Saturday, April 6, 2013

This Week

This week, I let a kindergarten kid play with my iPhone to coax him into the tutoring classroom.  I set up a plan for dealing with this ongoing issue and consulted with his mama.  She’s a tough one to get to know, his mama, but I try.

This week, I promised two little boys I would pick them up on Friday and take them to my house.

This week, on a crazy afternoon, a granny asked me for alcohol and I thought.  I wish!  I could use a swig.  But that's not what she meant.  She was looking for rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to take care of an injured kid.  A few months ago, we were awkward because we didn't know each other but now the awkwardness is gone and I can’t help but hug her every time I see her. I love that granny. 

This week, I dropped off a little girl and shook hands with her father.  His hand was dry, he had a tattoo on his neck and he's just fresh from jail.  He asked how his daughter was doing in class and they both basked in the rain of praise.

This week, a first grade child sulked and balked and rolled her eyes.  I scolded and cajoled and got nowhere.  I dropped her off at home and shared the day’s report with her granny. (Another granny.)  Granny took my hands and leaned in.  “Her cousin died in a fire this morning.” (Note to self: There’s ALWAYS a reason when a kid drives you crazy!)

This week, I was twenty minutes late to pick up the two little boys.  They were waiting expectantly in the yard with their eleven-year-old sister who was hoping to come too.  The car was packed with my kids and company kids and there was no way to shoehorn one more child in.  Disappointed, she couldn't look me in the eye.  I could see her in my rear view mirror as I drove away, still standing in the yard.

This week, I made plans to pick up an eleven-year-old girl on Saturday. 

This week, I held a preschooler in my lap in time-out, three times in sixty minutes. We were armed with dolls and a timer to get us through.  We practiced, I’m sorry for punching and then, I’m sorry for throwing and  finally, I'm sorry for stealing and all three times, I forgive you. 

This week, my husband drove the preschooler home an hour early for throwing bread for a second time the full length of our dining room table. 

This week, I dropped off a two-year-old three houses down from yellow Police Line Do Not Cross tape strung across his streetThree hours before, there was no tape.

This week, there was a sixteen-year-old  with a gunshot wound trundled into the back of an ambulance.  The reason for the tape.
I went to a city-wide safety meeting a few weeks ago to discuss this wave of gang violence that is sweeping across Chattanooga and mingled with people in business suits.  They pulled business cards from their pockets. I wore my yoga pants without pockets so I had an excuse for not trading my Just a Mom card for their Head of Parks and Rec, Professor, Researcher, and Upper Management Police Dude cards. Lots of ideas were brought to the table from vocational training for teens to more staffing for community services. Good ideas.  But I am learning that the Mom card counts.   There is much work to do here.  I thought it would be hard but it is not.  It’s overwhelming maybe but not hard. It turns out that parenting skills and a bit of love go a long way.  All over the city, there are people who see these issues as their responsibility.  And wouldn't it be an awesome, if Chattanooga was not known as a city with  gang and violence and crime problems but as a city with a redemption story?  It could easily happen if hundreds of whole and healthy people across the county breathed hope and righteousness and discipline into a few fragile lives by doing things that are no harder than what I did in five hours this week.

Gingerbread Party

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Notes From the Road

Stuart* just returned home from a month long business trip. These are clips of Facebook entries and emails home, pieced together to recreate his big adventure.

     Calling home while on safari in South Africa.
It is 3AM here in Mongolia and we just checked in at the hotel in Erdenet. So, if my calculations are correct, it took me 45 hours of travel to get here from the time I left the house. The last six hours were a fairly torturous car ride up into the mountains. I wouldn't hesitate to say that the very best stretch of road that we were on was equivalent to the very worst road that you can think of in PA. There ain't no sleeping in the car while riding here! Most of the ride was fairly teeth rattling. I was correct that, as soon as we left the capital city, I lost cell phone coverage and we never passed through another town. We did stop at a little outpost to pick up drinks and a snack. I will call it an outpost, rather than a rest area for several reasons. First, it was completely out of place in the middle of nowhere. Picture the “last chance for gas for 200 miles” station at the edge of a desert. Except they did not sell gas. There was a rest room, consisting of an outhouse with nothing but a hole in the floor: no light, no sink, no seat. The hotel is significantly better and yet giving it a half a star would probably ruin my credibility as a hotel critic.

There are a lot of these yurts outside of the capital city with people living the same way they have for thousands of years.


En Route to South Africa
I've been wandering around the Kuala Lampur airport for about two hours trying to find a place where I could connect to the internet.  Now I've got about 30 minutes before my plane boards.  I found out that I'm not in India, I am in Malaysia.  Not sure where that is exactly but they have a really nice airport. 

