Tragedy hits near and far…

NSCC ReaderboardMy heart bleeds for the families and friends affected by the terrible, unthinkable tragedy of September 24th, 2015 when a bus load of international students were on their way to what was supposed to be a fun city tour in Seattle.  Ironically, a Duck Boat heading the opposite direction on the Aurora Avenue bridge, had a severe mechanical malfunction and careened directly into the bus, killing 5 students and injuring many other students and staff of the college.  I say ironically, because the Duck Boat is often one of the planned “fun” activities for the students.

When I first heard the news, I thought that the students were on the Duck Boat but come to find out, they were on the tour bus and then it dawned on me that, yes!  Orientation and a city tour!  That’s what they were doing; heading to Safeco Field and Pike Place Market. The students and staff had just completed several days of placement testing, academic advising, arranging class schedules, orientation activities including learning all about the immigration rules, etc.  This was to be a break from that; some fun to celebrate their arrival in the states, in Seattle, and at the college.  It was to be a time of getting to know each other, the city, and explore.  It’s amazing how fast things can change in an instant.

In my previous job, I worked as an International Student Advisor at North Seattle Community College (Before it became North Seattle College).  I not only assisted students coming to America to study by issuing the immigration forms necessary to obtain an F-1 Visa, but I also greeted them upon arrival, organized new student orientation, arranged many fun activities (including city tours), lead the International Association (a student leadership club), and was their resource should they need anything in this strange new home.  I’ve had Muslim students ask if they could use my office to pray, students from 50 countries cook amazing food for our international pot-lucks, a student from Kyrgyzstan even arranged an international film festival on campus and invited Washington State Congressman Jim McDermott to join us, and he did!  These students are so creative, smart and caring, as are the staff…Here we are about 8 years ago on a staff retreat!  Amazing bunch!

nscc staff

International students and their families invest a lot of time and money to get here.  A LOT of money!! They carefully choose the school they will attend and we always felt lucky to be a school of choice for so many awesome young men and women.

Today I visited the college to offer hugs, flowers and support to my colleagues that I used to work along side.  They are still there, dedicated as ever to all of the international students.  They are like extended family and for many of the students who don’t have family or friends in Seattle, the staff become their family.  It’s a special bond that I’m so proud and honored to have experienced.  It is still very close to my heart and this tragedy made that even more clear to me.

I was told of a man who, at the time of the accident, was kayaking in the water way below the Aurora bridge and noticed a piece of paper floating down, spiraling in the breeze, slowly descending like a butterfly back and forth until it finally reached the water.  He didn’t know what had occurred above, but decided to paddle over and pick up the piece of paper to remove the litter.  He went to a nearby houseboat where a friend lived and discovered on the news that the horrible accident had just happened.  When he looked at the piece of paper, he realized it was a permission slip belonging to one of the international students on the bus to go on the Seattle tour.  He called the college to ask if they wanted it back.  They took his name and number in the meantime since they had so much going on and so many phone calls coming in.

Come to find out, he was also a musician and was so moved by the whole tragic story that he wrote a song about the international students and was invited to perform it at the vigil held on the campus to honor the deceased and the injured.  Such a profound affect this has had on so many.  Countless people who never knew the students are saddened by the accident.

My current job is at the Port of Seattle which owns and operates Seatac International Airport.  Today I found out that some of our own Port employees have been helping out with ensuring a smooth travel experience for the many family members flying into Seattle from the countries of the deceased; Indonesia, Austria, Japan, China, and South Korea. They are assisting them with their baggage, transportation, and translation which can be a hassle when you are emotionally upset and grieving, and may or may not speak English. They had to travel half way across the globe to retrieve the remains of their loved ones; their children; the light of their lives whom they sacrificed so much for to give them a good education and an enriching cultural experience.  The utter grief they are feeling is simply unimaginable.

