Category Archives: Reflections

On why I LOVE Daylight Saving Time!

Ok, so while I’m in Italy this year on a writing retreat and not teaching, “Fall Back Day” will not impact me as it usually does. However, I’m still happy that the European Union, like the U.S., and a total of 70 countries worldwide, practice Daylight Saving Time! Like many of you, I often feel like there are simply not enough hours in the day to do everything I need to do. So often I wish for just one… more… hour… Once a year, I get that hour and I “feel” as if I have more TIME. I wake up earlier. I am productive longer. I feel like there is TIME to get things done. I even feel as if there is TIME left over at the end of the day to relax! That is why “Fall Back Day”, the glow of it which carries me for about 7-10 days beyond the actual day, is my favorite day of the year.

So, why Daylight Saving Time?

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin, the U.S. inventor and politician, first proposed Daylight Saving Time in 1784 and that Germany was the first country to implement it in 1916? It took a while to catch on. Also, Daylight Saving Time hasn’t always been an hour. Sometimes it’s been ½ hour or 2 hours http://www.timeanddate.com/time/dst/.

The original idea was to maximize the daylight hours and, among other things, reduce energy expenditures. Conserving energy in times of war has been the most common reason for the implementation of DST over the years. The general consensus in study findings seems to be that even though we get up in the dark in the fall, the extra energy used then is more than offset by the energy saved by having an extra hour of daylight in the evening. I can only speak to having more energy myself for 7-10 days and getting more done.

History of DST

On April 30, 1916, Germany and Austria became the first counties to use Daylight Saving Time to conserve fuel needed for electricity production. They advanced the clock one hour until the following October. Other countries including Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey, and Tasmania adopted the same policy. Great Britain, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia  followed later in 1916. In 1917, Australia and Newfoundland began saving daylight. The U.S. didn’t hop on the bandwagon until March 19, 1918 when “An Act to Preserve Daylight and Provide Standard Time for the United States” was enacted. http://www.webexhibits.org/daylightsaving/index.html.

That first pass at DST lasted 7 months until Congress overroad President Woodrow Wilson’s veto to end it. During WWII, Daylight Saving Time reappeared, again as an energy conservation measure and it lasted in the U.S. from February 9, 1942 until September 30, 1945. From 1945-1966, U.S. states got to decide if they wanted to observe DST or not. On April 12, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson supported, and Congress approved, the “Uniform Time Act”. The only way around Daylight Saving Time then was for a state legislature to determine that an entire state would stay on Standard Time. In 1972, Congress allowed states with more than one time zone to decide independently for each time zone whether or not to follow DST or stay on Standard Time.

On January 4, 1974, during the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon signed into law the “Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973”. Congress amended the Act, and Standard Time returned on October 27, 1974. Daylight Saving Time resumed on February 23, 1975 and ended on October 26, 1975. In 1986, Congress decided that DST would begin at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and end at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday of October.

Some areas in the U.S. don’t observe DST, specifically, Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

The “Energy Policy Act of 2005” extended Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. beginning in 2007. Since 2007, DST begins at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ends at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of November.

In conclusion:

In the EU, DST begins at 1:00 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time on the last Sunday of March and ends at 1:00 a.m. GMT on the last Sunday of October. That means that in Italy, I get my extra hour a week before you get yours in the U.S. I’m not totally clear on the implications of tha, but I’m hoping to figure out a way to get both “fall back” hours.

Anyway, that’s the scoop on Daylight Saving Time. The rumor that a bunch of Congressmen getting drunk in a bar decided to dupe the American public has no merit. Check back with me next spring. I’m likely to be a bit less exuberant then, when I have to give my hour back, than I am now when I get one for free. Ciao and enjoy that extra hour of sleep!

