Sunday, June 17, 2018

First Fatherless Father's Day

There was no refrigerator art or misshapen ashtray found when my dad died last year. At least no one mentioned anything like that even though he was a bit of a hoarder.

This is the first Father’s Day for me without a dad in the world. My dad left the family when I was 10. He was hardly ever really in my world, but at least I knew he was in the world.

My dad stopped by once in a while when his travels brought him near. He sent letters on thin blue stationary. And he assigned book reports in the summers, which he’d edit with a red pencil. Being a child of divorce meant minimizing my expectations. Don’t ask for much and you won’t be disappointed.

In my 20s, I noticed a book in a store titled Adult Children of Divorce. It certainly wasn’t a manual, but it did seem to validate some feelings about being a teenage girl with an unhappy mom and absent dad.

Now don’t feel sorry for me. Without those book reports I may have never become a writer, editor, journalist. A life I love.

And I always dedicate Father’s Day to my Mom.

Since my dad died 8 months ago, I’ve been unclear about how to grieve.  Sue’s Mom died a little more than a year ago and her grief is clear. Her Mom was very present in her life and her loss represents a big hole today. And although Sue believes her parents are now together, the loss of her Mom means Sue and her siblings are now orphans. I see them shifting and changing as they redefine family.

Sometimes sadness over my dad hits me by surprise, and it’s always a little confusing. There’s still a lot packed into my relationship with my dad. In many ways, I’m still a 10-year-old kid.

Today, on Father’s Day, is the first day I’ve cried over his death. All the Father’s Day stories on TV just hit me. Somehow they cut through those minimized expectations.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

60 laps. 60 years. 1 more goal met.

The smile says it all.

Every year on my birthday, I give myself an athletic challenge. This year it was to swim 60 laps, one for each year I've been alive.

This year, I announced my challenge on Facebook adding a little pressure but also opening myself up to fantastic support from friends I've met along the way. I was going to do the swim on my birthday, but we were under a heat advisory and at 106 degrees before 10 a.m. So I delayed and attempted it today, Saturday, the final day of my birthday week.

I got an early start. As with all big things worth doing, it's best to break them down.

After 5 laps: I thought just 12 more sets of 5. At 10 laps: 6 more sets. 20 laps: in a groove.

At 30, the halfway point: I started grinning. One more set of 30.

Laps 40 and 50: It's kind of like an out-and-back run, the return leg feels like I've done the work and everything else is gravy. Dig in, keep going.

And during laps 51-60: I started thinking about the literal meaning of those laps. Each lap was a quick up-and-back to review my life during the past few years. Cutting through the water, I was leaving those years behind.

And during my final lap, lap 60: I thought about what's to come, what I can make of my 60h year.

During that final lap, I set a couple of goals. Some people would call that setting my intentions. I call it preparing for my 61st birthday challenge.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Annual birthday challenge to myself

I've had a lot of great accomplishments in my life. I've done a lot of cool things. One of the things I'm most proud of is that as an adult I re-taught myself to swim. A strong crawl which got me through several triathlons and a couple of 5-mile races off of Waikiki. 

On my birthdays, I always do something athletic and I tie it to how long I've been alive. 50-minute run on my 50th birthday. 55-minute hike on my 55th. 

I've been swimming a lot these days, 30 laps 4 or 5 times a week. On Tuesday, I plan to swim 60 laps. One up and back for every year of my life. And after that, I want cake. Lots of cake. Happy birthday to me and thanks, in advance, for all of your best wishes.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Working from home is healthier

spinach cherry tomatoes and egg healthy breakfast

When I took this job which allows me to work from home frequently (No Oprah reruns!!), I knew it would be convenient, fun, smart, and I'd save a bundle on work clothes and gas.  But I didn't realize it would give me such a good opportunity to be more healthy.

Instead of grabbing a yogurt and throwing some granola in it (my former healthy breakfast routine), today I took advantage of what I had in the fridge and made a great breakfast.

Egg & Tomatoes on a Spinach Nest

2 handfuls of fresh spinach
2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes
Saute in harissa-infused olive oil.

When the tomatoes started to soften, I broke an egg on top, turned down the heat and let it cook.  I flipped the whole thing over for an over easy spinach nest and served it up with coffee.

