In the last week, we have been exposed to everything from the threat leveled toward attendees of the Inauguration of Donald Trump being punched in the throat, to the intention of lawmakers that they will make “history” by boycotting the ceremony and the festivities, to the plans of some to stage a coup because they believe that the election was hacked by the Russians. Lots of Vitamin D, which in this case stands for Drama with a capital D, and no matter where you land politically, it is embarrassing.

In the midst of this, a fresh breeze engendered by a look back in time has emerged in the form of a wonderful book written by Fox News Correspondent Brett Baier. It is about one of my greatest heroes, President Dwight David Eisenhower. There are a number of reasons why Ike is so dear to my heart. The first is that he was my grandfather’s lieutenant during WWI. Ike and my grandfather, Ernest Glenn Hersman were married in the same year, 1916. Ike married Mamie, and my grandfather married Mimi, the former Mary Gertrude Turner. Gumbo, (our nickname for our grandfather) had stories about Ike, one of which involved getting sent by Lt. Eisenhower on a 20-mile ruck march for being inebriated, but I digress. We all loved Ike; he was the man under whom my dad served during WWII, and one of the few times I saw my dad cry was when we watched Ike’s funeral on our old black and white TV in the spring of 1969.

Mr. Baier chose to write his book largely because, in his view, Eisenhower was one of the most under-appreciated Presidents ever, and Bret felt the things he discovered about Ike are most helpful for the times in which we live. It is not at all well known that Harry Truman did not handle Ike winning the Presidential election of 1952 in what we would consider a mature manner, and while Harry didn’t blame it on the Cold War, the rift between them was so great that Ike and Bess did not go in for the traditional pre-Inauguration breakfast with the Trumans.

Instead, they sat outside in the car. In turn, after the ceremony, Ike offered to fly the Trumans home, and Harry declined his offer. They took the train instead. All of this in an era of much better manners than those of our era of social media, as well as inviolate protocol as far as the “peaceful transfer of power,” was concerned and yet, our nation survived. I believe we will again.

For his book, Baier did an incredible amount of research, and was allowed to read old letters and other documents stored in boxes that had long been forgotten, and whose significance had never been perceived. His work has paid off, and Three Days In January is a monster best seller.

Ike was someone who despised politics and over-inflated egos. He had to deal with notable arrogance during WWII in the form of Generals Patton and Bradley, and I am sure that by the time JFK was elected, he was more than ready to get back to his home in Kansas. I have visited that home, and the similarity between it and my grandparents’ house was almost eerie.

Three Days In January focuses on the way Eisenhower handed over the country to JFK, a man young enough to be his son. It discusses Ike’s farewell address, something which would turn out to be uncomfortably prescient. It is carefully crafted, meticulously organized, and a superb look into times that on the surface appear to have been far more innocent than ours.

The picture used for the cover of the book shows that one of Ike’s most important tasks came not long after JFK was inaugurated. Kennedy came to need everything Ike had been through, both as a president as well as a general, to guide us through the Cuban Missile Crisis. The new President flew the former President to Camp David, and together they came up with a way to read what was going on with Castro and get us through it. However, true to form, Ike didn’t try to grab any glory. He just found a way to serve his country once again, and his example as well as the story is a true pleasure.

We are in the infancy of a brand new year, and while there are troops on the Russian border, and in a few days the Donald will add “POTUS” to his CV, if ever there were a time to resist the temptation to be cynical, it is now. Why? What’s the point? It is this: life and the One who created it are far bigger and more powerful than the Russians, Trump, Hollywood, ISIS, the IRS, the CIA, the FBI, or any other of the alphabet soup groups.

We are alive in extraordinary times, but for those who look for it, every season in the history of a culture or a nation is extraordinary. If it were Athens of 1817, it would have been an amazing time. Pioneers came to settle the land against all odds, and now it is a marvelous place to live. If it were before, during or after the War Between the States, it would have been as well, because there was valor, and there was renewal, neither of which came cheaply. If it were WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, or any war since, important history was being made, and stellar people drew breath and defined us as a nation. If it were the ‘50s or the ‘60s, the Civil Rights era, the Reagan administration, the Clinton administration, the Obama administration, or whatever awaits us after the 20th of this month, there is never any shortage of the potential for greatness being exhibited for all to enjoy.