The Florence Journals: Reflections on Death & Dying – The Beginning of the End of SOB (Sweet Old Bill)

On July 4, 2013, Bill declared his independence. In the early 2000s, he’d had a kidney transplant. Aside from that, he was an extremely healthy 84 year old. As with most older adults, in the United States, though, he was on multiple medications to manage multiple minor chronic issues. That’s really context for our story. Approximately a year and a half earlier, after his wife’s death, a series of minor mishaps, literally missteps, started the journey that would lead to his declaration. He needed to have several toes removed due to poor circulation, causing significant mobility issues. Recovering from this, he contracted a virus that put him to bed for several weeks. When he was well again, he was extremely weak and needed to build strength to walk again. He got to the point where he could use a walker or a cane to haul his 6 foot 6 inch frame around, and ultimately take several steps unaided. However, his strength and vigor did not return. This frustrated Bill, an extremely independent man.

One evening he stepped on something sharp. He couldn’t see or feel what it was, but his foot bled profusely. His neighbor and good friend Dino, who had been his support person, particularly with activities of daily living, would be over the next morning to assist him, so Bill just put on a Depends, wrapped his foot in a towel and went to bed. The following morning, Dino found him this way, blood soaked towel wrapped around his injured foot, soaked Depends, his friend needing assistance. Dino cleaned Bill up as best he could, washing him, slathering his foot with antibiotic ointment, and bandaging his foot. The bleeding had stopped by then. Dino made Bill breakfast. Bill, not being one to lie idly by, fussed and grumbled about not being able to get around, but Dino persuaded him to stay in bed that morning and give his foot a rest.

The next day, Bill was still in pain and couldn’t put weight on his foot; Dino cleaned and re-bandaged it for him. This happened the next day and the next and the next, until the fifth day when Bill awoke with a fever and Dino recognized that Bill’s foot was infected. Dino called an ambulance to take Bill to the hospital.

Whether the toe removal, the virus, the item Bill stepped on that led to the infection, or the spiral of medical issues set in motion at the hospital when Bill arrived for treatment for his foot were singularly or collectively the last straw, for those who knew him, Bill’s July 4 declaration of independence quickly became a predictable conclusion. Bill was a proud man, an independent man. He’d been in the medical corps during the Korean War. He was not comfortable relying on others.

At the hospital, an inexperienced physician disregarded the information that Bill had had a kidney transplant and prescribed an antibiotic that disrupted his kidney functioning. He told Bill he was sorry, but they would need to do minor surgery to repair the damage. Bill took matters into his own hands, requesting a psychiatric consultation. After a 45 minute consultation, Bill asked the psychiatrist if she thought he was competent to make his own medical decisions. She responded “Absolutely!  I have no questions at all about your competence. Why do you ask?” Bill replied, “Because as of today I am taking myself off all my medications. I am also refusing this surgery to repair the damage caused to my kidney by the antibiotics and I don’t want anyone to be able to challenge this decision. Now, please get a piece of paper, we’ll write out each of my medications. I will sign that I refuse to continue them and you will sign that I am competent to do so”. Surprised, the psychiatrist did as Bill requested.

Bill remained calm and resolute as several medical professionals tried to talk him out of this decision. He was done with medical care. With signed paper in hand and fresh advanced directives and against his doctor’s advice, Bill was wheeled out of the hospital. His trusty friend Dino was there to take him home. Bill believed that he would die quickly as he thought that taking himself off the anti-rejection medication for his kidney would lead to his body rejecting the kidney, causing it to shut down. He believed he would die quickly and painlessly. That was not to be the case.

When Bill left the hospital, he believed he was going home to die. His two friends Dino and Kenny disagreed with Bill’s decision and it took him several days to bring them around to at least understanding his way of thinking. Once they were grudgingly on board, Bill called me, his niece, and told me of his decision. I listened quietly. We both shed a few tears. I told him I loved him and would miss him, but that I would fight for his right to decide. Neither of us knew what this would ultimately involve. But our trust and commitment to one another, and to Bill’s right to make this decision, strengthened our resolve to face whatever came next.

Bill got his affairs in and went to bed to wait.

The Florence Journals: On Social Media and being an Extrovert in a Foreign Land

So, dear reader, as you know, I’m in Florence, Italy.

