Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July, Hopespotters! Don’t be alarmed by the double header this week. This is what happens when I get a few days away to clear my head.


Throughout my life, I’ve had a love / hate relationship with the Fourth of July. Growing up, it was a wonderful day, marking the middle of swim team season. We would shower and wear “real clothes” to get together and watch fireworks and dance. It was indescribably magical. When that tradition went away, nothing could compare and the day became a drudgery of where would we watch fireworks and get eaten by mosquitos. As a married person, my first Fourth was terrifying as our golden retriever puppy nearly ran away from terror of fireworks. I’ve never really gotten in the spirit, to be honest, from that day.


That isn’t to say that my whole heart isn’t behind what the day represents. The Fourth of July is Independence Day. The day that marks the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the all time best (as twitter pointed out today) break up letter. I’m no historian, but any American worth citizenship could tell you that it was this document, signed in Philadelphia in 1776, that inspired the holiday we celebrate today. It was the grand and clear message that made us America. And that document, contains wisdom for the ages.

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation.

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…..”

OK, hold my beer while I do this without getting political.

The Declaration of Independence, written by a group of white men, in wigs, in a hot room in Philadelphia provides a worthy road map for us today. And while we could easily apply it to arguments on both sides of the Congressional aisle, I’m not interested. I have ears for our forefathers in the battles I face daily.

For example,  “a necessary for one people to dissolve political bands” is the right on message to dump toxic people from your life. Doesn’t need to be a British monarchy forcing taxation without representation for you to grab your own inner hero and say, “I’m out of this relationship”. The sooner each of us could do that, the healthier we’d be.

“...a decent respect to the opinions of mankind…” may be part of sentence out of context but should be a social media law. Can you imagine John Hancock and Thomas Jefferson tweeting about #largesignature or #gotslaves.  We relied upon these men, and their assumed shared respect, to establish our country. Undoubtedly, they had feelings about each other’s lifestyle but “respect to the opinions” still existed.

I’ll skip the portion of declaring these truths to be self evident, because I have no right to get to preachy. And I want to get to the juicy part of the rights being, “...Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness..

I love to live in the United States of America for one hundred million reasons, but in the top ten has to be that in our founding document we discussed “Happiness”.  Pursuit of this condition was listed as a right in this document. A. Right.

I’m no historian so honestly I have no idea if any other countries preach Happiness in their core values. I just know that my country does and I think that is awesome.

Here’s why: Happiness is hard to come by. The right to pursue it is a blessing. Declaring Independence from the thing or things that prohibit that pursuit is a battle that exists for all of us today. While flipping off the King of another country seems grandiose and untimely, facing down the evil that keeps us from “pursuing happiness” is here for all of us every day.  

And just as our forefathers stepped forward with bravery in their Declaration, each of us has to summon an equal amount of courage. To say no. To say yes. To ask for help. To pursue happiness. Get out of toxic relationships. Leave bad jobs. Tell your loved one you need more. Ask for forgiveness. Or grant it. Frankly, live like you are dying.

For me, as fireworks are already whistling out my window, I am going to embrace this Fourth of July holiday as many of us do the New Year, with resolutions. Hopespotters, join me in Declaring Independence from any and every thing that prohibits you from the pursuit of Happiness.  



Seventeenth Anniversary

Saturday is my 17th wedding anniversary. It is predicted to be a beautiful day, just like it was on the day we were married. I actually drove by the church in which we married today, upon leaving a patient’s home, and it made me a touch nostalgic.

Seventeen years is a long time. Our marriage could drive in New Jersey. I looked up the traditional gift for the seventeenth wedding anniversary and it is furniture.

Furniture. That’s perfect.

I think when “they” chose the traditional gifts, even “they” knew that marriage year 17 was so lackluster that a new kitchen table, or La-Z-boy, was the only thing that could make anyone give a crap at all.  And that is best case scenario.

Gentle reader, I am not going to lie to you. No one is going to make an animated fairy tale movie about our marriage from this past year. Without getting too personal or uncomfortable, dull intermixed with crap is probably the best description of this most recent rotation around the sun.

To be clear, the love isn’t gone. Not at all. In fact, if it were, the story might take new twists and turns for greater reader interest. But. To be clear, the love isn’t gone.

Seventeen years of battling the underside of vows can take a toll. The sickness. The poorer. The worse. For all the days of our life. We’ve had multiple blessings, to be sure. Ryan and Sean being the brightest among them and it would be inaccurate to deny our gratitude.

However, with the imminent arrival of our wedding anniversary on the calendar, one can’t help but to take an inventory. And if one is honest, one isn’t always wholly satisfied with the picture, as unrealistic as it might have been.

With recognition that no piece of furniture is going to be part of our anniversary celebration, Kevin and I have talked extensively about our plans for September 30. Atlanta is a hot town with a super cool night life that we were ready to take on.

Except, I’m trying to lose weight. And one glass of wine will make me want to go to bed and not in the good way. Aoli oil, infused in the sexiest of dishes, upsets my stomach quickly and Ryan and Sean have sunday school early the next morning.

Year 17 does deserve furniture. A bed or an elevated toilet seat.

Tonight, Kevin and I came home from work - exhausted- to the boys - exhausted- and no dinner was to be found or made from what existed in the fridge. We needed to go out or order in. Ryan, feebly, suggested Tokyo Boat and we all agreed.

Tokyo Boat, for my non local friends, is a hibachi, Benihana, kind of restaurant. Yes it is a little expensive and yes my clothes smell like the food when we leave, but I can count on Tokyo Boat for filling my sons with a good week’s worth of calories, as they love the food so much.

So tonight, my tired, uninspired, screen fixated family headed out to the the Tokyo Boat for an impromptu mid week dinner out..

And I got something so much better than furniture.

After a few (ok, a lot) of “put your phone down”s, our hibachi chef arrived to prepare our fried rice feast. The typical antics of fire, utensil juggling, and food tossing ensued… and my family engaged. We were the only four in the restaurant and the hibachi chef didn’t hold back from the full routine.

The combination of meal preparation fun and good stick to the ribs food changed the family mood entirely. We were talking, and laughing, and planning, and more talking.

It isn’t that we NEVER talk and laugh at dinner, but it isn’t always easy to come by. The transformation beside this hibachi grill on this night was so great it did make me smile.

It made me smile for this reason: Kevin and I had been trying to plan a special anniversary celebration to affirm for each other that we’ve “endured” a worthy 17 years and produced a beautiful product. I, at least, wanted to think that dressing up on Saturday night would bring back those "I absolutely have no doubt about these vows" feelings and that I wouldn’t be sad to find an ottoman with a bow on it when we got home.

The 17 year you should get furniture people have it all wrong. The longer I stay married the less I think I know, but tonight I am sure I know this: for friends and family celebrating an anniversary in the mid late teens, I suggest you wish them a "Tokyo Boat, catch food in your mouth, fill your belly with rice, remember why you love your family" impromptu mid week outing. It may be small but I promise you it is mighty.

It is the best thing you could wish for them, because I am here to tell you that it is a wish/ gift that keeps the light on. Watching your kid catch a shrimp in his mouth at Tokyo Boat and forgetting about the school standardized testing is the better to the worse, the richer to the poorer and the health to the sickness.

No, it isn’t sexy. It isn’t even furniture. But enough Tokyo Boats packed together may absolutely be the string from 17 to 18, and that is the biggest gift of all.