Life is About Learning: Celebrating Fabulous Friends III

I know a lot of intelligent people. Since I’ve spent most of my life connected in some way with academia, I have often been surrounded by people who blow me away with the way their minds work.

But this morning I had a little revelation, life is not about what you know but about continuing to learn.

While I’ve met a lot of intelligent people who can wax poetic about everything under the sun, many of them don’t interest me. I find myself zoning out when it becomes obvious that the person I am talking to is more concerned with showing off his/her knowledge and sounding intelligent than contributing to a conversation and being open to learning something new.

In the end, the people who remain part of life, the people who I count as friends are the ones who see the world as a place to learn something new every day, and then share that knowledge with others as they seek more learning. So today, as the third part of my (hopefully ongoing) series that I call “Celebrating Fabulous Friends” I would like to celebrate some of the learner/teachers I’ve met in my life.  (For the first two installments read Celebrating Fabulous Friends and Night Marchers in the Bathroom.)

Nancy Lum, World Adventurer

Nancy is in the middle, with myself, my sister Deb, and her friend Karen celebrating my wedding.

Nancy and I met in Japan. She was there teaching for the JET program, and I was teaching for a private Language School. While I’m sure we met when she first got there, we didn’t become close until my last year in Japan, when I discovered an amazing person who had a passion for learning all she could about the world. Our friendship has lasted, with Nancy visiting me whenever she can in all of my various locations. She came to my wedding in Hawaii, while friends who I had known longer were unwilling to make the trip. While she wasn’t part of the wedding party, officially, she stepped up and helped in ways that made her truly the maid of honor.

Nancy returned from Japan to her home in Canada for a short time to get a masters in ESL. She then went back to our home in Okayama and has been there ever since. She takes every opportunity to travel and see the world, learning as much as she can about the places she visits and sharing her knowledge through the eyes of her camera. She and I keep fantasizing about traveling together on some wonderful adventure, but it hasn’t happened (yet). Maybe I should see if she wants to come to Slovakia. ;)

Anyway, I include Nancy in my list of Fabulous Friends because she cares and shares and is always learning more. When she visits, she wants to go out and explore the world. The last time I saw her, when she visited me in Durango, CO, she was distracted by news that her sister was in the hospital, but even then she carried her camera and shared adventures with me and my family. I am so honored to count this wonderful, intelligent, creative, learner among my friends.

Jackie Haltom, Inspirational Artist

Figuring out the hands for a piece of art.

I’ve known Jackie for only a year. We met when Sarah started taking art lessons in Independence.  We probably socialized for the first time last Halloween as we took Sarah out trick-or-treating with Jackie’s girls and other kids in the neighborhood.  However, a relationship that started slowly blossomed into a friendship of mutual support and encouragement. Jackie helped me discover the courage to express myself in a new artistic way, and the results are in the header of this blog. Jackie also took on the challenge with me of learning how to share our love of art and creativity with a different population, as you can read about in “Appropriate Age Appropriateness.” Without Jackie, I would not have had the courage to try to self-publish (although that project is still slowly moving forward). Jackie inspires me because she is continually learning, admitting what she doesn’t know, searching for more knowledge, and challenging the status quo. She lives and breathes art and recognizes how important the arts are to our culture–so she strives to share that passion with others by encouraging them to find their inner artists. Jackie helped me through a complex transition in my life, and I am grateful she has become my friend.

Jackie inspired another fabulous friend, Heather of Little Red Henry (link in my blog roll) to paint this wonderful creation.

There you have it, a couple of other examples of the incredible people you can meet throughout your life if you are simply open to learning about the world around you.

What have you learned today? Who have you met that you would like to celebrate?

Here's a beautiful piece by Jackie.

Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt

I am doing it. The ultimate sacrifice. In the name of a lighter load, I am purging my t-shirt collection. Now, to be fair, I believe I have done this a few times before, as many of my t-shirts seem to have disappeared, but it is never easy.

Have you ever thought about the story of your life as it is told through fashion? Well, obviously we all go through trends and stages of fashion in our life. But, since I avoid the camera and haven’t really kept up with fashion trends (or really shopped for myself) for a long time, I can’t share that story here. I can, however, share part of my story as it is told through t-shirts. So join me through a trip down memory lane.