Florence

Just to clarify, I don’t speak Italian, although I can carry on a very thorough conversation about that, in Italian. (Rant: I have no idea why language programs teach inane information first. And I have found this to be true with every language program I’ve ever used (Spanish, Italian, Russian). I’ve just done 3 lessons on Pimsleur on being able, or not being able to, understand Italian or English and to ask people if they are Italian or American. I don’t have those conversations! All I need from that is one line! “I don’t understand”. (Non capisco). My first lessons on Rosetta Stone were about reading, swimming (really!!!) eating and drinking (ok, those were somewhat useful). However, when I go into a restaurant to eat or drink, I don’t generally find myself needing to broadcast that. It seems self-evident. I’m sure I’ll get to useful language at some point. (But, I digress.). (One more quick sidenote: I’ve found the translator on the app TripLingo, http://www.triplingo.com, to be extremely useful when wifi is available).

I also don’t know anyone here. So, I stroll the Ponte Vecchio and tourist hangouts in the evenings so that I can meet and speak with people. I’ve found it surprising how many English and Russian speakers I’ve met here. I seem to do pretty well in both languages and with maps and hand gestures have been able to carry on some pretty interesting conversations. I’m not sure why, but my Russian seems to improve in countries where English is not the first language.

That’s all well and good. In fact, I chose Florence because I didn’t know the language, because I didn’t know anyone, and because I fell in love with the city when I first came here almost two decades ago. I’ll continue to learn Italian. I’ll continue to put myself in situations where I have the opportunity to meet people. However, I am currently in a “between time” and I find it insightful. I am an extrovert without the ability to interact very much.

I suppose it’s not surprising then that social media is kind of a lifeline here for me. As an extrovert (and if I ever had any doubts, I don’t now), I NEED interaction with others. In fact, I’m not just an extrovert. On the Myers-Briggs test I score as an ENFP (extrovert, intuitive, feeling, perceiver). I am described as an “enthusiastic, creative, and sociable free spirit, who can always find a reason to smile”. Here are my results: http://www.16personalities.com/enfp-personality. I won’t go into that further here, but if you read the report, you might see why I react to this situation as I do.  If you’re interested in how you score, check out the free test here: http://www.16personalities.com. I was certified in Myers-Briggs years ago and taught it numerous times to classes of U.S. judges as well as American college students. It’s interesting stuff. (But, again I digress.).

Even though I’m an extrovert, I also need to disconnect sometimes and pull inward. That is the purpose of this trip, to claim some down time, to reflect, to think, to plan. Interestingly, I have found myself at times feeling isolated. It occurs to me that the possibility of connection, as a way of not feeling isolated, is extremely important to me. Not to overstate the obvious, no matter how interesting and life affirming living in a foreign country is, it can, at times, be lonely, especially if one doesn’t know anyone, or speak the language. So, to come around again, I am grateful for the internet, for my ability to connect with family and friends through Skype, FaceTime, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, my blog, your blog, etc. On days when I don’t feel well, or when I can’t sleep, or when it’s raining too hard for me to want to venture out, I’m on here a lot. It helps me to feel connected. It helps me feel less isolated.

I think the researchers who decry the internet as the ruin of personal relationships have it wrong. The internet has the potential to allow us to interact with, to care about, to build relationships with, to strengthen relations with, and to share care with people in ways we would not be able to otherwise. I think what we are seeing is kind of a revolution in relationship that is enhanced by social media in all forms. (I plan to write more on this later and have, in fact, researched this, in an academic sense).

View from my window 2

This is where I write: View from my window

There are other characteristics of my being an extrovert and other insights I’ve learned in my 2 weeks here that I will share in later posts. But for now I would like to leave you with a big THANK YOU!!!!! Your engagement on social media helps me feel connected in this “between time”, and that is a real gift to this extrovert.  Ciao!

The Florence Journals: On Writing and Reluctance

I’ve had some interesting insights into myself since I arrived here in Florence, Italy a little over a week ago.

