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Before I Die

Before I Die Collage

What started out as a way to process personal grief reasonated so deeply with the human heart that it became a Movement sweeping the Nation.

It is now here in Placerville.

“Before I Die” was unveiled last night, and you can find it in the middle of Main Street on the Robinsons Pharmacy window.  As I journeyed Downtown for the unveiling, I expected it to be a cool idea; what I didn’t expect was to be so profoundly moved. Little by little, people joined the celebration as the canvas concealing this interactive art project was revealed. A chalkboard confronted us with row after row of “Before I die I want to __________” boldly painted across its face. The blank line and container of multicolored chalk beaconed our entries.

The crowd sat there, transfixed.   I don’t presume to know what everyone was feeling as I imagine it was deeply personal. I only have my own reaction to act as a guide.

I felt challenged to come up with a monumental answer. (What would the right answer be? What would people think was meaningful?).   I quickly threw that out of my thought as I knew this wasn’t a performance. It wasn’t about other people…this challenge was asking us all to look inside our Bucket List and set as a goal those desires hiding in our heart. And we all have lots of them!   Big and small. Some meaningful, some just plain fun!

After I sorted through my first reaction, I found I felt naked…that I was bearing my soul for judgement. (“Gee, that’s a pretty shallow goal.”  Or  “Oh, that’s wonderful!”). Once again, I kicked myself. It’s amazing how often we need to shift through our need to have other people validate us. And the ironic thing is, when we are authentic, when we are willing to be human, vulnerable, fallible, it’s then that we find connection with one another.

One by one, the chalk called us and we bravely put our hand to the board. The range of desires was moving…

One person wanted to kiss under the moon.

One wanted to hike the John Muir Trail.

A little boy wanted to learn to ride a bike.

Many yearned to travel.

One aspired to raise someone from the dead

Another wanted to walk his girls down the aisle.

And there was one entry that brought me to my knees….

It was a lovely, mature woman that wrote in bold, hot pink letters that she wanted to “experience true love.” My heart broke for her that she hadn’t had that deep privilege yet. My spirit celebrated her for the courage to so boldly pen that most profound desire. And my immediate prayer for her was that love would come crashing into her life, sweep her off her feet and envelope her with passion, tenderness and joy. I will continue to hold that in my heart for her.

“Before I Die” will be on Main Street waiting for you. Write all over it. Spill out the wishes of your heart. It will be photographed to preserve the answers, then it will be erased to await a new dose of desires, filling it up again and again.

The wall filled up quickly last night and I was moved by the commonality that connects us all. Our desires are really not all that different. We want love. We want adventure. We want connection. We want new experiences. We want to learn new things.

We want to fully experience the journey of being human.

And my desire, you ask? (Don’t judge me). I want to go to Italy with the man I love. I want to eat spaghetti in San Marco’s square.   I want to share Dennis’ wonder and amazement when he sees Michelangelo’s “David” for the first time. I want to be moved to tears together in the Sistine Chapel. And I want to kiss under the moonlight as we stroll along the Amalfi Coast.

And someday we’re going to do that because I have now written it on a wall on Main Street.

The chalk is waiting for you.


(This interactive community art project is sponsored by Debbie Cheevers and Janice Curtin of Marshall Hospital’s Advanced Illness Management Program, Eric & Moira Magneson of Magnus Construction, Dennis Thomas of Robinsons Pharmacy and Snowline Hospice. Our deepest thanks to you all…this project is so cool!)

What We Stand For

Moment of silence

Our Country and our community is reeling over the horrific attack on our law enforcement personnel in Dallas, and we should be horrified. This senseless act of violence should also heighten our awareness that the heroic men and women in uniform who have pledged their lives to keep us safe, deserve our allegiance, our respect, our gratitude and our full support.

This violent attack should also shine a light on us.

It is time that we stand strong against the divisiveness that seeks to divide and destroy communities all across America. There are individuals and groups embedded in our cities and towns working to destroy them from the inside out. Their tactics range from subtle to overt…whether it’s simply planting doubt or suggesting conspiracies or it’s outright lies and broadcasts of hate, it is time we stand up against this nonsense. It is time that we cast aside our tendency to jump to conclusions and to make quick, sweeping judgments on hearsay. It’s time to stop spending our time and mental energy on efforts that would destroy the fabric of our communities and neighborhoods.  It’s time we stop being so afraid of being “politically correct” that we fail to stand for ANYTHING.

One of my favorite quotes is by Edmund Burke who stated: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”   We are the “good men” (and women) and the battle against evil is on our shoulders.