Perhaps the oldest t-shirt in my collection is this beauty from Fitzwilly’s in Northampton, MA, one of my favorite restaurants from my undergraduate college days at Smith.

Bought at Fitzwilly's ca. 1990

If I Tell You What It Means Will You Buy Me A Drink (Back of Fitzwilly's t-shirt)

Next we skip a few years (I don’t know what happened to t-shirts from Japan) and head to Hawaii, for adventures galore.

I got this at Sea Life Park in Hawaii the week after I graduated with my MFA from the University of Hawaii. For complicated reasons this t-shirt meant more than my diploma at the time.

I love this t-shirt given to me when my dear friend Nancy visited me in Hawaii from Japan. I hope she visits me in Mass., or better yet, I get to visit her in Japan someday.

We bought this on Maui, when Nathan finally admitted that he didn't really want to see anyone else. (For more on that story see the post called "Stumbling into Romance"

From Hawaii, we skip another few years to my doctoral program. Nathan and I got married in Hawaii, while I was in the middle of a doctoral program at Arizona State University. 7 months later, he moved to Vermont for work and I stayed in Arizona to finish up my dissertation.  I did research at three different professional companies for Young Audiences: Childsplay in Tempe, AZ; Dallas Children’s Theater; and my favorite Metro Theatre Company in St. Louis, MO (a company I learned about during the year before I started at ASU when we lived nearby.

I think we bought this t-shirt when we were in Hawaii to get married. It is dyed with chocolate (Yum) and smelled like chocolate for a while.

I spent a wonderful week or so at Metro, observing, interviewing and helping during their summer education program called Arts Intersection.

Move forward again, to our time in Vermont. We both taught. I directed, and I started a children’s theater company which didn’t survive much past my time there, as we had to move on.

Short lived, but well loved.

"Life is Good" when you live near enough to the Ben & Jerry factory for a tour.

For some reason I don’t have any t-shirts from the next stop on our living tour, Durango, CO. I guess I never bought any or didn’t keep them. I do have one from the first summer as a family at Okoboji Summer Theater, which happened while we lived in Durango.

And that brings us to the present. A t-shirt filled year in Independence, KS

I wonder what my next t-shirt will be. What is the t-shirt story of your life?

All We Need to Know About Life

I don’t know where this originated but I stole . . . um borrowed this from my friend’s Facebook page because I found it full of inspiration and truth.

Here’s the thing, life is not worth living if we spend all our time worrying and stressing over things beyond our control.  Life should be something we embrace every day with passion and joy.

I am hereby making a promise to myself to live my life as joyously as possible. I’m going to trust the universe to provide what I need, and meanwhile I am going to continue to work towards achieving the dreams and goals that I have for my life.

What exactly are those dreams and goals? Well they seem to be every-changing, but that’s okay. I happened to read a quote today from Martha Steward (not one of my usual sources, I admit). She said,

“My new motto is: When you’re through changing, you’re through. “

Changing dreams and goals is part of living. Learning how to embrace those changes to live a fulfilled and happy life is perhaps the most important thing we can do as individuals.

Again, I ask myself, what are my dreams and goals? I can only answer for this moment in time, but here is my list in no particular order of importance:

  • Give Sarah a life full of opportunity, learning, and travel.
  • Travel myself to visit all the places I still dream of heading (including England, Ireland, Nepal, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Alaska, revisiting Bali and Japan, and many places I haven’t even thought of yet).
  • Write several books that actually get read, some for young adults, some non-fiction, some for adults.
  • Direct some more professional productions for adults.
  • Direct some more professional productions for children.
  • Actually make a living as an independent, freelance writer/theater educator/theater artist
  • Develop arts programming that makes a difference in people’s lives.
  • Have a home that is my own. It doesn’t have to be huge, but something comfortable where we can live, create, and grow together as a family.
  • Write a script and create a puppet show with/for Nathan.
  • Find a way to merge my love of teaching/mentoring young women with all of the other passions of my life.
  • Meet some of my favorite blogging buddies live and in person. ;)
  • Become healthy in body, mind and soul.

