for the uninsured. Pink Ribbons Project is covering the cost of any uninsured individual who visits The Rose Galleria on these Tuesdays. For those patients who must return for diagnostic services, Pink Ribbons Project will cover those costs as well.

For a complete list of Pink Days at The Rose Galleria activities, email To book an appointment during the Pink Days at The Rose Galleria program, call 281.484.4708.
For more information, visit,, and
The Rose Galleria is located at 5420 West Loop South, Suite 3300, Bellaire.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Surfing the Edge ... Of a Tropical Storm-10 Years Later

"It's easier to think outside the box when the box just washed away." And with that the staff of Union Baptist Association launched a "hands-on learning experience" we could have never imagined months before when we were reading about chaos theory and its implications on organizations. We actually found copies of the book "Surfing the Edge of Chaos" in the mud and sludge that was all that was left of our offices. Five feet of water had rushed through our building as a result of Tropical Storm Allison.

Ten years later, I'm no longer at UBA, but the memories of those days is made fresh as story after story of tornadoes and floods offers familiar pictures of wading through the aftermath.

After a quick goodbye to the kinds of things you display in an office -- most significant for me was the embroidered piece I had brought back from my first international trip in 1989 -- we set out to check on the more than 600 churches that make up the association. One of our consultants, whose post-seminary library of hundreds of books had been housed at the office -- is a weekend warrior around the house so he was in charge of getting the info about potential structural damage. We soon learned that if the water mark was rising on the sheet rock, the walls would have to be opened up and lots of repairs would be needed.

Armed with a meter to measure moisture, we visited congregations. I remember distinctly when a pastor stood in a humble but well-kept sanctuary, describing how they had brought in fans, mops and towels to soak up the water and hesitantly but hopeful, showed me the water line. With one look, after having made the same assessment several times during the days after the flood, I explained that they would have to cut into the walls. He didn't want to hear it. The church's budget was already stretched. I wanted desperately to be wrong. But I knew officials would be advising him to do the very same thing. The potential for mold was too high for the children who gathered there for after-school programs.

Weeks later, after more and similar encounters, writing story after story of what churches were doing to help their congregants, matching those with resources to those with need, revamping a website to become a resource center that we would later utilize for the Katrina response, I shuddered when an acquaintance commented during dinner conversation, "I don't really believe all the hype about the storm. No way that much damage was done. I know my neighborhood was barely touched."

Let's just say when the Spirit moved me in that instance, it was to head out of the room in order not to hurt anyone!

UBA moved into temporary offices that we used for a couple of years before relocating across the very same bayou that had swelled to the point of swallowing us during the storm. We came back to the neighborhood with a keen sense of awareness that (as chaos theory will attest) "every change changes everything". Innovative approaches to consulting, training, starting new churches were now somehow easier. No "boxes" allowed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Once Upon a Weekend

Friday: Massages by the pool with a friend, for a friend and her friends
Saturday: A massage for a client, Set up and then check in at rodeo committee's party, followed by a birthday party for a set of one-year-old twins, followed by a dinner out with friends and ending with dessert on the terrace of my friend's new house that has an incredible view of downtown
Sunday: on my bike at 7:30 a.m. checking in artists with Art Cars for the parade, then preparing lunch with my houseguest (co-founder of Sweet Notions), afterwards it was off to a baby shower, and finally registering guests at an Equality Texas fundraiser (outside ... by the pool ... in Houston's humidity)

So ....

In one weekend I played in the suburbs, downtown, on a "farm" and poolside.

In one weekend I encountered young stressed out moms in need of massage, artists, aging skaters who provide parade support, cowboys, advocates, about-to-be moms, sailors, pirates and princesses.

I've said it before and will repeat it till my happy ending ... You can't say my life is dull.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Second Best Was a First

Someone asked me this week if I had ever failed at something I set my mind to accomplishing. I had an easy answer because I had recently reflected on that time in my life.

Less than a year ago, I was second best twice in a row. Not one, but two organizations, told me I was one of two candidates that had survived the interview process for positions I thought at the time that I wanted. Neither organization went with me.


