Surviving a Tsunami or anything

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artwork by Leigh Standley, Curly Girl Design

 On my way home from work Friday, I listened to a reporter interview a man in Japan who owns a Taxi Company.  His business suffered great losses during the recent earthquakes and tsunamis.  He described how his workers had scavenged packaged noodles floating in the flood waters from a nearby noodle plant and dried them out and stockpiled them and how they had been surviving by eating those noodles boiled in pots, outside, over fires built with wood scraps from the surrounding debris.  He spoke of the dedication of his workers who continued to show up for work, though they had family members still missing, to help rebuild.  He spoke of hope and of the future.  Amazing isn’t it?

I started thinking of people I know who have lived through great crisis and then continued living after the crisis is resolved, often starting over after a death or some other part of their life is changed forever.  From the outside looking in, in the moment, it seems like the crisis defines the person who is living through it.  As a witness, we feel helpless and apart, unable to even begin to grasp what strength and resolve must be necessary to even get through one day of their situation.  We sit in awe of those people and it is amazing how resilient a human being can be.

Then I remembered times in my life when things have been difficult.  I remembered people asking, “How do you do it?  How are you getting through?”  And, I remember saying, “I don’t know.   We just do what we need to do.”  That’s the trick, isn’t it?  To come out the other side, you just put one foot in front of the other and keep on going.

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about a particular family who’s young son is suffering a terrible disease and how through it all, the mom and dad and extended family are making an effort to keep life as normal as possible for the other kids.  The mother sits for hours…days, bedside at the hospital.  She takes breaks to go to elementary school basketball games and birthday parties.  The contrast makes my head spin.  I overheard someone ask her, “How are YOU doing?”  “I’m fine,” she said.  “I’m just doing what I’ve got to do.”

How do we do it?  Picking up one foot and placing it on solid ground up ahead?  Survivors, those who do what has to be done, must have faith that tomorrow will bring another day.  Mothers of sick children, anyone who has suffered loss, and cab drivers in Japan, they all know that things will eventually change, and somehow, must hope for whatever future brings.  They put one foot in front of the other and they are amazing.

To listen to news story about Smile Smile Taxi, visit:  http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/03/18/pm-a-long-road-ahead-for-japanese-taxi-company/?sms_ss=twitter&at_xt=4d83d8b0d1051966,0

April 23, 2010

I made my kids go to school today.  They didn’t want to go, and that’s unusual.  Both my boys have discovered that it is easier to just go to school and keep up with the work than to miss a day and have to make it up.  I’ve had to put my foot down in the past to get them to take a sick day when they truly were sick.  They are also socially motivated to go to school, so when they balk it’s cause for concern.

It seems that last year, a high school student made a threat about shooting up the school on April 23, 2010 and a message to that extent was found written on a bathroom wall.  The school investigated and the author of the threat was never found.  Today is the threatened day.

When Jake asked if I would pick him up today at 11:30 so he wouldn’t have to walk from the middle school to the high school for Japanese class, I was surprised.  Jake loves his Japanese class and I couldn’t believe he wanted to miss it.  So, we talked about it and I found out that Jake was having anxiety about the shooting threat and felt he would be vulnerable walking across the street to the high school.  It hadn’t even crossed my mind how that would feel.

The high school is built up on a hill and looks over the property on which the middle school sits.  Of course, if there were a gunman anywhere on the north side of the building, anyone walking from the middle school over would be vulnerable.  This image makes me so sad.  I am sad that my fourteen year old was driven to calculate a point of vulnerability in his daily routine.  I’m sure his exposure to video games and movie footage gave him the knowledge to figure it out, but going to school just shouldn’t conjure those images.

Up until last night, Sean, my high-schooler, hadn’t mentioned the threat.  By late evening, kids were posting concerns and bantering about wrong and right choices for the day on Facebook, so I asked Sean how he felt about it.  He said he was scared to go to school but he hadn’t mentioned it because he figured I would tell him to go anyway.  Well, he was right and I think we will all have a talk after school today about why going to school was the right choice in my opinion, but he also described a jarring image at the root of his fear.  Sean said he was concerned about passing periods because the hallways are so packed full between classes that he feared turning a corner and coming face-to-face with a gun wielding student and having nowhere to run.  Again, I am disturbed that my child has thought this through to this degree.

I am angry that my kids had to summon courage to go to school today.  I am angry that a terrorist put me in the position in which I had to choose whether or not to send my kids to school.  But then I remember that the terrorist is a child.  The person who wrote the words on the wall that marked this day is someone who is hurting.  Even if the words were written as a misguided joke, the person who wrote them is in need. So, this morning when I asked God to give my kids courage and to protect the children of our community, I also made a request for that one.  I asked God to bring that child peace and a sense of belonging so that whatever feelings drove him or her to write those words will be relieved.  I firmly believe it’s wrong to let fear drive our decisions and so I made my kids go to school today.

http://www.fox59.com/news/wxin-center-grove-threats-042210,0,1990266.story

Please check your humility at the door.