The list is long but not impossible. It is also a list that can last years, or change with time. I think for me it is not about achieving goals in a specific time period, but enjoying the journey as I work toward those goals.

All we need to know about life, then, is that life is worth living as passionately and beautifully as possible.

Notes on Nothing, Notes on Everything.

I’m making a double N post today, because the post I just posted about Nathan wasn’t the one I originally started with and because I have been up since 3am but still cannot sleep. I understand if you choose not to read all of my posts. :) But, to quote a comment from Kaye Peters of Have Coffee . . . Will Write on one of my recent posts, “you’re posting like a woman possessed”. Possessed . . . manic . . . whatever, I’m simply going with the flow right now. So here are a few notes:

More Marsha Norman

“Write what you urgently need to write.” Those were Marsha Norman’s words  when asked if she had ever returned to a work she gave up on. “If it is over two years, don’t try to go back.”

Now, of course she was talking specifically about writing plays, but her point resonated with me. Basically she argued that if you are still struggling with something after two years, then maybe that is not the story that you need to tell. Maybe it is not your story to tell.

I have so many stories that I began but never finished. I have so many possible plans for books and other writing ideas that I couldn’t follow through. I have also always thought that I have a story that I have yet to discover, a story that truly needs to be told. It grows inside me until someday, I hope, it will burst out of me. The words will speak through me.

I just hope that happens soon.

She also talked about characters speaking through her, rather than her creating them.  I have only had a few moments where that has happened. Where the words and the voice of the character just poured through me and into my fingers. It is a powerful sensation, and one I yearn to feel again.

I want to be open and receptive to that energy.

New Thanks

Much to my surprise, yesterday I was honored with another blogging award. The Inspiring Blog award given to me by Dierdre Coppel from A Story Book World.  Talk about inspiring, Dierdre is an incredibly talented writer and artist who does everything from creating her own artwork (including this beautiful award among others) and interviewing publishers and editors, to writing fantasies and delving into the paranormal. I am truly honored that she chose me for this award. Please go visit her site. You won’t regret it.

New Updates

  • My scene seems to be getting good responses. Rumor has it that M.N. might come see it today.
  • My panel went well and led to an interesting discussion on the value of theater in general
  • I apologize for falling behind on reading this week, but I am proud of myself for regaining a little control over this blogging obsession of mine. :)
  • I actually submitted my Moon Lady, which I’ve really titled “Rebirth of Japan” to an art show. Insanity, I know.

I think that is all for now except that I feel like everyone out there (myself included) needs another  good virtual hug. So here you go (and I know I have used this image before, but how can you go wrong with Calvin and Hobbes?)

Gathering Valuable Experiences


Wedding Quilt

So many things to write about today, where should I begin?


Well, first I must give a huge shout out to Sandi Ormsby at That’s Ahhsome! who gave me the most AWESOME blogging birthday present ever. Please check it out and enjoy. One of the things I love the most about it is how happy Sandi was creating it herself, which ties in nicely with what I wanted to write about today–doing things that challenge ourselves and fulfill us in unusual way.

The idea for this came from a number of places, including the post called “Ten Things I Value Most” at Broadside. Caitlin’s post was very touching and made me think about what some of the things are that I value most. I realized that many of the “things” I value represent experiences I have had–experiences that challenged me and forced me out of my comfort zone to some extent. Some of the things I value are just things, but most of them represent something more.


Mementos of Japan

I don’t think I can pick one of these special items as more valuable to me than another, because they all represent my first complete break from my family and move into a world where I function as a strong individual. Although many of them remain tucked away presently, as neither of us felt like this was home enough to decorate completely, they remain significant and always will be. The list of precious Japan memorabilia include:

  • The wedding kimono that I got at a bargain price with my own money–perhaps my most expensive purchase.
  • The handmade teacups that I bought in Kyoto,
  • Chopsticks, well used now, but given to me by various students.
  • A beautiful collection of boxes for food.
  • The door hanging my parents bought when they visited me, complete with a bamboo pole to hang it on that has been a challenge to travel with.
  • The old man and old woman masks that watch over me, promising a long life filled with love.
  • A little green monkey named Midori, that a very special man won out of one of those arcade games with the claw. (Yes, Nathan knows about it and I have actually passed it on to Sarah–that way I could keep it without feeling guilty).
  • Although I didn’t get this in Japan, the quilt made for us at our wedding incorporates many Japanese symbols and is precious as well. If I had not gone to Japan, I would never have ended up in Hawaii where I met Nathan.


