Category Archives: open letters

You Say You’ll Never Forget September 11th

You say you’ll never forget September 11th, 2001. I’ve said it too. Seventeen years later though, how much do you about that day? How much does the next generation know about the day 2,996 people died in not one, but three attacks? 

Today I overheard a conversation between two people who looked to be in their mid-teens. One was convinced that the 9-11 attacks only happened in New York. The other said, “No, there was another one in DC and I think one in Boston.” 

Wow! We need to do better. The memory should not be allowed to fade until it is so opaque that it nearly doesn’t exist. 

Time can be a salve but it by no means heals all wounds. When we visited the memorial, my husband pointed out a staircase to the kids. More accurately THE staircase. The one he walked on his way to work and on his way home every day for 7 years. Every year he tells the same stories about his friend Bob, who’s mortal remains, mingled with so many unidentified others, rest in the memorial.

Today friends of friends, New Yorkers who were there that day, will once again talk about still being able to taste the air filled with ash. A flight attendant friend told me a story last year about the day she held the grandchild of one of her former crewmates who fell in Shanksville and never had that chance. That was the day the memories deepened for her.

I am a veteran and Marine Corps mom, the Pentagon was our own. I am the daughter of a fire chief, sister of a cop, wife of a Special Agent who is native New Yorker and survivor of the 1993 WTC bombing. Forgetting for me, like many of us, is not possible.

Yet I hear memories fade all around me, in schools, on trains. In conversations between teenagers. In the absence news reports who. So much of our dialog lives in the now and pays little heed to our history.

On that day, in the miasma of collapsed buildings, burning jet fuel, and dying dreams, some good arose. The best of us shown through as a people banded together by collective pain and a will to comfort each other. 

It is incumbent upon us to never forget. To ensure that not only will the rest of us remember but that we again strive to find the best in one another. It should not take a national tragedy for us to be good to others. Do it in memory of those who don’t have the choice. 


The Meaning of Veterans Day

Susie Sailor girl.. age 19
Susie Sailor girl.. age 19

A rare and welcome cool breeze wafted through the gray cinder-block corridor, carrying on it the faint, distant notes of a nameless, yet familiar holiday tune. The sun had yet to rise which may have contributed to the vague notion that December – at least for the moment – had arrived in Florida.

I was nineteen, an entire coast away from everything I knew to this point in life, and homesick. Basic training was in full swing and it had barely paused to acknowledge the holidays.

That winter the meaning of Veterans Day began to transform for me. I’d yet to understand how much my life would change, that soon our Company Commander would arrive with a team of MPs to remove the drill weapons that stood silent century in the center of birth we’d come to call home. That war would be declared in Iraq, or that 25 years later the same surreal mixture of pride and fear that my own mother must have felt would be visited upon me. 

I’ve often written about what my time in the Navy meant to me, the honor of serving alongside so many selfless, heroic, determined brethren.   Many times I’ve climbed upon my infamous soapbox in support of those who came before me, and those who continue to take up the gauntlet of service.  Today though, Veteran’s Day comes to me with new meaning.

It was another December day, oddly enough the same, rare cool breeze wafted off the San Diego bay. This time it carried on it the equally familiar hymn of Marine Corps. In a sea of hundreds of young Marines, all dressed alike,  all standing at rigid attention, I easily found my son.

He is mine.

That day a pride like I’d never known filled me, bringing along with it an ever-present undercurrent of fear. He will serve, no matter where or when. Those who hold his fate in their hands can never know how important, amazing… irreplaceable, he is. 

He’d volunteered for this.  Worked for it. Earned it. 

That will forever bond us to each other in the same fashion that the invisible umbilical chord always will.  We have served. Willingly, with pride.

When you stop to thank a Veteran today, keep in your thoughts those that love them, for they serve as well. 2013-12-05 12.32.07While a simple “Thank You,” goes a long way on Veterans Day or any day, if you’d like to do something more tangible to show your gratitude to those who have served and are serving, consider some of the apps and organizations below. One of the beautiful things about living in this digital age is that technology makes giving back an easy thing to do.  

Veterans Call  – This app allows users to give to as little as $5 in a monthly donation. These micro-donations add up as users choose charities to support, inviting friends and family to do the same.

Hero Miles – As someone who travels a lot, this is one of my favorite ways to give back. I belong to almost all the airline rewards programs there are out there and rarely (if ever) use the miles I’ve accumulated on all of them. 

Hero Miles is a program run through The Fisher House Foundation that allows you to donate your unused airline miles to veterans and their families. Imagine for a moment that you couldn’t get to a loved one in need who was far from home because the airfare was out of reach. This program helps to ensure that military families don’t have to face this scenario.

22Kill – The driving idea behind this movement is to raise awareness that nearly 22 veterans a day take their own lives. While that statistic may warrant some scrutiny, the fact is that awareness saves lives. Veteran suicide hits very close to home for our family, so I add this group into ways YOU can help because even after hashtags die out that doesn’t mean the problem is solved.  #22pushups for #22Kill

If you’re giving to veterans charities that aren’t giving the overwhelming majority of their funds to veterans or their families, you aren’t helping. ~ The Street

Considering giving to a veteran’s charity?  Start by grabbing the Charity Navigator app.  Believe it or not there are a whole lot of veterans charities out there that spend the bulk of your donated dollar on anything but direct help for veterans. Check this app before you click donate.

However you choose to thank a veteran know that we truly appreciate being acknowledged, though just about all of us will tell you it was OUR honor.

Disclosure: As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events. All opinions entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less!  


Peace For Paris. Peace For Us All.

