Monday, November 07, 2016

Vote for Hope

A lot has been said about history this election season. Some say we have historically bad choices. Some say we should make history by electing the first woman president. Some say Utah should make history by being the first state to give electoral college votes to an independent candidate.

A lot has also been said about fear. We should fear Donald Trump because he is a loose cannon. We should fear Hillary Clinton because she is deeply corrupt. We should fear Evan McMullin because he is a plant or a traitor.

But with the election finally here, we have a choice. The rhetoric has reached a fever pitch, but it all ends in the voting booth. We can choose to vote based on the history we hope to make or based on fear of one candidate or another or a third.

Or we can vote based on hope.

I choose hope. I don’t choose blind hope. I choose studied, considered, deeply pondered hope. In the grand scheme, I believe historically bad elections can become just that – history. We will survive this and continue to move forward as a nation, even if not in the ways and directions all citizens prefer. That’s actually how it works. One side will lose and be mad and demand answers – and then we’ll move on. This election will become a line in a history book. Hopefully it will be studied and understood and learned from. But it will be history nonetheless.

In the immediate scheme, I believe whatever candidate each one of us chooses should be based on our hopes and dreams for the future, not on history and fear. I hope we each deeply reflect on which candidate gives us that hope. For some, the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman is all the hope they need to cast a vote for her. For others, the fact that Donald Trump says whatever he wants is all the hope they need to vote for him. For others, Evan McMullin’s last-minute entry is as “American” as it gets and that’s all the hope they need to vote for him.

Whatever gives you hope, I deeply pray that “hope” is your motivation when you cast your ballot. Please don’t vote out of fear. Please don’t vote just to make history. Please don’t vote to stick it to one side or another. Please vote with hope.

For me, I find that hope in Evan McMullin. I am registered independent, and I do believe his Hail Mary bid for president is about the most patriotic thing a person could have done. I have studied and watched and listened and considered my options, and for me, hope comes from a campaign built on core American values I believe know no party lines and know no partisan arguments. I am not a sheeple or a member of the mafia or a Mormon sucker. I’m an educated voter and I will vote for Evan McMullin because he gives me hope in the future of this nation.

And it’s o.k. that others will vote for someone else. I just hope that in our hearts and souls we can say we voted not out of fear nor in order to make history. I hope we can say we voted for hope in our future. As a nation, we are more good than we are bad, and we want what is best for America. And that is truly hopeful.

Whatever candidate brings hope to your heart, that’s who you should vote for. And if we let hope rise above fear, then we will win.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

There Is Someone Who Can Stop Donald Trump

We all want America to be great – great again, continuing to be great, or greater than ever. Of course we do. It’s a catchy slogan, but it’s also a given.

And it's ironic. Everything great about America is the antithesis of the man and his slogan. There is nothing great about Donald Trump. Nothing. And if the man isn’t great, how would he know how to make America great?

He doesn’t.

I’ve read news article after opinion piece after blog post about Donald Trump. I’ve seen frightening clips of Donald Trump almost unintelligibly shouting to frenzied crowds. I’ve read about supporters surrounding hecklers while chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump,” until “security” arrives to remove the dissenters.  I’ve heard him call immigrants rapists and murders. I’ve heard him talk about dipping bullets in pig blood to kill Muslims. I have seen him mock a reporter with a disability. I have heard him mock American prisoners of war. I have heard him unwilling to respond to an endorsement from a former KKK grand wizard.

And yet, the pundits believe a person like that is unstoppable, inevitable, and on the fast track to the nomination. They look at the rest of the Republican field and say no one can stop Donald Trump. Too little, too late. Not resonating with voters. Time to step aside. 

I find that offensive. There is absolutely someone who can stop Donald Trump. You.

Me. Us. We can stop Donald Trump. He is not inevitable. He is not unstoppable. He is not what is great about America. 

We are.

The voters are what’s great about America. We hold more power than Donald Trump. A billion dollars cannot buy the presidency. But the voters can.

The same pundits who say Trump is inevitable also postulate theories and strategies about how he might be defeated. The other candidates could start playing Trump’s game of insults and arrogance, and some have. The other candidates could drop out and rally around one alternative.  The other candidates could hang in there long enough to have a brokered convention and then vote Paul Ryan to be the nominee.