Since I flew on Korean Airlines, I had a Korean dinner and breakfast on the plane.  Both were pretty interesting with vegetables I haven't seen before.  Breakfast was creamed rice with onions, beef, roasted seawead, and something like water chestnuts.  I think I like apples and cinnamon oatmeal better.
I'm going to give Korean Airlines a 10 for customer service.  Their staff are the most polite, courteous, pleasant people I've ever seen.  Unfortunately, I have no more flights with them.

Mongolian Airlines, on the other hand, could be renamed "anarchy of the sky".  Though they do serve a good sandwich.  I don't think it is so much the fault of the airline, but it seems that the Mongolian people were born to ignore authority.

South Africa
My watch battery died this morning which is really odd, considering it is solar recharged. I keep having to ask what day it is. Technology has not been my friend on this trip, that's for sure.

I did some quality napping today. Bed is FANTASTIC. Ooooohh I have missed pillows.

(Facebook entry) Be careful with strange critters:
I wasn't quite minding my own business.  I was sneaking around this bird to get a good picture.  My kids really like birds and there are loads of 'em in Africa that I've never seen before.  Anyway, the light was all wrong so I was keeping my distance, circling around to get a better angle.  I took a couple of shots along the way in case I spooked the poor thing and lost my opportunity.  Well the darn thing spooked all right, took off and flew straight at my head.  He came at me screaming and then veered off when he got to about six feet away.  I thought that was interesting until Tweety here turned around and came back for another pass.  Freaked me out just a bit.

This Buffalo is the first of the “big five” that we saw on safari. They are called that because they are the five most dangerous animals to hunt.

The buffalos are huge and when they are alone, the males can be territorial and will charge a human. There were two of them in a dry riverbed just a short way from our “camp”

We had just stopped for a "sundowner" or cocktail hour after seeing the cheetah family. The guides brought drinks and snacks and everybody got to stretch their legs for a bit and take pictures of the sunset of course.  Just after the sun had set, a leopard came walking down the road behind the jeep, (another driver let us know he was stalking us) which made for a bit of excitement.  The idea is that the animals are used to seeing the jeeps but basically they see the jeep and the people as one big animal that doesn't threaten them.  The animals are not supposed to see people outside of the jeep as they might feel threatened and/or hungry.  
                                                               My room at “camp"

 Each of us had our own hut which boarders the camp. The whole wall opposite the bed was glass. Overlooking a stream bed and water hole. There were small deer and monkeys wandering around the camp all the time and at breakfast, the monkeys were stealing food off the tables. They were very small, smaller than a poodle but bigger than a squirrel.They were fast and one of them managed to get a piece of bread right off a woman's plate while she was eating.The staff had a slingshot that they were using to chase the monkeys off. I don't think they were shooting rocks or anything harmful, just discouraging.
On the first game drive, we came across a cheetah and followed it to where a couple of cubs were playing.

After dark we could hear this lion roaring in the distance. The drivers are allowed to leave the paths when they are following a “big 5” animal, so we took off through the bush, following the sound. On the second day game drive, we saw giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and hyenas. Our drivers said they hadn't seen hyenas in many months so that was pretty exciting. This is really a spectacular country where we can drive from the desert to tropical rain forest in 30 minutes. The cities are really modern with shopping centers and businesses and nice cars. When you get outside of the city, things can be a little different. An awful lot of people here live in poverty in shack villages where the “houses” are smaller than our bedroom. I just passed one with a hand painted sign that said “hair salon”, which is kind of fancy as I've also seen barber shops on the sidewalk that consist of a chair and a pair of scissors. People will move to these camps, near cities or factories, and the men will go into the city to work. Some of them will return on the weekends and holidays to build a real house so often I see very nice looking houses in the middle of a hundred tin shacks. It doesn't seem to be the norm that they will invest their earnings in housing.


Can't trip on the curb here without falling into a canal.

Whew, walked an hour to get [to the Van Gogh Museum] and two more hours around the museum. My legs have had it. Lots of smoochie couples in there. I wouldn't have considered Van Gogh really romantic but apparently many do.

Well, I went to bed early last night. The Anne Frank Museum opens at nine and my plan was to get there before then and beat the crowds. I woke up on time (not too hard since daylight savings set the clocks back) and looked out the window. Broad daylight hadn't really hit yet and there was a bit of a haze. There were no people or vehicles in the streets. The scene in the "early" morning is quite romantic looking actually.

