Helping a Friend Through a Disaster

Hurricanes are weird. They can predict their coming days in advance, so you have plenty of time to prepare, and plenty of time to worry.

I don’t live in a Hurricane zone, but my best friend Monika does. She and her family were right in the predicted path of Hurricane Irma and it sure looked like they were going to be in deep trouble.

This post is about the lifeline I helped provide to Monika while she prepared and lived through the most dangerously threatening hurricane Florida has seen in a long, long time. She asked me to write this to help other people understand just how vital their remote assistance can be in times of impending disaster.

When Monika first called me crying saying she had a Cat 4 hurricane headed her way and their house was only rated for Cat 3 winds or lower, my first impulse was to try to deny this was really happening. I had already agreed to be her out of area contact and felt a sense of responsibility I wasn’t sure I was ready for. Over the next day or so, she sent me photos of her kids’ clothes with both hers and my number written on the inside of them. Visions of her children getting whisked away in a tornado and me being called to help identify the bodies were disturbing to say the least. We talked about her will, and her legacy to her children should she not make it through the storm. These are the sort of moments you don’t want to have to think about, until you realize that you must.

Imagine for a moment that your death could be imminent, but that your chance of survival could be much higher if you take the right precautions.  You need to focus on taking those precautions, and let someone else worry about the other stuff. My job was to deal with the other stuff. So while Moka was freezing ice in bags, prepping food, talking to neighbors about securing their house, I was in touch with her family letting them know what was up, and checking the news and weather frequently, sending her brief missives about what she needed to know from local news. She had no time to sit on the computer and try to figure out the track of the storm, the wind strength, whether or not the shelters in her county were full or if her neighbors had power. I could provide that info and did.

The best moments might have been when, late Sunday night, she was texting and asking me where the eye of the storm was. I had probably six different sites open but was having trouble finding the eye. It was as if a miracle had happened: the storm was beginning to break up, and the eye was dissipating, right as it got to them. From my look at the radar, I could tell her that the eerie calm she was hearing outside was not actually the eye, it was pretty much the end of the storm.

Fast forward to the happy ending…they got through it alright…two trees fell on their neighbor’s house and around the corner, four trees fell on another house and punctured the roof, leaving a gaping hole in the baby’s room.

So next time you have a faraway friend in a danger zone, see if you can reach out and help. It might just make a bigger difference than you can imagine.

 

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I went to Central Park and out came this silly review

It was a hot August day and three of us Pacific Northwesterners unused to hot, humid weather wandered into the south end of Central Park with the naive bravado of Seattleites taking a walk at Green Lake. (For those unfamiliar, Green Lake is a large round puddle in the middle of N. Seattle with a simple path around it…forty five minutes walk and you are back to where you started).

We first fended off the guy who wanted us to pay at least $80 for some kind of bicycle rickshaw tour, then continued, still bright in the eyes, toward some giant rocks that begged to be climbed. By the time we got to the top of the first rock, this middle-aged mama was ready for a long sit. Took some ill-conceived vertical panorama shots of my husband that made him look fat, then spied a small rock in the distance and felt sorry for it, sitting by itself. We climbed a hill to hug the small rock, which turned out to be the height of a ten year old.

About thirty minutes after entering the park, heat-soaked delirium began to set in, along with big-time confusion about where to find a bathroom. We began to wander along paths that followed the whims of nature, rather than the friendly grid system of the urban locations to which we are accustomed. We came around a bend and a freaking amusement park appeared out of nowhere. I consulted the Google maps, even Pokemon GO, but could not figured out where I was. Yelp informed me that there was a coffee shop nearby by…Dancing Crane or some such. I was willing to believe anything at that point. Suddenly there it was…a coffee shop with A/C and a bathroom with a long line, next to the largest mayonnaise dispenser I’ve ever seen. Outside the shop was a Zoo, yes, a Zoo!