Had it not happened, I would not have experienced Friday. And Friday was a dream manifested:

-- I woke up in a home where I can easily host guests and have done so for the last three weeks.
-- I spent some time working on social media for my client that focuses on breast cancer, in the comfort of my jammies, on a lap desk one guest gave me, using wireless another guest set up
-- A quick trip on a beautiful Houston day to my new client's office, and I was reading about passionate people willing to give extra time and energy in collaborating on how to address health and human service issues in Texas
-- Had just enough time to get back to my house, fix a sandwich for my current guest (another client who falls into the REALLy nonprofit category at the moment and is looking for an apartment so she can be bivocational and make an impact on the lives of vulnerable women), and prep for my next appointment
-- Did a chair massage for a former colleague and caught up on how inspiring she can be as she takes a pragmatist's view of making a difference in the world (I currently write what I hope are inspiring stories for the group she's with)
-- Gathered my massage materials and after another couple of hours online, headed to a table massage for someone who works for yet another client (the group who wants to convert a food truck into a job development program)
-- Drove to a friend's new place and after helping with the unpacking and a bit of takeout, gave my final massage of the day ... a freebie because I love her, she's worked hard this week, and in the move, I inherited what was once her mom's round table and four chairs.

How does mental and physical work, bartered items, and the simple things of life equal a dream?

Last July, I left a world I KNEW was not for me. I failed to help larger nonprofit organizations see who I could be in their operations. And that's when I first dreamed the dream. What if I helped small nonprofits who can't afford development directors and full-time communications managers and supplemented my income with massage?

Ta-da! Dream, meet Friday! Friday, meet Dream!

And the beauty of this new encounter? Saturday just added more fuel to the inspirational fires as I set a volunteer gig for next weekend, volunteered at a food truck festival, and spent time laughing with friends around a table ladened with good food.

Perhaps when you're second, you try harder. I've no doubt that in my case, I live larger!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Newest feature story for The Rose by Yours Truly

HOUSTON – More than 500 riders, volunteers, and supporters participated in the 3rd Annual Bikers Against Breast Cancer (BABC) record-setting ride Saturday, May 7. And at least one new rider plans to make it an annual event.

Debbie Stokes has arthritis, so she never considered a long ride an option. But as soon as she heard the BABC ride would be benefitting The Rose, she immediately signed up. According to Debbie, her daughter Elizabeth is alive today because of the breast cancer organization that provides services for the insured and uninsured.

At 21 years of age, Elizabeth found a lump during a routine breast self exam. The Liberty resident had learned about the importance of breast health care when she was 19 and a t-shirt attracted her to an educational booth at Houston’s annual Buzzfest concert. Since then, she’s taken care of herself and encouraged her friends to do so as well. However, as a young mother, she told herself the lump and her needs could wait and decided not to mention it to her doctor. Elizabeth’s father Larry had other plans.

Elizabeth’s aunt (Larry’s sister) is a 30-year survivor. He didn’t want his daughter taking any chances, so he applied a bit of paternal pressure. When Elizabeth went for her six-week checkup after having given birth to son Aiden, she mentioned the lump. Aware that she was uninsured, her doctor also knew of the services provided by The Rose and referred her for a screening. A mammogram, ultrasound, and a biopsy later, she got the news from Dr. Dixie Melillo, her physician and the Co-founder of The Rose.

She had breast cancer.

Both Elizabeth and Debbie thought of her own child when the report was received. Blue-eyed Aiden inspired Elizabeth. Debbie confesses her first thought was “Why not me?” and described the experience as “the hardest thing a parent can see her child go through.”

The Rose assisted Elizabeth in accessing the state-funded Medicaid Breast and Cervical Cancer Services Program. Soon she was insured and receiving aggressive rounds of chemotherapy at MD Anderson. She finished her last round March 7 and was pronounced cancer free on April 1.

“My mom never left my side,” the now 22-year-old Elizabeth reports.

“She kept telling me, ‘Failure is not an option,’” explained Debbie.

“I had an incentive – I wanted to watch my son grow up,” Elizabeth concluded.

Inspired by Elizabeth’s courage and tenacity, Debbie claimed her own victory when she completed the 45 miles on Saturday.

“I owe it to The Rose,” Debbie noted. “I wish I could do more. I tell everyone about what a great organization The Rose is, because, unfortunately, it’s still a secret to many.”

