Dear President Barack, First Lady Michelle, and First Daughters Sasha and Malia,

It is with no disrespect that I address you using your first names…indeed it is because you have been so open, so fully human, in your roles, that I feel we could be friends. Yet at the same time, I hold you in highest esteem as I witness the sacrifices you have made and the hard work that you have all done for the sake of me and my fellow countrymen and women and children. I am honored to call you my first family, my President. You are worthy of this title.

Mr. President, your intelligence and ability to express your thoughts and ideas has been intensely refreshing. I feel when I hear you speak that you are a man who truly desires to make this nation and this world a more livable, lovable, and harmonious place. Your continued sense of humor and sharp wit in the face of intense obvious racism and knee-jerk hatred is admirable. Your perseverance in the face of unprecedented intention to derail your presidency shows that you are a bigger and better man than those who have risked their nation’s ruin just to keep you from succeeding or meeting your goals. I have never heard you respond in kind to the vicious attacks of those who would discredit you. It is a sad fact of this society we share that this magnificent event of the election of a mixed-race President has brought out the worst in many of us. Closet racists can no longer hide, they are screaming out their tirades as they insist they are not bigots but merely responding to some perceived affront to their rights. Absurdities are touted as truth as we witness the degradation of our media, fools rush in to repeat the hateful sound bites and gobble up new reasons to justify hatred. We have never seen anything like it. Yet, you continue to strive to accomplish your goals, to adjust policies to support working class Americans, though many of them consider you their enemy…what irony! I appreciate your appearances on TV shows and public events, you continue to show us that you are a human being with feelings and the ability to improvise. When you busted out singing ‘Amazing Grace’ at the Charleston pastor’s memorial, I cried and fell in love with you all over again. Thanks for being real. Somehow your humanity has survived the experience of being President of the United States.

Dear First Lady Michelle, you are beautiful and smart and wise and patient. You have worked to improve the lives of children, and to help our citizens wake up to the reality of the importance of what we eat, among other things. You are striving to move us into the 21st century, to take responsibility for our health and our children’s well-being. You are dynamic and motivated, setting a strong example of an independent woman, and you have properly ignored the haters and the blatant criticisms of those who can’t stand the idea of your family occupying the highest house in America…that’s the truth, though it be hard to say. Racism is not based on anything intelligent or logical or compassionate or realistic. It is ancient and primitive, and those who live in that state are not yet where you are in their personal evolution. You seem to know this, and perhaps to forgive them for they know not what they say or do. “They” are filled with fear, rather than love, and until they choose to change their minds, we are burdened with them and their endless negativity. How do I know they are acting from a sense of racism rather than real disagreement with policy? Because the way they speak of you and your husband and children is not the way we speak of our first family. Never before have insults and personal criticism been hurled like what we are now hearing. It is how we speak to those we consider inferior, those we feel no need to offer basic human courtesy or respect. Not our President. Unfortunately we have been reduced to a culture of Us and Them.

Sasha and Malia, it has been a pleasure catching glimpses of you both growing up so beautifully. Your parents have done well at keeping your lives as “normal” as possible, but the truth is, it cannot be easy to shoulder the responsibility you two hold. These have been such formative years for you both, eight years is a long time in the life of a child. Much has been asked and expected of you, and you have behaved graciously. Thank you for sharing yourselves with the entire country and developing your individuality and style as  examples for other girls. Thank you too for sharing your dad with us, it can’t be easy having your parent be the leader of the free world.

The possibilities were so great…the hope and the thrill of the past two presidential elections have been somewhat dashed by the tireless placement of impediments every step of this president’s way. But nevertheless, history will remember this monumental time, and it will remember those who resisted change as well, as foolish bigots with very personal agendas. President Barack Obama, you will go down in history as the man who held his head high through the barrage of haters, continuously striving to improve the lives of Americans and make the world a safer place. You have not always done what I wanted you to do…no president has…yet your heart is good and your smile is genuine. I trust you, I trust your inherent goodness, and you have my deepest respect and gratitude.

What the Obama family has endured has been a gift to all of us. The entire world has benefitted from this presidency, all eyes are on the USA. Regardless of the haters and the barriers placed in the way, it can never be denied that we did this, we elected this man and his family, and he was strong and good and positive and filled with light. Our nation is in many ways more stable than in decades. In other ways, we have been rocked to our core by the intensity of negative emotion which has erupted in response to the simple appearance of racial equality. We are all human, all emanations of the divine, regardless of our skin color or religion or who we love. Even the haters are divine emanations; they are lost, but with time will find their way.