But there is a way to stop Donald Trump dead in his tracks pundits fail to mention: don’t vote for him. Vote for someone else. 

Despite several years of declining civil dialogue, the uselessness of Washington, strained race relations, and disgruntled Millennials, there are still more good people in this country than there are bad. As surprising as Trump’s rise in the presidential race has been – feeding on the basest elements of the human psyche -- there are still more level heads that hot heads in this country. There are still more people in this country who want the dialogue to improve, who want Washington to work again, who want all races to rise together rather than tear each other down, who want Millennials (and beyond) to feel hope for their future. There are more people in this country who abhor the mocking of the disabled, who are horrified by mobs surrounding dissenters, who are stunned at the descriptions of Mexican immigrants and killing Muslims. Donald Trump, despite his success so far, does not represent the hearts and minds of the majority of Americans. He did not even represent the majority of Americans in the states he has already won. Consider that. 

There are more people in this country who understand that collective greatness is achieved through working together with common hope rather than collective bullying. There are more of us who understand you attract more flies with honey than vinegar, that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing, that we must be the change we wish to see in the world.

Pick your cliché. The premise is the same.  We, the people, are still good at our cores, and we, the people, still have the power to stop a man who tweets Mussolini quotes, whose rallies evoke The Lord of the Flies, and who needs to research the KKK. We, the people, can still vote. And we, the people, must vote. 

Don't let the pundits, the media, or Donald Trump decide this election is over. Do not give them that power. We still hold the power. We can still cast our vote. 

America is great, can be great, will always be great as long as it clings to its fundamental, deeply rooted values. There are values, principles, precepts – call them what you will – at the core, center, heart of our nation. These are not Republican or Democrat or Tea Party or Progressive values. These are human values. These are values that no matter who you are, no matter what your personal political affiliation, no matter what your personal vision is for our country, are fundamental to our way of life in America. These values are what make America great. 

We have our problems, our very serious problems, as a nation. We have much to figure out, to improve, to change. And yes, we have desperately sharp disagreements about how to figure them out, how to improve them, and how to change them.

But it shouldn’t be hard to figure out that those problems are not solved by Donald Trump. Voting from a place of anger, hatred, and retribution is dangerous indeed.

So I beg my fellow voters to use the power that only you have: your power to vote. Please vote. You must vote. But please do not vote for Donald Trump.

I understand the theories and the mathematics of the split vote with the rest of the Republican field. I understand the concerns that as long as there are four other people to vote for, Trump still wins as votes are split between four alternatives. I get that.

But I also get something else: if you vote for someone else, that is one less vote for Trump. The more people who vote for someone else, anyone else, the fewer people who vote for Trump. That’s also mathematical.

There are options. There is a black kid from the ghetto who grew up to be a pediatric neurosurgeon. There is the son of Cuban immigrants whose parents believed that America is the greatest nation on earth. There is a career-long public servant who, as boring as it sounds, actually balanced the national budget – a feat for the history books. And there is a senator who has put his career on the line to fight for what he believes.

We do have choices. Is vulgarity, rudeness, racism, arrogance, and bullying the inevitable choice? Is that the way to make America great again? Oh my goodness no.

The most important choice Americans have – a choice no one can take from us – is the choice to vote. Show the pundits, the media, the Twitter and Facebook feeds of every American, and especially Donald Trump that the power still rests with us, and we vote not to have Donald Trump as the Republican nominee or as our president. Please use your power to make America great again – by voting for anyone other than Donald Trump. He has not yet won the Republican nomination. And he won't if we don't vote for him. But we have to vote for someone. 

So there is someone who can stop Donald Trump. You can. Please vote. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

An Open Letter to Parents in My Child's Classroom about His Peanut Allergy

Dear Parents,

I am the mother of the child with food allergies in your child’s class at school. My son’s particular allergy is peanuts. I am so sorry this often poses an inconvenience for you. I realize that shopping for Halloween candy or Valentine’s candy or classroom birthday treats is a pain because you have to bring peanut-free food because our children’s classroom has been deemed a peanut-free zone. I know that’s an imposition. I love Reese’s and Snickers and Butterfingers. They have always been my go-to candy, too. I’m sorry that you are always reduced to Dum Dums and Smarties and Tootsie Rolls when you’d rather bring “the good candy.” I completely understand how annoying it is to add one more rule to the foods you can bring into the school. At our school, it can’t be homemade and they ask that snacks be “healthy.” And then in our classroom they can’t contain peanuts. I know. Ugh. I truly apologize for making snacks and treats that much more complicated.