In fact, it is up to us…

  • To voice the truth when we hear lies being spread.
  • To think for ourselves rather than believing and acting upon rumor and personal opinion.
  • To spend our time and energy in efforts that build community rather than destroy it.
  • To be patient in times of strife and allow the truth to be revealed before rushing to judgement.
  • To work for the common good. To build relationships, and to work productively as positive change agents when circumstances need adjusting.
  • It’s up to us to challenge evil intent rather than standing passively by
  • And it’s up to us to draw a line in the sand and choose to be Americans that are proud of their Country and who are willing to stand in the gap against anyone or anything that would seek her destruction.

And it starts HERE.   It starts with us deciding who we want to be, how we want to live and what we want to flourish in our community.  Are we going to allow hatred to prevail?  Are we going to let malevolent intent divide us?  Or are going to let goodness strengthen and unify the fabric of our community so there is no place for evil to take root.

We get to choose what thrives in our City, in our State and in our Nation.  

And I believe in the power of good.  It’s worth standing for.



Just a Reminder


I didn’t want to go. We had been running for months. I felt behind on my work and I thought I needed a weekend to catch up on my work. Then my sweet husband suggested a weekend at the beach. I should have jumped at the chance; I knew I wanted to go. And while I said “yes”, I worried about what wouldn’t get done in a weekend away. I felt burdened by the time away and it showed in my attitude on the drive to the coast.

Fast forward a day later.  After a relaxing day of good food, reading, and maybe a glass of wine, we were walking on the beach as rogue waves pounded the sand. It was then I noticed it… an irregular shaped oval stone, pounded smooth from the surf, whose pattern reminded me of burled maple. As we approached it, I yearned to touch it. As we walked by it, my eye remained fixed and I noticed my urge to pick it up. Quickly I rationalized, “It’s only a rock. It doesn’t matter” as I hurried on by.  A voice said, “Pick it up. You know you want to”.  And all the times that my rational mind had denied a simple pleasure came crashing forward and I ran back to pick it up.

It was smooth. Silky in my hand. I enjoyed tumbling it end over end in my palm. As we walked along the beach, I asked myself what would have happened if I hadn’t picked it….nothing.  But I was cherishing the joy of a moment, unhurried, gifted, unsought…a moment that was possible because I had “let go”.  Let go of all the “have to’s” and “should’s”. All the preambles to something else that was yet to come.  I let go, for a moment, of revenue challenges, of sales tax measures, of finding solutions to the homeless and affordable housing mandates. Let go of trying to figure it out. Just let go of tomorrow and allowed the present to be enjoyed, unhurried. And I smiled, in the moment, peaceful, turning a rock over in my hand.

It will sit on my desk as a reminder of the patterns of life that are varied, diverse, and layered. That life is made up of big moments, of victories after hard won battles, and sweet, spiritual tender mercies that are indescribable in words. Of times of hard work and all the moments in between…unhurried, breathless in simplicity….that remind us we will be more effective in our work, we will love more deeply, if we take the time to notice.

And run back to pick up a rock that has caught our eye and just enjoy it.

It is will sit my desk….just to remind me.

Time for a New Focus…a New Twist

Bell Tower Twist

WE SEE OUR CITY EVERY DAY.  We drive its streets.  We shop in its stores.  We live in its neighborhoods, but what are we focusing on?  What are we looking at?  What vision do we have for our community?

I RECENTLY ATTENDED a League of California Cities conference and had an “A-ha” moment.  It was presented that if we want, or need, something to change in our City, if we want to achieve something new, we need to get a new vision.  We need a new bold twist in our thoughts and actions.

IT WOULD BE SO EASY TO FOCUS ON OUR PROBLEMS. Yes, our streets are in terrible condition.  Our water/sewer rates are too high.  Our infrastructure is failing before our eyes.  Our shopping districts on Placerville Drive and Broadway have challenges. Our revenue stream is not sufficient to meet our needs.  Man, what a state we’re in!  But to continue to focus on our challenges will keep us in a defeated state of decline.

WHAT IF WE TWIST OUR PERCEPTION OF THESE CHALLENGES?  Would it change our attitude to think that these problems are coming to our attention to be corrected, once and for all?  Would we be more hopeful, more resolved to action, if we understand that it is in our power to fix them, rather than once again kick these problems down the road?  What would a new vision look like?  


