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Love More

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Henry David Thoreau wrote: “There is no remedy for love, but to love more.” I was at a wedding on a beautiful cruiser in the San Francisco Bay, and the bride quoted that line from Thoreau in her vows. Then she looked at her husband-to-be and said, “For the rest of my life, I’m determined to love more.” I loved the sentiment, coming from such an earnest bride, with a wedding backdrop as romantic as it gets. We were floating in the Bay, with the chalky skyline of San Francisco just miles away. Several years ago I went to a Korean wedding, and the bride and groom, in full ceremonial costumes, had tea with their elders as part of the service. It was custom for the elders to sit with the bride and groom and share their wisdom about marriage. Guests were never privy to what was shared, but I believe “love more” would have been the wisest advice of all. Here’s why: When you love more, you judge less. When you love more, you criticize less. When you love more, you blame less. The list goes on. But here’s the most important part of loving more: You keep your heart wide open. A marriage is, by design, full of challenges. Long term love is naturally full of growing pains. As I prepare for my niece’s wedding, I will be sure to tell her this sacred truth: the best way to keep a heart wide open is to love...

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Our Global Village

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When I watch the Olympics, I realize the human race has achieved a monumental victory. There is a unity among countries across the globe as we celebrate the indomitable spirit of the contenders. I have come to think of it as the United Nations of Athletes. In a world where terror can strike at any moment, I find the United Nations of Athletes particularly uplifting. Yes, we’re rooting for athletes from our own country, but we’re also cheering on all those who are showing us the remarkable capabilities of the body. The gymnasts alone make it look as if a body can take flight with the altitude they reach with their triple flips. Then there are those, like Michael Phelps, who teach us how to take a weakness and make it a strength. The most decorated athlete of all time, with a total of 19 gold medals, was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder when he was in the sixth grade. Phelps was encouraged to take up swimming at age seven as an outlet for his inexhaustible energy. When I watch the Olympics with 30 million other spectators across the world, I cherish this global village of ours. Perhaps there’s hope that we can sustain this unity and think of ourselves as world citizens well after the games are...

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The Noisy Next 100 Days

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During this political sprint to the finish line, how can we keep an amicable conversation going with people who have the wrong opinions? Is name calling an option? Kidding aside, what’s the political etiquette for those of us on opposite sides of the aisle? How do we maintain respect in the midst of these wild fires — red hot headlines, combustible tweets and counter tweets, and Facebook wars? Actually, we can learn about the art of listening from Urban Confessional. Founded in 2012 by Benjamin Mathes, the project is based on this fundamental truth: People need to be heard. Volunteers in more than a dozen cities listen to people’s worries and even carry a sign that reads: Free Listening. Urban Confessional offers this coaching advice to help us listen when we disagree with someone: Ask to hear the story behind the opinion. The idea is to find out what set of circumstances is behind it. Case in point: A woman at the recent Republican National Convention argued that abortion was wrong, and that people who have them should be arrested for murder. Instead of arguing with her, the volunteer encouraged the woman to tell her story, and why she believed this to be true. She explained that she can’t have children and so she feels it’s unfair, and yes infuriating, when women can, but choose not to. The reporter in me loves this philosophy – get the story. See the opinion as merely the invitation to learn more about someone’s point of view. During the noisy next 100 days, we can be civil if we remember to do one thing: get the...

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The Books that Stare at You

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I was in the gift shop of a car wash the other day, and a book there actually stared at me. I’m not kidding. It was on display right across from me and it wouldn’t shift its gaze, even when I looked away several times. The book said: “Do More of What Makes You Feel Alive.” (Incidentally, that message is the title.) I could see that the little book was shouting it out to anyone who would listen. I felt compelled to pick up the book, and it offered everything I needed to delve deeper. Often I’m guilty of experiencing the everyday race of life: to make appointments on time, without getting a speeding ticket. Or worse, spending the day in a murky cloud of negativity – the fears, worries and doubts condensing. One page was particularly poignant for me. The words, printed on a backdrop of hot pink, said “More Courage. Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” I laughed. In Northern California, the voice of the transcendental guru is ever present – even at a car wash. Has a book ever stared at you? Did you ever consider that coincidences in life are meaningful messages handcrafted just for you? Here’s my advice: The next time a book stares at you, pick it up and listen....

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Chateau St. Jean’s Somber Bastille Day

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My Francophile friend and I went to the Bastille Day celebration at Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood on Saturday, and the GM immediately set the tone. Michael McNeil spoke about the attack in Nice, telling the crowd how upsetting it was. He said, in so many words, we stand with the French during this difficult time. My friend and I listened to French music, watched the can can dancers, and then talked about the calamity on the other side of the pond. I met this friend in a class called “Why We Love Paris.” Our love for all things French runs deep. We are particularly taken by the French resolve. By way of example: We know a French woman who lives in Washington, D.C., and she said she was going to celebrate Bastille Day despite the turmoil the French are experiencing. She was determined to celebrate it with “increased defiance and joy — joie de vivre.” The national holiday commemorates the French Revolution of 1789 and the birth of the Republic. When I think about that lorry on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, with all those people in its path, I ache. But now I’m quick to hold my head up high, the Francophile in me, determined to celebrate the lives of those we lost, with increased defiance and...

