Monday, June 30, 2014

Grandpa Delbert's Funeral Message

We were going through some of my Grandparents’ things a few days ago and Aunt Steph found a “box of memories” I had given them for Christmas some years ago. It had dozens of little slivers of paper with individual memories I carry of my childhood.

It’s no secret that I adored my Grandparents; so did the rest of their children, grand-children, great-grandchildren, their friends and community. It’s no secret the respect and admiration we have as a family & nation for the Greatest Generation. Their's was the generation who willingly and eagerly sacrificed themselves to fight in a violent and bloody war halfway across the world because it meant securing a safe and democratic future for their children and grandchildren. Their generation changed gender roles permanently when women left their domestic jobs to join the ranks of Rosie the Riveter and build airplanes and weapons. They didn’t have cell phones or computers or skype or face-time to keep in touch with each other; they had faith and grit. They got up every day and did what they had to do because, well, because they took responsibility for themselves.

When I went back through the list of memories contained in that small round wooden box I was struck by what each one really showed about Delbert and Mary Jean. The sacrifices their generation made during those five years of war were valiant and noble but it is how they lived their lives during the ensuing years that truly defines why we call them great and why these two people in particular have so completely and definitively made the lives of their family and the lives of everyone they came into contact with better. I know today is Delbert’s funeral but it is so hard to talk about him without her. They were partners. They complimented and mirrored each other. They forged a future out of poverty, sickness, & trauma together….but also out of unconditional love, commitment, laughter, understanding and support.

The small pieces of paper in the memory box included statements like : “I remember when I got really sick and you pulled me into your bed and held me close”, “I remember you supporting me in all situations”. The box held snippets such as ‘I remember Grandpa tying his shoes with one hand and finally realizing how hard it must have been to live life with only one hand” and “I remember when Grandpa told me to eat nicely or he’d make me eat out back with the dogs”.

Because of these things, I knew and felt deeply that I was never alone. There has always been this belief that physical challenges are to be met head on with fierce determination – that value was ingrained in me because of this man. I also learned to be grateful when someone offers help. I was taught to always repay a debt or kindness but to never, ever expect that in return when we were the one helping another person. I learned to use manners and always remember my Grandparents carrying themselves with class and polish.

Memories of “grandpa teaching me to use the lawn mower” and “grandpa asking me to help change the oil” taught me that being a girl didn’t make me weak but that I was equal in all ways. I cherished the times when my hands became greasy and my jeans dusty from dirt when I was outside working with him.

I discovered additional memories in that box, including “I remember eating dinner with both of you every night” and “I remember you never fighting or raising your voices in front of me”. And the most important memory of all was this: “I remember always feeling like you really did want and love me and I was and am so very grateful”.

You see, this generation valued family above all else. It is why they fought and died, why they sacrificed and gave, it is why they came home and never looked back. They understood that life is such a precious gift, something they never took for granted. They spent all of their time together, they embraced their children and grandchildren and not only loved them but enjoyed them and spent time with them. They hated it when family members quarreled and stated on many occasions that when they were both gone they wanted their family to remain close. Today, family squabbles seem petty and un-important in light of this devastating permanent loss.

My mother, children, aunts and cousins are hurting deeply because saying goodbye is so difficult. We know he is happy and exactly where he has wanted to be for over four years; we know that the pain we are feeling is for ourselves and not for him. But you see, our relationships with Delbert and Mary Jean were deep and close. Each one of us carries such intensely personal and life-shaping memories that it is hard to fully explain how intricately Delbert and Mary Jean impacted our lives.

They were the greatest generation. They are responsible for many of our best personal qualities. When we are kind, tolerant, forgiving, honest, hard working, humble, and grateful we are, in fact, living evidence of Delbert and Mary Jean’s legacy. We are products of the Greatest Generation.

I encourage each of you here today to make a commitment to wake up every morning and to honor our Grandfather’s memory or the memory of your own parents, grandparents, or other important influences in your life, by being the best person you can be and by always keeping things in perspective. I know that when life throws a curveball at me, I’m going to ask these questions to help me get through it: “compared to what they went through is it really that difficult and “what would Grandpa do?”

If we do this he can always live through us and maybe through our children and their children as we pass down those values. And then, when we see him again someday as I believe I will, I expect him to say “I’m so proud of you.” Mary Jean will be by his side saying “welcome home”.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Blue Eyes

Blue Eyes

A True Story


February 15, 2010

Manhattan, KS

His heart was breaking.