  • Envisioning new possibilities without the fear of losing what is precious in our community.
  • Dreaming of amentities that add to our charm and character without changing it.
  • Boldly exploring options and then deciding what works for us.
  • Saying “YES” to solutions that make sense.
  • Saying “NO” to obstructionist tactics that breed fear to further a personal agenda.
  • Having the courage to trust, where trust is due.
  • Collaborating in different ways with local partners.
  • Advocating for positive change in some areas while protecting what makes us unique and special in others.
  • Acting on our priorities without getting sidetracked and derailed.
  • Being proactive rather than continually reactive.
  • Pursuing new revenue streams that will ensure our financial strength.
  • Investing in tools and/or resources that will make us money in the future.
  • Recognizing that time doesn’t have to stand still to preserve what we’ve got.
  • Understanding we CAN honor our history, protect our unique character while repurposing parts of our community that need help.

A NEW VISION WOULD LOOK LIKE A FORWARD FOCUS.  Our best days are not behind us, they are in front of us.  Our best days are, however, making new demands of us, and if we don’t accept them, we will continue to have the challenges we currently have.  And that’s not good enough for our incredible City.

Let’s see our way through these current problems as we invite in a new vibrant prosperity for Placerville.  That’s a focus and twist worth pursuing.





Keeping Your Torch Lit

Bamboo citronella torches to repell mosquitoes and other insects

In Ancient Greece, there was a relay race known as the Torch Race in which competitors were tasked with running the course with a lit flame. Time was a factor in that the first to cross the finish line won.  However, what was most important was keeping the fire burning throughout the race because only those who had a burning light were qualified to win.
I heard this competition referred to on the radio today, and I was inspired by its symbolism.  
In life, we often start something “all fired up”.  It might be a job that we are excited to embrace; it might be an idea we want to run with or a new relationship that is burning hot.  In this initial stage, it’s all too easy to be enthusiastic and feel like our actions are lit from within.  Then a little time passes.  Maybe we have a few setbacks; run into some roadblocks.  We settle into the routine of life and allow the early passion to be dulled by the mundane.  Perhaps our confidence is diminished by criticism and opposition and we squelch our shining exuberance because the heat makes us uncomfortable.
What hit me is that it is not enough to just run!  We must guard our flame, protect it and nourish the source of the light, because it’s not the race that is important, it’s the light and the heat.  That is what sets us apart.  I also loved the idea that the Torch Race took the competitors from one sacred place to another.  And haven’t we seen that in our own life? … Moments of growth where we let the fire within propel us to a place we have never been before.  And that elevated level is a sacred place.
I’m re-lighting my torch and I look forward to seeing you on the racetrack.

Roses in Bloom…Our El Dorado Rose


Today, I had the distinct pleasure of being one of the judges for the El Dorado Rose Contest.  While I have always admired our El Dorado Roses, I have a whole new appreciation for them.  They are far more than gracious women enveloped in beautiful, often homemade gowns; they are remarkable people.

Among the 3 lovely candidates, there was a refreshing candor that brought you to your knees with raw honesty.  An unapologetic frankness that was bold enough to stare disadvantage in the face and wrestle it to the ground until it became a firm foundation on which to rise tall and be a blessing to others.

There was a commitment to service when no one was looking.  Not the kind of service that parades with good deed doer’s…not the kind of service that carries fancy titles and a wall of recognition plaques…not the kind of service that receives annual awards and doles out acceptance speeches flush with humility.  No, it was the kind of service who regularly paints a neighbor’s house because they aren’t able to do it.  The kind that just goes in and does yard maintenance because a community member isn’t able.  The kind of service that makes a difference one person at a time by helping young people write college essays and learn how to work.  The kind of service that goes into the senior center or apartments week after week to bring joy and relief from boredom through music and song.  The kind of service that sees beyond limitations and mistakes and breathes hope and opportunity to female inmates by teaching them to read, not only to themselves but to each other.

Today we also witnessed the charms of a lady, where graciousness is embraced, embodied and valued.  Where generosity is a way of life.  Where the school of life is an opportunity for growth and reflection and where those lessons are also a call to service. Where beauty flows from the deep wells of experience and wisdom within.

Now don’t worry, there’s no spoiler alert here…I have no idea yet who “won”.  You’ll have to attend the El Dorado County Fair on Thursday, June 18 at 7 p.m. in the Imagination Theater to find out.  All I know is there are 3 incredible, beautiful women who will carry on a legacy of service in this County with distinction, whether they are selected or not.

So next time you see a “Rose”, admire her lovely gown.  Be amazed at the attention to detail, color, fabric, embellishment.  Then move past that and be embraced by her charm, her love for this County, her passion for her life’s work, her dedication to the pursuits which have called her and demanded her attention and time.  Most of all be captivated by her love of community and the people who are in it.

