Thursday, December 27, 2007

In Tribute to Benazir Bhutto


OK, I'll admit it, I've been a bit depressed ever since Dec. 22 over the sad news of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan. She was one courageous and elegant woman and I have often admired her from afar.

I received an e-mail last week from my good friend and college buddy, Ken ("Kimbo") Joseph, who now lives in Tokyo but spends much of his time (as an Assyrian Christian) in Baghdad, trying to help Assyrian Christians in Iraq.

As you can imagine, this isn't an easy task that he has taken on. I love and admire Kimbo, not least of all for his courageous acceptance of great danger to do what God has called him to do.

Knowing Kimbo these past 30 years, it was no big surprise to me to learn he was a personal acquaintance of Ms. Bhutto's. He is one chap who seems to know everyone.

But I was particularly moved by Kimbo's tribute to her. I asked his permission to reprint it here:

"I first met Benazir Bhutto about two years ago. I was amazed at her courage. Being in Iraq and seeing the way women are treated in [that part of the] world, it was a breath of fresh air to be with a woman so educated, so eloquent, and most of all -- so courageous.

She was fearless!

She was also very funny because she towered over all comers with her impeccable speach, knowledge and "aura."

As I watched the coverage of her sudden and sad death, I was immediately reminded of another courageous leader who shared the same fearlessness in the face of evil.

I was with Anwar Sadat along with the late Harald Bredesen at his place along the Suez Canal in Ismalia. He said, "Look at all these advisors! They are all telling me to be more careful, to wear a bulletproof vest, to not go out to my people anymore. This is what I tell them: God has given me a mission. Until that mission is completed nothing can hurt me. When my mission is completed nothing will be able to protect me."

I will never forget the image of him standing up as the shooting began, realing that his time had come and that he must face it with courage.

In the days ahead, the life of Bhutto will be analyzed and evaluated. Just as with Anwar Sadat's death, hers will no doubt have tragic consequences for the whole of the Muslim world.

For the world to have to face this same evil of brutality and violence, over and over again, demonstrates where true cowardice and true courage lies. Unable to face the truth, the evil that expresses its hatred toward people like Sadat and Bhutto does the only thing it can do -- it kills and maims, slaughters and tries to intimidate.

What is happening in the Muslim world today is truly a direct and present threat to all who value freedom, the rule of law and justice.

This face of intimidation shows an evil side to these Islamic fundamentalists. Apparently they cannot fight the battle effectively in the arena of ideas, in the arena of morality, or even in the ability to demonstrate a capacity for peace and stability. They can only move their agenda forward on a river of blood.

There is only one thing that can, and has, stopped this kind evil ... it is the triumph of good.

Benazir represented all that these evil men hate -- a woman, strong, eloquent and beautiful!

The answer to the tragedy of her death is for a new generation of leaders to stand up for truth ... in particular young women ... and to speak it to power.

It is faith, and faith alone, that will present and protect the truth that these evil Islamic fundamentalists cannot stand against.

In a day in which most of us, without realizing it, have come to deny that there is real evil in the world, Bhutto's death should remind us that in spite of our advances in technology, medicine, and international politics, there still remains evil. The first step in destroying it is to realize that it exists, and to stand up against it with faith.

Jesus was our good example in this regard. Remember how He walked into the Temple where evil was going on? What did he do? He very simply, quietly and courageously turned over the stalls of the moneychangers and shamed them with the truth.

It was the beginning of their end."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Our 2007 Christmas Blog

For the Short family, 2007 was a year full of very challenging and rewarding events that we will never forget. Looking back, we are amazed at how the Lord blessed and preserved us through it all …


Getting Reacquainted With Dad

The fun began in February, when Don and I, concerned about our Dad’s deteriorating living situation in Alabama, decided to visit Birmingham for a week. While we were there, our eyes were opened to how miserable and desperate his life had become.

He agreed to return to Washington with us, but Faye refused. The next four months the battle really heated up. Faye filed a lawsuit in court, alleging that I and my siblings had “kidnapped” Dad against his will. Dad countersued for divorce. In May I had to travel back to Alabama for a week to defend myself in court.

The case was settled and the divorce finalized, we sold my dad's house, and my brother Lee, along with Mandy and Alex, convened there in August with two moving trucks in an attempt to salvage as much of Dad’s possessions as possible. Mandy and Alex drove one truck with them as they moved to Bedford, Pennsylvania, and Lee and his friend Patrick drove the other (plus Dad’s car) out here. So we got to enjoy a brief visit with them.