This is the first entry about those insights. In my journal, I’ve noted that I’m aware of the possibility that someone else might read my words and I find myself silencing or editing myself because of the risk that my words might be judged, evaluated. I don’t necessarily intend to share my journal writing with anyone. I may edit writings for blog posts, like this one. But I’d like what I write in my journal to be for me, to be free of any “generalized others”, any audience that may read and draw conclusions. (Yes, I hear the echos of Kenneth Burke and George Herbert Mead in what I’ve written.) I desire to work on this.

As I revised my journal writing for this blog post, I had an insight. I know where this concern came from. Like all teenagers, my life had a degree of angst. I used to journal all the time. I can still picture the spiral notebook in which I wrote. The peach and pink swirls on the cover. I loved that notebook. I wish I could still picture the words.

One day, while I was in 8th grade, the principal, a very serious nun I did not particularly like or trust (She was one of those people who could make any information fly out of my head simply by asking me a direct question.) had a fellow student call me out of class to go to her office. That was never a good sign. In 8th grade, it typically meant our cheerleading skirts were too short (Yes, I was an 8th grade cheerleader) and we were going to have to kneel on the floor and have them measured with a ruler.

This time was different. I walked into her office and she just looked at me. Eventually, I felt myself squirming. However, we didn’t speak until spoken to, so I just waited. Finally she asked me to take a seat across from her desk. This never happened. No one sat down in her office. I sat nervously, wondering what I had done, what she wanted, what was wrong… A million thoughts flew through my head.

She opened with “So, I understand you like to write”. I was startled. I had no idea what she was referring to. I replied, “Yes, I guess”. “Well, do you or don’t you?”, she asked pointedly. “Yes”, I stammered, more of a question than an answer. “So, what is this?”, she asked picking my journal up from her desk. I panicked and froze. “It looks like my journal. How did you get my journal?!”, I whimpered. I had written my most personal thoughts in that journal. It was not for anyone else’s eyes. “You’re a very good writer. Keep writing” she stated, “Now go back to class”.

Shaking, I took my journal from her hands and left. Rather than feeling supported, as my optimistic self believes she probably intended, I felt betrayed. I felt rage! What gave her the right to read my journal, to read my private thoughts? And how did she get it anyway? I never got answers to these questions. On my way to class, I made a detour to the incinerator in the basement. I tore my journal to shreds, feeding page after page into the fire, last of all the peach and pink swirled cover. I watched as the flames licked it black and it turned to ash. When I was done, I walked, still shaking, back to my classroom. I have no idea what we studied that afternoon. I know only that I felt relief. No one could ever again read my private words. Often when I saw her in the hallway after that, she’d stop me and ask “Still writing”? I’d just smile. I’d stopped writing.  I stopped writing… for a long time.

Now, many years later, I would do almost anything to be able to read the words in that peach and pink notebook, to have access to those thoughts, to know what my younger self pondered, questioned, explored. Something precious was lost that day. While I can’t get her words back, perhaps I can learn to claim mine again, on paper, as I did then, so that one day, my older self will know me through my words. Or, maybe some other reader who cares to know who I was will read them. I hope that I, she, he will hear through my words the real, unedited me, not a redacted or silenced me. I hope they will see me in all my shades and passions, the angst and joys that I experience. That is my hope. We will see.

The Florence Journals: Reflections on Visioning, Career, and Multi-Tasking

So friends, I’ve been in Florence, Italy for 1 week. I’ve been a professor my entire (post undergrad) working life. I have loved it. I have lived my passion. I have grown, developed and shifted my interests throughout my career. I have become achingly aware of the fact that in moving at the speed of light it may, at times, be difficult to do several things: 1) acknowledge the accomplishments which will help feed future work, dedication, and commitment, 2) plan for the future – I don’t know about you, but I typically spend so much time on the “fire of the day” that feeding my own passion happens less than I would like. Don’t get me wrong. I DO feed my passions. I just sometimes get caught up in the demands of the moment and attend to them less than I might like. I also realized recently that I don’t make long term plans any longer. For years, I had 5 year plans. That changed when I was promoted to full professor. Then my strategy shifted to taking whatever “cool” opportunities came my way. Opportunities had to most importantly 1) benefit my students and/or 2) allow me to work consistently with my beliefs and values. The best projects did, and still do, both. I refused to do anything that was not consistent with my beliefs and values.