I write the words, but words cannot express my heartfelt sadness.  May the five students from around the world who were tragically taken from this earth rest in eternal peace and may the families and friends find the strength to carry on and remember the special moments shared together.

The NSC Foundation has set up a fund to help support the families affected by this terrible tragedy.  Please share widely.  Thank you.

https://www.razoo.com/story/Bus-Accident-Support

Flowers at Pike Place Market, Seattle
Flowers at Pike Place Market, Seattle
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Keep on writing…

writing-cycle

I get totally inspired when I inspire someone else!  I’m discovering that it’s one of the things I think I’m good at.  I do believe that all the education (Masters level) I got in leadership was time (and money) well spent because I’m passionate about leadership, where it can take you, and how it can inspire others.  It’s a magical moment when you can light a spark in someone in a place they didn’t know existed within themselves.  I get a lot of satisfaction and adrenaline from it.  It’s almost like a drug, I don’t know how else to describe it.  It makes me want to take on the world by storm, one story and one poem and one book at a time!

I am learning about myself.  Even at my age, I’m not that young and not that old….I have 3 fairly grown kids which can give you some idea, but even at my age, I’m still learning about myself.  Re-discovering who I am and what makes me tick.  That gets buried during the child-bearing and child-rearing years because every breath is dedicated to giving others life.  You lose yourself in that.

Now that I have some breathing room, just a little bit of breathing room, I’m eager to learn and explore and engage in things I’m finding passion in.  Like writing.  Or, like inspiring others to write.  Sometimes all it takes is believing in someone and their unique ability to tell a story.  Sometimes all it takes is taking an interest in a hand-written manuscript from years ago when someone sat down in some of their darkest, depressed days, and wrote out the day to day, seemingly mundane events of ones life and typing the words into a computer for them and saying, “Hey!  This is good stuff!  Let’s publish it!”

Or, taking an interest in ones family history enough to gather the stories and compile it into a biographical novel!  Why not?  Future generations will gain from the knowledge of what our ancestors had to go through.  It’s inspiring.  It’s meaningful.  It’s a worthwhile endeavor.  It’s fascinating!

At least, that’s how I feel.  At this moment.

Keep on writing….

expressyourself074

Back to blogging…

I’ve been away from regular blogging for a while now, as many bloggers are if they are not regimented in their routine.  I’d love to be one of those writers who can just churn out post after interesting post on a daily, or even weekly basis, but alas…I’m not that disciplined.  I read a blog this morning that inspired me to find ways to get my creative writing-juices flowing and it suggested morning journal writing.  I suppose it wouldn’t have to be done in the morning, but that is the time of day before the kids wake up, and after the first sip of divinity called coffee, and may be the quietest time of the day.  I think I’ll try it and see what happens.  It won’t be posted here, but it may inspire some future blog postings, so stay tuned.

What do you do to get your creative writing-juices flowing?  (If that’s even a thing! ) 🙂

I’ve been spending my down-time working on two book projects; one is an autobiography that my grandmother wrote before she passed away about her life in northern Germany before, during and after the wars (WWI and WWII) when she immigrated to America, and the other is a story about life in a market.  It’s a funny book about the characters who work there, their daily drama, and situational comedies that take place among the meat isles and bakery, etc.  While I don’t have a lot of time to invest in these projects, I am motivated by the prospect of publishing them.  That gets me excited!

In a few weeks, I’ll have a short memoir published in an anthology compiled and edited by Coco Harris and Telling Our Stories Press.  Yet another small stepping stone in my quest to be a published author!  It’s titled Reflections and is coming soon….write on!!!

“Words are a lens to focus one’s mind”  -Ayn Rand

Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle
Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle

An excerpt…

My grandmother wrote down her life’s story before she passed away and I’m very grateful because there is so much history to learn from.  I’m considering the idea of publishing it; highlighting her life growing up in northern Germany, WWI, her school days, her married life having 8 children, WWII, fleeing their home when the Russians invaded, coming to America on the Queen Elizabeth in 1951, etc.