Like yours my heart is broken, mind reeling. There are simply no words that can encompass the enormity of the senselessness of the Paris attacks. A call of peace cries out into the darkness of our collective despair. As we stand together in solidarity with Paris, can we turn those cries into a deafening roar that demands peace for all humanity?

When I first flipped on the TV Friday evening and caught the headline, “Terrorist Attack”  I thought it was a recap of the tragedy that had played out in a crowed market place in Beirut the day before where 43 were left dead and 239 wounded. Slowly the horrific reality that this was a day later, a new attack, a different city – Paris– sunk in. Glued to the TV while checking in with Parisian friends on social media, I’ll admit that Beirut fell from my mind.

I don’t now anyone living in Lebanon, there was nobody to check on, but is that a reason to ignore this tragedy? No. Caring for those who suffer, standing with those who have been horribly, senselessly, brutally wronged should not be contingent upon whether we know someone from the region, or identify with their culture.  No matter our geography or culture, we are all tethered together as members of the human family. 

When you hurt a member of my family, I will stand up for them, beside them, between them and harm’s way.

I understand that Paris is a city we can all identify with. Who among us hasn’t longed to walk along the left bank in the height of spring, scale the Eiffel Tower, sip Bordeaux in a quaint cafe as La Vie En Rose plays softly in the background? There is romance, history, promise in Paris.  I’d wager that there is all that in Beirut as well.  

As we gather as one to pray or hope that peace comes to Paris, let us also do the same for Beruit and Brussels, London and Los Angles, Damascus and Dublin, into every city and every home.

Peace for Paris. Peace for Us All.



An open letter in three parts….

Dear Manufactures, Monthly “gift” and Modern Science,

You each, in the words of the immortal Desi Arnez, have some splaining to do! Ms. Monthly, I understand that our visits have been a necessary part of my womanhood. However, having taken full advantage of the motherhood clause four times now, I’d like to renegotiate the terms of our “agreement”. I can accept the fact that, like a visit from one’s in-laws, you may from time to time make an unscheduled visit, overstaying your welcome. That said however, I would like to know why your once rather reliable schedule has turned into a guessing game as I have continued age. As if the great follicle migration and ever stretching stretch marks were not enough of an insult. Now I must endure days of panic due to your late arrivals, punctuated with the occasional “oopse” early arrival. Would that you could show me just the smallest bit of courtesy, I feel the years of our acquaintance should have earned me, and show up on time. IS that too much to ask?!

And for your part, manufactures of products intended to help deal with the symptoms Ms. Monthly inflicts on me, shame on you! Why? Well because I noticed this morning at 3 a.m. when I was rather impatiently waiting for the relief promised by one of your products, that you had pulled a fast one. It seems that one of your coconspirators (I will simply say that the product name rhymes with the first name of the NFL player Edgerinn James, no I didn’t make that up you’ll have to credit his mother with that stroke of genius) has duped me with pink packaging! Feeling the eminent arrival of Ms. Monthly I rushed to the drug store to purchase some pharmaceutical support. On sale, in it’s lovely pink wrapper, was a product proposed to fit the bill. Yet as I looked at the capsule in my palm this morning it looked suspiciously familiar. So I grabbed a bottle of my favorite “Tension Headache” product from the medicine cabinet. It was not only the same “formula” the dam capsule was even the same! I paid $2 more for the pink packaging!! WARNING: it is NEVER good to tick off a woman in need of PMS relief!!!

This brings me to YOU Mr. Modern Science (yes giving a male gender to science was intentional on my part). Can you please explain to me how it is that with your vast and inventive assistance the Human Gnome has been mapped. We’ve not only sent people into space, but they live there for extended periods of time. I can now purchase a car that runs on corn oil. My father no longer drives aimlessly for miles refusing to ask for directions, because mom bought him a GPS. Or even that, ethics smethics, a woman can have 14 kids on a whim. BUT you can’t seem to find a “cure” for the “curse”!!! Why must I, and countless other women/mothers, be made to feel that we are temporarily insane on a monthly basis?! Why is there not a product out there that truly relieves the bloating, fatigue and cramps like we have been promised?! I simply don’t understand why the only lame excuse for an answer seems to be , PINK FREAKING PACKAGING like we’ll buy that (well okay maybe I did, but that is beside the point). Put your talents to better use and rid the world of the scourge that is Pre Menstrual Syndrome. Wait a minute, you named it that didn’t you? Well let me just tell you it isn’t simply PRE, its during and sometimes even after! Perhaps the true definition for the term PMS, is Putting up with Men’s S*#!&…!!

In closing, phooie on all of you I need something deep fried and smothered in chocolate!!

With little regard,

DiPaola Momma

An open letter to our new President

Dear President Obama,

We the American People having judged you simply on the content of your character have now entrusted you with our hopes. This yolk, I am sure, will be both an honor and a burden to bare. My hope for you is that you understand in your hands you hold our dreams. That in times of hardship you may find those dreams buoyant enough to hold you up. That you may draw upon their strength when you find yourself at the point of need. In you we see not just the winds of change but a dream realized and the hope of dreams yet to come.

The road ahead will be littered with trials but know that we have faith in you. I take into my heart your call to service and change from within. It is my faith that this call will take seed in the hearts of all Americans, and that we may once again have full pride in our country, our leader and do so in the name of love and the fulfillment of all our aspirations.

This day will stand to show all naysayers that all things are within the grasp of the person who dares dream.

With Pride,

Lara DiPaola
(formerly)U.S. Navy
Aviation Boatswains Mate Third Class
Veteran of Desert Storm
Proud recipient of the National Defense Service Medal