Next thing we knew, we were back at the south end of the park again, quite accidentally. Husband tried to convince me we were in the exact same location, but the truth was more insidious: the whole south end of the park is a series of carbon copy rubber stamps of everything else…the same identical looking food carts and guys selling overpriced tours, stamped up and down the concourse. I stayed on the “Wein Walk” while husband and daughter went to another iteration of endless hot dog carts. I saw a giant rat run across the walk. Wanting to get a closer look I went over to an empty park bench, hoping to sit my delirious, overheated body down, but a mom and her two boys beat me to the bench. I considered for a moment telling them about the rat hoping it would scare them off, but I wasn’t sure I could craft a coherent sentence.

We continued down the path and saw a building called Arsenal Gallery. Entering the building, we found yet another set of bathrooms and on the third floor they told us there was a gallery. The elevator let out, and we wandered around trying to find the cases of firearms we expected, then realized the gallery was actually showing paintings of plants, and had nothing to do with guns.

Our confused wander continued northward, where I procured a frozen lemonade and saw a reservoir full of remote control sailboats. Additional wonders included a black squirrel, which I didn’t even know existed. It occurred to me that many Central Park rodents probably lived and died for generations without ever leaving the park. Where else are they going to go?

[Originally posted on Yelp]

 

We are only as strong as the weakest among us

Imagine a family needs to walk across a river in order to get to the other side, and there is no bridge. Among the family members is five year old child. The water is up to her chin and her swimming skills are poor. What would happen in this scenario? Probably the mom, dad or a strong older sibling would pick her up and carry her, so that the whole family could make it to the other side together, alive.

Now extrapolate this story to the entire human race. We are all trying to survive in this world, but among us are some people who are struggling to make it across that virtual river of life. They may have been born poor and disadvantaged, or have suffered a debilitating injury or illness. Whatever the reason, who’s responsible for making sure we all make it as best we can, this human family of ours?

There seem to be different philosophies about this.

1. “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”

This is the attitude which says, “I cannot recognize drowning when I see it, or I do not care.”

2. “Only help your own family and friends”

These folks seem to be saying, “I will only help people who I personally know, like and care about.”

3. “Help everyone”

This is the philosophy of those who see that we are all connected, who understand that if the left hand is bleeding, the right hand should put a bandage on it, or the whole body will suffer the consequences.

Have you considered where you stand and why?

Email Fail and Ramble

It’s obnoxious I guess, but when someone doesn’t reply to an email, sometimes I just find the email they ignored and forward it back to them, copying and pasting the exact same thing I sent before. I especially do this with party invites, because it seems that most people don’t understand what RSVP means.

Sometimes I am horrified at how many of my peers just can’t respond to emails. Especially when I’m doing them a favor. Some days my default thought is, “Will you help me so that I can help you?”

Now I get that people are busy. Many of my peers have full time jobs, small children, aging parents and household responsibilities. This is why I want to help them out, make their lives easier, if I can. But I can’t get blood from a turnip. If I need information in order to help you with the thing you want help with, then, I need information. From you. How will you get it to me? Via telepathy?

Yeah email sucks. Not everyone has gmail, which helpfully filters out Spam to make the task of checking it less overwhelming. Not everyone has a working computer. But even my parents can respond to my emails. What’s up with some of the 30- and 40- somethings?

Then there’s Facebook. I have lost count of the number of times I wish I could log off Facebook and never go there again. Unfortunately, there is information there that I need, and people there who I cannot communicate with any other way. Facebook is also a huge struggle for some people. They don’t have Messenger, because they think you have to let it bully you into accepting notifications, which you don’t have to do. So I send messages to people and never hear back, and I have no way of knowing why. I miss the college dining halls, when anyone I wanted to see was there, everyday, for lunch, dinner and sometimes breakfast.

