The High Road

There is a beautiful Wanderweg (clearly-marked walks through the Swiss countryside, mainly) in Kanton Zug. It sits atop the Zugerberg and contains breathtaking beauty, relaxing pedestrian strolls, a charmingly dilapidated church, fabulous tracks for bikers, and the “Skulpturenweg” for children and adults.

When I lived in Zürich, I took the short train ride (with my beloved SBB) to Zug, and  walked it many times. It was more meditation than sport. I would walk for hours – disappearing in the sound of cowbells and sunshine or rain or foggy mists.

The top of a Swiss mountain, even a “smaller” one like the Zugerberg, can make one pause. There is a literal and figurative perspective when viewing the city below that brings an immediate disconnect from “real life” and places one in the mountain’s uppermost sanctuary.

When looking down upon the city below, I recall feeling compelled to stay high. I wanted to stay at the top because being at the top felt easy and peaceful. Relative to what lingered below, the higher road above felt more who I was. (Do not mistake me, I can do it – work and live below – I just don’t want to.)

The low road is covered with soldiers running around wearing narcissism, greed, neglect, pathological lying, darkness, etc. like medals. It seems almost normal for quelque personnes on the low road to engage in the tearing apart of folks who don’t live like they do. People who place a higher premium on other virtues.

I don’t do that well and I hope my son will choose not to. It’s not a Catholic thing for me, it’s a human thing. I have one life, I don’t want to live it worshiping those gods.

The high road has better views and many things seem easier to “touch” up there – joy, God, clarity, compassion, sunshine. That’s what I want my son to strive for, also. Life can show you true joy when you stay focused on gratitude, generosity, and humility.

There’s one great thing that lives up there I failed to mention. Justice resides on the high road. Even as some on the low road fail to see her or care she is there. Justice always stays where the air is pure and the views are clear.

And, she’s one hell of a companion to have by your side.

Birthday Wish to all of you

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but it’s not what ships are built for.”

Today is my birthday. In the past 10 years of my life, I cannot believe the “outside of the harbor” choices I’ve made. Ironically enough, given the quote’s nautical nature, I do not consider “moving across an ocean” to be one of the most trans-formative choices.

I learned a new language (something one can do anywhere). I changed my career path (you can also do this where you are, and consider that applicable to all below). Together, my parents and I mended conflicts well before it was too late (today, they are two of my closest, most treasured relationships). I maintained a healthy physical lifestyle and weight, which wasn’t easy when I couldn’t walk. I published a book. I became “Aunt LaLa” to the Ayres Little Men and added a new family (my “Henry” carries their family name). I gave my hair to make wigs for children with cancer…four times. I faced, and continue to face, my fears (crippling stage fright and fear of heights). I watched marvelous sunrises in gratitude and walked through challenging sunsets in humility. On this day in 2011, I converted to Catholicism, which was the single-most authentic decision I have ever made.

Perhaps, some of the most trans-formative trips out of the harbor are those we simultaneously fear and welcome? Though we are afraid, we know we truly have to go – into the vast, seemingly-unending expanse. Someone calls and says, “I have the perfect job for you, but it’s in Lichtenstein” or someone writes you an email and begs, “Can you please take in this rescue dog?” or even “Marry me, my love?” Life changes in one … Augenblick.

One of mine happened on January 22, 2016 when I saw and heard a strong heartbeat from a machine in Bern, Switzerland. It took me about a second to process that was his (Christopher Henry) heartbeat. Sometimes, I guess, that second is all it takes to pick up the anchor and set sail. Fear be damned. Best decision I ever made, pulling up that anchor.

I know it’s tough and scary. Many times in the past 10 years, my ship has ventured out into the sea only to return battered and bruised. Heartbroken. Sea voyages can be treacherous and arduous. There are literal ups and downs that either propel you forward or crush you. It’s difficult to leave the comforts of a tranquil and serene harbor. Ah…but, that’s not what ships are built for.

I like to imagine wisdom from my four grandparents, as I push away from the harbor each time. They have four simple rules for each journey.

“Be bold, Lulabelle.”

                                                                 “Be authentic, Sweet Girl.”

                                    “Be brave, Granddotta!”

                             “Be peaceful, Princess Wawie.”

 You can do it, too.

Be bold. Be authentic. Be brave! Be peaceful.

Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem

I am thrilled to sing this great work again. The text is quite relevant, in light the current events we face. I hope each of you might find time to read it.

Better still, please listen to it. It will heal any sorrow or fear you have, if only for a moment.


Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.
(Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world, grant us peace.)

II. (Walt Whitman)

Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows – through the doors – burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet – no happiness must he have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field, or gathering in his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums – so shrill you bugles blow.

III. Reconciliation (Walt Whitman)

Word over all, beautiful as the sky,
Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be utterly lost,
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night incessantly, softly,
wash again and ever again this soiled world;
For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead,
I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin – I draw near,
Bend down and touch lightly wih my lips the white face in the coffin.

IV. Dirge for Two Veterans (Walt Whitman)

   The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finished Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking
Down a new-made double grave.

   Lo, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
Immense and silent moon.

   I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-keyed bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding
As with voices and with tears.

   I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring,
And every blow of the great convulsive drums
Strikes me through and through.

   For the son is brought with the father,
In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans, son and father, dropped together,
And the double grave awaits them.

   Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive,
And the daylight o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

   In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumined,
’Tis some mother’s large transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.

   O strong dead-march you please me!
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.

   The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

V. (John Bright)

The Angel of Death has been abroad throughout the land; you may almost hear the beating of his wings. There is no one as of old … to sprinkle with blood the lintel and the two side-posts of our doors, that he may spare and pass on.

Dona nobis pacem.

(Jeremiah 8:15-22)
We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble!
The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan; the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing
of his strong ones; for they are come, and have devoured the land … and those that dwell therein …
The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved …
Is there no balm in Gilead?; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter
of my people recovered?

VI. (Daniel 10:19)

O man greatly beloved, fear not, peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong.

(Haggai 2:9)
The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former … and in this place will I give peace.

(Adapted from Micah 4:3, Leviticus 26:6, Psalms 85:10 and 118:19, Isaiah 43:9 and 56:18-22, Luke 2:14)
Nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
And none shall make them afraid, neither shall the sword go through their land.
Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
Open to me the gates of righteousness, I will go into them.
Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled;
and let them hear and say, it is the truth.
And it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues.
And they shall come and see my glory. And I will set a sign among them,
and they shall declare my glory among the nations.
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me,
so shall your seed and your name remain for ever.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men.

Dona nobis pacem.

Is the American Flag synonymous with weapons?

You may be tempted to stop reading. Please don’t.

Big fan of the Constitution. Largely supportive of the Founding Fathers (minus George’s predilection for using his slaves’ teeth to enhance his own wooden teeth). However, like many, I’m not sure they had assault weapons in mind when they wrote this and THIS is what it says:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

I can’t provide you with a photo of a man holding this because we don’t really have photos from that time (PS – “man” is not a sexist stereotype), but this was a typical “weapon” in the days of our Founding Fathers: Founding Fathers' weapon

I can provide you with a photo of a man carrying one of today’s weapons (that is not as uncommon as one might think) because I used Google and found this image immediately:


Given that Alexander Hamilton was killed with a rather unextraordinary dueling pistol, he would probably have a few choice words about the gravity of the decision to express one’s thoughts via a grenade launcher, regardless of the militaristic or non-militaristic grade or agenda. In addition, if the founding fathers had know one of their own would be shot in rather cold blood…might they have considered a somewhat stricter definition of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”? Even Jefferson must have been saddened at this gun-related tragedy of his Federalist rival.

We are in a unique position as Americans. Today is July 22, 2015. The following facts are current US statistics. How did I get them? Sadly, we have a website offering us a grotesque picture of gun-related violence. Heroes offer this website, which is a desperate appeal to stop this deadly insanity:

There have been, so far, over 27,000 gun-related incidents. There have been over 7,000 deaths. There have been 180 mass shootings (and that number has been reported AND verified). Here is the horror, and prepare yourself. If you have a heart, this will rock you.

404 children aged 0-11 have died from gun-related violence in the United States in 2015 (we are only 6 months into it) and over 1300 children aged 12-17 have died from gun-related violence.

Let it soak in. Imagine sitting in the Pirate or Hello Kitty – themed room of your child after he or she has been killed. Imagine that happened because he or she was attending, for example, SCHOOL.

Ready for something else?

Every Sunday, I attend Mass in a fairly small community in Lucerne, Switzerland. I have noticed before, there is a store that sells “Waffen,” which means weapons. I know literally no one in Switzerland that has a bullet. I know men that have their service weapons (so did my grandfather), but no one that actually owns ammunition. No one and I know tons of Swissies.

On Tuesday, I was in Lucerne during a weekday and at my church to light a candle. When I walked past the Waffen storefront, I saw the display.