On top of caring for Elizabeth and helping out with her grandson, Debbie plans to continue to be a vocal advocate for The Rose and for young women not having to wait until they are 40 years of age to get coverage for mammograms.

Totals for the event are still being tallied, but 2011 BABC ride looks to be another record-breaking year. The event has grown from 125 bikes raising $10,000 in 2009 to this year’s estimated 391 riders and 85 ghost riders, raising nearly $50,000 for The Rose. A new opportunity called a “ghost rider” allowed for participation for those who would not be riding but who wanted to make a donation. In addition, more than 75 volunteers assisted with the registration, silent auction, and raffle.

“I applaud the incredible Bikers Against Breast Cancer Committee led by D’Etta Casto DeLeon for creating an outstanding event,” said Dorothy Gibbons, CEO and Co-founder of The Rose. “Looking over that sea of bikes was amazing. And I celebrated as stories were shared, tears were shed, and laughter and music made for a great day. There aren’t enough words to adequately thank the riders, committee, volunteers, and staff who made this fundraiser such a success.”

Bikers Against Breast Cancer launched in the Houston area in 2009. The committee consists of volunteers, assisted by The Rose staff. In its three-year history, BABC has raised a total of nearly $100,000 to benefit The Rose.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Celebrating the South -- Observations from a Wake

Road tripping across Louisiana toward Texas, I reflected on the cast of characters that I had encountered the night before at a wake for the 92-year-old uncle of Roger, my best friend. One of the bonds between my friend and me is our roots in small town life. My hometown's population may be ten times his but from what I saw at this gathering (and during my previous visits, one at which we threw a birthday bash for the then 90-year-old uncle), the people are incredibly similar.

Which is why I knew when the man with the khaki pants, cotton shirt and aviator glasses (circa 1979) introduced himself as the husband of a cancer victim, my other friend Geary and I might be in for a lengthy chat. Really, those were his first words to us. His wife had been diagnosed with two different types over the years, and he had spent time helping her during her treatments but he had also been "blessed with the opportunity" to do missionary work in South Korea. He went into great detail about how the teams were set up, what years netted what results, his own success in leading others to Christ (even gave us the numbers but I don't quite remember those), how they have changed the length of their stays through the years and much, much more.

After smiling, nodding, sharing the occasional "hmmm" or "oh, wow" I realized he was going to keep going and going and going. So I finally interrupted to ask for a bathroom break.

"Is this your church?" I inquired. (Bad choice of wording when you are talking to a zealous man.)

"No ..." pausing for effect and looking at me with anticipation that I might know where he was going with his response. I did.

"I know it's God's but are you a member here?" I shifted the words and quickly added, "I need to know where the bathroom is."

He smiled and offered instructions. Not wanting to leave Geary alone for too long and anticipating that the progress of the conversation wasn't going to be shortened by my absence, I grabbed Roger's arm as I walked by, "Get him out of that NOW," I whispered.

When I returned, Roger was still engaged and wanted to introduce me to two teachers from his grade school days. "I'll be delighted to meet them in just a minute, but I'm not kidding, get Geary out of that situation."

Walking Geary over to ostensibly be introduced to the teachers as well, Roger gave us the connect-the-dots introduction of the women that Southerners typically do. I got their professional roles, their family ties, and their impact on Roger's life all in one paragraph. Meanwhile, I look to Geary, "I had a plan for getting you out of that so don't give me that look of abandonment," I cautioned.

"He wanted to know how many souls I'd led to Christ," Geary said. "I told him, 'none.'"

"What did he say to that?"

"That's when Roger pulled me away."

We finished up with the teachers and then Geary and I shifted to different corners of the fellowship hall watching the extended family ... well, fellowship! When the deceased is 92 and there's plenty of tuna fish sandwiches, bbq, chips, colas and homemade cakes and cookies, the night before the burial truly is a celebration of a life well-lived. I took my own personal delight in watching everyone's face as they tried to determine if we were Bumgardners, Badgelys or some other branch of the family tree.

Geary and I tried to do what we could for the family members we knew and beyond that tried to stay out of the way. While it was nice to take it down a notch and stop in at Roger's cousin and the deceased's daughter's house nearby, we were fading fast. The hours on the road on top of a few hours of work and then interacting with strangers was doing me in. Finally we headed to Roger's sister's house.