Now that I am a “seasoned citizen,” I am aware more than ever that while to some my “glory days” are over, to me I am just getting started. I heard someone say today on the radio that decades ago a doctor had told him about a 95 year old man who, upon being questioned by the doctor during an annual exam, was asked the secret to his longevity and health, and the elderly man answered simply, “Never let an old man live in your body.”

That doesn’t mean dress like a teenager when you are north of 70, it doesn’t mean getting hair plugs or Botox, it means carefully nourishing your whole being so that there is something that is transcendent of age which then becomes your signature, and you make it legible for the willing to read. And, for the discerning, it is becoming a being on whom our Maker can leave His fingerprints without hesitation.

This past year was both glorious as well as seemingly impossible on a number of fronts, but on we trudge toward the City made without hands. There were relationships that blew up, and relationships that were restored. I ran several 5Ks, and am preparing for my next one later this month. In a few days I am going to go on my first cruise to the Bahamas, the first true vacation I have had in awhile. I am genuinely excited, even thrilled, but the portending diversion does not allow me to escape my question, “What is the point?” I think the best way to answer it is to remember the words of Micah when he said, “He has shown thee oh man what is good, and what does the Lord require of thee. But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” That is the point in any era, and oh, the stories we shall have to tell if we make it our quest. So, Happy New Year, dear Athenians! Find your “point,” and make it sharp.

Are You A Fresnel Or A Flake?

We are in what Jews and Christians alike call The Season of Light, and this year, wonderfully, they nearly coincide. Hanukkah begins on December 23rd, the celebrations overlap, and I am looking forward to both. The Savior whose birth we celebrate had a star assigned to Him by His Heavenly Father, and it led the Babylonians straight to Him. Light was intrinsic to the completion of their search and the fulfillment of prophecy.

If there had been no Maccabees, and Antiochus’ particular holocaust had been successful, there would be no miraculous birth to celebrate, no reason to bless anyone with gifts, sing any songs, cook special foods, or to gather with friends and family. Once again, a miracle occurred in the form of the menorah being lit for eight days when there was only enough oil for one day. And it is no surprise that it was light sustained by the Father of lights.

Lately I have been fascinated by the life and work of a scientist by the name of Augustin-Jean Fresnel. His name is pronounced fruh-NELL, (the “s” is silent,) and the man was a true visionary when it comes to light. In the late 18th and early 19th century, he developed a system of beveled lights that, when properly configured, could exponentially increase the power of light long before the use of electricity or lasers.

What was Fresnel’s most famous application for his discovery? They were the lights that were placed in lighthouses. They saved lives, comforted travelers, provided guidance, and were staggeringly beautiful, day or night, due to the fact that science and art had passionately kissed. The Fresnel lights are as mesmerizing as they are protective, and I never get tired of looking at them.
Here is what amazes me about Fresnel: he did what he did in the midst of the French Revolution, was utterly rejected, and he also had tuberculosis. TB took his life at the age of 39. Let’s just say he got the job done in the face of extraordinary adversity, was way ahead of his time, and he didn’t exactly have a “safe space” to run to if the Revolution got rowdy.

This brings me to the question which is the topic of this Publisher’s Point: Are you a Fresnel or a flake? I am not trying to imply that if people don’t develop a technology that is unparalleled, and is still in use all over the world two centuries later, their value is in question. You don’t have to be a Fresnel to shine brightly, just don’t be a snowflake. Don’t be so weak that if your convictions are challenged or your candidate isn’t elected, you start melting and need a safe space provided by the US government to which to retreat. Don’t be a snowflake that vanishes the moment there is heat. Be someone who joins with other “prisms” to give light in this Season of Light, and always.

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to one and all!

