Bill Warnock: Boss, Mentor & Friend

With all the negative harassment-in-the-workplace stories out there, I feel blessed to have worked with amazing male leaders who empowered me to be the best me I could be. Who became mentors and remained treasured friends long after our respective work opportunities took us to other places.

Bill with community leader (& friend), Rafat

None more so than Bill Warnock. It’s hard to measure his impact in my life – not just the 26 years we’ve known each other, but the depth of all he taught me, how he lived his life brimming with faith-filled courage, how he was there at important junctures in my life with wisdom, advice, encouragement and friendship.

When I received news that he died Wednesday, it felt like a punch in the gut.

I knew Bill had health challenges. A year or so ago he called the day before cancer surgery, but it seemed like he made a complete recovery and all was well. From Facebook comments he was meant to be on a trip to Ireland this week.

That sounds like him, always living life to the fullest.

After my Papa passed a few years ago, Bill visited us here in Williamsburg for a few days before zooming up to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends in Washington, D.C. Although he retired awhile back, he was always traveling, off doing interesting things, keeping up with everyone and what’s what.

Especially geysers.

Years ago when my brother and I visited him in West Yellowstone, MT, we nicknamed Bill (& his cohort of geyser enthusiasts) “Geyserbusters” (like Ghostbusters) because they communicated in code via fancy gadgets when geysers in Yellowstone were ready to blow, then scrambled to see them spew forth their watery majesty.

Old Faithful @ Yellowstone Park

As a voice for the voiceless, Bill could sometimes be like a bull in a china shop, but one filled with love for the oppressed, for justice. He gave and gave of his life helping others – in the Middle East, Bosnia and all over the world.

If I had not met Bill during a Holy Land pilgrimage trip in 1992, my life would be so different, so dull! At the request of mutual friends in Washington, DC, he took me to visit several community development and medical projects in West Bank villages. After seeing the effects of injustice, especially on Palestinian children, I observed that someone needed to help do more advocacy for them in D.C. Bill looked me right in the eye, “I need someone to help me here. And that person could be YOU.”

I explained my deal with God that after years of working in D.C. non-profits, transitioning to the corporate sector was The Plan. Bill’s insistent response: “Pray about it.”

After praying (about praying about it) six months later I returned to the Middle East working for a faith-based relief & development organization with Bill in an all-embracing job encompassing advocacy, communications, public relations and reconciliation.

One year there became 5 years, then 10 years and more of globetrotting in challenging places as a relief & development worker.

Another dear mentor, Susan Baker, with Bill & a few of the WVJ team (Georgette, Walid, Rebecca, Rula, Jane, Tanas & Rania) circa 1994. Three (!!) of VA’s mentors in one pic: Susan, Bill and Rebecca Cherono (may she R.I.P.)

Bill led our team through tough times of conflict crises (too many of those) and hope-filled times when peace in the region seemed attainable. In the West Bank & Gaza Strip we had a good reputation because we helped everyone no matter what political faction or religious affiliation.

He mentored me in so many ways, not just about long-term transformational community development (of which he knew a great deal from previous globetrotting positions) but about how we do what we do. People matter.

Bill’s “Three Rs”: Relationships. Relationships. Relationships.

For Bill it wasn’t just about funding (although he expertly wheeled & dealed to make that happen), but about building bridges of relationships – with government donors and project partners, team members and local communities, the media, other NGOs, religious entities, visitors and everyone we encountered.

Bill with Yasser, our Gaza Manager

He never missed an opportunity to build bridges of hope and love, even when despair permeated the air of conflict zones.

He also had a high bar for excellence that pushed us to do (& be) our best.

He had a heart that hurt for the hurting, and a loud voice that made sure the world would know about lopsided injustices oppressing others.

Bill had a sense of humor that diffused awkward situations (& sometimes, ME!) When this fiery redhead irately tiraded on about something or other, he told me, “Go stand in front of the fan!” Sure, it was hot as fireballs outside, but it made me laugh that Bill meant me to go cool off (inside) since so many things were out of our control.

It became a joke, of sorts, when he’d notice the onset of seething, he’d say, “Go stand in front of the fan.” We’d laugh, then try to find our flexibility grooves (from Plan A, B, C – to K?)

Bill wore his faith, straight up. The kind of faith like Jesus overturning the tables of those overpriced sellers in the temple who preyed upon the poor, yet compassionately reaching out with love to the unloved, the hurting and oppressed.

After 10 years in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict zone, Bill left in 1997 to lead the massive Bosnia program. Out of the frying pan, into the fire. When I passed through Sarajevo in the summer of 1999 for a short consulting project, I saw Bill continuing his relationship strategy – but on a much larger scale in that complex context.

