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A wise woman once said to me that there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these she said is roots, the other, wings. ~William Hodding Carter

8f4e475e09b0cabef9884f079ebd24e2Sam went to Germany for the weekend. A school trip had him en route for about as long as he was en Cologne, but it seems he enjoyed the trip and, equally as important to me, is now safely back in his home in England.

It’s not easy to sit on the sidelines as my children get on with life in other parts of the world. Not at all.

My eldest, Jenn, being an adult, and a very sensible one at that, has been taking care of her own family for 20+ years, but that’s not to say I’m worry-free when it comes to her. I keep an eye on the weather in North Carolina and fret constantly over her health, her safety and her happiness as is proper, still being her mother and all. Too much sharing of my anxious thoughts, however, would be annoying for her, so I mostly keep them to myself.

Sam and Cj, being young and now far, are another story. Although completely trusting in the environment they now inhabit and the wonderful woman who cares for them in every way as I would, I still lose sleep.

They’re in a different, wider, more dangerous world now, so my worries have expanded as they ride their bikes to the park and go to big schools with kids I don’t know and take busy motorways and visit London for days out. All of those things are wonderful and broadening and educational and experiences they couldn’t have here with me on this rock. Live theater in the West End, music festivals, camping, playing in the snow … all great and all adding to their lives in ways that will serve them well.

But …

My son passing through France and Belgium while making his way, with a busload of other school kids, to Germany at this point in time scared the shit outta me.

The world our children are inheriting seems a terrifyingly dangerous place rife with automatic weapon-toting fuckwads drunk on the smell of blood, people strapping on ‘suicide belts’ with no intention of going alone, bomb makers tinkering away in neighborhoods with visions of mass mayhem filling their zealot pea brains as democracy fails through wanton avarice and the planet attempts to cope with massive interference with nature in ways that will not be kind to any of us.

So, the questions plaguing me are …

1) How can my children be prepared to be safe and secure as possible as they construct their lives in a world that seems to be going to hell in a hand basket?

And, 2) What messages can they be given that may help them find happiness and satisfaction in their lives?

If my own chaotic childhood taught me anything, it was the value of adaptability, and this does seem key over the next decades. No one could have accurately envisioned today’s world even 30 years ago with its tech advances (and reliance upon), the perpetual war-without-front and its tendency to catch people out in mundane circumstances, ever more drastic weather and global financial meltdowns.

Predicting 30 years ahead is even more of a crap shoot, a future I can’t begin to imagine. Most certainly there will be catastrophic events as human population grows, then must shrink from lack of space and resources, as sea levels rise and wipe out swathes of what is now considered habitable land and the struggle to survive is armed to the teeth and merciless.

With luck, 30 years from now Sam will be 43 and Cj 40 … in their prime.

So … what to do? How to plan?

First, they must have access to all the information they will need to make informed choices. This does not mean filling their evenings with every horror of the day via the BBC, or any other media, but answering their questions honestly and providing sources for research.

Second, assuring they are educated to the fullness of their potential and allowed to specialize in whatever ignites their passions. Knowledge is power and a solid foundation built from study provides a platform from which one can put perspective to the past and have some clues to what’s ahead.

Third, and most importantly, encourage them to grab every bit of joy they can whenever they see it and wherever they find it. Although it may not always seem so, life is a gift, and every single day, no matter how difficult or sad or tiring or tedious is full to the brim with fleeting moments, and it is the ‘fleeting’ bit that we all must be aware of. What is life if not a series of moments? (In a conversation with my brothers this morning, we chained together quite a few shared moments of our combined childhood, and it dawned on me how vital it is that my kids grab and keep as many as they can for future examination, amusement and contemplation.)

I want my children to know joy as well as they know grief, to feel bold even when fear haunts the corners, to recognize gratitude as easily as they do indebtedness, to feel love as deeply as loss. I want them to be as ready to jump for joy as they may have to be to jump out of the way, to accept challenges with as much certainty as they throw their hands up in disgust and walk away. I want them to live as fully, as involved, as engaged, as enthused as possible for as long as they can.

Just Skyped with Jenn, and then with Sam. Jenn is feeling better, able to laugh and catch me up on what’s what in her world. That makes me happy.  Sam is tired and snuffy, but very happy for the experience of three countries in 36 hours and waffles and wurst. He’s safe and sound and a bit more worldly, so I’m happy, too.