12-2-2016-8-50-21-amFor the second time in a year, I have been mesmerized by a poster on a wall in the First United Methodist Church’s choir practice room. The first time was in December of 2015 when I wrote an article for the Heritage Children’s Chorale’s Christmas Concert. It is now December of 2016, HCC is giving another concert, and this time, I had the chance to stand in front of the poster for awhile during their practice. This time I wrote it down word for word, soaking it up and wanting to send it out. Given everything from the events of the recent Presidential election, to the selection of President-elect Trump’s Cabinet, to the death of Fidel Castro, I have been taking a hard look at leadership – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Hearing the words of the Gatlinburg Fire Chief thanking his crew for fighting the terrorism of arson unwaveringly while he lost his own home, made me remember that firefighters and first responders are among the most wonderful leaders we are blessed to have in our midst. The way communities are working once more to dig out from the rubble of yet another twister could only be fueled by passion and walked out through leadership.

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Learning how to be an excellent leader is daunting, but perhaps the following words from the FUMC poster will serve to inspire:
The heart of all effective leadership begins with passion.
Not all passionate people are leaders, but all good leaders are passionate.
In the spiritual world passion comes from God and His work in our lives.
Passion motivates us to risk, trust, and attempt great things for the right reasons.

Usually the word “Passion,” when it is used in a Christian context, refers to what our Savior went through on Calvary. But, given the above statements, the word passion aptly describes the divinely inspired military leadership of the Macabees, the faith of Mary and Joseph, and in a word, is the “reason for the season” and far beyond. As a side note, we need to remember that without the passion of the Macabees, we would have no Savior, nor His birth to celebrate. We would have no menorah to light, no Hannukah (Feast of Dedication) to observe, as did Yeshua, and really nothing about which to be passionate.

I remember an example of cowardice in leadership, long before political correctness became pandemic. It was nearly 25 years ago, and the King County Commissioner of Washington State actually sent out a memo that told county employees that they were not allowed to wish each other “Merry Christmas” on King County property because it might be “offensive.” He might have been “passionate” about his position, but I think he missed the part of the poster that says, “Passion motivates us to risk, trust, and attempt great things for the right reasons.” Putting the pinch on the First Amendment is never a good idea, nor does it make any sense to secularize Christmas on the way to eliminating it completely from our culture. At the very least, it is the misuse of both passion and leadership.

We are called to lead in some way, whether it is by being a great example to our children or the head of a great corporation. Whatever your calling, lead well, and lead with passion while you “attempt great things for the right reasons.” May God bless each of you this Hannukah and Christmas and always.
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11-18-2016-2-13-13-pmI can’t take credit for the saying which is the title of this Point. They were the words of Joshua Wooden that he taught to his boys over a century ago. You’ve never heard of Joshua Wooden? Well, perhaps you’ve heard of his boy, the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. If you are a collegiate or professional basketball fan, you may know that Wooden was one of the “winningest” coaches ever, having won 10 NCAA championships in a 12 year period, seven of those in a row. Wooden coached a gambit of UCLA players, from actor Beau Bridges, Lakers’ legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes, to the Clippers’ controversial Bill Walton. He also personally mentored a number of other sports figures, both male and female, coaches of all kinds, and leadership training icons such as Ken Blanchard, Tony Robbins, and John Maxwell. Wooden died in 2010, about six months before his 100th birthday, and while he had left the basketball court decades earlier, he never stopped coaching, clear til the end.

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The day I heard a montage of Wooden’s teachings, as well as extensive interviews with the people whose lives he touched, I was in great need of a little societal elegance in the recent aftermath of the election. People were being paid by George Soros to pitch fits because they hadn’t gotten what they wanted as far as their presidential candidate was concerned. Teachers were telling students that Donald Trump was like Adolph Hitler, and a woman was filmed defecating in the street and then smearing feces on a Donald Trump sign. In addition, women stood outside Trump Towers with placards that said, “Rape Melania.” Other folks were sporting safety pins on their shirts to indicate that they were “safe people,” and my husband responded by putting five safety pins on the pocket of his T-shirt in the form of a cross. It is a blessing to be married to a truly safe man, a warrior to be sure, but a safe one.