The pleasant surroundings disguise why we are here.  Walls covered in sand colored, cloud textured wallpaper meet the floor of tan, sculpted Berber carpet.   Lobby chairs with soft, muted geometric patterns line the walls trimmed in warm wood grain.  Quiet, upbeat Jazz plays over the ceiling speakers and the aroma of brewing coffee is a screen for what waits beyond the tall, curved wooden wall.

Men sit alone in the upholstered chairs wringing their hands and staring at the floor.  Women come and go through the art-glass windowed door: middle-aged women in suits and heels, teenage girls in brand name t-shirts accompanied by mothers, elderly women in pastel colored velour track suits with matching purses.  Some smile at the woman holding the door and some mumble to the floor as they pass through.

Beyond the door are dimly lit rooms filled with electronics and machines of plexiglass and steel.  The women on this side of the door are resolved.  This is humiliating and uncomfortable but it must be done.  Each woman disappears into her own closet-sized room.  The directions are simple.  Strip to the waist and put on the shoulder cape as a parody to modesty.  Step forward and while keeping feet flat on the floor stretch your spine so a stranger can stretch and manipulate one naked breast on a cold steel plate at the height of which your collarbone usually resides.  The stranger, who does this job many times a day, lowers a plexiglass plate trapping your body in an impossible pose.  “Hold your breath,” she commands and you comply though your instinct is hyperventilation.  The exercise is repeated with a different pose and then on the other side.  The stranger makes light conversation in an effort to mask the intimacy you are sharing. 

You dress and are released back to the world.  The men waiting in the lobby look up hopefully as you come through the door.  You’re not theirs and disappointed, they look back to the floor.  Relief at having the task complete makes you feel light.  A treat is in order so you drop by your favorite coffee shop to log on to the free Wi-Fi and remind your friends to schedule their annual routine mammograms today.

Losing a friend.

Wow, I can’t believe he’s gone.  My good friend Gary Lott made his final exit Monday night.  He was fine one moment and the next, he was gone.  It’s been heart breaking.  His wife Andrea is an amazing, strong woman.  Her openness during her grief has been such a gift to her friends.

Sean’s response upon hearing of Gary’s death was, “He called me, Dude.”  I can hear Gary’s voice in my head saying it.  I hope I never forget the sound.  As Gary and Andrea’s friends gather around her in support I see a pattern.  Together they have built a network of people with all the positive qualities of humanity.  All their friends are loving, passionate, and giving.  Andrea and Hannah have no option but to eventually be ok as they are surrounded by such people.

I’ve been avoiding my blog for the last few days, but it’s time to get back to it and I couldn’t seem to find a way without mentioning Gary.  So there it is.  My tribute to Gary,  “Thanks Dude, for opening up your world to me.  You will be terribly missed.”

Superman had it easy

Superman probably hated those tights, but at least he didn’t have to grow wings every time a bad guy came around.  In comic books and in life, change often involves pain.  Superman was lucky, all he had to do was change clothes and boom – he could fly.  Others were not so lucky.  Wolverine had to project steel blades through his skin to go into battle, Spiderman got that venomous bite and I’m pretty sure David Banner was in pain every time he transformed into the Hulk. Transitions cause pain and it’s physical if you’re a superhero.  For us, mere mortals, the pain is often the emotional kind.

Change is hard.  I’m not the first to write that sentence but there’s no way around it.  Change is hard.  It’s human nature, it seems, to resist.  Some of us resist quietly, protesting in private while putting on a brave face.  Others take a stand and fight it every step of the way.  Superheroes channel their pain and direct it right back at the story’s villain.  Humans sometimes do that too; we find someone to blame.  Some villains are born for their roles.  They wreak havoc on our lives.  Others are forced into it out of sheer necessity.  But hearing someone say, “No pain, no gain,” doesn’t make it feel any better.

Time after time we all learn to adjust and move forward.  That’s the key.  Move forward.  Moving on just isn’t enough.  One can move on in defeat but moving forward means finding the positive and making the most of it.  Moving forward means growth has occurred and better days lie ahead.  It’s a choice we make, how we deal with change.  Buying into the fear that often accompanies change is a recipe for chaos and despair and there’s not always a hero to save the day.  When the time presents itself for me to deal with a change, no matter how much I want to resist, I hope if it’s inevitable, I find the grace and strength to accept it and move forward.