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone

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Globally, one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum.~ UNHCR ~

Nakba-Palestinian_refugees-nakba-VTYou know those photos appearing everywhere … the ones of dead kids washing up on shores after desperate attempts get a new life? Sorry to break it to you, but you better get used to it. We are fast on our way to this becoming the new normal.

An article on NPR’s website today informs us that more than 300,000 people have headed for Europe so far this year from North Africa and the Middle East. As we learn every day, many don’t make it, dying in droves on the way. (The U.N. puts that number at 2,500 deaths at sea … so far.)

If you want one number to explain the mass movement today, start with 60 million. The U.N. says there are 60 million people displaced worldwide — the most since the U.N. started keeping records and the most since World War II.

The U.N. counts 15 new conflicts in the past five years, and the big one is Syria. More than 11 million Syrians have fled or been driven from their homes in that country’s civil war since it started in 2011.

The U.N., being rather good at counting, compiles numbers for us. Unfortunately, aside from its own PR there isn’t much else the organization does well … or at all. Those 15 new conflicts, for example, didn’t simply materialize instantly to take everyone by surprise. Anyone with an Internet connection saw them coming ages ago, building in bad attitude and weaponry, creepy coalitions and secretive dealings.

As if anything is secret these days! The country members of the United Nations have known exactly what was ahead, but did little to nothing to avoid the crisis that is now making headlines. Of course there are many reasons for the lack of action other than the usual ‘discussion’ mixed in with a bit of halfhearted ‘condemnation’ from time to time: disagreement over tactics; an inability to tell white hats from black hats, usually for self-serving nefarious reasons; lack of motivation mixed with a fear of discovery of their own agenda and so on.

But it’s not only institutions and governments that have neglected the signs of impending doom. More than 11 million Syrians saw it coming, too, and it didn’t pop out a box for them either.1408

The number is much higher than that 11 million, as there are more on their way every day, and aside from children included in the numbers all of them were there for the buildup to their horror getting on with life as they knew it … until they couldn’t.

That’s the way humans do it, isn’t it? Cruise along in their day-to-day right up to the moment they are personally presented with situations that have become unlivable?

Can we take a moment to imagine the impact more than 11 million Syrians might have made on their country and their future had they assumed some responsibility for the mess that was being created before them? Had more than 11 million Syrians dared to stand up, to speak their minds, to demand reason and humanity, to put time and energy into finding ways to make their world better for everyone how much of what is happening wouldn’t have.

Courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other.  ~Samuel Johnson

It’s a shame our species often sees more courage in pulling up stakes than in preserving and protecting was is dear. We have long made a hobby of fouling our own dens, then seeking greener pastures when the shit hits. That worked well for us when the world was bigger and wide-open spaces were available and accommodating, but those days are over. With the human population at this moment at 7,364,456, 853 and growing by around 166,243 people every single day our planet is congested and infested, a circumstance that creates conflict in and of itself.

But back to the ‘new normal’ idea …

Worldwide Displacement Hits All-time High As War And Persecution Increase

The headline on the U.N’s refugee agency, UNHCR, webpage brings up a worrying and interesting point, and the article underlines it:

Wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere, according to a new report from the UN refugee agency. UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report: World at War said that worldwide displacement was at the highest level ever recorded. It said the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago.

You may note that, yes, the number of refugees has increased by more than 8 million people in one year and find that disturbing. What you may have missed, however, is that these almost 60 million are running away from the death and destruction of armed conflict … man-made political and religious fallout resulting in catastrophes that shift borders and pit one side or another against each other.

Imagine not too long into the future when it is a cataclysm of Earth itself.

In the five years between 2008 and 2013 more than 140 million people were displaced by severe weather. Disasters triggered by storms in just 2013 forced 14.2 million people to flee their homes.

And it’s only going to get worse. At this very moment THREE, count ‘em THREE category 4 hurricanes are swirling in the Pacific for the first time in recorded history. Storms are getting bigger, more dangerous, with every increase in global temperature, and those are climbing faster every year. Drought has the western U.S. burning and Papua New Guinea starving. Northern Hemisphere winters get colder and more deadly. Crops are failing or getting blown away all over the planet and coastlines are making beachfront out of what wasn’t.