He sighed, knowing that the time had come. She wouldn’t want anyone else to see her like this. In fact, she’d be angry that he had left her in this state for over two days. She had to know, had to understand, how much strength it was taking for him to make this painful decision. He was angry; he had never planned on her being the first to go. After all that they had been through, all of the close calls, for her to simply get sick and not wake up was simply unacceptable.

He knew she was tired. She had been telling him for several years. He just hadn’t wanted to hear it, hadn’t wanted to accept that this beautiful woman who had saved him from himself and who had created a lifetime of love, warmth and memories, was going to leave him.

The old man held her hand and looked at her face closely. He wanted her to wake up so that he could see her blue eyes one final time. They had both gotten old, although he couldn’t say exactly when. Her house, the mass of skin that contained the core that was his Mollie, had become wrinkled…shrunken over the years, but there was always one consistently safe place he could lose himself and that was the blue of her eyes. He hadn’t seen those blue eyes in over two days. He knew that he wouldn’t see them again.

The old Marine felt his throat tighten and he shook his head, not wanting any of the girls to see him upset. He leaned down and kissed his bride’s hand, then grabbed his cane, stood up, and went to find the doctor.

It was time for her to meet Tuffy. He knew it wouldn’t be long before he joined them.


September, 1943

Parkerville, KS

When he saw her for the first time she was riding in a car with a group of girlfriends. She was beautiful, even from afar. He wanted to meet her.

The next time their paths crossed, she was wearing a red dress and walking in a circle during a community cake walk, performing beautifully in her role as the new teacher at Haun Country School. It was obvious to him that others attending the community picnic were equally smitten.

Deb Stone approached Mary Jean Harmison as soon as the cake walk ended and politely asked her if she would consider going out with him. Her response left him roaring with laughter.

“Sober up and then call me” she stated, shoulders back and head held high.

He knew, in that moment, she was the perfect woman for him. He also decided he liked the name Mollie better than Mary Jean. It fit her better.


Their inaugural date was a movie in Council Grove. By the end of the evening she had him in her spell. He was fairly certain he was in love for the first time in his young life.

Later that night, as he held her face in his hands and cautiously kissed her, the response from her lips told him all he needed to know. Mollie felt the same. He was ecstatic, thrilled, and delirious all at the same time. Deb hollered out loud on the drive home and to anyone listening he would’ve sounded like a mad man.

He convinced her to marry him three months later, to the horror of both their families. His parents thought she was too poor for him; her parents thought he was a no-good drinker from a family almost as destitute as they were. Deb and Mollie didn’t care.

Instead, they drove sixty miles in a wicked rain storm to the Cottonwood Falls Courthouse and refused to invite a single family member to the wedding. For the first time in his life, Deb was drunk on something other than alcohol. Mollie had that effect on him.

They were utterly, hopelessly, and passionately in love.

The world was on fire. The war was in full explosion; Deb would have to enlist or be drafted when he turned 18 in February. But none of that concerned them. All that mattered was right now. Neither doubted for a moment the wisdom of marrying so quickly or so impulsively. They already loved each other with a depth and maturity unknown to anyone in their family or circle of friends.

They were soul mates.


After Deb completed boot camp with the United States Marine Corps in San Diego (he would always maintain that if he had to fight he was going to do it with the best), he rented an apartment in Oceanside so that Mollie could join him. By day, Deb engaged in war games and ate in the Camp Pendleton chow hall. Mollie survived on the tastiest five cent egg sandwiches she’d ever eaten at the corner deli and took on ironing jobs to help cover expenses.

Deb snuck out of Pendleton every evening. He had found a hole in one of the external fences and late every night, he’d find his way into her arms. In the morning, sporting a huge smile, he’d hop onto one of the liberty buses and sneak back onto the base.

It was romantic, magical, marvelous and bewitching. During their secret late night trysts, they pretended that there was no war, no looming threat. There was just Deb and Mollie. He knew that if she were to dwell on the future and what might come she would be paralyzed with fear, unable to function. So he pretended with her and held her tight.

Deb was notified in early August that they would be shipping out. He and Mollie had prepared for this. He knew his military transport convoy would roll right by the apartment so the plan was for her to wait until the trucks finally rounded the corner. Sticking with their careful strategy, he secured an outside seat and held his laundry bag up high. As soon as the truck began to pass, he stood and gave the bag a heave, tossing it towards her. The last photo in his mind’s eye was of Mollie standing on the sidewalk next to his dirty clothes bag, one arm in the air waving and the other clutched in a tight fist against her heart.