As I listened to Wooden talk about a visual he created over a 15 year period beginning in the ‘30s, the “Pyramid of Success,” I realized that he was far more than a coach, he was a philosopher, and a quiet preacher. He was a Christian, and drew out Lew Alcindor’s best, even after Lew converted to Islam and became Kareem. Kareem spoke at John’s memorial service, and said that it really was true, Wooden didn’t use foul language, and he wanted far more for his players than to just win games or titles. He spoke of the power of John’s faith, and vowed to keep Wooden’s legacy alive. It was clear that Kareem loved Coach, and that losing him was painful.

There were so many things about John that touched me, but one thing stood out as to his gentlemanliness in triumph. When the Bruins would be within 90 seconds of taking a national championship, Wooden would call a time out, the last of the game. He always made sure to save one, and during it he would tell his guys that in no way were they going to make fools of themselves as they took the title. There would be time to celebrate with abandon, but first they would shake the hands of those they had defeated while congratulating them for a game well played. Then the Bruins would walk off the court with poise, which happened to be one of the blocks located near the top of Wooden’s “Pyramid.”

While there are 25 different parts to “the Pyramid,” the whole concept can be summed up in the phrase of Joshua Wooden: “Make each day your masterpiece.” Wooden basically defined success as knowing that at the end of the day, if you can look at yourself in the mirror and know that you did your best, you are a success, period.

While we face an uncertain future as our nation moves ahead, may we make the choice, individually and as a culture, to make each day a masterpiece by doing and being our best.
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11-4-2016-8-57-33-amThis week, in a way that I don’t remember in my 63 years, things are melting down around us on a hourly basis. I prayerfully thought, “What am I going to say? By the time we go to print, my thoughts could very well be a complete non sequitur, maybe more so than usual. People are flat done with this election cycle, even in Limestone County. I can’t bear the ‘nails-on-the-chalkboard’ sound of Hillary Clinton’s voice one more moment, and I am fully comfortable as an Alabamian being a ‘bitter clinger,’ contentedly experiencing life in my condo on the top floor of the Deplorable Basket. The view from there is glorious. What can I say that will be true to the purpose of Athens Now, and that is to bring ‘information and inspiration’ to our readers?”

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I thrashed around for awhile, and then two words came to mind: salt and light. No matter what happens on November 8th, there is a very real way that nothing will change. We still have the responsibility to be salt and light wherever we are. But, what does that mean?

Let’s talk about salt first. What is the purpose of salt? To give you high blood pressure? No, salt basically has two functions: to preserve as well as to add flavor. For centuries, before there was refrigeration, salt was what kept the humans of our planet from starving to death in the winter. Meat was salted so it wouldn’t spoil. And, we have all had that experience of eating something that “needed salt.” There can be such a strong sense of “so close, and yet so far,” when you eat something that is unable to burst forth with flavor because its powerful ally is missing action.
If one chooses to stretch the concept of “preserving” just a touch, here are some other things salt can do: get rid of flower residue in a vase, keep wicker looking new, give long life to a broom, remove wine or grease stains from your carpet, empower you to make your own brass polish, remove water marks from wood, and even restore a sponge! So, here’s the obvious life lesson: if your personal nightmare is that Hillary becomes President, then make yourself useful in a tangible way. For heaven’s sake, and I do mean that literally, don’t “let your salt lose its saltiness.” If you do, you are asking for being trod under in a rather unpleasant manner, and that warning comes from the One who loves you most.

What about light? What does it do? Light illuminates, light guides, it warms, it cooks, it cuts through steel as well as aneurisms. It is the cousin of sound, it is the basis of color, it helps plants grow, it sanitizes, and it refreshes. If your idea of complete disaster is having Donald move out of his hotel into the White House, then “let your light so shine before men,” and make sure that your light is indeed light, and is in no way part of the darkness you see all around you.