Bill’s log cabin in West Yellowstone, MT

Bill retired from Bosnia to the log cabin dream home he built in Montana, located just a few miles from Yellowstone Park. (In the Middle East he would pour over log catalogs asking, “what do you think of this one?” Like this city chick knew anything about logs!) He didn’t sit still there very long, taking up a consulting gig that sent him all over the world training troops headed for peacekeeping assignments.

Bill hobnobbed with generals, government leaders, community leaders, donors, media, educators, church representatives, and the poorest of the poor – all with equal respect and rapport that said: you are important to me, because you are beloved of God.

In between assignments he continued geyserbusting, visiting friends, hosting myriad visitors in his glorious log cabin, skiing, traveling (the kind of trips where you learn things), and remained very involved in his local church.

Bill loved his family. His parents, Mama Peg & Papa Bill, came in their 70s to visit us in the Middle East – more than once. He loved his brothers & sister, his nieces and nephews (of whom he proudly spoke, often.) He loved his hometown of Loveland, CO.

Bill will be missed by hundreds and thousands of the lives he touched, by his colleagues, friends, family, and by me.

Lives of great men all remind us
        We can make our lives sublime,
    And, departing, leave behind us
        Footprints on the sands of time…

Footprints, that perhaps another,
        Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
    A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
        Seeing, shall take heart again.

    Let us, then, be up and doing,
        With a heart for any fate;
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
        Learn to labor and to wait.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Rest in Peace, Sa’id Bill. God be with you in all eternity.

grace, peace & eternal hugs

Virginia

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“When it’s pouring down with rain…” : )

As Hurricane Florence bears down upon the coast, we here in Tidewater (Virginia) are offering up sighs of relief as the storm has turned away from us. Our hearts and prayers are with everyone in the storm’s path in North Carolina & South Carolina: BE SAFE!

Our family is grateful that my sis, Cindy, and her husband, Mark, made it safely out of Wilmington (NC) to stay with us in Williamsburg. Although they left their home as secure as possible, who knows what will happen to it? ‘You can’t take it (all) with you’ frenetically packing a few suitcases from a home filled with a lifetime’s memorables, but I was touched that what Cindy considered most important to take with her included two of Papa’s Bibles. (The ones he wrote in are extra precious considering how long ago he lost the use of his arms & hands before becoming a full bedfast quadriplegic.)

Cindy & Mark (a sunnier day @ Wrightsville Beach, NC)

To be sure, our local forecast calls for rain, rain (& more rain) the next few days, but we are (so very) grateful to be out of the target path of gale force winds and mini-tornadoes that come with hurricanes. While we wait (& it pours rain) here’s a thought on a card Cindy sent a few years ago during my caregiving gig for my parents that’s still relevant today.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Vivian Greene

Come what may, how can we dance in whatever storms face us today? How do we find our grooves when it’s pouring down rain?

During the demanding all-nighters of my care-giving gig, prayer helped. Sure, I was still exhausted, but a peaceful type of exhaustion because prayer changed ME.

Challenges (like massive storms) come in all shapes & sizes, but we don’t have to carry them alone – God is with us, in us, here to help carry the load.

Doesn’t mean our challenges disappear, but we can learn to dance (despite them) even in pouring down rain. To have joy, be joy, and know that we are intrinsically loved by God no matter what happens.

As we learn to dance in the rain, we can help others with their dance grooves.

My brother calls my album collection “the Academy of Ancient ’80s Music.” So many great bands with get-up-off-your-seat grooves and others with reflective chill vibes. UB40 combined both of those grooves & vibes. I was blessed to see them perform at university in the early 1980s and still enjoy their tunes (in high frequency rotation)

“Desert Sand”  – one of the songs from their Promises & Lies album – required multiple replays this morning:

“Just because it can’t touch you
Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care
For every life that’s lit with love
Many more are racked with pain
You talk to me of sunshine
When it’s pouring down with rain..”  (UB40)

Here’s a YouTube video of the song to have a listen & find your grooves “when it’s pouring down with rain.”

“It’s a long black night, good people …share your light make a flower grow in the desert sand.” (UB40)

Even when it’s pouring down with rain.

grace, peace & rainy day (Light) grooves

Virginia : )

p.s. Many thanks for all the love & concern from friends afar (& near.) Please pray for everyone in the path of this storm!!

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Storms on the Horizon

As Hurricane Florence heads toward the coast of the Carolinas and (the state of) Virginia, it’s hard for Virginia (the person) to gear up on this bright sunshiny day, but getting ready must be done because we take hurricanes very seriously in Tidewater, Virginia (a region in which our town of Williamsburg is on the outermost inland edge.)