Roger has a large family and through the years, I've met them all but know some better than others. We had never stayed at Betty's house before. I was rather shocked that we were now.

Betty and her husband haven't always embraced the reality of her brother. Betty is rather fundamental in her faith. Roger is gay. She spent many years ignoring that fact and the fact that her son has had a partner for a decade at least. So when we took our rooms -- mine with beautiful lace and pillows and dolls and the boys' with photos around the room, I was shocked. Note .. the boys' room.

The next day we were greeted with coffee and a wonderful breakfast of biscuit, rolls, bacon and venison sausage. Afterwards, while Geary was outside taking photos, he was greeted with much more.

"Geary, I owe you an apology," Betty told him as he snapped away at the gorgeous azaleas in her yard. "I've not always been that nice to you."

Geary, in reporting this back to me later, said he paused and was about to deflect her statement when she added through tears, "But for you to drive so many hours to be with Roger and his family, well that says so very much."

Geary thanked her and reminded her that we all love in different ways and we need only love each other as best we can.

The drive back -- which was filled with dogwood sightings and tons more azaleas -- gave me time to reflect on these two wake encounters.

And I'm pretty sure ... Geary's sacrifice of time, gas money, and energy was every bit as strong a witness as our missionary friend's many, many encounters along the Roman Road in South Korea.

Do I hear a hallelujah out there somewhere?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Another press release from the desk of KC

HOUSTON -- When Jenny Mikyong Paek was referred by Hope Clinic for a breast cancer screening in July 2006, she took her first step in a life-saving journey. Fortunately for the Korean-born businesswoman and mother of two adult daughters, the journey came with a guide – The Rose.

The Rose is Houston’s leading non-profit breast cancer organization, offering a full range of breast cancer screening and diagnostic services including mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsies, breast specific gamma imaging and access to treatment. Annual gifts from customers and associates of Randalls totaling more than $1.5 million have made possible the continuing availability of Mobile Mammography Units. In fact, Randalls support provided for the purchase of the mobile unit on which Paek had her initial screening.

Paek’s introduction to the need for screenings translated into annual appointments – first at The Rose Southeast location and then last year closer to her home at The Rose Galleria. In late 2009, breast cancer was detected. Navigators from The Rose then helped her find the care she needed for her mastectomy in January 2010.

A 37-year resident of Houston, Paek speaks fluent English but is reticent to use her language skills until the subject turns to cancer. When asked to be on hand as a representative of the many individuals who have benefitted from the mobile mammography unit, she readily accepted. And she is bold when it comes to sharing her experience with friends and family.

“I talk to them and tell them they need regular checkups,” Paek explained. “I tell my friends who are over 40 years old to get a mammogram because it makes sense. It’s prevention!”

When Paul McTavish, President of Randalls Food Markets, made the 2011 check presentation for $225,000 to Dorothy Gibbons, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of The Rose, Paek was present. The mobile mammography unit was also in operation providing screenings for employees of Randalls.

“Randalls is honored to be a partner with The Rose and to sponsor the mobile mammography unit which takes this vital screening service out into the community,” said McTavish.

The gift comes from contributions made by customers and associates of Randalls during the annual October in-store Breast Cancer Campaign. Thirty-six Houston area Randalls locations participated.

“In difficult economic times, the large amount of monies raised -- which provide access to screenings for women who usually do not have such ease of access -- is especially noteworthy,” said Gibbons. “We are grateful to Randalls for continuing to remember that ease of access can save lives.”

Randalls’ previous gifts made possible the purchase of 1 of the 2 mobile units currently deployed to corporations, organizations, churches and clinics in Houston and 11 surrounding counties.

In fiscal year 2010, the Mobile Program traveled to 202 different sites for a total of 410 site visits, serving 5,679 women – more than 66% of whom were uninsured – across 11 counties.

Randalls is a division of Safeway Inc., a Fortune 100 company and one of the largest food and drug retailers in North America based on sales.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Been Writing ... Just Not Here

In case you're wondering why I haven't been writing lately, I have! The writing I'm doing at the moment is for clients. I have six groups with whom I work -- ranging from nutritional supplements for people with AIDS, to social enterprise working with human trafficking, to an association of churches and my biggie which is all about breast health!