Choose to preserve and serve, warm and guide as you are feeling led from on high; then live or die, you will be just fine.
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10-21-2016-2-04-02-pmThis particular Publisher’s Point really is not intended for the people of North Alabama or Southern Tennessee, but for the national and international folks who read the online version at www.athensnowal.com. There is no doubt that Trump will carry Alabama, and I don’t think there are many in our fair state that could be swayed at this point to change their minds when it comes to who should be the 45th President of the United States of America. But just in case there are those elsewhere who are on the fence, I am going to wade into the poo and doo and put in my two shekels as to why I think the Donald is the only reasonable choice for POTUS. And, let the record reflect, I do so reluctantly.

Do I like him? Nope. Am I going to vote for him? Yep. Have I lost my mind? Hopefully not. Then, why would I vote for someone who at this point seems to be a bull in the china shop, and is on steroids? Because, from my point of view, he is the only one with the mettle, the money, and the moxie to stop the Clintons, and if we have a snowball’s chance in a very hot place of surviving as a culture, that is Job One.

It took an inarguably boorish Winston Churchill to overcome the damage of dilettante caused by the supposedly superior statesmanship of Neville Chamberlain. Neville, however, was no match for Adolph Hitler, just as Hillary is no match for Ayman Al-Zawahiri, let alone any heavy hitters from ISIS. And, I don’t believe it’s ugly to say that her health is not strong enough to “bow up” (pronounced b?, Southern slang for “resist”) to the beheaders.

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But, leaving the Land of Nuance for a moment, let us remember that Hillary, in her own words, is “in awe” of Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood 100 years ago. In addition, Hillary was the recipient of their Margaret Sanger Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. What did Margaret believe, by her own admission? Well, for starters, here’s a sampling:
“Colored people are like weeds and are to be exterminated.”

“We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.”

“Slavs, Latin, and Hebrew immigrants are human weeds…a deadweight of human waste. Blacks, soldiers and Jews are a menace to the race.”

Ok, no one would ever call me a math maven, but even I remember some of my Algebra from close to 50 years ago: “If A equals B, and B equals C, then A equals C.” So, applied to this piece, if Hillary is in awe of Margaret, and Margaret unapologetically wants to eradicate blacks, Slavs, Latins, Hebrews, soldiers and Jews, then should someone ask Hillary what it is that she truly wants, besides the Presidency?

And while I would like to give Donald a piece of my mind for his completely inappropriate comments, I am not so sure that the words of the women who are currently coming out of the woodwork as his accusers are to be trusted. And here I am, one who is trained at the graduate level in ministerial counseling, with years of experience dealing with victims of sexual abuse, having to take a hard look at the inviolate rule of therapy: always believe a child or a woman when they say they have been abused. To not believe in the absence of actual proof comes close to violating my conscience, and I am not at all happy about the prospect of considering the possibility that these women are lying about something so sacred.

Here is what I do know: what goes around comes around, and that applies to both Donald and Hillary. And here’s what else I know: on Donald’s watch there have been really embarrassing things said, and on Hillary’s watch people have died. But, if she truly admires Margaret, and Margaret thinks soldiers are a menace to the race, then the only reasonable thing to do is cast your ballot for Donald, even if you have to multi-task by pinching one of your nostrils while you fill in your black circles on the ballot at the polling station. Maybe you will have to full on hold your nose, but as the saying goes, “Just do it,” and trust that “What don’t come out in the wash, will most certainly come out in the rinse.” Until then, “Keep calm and carry on.” You’ll do Winston proud, and your vote might just save America as founded.
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10-7-2016-11-18-48-amLest you think I am referring to Bear, Gene, Nick, or Gus, what I am referring to is a profession that is coming into its stride: life coaching. In the last edition of Athens Now, there was a special feature article showcasing the life coaching business of Charlie Wallace, and it was written from the standpoint of personal consumption. It is now two weeks later, and I can’t imagine being any happier with Charlie and her God-given wisdom, and the tangible progress I am making toward conquering clutter that has beaten my tail.

While doing my best to avoid sounding like a reality series, I have to be really secure in your love to let you in my garage. No, there aren’t any dead cats buried under 5,000 Barbie dolls that of course could one day make me rich if I were to sell them, but there is certainly enough shmutz (a completely clean and powerful Yiddish word for mess, garbage, clutter, and stuff) to sink a ship. It has shamed me, drained me, made me cry, and whatever other self-piteous labels you want to use. Sound familiar?