In early September, Dad also moved from our house (where he had been our guest for seven months) to an adult family home in the area. It is a very nice place and he is enjoying the company of a small handful of residents there. He is in a fairly advanced state of confusion due to his Alzheimer’s, but otherwise is in relatively good health. Although it is a struggle to understand how to help him, we have enjoyed reconnecting with him this year.

We enjoyed a visit from my youngest sister, Kay, in April, and she and her husband Tom returned in August to look for a home in the Bellingham area. They are planning a move from upstate New York, possibly in February. Dad also enjoyed a visit to Sandy and Dave's home in Southern California in May.

Trips to Oregon …

We made a total of three trips to Oregon this summer. We visited Cannon Beach with both kids and their significant others in June; then in July Nathan and Larry participated in the annual “Seattle to Portland (STP)” bicycle classic, a 206-mile endurance ride through beautiful Pacific Northwest countryside. (Darlene and Becky were there to meet them at the finish line in Portland. They shaved about an hour off their 2005 time!) The six of us then again spent a weekend in Seaside, Oregon, later in July. We had spectacular fun playing with the seals at the Seaside Aquarium.

By the way, Nathan and Becky are doing great, despite having to attend lots of weddings this year. Nathan got promoted this year and is managing desktop and network systems for his company in Kent, Precision Direct. He works long hours and spends his spare time concocting new recipes in his home-built brewery. Becky is studying hard and doing her student teaching, and also working a part-time job right now as a caterer with the Pt. Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. They acquired a new kitty, Hobbes, which makes three for them.

And Idaho …

During the summer my Dad and I also undertook a road trip to Nampa, Idaho, to spend the day with his sister Joyce and do a little camping on the Snake River.

Don’t forget Pennsylvania!

Mandy’s move to Bedford was the result of a transfer arranged by her employer, REI, which built a new distribution center there. Darlene and I visited in October, during their famous Fall Foliage Festival, and enjoyed our time with her and her roommates. We even got to spend a day in a chocolate-consuming frenzy at the sweetest place on earth – Hershey, Pennsylvania. And we got to visit Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the site of the first big U.S. disaster, the Johnstown flood in 1889. This is where the Red Cross got its start. I have vivid memories of reading about that disaster when I was young.

Best of all, Mandy’s boyfriend, Alex Pittman, took us on a long walk around town for the purpose of asking Mandy’s hand in marriage. Two weeks later they were engaged. Date and venue not yet set.

And finally, Southern California



Larry’s team at work spent three days at a Web conference in Monterey, California, so it was a good excuse for Darlene to fly with me and we left Seattle a few days early, rented a minivan in San Jose, and drove down to Southern California for a delightful two days with her parents and other family members in the mountains above Los Angeles, before returning to the Bay area for the conference.

For Elim, It’s all About the Congo

Our big church project of the year was a short-term missions trip to Gemena and Tandala Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mandy and Larry had visited this beautiful country in the summer of 2006, and Larry was excited for the opportunity to work on an organizing committee for this effort, though he was unable to actually go on this trip. Elim will be extensively involved in the Evangelical Free Church efforts to assist AIDS orphans and widows in Gemena. We have sponsored Kokote Jures, a 5-year-old AIDS orphan in Gemena (our second sponsored child in the Congo). Working with TouchGlobal, Elim’s goal is to sponsor 1,500 such children during the coming year. You can help! Visit http://www.TouchGlobal.org/ for more info. Also see the "Congo Blog" Larry created for this effort.

2007 Ride4US

Larry’s other big bike ride of the year was the 2007 “Ride4US” around the Puget Sound, designed to raise funds to purchase ultrasound machines for Pierce County Crisis Pregnancy Centers. The 60-mile hilly ride was more grueling, mile per mile, than the STP, but somehow I made it to the end!

Darlene Busier Than Ever With the Children’s Emergency Fund

Most of you probably don’t know that Darlene manages a nonprofit organization, associated with the Puyallup School District, called Children’s Emergency Fund. The Fund provides emergency help with food, shelter, clothing and medical care for children of local low-income families. That keeps her almost as busy as her three day-per-week school nursing job at three area schools.

In other Darlene news, she is recuperating at home after breaking her arm in a fall during our annual Christmas Tree hunting adventure on Mt. Rainier. We’re seeing an orthopedist next week for treatment options. In the meantime she’s resting comfortably here.