UBA is where I worked once upon a time when I was a bit more traditional. Here are a couple of links to stories I just finished for them: and I also have one in the wings about a man who has proven to be about faith and ministry rather than fame and millions. It's the next blog entry.

I meet lots of great people when I write features and the blog entry after the one on Pastor J is the feature I did on a 12-year-old who could teach us all a thing or two!

"Consistency” – A Watchword in Urban Ministry*

Pastor Jesse Shelton, or Pastor J, as he is known in a neighborhood rife with drug dealers and prostitutes, planned on planting a church in Clear Lake. But prayers for an evangelistic outreach led him to one of the lowest income areas of the state -- zip code 77078 -- what some refer to as “The Hole,” off of Mesa and Sterlingshire. Five minutes from North Forest High School, this mixed neighborhood of houses and apartments reveals an exceedingly high number of dropouts and teen pregnancy.

Faithful to his understanding of the biblical mandate to “make disciples,” Pastor J heeded the call and began to make his presence known. Every day.

Since 2007, he and usually 2-3 from that initial prayer group, make the drive of more than 30 minutes. They walk the neighborhood, greeting people whose usual menacing presence is somehow softened at the sight of these faithful believers who have proven they simply want to make Christ known.

“The people love us,” the pastor explained. “The people protect us. We’ve developed relationships with some of the most hard core. Even the people who don’t come respect us. I can leave my car doors open.
“Consistency is the main thing. It wouldn’t be safe if we were only going once a month or once a week. They know we’re committed.”
Ministry looks the same here as in many other areas of the city. Time spent throwing a ball around with youth. Prayer. Small group gatherings in homes to search the Scripture and equip new believers to stand strong and reach their sphere of influence. Baptisms.

But the faces of those attending The Walk Church reflect a deep knowledge of transformation from the inside out. From a life of drugs, they have found freedom.

Calvin, known to the group and the neighborhood as Spider, was the first person of peace God used to open doors. Initially, the group used another church’s facility but soon discovered an apartment’s community center and resident’s house were more conducive to their desire to have a consistent presence among the people.

That consistency is key to helping Pastor J deal with the realities ministering in such a drug ravaged area. Though Spider returned to drugs, Linda soon took his place. Delivered from her own dependency, she now reaches out to her family, neighbors, and her former dealers.

“We like to call her house Solomon’s Porch,” said Pastor J. “We use her house to store our speakers, a freezer of food and our baptism pool. She has become a person of peace on a level I can’t even begin to explain.”

Acknowledging that it is discouraging to see someone like Spider fall, Pastor J, a husband and father of four ages 2-7, returns to that consistency that is a mark of his ministry.

“They are just like family. So, yes, it’s painful for him to get to the point where he didn’t recognize us anymore. But the good thing is that his family still comes – children, mother, brother, and one of his best friends, Skyler, a drug dealer, who has given up all of that and is with us every single day and is in the word. It hurts but we understand that it does happen. Even though he looks at us as the enemy, we still show our face to him.”

Recently, the Baptist Standard highlighted a particular September day when a planned baptism of three believers spontaneously grew to an immersion of more than 40 individuals. <>

“Some of them are still with us,” said Pastor J of those who were led to act on faith that day. “And some came a couple of times and didn’t continue.”

For those who remain, the discipleship continues. With a core group of about 15 meeting weekly, the daily bible studies with two to three can last hours.

With a background in video production, Pastor J is currently working on a documentary of stories told by the people he encounters every day. By sharing their words on the Internet as well as on a DVD accompanying a book he’s completed on urban ministry – he wants to send the message to others that “there’s hope, deliverance. Lot of the testimonies are crying out for the churches to come. They are afraid to go to church. They think they will be judged by their appearance.”
When asked what the church outside The Hole can do to respond, Pastor J returned to what led him to the ministry that captured his heart in the beginning. Prayer.

“We always include in our prayers that God would send workers for the harvest. We need leaders out of the community. Please pray.” Pastor J said.

*Feature written for UBA, an association of more than 600 churches in Houston area

Bram Lowenstein, 12, Launches Mimi's Wigs to Benefit Breast Cancer Survivors*

BELLAIRE, TX -- For most of Bram Lowenstein’s life, his grandmother Carole Betty Bercutt, or “Mimi” as he knew her, greeted him wearing a wig. When she died in November 2010 after a decade of living with breast cancer, the 12-year-old Bellaire resident wanted to remember her in a special way.