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I had prayed, purposed a kazillion times to tackle it, set aside whole days to go after it, and……nada. Then Charlie approached me regarding advertising in the paper and I thought affectionately, “OK, Missy, if you can help me conquer this without me having to self admit anywhere, you’ve got yourself a raving fan client for life.” Actually, the point of life coaching is not to have it be a permanent client-service relationship, it is intended to be goal specific. That being said, if one has a lot of goals, as I do, this could conceivably go on for awhile.

So, why in the world would you pay someone to hold you accountable, help you set manageable goals, identify obstacles and celebrate with you? Because it works, it gives you an education of inestimable value, the proof of tangible progress, and in the case of Charlie, a level of wisdom that is stunning and definitely from above.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the fact that she prays with you before and after each session, can see through your emotional schmutz with skill, offer suggestions that actually make sense, and never has to use shame to get the job done. Me likey!!

Why has life coaching become a profession that has gone from the category of sending away for ordination papers so that you can “perform marriages” to a highly trained service/skill that is freely and continuously touted by people who are already enormously successful on a number of fronts? Because the principles of goal setting and achieving those goals are not taught in school, in church, or in the community. Nature, along with the marketplace abhors a vacuum, and people who have allowed themselves to become overbooked, overlooked, and overcooked by everything from yard sales to social media are drowning. Hence, an industry that “indeed meets the need” is thriving, and I am deeply thankful to be blessed by it.

So, there you are, my friends. You have just been given a basic “before” picture of my garage as well as parts of my soul, and if I am feeling particularly triumphant, I just might take a picture of my garage when it is no longer a mine field and post it for you to see. Meantime, it’s Tuesdays With Charlie.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

9-16-2016-8-57-17-amWhen I was a kid, running, even barefoot, was about as natural as breathing. Then I got hit hard with seasonal allergies, and some of my running was curtailed. I took it back up again as a young bride when I taught P.E. at a private Christian school. However, there were times when the allergies literally did me in to the point that I had to teach P.E. from my Mustang, occasionally rolling down the window to wheeze out coaching commands to my students, and then rolling it back up. I replaced running with dancing as an expression of worship, and ultimately running became something that I didn’t know I was missing.

Fast forward to 2016. For reasons I can’t exactly explain, last winter I pretty much parked my keester on the couch, and other than the rigors of delivering Athens Now, I became a semi-permanent fixture there. I quickly put on “the freshman fifteen,” except I was no longer a freshman in anyone’s book. I found that I was caught in that Catch-22 of exercise and wellness: you need to move to have energy, but you are too tired to move. Then, my faithful Clean and Green columnist, Lynne Hart, who was recently honored for her volunteer efforts at the Tourism breakfast, submitted an article for her usual column in the paper, and it had to do with the national movement called “Couch to 5K.” Her sidekick, Leigh Patterson, who is married to Eric Patterson, himself a trained running coach, were starting another round of the training in anticipation of the annual Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful fund raising 5K race known as the “Duck and Run.” Couch to 5K was held at the Athens Parks and Rec Center three times a week, and it began in the early part of the summer.

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I had made a list of goals during my season of being ensconced on the couch, and one of them was to train for and complete a 5K. Had I lost my ever-lovin’ mind? I am 62 years old! Who did I think I was? I began walking the 3.3 miles at the urging of my digital nag, the Fitbit, on a regular basis, and then I set out to begin my training. Leigh had told me that one of the best parts of the training was the community that emerged from “sweatin’ as an oldie,” and as someone who has been profiled by one psych testing group as a “Tribe Member,” I was ready to rock and roll.

Early in our training, I mashed the daylights out of my toe. I think it’s a fair guess to say that I probably fractured it a bit, given how swollen, ugly and purple it was, and it looked like my nascent senior-citizen running career had been given the kibosh. Though I would stop by to say “Hi” to my fellow “Couchers,” I was put in the position of training on my own.

