Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Week

Last weekend began with the 5th annual Ohio Casting for Recovery retreat, and ended with a blow-by from Hurricane Ike. Both events taught me big lessons.

In 2005 I attended the CFR retreat as a participant. For the past three years I've served on the retreat team as a planner/fundraiser throughout the year and as a fishing instructor at the retreat. I wrote about the 2006 retreat here.

The William Stafford poem that Jules shared for Poetry Friday this week (and all the other Staffords in the comments) helped to crystalize what the CFR weekend taught me this year. This year I heard myself saying to a participant things I need to remember and practice in my own life:
All we really have is this moment right now. We can't change what's behind us and we can't know what's ahead of us, so we need to focus on this moment and do our best with it, enjoy it to its fullest. (Live in the moment, Mary Lee. Pay close attention to Right Now.)

There are plenty of people in the world who will judge you based on your looks. The ones who matter are the ones who get to know you -- the ones who can see that you are so much more than your shell, who can see the beauty within you. (Don't judge, Mary Lee. Learn to look within for beauty. Be one of the ones who matter.)
When I got home from the retreat, new challenges and learnings awaited me. Ike's winds were revving up to 60-80 mph, construction barrels were rolling across the road creating a live-action obstacle course, branches were down (and still falling) everywhere I looked, roads were closed by fallen trees, and there were no working traffic lights.

I pulled into the driveway at 4:00 pm, just as we lost electricity. We didn't get our power back until 1:30 am on Thursday. Across the street from us, and in many other parts of the city, they still don't have power. Within walking distance of my house, there is still a street closed because of a fallen tree. There were schools in the city and around the area that were closed for four days this week. In our district, we were out two days (one building for three).

Here's what I learned from Ike:
I missed being connected to the Internet and email, but I can definitely survive without it. Hot showers are much more important in the big picture.

Electricity isolates us as much as it connects us. Without electricity, we spent much more with our neighbor, sharing lunch from a COSI we found nearby that was miraculously open, sharing pans and thermoses of hot water (we have a gas stove), and commiserating during the clean-up. I haven't talked to her since the power came back on.

If this much chaos was caused by half-power hurricane winds in a dry storm, I can now clearly imagine what a real hurricane is like. We had no rain (so no flooding and less damage because the trees were dry), and the weather cooled down to the 70's after the storm passed, leaving us with pleasant, rather than steamy, air. My heart goes out to anyone who has ever lived directly in a hurricane's path.

For one day, I lived in two worlds -- the one of chaos, deprivation and uncertainty at home, and the "normal" one at school. I now have a better appreciation for my students who navigate two worlds every day.

When you're focusing on where the next meal is coming from, it's hard to care about politics, the stock market, and the situation in Afghanistan.

It doesn't matter how many services and offers of help are available to those in need, when you are cut off from the "real world," you have no idea those services and offers even exist. We had a battery radio, but we could not find a single station that gave us any information (beyond school closings) that was of any assistance. We found it quite amusing when we got power to watch the news and see how much information about the storm and the recovery was available...if you had electricity to watch the news! CRAZY! WRONG!

And once again, I learned that all we really have is this moment right now. We can't change what's behind us and we can't know what's ahead of us, so we need to focus on this moment and do our best with it, enjoy it to its fullest.


  1. Anonymous8:18 AM

    Lovely post, Mary Lee! Great lessons I need to take to heart, particularly the live in the moment one.

    Glad you came through Ike with little damage and lots of insight!

  2. This is one inspiring post Mary Lee, particularly the one where you stated having a new appreciation for the students who travel between two worlds every day. Powerful!

  3. Anonymous9:33 AM

    I have chills as I read this. My good friend reached her 5 year anniversary as a breat cancer survivor. She walks every year on the 3 day walk: The stafford poem speaks volumes, doesn't. We truly only have this moment in time. I am glad you are same. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. I truly enjoyed reading this, Mary Lee. I was thinking about storms anyway, because I'm watching a show about King Lear, and you are so right...the wind howling at your door blocks out everything, but makes you cling to what's close.

  5. I should mention that there was at least one silly silver lining to the whole power outage thing -- after clearing out our refrigerator, we scrubbed it sparkling clean inside. It's like having a new fridge!

    Thanks for all your good wishes -- remember to send some to the folks in the heart of hurricane territory!

    Stella -- that's probably my biggest insight of the whole experience. Huge.

  6. Mary Lee-
    I loved reading this in the moment, remembering to think before judging, learning from life...thanks for sharing the details of your learning and thinking.

  7. What everyone else said... Thanks for sharing, Mary Lee. I am definitely going to work on living in the moment. Thanks for the perspective.

  8. Words of wisdom for sure!
    I will be haunted by the thought of children traveling between two different worlds.

    Thanks for sharing your life with us.

  9. I just came in from my usual fall Saturday- driving frantically back and forth across Denver to get everyone to their football fields, watch games, pick kids up, etc. At one point I actually thought, "You should be ashamed of yourself, it's a glorious fall day, and you are getting to be outside and enjoy it. Mostly though, I was just stressed about whether I was going to get which kid where on time. Then I came home and read this! So, so, so, true! Beautiful post, Mary Lee!
    P.S. That comment about living in two worlds, is so, so true!

  10. Your post struck many chords for me, ML! The first one is the part about electricity isolating us as much as it connects us. I really got to know my neighbors again this past week, also. We had a person-to-person connection.
    And like everyone before me, your comment about traveling between 2 worlds is so true. It solidifies my desire to make the world those children have with me, the best I can provide.
    Lovely, lovely thoughts...

  11. Wow, I'm glad you are safe. Thanks for the reminder to live life with eyes wide open, and to find something to learn from every situation.

    You like to fish? Did you ever read Penny Kittle? I'm reading her book, The Greatest Catch, right now. So, so, so inspiring.

  12. Mary Lee, glad the poem helped a bit and that you were able to gain valuable insight from the bad experiences. My oh my, what a week! I hope things get better, and my heart goes out to those left in the wake of Ike.


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