You don’t need to stop and smell the roses…that would be pretty weird.  Maybe just take the time to stop and say hello.  Our Roses are pretty remarkable.

With Gratitude for the People of Placerville


It was an ordinary Friday afternoon which magically became extraordinary.

It was hot and visiting my Father-in-law, I got the idea that he might like a cool confection.  Suggesting I run and get him a milkshake from Baskin Robbins, I set out on my intended task.   Stepping into the store on Broadway, I recognized the man in front of me.  He was a customer from long ago, and we greeted each other with familiar warmth.  As the conversation progressed, he gave me an unexpected gift.  He recanted how he had watched City Council meetings and that he recognized that the atmosphere was sometimes hostile; that during those times he sent out thoughts of encouragement and blessing.  How amazing that someone would support us with such grace!  I felt strengthened…supported.

He then went on to tell me that when he frequented my former business, he had been treated with warmth and that it had made a difference to him. I was surprised and humbled as I couldn’t recall any herculean acts of kindness.  He mentioned that he had written a book that was at The Bookery on Main Street, and we had a lovely interaction and went on our way.  As we left, we both felt a sweet sense of gratitude.

The next day, I went down to the Bookery and bought Letters From A Woodland Hermit by Anonymous.

You need to get it.

It will humble you.  It will make you intensely grateful for this precious town in which we live.  It will make you fall in love all over again with our merchants, from Main Street to Broadway to Placerville Drive, that give of themselves in service to this city.  Most of all, it will make you keenly aware of the countless saints which bless our community everyday with their selfless acts of kindness.

Daily, there are people that support their neighbor…that look after them.  There are employees that make a difference in the lives of the people they serve. These are the heros of our town.  The ordinary, everyday heros that make time to listen to what is important to the people around them.  Who go out of their way to do someone a favor.  Who render small acts of kindness that can transform a day.

I am immensely grateful for this reminder that I am in service to you… to you who give of yourselves daily, without thought of recognition or gratitude.  Who care for your neighbor because it is the right thing to do.   You don’t wait for someone else to care.  You don’t wait for a government program to take care of the need.  You stand in the gap because you see your brother’s need and you make a difference in their life.

I salute you.  I respect you.  I admire you….thank you for loving our community.

(Above photo by Bill Robinson)

A Fresh Look

Interno di una cattedrale

I had an interesting insight recently…


Sitting in an intimate chapel for an afternoon concert, the sun streamed in as it danced through beveled glass, filling the space with fractured light.  The warmth of the sun’s rays beckoned to music lovers as seats started to fill.  As the concert progressed, so did the descent of the sun, and that inviting, warm light changed to an aggressive irritant.  To ward off the aggressor, two ladies in front held up their programs to shield their eyes, and they settled back in to hear the remainder of the concert.

Quickly, a kind soul in row 8 noticed the improvised protection and got up to lower the blinds.  As he shimmied the semi-opaque blind down, the strength of the sun faded, bringing relief to the ladies in front.  This Good Samaritan returned to his seat, satisfied by a kindness rendered.

The programs stayed up.  With a shrug to his wife beside him, the good-deed-doer rose again to lower the final opaque blind, completely releasing the sun’s grip on the auditorium.  He returned to his seat.

As the music swelled in the dimmed chapel, the ladies sat in their irritation, programs raised, completely oblivious to the kindness rendered…completely unaware of the efforts taken on their behalf.  Completely blind to the fact that their issue had been solved. They sat convinced that they still had a problem despite the evidence against it.  All they had to do was to take a fresh look at their circumstances to realize that what they assumed was wrong had been taken care of.

There’s a lesson in thatto be willing to look at our circumstances with fresh eyes…frequently.

Awareness can bring new perspective.  Suspending entrenched positions, if only for a moment, can bring new insight. How often do we sit and stew, convinced of a wrong, sure of a problem, certain of an enemy?  How often to we raise defenses and stand our ground to protect ourselves from a situation that had at once plagued us?

Is it still a problem?  Are you sure?

Take a fresh look.  You may be surprised at what you find.

Wishing and Embracing…and the Historic Courthouse

Courthouse Photo

Is a challenge looming over you?  There are two different ways to approach a problem, and I have found they are completely different and lead to two distinctly different courses of action…

You can WISH or you can EMBRACE.

WISHING involves hoping for something that probably won’t happen. It’s wanting something that is very hard, if not impossible, to have.  The problem with wishing is that we put blinders on and get so wrapped up in the desire that it almost becomes larger than life.  A reality can start to form around this hunger until it begins to consume us, and with this raging focus, we can run down the wrong path….a path that isn’t grounded in reality.  A path that will get us lost.  A path that will lead us away from our original goal.