Enter an invention for which I have developed a keen affection: the rebounder. Someone in our family had picked one up for a song at a yard sale, and I dragged it out into the living room. I did most of my scheduled runs on it, and that circle of aluminum, springs and nylon mesh kept my dreams alive. The date for the run was inching closer, but the question was, “Would my toe and I be ready?” I decided to do a practice run in anticipation of what Coach Eric calls our “celebratory run,” and with literal fear in my heart, I signed up for and completed the 9/11 Heroes’ Run held at the Vets’ Museum on September 10th. I did so with 300 of my “closest friends,” and I did it in 45:59. I was feeling pretty fancy until an award was given to an 80 year old man who did it in 40 minutes flat! But the point is, the log jam of limiting beliefs got broken, and that was worth the price of a mashed toe, as well as weeks of running solo. I can check “5K” off my list now, and I have a sneaky suspicion that I might just become a 5K fool…we shall see. All I know is that I want to express my thanks to Eric and Leigh as they cheered me on my way. My goal is to beat my time on Saturday the 17th, and my great hope is that I will be able to pay the whole thing forward real soon.
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9-2-2016 1-19-04 PMIn a few days, it will have been 15 years since the day that 19 jihadists changed life in America forever, and the media will probably be full of commemorative pieces whose questions are the same as this one: where were we on that beautiful almost-Fall morning, and where are we, individually and as a nation, headed as a result?

We moved here from Mexico in August of 2000. On the morning of 9/11, I was in New Mexico, and my husband was gravely ill. We were seeking medical care for him, and I was not sure he was going to live. It already was a rough and scary time, and I had many reasons to be on my face praying, which was what I was doing when a friend walked into the room and quietly stated what had happened. Like most Americans, I flipped on the TV, and could not believe what I was seeing. Just prior to this life changing intrusion, the following words had come into my mind: “Your family is all right.”

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You see, my sister, brother-in-law, nieces, and nephew lived in Manhattan. The two older kids were away at work and school, and the youngest was beginning her first day of the new school year. My sister was walking her to school, heard the first plane go in, and watched the second one go in. Those words re: their safety had been like a crawler that runs across the bottom of the screen of a cable news show, but until I turned on the TV, I didn’t know what to do with them.

Though I knew communications would be jammed, I called my sister and I believe providentially got through on the first try. “I’m all right,” she said, “Jay’s all right, and I have to go—Caitlin’s calling.” Never in all my life have I been more relieved to hear the sound of someone’s voice, and that is a morning and a prayer time I shall never forget.

For awhile, it seemed everyone sported patriotic memorabilia that has now been replaced with college football car flags, and church attendance was way up, which no longer is the case. And as could be expected, we slowly returned to our preoccupation with our own lives, and some became obsessed with the Kardashians.

While it’s true that no one can or should stay permanently in a post-disaster emotional state, we are reminded every time we go to the airport that there are some folks who want to kill us, and haven’t changed their minds on that score. And the rise of ISIS, beheadings and honor killings in our own country show us once again that we are vulnerable and must, as our Founders said so long ago for completely different reasons, be willing to, “with firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence…mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor,” if we want to have a snowball’s chance of surviving.

Some will do so out of a state of joyful preparation, others only as a last resort. Still others will demand that those in the first two categories take care of them or perish. Some will be so politically correct that they will not face down the reality of jihad, its nature, and its intent. Some will become so fear based and bitter that they will choose to forget that God’s got this, and become consumed with the very terror the terrorists tried to inflict upon us in 2001 and beyond.

Recently while on vacation with my family, I overheard a man claim that 9/11 never happened! I resisted the temptation to insert myself uninvited into the conversation and say, “Uh, buddy, my sister heard the first plane go in, and saw the second one, as did my niece.” I doubt that it would have done any good, nor do I think my boldness would have been appreciated.

I do know this: we have a job to do whether or not we lose our heads, so let’s get after it. And, on 9/11, do take a moment to pray for our country, and thank God for the first responders who gave all to stem the tide of jihad.
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