Here is a small excerpt about her father coming back from the war (WWI).

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“In 1918, Father came back from the war.  First I had to get used to him, but it did not take long for he was a very loving man and father.  He brought each of us children a lovely picture book, which he made himself of pictures and verses.  It contained many stories from the Western Front including his own experiences and feelings during this time.  The pictures were so lovely!  One told of his longing for good, homemade food, when his loving wife, Lieschen, set the breakfast table with bread, butter and radishes.

He had a pictures of French soldiers in the prisoner-of-war camp with their red pants.  The most impressive picture, which I just loved, was an angel (the angel of peace) opening the door to peace, a dove flying with the verse:

O, Open us the door of peace –
Too long has lasted this terrible slaughter!

How I wished I would have saved that beautiful book, which I loved so dearly!  But, along with so many other precious things, it was lost in the aftermath of WWII when we had to leave our home country from one day to the next.”

In a Different Light…

I try to see my life in a different light

In a different time

In a different place

But the clouds get in the way and overshadow the dream

When will the trade winds blow

To reveal

The real

Me?

Once our dreams were one

But now we drift apart holding on for dear life

Trying to do what’s right

Is it right to keep holding on, or better to let go?

Will we break?  Will we die?

How long will it take to pick up the broken pieces?

And

Will it all be worth the pain, the sadness, the sorrow

Of saying goodbye?

I wanted it to turn out differently.

I wanted it to work

I tried so hard but feel we failed

To keep us happy.

Another May

It’s May again.  The most emotionally difficult month of the year for me.  Mom passed two years ago now on May Day. Then there’s Mother’s Day, her birthday….all in the month of May.  Grappling with what to write, I’m at a loss.  I don’t want to just repeat the same ‘ole sad song…woe-is-me. Looking for inspiration…

Have you ever heard Steve Uzzell speak?  Have you ever seen his photographs?  Truly amazing and inspirational.  I first heard of him in a course called Leadership and the Imagination at Gonzaga University while studying for my masters degree.  He’s an outstanding National Geographic photographer and speaker.  He makes you think, reexamine your life, where you are going and how to get there.

He says, “Know where you’re going. Challenge your assumptions. Know how to get out of your own way.

Question everything; especially reexamine all the stuff you think you know. Be willing to start at the beginning.”

Please take the time to watch this. Enjoy!

 

Changing your perspective can open up a new realm of possibilities.

Here are some yellow roses in my little patio behind my house.

Different perspectives gives a completely different feel.

one perspective of a rose
one perspective of a rose
another perspective of a rose
another perspective of a rose
roses in bloom
roses in bloom

“Providence favors the prepared mind.” -Steve Uzell

dream_catcher

My funny valentine…

I expected V-day to come and go this year as any other day.  I didn’t have any special someone to say “I love you” to or receive flowers and chocolates from.  C’est la vie.  Instead, I meandered among the quaint shops in the little town I recently moved to and explored my new surroundings.  Sometimes, just by staying open to Spirit and not worrying about what you don’t have, you receive special gifts.

I came upon a rock and gem shop on my walkabout, so I went in.  It was a huge shop filled with every kind of rock and gem you can imagine.  Raw crystal formations of all shapes and sizes with little cards that explain what they are and their healing properties; jewelry fashioned from gem stones, bracelets, amulets, rings, and necklaces.  I let the energy guide me to the ones that felt good.  It was Valentine’s Day after all.  My heart was open for love…for myself, apparently:)

amathyst

I’ve always been drawn to certain crystals.  Amethyst was the first one that I felt I needed to have.  It’s a meditative and calming stone, described as a kind-of all-purpose gemstone because it’s known to increase psychic and intuitive powers.  It is also an aid to grief after the loss of a loved one, and brings peace and inner strength and stability.  After losing my mom in 2013, I definitely need as much amethyst as I can afford.

quartz-rose

The second stone that called to me was the Rose Quartz, a.k.a. “the love stone.” (How ironic is that?)  It is a symbol of unconditional love and is connected to the heart chakra.  It’s a happy, loving stone that aids in bringing love and happiness into one’s heart and life.  It balances emotions and teaches us to love ourselves more and increase our self-worth.  I definitely need as much rose quartz as I can afford.  (hmmm….I sense a theme here.)