But I also thank you for sticking to the rules. I thank you from the very depths of my heart. You see, we live in fear every day of the peanut allergy. It’s not that we cower in a corner and never let our son leave our sights. But we are tempted too. As a parent of a young child with a severe peanut allergy, you realize a simple mistake could be made, a completely innocent oversight on his part or someone else’s, and your child could die. In fact, peanuts would kill our son faster than if someone fed him arsenic. And that’s not a metaphor or hyperbole. That’s a plain fact. A terrifying fact.

Just the other day, a very sweet mother of one of the kids on his baseball team offered him a sugar cookie after the game. We have, of course, taught him to always ask before he eats. He did, and the mother casually said, “Yeah, they should be fine.” It was a busy scene, eager little boys grabbing for their treats. I understand why she didn’t investigate in more detail. They were sugar cookies, after all. Fortunately my husband was there and saw the treats being handed out and got to the box before my son took one. My husband read the ingredient list, and to his horror found peanuts listed as an ingredient. He was startled and had a moment of panic for what might have been, and perhaps too eagerly expressed to the mother that the cookies do have peanuts and we just always have to read the ingredient list before we can give our son a food item, even one that “seems fine.”

She blew him off. No harm no foul. And I completely understand her response. But to us it was a brush with death. Had he bitten into that cookie, his first reaction would have been itchy lips. He would have swelled around his mouth and tongue. He would have started to salivate profusely. He would have known immediately that something was wrong. Without immediate intervention, he would have vomited, and the swelling would have gone to his throat and other parts of his upper respiratory system, would have closed off his airway, would have suffocated him while it sent him into cardiac arrest. At the first symptom, we would have administered his first epinephrine injection and then called 911. If the symptoms didn’t abate before an ambulance arrived, we would have administered another epinephrine injection. We would also have been praying with every ounce of our souls that God would get the ambulance there fast enough to save him.

For a family in Sacramento, California, in 2013, it didn’t arrive fast enough. They were at a family camp and their daughter, 13 years old, had a known allergy to peanuts. In the tiniest unthinking moment, the girl took a bite of a Rice Krispie treat. She knew immediately it had peanut butter in it. She told her mother. They administered Benadryl and three epinephrine injections. She was in cardiac arrest by the time the ambulance arrived. Her father, an MD, was unable to save her.

Just weeks before this incident, in St. George, Utah, another young boy, age 11, popped a pretzel in his mouth at a friend’s house. He did not know it was a peanut butter-filled pretzel. He died three days later at one of the finest children’s hospitals in the western United States.

For both children, these were such simple, innocent missteps. For us, it was the mom at the baseball game who assumed the cookies were fine, the woman at church who kindly made peanut butter bars for all the kids, and even my own father who very innocently handed my son a peanut butter Girl Scout cookie as a treat from grandpa. In each case these were completely innocent. We don’t harbor an ounce of ill will or blame for any of these circumstances. And in each case, we thank our Heavenly Father there was an aware adult who saw the situation and was able to intervene—my husband, a nurse practitioner, and my sister—before the allergen reached his mouth.

But when we think of what could have happened in each of these scenarios, it makes our blood run cold. Our child could have died, very quickly, if peanuts had entered his mouth.

We promise we are doing everything we can to protect him and to minimize your inconvenience as much as possible. We talk very openly to our son about the dangers of his allergy. We are teaching him to read ingredient lists himself. We have rules about never eating anything away from home without asking an adult to first read the ingredient list (not just the packaging describing the food – the actual ingredient list on the back). Often if we are unsure going into a situation, we will give him lunch or a snack to take with him and instruct him not to eat anything else. 

But he is young. So I do understand the inconvenience it poses on you as you bring food into the classroom or if my child comes to play at your house or if your child wants to sit by mine at lunch. I am so sorry, and I do everything I can to minimize the inconvenience to you at school by providing special safe treats for him in the classroom, by leaving his epinephrine in the classroom, and by training his teacher and other school staff to be an intermediary while he is still young enough to need one.