April 1, 1945

Okinawa, South Pacific

The morning arrived clear and warm. As Deb grabbed his gear and headed to the landing vehicle he looked out from the ship’s deck and was shocked. He’d never seen anything like it before. As far as his eyes could see, there were American ships, hundreds of them. Their 240mm and 155mm guns blasted the island of Okinawa. They had been shelling for days, softening up the island for the American landing. He was a little scared but more resigned than anything else. All of them understood that the Marines who had landed on Iwo Jima were butchered and they had been warned.

Today’s landing casualties would be high.

Later, as he walked up onto the beach, he shook his head in amazement. The landing had been a breeze with no enemy fire encountered. Maybe he would get out of this alive after all!

Over the course of the next six weeks, the First Division would make their way south, towards Naha, Okinawa’s capital. Caves and tunnels protected their enemy, making every day a challenge, every mile a hard fought obstacle.

Deb wrote Mollie between the violent skirmishes, but spared her any of the real details. Instead, he shared lighter stories, like the fact that the unit had given him the name “Chick” because he was the youngest. He would find out after returning home that most of the letters had large chunks cut out, courtesy of the Marine officers who censored them.


May 15 was quiet, too quiet. Regimental command had most of the First Marine Division concentrated in an area surrounding three large hills north of the old city of Shuri. The fighting had become heavier the further south they moved and these three hills were a major stronghold of Ushijima’s battle hardened forces.

Deb’s Sergeant asked for two volunteers to hike to the top of Dakeshi Ridge so that C Company could secure it. Fighting was fierce to the southeast on Sugar Loaf Hill; they needed this ridge secured quickly so that reinforcements could head to Sugar Loaf and help their brothers.

Deb still had that feeling. The one he’d had the day of the landing. The one that told him he wasn’t meant to survive this war. In defiance of that feeling, he volunteered, along with Private Stjar, whom they had nicknamed “Big Daddy” because of his size and age.

Deb saw no signs of the enemy, but still cradled his Browning automatic rifle tightly. The Japanese were surely there, deep beneath the ground. The enemy was hiding in miles of tunnels; they would enter through caves then lie in wait to ambush young American Army soldiers and Marines. As a result, the Americans had been forced to endure a painful hill by hill sweep, trying to ferret out every last enemy soldier. Once a cave entrance had been sealed, the Allies could continue heading south.

It was slow. It was painstaking. It was deadly.

As Deb neared the summit of Dakeshi, he heard a sound every Marine recognizes: incoming fire. Before he could hit the ground the force of bullets assaulted like a freight train. The blow threw him back twenty feet, leaving him mangled, lying on the ground, gasping for air, and reeling from the impact.

As he lay there, in shock and confusion, all hell broke loose around him. Bullets were flying everywhere, with dirt and rocks being blown in every direction. He felt a searing white hot pain in his knee and lower left leg and wondered if he was on fire.

Deb was lying on his right side but could not move; he feared he might be paralyzed. He squinted, trying to protect his eyes from the dust and debris, and saw a Navy corpsman crouched low, trying to reach him. At that moment, it seemed as if the entire Japanese Army began to shoot at them. The corpsman, locking eyes with the injured Marine, shook his head back and forth in apology and retreated. The barrage of bullets was too heavy. Deb was on his own until either he or the storm of gunfire died.

His ears were ringing and small pieces of the earth were blasting him from all sides. He could see his right arm but couldn’t feel it. Strange, he thought, the pain in his leg was still excruciating, but he couldn’t feel anything on the right side where he thought he had been hit.

Time passed while the madness around him continued. Eventually, after what felt like hours, the enemy seemed to take a collective breath. In those brief moments, a corpsman and two litter bearers rushed in and loaded him onto a stretcher.

He remembered reaching the makeshift field hospital and hearing the doctor tell another corpsman “take his boots, he won’t need them”. Mollie had given him those logging boots, which were sturdier than the standard Marine issue. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t yell “don’t touch those boots!”

Then the doctor looked at him. The last thing he heard before drifting off was “Son, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to take your arm.”


June 3, 1945

White City, Kansas

The baby wouldn’t come. No matter what Mary Jean did, no matter how hard she pushed, he wouldn’t come. No one had told her labor would hurt so badly and there were moments when she really thought she was going to die. During these times, she mentally held on to the letter Deb had written, letting her know he was alive. Fearing the military would send her a dreaded telegram saying he was dead or missing in action, he had spent three hours trying to pen a barely legible letter with his left hand.