I was the only one in the house feeling this kind of healthy this morning. It really didn't take long, but took much more time than I'd ever give myself if I had to head into an office.

So today, at least, I've proven to myself that working from home can be healthier. And it's a reminder to keep some healthy fresh veggies in the fridge.

Hoorah for work-life balance!!!!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Holiday morning: A little meditation at the car wash

As my car started through the drive-through car wash while out on my Martin Luther King Jr. Day chores, I grabbed my camera to take a few still shots of the windshield.

I hit the video button instead and like what I got. A drive through this tunnel we can all relate to and a bright shiny clean car.

I like watching this with the sound down.  It's a little like watching a fish tank.  A little meditation on whatever you want.

Robin, Phoenix

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Week No. 5 in my Year of Lunches

Happy New Year, everybody!
I'm well into my Year of Lunches that was kicked off with this Thanksgiving Day Facebook post. Today, I went out with Iris Green, my mother-in-law for her very favorite meal: Fish & Chips.

ME: hmm... they have fish & chips
IRIS: I'llhavefish&chips!
ME: and they have hamburgers...
IRIS: I'llhavefish&chips!

She did.  Fish & chips and a cuppa.  Cup of tea that is.   And it was lovely.

Anyone who wants to keep track of my Year of Lunches, can see the photos on my Flickr page:  Year of Lunches album.

For Iris, this is a little slice of heaven. We had a very nice lunch.

Robin, Phoenix

Friday, October 17, 2014

Marriage Equality in Arizona, It's Personal

Marriage equality in Arizona: It’s personal  

Sue Green is a former journalist and the broadcast director of Cronkite News Service at Arizona State University. Four years ago, she married her partner of 15 years.  She first moved to Arizona in 1979.

My father used to tell me how he had to wait years for his marriage to be accepted in every state, but he didn’t say it with pity. He said it with pride because he had to fight for it.. You see he got married in 1961, six years before the Loving vs. Virginia ruling was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court making it legal for all interracial couples to get married. Just straight couples of course, but hey, it was a step in the right direction.

My parents – a black man from California and a white woman from Liverpool - had a party that weekend to celebrate their freedom, their freedom to go where they wanted and not be afraid they would be turned away because by simply loving each other, they were breaking laws. When they married, only 24 states recognized their marriage. They even had to battle the military to get “permission” to. They met in England in 1959 and, like many G-I’s and British women, they fell in love and wanted to be together, to make a family. They just wanted to get married. But there was nothing logical about it because in more than half the states back home in the U.S., it was against the law.

After being called in to meetings with some of his superiors who spent hours trying to dissuade him, often questioning my mother’s motives, my father stuck by the side of the woman he loved, and the military eventually gave in, having no choice but to allow them to marry. No derogatory words yelled at both my mother and father during these meetings, or even threats, were going to change their minds. They loved each other and wanted to get married like their other friends.

After my mother and father were called into the offices of my dad’s bosses, and my mother called a whore, and threatened with not being able to get a VISA, and my dad being told he had to make a choice, my dad’s superiors realized this tactic would not work, and my father finally got the go-ahead and was told they could marry, but we could never be stationed at any base in any state where “miscegenation” was against the law. We would not be heading South. Quickly, my father agreed and got on the phone with my mother, telling her to grab her wedding dress which had been hanging in her closet for months. He wanted to get to registrar’s office before the military powers that be would change their minds.

That afternoon, they found a preacher, got my mother’s family together, and stood before the priest, God and a handful of friends and committed themselves to each other, regardless of the law in some states. That commitment was as strong the day my father died as it was the day they tied the knot, knowing they faced an uphill battle. But not letting it scare them off.

 Because of the laws against interracial marriages, we could not get orders to be sent to live in any of the states that did not recognize their marriage like Texas or Arizona, but that didn’t matter. My dad said there were plenty of other places that would accept him, his white wife and bi-racial child. We were eventually sent to California, and I quickly came along, followed 14 months later by my sister, and 14 month’s later by my brother.

 This interracial family with four young children who couldn’t have looked more different sort of stood out on the base. It seemed as if when we came out one after the other we got lighter and our hair got straighter. My brother could easily have passed for white, but not the rest of us. But while some people might have called us names, it didn’t bother us. We lived in a house where we knew our parents really wanted us, and were even willing to break the law to have us. How many people could say that?! We sort of lived in this safety cocoon at least while we lived on that base in California.