And what are we humans doing? Cruising along in our day-to-day assuming that when the shit hits we can pick up sticks and move along when the time comes we’re personally presented with a situation that becomes unlivable.

So … about those photos of dead kids: get used to it.

Coward:  One who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs.  ~Ambrose Bierce “The Devil’s Dictionary”

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Five years. Five years? Five years!

I have nothing to say today, so will simply link to the first post I wrote after the death of my amazing son, Jaren.

There are many others here about him and me and death and grief you can find and read, should you be so disposed, by typing his name in the search box. I’m reading them all today.

Five years.

I miss him.

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The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.
~ Nelson Henderson

Now that I’m no longer ignoring my blog, I’ve been prompted by another (Thank you, Lori, for your post that stirred me into action!) to do a bit of gap filling on gap filling.

As do all internationally adopted children, my kids have gaps in their personal stories that can’t be filled. Not only do they have little information on their genetic links and the specific circumstances that preceded their adoptions, their country of birth is also somewhat of a mystery.

They know a lot about Cambodia, of course, from books and photos and films and the tales of our family history, but those can’t convey the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Southeast Asia any more than breathing into a freezer compartment can relate the experience of being cold enough to see their breath.

It has long been in the works for the kids to spend time in their birth country, and this happened for Sam back in February.

Some years back I wrote about Gay’s plan to have him accompany her on an annual housebuilding trip for Tabitha. She’s been doing this every year since Sam came home in 2003, and now that he’s eleven-years-old, it seemed the right time.

I had my concerns, of course, as any mother would seeing her young son travel far without her, but knew most of the building team (Brits, Americans, friends … ) and trusted in their dedication to my son’s safety and had the team leader, Dave Richter on my radio show just a month before, assuring me that Sam would be well looked after.

I won’t say that I was thrilled by him going, as I knew I wouldn’t relax until he was back under my wing, but his excitement was contagious and I knew he was leaving on the trip of a lifetime.

After almost two full days of travel, the first item on his agenda was a 10K walkathon benefitting the building of a women’s hospital in Phnom Penh which he completed with no problems whatsoever … and had raised almost £600.00 for on his Justgiving page. (He’d also raised over 3,000 Seychelles Rupees at a carwash conducted here!)

More difficult were the orientation visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the killing field at Choeung Ek. Although he has been familiar with the tragic history of Cambodia since he was old enough to turn the pages of a book, there’s a lot to process in those places for anyone, even more so a Cambodian-born 11-year-old.

The housebuilding days were a joy for him. Meeting and playing with the children in the village reaffirmed his hope for his compatriots. Working hard felt good, too, empowered as he was at his age to contribute something so substantial to some he knows are his people.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~ Anne Frank

Gay had wisely decided to end the adventure at Angkor Wat with its evidence of the rich and grand history that is also Cambodia … an amazing wrap to an amazing time had by my amazing son.

My love and my gratitude for my children are the greatest gifts I’ll ever know. They are all spreaders of light … candles all.

There are two ways of spreading light – to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. ~Edith Wharton

Here’s a video Gay put together showing some of the highlights of the trip. Huge thanks to Gay, to Tabitha Cambodia, Dave Richter and everyone involved in making this such a wonderful experience.

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Not dead today ... just at the beach ...

Not dead today … just at the beach …

Today is my 15th Not Dead Day.

Yes, I have had a few thousand days of being not dead, but on this day in 1999 I very well could have been.

During the course of what I thought was a routine checkup with a cardiologist while on holiday in Singapore I was yanked from a treadmill after about 10 seconds, told to lie down, had a Heparin patch slapped to my chest and was informed that I was within one to thirty days from a massive and certainly fatal heart attack.

Good thing I took that vacation, huh?

I’ve written before about the process, recovery, etc., so no need to do that again. What I would like to do today is talk about living. Fifteen years … nothing to sneeze at. I would have missed a lot had I not been around. Not that everything has been peaches and roses (sometimes not even coming close with pizza and rotgut), but an unpleasant slog through what we know as real life. There have been times I’d have rather avoided, some that almost broke me …

You fall out of your mother’s womb, you crawl across open country under fire, and drop into your grave. ~ Quentin Crisp

But so much has been worth much more than the price of admission. Fifteen years of sunsets and puppies and laughs and love and friends and fresh fruit and hugs and cuddles and kisses and great books and conversations and new experiences coming seemingly from out of the blue.

Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies. ~ Erich Fromm

I’ve had

They're growing, and I get to watch the process...

They’re growing, and I get to watch the process…

another fifteen years to learn new things, to confront my personal ghosts, and wrestle them for lessons, to put effort into making the world a better place.

Life has meaning only if one barters it day by day for something other than itself. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I’m still around to see Sam at 11 and Cj at 9, to fill their heads with as much wisdom as I can and as little baggage as possible, to do my best to leave them with as few gaps as I can … and I have no doubt I will leave them before the gaps are full, just as all parents do … and to live up to Walt Whitman’s edict in “Leaves of Grass”

“…the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”

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This evening, as the kids and I watched the “Wizard of Oz’, I had a sudden recollection that ties the generations together for me.

The movie came out in 1939, the year my mother turned seven-years-old, and made quite an impression on her.

It began what was to be an annual run on American television in 1956. I was five that year, but we watched it as a family every year of the ‘50s from then on.

I don’t remember ever not having a TV in the living room; sitting in front of that tiny (by today’s standards) screen in the huge wooden cabinet on the oval braided rug as my mother … either perched on the brown, skirted couch, cup of coffee in hand no matter what the time of day, or standing behind the ironing board with a bowl of starch water at hand … did the ’50s version of multitasking. It was a position I must have mastered very early. Color TV had yet to arrive, so black-and-white was all we knew. Ricky and Lucy’s apartment, Sky King’s sky, everything the Mouseketeers got up to … all were sans any shade but variations on gray.

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The 1939 Poster

And that was fine … most of the time.

The exception to the whole being-okay-with-B&W thing came with the opening bars of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. My mother’s WoO had imprinted itself on her brain before the age of television, when films were only seen in ‘movie houses’ where a show cost a dime … unless you wanted to sit in the loges … and grownups could add a bit of atmosphere with clouds of cigarette smoke.

By 1939, cinemas also offered films shot in Technicolor, something this movie was made for:

Notable for its use of Technicolor, fantasy storytelling, musical score and unusual characters, over the years it has become one of the best known of all films and part of American popular culture. It also featured what may be the most elaborate use of character make-ups and special effects in a film up to that time.

The fact that this beloved experience was reduced for us kids to NO color annoyed my mother no end, apparently, so she did a running commentary to enhance our viewing pleasure … or hers.

This is where, all of a sudden, everything goes into brilliant color!

That is the YELLOW brick road!

The witch has GREEN skin! (No mention that she looked just like our Aunt Mary when seen in B&W until we were much older.)

Those flowers are poppies … bright red poppies … and are so beautiful.

The whole city is GREEN!

That’s the ‘Horse of a Different Color’ and as it walks around the color changes from green to purple and more!

And so on …

All these years later, I found myself tonight explaining my mother explaining the colors to me to my kids as they watched a hyper-hued DVD of the road and the witch and the poppies and the horse, realizing as I did that time sometimes moves in circles.

Now … if I can just find those damned ruby slippers. I know they’re around here somewhere …

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It’s the Day Before Christmas and the Tenrec is Stirring

It’s the day before Christmas
and the house is a wreck
The kids are excited
like dogs, cat and tenrec
The tortoise is unfazed
and Ryan’s asleep
and I’m hoping like crazy
the turkey will keep.

There’s a breeze in the palm trees
some waves in the ocean
Yet, no matter how normal,
the kids have a notion
that tomorrow is special
(I need some of their potion!)

The tree does it’s spinning
all covered in bobs
and tomorrow we’re dinning
on veranda with mobs
of friends from all places —
from Texas to Perth —
and the hope is all faces
will beam forth with mirth

I’m missing the heck
out of everyone far
and hoping that someday
we’ll find we all are
within distance to share
holiday hugs and kissing
and all end up where
we can pause all this missing

So …
From all of us here
down in this hemisphere
Merry Christmas to you
that we hold very dear.
We miss you, we love you
We hope you are happy,
and know you all know
Christmas makes me sappy

Happy holidays!

With love from Sandra, Sam and Cj …

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