EMBRACING is recognizing “what is”.  It’s planting our feet firmly in reality and having the courage to take a hard look at the situation in front of us, whether we like it or not.  Staring down the giant allows us to clearly see the pitfalls as well as the opportunities at hand.  Embracing “what is” enables us to then set a course of action that deals with the challenge head on, and the more we do that, the more we can see our way through to a productive and inspired solution.

So is this mumbo-jumbo mere musings or does it relate to anything at hand?  Glad you asked!  Let’s take the Historic Courthouse on Main Street…

We can wish that the functions of the Court won’t move to a new location in a few years.  We can wish that nothing on Main Street will change.  We can fight and fume and get riled up over this idea that the Court shouldn’t be anywhere else but Main Street.  We can imagine the despair, the distress, the wanton lack if what is there now is no more. We can get mad at the City and County and all the people in it for letting this happen, and in our rage, we can run around in circles preparing for battle.

Wishing will make us blind to the fact that the State decides where the Court goes. Wishing will cause us to rattle our sabers at an imagined enemy, and we will lose precious time.  Wishing will take us a few years down the road, and when the functions of the Court move to their new facilities in town, wishing will have gotten us an angry, divided community…and an empty, historic courthouse on Main Street with no plan or idea of how to proceed.

No thank you!  Here’s a better option…

We can embrace the fact that a new Justice Center will be build off of Placerville Drive in a few years.  (You don’t have to like it to embrace it). We can embrace the idea that this new location will lead to economic development on the western part of Placerville, opening up much needed new revenue streams for our City.  Most importantly, we can embrace the realization that in repurposing the Historic Courthouse, we have a unique opportunity to reinvent her in exciting new ways…ways that will allow us to preserve her beauty and history on the outside while cleaning her up on the inside, shoring her up, and making her functional, accessible and beautiful in her interiors.  We can embrace the concept that she is so grand, she is suited for more than one purpose in her lifetime…and as we open our thought to possibility, we can see her in a new light.  As we see her in a new light, we can find a use that restores an enlarged purpose and presence on Main Street, making her an increased blessing to our community.

And a few years down the road, we will have fabulous new Justice Center that cements Placerville as the county seat in all its functions; we will be on our way to having a restored, preserved and reinvented Historic Courthouse that is an increased beacon and draw for our City, our downtown district and our County; and we will have a community that has come together with the common goal of imagining possibility and laboring to make it a reality.  We will have a community who has come together to mine for the gold that is waiting to be discovered in our beautiful Historic Courthouse.  She’s worth that.

And that is something to embrace…


Swimming In Your Own Pond

Vortice in mare

I have to admit, lately I’ve been a bit stuck. 

Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been wrapped up in the holidays, going round and round in the daily grind of being incredibly busy without going anywhere.  Looking back on this time, I can see I have been swimming in my own pond, doing mental laps in the same old thoughts that only gain energy from swirling around themselves.  Consequently,  I’ve felt sluggish.  Uninspired.  Uneffective.  I don’t like it.  I haven’t wanted to write.  I haven’t wanted to read. Worst of all, I haven’t tried to wrestle with challenging problems because solutions have felt so far out of reach…too difficult.  Too exhaustive.  Too hard to see my way through them.

This morning I woke a half hour before my alarm and was wide awake.  It wasn’t time to get ready and for once, I didn’t feel like rolling over for a few last minutes of blessed sleep.  I picked up the book on my nightstand…the one that has graced it for 3 months just begging to have it’s cover cracked.  The most amazing thing happened.

As I fell into the pages, insight engulfed me.  As I suspended my sluggish state, thought reached for more…more than the recent whirlpool of stale ideas had allowed.  And it felt good.  In those brief predawn moments, I actually felt empowered again.

As I jumped into the shower with a new lease on life, I realized how important it is to seek moments of inspiration, whatever form that takes for you.  Without that, we flutter in our reflections going round and round without any surge of influence to point us in a new direction.  This can happen so easily in life.  It can happen at work.  In relationships.  In families. In friends. It can show itself in leadership or even in advocacy, causing us to cling to positions outgrown.  Worst of all, it can close our eyes to intriguing developments or emerging potential.

Creativity and inspiration follow a distinct pattern and journey.  Insight lingers over doubt. Progress pushes through stagnation.  Fear dangles between what is now and what is to come until a love of potential empowers us to complete the work before us.  And then it’s time to begin again for creation is a continual process.

Unless of course, you’re still swimming in your own pond.

I wish you fresh inspirations and empowering insights.