Mr. President and your beautiful proud family, perhaps you knew when you accepted this burden that you would be sacrificed, but you accepted anyway, as your destiny dictated. By taking this first step, you have paved a way for increasing enlightenment in our faltering nation. I will forever hold you in highest esteem, with deep gratitude for your part in this great human drama.

Most Sincerely,

Salle Webber, citizen of the USA

My Dad

Recently a friend’s facebook question about good dads caused me to ponder my own father and our relationship. My dad left the family early on, and though he hovered on the periphery of our lives and made rules and decisions that would affect us, the emotional connection was entirely severed, and I was frequently hurt by his disinterest which was not disguised. At a time when men seldom left their families in my small town, the humiliation added to the shame I felt that my dad didn’t want to be with us. As the years passed, we sometimes went a year or more without communicating. After having children, I became more attentive to the idea of my kids knowing their grandparents. My mother had passed away when I was 17, so as a motherless young mother, I wanted my new family to have some connection. I tried to get along with my dad, who had remarried the minute my mother died. Every visit became strained as our personal ideologies clashed and my lifestyle didn’t meet his standards. Yet we continued to see each other now and then. I had made the move from east to west coast and then to Hawai’i, conveniently making family visits rare.

During one particularly stressful period where I was feeling pressured by him to do things his way rather than mine (foolish, worthy of scorn), I attended a spiritual retreat where the words of St. Francis of Assisi were shared, “We are not here to be understood; We are here to be understanding.” For some reason it was my day to really hear that…suddenly I realized that I spent my life trying to get him to understand me…if only he did, he’d like me, maybe even love me. I’m nice, I have strong ideals and a compassionate spirit, but he never seemed to be able to see that. What if there’s more to him than I can see as well? What if I could let go of needing to explain myself to him but instead made an effort to understand him? That boy whose parents divorced in his teen years, and who never healed the relationship with either parent, as far as I could see. The chill between them was painful to witness. The young man, the army, marriage, fatherhood, growing a business, wanting what he didn’t have and deciding to take it, the hell with convention and the kids and what people think. I looked at how others saw him, the great host, the smiling innkeeper, the one others followed. He knew how to make people happy, and spent a lot of effort doing that. It was sad that he was unable to express to his own kids the warmth that others seemed to feel from him, yet I knew his fake smile so well, I saw him flash it at others and I received it many times myself. I looked at how he came to his political and social views, his life so different from mine, the results of his experience bringing him to an entirely different ideology. I knew that he wasn’t totally happy. I knew he had unspoken regrets. I realize that he kept his feelings inside, actually the young me was one that could rouse him to express anger! But never tenderness. Oh, I wanted that so badly. But I digress.

As time passed and I maintained my mantra of being understanding, our visits became smoother and more pleasant. I avoided topics I knew we would never agree on. I was careful how I expressed myself. I showed appreciation for the things he did for my kids. I stopped making it about me. The hard edges began to soften between us. I made a point of hugging and kissing him at the beginning and end of each visit, still only once a year at best. He began to accept these shows of affection with more grace.

When my dad’s health began to fail, I was involved in his caregiving. I visited several times over the course of two years, staying several weeks away from my family each time. At the end, it was me and my siblings who moved in with him and his wife, sharing caregiving and household maintenance. It was 24/7 for a month or so. He by then had shed his personality and become a more essential human being. But helpless, needy, weak. I am a caregiver by profession and by nature. He seemed to sense that and often would ask for me to be the one to patiently feed him the few bites he could manage, slowly, or to help him move from bed to chair. To be asked for by my dad, now that was special! Something I’d waited for all my life. When he breathed his last breath, I was at his head, holding him along with my sister and brothers. It was a powerful moment, a powerful month. The gratitude I felt at his release, the thanks I gave for the healing I had experienced, were enormous. The burden of my failure as a daughter had weighed me so heavily for so long. I put down that heavy load and exulted in tears of release as we let his ashes go deep into the Gulf of Mexico on an early August morning.


It’s been almost three years since I ate my last piece of wheat bread. You couldn’t force me to eat another. It’s so clear to me that my body’s dramatic improvement in several areas is a direct result of cleaning gluten out of my system. I’ve read that 30 to 40% of Americans have a gluten sensitivity (i.e. would be significantly more healthy without) but very few of us know it.