Wedding Kimono



    Fuzzy Family

    In addition to Midori, I have a collection of special, stuffed, fuzzy friends that represent a lot of different things. They include teddy bears given by special people, including Nathan, and a stuffed dog named Ralph that came from England wearing an anklet around his neck for me to wear.  Some of them (in particular Desmond the dog, Marvin the Moose, Clara-belle the pig, and Montgomery the mini moose) have traveled with us to have their adventures recorded in a scrap-book. They even went to Norway with me for a conference (as if I needed the extra weight in my luggage). Desmond has had more adventures than Snoopy, I think, and definitely eaten more food. There is also a tiny pink fluffy lamb that I have carried with me since childhood. I don’t know where it came from or who gave it to me, but I know I can never let it go.








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    I have numerous scrapbooks, although admittedly many of them are incomplete. I’m not a meticulous scrapbooker, but I enjoy arranging pictures to tell some sort of story. My brand of  scrapbooking might be called a creative mess, but they still hold special memories and are precious for that reason.


    Speaking of holding precious memories, I still have the very first hard covered journal my parents gave me. It was for a school project, where I wrote my first “book” that is a collection of poems, stories and illustrations all created by me. Little did they know that by giving me that book, they started an obsession with journals that I have had to curb. I have numerous ones–some filled from front to back and some feeble attempts at writing that ended in an expanse of empty pages. Some contain more diary-like entries, some more creative ones. A few contain morning pages when I worked my way through The Artist’s Way. These journals represent many times in my life, but more importantly they represent the words I hid away out of fear of showing them. It has taken me years to overcome that fear, and you read the results today. The steps that led me to blogging daily were, I believe, an important part of my writing journey:

    • Writing, writing all the time, but fearful of sharing anything
    • Submitting some poetry and getting it published (only to learn later that it was a scam)
    • Writing a doctoral dissertation and then submitting it for awards where politics defeated it.
    • Deciding it was time to pursue my dream of writing other things and taking a distance learning course through the Institute of  Children’s Literature
    • Getting a couple of articles published
    • Taking the advanced course and then the book writing course through the Institute.
    • Writing an actual book, that still has not found a home. Sharing that book Giving Up the Ghost with friends in a writing group, who encouraged me to write a blog.
    • Woman Wielding Word history was made

    Tap Shoes

    A few years ago, when my daughter was taking Tap and Jazz, I decided it was time to challenge myself and do something out of my comfort zone, so I signed up for Tap. We ended up performing in the same recital together, and we had a blast. The tap shoes represent a variety of activities that I try to challenge myself with every year–things that force me to break out of my shell a little bit more. Those activities included:

    • taking the course in writing I mentioned above
    • taking voice lessons. Yes, I have been in musicals, but I was always afraid my voice wasn’t good enough, so actually taking one-on-one lessons was scary for me. They ended badly for an unrelated reason that is a story for another time.
    • taking a poetry workshop
    • going to a writing seminar
    • this year, learning how to play piano
    • next, taking an art class

    There you have it folks, some of the things I value the most. But it isn’t really the things, it is the memories and what they represent in my journey through self-discovery.

    What do you treasure? What stories do those things share?

    [Note: My computer hates me today, so I will have to add images later on.]

    Birthday Wishes

    English: Albert Einstein Français : portrait d...

    Image via Wikipedia

    I am reposting this birthday post from last year, because I think I should.

    I don’t know what it is about March 14th but I know more people born on that day (myself included) than any other day of the year. It has never really just been my birthday, since I was born on my cousin’s sweet 16–which completely freaks me out when I do the math. One of my closest friends in college had the same birthday as well, which led to interesting celebrations involving kidnappings and late night diner adventures. On Facebook alone I have four friends celebrating their birthday today (the college friend included). Happy birthday to us all.