And Larry Promoted to “Web Guru” at World Vision

The Web program at World Vision is always changing in some way, Larry has learned after nearly 11 years working on the Internet channel there. And the latest change is a big one. In October a new team in his division was organized to upgrade World Vision’s internet presence and make it much more interactive, and his team of writers/web content providers is being integrated into that larger team. Larry is still managing the writers, for the time being, but is also serving as an internal consultant as regards some of the more technical aspects of the effort, such as production, analytics, and search engine optimization. He is also doing a lot of blog writing and developing a strategy for Web 2.0 (online social networking) for World Vision.

Darlene Goes Green

Several Short family institutions gave up the ghost this year, after about a decade of use -- among them, Darlene’s old Dodge minivan, and Larry’s old spa. So for Christmas gifts to each other we decided to go green: a new, high tech, energy-efficient spa for Larry, and a Toyota Prius (hybrid gas/electric) for Darlene. So far we’re getting 50+ mpg (in the car, not the spa), so eat your heart out, all you SUV owners!

Felicity Joins the Family

Felicity is a small black and white kitty who took up residence with us this summer. She was very bashful at first but is definitely coming out of her shell now. She spends most of her time either defrocking our Christmas tree or drinking from its water supply, or stealing our pens and hiding them.

A Visit From Our Hero, Aunt Dorothy

Dorothy Kalloch is my mom’s eldest sister, at 80. She left for a life of missionary work in Niger, at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, the month before Larry was born. She finally retired last month, after more than 50 years of work with Serving in Mission (SIM) as an R.N. and a translator. She spent a week with us in November, and we had a wonderful time catching up with her. Right now Dorothy is in Southern California, considering where her next assignment will take her.

Taking a Deep Breath …

Can you believe we packed all that into a single year? No wonder we’re tired!

Well, not really tired … but definitely glad it’s Christmas! What a wonderful time to stop and reflect how drastically different our lives would be if it weren’t for the Manger … and the Cross.

We pray that you and your families will take some time this year to reflect on God’s blessings, and enjoy His presence, in preparation for the year ahead – whatever 2008 will bring. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Identity Theft & Alzheimer's Disease

I think most of the people who read my blog are already aware of the recent crisis in our family -- my father's rapid slide into severe Alzheimer's disease, and my family's efforts to rescue him from a gold-digging wife in Alabama and care for him properly. I haven't told that whole story yet in this blog, but I think I will soon.

What's motivating this blog entry tonight is an interesting footnote to this traumatic story. For the past two months, someone has been attempting to steal my dad's identity. About two months ago we started receiving calls from credit agencies and banks. I'm not sure how the first one knew to call here, but I'm glad they did, because they alerted us to what was going on and helped us to very quickly put a fraud alert on each of the three primary credit bureaus.

This has proven very important, as I am now receiving at least one or two additional calls each week related to additional attempts, apparently by the same person(s), to apply for credit in Dad's name.

One of my biggest frustrations is the fact that after most of these callers learn that I am not my father, they refuse to talk much further with me or divulge any information (due to "privacy" concerns) about who is making the fraudulent applications for credit in my dad's name. This despite the fact that I am my father's legally appointed Power of Attorney.

But there have been two recent breakthroughs. The first came from Citibank, which (even though they didn't give me any other information), did give me the number for their Identity Theft Solutions division. When I called this division, they were VERY helpful and actually let me listen in as they called Citibank's credit application division and asked about the return address on the application. Here is what I heard:

117 Homestead Dr., Apt. A-2
Brent, AL 35034

The interesting thing about that address is that it is less than an hour's drive from where my father used to live in Alabama.

Doing some internet sleuthing I was able to make some calls and speak with other residents in that apartment complex, but haven't yet gotten what I am confident is an accurate name for the occupant of apartment A-2.

However, tonight I had another breakthrough, thanks to Barclay's Bank. The caller (alerted not only because of the fraud alert on my dad's credit record, but also because their database showed previous fraud activity at that address) not only confirmed this address, but also gave me an e-mail address and two phone numbers associated with the fraudulent credit application:
(205) 225-4101
(205) 926-7494
BlessedinBrent@bellsouth.net

The second of those two phone numbers has been disconnected and the first goes to an answering machine with a woman's voice. I have not yet obtained the name of the person or persons who own those phone lines or e-mail address, or who rent that apartment, but I am getting close.