I grew up in the 1970s and 80s. To communicate, we either saw each other in person, made a phone call, or wrote a letter. This was pretty limiting, so I welcomed these new communication technologies into my life and embraced them as best I could. Email, Texting, Usenet (oh I’m showing my age). What’s going on with the rest of Gen X? Are they just distracted by the array of television and movie options now, which are far and above much better quality than we had growing up?

I guessing most of my peers didn’t have a big advantage I had: In the early nineties, I bought a PC which apparently had a hardware conflict. Trying to figure out what was wrong with my computer consumed me for years. I was fascinated by the process, which led me deep into the CMOS, the DOS Command-Prompt, to the Jumper Pins inside the box. Eventually I realized that the 486 Dx-50 processor wasn’t playing nice with the video card. A few years later I was studying for my MSCE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) certificate and doing Technical Support for Adobe and Microsoft products. Computer problems give me life. I tend to forget this is not true for the vast majority of humans.

So anyway, if you are full of email fail, just know that I’m here for you. I can help. Will you let me?

Evangelicals Advocate Irresponsibility

In the wake of POTUS 45’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, I have been seeing some stories about how conservative evangelical Christians agree with this decision, due to some notion that “God will take care of it.”

As a Buddhist, I’ve been told that the goal of realizing the enlightened mind is up to us. There is no savior, just Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to inspire us with their example, and Teachers, who can point the way.

I have never professed Christianity as my religion, but from what I can see,  Christians are also supposed to take some responsibility for their own salvation. Some Christians have a notion of being a steward of the Earth. Most Christians I know, as far as I can tell, do not abdicate their responsibilities toward the earth and its living beings. They don’t assume that just because Jesus died for their sins, now they can just sin as much as they want and they will be forgiven.

The attitude of the evangelical branch strikes me as dangerously lazy. I have heard that many of them believe that what happens on earth doesn’t matter because they will be raptured off to heaven, and even that they should try to hasten the End Times.

I think it is important to note that in the USA, one-third of registered voters are evangelicals. That leaves the rest of us to do the work of ensuring the survival of the human race and the planet we inhabit, since millions of Americans have indicated that they have no interest in bothering with that task.

It’s ironic that the folks who tend to decry the government as a “nanny state” are the ones most likely to expect some one else to take care of cleaning up their messes for them. It’s also ironic that the folks who complain about wanting more jobs in the USA reject the huge job potential of the alternative energy industry. But that’s another post, for sure.

Getting the Family to Help around the house

Drawing of me doing dishes, by Ryan Henry Ward

 

I’m a stay at home mom, so the vast majority of house cleaning tasks fall to me. And that’s fine, but I do occasionally grumble about doing the dishes, since it’s a task that requires my attention for a good five to ten minutes, two to three times a day. It’s onerous enough that when I had the opportunity in 2013 to have Ryan Henry Ward do a quick sketch for me in exchange for $10 or so, I asked him to draw me doing the dishes.

Now my husband and daughter are both very competitive and my daughter loves prizes. So my husband got the idea to have a contest between the two of them to see who could put away the most dirty dishes. First it was about picking up any dish, including and especially your own dishes, and getting them into the dishwasher. Tally marks on the white board would indicate by the end of the week who had done the most dishes, and the winner would get to see a movie of their choice.

Then once the two of them had mastered getting their own dishes into the dishwasher, they switched so that only “someone else’s” dishes count. By and large, this means my dishes. So since I’m used to just letting the dishes pile up by the sink for a third of the day, for the most part, the two of them are doing my dishes now. This morning, right before my husband left for work, he was furiously loading the dishwasher and adding more tick marks to his column of the white board, and when my daughter got home from school, the very first thing she did after putting down her stuff was wash dishes. I didn’t even have to say a word.

Freakin’ Chaos in the Kitchen

I know some people like to keep their cabinets neat, their dishes and foods sorted and stacked neatly. I would do that too except that I don’t have enough room, and have learned to enjoy the chaos not knowing whether things will fall out on floor me when I open a door. I think it’s good to be prepared for the unexpected in life: messy cabinets are good training for that.