Mimi’s Wigs was birthed as a service project for Bram’s bar mitzvah. The wigs she had left behind and ones he gathered through donations and purchases became the start of a program to benefit others going through treatment. In February, Bram donated 23 wigs to The Rose, Houston’s leading nonprofit breast cancer organization. According to Bram, that’s just the beginning.

“I know that I want to keep expanding on this project. I will keep collecting wigs and donating them because there are a lot of people who are in need of them, who want to wear a hair piece when they go outside, play with their kids, or be with their families. I like this project,” the seventh grader said during the wig presentation to members of The Rose staff. The presentation included a check from his family to cover the cost of even more wigs.

The Rose offers a full range of breast cancer screening and diagnostic services to both insured and uninsured women. The donated wigs will be offered at no cost to uninsured women going through treatment.

Receiving the donation, Chief Operating Officer Bernice Joseph expressed The Rose’s gratitude, “We want to thank you for your generosity and for your ingenuity. Every time someone as young as you starts thinking about giving back, it’s the beginning of a consciousness that grows and leads us all to a better place. There are so many women we treat who cannot afford a wig. Their lives will be changed,” she said.

Attending the presentation were Bram’s mother, Pam Bercutt; father, Glenn Lowenstein; grandfather, Henry Bercutt; and brother, Coby, whose baseball teammate is the son of Dr. Daniel Roubein, the radiologist at The Rose Galleria and a resident of Bellaire.

Dr. Roubein reflected on his personal connection to the family as he addressed Bram on the day of the donation, “You’re doing something with a project that’s original. The fact you want to continue doing the project is meaningful, because you’re not going to know the people these wigs go to. That’s a high form of charity.”

Bram, a student at The Emery/Weiner School, has plans to start a website to encourage others to contribute to Mimi’s Wigs. For more information or to make a donation, contact The Rose at 281.484.4708.

The Rose provides screening, diagnostics, and access to treatment for all women regardless of their ability to pay. The Rose Galleria is located at 5420 West Loop South, Suite 3300. The Rose Southwest is located at 12700 N. Featherwood. For more information, visit

*Feature story sent to several local media outlets and on Notes of Facebook page for The Rose, a non-profit breast cancer organization.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Two Forward One Back

The visionary life takes you from "Start" to "Can't-wait-to-finish" at record speed. You see. You want. You make it happen.

Reality ... not so much.

The visionary life has me thinking "Why can't I support nonprofits with my communication skills, allowing those who can pay to fund my life needs while those who can't teach me new lessons? Why can't I do massage and fill in the financial gaps left by the nonprofits? Of course, I can ... and in fact I will!"

Reality ... shows me that people are people and nonprofits have their fair share of cynics and those quick to assumptions and judgement, as well as the sacrificial almost-martyrs who are mostly living on passion. Reality also includes ice storms that cancel last classes, full schedules for state testing sites, and only so many hours in the day to accomplish the endless needs of entities desperate for comfort and/or funding.

Much like the other day when I wanted to simply make a home cooked meal. But first I had to deal with the smoking oven. Then I had to clean the smoking oven. Then I had to prep the vegs. And, finally, I got to roast them.

Two steps forward, one step back. I'm moving ahead but patience must be a companion on this journey.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Taking Stock

-Two feature stories a month for UBA's website
-Helping get a concession stand converted into a food truck for Mission Houston
-Working behind the counter a few weeks and serving as team captain for the Houston Buyers Club AIDS Walk team
-Increasing the number of insured women who receive mammograms at The Rose Galleria, a local center with 25 years of serving the insured, underinsured and uninsured
-Serving as storyteller and occasional editor for Matryoshka Haus, a resource reservoir for social enterprises

And massages.

As of Feb. 5, these are the days of my life. I could use one more gig that pays but overall, I'm thrilled that the dream is about to become reality.

Monday, January 17, 2011

This is getting old ... but I can give a good massage!

One classmate is a expert at needlework and is working a new pattern. Another colors pictures ... from a coloring book. One took a nap under the table. Another is reading a book.

Such is life in the classroom in the last semester of massage class.