    And of course, we are not alone, as there are numerous historical figures of all types who were born on this day, perhaps the most famous of which is Albert Einstein in 1879. I share my actual birthday with actress Megan Fellows who performed in Anne of Green Gables which is one of my favorite books and mini-series. There are also plenty of historical events including war and peace, joy and sadness.

    But, let’s face it, the reason the day is important to me is because it is my birthday.

    I admit, though, that I have a slight dread of birthdays now, as the years pile on and life becomes harder in some ways. I know that the looming date of my birthday has influenced the past week of posts, and I apologize for the kind of general gloom and doom of my recent posts.

    But, I have decided ENOUGH OF THAT! I am going to chase those birthday blues away by putting some fabulous birthday wish energy out into the universe! It’s my birthday, I can wish what I want to. And what better place to do that then into the blogosphere?

    The combined wish energy of all the people born today has potential power. So today, I am going to make birthday wishes for every year of my life–not just selfish wishes, but wishes that I hope will bring some wonderful things to this world. In case you are dying to know, that means 43 wishes. That’s a lot of wishes I think. I am not listing them in any particular order of priority, I just want to put that wish energy out there in the universe and see what happens. I recognize that some of my wishes are nearly impossible, but if we all put power behind our wishes maybe we can change the world.

    Emma Thomson, Felicity wishes

    So here goes:

    1. I am putting this one first because it is the most immediate. I hope that all goes well with my friend Elizabeth’s custody hearing today and her wonderful boys remain with their intelligent, beautiful, talented Mom.
    2. May the pain and suffering caused by natural disasters worldwide (especially in Japan now) bring this world closer to recognizing that we have to help and support each other rather than thrive on hatred and war. May the survivors be helped swiftly and gracefully. (Does that count as two wishes? I don’t think so.)
    3. I wish that Nathan, Sarah, and I could find the place/job/situation that we really want to call home soon (as in during this coming year).
    4. I wish that all of us with dreams of publishing find homes for our manuscript babies.
    5. I wish that my blogging family continue to grow and support each other, and create opportunities to meet, to create, and to expand our relationships.
    6. I wish that the government would come to its senses and leave women’s rights alone, embrace marriage equality for all, and support programming (such as the arts) that will strengthen our country, our educations system, and our health care. [This is probably my most unrealistic wish, I know ;) ]
    7. I wish that discoveries would be made to help bring my father back to us, even if only for a short time.
    8. I hope my whole family stays healthy this year.
    9. I wish that I could continue the path towards becoming healthier and getting control over my own weight. I would like to not have to be on medication for my whole life, so I want to lose weight, exercise and eat right to enrich the life of my entire family.
    10. I hope that Sarah embraces whatever changes may come, and learns to love the friends she has and live in the Now.
    11. I wish for puppets, lots and lots of puppets.
    12. I wish that Nathan and I could take that trip to Ireland that we have been wanting to take. And that all three of us can take a real vacation together somewhere fabulous.
    13. I wish that all the people I have met recently who are searching for their purpose or some change in their lives can find their bliss and create a world that fulfills them.
    14. I hope that I can write another novel without second guessing myself.
    15. I wish that Tori Nelson would get book contract and mention me on the acknowledgments page. :)
    16. I hope that my dissertation writing friends complete their dissertations, graduate with glory, and then move on to discover whatever it is they really want to do. :)
    17. I hope my brother is able to pursue his passions and find his way to move forward.
    18. I wish I could create a really beautiful piece of art. I’m not sure what kind, but I want to create something really wonderful.
    19. I wish I could have a weekend at a spa, treating myself to peace, quiet and massage.
    20. I wish that I could organize my time better, to allow for more time to read, to write, to create and to spend with my family.
    21. I wish for some fabulous adventures of all types with my family, including some adventures abroad.
    22. I wish whatever was plaguing my e-mail would be fixed soon [perhaps the easiest wish to solve]
    23. I know that it is unrealistic to wish nothing sad would happen over the coming year, but I hope the times of joy are more numerous than the times of sadness.
    24. I wish we could sell our house in Durango . . . SOON!
    25. I wish that I could have a house that I am allowed to decorate again, the way I would like to.
    26. I wish I could have a reunion with all my Durango friends who I miss so much.
    27. I wish that I could reunite with other friends that I have been thinking about a lot lately.
    28. I wish Sarah would embrace happiness.
    29. I would like a slice of my mother’s chocolate cake.
    30. I hope that we can get my older dog’s health issues under control so that we find fewer poop balls lying around the house.
    31. I wish that I would figure out my new dreams soon, so that I could then make them happen.
    32. I wish the economy would be better so that the unemployed will find employment.
    33. I wish for books, lots and lots of fabulous books.
    34. I wish that, as I lose more weight, I can finally begin developing my style again–a style all my own I’m sure, but one that I would like to have.
    35. I wish Jasper, my younger dog, would realize that home is better than running away.
    36. I wish I could ride a horse.
    37. I wish Sarah could ride a horse.
    38. I wish Sarah and I could take a mother-daughter belly dance class together.
    39. I wish I could learn to meditate, or at least find more inner peace.
    40. I wish to be “Furiously Happy.”
    41. I wish the war would end, and no more wars would begin.
    42. I wish for a warm cup of chai every day.
    43. I wish I could take more naps.