But I hope you also understand that I don’t impose this inconvenience because I’m “that” mom or because I don’t know how to relax. I do it because it a life-threatening condition. A little glob of peanut butter could literally take his life. In less than 30 minutes. Right in your child’s classroom.

Until we understand the peanut allergy better, and until techniques and treatments are perfected enough to be used in clinical settings (and there is hope that they will be), it’s what we live with. I am sorry you have to live with it too because your child is in my child’s class. But I thank you for your simple help by keeping this danger out of his classroom. If your child’s life were threatened and I could do something small to help, I assure you I would. With all of my heart I would.

Thank you for doing that for mine. Thank you.


Lisa Ann Thomson

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Better People Leader

I hope you will forgive me a little self promotion. The project on which I spent the better part of last year is now at a book store near you! (The project on which I spent the better part of *this* year is sitting on my lap, drooling...) I worked with business consultant Chuck Coonradt and publisher Gibbs Smith to create a new business book about leadership. I was the ghost writer -- meaning Chuck had the brilliant ideas and I had the brilliant articulation of those ideas. The result is "The Better People Leader," an excellent (if I do say so myself) little book about how to do better for your people. It is also a companion volume to another of Chuck's books, "The Game of Work."

I would be honored if you found an opportunity to get ten copies for your personal library. =) I would be also honored if those of you associated with blogs or publications found an opportunity to mention the book and extol its virtues.

But most of all, I would be honored if you found the book helpful in your own roles as leaders of people.

Thanks for indulging me this self promo! (It is my blog and my book; I guess I'm allowed to mention it.... =)

Online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble:

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Spirit of Service

Why is it that disasters bring out the best of us? Why don't we give the best of us when there is not disaster? I am pondering this point in the wake of the California wildfires. With more than 2,000 homes completely destroyed and countless more damaged, it is truly heartwarming to see neighbor helping neighbor, stranger helping stranger. As I've watched the news, I've seen many stories of many grateful people who tell of the kindnesses of friends, neighbors, firefighters, and strangers amidst their grief.

You see the "rally" attitude again and again. After Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Andrew, the tsunami, the fires. I know personally of church meetings in which the prepared sermon was set aside and the meeting was spent organizing efforts to feed, clothe, and shelter disaster victims. Donations flood the Red Cross and other relief agencies. People set aside selfishness and biases to help a neighbor in need.

I love that spirit of service, and I'm so glad it still exists and can be called upon in times of need. It makes me proud to be part of our society.

I feel sad, however, that it seems to come out only in the most dire of circumstances. I'm glad the sense of rallying around our neighbor still exists and emerges when most needed. But I hope it doesn't lie dormant the rest of the time. I hope it emerges for even small scale needs, like when a neighbor could use help raking leaves or shoveling snow. I hope it emerges when a neighbor has a new baby or loses a loved one. I hope it emerges when someone's child struggles in school or struggles socially. I hope that spirit of rallying isn't dormant at all, but is exercised daily and weekly in our small spheres of influence. Then the "service" muscles will be strong and up to the task when the need is in a bigger sphere.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Stupid Sports

It used to really bug me when my dad would come home from work, plop down in his chair, and watch sports for the rest of the night. It seemed to my young eyes that the rest of us were running around the house all evening doing dishes, working on homework, getting yelled at by our exhausted mother for leaving our junk everywhere.

And my dad watched sports. I don’t want to make it sound like my father was lazy, because that’s jut false. He broke his back at work, and he worked hard taking care of our yard and our cars at home. But the fascination with sports kind of torqued me.

Until my dad met the man who would become my husband. You never quite know what to say when you are meeting your daughter’s boyfriend for the first time. And in my long history of catch and release, my poor father met many boyfriends for the first time. So you default to the universal questions: What do you do? Where are you from? Where did you go to school? What do you think about the (fill in the blank with any local sports team)? And while the “what do you do” and “where are you from” questions may have generated some idle conversation, the sports question was always the kicker.

