Humans of Earth: “We’re in this together”

creative non fiction, Iowa life, Journaling, personal essay, thoughts for living, Trends, Uncategorized

flood we're in this together

Mixed in between turning off the alerts for tornado warnings, hosting friends for a night to escape flood waters, and delivering packages of care items to various reputable groups came an envelope from my friend. Inside was the photocopy of a journal article she sent me as an addendum to a message I had passed along about a group unrelated to anything Houston or Hurricanes.

flood animals

One of the many sites where donations were being accepted and volunteers were working.

The headline on the article blared the sentiment that seems to be the unifying theme in this adopted hometown of mine: “We’re in this together.” Those words enveloped me like the warm blankets wrapped around the human beings who were rescued across eastern Texas these past weeks.

Gratefully, my family and I avoided the ravages of the disaster. We experienced minor inconveniences of having a few paid workdays taken off the schedule for me, the canceling of school for my son, and working from the rudimentary home office for my husband.  Yet, this experience brought back a flood (excuse the pun) of memories of the 1993 Iowa flooding disaster. I aided my parents in helping them clean out their water-logged basement. I drove my new war-traumatized Bosnian friends to National Guard water stations to fill up plastic milk jugs for safe drinking water. And I worked for the United Methodist Church as a religion writer and reported Christ-informed relief efforts in Iowa.

Back then, we didn’t have Facebook to telephone tree unfolding alerts or changes. We had antenna receptive televisions with local newscasts and the daily mud-soaked paperboy and girl delivery of newspapers. Somehow, though, we got word through to each other as to what to do next.

Now that the height of the crisis is over for most Texans, what does come next? A region-wide disaster affects the psychological, spiritual and material well-being of everyone. Everyone is doing their best to reframe a grim situation with a positive spin (“at least we’re still alive” and “it’s just stuff”) and a grin on their faces to bolster their own and other’s spirits. Yet, there’s going to be the span of time when people are just in the thick of it.

flood iowa

News stories in which I had a hand in reporting.

Years after the original Iowa event I was writing stories about flood relief efforts and thinking “isn’t everyone recovered yet?” Obviously, the answer was no but certainly the time span was an eye-opening dynamic for a member of the generation who was on the cusp of inventing instant-gratification technological tools.

Disasters are like the drunken uncle: everyone plans the family reunion hoping he doesn’t find out. Yet somehow, he learns of the celebration and everyone gingerly succumbs to his presence. Cousins whisper in the kitchen on what they will do if Uncle Harvey does this and what they will do if he does that. But Uncle Harvey does what Uncle Harvey does and even with all the preparation, he leaves a wake of destruction of overturned tables and tipped over Christmas trees that no one could have anticipated. After all, who behaves like that? Naturally, someone tries to intervene to calm him down and gets sucker punched. Everyone sighs and gets to work while Uncle Harvey stumbles away in a blissful state of unawareness.

flood houstonianIn between the titillating stories that are retold on anniversaries and the arrival of the next crisis, is the interstices of time when forlorn people wonder how to make order out of what seems dispassionate chaos. Because the burden of our stories is  so great to bear in isolation, we are compelled to tell it over the campfire or on our blogs and in doing so, others are encouraged to tell theirs and we can incredulously exclaim, “you, too?” We piece together a journey across the rapid progression of days which at the onset seems to have a promise of a clear direction. Then midway, either through fallible personal choices or fateful impersonal cosmic events, we become more aware that our destiny seems instead to be a succession of turning from our own self-absorbed personal goals to taking trembling note of the universal interconnectedness of us and that for eternity “we’re in this together.”

flood we're in this together

Love can be tough and blind

addiction, health & wellness, holidays, thoughts for living, Trends, Uncategorized


Love is blind. This is somewhat true, but more realistically people can be blind to love, especially when others make a tough decision to step back to allow the natural order of things to occur.

Families oftentimes are placed in double (love) blind experiences when they are trying to find their way in helping someone recover from a drug addiction. The first function of a family is to support its children in learning skills, morals, and values. When addiction strikes a family member, normal approaches to building a thriving family unit can be affected. Oftentimes, a family member’s addiction will drive the individual to decisions which do not fall within the societal norms of morals or values.

