Sometimes A Kid Is Just A Kid

Sometimes A Kid Is Just A Kid

“By endurance we conquer.” Edward Shackleton

In life you will meet a lot of people and most of them you will end up forgetting. I will never forget an eight year old boy who rolled into the first day of 826LA summer writing program  where I volunteer.

It wasn’t just a wheel chair. He was strapped in with a plastic plate across his chest and a large clear plastic tube attached to a hole in his throat. I have lung problems and hate to see breathing tubes.  Since I was a child, I have always had a strange fear of deformities and people who look sick. The pediatrician told my mother that it was because I had watched my grandmother who lived with us, shrivel away and die when I was three years old.  I don’t know if that is true.

“Please don’t sit at my table” I thought when he entered. I’ve often heard that when you phrase something negatively and put it out into the universe, the universe doesn’t hear the negative word.  It hears “Please sit at my table” and that is what happened. I won’t be able to help him. But I smiled and introduced myself. After all, I am grown up now. He says his name is Tony.  His eyes lit up and gave me the most beautiful smile. He participated shyly as all the kids did on the first day. I wasn’t sitting next to him and he couldn’t reach a paper in his binder. I froze for a second because I did not know if I was supposed to get up and help him or let him struggle and do it himself. Alejandra, the girl sitting next him quietly gets it for him. Neither of them say a word to each other. He is sitting next to a boy named Omar and he says that there is someone in his class named Omar. Omar smiles in delight at him and says ‘You know someone with my name?” It will be all right at this table.

I am late the next day and a volunteer is already sitting there when I arrive. The program leader tells me that  the kids at my table  were asking for me. I seem to be doing ok. Do we talk about the wheel chair and all the stuff he has with it? No one that I have asked seems to know. I watch nine-year old Alejandra who is sitting next to him this week. She does not interact much with any of the kids at the table – only adults. She is on it. If Tony can’t reach something or drops something, she gets it and hands it to him in total silence. I learn from her that helping someone is just something you do. You don’t need a big discussion about it.

At the end of the week, we do a group project and everyone has added something important to save the sea turtles. We have become a team.. Tony tells me that he hates doctors but likes the dentist. I have to go to the dentist for a filling and a crown and I tell him that I HATE dentists. He laughs hysterically as if I have just said the funniest thing. He is a warrior and clearly I am not. He looks like he has gone through so much at such a young age. Most of us cannot even imagine doing that but the smile never faded from his face. He told me he didn’t smile a lot when he was in the hospital  but he smiles all the time now.  Sick definitely does not mean weak.

The following week the kids have changed tables.  I arrive early. “Tony is sitting at the second table”, says the program leader.  He is very happy to see me there when he arrives. I am happy to see him as well.

The summer program is ending and I do not know if I will ever see Tony again. I have dealt with worsening health problems that seemed big to me but are small in relationship to his. I learned from him to be grateful  for the health I have and always make the most of my situation. While I was busy wallowing in self-pity, Tony was smiling through adversity and putting a smile on my face as well. But more importantly, he taught me that at any moment, even when you least expect it, someone or something can change your life.

Fly safe,
JAZ

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Travel Well

Travel Well

“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting an uphill battle.” Ian Maclaren

The name of my blog is Travel Well Fly Safe, It was named that for a reason –  a reason I have never talked about.

I have been lucky to have lived for a long time without any serious illness.  But I believe that health is a bucket. You add in stress, emotional pain, genetic predisposition, and environmental factors and when your bucket is full you get sick.  In my case, six years ago,  I became very allergic to smoke, pollution and chemicals. It is called Reactive Airway Disease.  Traveling to third world countries in Africa and Asia has put me on a nebulizer and high doses of cortisone. I call my doctor much more from a trip than from my house. I  became very allergic, developed Reynauds – a circulation problem which causes your fingers and toes to turn blue in the cold and Gerd. Two years ago (after a 16 hour flight to Australia) I was diagnosed with Sjogrins symptoms and didn’t know what it was – making dehydration and dry eyes on a plane something to worry about. But I am not these things.They are just a small piece of who I am.

I didn’t choose this but this is the hand I was dealt. I had to learn how to travel with the new normal. The alternative of staying home is unthinkable. I have had to alter my vision of what a trip should be to allow for the unpredictability of all these symptoms. I look at every trip now as a gift. The difficulty of having all these weird autoimmune symptoms is that every day is different. It is easier to stay home but traveling is my passion so I make it work.  It requires more managing and planning, To do something in a new way, you need new  ideas. The list of countries I can safely go to gets smaller. The list of medicines and toiletries I have to bring and activities I can not do anymore gets longer.

The hardest thing is because I don’t look or act sick, people believe it isn’t real. They express concern and suggest strategies and remedies. After a while they just like to pretend it isn’t there and hope I go along with that. It is hard for them to understand how in some places I am totally fine and in others I am on sixty milligrams of cortisone a day. They don’t realize that once I am exposed to something, it doesn’t disappear without medication. I can’t just walk away unless I do it quickly.  There is an invisibility of certain illnesses that other people say they can see but they don’t.

Life does not always go the way you want.  I place one foot in front of the other and climb higher. I believe that I have a great responsibility to live as happily and as fully as possible, to listen to my body and trust my instincts. I’m telling my story not for anyone to feel sorry for me, or excuse anything but to start the conversation. What if my story offers some hope to someone who thinks they can’t travel because they have “stuff”?  A dull and predictable life is boring. Just do what you need to do to get where you want to go. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

Staying Sane In An Insane World

“The most insane things can become normal if you have them around you long enough. A mind can’t seem to hold anything too crazy for too long without finding a way to make it seem normal.” Deb Caletti

You can get used to anything. You think you can’t but you can. When I came home from New Zealand I had horrible anxiety every time I turned on the TV. There was another Presidential order that was always badly rolled out and more protests. There is way too much bad news bombarding us twenty-four hours a day.

A few weeks later, I just feel numb. I am becoming desensitized. Things were said today  that went almost unnoticed. A month ago they would have been front page news. What is going on in America is wrong and it takes all my sanity to get through the day. In the midst of all this I am trying to live a conscious life of kindness and intelligence. Just because America is going insane does not mean that I have to follow.

The cause of these external events have been a long time in the making. They did not just happen. There are no simple answers. Finding a scapegoat to blame sounds very fascist to me. It’s the Muslims. It’s the Feminists. It’s the Immigrants. It’s the Jews. It’s the NRA.  It’s the Whites. It’s the Blacks. It’s ISIS. It’s the Environmentalists. It’s the Left. It’s the RIght. It is so convenient to have someone to blame – especially when said in a confident, authoritative voice. It’s becoming really hard to separate the real threats from the manufactured ones.

Here are some real threats. There are 117 suicides in the U.S. each day compared to 43 murders. There are 129 deaths from accidental drug overdoses. Ninety six  people a day die  in automobile accidents (27 of whom aren’t wearing seat belts)There are 1,315 deaths each day due to smoking, and 890 related to obesity, and all the other preventable deaths from strokes, heart attacks and liver disease.

I need meditation and yoga in my life now.  I can’t exhale this out. Beaches and travel help. I allow a short time period to watch the news and take days off. It looks to me like all this fear mongering is illogical. We are the biggest threat to ourselves.

Fly safe,

JAZ