(By the way, if you are reading this and have any information that would help me out, let me know by clicking the "comment" link on the bottom of this posting, okay? Does anyone out there know how to go about finding out who owns an unlisted phone number or e-mail address?)

Once I get an identity to go with this information, I will turn it over to the FBI. Mail fraud is a federal offense and I have some friends I can contact in the FBI's Internet crime bureau.

I am not alledging that the person(s) associated with this contact information is involved in the commitment of any kind of crime. But I'm sure the FBI would be interested in interviewing them to find out what they know.

I would like to say -- and I will close with this -- that I wouldn't be surprised if there is a special compartment in hell reserved for someone who would take advantage of a person suffering from Alzheimer's Disease by trying to steal their identity.

I'll keep you posted as I learn more.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Asking for a Little Help

Here's the story my Aunt Dorothy asked me to write down for her.

In the spring of 2004 the biking bug bit me bad. I bought a department store mountain bike (the monster weighed 45 pounds but fortunately I didn't know at the time that was heavy) and began taking it up and down hills. I lost about 25 or 30 pounds and got in great shape quickly. Which was good because, at 48, I had a lifetime of sedentary deskwork to make up for.

Late in August we were scheduled to drive our daughter, Mandy, down to Pt. Loma University in San Diego, California, to begin her freshman year. Much to my wife's chagrin, I tied the mountain bike to the back of our minivan and hauled it 1,200 miles from our home in the Seattle area down to Southern California.

Two days before we were scheduled to be in San Diego, we stopped at my inlaws' place in Wrightwood, California. The next morning the sky was clear and sunny so I decided to take the bike up a local mountain. I started on the Angeles Crest trail and ground my way up the back side of one of the peaks utilized by local skiers during the winter.

It was a grueling, 3,500 foot ascent, which took several hours to complete. And it was lonely -- I didn't see a soul all the way up. About a third of the way to the top, the rough asphalt one-lane road ended and the trail turned to dirt. But I finally made it, enjoying spectacular scenery all the way and feeling the good about the effort.

After a brief rest I turned the bike around and headed down. It was exhilarating. The soil of the trail was soft and gravelly and the bike swooshed back and forth as if I were skiing. The speed was fun and I think I began to feel somewhat invincible, though I thought I was being fairly cautious.

When I picked up the asphalt again, I felt I was able to safely pick up some more speed, even though the angle of the mountain off the side of the road was quite serious. Very soon I was coming around a curve doing maybe 20 or 25 mph ... unfortunately too fast to do anything about a large unremembered rut in the asphalt, where a washout had occurred, which stretched completely across the trail.

Unable to stop, I quickly decided to try and grind through it, but I wasn't sufficiently experienced to keep the nose of the bike up high enough, and the front wheel caught on the far side of the rut's lip. Before I knew what had happened the bike flipped me face-first onto the asphalt.

It happened unbelievably fast. I knew I had hit my head but didn't actually realize I had smashed my face into the asphalt, until the searing pain became quickly evident. I lay on the ground for awhile, unable to move, then finally sat up and began to take stock of my injuries. Most of the skin on top of my right knee was gone, but I soon realized that most of the puddle of blood on the ground was coming from my face rather than my leg. I had widened my mouth by about an inch or so, tearing straight up from the corner like an extended smile. (It wasn't until later I realized you could see my molars through this rip in my cheek.) My nose was gashed pretty good, as well as the tissue around my right eye, but worst of all was the pain in my face. My jaw seemed to hang at a funny angle and I was sure I had broken it. (It wasn't until later I realized I had broken my cheekbone, and simply jammed my jaw.)

In some respects I was lucky. When I removed my helmet, I was surprised to see it was crushed along the top. If not for my helmet, I would have seriously smashed my forehead into the asphalt. It did it's job protecting my brain.

I looked at the cellphone which I was carrying, but I already knew what to expect. I was in a remote area, and all morning long I had been checking for a signal, but didn't see a single bar. I tried to call 911, but it didn't go through.

Unsure of what else to do, eventually I picked myself (and my broken bike, too mangled for riding) up and began limping down the trail. I wasn't sure how long I might have to wait for help, and it seemed like a good idea to at least begin to walk.