His assumption had been correct; the military did send a telegram. But he wasn’t missing in action. He was alive and on his way home. She could do this. If he could do what he had done, she could do this.

Doc Bowers knew she needed a cesarean but they were literally stuck in Mary Jean’s small apartment doing the best they could. He simply couldn’t move her at this point. The baby was breach but it was more than that. This was the worst labor he’d ever witnessed and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to keep the baby or the patient alive.

Harriet Harmison, Mary Jean’s sister-in-law, was literally acting as a pair of human stirrups. Even though her shoulders were black and blue, Harriet felt that it was a small sacrifice; her own labor had been nothing like the horror she had witnessed over the past twenty hours. By now, it was obvious even to her that something was very wrong. There were moments when she wanted to run from the room and never look back. Mary Jean’s anguish was palpable, her pain visceral.

When Delbert Jr. finally arrived, his mother sunk into a deep sleep. A grateful Doc Bowers knew she would recover. Over the next ten days, while Mary Jean recuperated, family members only brought little Delbert to her for small amounts of time. She couldn’t nurse, which was fine by her. Only poor folks nursed and she’d been fighting to shed that moniker her entire life.

By the end of the first week, she became concerned with the way he was being wrapped so tightly during the hot Kansas summer. All she could see was his face peeking out. The blankets were ridiculous and he needed to breathe. As she pulled the covers off and cupped the back of his head in her hand to keep his neck safe, she was horrified. Why was the top of his head so large?

She gasped, had never felt anything like this. Surely….no, this couldn’t be……what was wrong with him? Why hadn’t they told her? Mary Jean held him, frozen, and looked around, silently begging for help. As Harriet stepped into the room, Mary Jean’s eyes asked her for answers, for an explanation. Harriet choked down a sob. She had to run away and simply couldn’t bear to see the agony in her sister’s blue eyes.

Mary Jean’s index and middle fingers were sunk several inches into the back of little Delbert’s skull. It was squishy, gelatinous, the way her meat loaf felt as her hands worked it together. And his head…..his head was huge, distorted, as if every piece of skin above his beautiful clear forehead was inflated and bulging.

She pulled him closely to her chest and closed her eyes. Rocking him, she whispered “this is not real. You’ll be just fine. Dad will come home and we can fix this. This just isn’t real.”

It became all too real over the next few months. As Delbert Jr’s head became more pronounced, so did his cries of distress. Mary Jean kept her own pain close, deep, and hugged it tightly like an old worn blanket.


Deb, recuperating in San Francisco, cursed and threatened, eventually going straight to the Commanding Officer of Mare Island Naval Hospital. This was the only power that could over-ride the Red Cross, which had determined he wasn’t healthy enough to travel. Deb didn’t give a damn what they thought. His wife needed him. His baby was dying. He had to get home. Fortunately, the C.O. didn’t give a damn either. He drew up the papers and by July Deb was on his way back to White City for a two week visit.

Things had changed. Deb weighed 165 pounds before the war. Now he weighed 125. Every time he stepped on a scale, he found himself wondering how much his arm had weighed. Mollie, at 5’8”, weighed a meager 115 pounds between the baby and worry. Together, they were nothing but skin and bones. Those days were fraught with raw pain, sorrow, and bewilderment.

Deb was known for bestowing nicknames and his new son immediately became “Tuffy”. Their little fighter had a sweet and happy disposition, but on far too many occasions he would just cry. His head hurt, he was in pain. Listening to this, having to hear it, was agonizing.


Deb returned to California in late July. Mary Jean, alone again, was facing enormous challenges which threatened to break and destroy her. At times, she raged against God himself. Not once did she become angry with Tuffy, though. She couldn’t. Her sweet, gentle baby was innocent. Fate was a cruel bastard.

She took him to Kansas City. Residents at the KU Medical Center poked and prodded. They looked at Tuffy as if he were a new toy for them to play with. No one could tell her how to fix him or make him better. Dr. Teachenor, the expert, described Tuffy’s condition as “enormous asymmetrical head with greatly dilated bulging fontanels and suture lines; congenital hydrocephalus”…whatever that meant. Her baby had water on the brain. According to the doctors, he could die in a few weeks or he could die in a few months. Draining the fluid that was drowning his brain wasn’t an option.

It would simply come back.

As she rode back to White City on the train, shielding the baby from curious eyes, her thoughts turned to Deb and his pain and loss. Then she looked at Tuffy. She felt, for a moment, as if she wanted to simply close her eyes and escape. Then she wouldn’t have to feel this all-consuming anguish.