    Wow! It was actually really difficult to think up 43 wishes. But its my birthday, and I can wish if I want to.

    What do you wish for?

    Saddened by Hate

    Paper cranes prayers for peace. Peace Memorial...

    Image via Wikipedia

    I just read this post from a friend of mine on Facebook: “One of the political sites that I go to just posted a slew responses from people on FB to the Japanese earthquake saying, in effect, that it’s payback for Pearl Harbor. How awful can some people be? Sometimes I just don’t understand people.”

    At first I was speechless, but now I need to write.

    I then went over to amblerangel’s post to see if she had any more updates, and found a comment from another blogger asking if Japan was a communist country? (NO, it is not) If the US knew about Japan’s nuclear reactors (Yes,  the government did) and commenting that it might be a good thing that the reactors are being destroyed.

    Now, I realize that comment may have been innocent and simply from lack of knowledge, but it made me angry, so now I need to write. I don’t even know if I can clearly express what I am feeling, but I’m going to try.

    I apologize in advance if this offends anyone, but I cannot stand back and view words that come from lack of knowledge or hate anymore. I wish I could write this with only words of love, but sometimes our language fails us. Just know, that my only hope for this world is that we recognize that our mutual survival (and the survival of the earth itself) depends on us finding a way past hate.

    Flashback #1, Hiroshima, Japan.

    I spent the day wandering through the Peace Park and noticed the strings of thousands of colorful paper cranes piled up everywhere with school groups laying more all around and taking pictures, cheery smiles on their faces. I was unsure of the meaning until I came to the statue of Sadako, the base of which was nearly buried in the bright pieces of color. Sadako died of cancer caused radiation poisoning after the bombing of Hiroshima. As she lay in the hospital she started folding a thousand paper cranes in the hopes that if she reached a thousand she would live. She never made it, but her school friends folded the rest for her and raised the money to create a statue commemorating her to be displayed in the Peace Park.

    That story stayed with me, and when Nathan and I got married we folded (with the help of others)  a thousand paper cranes as part of our decorations and invitations–a symbol of love, of hope and of peace.

    That day in Hiroshima I witnessed the remnants of war, the shadows of bodies burned forever into stone. I watched the videos of lives devastated by the decision to drop a single bomb. I rang the bell representing peace and prayed that nothing like this would ever happen again.

    But the most powerful moment was when I sat in a tea house and a Japanese man approached me. He said, “I am sorry that we made you drop the bomb on us. Please forgive us.”  He was apologizing to me for the senseless destruction caused by my country! I didn’t know how to respond. So later I wrote in my journal, and cried.

    Flashback #2, Kyushu, Japan

    A wonderful Japanese  family took me and another friend on vacation to an onsen (hot springs) in Kyushu. We stayed in a traditional Japanese hotel, complete with tatami mats and futons pulled out of closets for us at night. We ate incredible sashimi and sushi, including fugu (blowfish) a treat that I didn’t know about until after I ate it and felt the tingle of what can be poisonous on my lips. The fish melted in my mouth. We soaked in tubs that offered various experiences to help keep us healthy, including mud baths and carrot infused water. We ate in a large room that also allowed for karaoke for anyone interested.