For me, it began with a dental infection that all the right moves couldn’t seem to eradicate. We’re talking years of attentive home care and dentistry. A failed root canal followed by ineffective antibiotics sent me to the acupuncturist for help. She asked me to get some blood work done, to clarify the problem and give more info to work with. Among other things, the gluten issue came up loud and clear. I stopped eating it immediately and in the first week I think I lost 4 pounds and my energy increased. Within two months, when I went back to see the dentist, he couldn’t believe the improvement…he now calls me his miracle-worker patient, and is baffled at my continuing healthy mouth, with no extra dental care. I had been diagnosed as needing roughly $9000 worth of invasive dental work. Now I just get my teeth cleaned every 4 months.

The other very obvious issue for me is that of sugar imbalance. In my glutinous days, I frequently experienced that low-blood sugar rush, where the body demanded nourishment NOW. I needed to eat something every couple hours to keep myself afloat. Pre-diabetic, a doctor would probably tell me if I asked, diabetes being one of the results of gluten allergy, by the way, and present in both sides of my family gene pool. These days, I very rarely feel this imbalance and can go longer periods of time between meals if I must, though I know it is best for me to eat frequently. I no longer see insulin shots as part of my possible future.

My joints feel better, my previously-chronically bothersome lower back is now easy for me to adjust myself by stretching, and rarely a problem. The help of a skilled chiropractor has set the stage, and I believe maintenance is supported by my gluten-free diet.

Gluten intolerance sets up an auto-immune condition, where the body is endlessly fighting itself, stimulated by that sticky protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Inflamation results, and that is the precise culprit in so much of what ails America. I feel like I’m finally digesting my food. Though I’ve never been a fat person, the lumps and ridges have shrunken considerably. Now, at 64, I shamelessly put on a bikini. It feels more like an essential body that I live in, I can feel my bones and muscles, and my belly isn’t bloated. Love it!

And by the way, it’s not that hard. There are delicious breads, crackers, cookies, cereals, and baking mixes of all kinds available. Even Betty Crocker is on the band wagon. I am not deprived. I do save myself a lot of calories by saying no thank you to many treats that are offered, and I rarely feel sorry for myself as I observe what my friends are asking their bodies to digest. Some restaurants have become educated on the subject of gluten, and may even offer specific G.F. Options. It is important to ask and be very clear about your needs. Fast foods are mostly out. Reading labels becomes essential, and you will be shocked and perhaps horrified at some of what you see there. You will discover that wheat has been raped and plundered, mistreated, broken into pieces, and added to many prepared foods in a variety of forms. Perhaps this is why many people are overly-sensitive, as our national diet has been permeated by wheat parts to an absurd degree. In any case, without it, I feel cleaner, lighter, healthier, with more vitality and enthusiasm for life. So grateful for the knowledge.

Just Another Miracle


We’re expecting two new babies in our family.

Baby Kellan is here!The British son of my cousin, who transplanted from London to sunny Santa Cruz, and his lovely wife are due to bring forth their first child in less than two weeks. In other words, any day now!

My son and wonderful daughter-in-law are expecting their little boy around Nov. 2. They are becoming first-time parents in their late 30’s. I smile inside, knowing how this little one will rock their comfortable world.

We haven’t had a family baby in well over 6 years, and it’s deliciously exciting to anticipate. The other 5 grandchildren are excited, especially Skyler, who hopes his cousin will arrive on his own birthday, Nov.1. His mom went into labor as she was trick-or-treating with her daughter, but that’s another story.

My cousin Peg and her husband Eric will arrive soon, hoping to get here before the birth…or not, as the child dictates. We are all reminded that it will be perfect either way. Flexibility is the key word , as we prepare to host the new grandparents here at any moment the kids decide they want privacy. We love sharing our home with the cousins from abroad, and they are comfortable here in our forest house.

The great thing about birth is that it is unpredictable. No matter how much we plan and prepare, become educated and decide how we want it to be, the possibilities are vast. Giving birth and parenting represent a leap of faith, a jump into the unknown with a willing heart.

Modern prenatal testing has certainly lessened the surprises, however. I never knew the sex of my babies until that final push, and it was a magical moment. I am a bit sad that today’s parents rarely experience that. I even remember when the birth of twins came as a surprise. Why, there’s another baby in there! OMG we’re taking home TWO!

Nevertheless, today’s parents face the great unknown…who is this child? What will he or she be like? How will I respond to the needs of an infant? Can I breastfeed? Is he OK? And on and on until perhaps the end of our parental lives. Regardless of how many classes we take, books we read, or opinions and decisions we come to, our child is going to humble us in her/his profound innocence and tremendous presence. Our lives will never be the same. My young cousin and his bride will never be the same. My beloved son and his wife are going to be permanently transformed. This is the true beauty of life, reality at it’s most raw and magnificent. It is our human purpose and opportunity. Bring it on!

Salle Webber