After moving a few weeks ago from NYC to downtown Norfolk, my niece Megan and her husband had to evacuate their home this morning.  Schools and colleges in Va. Beach, Norfolk, Hampton and Newport News are shutting down today and tomorrow to give students time to get away from flood zones and batten down the hatches with their families. This evening my sister Cindy and her husband will head this way from Wilmington (NC) to weather the storm with us in Williamsburg.

As basic supplies fly off the shelves of local stores, yesterday my brother and I tried four places before finding bottled water. Things may look sunny calm now (and we may not know the exact path of the storm) but you can be sure folks in our town (& this chick) are getting ready. With hurricanes, you never know!

When I lived here in the ‘Burg as a grad student in 1999, Hurricane Floyd crashed a huge tree into our home and totaled my car. Our street was under three feet of water for over a week (with folks rowing canoes up & down it.) Mama & I kept pouring gasoline into a hand-cranked generator to keep air in Papa’s hospital bed moving (without air matriculating in his mattresses, he developed terrible bedsores.) A week or so later power returned. Our roof & my car were eventually replaced, but two submerged homes at the end of our street had to be completely rebuilt.

Subsequent hurricanes have knocked down more trees and left many homes and businesses in Tidewater completely devastated like during 2003’s Hurricane Isabel that left in its wake USD$1.9 billion in damages. (I missed that one working in Tanzania, but my brother was here helping my parents.)

A fallen tree in 2011’s Hurricane Irene missed my room by inches

As we prepare for Hurricane Florence, I can’t help but think of my precious Mama. Perhaps due to those previous challenges (+looking after my bedfast quadriplegic Papa amidst the storms) hurricane preparedness was one of those things she got a bit hyper about. Even though Mama passed in 2015, we still have a huge glass jug of water in the kitchen (way too heavy to move) leftover from past hurricane preparations.

Getting things ready last night I could feel her smiling Above as we stockpiled water, drinks, batteries, snack foods, and dusted off the hurricane lamps. As Thursday looms, we’ll bring in all the patio furniture, take down bird feeders, move our portable garden pots (& any potential-projectile) away from the range of our windows. Then we’ll fill every available pitcher, bottle, bathtub, and bucket with water.

Mama always made sure our cars had full tanks of gas (for a fast get-a-way? or maybe because gas might run out?) and that we had a small stock-pile of cash (pizza delivery when tired of sandwiches & chips?) And that we had plenty of Papa’s prescription medicines on hand, plus first aid supplies in case we needed them.

Mama also made sure to have important papers handy in case we had to make a dash for it (& put them into plastic coverings in case water deluged the house.)

My sweet Mama was like a drill sergeant until we had everything prepared to her liking, but we appreciated her stringent encouragement when we needed the water to drink (& flush & bathe), we used our flashlights & hurricane lamps, ate all the snacks & goodies, and had gas in our cars to (eventually) get out when the coast was clear (& gas stations were low in their resupplies.)

Whatever path Hurricane Florence takes – be prepared! If you have to evacuate, remember life is a gift, and lives are more important than things.

Last week I shared a quote with Michele over at her Rabbit Patch from a card a dear African friend gave me years ago. Today I found it to share with all of you.

“My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon.”

Whatever storms are facing you wherever you are, may you (eventually) be able to see the moon & stars, sun (& SON) through the threatening clouds, and the treasure life is.

grace, peace & stormy weather

Virginia : )

P.S. Stay safe! Be prepared! Think of my precious Mama tasking you to get ready, even if you’re in the remotest regions of the storm projections.

“Be prepared (Christmas is only 3 months away!)

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Snapshots & Whatnot: Spidery Inspiration

Spiders usually creep me out (& get squashed under my shoe.) But two weeks ago I noticed a (very) large spider hanging out near our back garage door. Before splatting it into oblivion, I observed the magnificent web that stretched large and long next to the door.

Interesting, that.

Dashed inside for a Wikipedia check to find it’s a yellow garden spider (“Argiope aurantia”) and (most importantly) is not poisonous, just stings like a bee when threatened.

Two weeks later it seems that our friendly yellow garden spider has taken up permanent residence by our door (that continues to be carefully opened, to be sure.)

It’s been so intriguing watching Miss Yellow Garden Spider weave her massive web (at least I think she’s a she. To be so industrious, she must be?)  🙂

“The Spider’s touch, how exquisitely fine!

Feels at each thread, and lives along the line.”

Alexander Pope, from ‘An Essay on Man’

Methinks Miss Yellow Garden Spider has a bit of inspiration to offer us today. Even when a major thunderstorm tumbled everything around her, she kept spinning her web. Even in bright (very hot) sunshine, she keeps spinning her web. Even when bits of her web have been knocked about (we have to get in and out of the door), she keeps spinning. Even though her web is hard to see (part of her strategy?) it’s there, holding her in place.

