Archive for January, 2012

My visit to Varzol

Went on a field visit today. Went to a remote village in the area of Varzol to meet with grade nine students and parents. The road was pretty bad–got stuck 4 times and folks had to push. The final time we had to get out and walk in the snow on ice for about 600 meters to get to the entrance of the school yard and then another 200 or more feet into the school.  I kept having to grab the arm of several younger men accompanying me to prevent from failing. Getting too old for this inclement weather.

A rural village in Varzol of 300 homes.

It really was one of the better schools I’ve seen here. Very welcoming group. Even the old chair of the community committee (like a mayor) came to meet and talk with us. When we were done several hours later he offered his arm to me to keep me from falling. He was a frail little man and my thought the whole time–I mean how could I refuse? was…“Please God don’t let me fall and land on this poor little guy. If I hurt him—not very good for US relations with this tiny village!

Their were students waiting at the school long after it closed to get my “autograph”—geez these kids need something more entertaining to do after school!  I willingly obliged. They’d told me when we talked they’d NEVER met an American before and seemed very excited to capture the moment with photos and the autographs. I’m sure they’ll entertain their families for several days about the lady from the US who came to talk to them.

When the parents first came into the meeting–the fathers looked stern and unapproachable.  Two of them in particular made me feel very uneasy and I thought to myself…“I’m glad I’m with colleagues–these guys look like they don’t like ME.”  I determined to talk with them individually all the same and realized quickly into my conversation with them at the close of the focus group I could not have been more wrong.

All in all it was a good visit and hopefully hands reaching across the cultural and religious divide with a warm handshake.

The women and young girls here have beautiful long hair. Gorgeous. One of the grade nine girls.

A snowy road in the stunning mountains.







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Martha's high school graduation photo

My mother-in-law died on Saturday. She was 101.

The month before she was born the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre.

Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire the month Martha made her debut.

William Taft was president and Orville Wright set a world record that held for almost 10 years keeping a glider aloft in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina for 9 minutes and 45 seconds.

Planes were beginning to gain ground (or should we say air?) as potential military weapons.

The Indianapolis 500 was run for the first time and construction began on Fenway Park in Boston.

The Ford Model T faced its first competition as beloved American family car with the production the very first Chevrolet.

Another big move forward—the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation (CTR) is incorporated in New York—better known as IBM.

The US postal bank is created and a 9 hour work day is introduced.

A change in the dynamics of the American family is underway as the first home for the aged in the US is opened in Prescott, Arizona.

During her lifetime she lived through a lot of history. Two world wars, the women’s suffrage movement, the prohibition, the great depression, two atomic bomb blasts, desegregation and civil rights. During the roaring 20s, a fun-loving and dance loving Martha saw women’s dress lengths go from dragging on the ground to a scandalous just above the ankles to well above the knees. Equally shocking was when women began sporting men’s clothing and then burn their bras, get rid of their bras and finally flaunt their bras.

Feisty huh?!!

The second child and only daughter of privilege she unexpectedly lost her father when she was 16. Not many years later she also lost her adored older brother. Tragedy struck again when her husband accidently died when her only child was 5 years old. Well educated but not terribly well prepared for the workplace she was forced to take on two jobs when the life insurance policy her husband had taken out a few weeks before his death wasn’t processed correctly and she was left without the resources he’d planned for her and his son. Today she’d sue. Back then she just hunkered down and forged ahead.

Martha and her mother--Nan.

A tiny somewhat frail looking woman her stamina would catch you off guard. She was a survivor. She was tenacious. She was tough. She was a devoted daughter, sister, wife, loving mother and adoring grandmother.

She was loved.

She will be missed.

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What’s so important about closure?  Over the years I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it–and I must admit they use phrases that I find somewhat perplexing—all the talk about ending or finishing things.  I’m beginning to wonder why we need or even want that.

I’ve been thinking about this thing of closure quite a bit the last few weeks–probably because in a few more–I’m headed to Cairo to get some “closure”. At least that’s how folks talk about it with me. But the truth of the matter is–I don’t want to close that chapter in my life. If anything, I’d like to expand upon it–or at least be able to  relive it in some meaningful way.

So, I’m coming to the conclusion that despite all the hype about the need to bring closure to things in our lives whether it’s a death of a loved one, an unexpected and unwanted move or change in our lives–I think we’re thinking about it all wrong.

Yesterday, my daughter Heather was telling me about a blog she stumbled on in which a lady wrote about cleaning up other people’s trash that had blown into her yard. http://aninchofgray.blogspot.com/2012/01/dont-throw-your-trash-in-my-backyard.html  It’s a very insightful post made all the more meaningful that even though it starts off talking about wrapping paper that drifted into her yard–it ends up talking about a tragedy her family experienced the past year–the accidental drowning of her 12 year old son. In her view–her need to reach out to the world beyond her personal loss and grief–she was inadvertently spreading  her family’s “trash” of their  tragedy all over other people’s lives.

As I read her post–her personal loss can’t help but touch the reader. Even though you don’t know her (I certainly don’t) you can’t help but feel like you’ve been invited in to the most intimate struggle whirling around–if not plaguing–her mind. And you feel–at least I did–it’s a bit uncomfortable sitting in the front row observing and vicariously taking part in her heartbreak. Indeed, one phrase in her blog popped out at me….”Maybe you are having sympathy fatigue and wishing you could read something here about spray paint or dumpster diving or the annoying way Tim chews”.  Then it struck me: this mother  isn’t seeking closure–she’s embracing what happened–indeed she’s opening up–not closing this chapter of her life.

I’ve never lost a child.  Came too damn close to losing several–but I was fortunate and my children’s lives were spared. But they will bear the scars of their accidents and the consequences of those accidents for the rest of their lives.  As I think about all the people who I’ve shared the story with of their accidents and the other significant things that have happened in my life (I guess the trash I carry with me)—–I can’t help but come to the conclusion this reaching out to other people has nothing to do with closure.  To be honest-I don’t want closure and even though these experiences were tough they are the most memorable despite being difficult things that have happened in my lfie. I want to open them up–I want to relive the memories, rejoice in the blessings and miracles, revisit the good times as well as the bad, embrace the meaningfulness of my life and the lives of those close to me.

I think we have it all wrong. Closure means saying good-bye; it means giving something up; it means ending something. That’s not what I want. I want to invite you in and say, “Look, see, this is what my life has been.  These are the people and experiences that make up the fibers and tapestry of my life.”  I’m opening the door and inviting you into the inner chamber of my life. I want to share with you who I am and what is important in my life.

When you think about it–when we do that with each other it’s such a gift of intimacy and trust. So, if that’s what closure is all about–bring it on!

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