During the fall of 1945, Mary Jean became sick. She couldn’t keep food down and between caring for Tuffy, worrying about Deb, and trying to keep the citizens of White City at bay when they visited for a peek at the” Stone’s freak baby”, she lost even more weight.

She was pregnant again.

Doc Bowers was worried when Mary Jean stopped by his office. “Is everything okay with Tuffy?” he asked. “Tuffy is fine,” she said, “It’s me. I can’t have the baby. What if this baby is sick too? Doc Bowers, I can’t do this again. I won’t survive it”.

As she poured her heart out to him, sharing her fears, Doc Bowers gently reassured her that there was nothing she had done, no genetic history, to cause Tuffy’s condition. She heard him, understood what he was saying, but would never reconcile why their baby had to be the one, why he had to spend his brief life in pain, and why he would have to be taken from them.

In the end, there was absolutely no way she could do anything to hurt the baby she was carrying, regardless of the fear which often paralyzed her. It was time to write Deb and let him know he was going to be a father again.


Deb walked through the front door for good on Christmas Eve, 1945. It had been a long trip from San Francisco. The shrapnel was still in his knee. His stump still hurt. He had no idea what he would find when he entered their home but as soon as he looked into her blue eyes and held her, he believed they could get through this.

Tuffy began sleeping more. The doctors had predicted this, along with seizures. They watched and waited, but their baby endured without this horrible side effect. He withdrew into longer and deeper periods of sleep, not crying as much and no longer reaching out to them with his tiny baby hands. They hoped, prayed, that this meant he was no longer in as much pain and that his death would be tranquil.

When he wasn’t sleeping, Tuffy was still an angel. His eyes were bright blue, just like his mother’s, his skin smooth and clear, and his smile sweet and contagious.

Unable to move his head because of the weight, his eyes would follow Mollie as far as they allowed him. She made it a habit to stay in front of him so he could always see her. Near the end, on a few occasions, he would reach out, longing to be held as he had before this final decline.

Deb struggled in silence. It enraged him that he couldn’t pick up the baby with one arm, couldn’t safely support the head to ensure it didn’t twist, savagely breaking Tuffy’s neck. At times, he could feel a phantom arm reaching out, trying to touch the baby.

Mollie, were she to admit it, hated almost everyone, include the doctors in Kansas City and the prying neighbors.

During those moments when the sorrow and frustration racked her soul to the core, leaving her breathless and panting, she felt that anger lashing out towards everyone else but Deb.

By early February, Doc Bowers told them Tuffy was nearing the end.

While holding vigil, Deb was more concerned with Mollie, at times persuading her to leave Tuffy’s side so she could get some rest. He stuffed his own pain, a survival skill learned on the hell that was Okinawa, keeping a tough exterior in order to support Mollie.

Late the night of February 11, 1946, at the tender age of eight months, Tuffy finally left them, quietly and in his sleep. They didn’t realize the moment had arrived and had briefly stepped out of the room. Not being with Tuffy, unable to hold him at the very end, was the final insult, the ultimate injustice.

What else, thought Mollie, had she expected?


May 19, 1946

This labor was different. It didn’t hurt as badly, didn’t make her feel as if she was being ripped apart. Surely that was a good sign? As Doc Bowers held up their new daughter, Mary Jean thanked the same God she had railed against so many times for sparing them the horror she had experienced with Tuffy, for giving her a normal delivery.

Their baby, named Mary Ann, was perfect in every way. Still, Mary Jean found herself touching the baby’s head, feeling it all over. She looked into the little girl’s eyes and they were perfect, not distended. As tears rolled down her face and sobs racked her body, she held tightly to this beautiful new life. A part of her had died with Tuffy and she would never, ever, recover that part of herself.

In spite of this, or maybe because of it, their beautiful Mary Ann would give her a reason to go on. After everything she’d been through, long absent hope had finally arrived. She promised to treasure this valuable gift every day for the rest of her life.

She and Deb would be blessed with three more healthy and beautiful daughters, but not another son. Not another Tuffy. Fate wouldn’t be that generous.

It didn’t matter, though. As long as there was light in her blue eyes and strength in his soul, together they would make it.


June 2, 2013

It has been three long years since Mollie left him. The pain of losing an arm, of losing Tuffy…none of it was as wrenching as losing her.

He was ready and wanted to die but his battered and weathered body kept holding on.

“I’m waiting, Mollie” he whispers softly in the night.


June 26, 2014

Walking down the sunlit path he could see her standing in the distance holding hands with a young man. As he got closer he could see that the blue eyes of mother and son were identical.