Relevance to us today (ie, get to the point, Virginia?) What kind of webs are we spinning? The biggest possible kind that will catch others with tendrils of love? Or does apathetic stress shrink our webs with closemindedness?

In the late 1940s Reverend Peter Marshall as Chaplain of the U.S. Senate shared a quote that had been used as a rallying cry for G.I.s during WWII. The world and lives of our parents & grandparents generations at that time had been turned upside down.

“A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.”

grace, peace & inspirational spiders

Virginia : )

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To be? Or, not to be?

After a wee blogcation the last few weeks Virginia is back today with musings of a reflective nature. (Warning: donning her Shakespeare festival shirt this morning may have unduly influenced this post.)

A few weeks ago I thought I needed a vacation.

“What kind of vacation?”  A vacation from ME!!

Blank.

Sometimes my mind draws up blank.

No deep, life-altering revelations or constellations of purpose-driven goals and dreams.

Just blank.

Nada.

But, nudge, nudge… give it a moment (or two or three.) Slowly a thought crystallizes in the exoteric regions of my interior universe.

To be, or not to be?

That is an existential question (Shakespeare, anyone?)

What to be (to me) is an apter question. And, how are we to be?

What and how are choices we make (daily, hourly, by the minute.)

In the cycle of divisiveness and denigration around us, I can choose to be ‘what’ for inclusiveness and affirmation by putting out ‘hows’ of love and hope to all I encounter (people and big challenges inclusive.)

Not to be preachy, but what and how are important components of the overall to be, or not to be question.

To be?

  • JOY, when despair looms around the corners of our lives.

To be?

  • PEACE, when pernicious conflicts permeate our surroundings.

To be?

  • GRACE, when despotic interests dominate and denigrate others.

To be?

  •  MERCY, where unforgiveness fuels batteries of hate & revenge.

To be?

  • LOVE, where loneliness and apathy cripple hearts.

To be?

  • ME, when others try to put me down or make me irrelevant.

“To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them…
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of dispriz’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? …
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.”

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Hamlet, Act III, Scene I

Dear God:   

To be who (and what and how) YOU want me to be (& do):

now, that is the question.

To be, all for You, in action – word, deed, and ME!

grace, peace & courageous beings (& doings)

Virginia : )

p.s. Last March while visiting Charlottesville, my brother & I had the opportunity to see a play performed by the American Shakespeare Company at the Blackfriar’s Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia. We also took an hour-long tour of the amazing facility, built as a replica of the original indoor playhouse where William Shakespeare’s company performed from 1608 until it burned down in the great fire of London in 1666. If you ever have a chance to visit the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia (or C’ville that’s just 45 minutes away), be sure to check out this treasure — and make a booking to see a play!

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Snapshots & Whatnot: Change is Good?

Snapshot:

& Whatnot:

Last month I read comedian Louie Anderson’s moving book, “Hey Mom.” Composed of letters he wrote to his mom (who passed some years ago), Louie shares the joys and challenges of his life: from winning Emmy awards to dealing with loss and tough issues with grace and faith. His memoir touched my heart (and all of me, really) – at times making me teary-eyed from his poignant prose and life stories, then other times laughing til it hurt.

Today’s here’s one of his quotes (that went straight into my journal) for our minds and hearts to munch on:

“It’s so hard to change, even when that change is so good. I wish I could change my inability to change.”  Louie Anderson, Hey Mom

Here’s to changing our inabilities to change (or, at least working on it?)

grace, peace & change (the good kind)

Virginia : )

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Friday Good People Grooves

Even though our world may be completely whacked out, it’s FRIDAY! Time to kick back to some Good People grooves from Jack Johnson. Awhile back my big sis Shere introduced me to Jack Johnson on a birthday trip to Charlottesville when we blasted his CDs there and back (over and over again) – his music is so awesome!

Since then his music compilations have received high-frequency plays in Virginia’s kick-back playlist. Jack Johnson has so many amazing songs it’s hard to pick a fav, but his “Good People” is definitely near the top of my list.

Here’s a YouTube video of the album version (there are lots of great concert YouTubes to check out of him singing this song, but this one had the best sound.)

Email readers, you know the drill – click in to the Roses website to catch a listen (the 15 second ad can be annoying, but then you can listen to the song.) 🙂

For all the good (& struggling-to-be-good) people out there, here’s some jellyfish joy to spread around (as captured a few years ago @ the Vancouver Aquarium.)

“Found my foundation, it was underneath me all along. On this path I’m on I’ll never walk alone.”  Jack Johnson

Here’s to not walking (or jellyfishing it) alone!

grace, peace & good people (jellyfishy) grooves

Virginia : )

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