Then in 1967 everything changed. The Supreme Court said my parent’s marriage had to be recognized, and we were no longer “bastards” as some had called us. We were legal, everywhere.  At that point in my life, little did I know that fighting for marriage equality was far from over for me, that it was to become somewhat of a tradition for me.


You see, some 46 years later I found myself facing the same challenges my parents had faced when I decided to marry the woman of my dreams. My marriage to Robin Phillips was only legal in so many states, and many people told us don’t do it, it’s not worth the trouble, it will never be recognized. Sound familiar? Even Robin, my partner at the time had refused my marriage proposals several times when I asked her to marry me because she said she didn’t want to get married until all states would recognize it.

It wasn’t until I had to have a life threatening surgery that she finally gave in, married me, and wiped my sloppy tears as the minister conducted our ceremony on the beach in Provincetown, Mass., one of the few states that would recognize my marriage.

I didn’t realize how important this was to me until we signed our marriage license application and I realized this was how my parents felt, signing that paper, knowing that not everyone would recognize their marriage, but knowing they would, and that’s all that counted. It didn’t mater if it was just the two of us, or the 300 million people in the country, I just wanted to be married to Robin, and I didn’t care what the courts, lawmakers, voters or anyone else had to say about it. I knew that In Massachusetts I was “legal” and I was going to be legally married somewhere.

I felt my parents by my side even though they were not physically there as the wedding day arrived.  Robin, myself, the minister and two new friends stood there as we said our vows, heartfelt vows that summed up what we felt in the past, what we felt in that moment and what we were sure to feel in the future when the entire world would recognize what our small group of friends and family recognized, that we were now married.

Robin and I are lucky, we came home from our wedding and our neighbors had decorated our house. Before Pete and June knew us, they did not have friends who were gay, but after getting to know us as just “regular” people, they knew how important it was that we come home to Arizona, a state that did not recognize same sex marriage, and let us know they were with us. Heck, let the entire neighborhood know! Two other friends, Mark and Val, asked if they could throw us a wedding party. We have incredibly supportive family and friends, and we are just waiting for the day when they get to celebrate our “fully fledged marriage” with us, and not in just the 30 states where it is recognized.

I can go into the many legal reasons this is so important, but on this day, a day I was afraid I would never see before I passed, I would rather just spend the time thanking my family and friends for their support, the love of my wife Robin who has seen me through some tough times the past few years, the many people who I don’t know but who have fought to give Robin and I these rights, and my mother and father, those 63 years ago who taught me that it doesn’t matter if everyone agrees with you. If your love is strong enough it will be strong enough to survive all the hurtful words, and looks and comments over the years.

 They taught me that it was also my responsibility to the many who might not be as strong, and together as Robin and I have been strong enough to wait together, arm in arm not just with each other but our friends and family for this day, this day when our home state of Arizona is forced to recognize our marriage.

So, I say Thank You to all the people before me who have fought for the basic rights to be married, and those after who will continue to fight for others. Because what I have found is that love is indeed enough to see you through the tough times, and it is an amazing love that hopefully will help those who might not agree with these decisions to remember we are people with hearts and feelings, and if you can’t support us, at least respect the idea that we love each other as much as you might love the person you are with.

I thank the 9th Circuit Court for falling on the side of those who support the idea that all people are created equal, and are willing to stand behind those words. While I wish that the voters of Arizona had had another chance to make this decision, I am happy that the court at least has seen that here in Arizona, Robin and I are like any other married couple. I thank you for helping me to once again have a reason for thanking my mother and father for showing me that no matter how difficult the journey, it is well worth each step of the way because you meet the most amazing and incredible people. Along the journey They might not always agree with everything you say, but they are good people, and they will amaze you at times when they stand up for you, so you remember to stand up for those who need your support.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Family class tops business class anytime

I did a lot of traveling this summer.  Some for work, some personal.  Vacations, family, conventions.

Early in my career, I thought travel was romantic. The people in my newsrooms who got to go on trips were doing cool stuff.

It certainly can be a great perk, but traveling for work is also tiring. And it takes me away from family, friends, routine.  I'm not alone in that feeling.

One of the sweetest things I saw on my trips this summer was a woman who appeared to be a pretty senior exec -- you know how it goes, fashion, nails, hair. All giveaways. All first class.