    It happened to be the anniversary of the day we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. As we  sat having a meal an old Japanese man approached me and started speaking in angry tones, tears pouring down his wrinkled face. I did not speak much Japanese at the time, but the few words I was able to understand (and the translation provided by my hosts) made it clear. He was angry because I was American and because we had dropped the bomb and destroyed his family. As best I could, I apologized explaining that my family had nothing to do with that bomb or that decision, and that I too likely lost family during the war–to concentration camps throughout Europe. The family I was with defended me, and eventually the man walked away.

    Inside my heart was broken. And today it hurts even more.

    Nobody has Supremacy and Nobody Deserves Disaster

    How dare anybody say that the events in Japan are payback?! While there are guilty people in every country, innocent people die for no reason–especially in war and natural disasters like this.  Statements like that make me ashamed to have been born in America. My birth here does not make me superior to anyone. Not even the people who are so blinded by their own superiority complex that they cannot recognize that we all should have equal rights in this world–including the right to live in peace, believing whatever we believe, and loving whoever we want to love.

    How dare anybody assume that America has more right to controlling nuclear power than any other country? That is the responsibility of the world, not one single country. I have seen little evidence, recently, that the US has any moral supremacy that gives it any right to dictate how the rest of the world lives. We have made mistakes. Currently, this country is stripping rights away from people in ways that go against the very foundation and reason behind our country’s existence. Until we get our own act together, we have no right to judge or dictate how the rest of the world functions–or at least not from a position of superiority. (I’m sure this statement is going to put me on some list somewhere, but it is how I am feeling). As long as we allow hatred of difference and imagined superiority to rule our decision-making processes, we are no better than anyone else.

    There is my political statement of the day. This is the message that comes from a broken heart that can no longer stand by and listen to words of hate. Now, the only thing I have left is tears.

    The Power of Women’s Voices

    Portrait of Mary Anning, British Museum.

    Image via Wikipedia

    The post I had planned on writing before I was sidetracked by the disaster in Japan speaks louder because of that same incident.

    Given the disturbing attempts in the United States toward limiting women’s freedom, rights, and basic equality I have been thinking a lot about women’s roles in society. I wanted to write about women–specifically women who stood strong and defiant in the face of adversity in order to pursue their dreams, follow their goals, and fight for what is right. I’m not talking necessarily about the women who have been recognized by history, or allowed into history as written by men. I’m talking about the women who quietly left their mark in history by simply living their lives and pursuing their passions, and then somehow passing that on.

    I’ve been fascinated by the history of women like this for a long time, and plotting (at least in my hidden writer’s dream vault) about writing some kind of historical fiction exploration that brings some of these women together. I was reminded of that fascination as I started reading Tracy Chevalier‘s Remarkable Creatures which shares the fictionalized story of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, both fossil hunters who contributed much to paleontology (particularly Anning) but would not have been welcomed into true scientific circles because they were women. Women like these fascinate me, but one of the problems is that I can never figure out who I want to write about, or what kind of story I want to tell.

    So, how does that relate to the events in Japan? Well, the events of the day reminded me that there are so many amazing women out there who are still, quietly, doing things that impact our world. I’ve met many of them in this virtual community we call home, and I hope to get to know many of them better. (I’ve met a lot of wonderful men on here too, but men’s voices tend to be heard more, even now–so please forgive my feminist slant.)

    I was reminded of the strength and power of women throughout the course of the day. It started when I read AmblerAngel’s post called “We’re Being Shaken and Stirred in Japan” which was Freshly Pressed later in the day (deservedly so). What she did, by writing a humorous but honest post about her experience of  the earthquake in order to let people know she was safe did something else truly powerful–her post reached across the world and gave people hope on a day when many people (myself included) felt the world crumbling beneath them (no pun intended).  In my eyes, AmblerAngel did what so many women have done before, she told her story in a quiet way that spoke volumes to the world. She also faced the tragedy with bravery and opened her home to her Sensei as she waited for her children to make it back safely. I’m sure she will deny this, but to me that was an act of kindness and of courage that all should emulate.