I alternate between trying to write, reading my emails, and playing spider solitaire.

What's the instructor doing? you might ask.

Well, we don't start until 9:15 a.m. Roll call taking such a very long time when you have 19 students (and yes, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek). Next we review the muscles we "learned" the day before. In actuality, he reminds us what he told us to underline the day before because they are the EXACT things that are on the quiz. Then we take a break. After, we read about more muscles and underline more portions of the text. With such a taxing schedule we are now ready for the hour and a half lunch period.

Returning from lunch we wait for everyone to arrive. That's another 15-20 minutes. We then take the test on anatomy. Of course, that's ONLY AFTER we've reviewed. And what is the review of? Were you listening? That's right -- the exact questions that will be on the quiz. We take that quiz, read the next section of anatomy, underline, and at that point it's 2:30 or 3 p.m. and wow ... that was such a full day we now just ... sit.

Or do needlework, color, nap, or read.

I'm looking at three more weeks of this.

Can you say, ARGH?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Another Day in the New Life of Me

Spent the day counting nutritional supplements and healthy options for everything from hand creams and shampoos to power bars and energy drinks.

Then set up an AIDS Walk Houston page for the Houston Buyers Club (where I was doing all that counting).

Came home and read the incredible tale of the young man who worked with Congresswoman Giffords before trained medical assistance could arrive. I began to cry as I thought of all the interns and staffers I've worked with and how every one of them had equal degrees of passion, intelligence and courage.

So when I opened the door to my two expected guests, I was in tears. I then explained why and proceeded to (a) try to stretch and knead a constricted neck muscle on my friend, then (b) give her daughter her third-ever massage.

After, I received a text message from the friend which I will treasure forever: "I hope someone says about me what my daughter said about you, 'I felt like I was her friend after 5 minutes in her home.' (Emphasis on the 'I'.)"

Today was the day I've been working toward for the last several months ... non-profits, caring people, addressing pains, providing pleasure.

Ahhhhh . . . I think I'll sleep well tonight.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

A Dark Day

If I were in a relationship, today would be the kind of day I'd call and ask him to come over and hold me for a while.

Mid-afternoon, Facebook activity increased. The word at the time was that a Congresswoman had been killed. Later we learned that while Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, she was actually alive. As of this evening as I'm typing, we're told six people were killed.

Among them are a 9-year-old girl who recently had been elected to her school's student council, a federal judge and one of Giffords' aides -- Gabe Zimmerman, her community outreach director who was engaged to be married.

Every loss today was senseless. Every life should be recognized and treasured. But I was particularly moved at the thought of Zimmerman.

As a former staffer for a state representative who organized plenty of town hall gatherings like the one that was scheduled for today, I could identify with his last moments. I know what it's like to get somewhere early, make sure the staging is set, greet the representative, ensure she has all she needs to be comfortable and then stay on the edge of activity, alert to who shows up, who looks friendly, and who might be trouble. Never did I ever think I would have to scan the crowd for a shooter. We did hire security on a couple of occasions but it was more for crowd control than actual fear of violence.

I have met so many young men like Gabe, believers who want to make a difference, who dedicate hours upon hours for little monetary reward, and who have so much potential you can almost see their future office-holding in their eyes. No one should die at the hand of a crazed gunman. Knowing just a little bit about one who has makes the loss so much more real.

I don't have a pithy comment about the U.S., about the demise of social decorum, or about how one side or the other might have brought this on. I have no clue why things like this happen or how we can keep it from happening again.

What I do have is a great sense of the void widening today. Dark, deep and wide it's kinda scary. And I could use a hug.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

In one day ...

-- Got a great email from a friend who reads this blog and likes it. Since she's a published writer, I was incredibly moved.
-- Had lunch with a friend who runs a coalition of organizations that focus on health and human services as well as education and after bemoaning how bad it's going to be for them in the 82nd Legislative Session, we mapped out what could be an education/awareness gig for me.
-- Opened a reply from a non-profit providing mammograms and breast cancer awareness for uninsured and undrerinsured that was advertising for a full-time communications person but was open to a part-timer with 25 years experience (that would be me) and have set up an interview on Thursday.
-- Connected with my client based in London but who is now in Alaska visiting her ailing mom and made plans for a communications overhaul
-- Remembered why I love my life . . .