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What would Martin Luther King Jr. say?

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With the recent shootings in Dallas, Louisiana and Minnesota, what would the pacifist say about them? No doubt, Martin Luther King Jr. would be horrified to find the proliferation of machine guns and bombs on our streets — weapons meant for the front lines of war. But King, I’m certain, would say that the more potent danger is the hate on the other side of the trigger. How to quell hate? I’m sure King would hold us to his vision of a colorblind society, one that focuses on the content of our character, rather than the color of our skin. The human rights activist, no doubt, would applaud technology – viral videos and photographs – showing raw wrong-doing. I’m sure he would rally behind hi-tech justice that comes from on-the-scene videos. King, who serves as our moral compass, would tell us the stain of hate is horrendous, but it’s not a time to veer off course and give up hope. The preacher practiced non-violence in the face of ferocious brutality, and he never wavered. As he put it: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” In these challenging times, it’s comforting to keep King’s voice in our heads. Let’s do our part to fulfill his vision. Let’s create a colorblind...

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July 4th Part II: Free Speech

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For many of us the Fourth of July has become a shallow yearly ritual. It’s a chance to sleep in, barbecue burgers and light up mischievous firecrackers that drive the neighbors mad. I challenge us all to take a minute to go deeper this holiday. I think it’s only fitting we appreciate the gift of free speech that our forefathers risked their lives to give us. Consider what our life would be like if we couldn’t speak our mind. What if we had to be our own thought police? I met a woman who had lived in Romania before the revolution in 1989. The uprising ended 42 years of Communist rule. She told me that she could never speak freely; she had to monitor her thoughts constantly. No one could make copies of anything or own a typewriter, because the Communist state was determined to prevent any free-flowing ideas. As a writer who marvels in ideas, and who loves to spread a few of my own, I could not fathom the muzzle of Communism. My chat with this Romanian woman brought to mind my trip to Beijing in 200I, and my stroll through Tiananmen Square. I imagined the unarmed students protesting back in 1989, facing assault rifles and tanks in retaliation for speaking out. As you celebrate the holiday, why not delve deeper?  Why not appreciate the fact that our country was founded by men who were furious they couldn’t speak their mind. Why not appreciate what a godsend it is to live in a society that refuses to be...

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The Fourth, the Flag and the Patriotism of Hope

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America is noisy. It’s loud and contentious. During an election year, when there’s so much campaign rhetoric blaring at us, it’s easy to lose our footing with patriotism. With an eye to the Fourth of July, I like to remind myself that America is a melting pot of abuse and excess, passion and principles, goodwill and promise. It is all of the above. We can’t help wonder who America has become with all of its recent scars – the mass shootings, Flint’s poisoned water and the hate simmering at political rallies. And yet, there’s hope. There’s hope we can sculpt freedom wisely – the freedom the creators of the Declaration of Independence risked their lives designing. Immigrants hungry for freedom still see the Statue of Liberty as a symbol for unparalleled opportunity. America, admittedly, is loud and contentious. But I’ll raise my flag on the Fourth because, for all of its failings, America is a melting pot of hope. For those who want to take action to further their vision of America, here are three ideas: Commit to voting in the fall election. Support all measures that protect the right to vote for all Americans. Raise your flag on the Fourth, with the understanding America is a melting pot...

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Atticus Finch & Father’s Day

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A child lives under your roof for roughly 20 years. With an eye to Father’s Day, I pay tribute to those who are wise to this fact. It brings to mind the consummate father, Atticus Finch, the first version from the book “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The best shot in Maycomb County, Atticus had a quiet strength, a moral compass and a deep love of his children. Atticus knew what eludes so many – that children are seeds that require steadfast tending. Many of us will live to at least 80, which means that children will live under our direct care for just one quarter of our lives. With this perspective, this 20-year passage is fleeting. I applaud wise fathers who are aware of this, like my husband Tim. I often call him Atticus because he is such a good father. These wise fathers know the clock is running, and they savor this time of steadfast tending. They know in a wink of the eye changing diapers will become scouting for...

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“You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught”

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Orlando’s mass shooting, the most brutal in American history, reveals the menacing cruelty of hate. It forces us to look at loathing point blank.  Clearly, children are not born with hate in their DNA. It’s learned. As the song from the musical South Pacific points out, “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught.” So who is doing the teaching? We know the influence of international terrorism has crept into our borders. The Net knows no bounds. But beyond that, we have to take responsibility for what our culture is teaching children. We have deadly fire power – machine guns fit for the military – that seem as easy to buy as over the counter drugs. In Florida the state does not require background checks on private gun sales nor does it prohibit assault weapons, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a non-profit organization that tracks state gun laws. While gun laws are weak, we’re feeding our children a steady diet of violence with video games like “Hatred.” In the video the player/character is a misanthropic mass-killing sociopath who begins a genocide crusade to kill as many human beings as possible. Why are we teaching our children to kill for sport? We can look to the late Nelson Mandela for wisdom about the menacing cruelty of hate. Mandela bloodied his hands with deadly force before he spent 27 years in a jail cell to contemplate hate. The vigilante who became the first black president of South Africa said: “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite…” Yes, we’ve got to be carefully taught … to respect...

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