    But, I’m not going to put her alone on a pedestal. Just reading the comments on her post reminded of two other amazing women who travel the world to help others in the face of disaster. Kathryn McCullough, who shares her story on “Reinventing the Event Horizon,” and her partner Sara are just preparing to leave Haiti after a year there, and will then (after a short time in the States) move on to the next area that needs their help. Who knows, perhaps they will end up in Japan next. If that isn’t impressive enough, Kathy is also embarking on a memoir journey into her own issues with mental illness that will be so helpful to many people in this world. That too is an amazing act of courage.

    Lest you think I am simply stalking people on WordPress (and I am not, I’m just recognizing important patterns that speak to me), another act reminded me of the quiet strength of women. One of my dear friends from Hawaii, who I have not seen in a while but still think of often, wrote this note to me on Facebook. I hope she does not mind my sharing:

    “I just got home from evacuation of the nursing home . . . Looks like we did get up to 6 foot waves and have had a bunch of damage but nothing at all like Japan. A bunch of boat marinas. . .  came loose and boats went everywhere and they are saying La Marianas is “no more”. It sounds crazy but they keep showing this dead fish in the middle of a parking lot in Haleiewa on TV. We are still having waves…smaller but still there. Amazing it is daylight and I still haven’t gone to sleep :-) Anyway thanks for asking about us. :-)

    She makes it sound like nothing, but she spent the whole night helping evacuate a nursing home. Yes, it is her job, but I think committing to work in a nursing home is an act of heroism in itself. It takes special people to work with the elderly and with children on a regular basis, and many of them are women.

    That leads to teachers, after the earthquake in New Zealand I quoted another dear friend of mine who, like AmblerAngel, shared her story in a way that meant so much. She always amazes me with her passion for educating young people and her innovative approach to everything. Teacher’s like her (and a few others I know) are truly voices that should be recognized and heard in the history of this world.

    This list could go on forever: from the blogger who battles for equal rights in the classroom to my friend and fan Leseley who has spent her life creating and providing theater and music programming for people of all ages (I hope to learn more of her story soon);  from A. Hab who confronts some of the hypocrisy’s of higher education to my young friend Caroline who helps battered women in New York and supports cause after cause any way she can (I still remember spending days making puppets with her while her Mom was at work). One last post that I need to mention is this one from a few weeks back at Broadside “Women, Speak Up! I Can’t Hear You” which made me reflect on my own use of voice and the examples that I set for younger women.

    As you can see, the list can go on forever. It is a list of women who, even in small and subtle ways, influence the world around them. That list moves forward, but it also extends back into history. I want to learn more of the story of these women. I want to write more of their story as well. But, perhaps more importantly, I want the voices of women to become louder in our story and not be silenced anymore.

    [Addition, I just saw this post on Facebook and wanted to add the link as it goes well with my discussion today. I think this could be an exciting opportunity for women:

    Sec. Clinton Announces State Department Partnership with Seven Sisters Schools - The Daily Beast.]

    Whose story do you want to know? What voice do you want to hear? Which women do you think have stories that need to be told?

    Wishing the Power of Thought Was Enough

    I was prepared to write a completely different post this morning when my husband walked in and said “Japan had an 8.9 earthquake and it caused tsunamis that are heading this way.”

    Immediately my thoughts jumped to my friends in Japan, the ones I’ve actually met and the ones I have met in this virtual world. I jumped out of bed to e-mail people I might be able to reach and search for amblerangel’s e-mail, and found her post instead. I hope her kids made it home safely and all is still well with her.

    I read the post out loud to my husband and started sobbing. Why? I think it is the feeling of not being able to help. When I lived in Japan, the big Northridge earthquake hit California, where my sister was living at the time. I remember the panic I felt when I could not reach her for hours to find out if she was okay. I remember the sadness when I learned that one of my childhood friends was killed in that earthquake.

    Now I worry for my friends in Japan, and Australia, and New Zealand. Now my husband and I are on tsunami watch in Hawaii, where his family still lives and we both went to school (I got my MFA at UHM). We will be keeping track all day until we know they are safe.

    It is frustrating to know that there is very little I can do but pray and send loving thoughts out into the world.  I wish that was enough, but I know it is not.