More and more, that has meant grant funded work that emphasizes community-based participatory research, specifically, working with communities to help them identify issues of interest to them and maximize their outcomes. That said, sometimes that has also meant taking the money for the students rather than the passion. These strategies have found me working over the past decade in public health preparedness (my first foray into CBPR); identifying barriers for minority populations of accessing help in paying utility bills (one of the most insightful projects I’ve ever undertaken), while at the same time helping the utility provider improve their reputation following a disastrous stint with ENRON; health promotion for older adults in rural and frontier areas of Kansas; community-based decision making around wind energy; working with an interdisciplinary team to create a toolkit to help older adults in a Kansas County to reduce falls called Falling LinKS  http://webs.wichita.edu/?u=AGING&p=/FallingLinKS/Page1/, and hunger awareness and activism. Perhaps my most fulfilling work over the last decade has been launching the Hunger Awareness Initiative as Wichita State University. You can find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/WSUHungerAwareness, on Twitter at @WSUHunger or #WSUHunger, and visit our website at: https://wsuhunger.wordpress.com.  I wrote earlier about what got me into the hunger space: https://dballardreisch.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/who-am-i-on-this-hunger-awareness-journey/. I have a number of blog posts on this issue, but this is my “Who am I?” post.

3) I have also recognized that none of us do “this” the same way. There is a great deal of writing, thinking and lamenting on the downside of multi-tasking at the moment. I could not disagree more! Multi-tasking is not a myth and it is a godsend for those of us who think 24/7 and who are highly productive. (I plan to write more on that later, but for now, suffice it to say, we are all differently abled. Somehow we have lost track of that in recent years and anything that is not “normal” has become problematic. I would argue that there is no such thing as “normal” and that striving to be so keeps many of us from recognizing our unique gifts – but I digress.) That said, even the best multi-taskers might at times need to take a break and just “be”, just reflect, plan, breathe. That is, among other things (I AM a multi-tasker after all), what I am doing on this sabbatical.

While I love my life and my career, I also have a strong desire to do something different. I have no idea what that will be. I do have faith that I will find “it”.  On September 2, 2014, my first full day in Florence, serendipity stepped in and I met a woman I wrote about in an earlier post, Lauren Haas, who 1-1/2 years ago sold everything she owned to become a traveling writer. She takes gigs that pay $30-$150 which generally have nothing to do with where she’s living, and she travels the world. How cool is that?! Her adventure reminded me of this cartoon. I love meeting people who are following their dreams! http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/what-if-money-was-no-object/

I’m not yet sure what my next dream will be, but for now the streets of Florence beckon, and I will answer. I love walking these hills. More later, dear readers.  

The Florence Journals: Serendipity, Luck and Design in the Cosmos

I wrote this entry on my first full day in Florence, Italy, September 2, 2014.

Serendipity 1: Started before I even left the U.S. for Florence. I stopped by my office briefly, prior to my trip and a casual friend, Amy Geiszler-Jones, stopped in to say hello. As a freelance journalist, she was in the building interviewing one of my colleagues. She had interviewed me several times before and we’d hit it off. I mentioned I was going to Florence for 2 months on a writing retreat as part of my sabbatical. She mentioned that she had a friend in Florence I might like to meet. She put us in touch through Facebook. We made tentative plans to get together.