Quartzcrystal

The third and final gem of the day was the clear Quartz Crystal.  Quartz is the most common and stands for power, energy, and clarity.  Known as the “universal crystal,” it has many uses such as; enhancing positive energy, enhancing thoughts, is beneficial for amplifying energy to manifest, heal, protect, harmonize one’s environment, and energize other crystals.  I also bought a small crystal necklace to wear close to my heart.  I figure you can never have too much positive energy around you.

My final purchase was a last minute impulse.  Next to the register was a bowl with polished rocks that had words etched into them.  I dug through to see what would compel me to spend another $4.00.  I found a perfectly round, orange/red colored stone (possibly Jasper?) with the word JOY… my Mother’s middle name.  Cha-ching!!

Joystone

Thank you Mom! I love you so much!

You are my forever-VALENTINE

R.I.P.

Attitude adjustment needed

Journal to find clarity…” I read this line in an article in the Harvard Business Review today about how your state of mind affects your work performance. It seems like common sense to me that if you have a stressful morning you will be less productive and have a lower level of performance at work than if you are clear-headed, and had a wonderful, relaxed morning before arriving to work. What struck me was some of the best practices in changing your state of mind for the better. The article suggests that you “acknowledge your emotions to reduce their intensity. Allow your thoughts to be transient….journal to find clarity.” It further suggests to breathe deeply, stretch often, and take breaks to clear the mind. Music can help you relax as well as lighting and eating healthy. Again, common sense right? They are still great reminders to pay attention to ourselves, our state of mind, and how it affects us in our daily interactions.

Breathing…..aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

A Family Home

When I think back on my childhood, I remember two homes. The first one was a block from the lake where I learned to swim and spent a lot of time as a kid. We had a nice little over-grown beach area where we could take our picnic lunches and wade in among the rocks in between the docks owned by the people who actually had lake front property. The house was two stories and my parents remodeled the entire thing down to the dirt underneath and bare studs that we had to balance on and walk over to get from one room to another. I remember it seemed to take a long time to finish, but when it was done it was beautiful! I loved how fresh and clean and new everything was. I had a fire engine bunk bed that for some crazy reason I decided I wanted painted orange. So, orange it was. Bright fire engine ORANGE! When my little brother came along, he got the fire engine and I had a blue room with Michael Jackson posters covering every square inch of the walls and a drafting table that my dad made for me. It was the best room in the house!  Happy childhood memories.

The second home was one my grandfather had built after my grandparents and their 8 children immigrated to America. (I believe the last two kids were born here in the U.S.) It has 3-foot thick cement walls and a bomb shelter behind the home – reminiscent of WWII bombings. Having just come over from Germany after the war, it’s not surprising he wanted to be prepared for anything! It had a big tree house that the previous owners had built, 6 acres of land with a stream running by, and lots and lots of wonderful tall trees. I always wanted my own horse! His name was Shiloh.

Of course at the time, growing up, I never really appreciated having a family home. Particularly one built by my own grandparents. However, my Dad still lives there and to this day I consider it home when I go to visit. My room and my brother’s have been turned into the guest rooms, but they are always available if we need them and there is plenty of room for the grand kids!