As he wrapped them tightly in both arms, her voice spoke the words he had been longing to hear.

"Welcome home" she said, "welcome home."

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Thanks, But I'm Not Switching Kansas Parties

Election season is upon us. Monday was the filing deadline for Kansas State Representative candidates, meaning those of us involved in campaigns are talking. We are talking about districts and candidates. We are talking about numbers and demographics. We are talking about how we can best get rid of the extremists in Topeka by replacing them with moderate, cooperative, and intelligent citizens.

I’ve been met with a particular statement many times over the past few years, by some of my favorite Republicans in Johnson County (yes, there are many Republican friends whom I love but respectfully disagree with on some issues). They have all said to me “You should just switch parties!”

Um, no. I shouldn’t.

In fact, how would you respond if I told YOU to switch parties? Would you be insulted? The question itself implies I lack an awareness of who I am and what I believe. Actually, consider that, in light of the current state of Kansas, maybe moderate Kansas Republicans should be the ones rethinking their party affiliation.

After all, it is your extreme party members who have destroyed the legislature by such ridiculous acts as holding sonograms under the dome, sponsoring discriminatory bills (leaving Kansas the laughingstock of the country), and who single handedly removed teacher’s rights within our state.

Wasn’t it YOUR party who introduced and passed the tax bill which is directly responsible for the state’s downgraded bond rating and projected 900 million dollar+ shortfall by 2017?

Yours is the party who played host to a group of lobbyists who targeted every moderate incumbent for ouster two years ago in order to bring in patsies who would do the bidding of Brownback, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the Koch brothers. And these are the same Republicans now attempting to do the identical thing again during the current pending primaries. And yet not one of you who asked me to switch parties has openly denounced Brownback.

And isn’t it your party’s governor whose most beloved henchmen are now being investigated by the FBI for alleged illegal lobbying activities?

No, I think I’ll stick with the Democrats, thank you very much.

You see, there is a reason I’m a Kansas Democrat.

It is because I believe in teachers, public schools, and providing the best education possible to every single Kansas child regardless of their income or religion.

It is because I believe in equal rights for all Kansas and United States citizens, regardless of gender, race, religious belief or sexual orientation.

It is because I believe in a woman’s right to make private medical decisions without the government intruding. In fact, I believe in a man’s right to the same.

It is because I believe that taxes are vital to maintaining first world conditions within this country. To be brutally honest, I kind of enjoy our paved roads and invaluable public services.

Call me crazy, but I’m even partial to some government regulations. In fact, I kind of prefer not having raw sewage in the local ditches.

I'm even pro-business but understand that a state like Kansas lacks the necessary resources to support a zero business income tax model…and it certainly didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand this simple little fact before the vote was taken on Brownback’s experimental grand tax bill. Yours is the party that has supported candidates who lack the basic ability to use pragmatism, nuance, and simple honest research before making informed decisions regarding how they will vote on a bill. They blindly follow their masters' bidding when it comes time to make those votes.

It is because I believe our elected officials should be financially supported by donations offered by average citizens versus massive and lopsided donations by the corporate elite, which is one of the ways the extremists in YOUR party have managed to wrestle control of the state away from your very own moderates.

It is because I believe that employee unions paved the way for worker’s rights and a solid middle class so that families could afford to buy a home and send their kids to college, knowing there would be a pension.

Oh, and yes. I believe in global warming and science. Call me crazy, I’ll accept that.

I believe our founding fathers would be horrified to see the push by some to turn this state into a theocracy and further horrified to see traditional Republicans who oppose this refuse to stand up to the Governor who is leading the charge.

It is because I would never, ever, associate myself with a party that refuses to purge hatred, bigotry, ignorance and discrimination from its ranks, even when it is costing the citizens of Kansas dearly.

Thanks for the advice, really. I appreciate the offer to join the reigning party in Kansas. I really do. It makes me feel humbled and wanted, kind of like hanging out in the bar during last call.

Frankly, though, I’m pretty darn comfortable with the Kansas Democrats.

They fit who I am and what I believe and I've never considered leaving. Not even to be on the state's current popular team.

But hey, we have plenty of room in the party. Our arms are open and accepting…ALL Americans and Kansans are welcome.

With one caveat: You can’t hate/malign/push to remove civil rights/or otherwise disrespect your fellow citizens because they aren't like you. If that’s your scene then stay right where you are. The majority party in Topeka seems to have a monopoly on bigotry and ignorance.

Not my party, though. They represent true Kansas values.