Serendipity 2: Both of us considered cancelling our meeting, me due to jetlag, Lauren Haas because she had decided to leave for Milan a day early. Both of us decided at the last minute not to do so. Why not meet? We both needed to eat anyway, or so our thinking went. We met at the Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge over the Arno River where goldsmiths and jewelers sold their wares. It is still much the same today. We walked on looking for a place to eat and have coffee. We found a lovely outdoor restaurant, and as it was a mild morning, decided it was the perfect place to stop. Both of us ordered Italian breakfast, which included cappuccino, a crescent, and orange juice. I may fall in love with this breakfast. The cappuccino (for those of you who know me, you know I am not typically a coffee fan) was frothy and bitter. Two packets of sugar later, it tasted like heaven, the perfect blend of sweet and bitter. The crescent was flaky and tasty. The orange juice freshly squeezed and delicious. But, I digress. Lauren and I settled in to get acquainted.

Serendipity 3: Lauren started talking about her world travels. She defined herself as a traveling, freelance journalist, then clarified that where she traveled didn’t necessarily have anything to do with what she wrote. Her stories were fascinating. She had simply jettisoned her life 1- ½ years before, selling everything, to travel the world. She picked up writing gigs where she could get them. Her specialty is travel writing. At one point I asked if she had ever been to Peru. She told me that she acts as a grant writer for a very special orphanage in Cuzco called, Niños del Sol http://www.ninosdelsol.org/(formerly Case de Milagros). I talked about my work with Angels of the Amazon http://angelsoftheamazon.org/in the Tahauyo River Basin, one of the tributaries of the Amazon River. As Lauren talked, it became clear to me that she could benefit from a communication intern to assist with the organization’s website, Facebook page, newsletter, and communication with donors. I told her I had a number of students at Wichita State who would be qualified and would benefit from such an internship. We will continue communicating to “set things up” for this internship.

Serendipity 4: As I mentioned in my prior post, I am using this sabbatical to vision my future. I may enhance what I do in the academy, reduce what I do in the academy over the next several years, or leave the academy all together at some point. I have never “been” anything professionally other than a professor. Lauren’s story of leaving everything behind and becoming a traveling writer fascinated me. She shared a number of sites she’s found helpful in her journey. They include www.copypress.com for writing assignments, trainings and tips, and ww1.helpx.com for volunteer opportunities worldwide.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but the things Lauren and I have in common make it seem almost destined that we should meet. The serendipities that brought us together and that emerged during out conversation have the potential to lead to lasting collaborations valuable to both of us. She’s also an amazing person I thoroughly enjoyed meeting. Plus, we both like Jason Mraz and Norah Jones. 

Visioning possibilities: The Florence journals

I start this journey through Florence, Italy by thanking my friend, Andrew O’Leske, for my gorgeous journals and my hand-tooled fountain pen. I played with fountain pens a bit during art class in high school, but I have never really written with one.

The journals are beautiful and inspiring. The first is leather bound with a detailed tree of life on the front and back covers, and intricate scroll work surrounding them. It was handmade in Italy. How appropriate. When I held it in my hands, it spoke to me of possibility and responsibility. It felt weighty, yet full of potential.

leather journal

The second is hardbound and a reproduction of a journal titled The Rubdiyat of Omar Kkayydm which was created by Francis Sangorski in 1911. The original was encrusted with jewels. It went down with the Titanic in 1912. This exquisite journal spoke of familiarity and confidence. It would be a place where I could easily write.

hardback journal

My lovely pen offered articulate elegance, if I can learn to use it properly. So far, this has turned out to be a more complex task, on all levels, than I anticipated.

Pen

Sabbaticals are about retooling, about visioning possibilities, and about new beginnings. My trip to Florence is the same. This is an interesting moment in my life. My daughter finishes her undergraduate studies in psychology and communication in December. My son is positioning himself for management in a job he loves. I have accomplished everything I have set for myself to this point. I look to the future and delight in the opportunity to consider possibilities for the next phase of my life. This time is for me. How often do we take the chance to sit with the possibilities in a glorious, inspiring place? I know I have never done anything quite like this. I have the gift of time to ponder what will give me joy, fulfillment, purpose. I have the time to reflect on what has given me these things in the past. The answers, in fact, the questions, are not yet clear. I cherish the time to vision, to consider, to contemplate. I look forward to sharing this adventure with you, dear reader.