With the catch who I finally kept, I watched my dad take him to sports in the first 30 seconds of meeting him, and there they have stayed—and there they have bonded. Today not a conversation goes by that they don’t debate the finer points of this team or that. Dad has come to our house on several occasions to watch “the big game,” and if they watched it separately they are sure to compare notes later. If there’s nothing else to talk about under the sun, they always have sports.

I also observed this with my husband and his own father. When my husband and I met, his father was in the middle of fight with cancer. Discussions of doctors and medications and logistics of care-giving dominated family conversations. But when it was one-on-one with Dad T., inevitably a game was on the television and the conversation revolved around sports. I often observed my husband and his brothers sitting down next to their dad and asking what the score was. They would talk about this quarterback or that running back or who had to win what to advance in the standings. They didn’t dwell on medication or doctors, they dwelt on March Madness and bowl games.

And because of that, they always had something to say. Right up to the end when the battle was almost lost, there was still a golf tournament or a tennis match or a baseball game to analyze and get animated over. The conversation didn’t have to be about another surgery or the possibility of hospice care. It could be about basketball.

I’ve always been on the outside of these conversations. I don’t know much about golf or tennis. But I’ve learned to love what sports has done for my husband’s relationship with my dad and what it did for his relationship with his dad. And I look forward to what it will do with my husband’s relationship with our children. I probably won’t condone watching sports all evening after work every day, but I will better understand what that passion can do for our family.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Skinny Jeans

I was going through some photos last night (o.k., I admit it, I was scrapbooking photos last night….) and I came across a shot taken of me about five years ago. I was wearing a pair of jeans They were stylish in their day, with their nice loose, straight-leg fit. I remember they were even a little large and I had debated whether to buy a size smaller.

I still have those jeans in the back of my closet. They have become my work pants. I pull them out when I’m working in the yard or painting or doing heavy spring cleaning. But the problem is, they aren’t so loose anymore. In fact, they would be considered “fitted,” except they weren’t designed with any stretch and don’t I know it. Sometimes they are so “fitted” that I can’t comfortably zip them up. I’m close to retiring them altogether so I stop bursting into tears every time I have to work in the yard.

It’s not an atypical scenario. Women gain weight in their 30s. If they aren’t vigilant, it can be 10-15 or more pounds over time of natural body-slowing-down weight. I’ve heard of it. I knew it was a possibility. But I exercise, I eat well, I’m active. I certainly didn’t anticipate 10-15 pounds in my future.

Much less 20 pounds. I am actually 20 pounds more than I was in college. Granted, in college you walk miles every day with 50 pounds of books on your back, and you barely get a snack, let alone a meal, most of the time. But is office work really such an enemy to a slender figure? Is there really no way to stay at an active college weight?

Let me tell you what my real beef is: I’m not as mad about the extra 20 pounds as I am about not realizing how thin I really was in college. If anyone looked at me today, not knowing me before, they would call me a tall, slender person. I have never—today or yesteryear—been called fat or heavy or plump or chubby. And I still do not fall into that category. I have a healthy BMI, I am in the target weight range for my height, and I have solid cardiovascular health. And while I would like to drop 10 of those gained 20 pounds, I would still be considered slender if I didn’t.

And that’s what burns me up. If I’m slender at a healthy ??? pounds, I was down right thin at ??? pounds. And I didn’t even know it!!! Oh sure, I didn’t think I was fat. But I always thought I was an average weight and build. I always thought I could lose five pounds for an even better figure. I always looked at skinny girls and acknowledged with what I thought was a healthy attitude, “I will just never look like her. I have hips and the Jackson family thighs.” Well if I had hips then, what are they today?!

I wish I would have recognized the thin, attractive frame I had then and been happy with it. No, I wish I would have reveled in it. I wish I would have never thought for one minute that just an extra five pounds would really make me beautiful. I wish I would have never considered myself a bigger girl (which I have always been taller and wider than many of my associates). I wish I would have loved my body and not thought a minute about it—except to keep it healthy and strong. I wish I would have known what I had and loved it.

Looking back through my scrapbooks doesn’t make me wish I was that size again. It makes me wish I’d known I was that size when I was that size and been delighted with the Jackson family genes. And while I will still do my best to stay slender and, more importantly, healthy, I will do even better at loving the frame I have and not wasting time on wishing it were different.