The walk to the house is only about ten minutes and the only people that I saw were out walking their dogs and three people at a little cafe. I decided that I would stop at that cafe on my way back... didn't want to waste any time. I got there at about 9:10 and found out that everyone in Europe had the same idea that I did. Every direction I looked there was not another soul in the streets, no bicycles, no cars, no boats; just a mass of people extending a healthy two blocks from the museum. I might have braved it if it was only a line two blocks long, but it was more like a mass, a quarter of a block wide and two blocks long.  I figure if stretched out it could have extended eight blocks at least.


I am in Kirkham, England, and have given a few presentations now on a new valve. Folks here are very excited about the new product, which makes these meetings kind of fun.It's also nice that I can almost understand the local language.Has the snow all melted? People here have been asking about the storm on the east coast and I seem to know less about it than they do.

Last night at the Villa was very comfortable. Well over a hundred years old and well preserved it felt very English to me. They served an incredible dinner last night of cream of Broccoli soup, Cod fish and potatoes, and toffee pudding for dessert. Sounds plain, but the spices and presentation were amazing. Maybe it was just me as I hadn't eaten since Sunday but there was a lot of enjoyment in that meal. After that, two pints of Copper Dragon put me in bed early. Unfortunately, I only have a few more hours here in the UK before I have to fly off to Italy... but looking forward to being there as well. 

Do you know how I used to really like a southern accent, especially on a girl? I've traded in that fancy for country English. I can barely understand the severe accent here, but I love it.


Not much to report on Italy. We landed, had dinner, bed, and meetings until 8PM last night. Flying to Barcelona now and it's only 8am. Wonderful lunch yesterday at a very old looking restaurant waay out in the country. Homemade ravioli with fresh parmesan and a wonderful glass of Merlot. I will remember that. I would definitely gain weight here. Friendly people as well, but not as much English spoken here as some places. Business people have all been quite fluent so meetings have been easy. Also, every place has had English television until now. Many American shows, all dubbed in Italian.

(No e-mails from Barcelona as Stuart was just there for a day and working for most of the time. He did walk along the Mediterranean collecting shells and  he did find a minute to take a picture of himself with a statue looming over his head.  Upon looking at the picture he realized that he was standing directly under the statue of a naked woman, so he moved over a bit and captured both himself and the naked statue in a better composition.  I'll spare your eyes and share this picture of the Olympic fountain instead.)


This plane goes to US!!!!  I am excited to get home.

*We have reason to be cautious so my family have each chosen a fictitious name instead of me calling them things like " Spaghetti Man" and "Hobbit" here on the blog.  Except for me, I'm still Kate. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Until Death...

Kindred spirits, Anne would call them.  Two who complete each other, two who are together,  soul mates one cannot imagine apart.  I can count the kindred marriages I know on a couple of fingers and after last week, that count is down by one.

"You look so happy," Dave says as Stuart and I stand awkward and wordless before him.  I bend down to wrap my arms around him and wonder, Where is the good in this?  Where? A week before we bumped into Dave and his wife, Deb, down at the Famous Brands.  Deb glowed with good health and good news and for the remainder of the day we basked in the unexpected good fortune of meeting these old friends.  And now there is Dave minus Deb.  How can this be?

 "It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live."  Mark Twain's Own Autobiography

"You look so happy." We do not look happy but somehow this remark makes sense because Dave has loved with his wife, his friend, over two decades and perhaps he finds a glimpse of their companionship in our reflection. Dave sits at a table in their bistro.  Their dream made good. He wears the marks of a violent parting.  A bruised face. A blue-black eye.   My fingers brush what feels like stitches on his left arm.  Broken ribs.  These tell the tale of how the one who was bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh was taken and he was left.  Someone else comes and we slip out to the deck blazing in the setting sun.  We are crushed among hundreds and hundreds of people, some friends.  We talk of making time for what is important, of making changes to make time, of what made that marriage stand out. And we all, all, are touched that one so vibrant, is no longer whole and here.

At eight o'clock a fork tings against a glass, a hush falls, pictures of Deb flash on a screen. Dave climbs on something and stands above the crowd.  He, who has been transformed by her, pulls an index card out of his pocket, twenty plus years compressed into scrawl on a scrap of paper. How can mere letters, sounds...contain, reflect this great love?  A thousand people hurt for Dave.  He gathers courage, says a few brief words, "motivated... good mother...good wife. To Deb" A thousand glasses are raised to a life well lived and to the one who loved her well. 

This scene scars our hearts, Stuart's and mine, and motivates us to love and live better, today. And maybe, for us, this is the ray of good.