I pushed forward for maybe 20 or 30 minutes, checking my cell phone every few minutes for a signal -- but nothing. The pain in my face, blazing hot and seemingly unbearable, went nowhere but worse, and despite my attempts to stop the bleeding in my face with my shirt, I was soaked in blood. My head began to swim and several times I had to stop. Finally, I dropped the bike, and collapsed by the side of the road. This time the haze in my head wouldn't go away, and I found I couldn't really get up again. I started thinking about what might happen if I passed out on that backwoods road, soaked in blood, in the middle of nowhere. I thought about the mountain lions that frequented the area.

Suddenly, in the midst of all these terrifying thoughts, a realization struck me. I had been in one of the worst pickles of my life for a half hour, and for some crazy reason I hadn't even thought to call out to the Lord for help.

I was angry at myself. That should have been my first instinct. So, in as loud a voice as I could muster, I cried out into the emptiness, air hissing from the rip in my torn cheek: "Help me, Jesus! I really don't know what to do here. I need you!"

Nothing. Silence. No response other than the soft breeze rustling the sagebrush.

I looked down at my cell phone and blinked. Was I hallucinating? I watched as the signal skipped from 0 bars, to 1, then 2, then 3, then 4, all the way up to 5 ... and hold there. Suddenly I had a strong signal.

Shakily I dialed 911 again, and put the phone to my ear. I heard it ring and began counting rings. After the 20th ring, a voice answered, "911 Operator. What is your emergency?"

I excitedly described my situation to the gentleman on the line. He asked where I was and I told him, "Angeles Crest Trail, west of Wrightwood." But my heart fell when he responded, "Angeles Crest Trail? Where is that? Up by Los Angeles somewhere?" I tried my best to describe where I was, and he seemed unbelieving. "You've reached 911 service in San Diego!" he told me. It seemed impossible.

The operator told me that he was dispatching a rescue helicopter from San Diego, but would also contact both Los Angeles and San Bernardino County dispatchers to see if one of them could get help to me faster. He told me to stay on the line as he relayed my approximate location to these others.

When he was done he asked me how I was doing. I was relieved that help was on the way, but my head was still swimming. "Help is coming," he told me. "But I want you to stay on the line with me and we'll wait for it together."

As soon as he had said that, I heard a soft beep, then nothing. I looked at the phone. The bars had returned to 0.

I don't know how much longer I sat there. Not long -- maybe 15 or 20 minutes. I glimpsed a swirl of dust rising, quite a ways down the mountain, then was able to pick out a rescue unit manuevering up the road. Within another 5 minutes, help had arrived. They poured saline and wrapped my wounds and strapped a neck brace on (which was excruciating due to the broken facial bone) then strapped me to a backboard. They loaded me very gingerly into the back of the waiting rescue unit then started back down the trail.

As we bumped down the hill, the paramedic gave me oxygen and worked on getting an IV started.

About an hour later I was being wheeled into the emergency room in San Bernardino. Mandy had been planning on being a nursing major. When she and my wife Darlene (who, fortunately for me, is already a registered nurse) saw me in the emergency room, as they were cleaning me up and started sewing up my torn cheek, Mandy changed her mind about her major.

Later that afternoon I was released -- sewn up, bandaged and thoroughly x-rayed. My face and knee healed with minimal scarring, though I had to have several broken teeth repaired. I had about a week of torture from severe sores in my mouth. My cracked facial bones popped and clicked for months, then finally fused back together. But despite my injuries I was grateful to be able to attend orientation sessions with my wife and daughter the next day at Point Loma, though I looked like I had been through hell and back.

Here I am, almost healed up!

Many of my friends asked me if I was going to continue biking. I didn't see any reason I shouldn't, especially now that I knew to be much more careful of my speed on the downhills, and how to grind through a pothole with my front wheel up!

Of course this didn't help me avoid the truck that hit me from behind while I was training for my road race in Southern Africa in May of 2006 ... but that's another story ...

A Couple of Year-End Housekeeping Items

OK, just for Christmas ... we created a new look for this blog, and we're going to put our annual Christmas letter here so we don't have to cut down trees this Christmas for anything but firewood.

But first for some housekeeping items. I know there are those of you wondering exactly what's going on in the photo in the header on top of this blog. That was someone's twisted idea of fun at last year's staff picnic at World Vision. A rodeo with inflatable dinosaurs. There were supposedly prizes to the winning teams. I'm still not sure that's actually true.

Second housekeeping item: Much of my day-to-day blogging is now being done through Twitter. Check out my Twits at http://www.Twitter.com/lshort.

Third and final: Before I post our Christmas letter, I am going to post a story my Aunt Dorothy asked me about while she was visiting here last week. So scroll up for that one.