Let that also sink in.

As a nation, our flag has become synonymous with weapons. Not only here in a small corner of a rather small town in Europe. Also, in the Middle East. Also, in Africa. Everywhere. As Americans, our flag is not synonymous with peace (like the white cross flag flying in my eyesight right now) or Olympic glory or bravery. Our great nation, established by our beloved Founding Fathers, is now associated with unbridled violence.

It’s no secret why the Founding Fathers established their new home – religious freedom. You can like that or not, but it’s a well-documented fact. Good news if you don’t like it, you’ll love the hypocrisy coming next. The foundation of Christianity rests in these words:

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

So, how would John Jay or Benjamin Franklin feel about the civilian purchase of a machine gun falling under the protection of the words they used to craft the 2nd?

Fellow Christians, do you find my reference to the Golden Rule in this context cliche or trite? Okay, what about James 4:12? Isaiah 33:22? What about that pesky commandment about not killing other people? Does your eye-for-an-eye because “Vengeance is mine” argument still hold fast? What about “blessed are the peacemakers”? Because, now, we are arming the actual peacemakers –  priests, educators, doctors. What would the singular member of the clergy who signed the Declaration of Independence, John Witherspoon, think of that?

And here are two more sobering statistics: 1,034 people have died in 2015 from accidental shootings and (only) 668 people have died from actual defensive use of a gun.

What do we do? Support candidates that do not support the NRA (which is the very tyranny the Founding Fathers feared, by the way). Get behind anything Gaby Giffords is doing (here and here). Why? Because she was shot, but she is not arguing for an elimination of weapons. She is sensibly arguing for “safe and responsible gun ownership.” This public servant and former Congresswoman has a LOT of good ideas.

Stop buying or promoting gun-based video games and stop finding it normal to watch a movie that has guns in every scene. That’s not normal to anyone in any other country in the world.

Speak and write. Write on FB. Write on Twitter. Speak at dinner parties. Stop being passive and let’s get Old Glory representing exactly what Old Glory should represent – bravery, courage, freedom.

Searching for Peace? It’s on sale here – free of charge.

“I just want peace. I will cut anyone out of my life, read any book suggested, go to any altitude. I need it,” I realized how semi-pathetic and semi-psychotic I sounded as soon as I said it. I also realized I was farther away from peace than I’d ever been. How did I get here? 

This is part of a pretty great scene in the second book about finding peace.

Daniel is one of those perpetual peace seekers. It’s ironic because, as Pos says about Daniel in the book,  “Idiot will break both his bloody legs to locate what he believes is the nearest well of free-flowing nirvana.”

Peace. We all want it. How do we get it?

I think peace is about living in the chaos. Look at the verb! It’s not “surviving” or “ignoring” or “getting through.” No! Not good enough.

Peace is about living in the chaos. Being present, being humble, being aware, being authentic. In the chaos.

If you are a person living life fully, you will be in the middle of chaos at least once a day – a busy train, a meeting with 20 people talking over each other, a girlfriend screaming at you because you didn’t put the seat down. As if a daily round of chaos wasn’t bad enough, it could be worse than that. You could be in constant chaos because your company is failing, a loved one is gravely ill, a relationship is teetering on the brink of collapse, you are being kicked out of your home, etc.

So, you stand in the middle of this chaos and it’s usually when we hear you scream, “I just want peace!”

“You find your peace in the chaos,” Pos said. “You stand inside it and you make the choice to be who you are, express who you are, and live in that chaos. That’s peace.”

Is it possible that it’s simpler than we make it? Everyone I know tells me, “LA, I just want peace in my life.” Asking me how to find peace is a bit like asking Paris Hilton to explain the Theory of Relativity; but, I’d like to give it a whirl (pun intended).

I really don’t think you need to do ancient Chinese deep breathing, hire a life coach, hike to a remote village void of humans, or take a pill the size of Texas.

Try this instead – be yourself. If everything around you is collapsing, remember who you are. Express yourself however you need to do that – speak up, don’t speak, breathe, sing, dance, laugh, cry. Don’t just survive the chaos, stand inside it, knowing and showing who you are. Could it be that embracing the chaos and living in it will bring you more peace than constantly fighting against chaos in search of peace? Chaos is inevitable. Could we make peace the same?

Here’s the most important thing. Did you make a mistake that contributed to the chaos? Easy fix. Say it clearly, quickly, humbly, and non-emotionally, “I am sorry” and you just might find yourself…at peace.