This is all to say that I have always wanted to provide such a place, a “family home” for my own kids. They grew up with two struggling parents trying to make ends meet, moving from rental home to rental home…We started off in a tiny one bedroom apartment and when we were expecting our second child we had to move into a 2-bedroom. Then, another child propelled us to move again and get a bunk bed, until finally we found a good deal on a rental with enough space for everyone to have their own rooms but the 5 of us still had to share one bathroom. Then the divorce happened and I moved out with the kids in tow to another rental house…the one that was broken into, the one I had an abusive boyfriend live in for a little while and had to call for a police escort to get him out, the one my Mom passed away in while in hospice in my small living room. That house doesn’t conjure up the happiest of memories. We moved again. This time into a 2-bedroom/1-bath apartment; small, but safe.

My kids are older now; one attending college in another state, one in high school, and the youngest in elementary school. The younger ones still have a few years under my roof and they are products of the American reality – divorce! We, as their parents, were never able to provide a family home. Always living paycheck – to –paycheck.

My beloved mother, who passed away last year (R.I.P.), always wished she could help me. She wanted to provide the resources to pay for a home for me and the kids. We talked about how ideal it would be to get a house with a mother-in-law apartment where she could live and be close to me and her grand kids. However, she always struggled herself to make ends meet. She worked hard, but had no health insurance, no assets to speak of except her car and personal belongings, and eventually when her mom (my Grandma) got older they moved into a house together to take care of one another. Grandma passed away the year before Mom did and then we had to sell the house.

Long story short, my Mom in heaven is finally going to help make my dream a reality. The sacrifice was that her precious life ended far too soon, but the outcome is that me and her grand kids that she loved and adored so much, are buying our first home and moving in on Thanksgiving Day…

…Our family home. 

We have so much to be thankful for!

Thanks Mom

me-n-mom-greatwheel

why not?

Why not dance again? 

I have no good reason not to. I’m 43.

I grew up dancing.  From the time I was about 5 years old, I had ballet shoes, tights and leotards on.  After school, it was off to ballet class.  Weekends were rehearsal times for upcoming performances.  At age 10 (or so) I was Alice in Alice in Wonderland!  I was a lost boy in Peter Pan!  I danced the jitterbug, the Messiah, and many other ballets.  I don’t remember a time in my childhood when I didn’t dance.  Once I discovered modern (contemporary) dance, I was sold!  I never had a ballerina body anyway…too curvy!  Modern dance allowed me to express myself.  I found freedom in movement and the stage was my second home.

1me_and_mom 1975Mom and me – 1975

Once I started having kids, I had to quit dancing.  I was consumed with raising my babies, and just simply making ends meet.  My ex-husband didn’t encourage me.  He wasn’t supportive of anything I wanted to do.  Taking dance classes can get very expensive and all of my resources went to providing for my family.  It was what it was…

mom_Dan

Mom and her dance partner. Not sure what year.

My beloved mother (R.I.P) was a gorgeous dancer.  She is, and always was, my inspiration.  Last year, after 25 years of being away from the dance world, I was invited back to perform with the company my mother co-founded over 25 years ago and not only that, to learn a dance my mom choreographed and performed back in 1999.  I had to learn it from watching a video recording less than a year after losing her battle with breast cancer.  It was probably the hardest thing I could do, but I knew I had to do it.  I had to do it for mom.  Many tears were shed, but I was proud of myself and I know she was dancing in heaven.  I felt her close to me and I know she was very proud.

Mom_dancing1

Once again, I’ve been invited to perform in the Spring concert with the same dance company.  I’m ecstatic because the choreographer is someone I knew as a child (a 19 year old child) and he was my absolute favorite teacher when I attended the college of the arts.  I feel as if I’m living her legacy.  I’m continuing to dance just as my mom always wanted me to and as she always did.  She never stopped dancing, not until she couldn’t physically dance anymore.  If I could turn back time, I would have started dancing again much earlier.  Actually, I never would have stopped.  I would have danced with my mom again, just like I did when I was growing up.  She always wanted to see me dance again.

I’m realizing it’s possible for me to dance. 

Why not?  I have no good reason not to.  I’m 43.Shelter2This is me. Dancing.

2014