She wandered down the aisle in her power suit with the rest of us. The only difference was she was holding on to the hand of a 6-year-old boy.  It was June. School was out. She had a meeting somewhere, but she also had a little one who was out of school.

The sweet part came when she got to the row in front of me. She leaned down and quietly asked the man in the middle seat if he'd swap tickets with her so she could sit next to her son.  He said sure, got up, retrieved his bag and exchanged tickets.  That's when he realized she was sending him back up to First Class where her corporate-funded seat was.  She was trading a middle seat back in the cattle car to sit with her boy.  Her young son who was on a very cool field trip with his mom.

What did you do on your summer vacation?  That little guy watched videos and chatted with his mom all the way from Chicago to L.A.  What did she do? She got the job done and had an adorable plus-one for all her adventures.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Beating the heat with a little shadow walking

 When I was a kid, my mom used to announce on some summer days that "It's too hot to eat!"

I get that. But in Arizona in the summer, you have to eat eventually.  It's really too hot to do anything. But you gotta live.

Early this evening, I was antsy. I had to move. I needed a little exercise. Haven't you heard? Sitting is the new cancer?  And besides, my Jawbone UP told me I needed about 2,500 more steps today.

It was 111 degrees out. (It's 9:40 at night now and it's only cooled off to 105.) Yet the sun was casting long shadows, so I went shadow walking.  I had a good walk, nearly 3 miles, moving from shadow to shadow.  It kind of became a game. How long could I keep going without stepping back into the sun?

I enjoyed my shadow walking. It took my mind off the heat. You gotta live.  You gotta move. And now my UP's telling me I gotta go to bed.

Robin, Phoenix

Sunday, May 18, 2014

What color is your parachute? Or what will you make of your parachute?

 For the last three years, six semesters to be precise, I have co-taught a 400-level required journalism course with John Dille, the wise man in the video above.

John and I have made a great team.

We teach a course about the Business & Future of Journalism. John is awesome talking about 'Big B' Business. And I share lots of information about what newsrooms are doing these days to attempt to guarantee that they'll be around in the Future.

John had taught the class on his own for two semesters before I signed on. It didn't take long for us to get in step with each other, using some of what John had taught before and adding new wrinkles to the class syllabus. The topic is a moving target and we are constantly updating our class content. But even so, after six semesters together, we've gotten into a pretty smooth routine.
John and me at graduation 2014.

We were lucky to have each other. 

I was very lucky to teach with such a caring, passionate educator and journalist. And I think the best students leave our class understanding that too.

In the final minutes of the final day of each semester, we offer some last words of advice to our students. I tell tell them not to be afraid to change directions along the way and to remember that they are snowballs - always accumulating knowledge, experience, skills that will serve them well no matter what they do.

John tells them the story caught on video above.

Because Spring 2014 at the Cronkite School of Journalism has been our final semester (we're going to take a little break), I was moved to record the tale that John always shares during these last minutes that we still have the students' attention. It's a winner. Even graduating seniors stop and take note. You should watch it.

Our class from the Spring 2013 semester. They look extra-serious because they are taking a quiz.

Robin Phillips, Phoenix 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Memory: When the head lets go, the heart holds on

My mother-in-law is fading.  She has Alzheimer's.

It's OK.  She's happy.  She remembers her kids, when to go to meals, the walking route around her complex.

She remembers she loves a cup of tea, and R&B, and riding in the car.  And most of all she remembers her husband, the love of her life who's been gone since 1996.

But a few weeks ago, she forgot me.

I hadn't been by to visit for a couple of weeks and when my name was brought up, she was a little fuzzy on just who I am and what I mean to the family.

I picked her up on the next Saturday morning so she could spend some time with me sitting on the porch, reading and drinking a cup of tea. When I first appeared, she cocked her head looking a little unsure and asked "What's happening?!"  She was ready to go for a ride, but not quite sure who she was going with.

The confusion didn't last long. Once we were in the car and heading toward home, Iris relaxed. We made that cuppa and then sat for hours, justing hanging out in each other's presence.

And family told me that she talked a lot that next week about the fun morning with Robin sitting on the porch. That was her Perfect Moment.

My Perfect Moment was when Iris truly did remember me again.

Robin, Phoenix 


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