Unknowingly, non addicted family members can be caught up in a perpetuation of fueling the addiction through co-dependent choices. A family member needs a ride somewhere and what caring family member wouldn’t give one? Or can they borrow a few bucks until they get paid? Saying no to simple requests seems petty and punitive. But within the illness of addiction, keeping the affected individual comfortable may literally be “loving them to death.”  People are only as sick as their own and other people’s secrets, and addiction is sneaky and secretive. People don’t know what they don’t know.

Before families realize what is happening, the constant conflict and anxiety created by addiction, has begun to break down the family unit. Substance abuse is a leading reason married couples seek divorces. When a child is the one suffering from addiction, families frequently cope with a degree of grief and anguish that only other families battling life-threatening diseases, such as cancer, can understand.

Consequently, all family members become blind to love. Underneath the person suffering from addiction is the valuable human being God created. But the manipulation and deceit of addiction destroys trust. In periods of sobriety, the restored family member resurfaces and others within the family welcome them but are confused themselves as to how they can so harshly judge a relative.

tough-loveEventually, family members may begin to see that trying to fix the consequences for their loved one’s addiction is making it worse for them and the addict. Yet, it is scary to relinquish control. The illusion for the non addict family member is they make better decisions because they are sober. However, if  consequences of some bad choices aren’t allowed to be experienced by an addict, then no motivation exists to change.

Addiction can and does kill and it can’t be cured. But it can be managed. Just as a family wouldn’t treat a loved one’s cancer, family’s ought not endeavor to manage another’s addiction. Working with professionals is as important for the family members who don’t suffer from addiction as it is for those with the illness.

When a family suffers from an illness, love is tough. Tough love may be the highest form of love one can offer another.

And when a family sees this, then addiction can no longer blind people to love.




Fanboys and Fangirls be your own number one fan


your life mattersThis week if you have young people in your life who spend time on Tumblr or other social media sites, please keep an eye on them. Word is going around that anonymous terrorists on Tumblr and other sites plan to aggressively bully young adults who have shared themselves in a vulnerable way on their social media sites.

A young friend of mine is posting warnings to protect her friends from now until after New Year’s that they not use their tags and turn their ask button off within Tumblr. Other young people have shared posts from individuals hiding under “Anonymous” and who actively suggest suicide and other forms of self-harm.

As my young friend shared with me in an email, “many teenagers have been hospitalized and a few have already committed and died.” In particular, young people who identify with “Fandom” or have self-disclosed on their social media they feel suicidal or are cutters are being targeted.

If you are of my generation, you might be tempted to minimize the effort of my young friend as melodramatic teenage behavior. I want to assure you, though, if it was important enough for her to post to her personal page, then this is a real threat to our young people who are looking for personal connections with social media. Many news stories have been written about cyber-bullying.

As a parent or teacher, be vigilant about checking out the social media of your children and students. You can do it surreptitiously so your child doesn’t put up filters to keep you out. If you check the friends list of young people on Facebook, you will see many of them have between 1,000-5,000 friends. This means our young people are friending others as a way to demonstrate popularity, not because they actually know this many people to consider as friends. Facebook has tried to address people who bully people on line with various policies, but has not yet come up with a fool-proof way.

Also, our teens tend to gravitate away from where their parents are congregated and so now are on other sites such as Twitter, Tumblr, Yik Yak, Vine, Instagram and many others.  But many still use Facebook. You are not out of bounds as a parent to know where your kids are hanging out. In a real world way, you set boundaries and don’t knowingly allow your kids to go to biker bars, strip joints, or  other dangerous neighborhoods. So do the same for your young people in the virtual world.

What’s dangerous about bullying activity is it’s difficult to trace anonymous stalkers to stop them. The Supreme Court currently is considering a case which will have far reaching effects on how our freedom of speech intersects with our right to safety in our society. Our teenagers live and survive in a tenuous place right now. They are exposed to many more grown-up things than what people were 30 or even 20 years ago. Yet they lack the autonomy to protect themselves the way an age recognized adult can.

If you know someone who you sense is struggling right now, please reach out to them. If you don’t know what to do, then call someone who does. The Suicide Prevention Hotline is available to contact if you want to ask on someone’s behalf. They can connect you with your local resources.

And for every hater post out there, you have an opportunity to share your own encouragement. As my young friend said: “kids need all the help they can get and sometimes adults have a bigger impact on them than teenagers so yes, please do” help.