Sidelined by broken wrists – Part 2 OR Why I LOVE Frontier Airlines! – October 14, 2012:

For background to this point, please read Sidelined by broken wrists – Part 1 I became aware that my friends were whispering to one another in the van to the airport and wondered vaguely why, but at this point, my pain meds (second dose) were kicking in, and I felt pleasantly fuzzy, so I really didn’t care about anything much. When we got to the airport, Frontier Airlines had a wheel chair waiting for me. They took care of my luggage, gathered my boarding passes, and we headed to security. At security, the TSA agent asked me if I could take my arms out of my slings for pat down. I laughed hysterically. My friend said, “Are you kidding? How could she take them off? Both arms are in slings! Her wrists are broken!”. The TSA agent stepped back abashed and called her supervisor, clueless about how to proceed. Even though it was their wheelchair, I and the entire chair were swabbed for bio-hazardous materials. Then the Frontier agent and my friend wheeled me to my gate. I finally noticed that my graduate students were nowhere in sight.  I asked my friend if she’d seen them. “No, no one has been able to find them or even talk with them since last night. We’ve left about 30 messages with no response. We have no idea where they are.” “Don’t worry”, I said, “They’ll be here”. The Kindness (and weirdness) of Strangers: As time to board the plane approached, it became clear that my students would not make the plane. My friend started to panic. She didn’t want to leave me alone on the plane. I told her not to worry that Frontier would take care of me and that I’d ask for help if I needed it. That wasn’t good enough for her. I had noticed a woman in the boarding gate who kept staring at me. My friend approached her and told her I was flying to Wichita. She was as well and promised to keep an eye on me. Fortunately, as will become clear later, the airline moved me to the first row of the plane just behind the bulkhead, so they could keep an eye on me, and she was seated elsewhere. The flight attendants, and my seatmates, were very attentive from the outset. The flight attendant asked the gentleman in the aisle seat if he would be willing to help me during the flight if I needed it. He agreed and asked from some water for me, holding the glass while I sipped through a straw. I leaned into the plane wall to sleep. As the plane door was about to close, a final passenger entered and claimed the seat in the middle of our row. The gentleman on the aisle quickly explained my condition and asked the newcomer if he was prepared to help me. He said “certainly” and settled in. He looked to me as the plane was taking off and asked if I needed anything. “No”, I said. He looked at me quizzically and said, “You don’t look comfortable”. I then asked if he’d take the hair tie out of my hair. He said he had 3 daughters and would be pleased to help. After the plane lifted off, he helped me put my seat back and I fell asleep. He woke me gently as we landed and asked me if I would like my hair back up. I said yes, and he put it back up. I was the last person off the plane and we weren’t at a gate, so they had to figure out how to get me off the plane. The airline found this cool wheelchair that fit into the guardrail down from the plane. At the bottom of the stairs was the woman my friend had asked to assist me. I didn’t know why, but she made me nervous. The flight attendant rolled me into the terminal and to a spot by a window to await my next flight, placed my carryon luggage around me, asked me if I needed anything, and then left me. The woman from the plane approached me with a cup of coffee. “You don’t like cream, do you”, she asked. “I don’t (drink coffee)”, I started to say, but without waiting for me to finish, she shoved the coffee cup against my mouth and my choice was to drink (it was scalding) or have her dump it all over me. After the first gulp, I coughed and she pushed it on me again. “It’s hot isn’t it”, she asked, pressing her face into mine. “No more, please”, I managed to say. She pushed the coffee into my mouth again. Thankfully, at that point, a Frontier representative walked up and asked me if I knew this woman. I said “No!” and he said “excuse me” while pushing past her, collected my luggage and wheeled me to a Frontier gate counter where a number of Frontier representatives were preparing for flights. “Can you watch her”, he asked. “She can’t do anything and I watched this woman pour coffee down her throat.” One Frontier employee walked up to me and asked how I got my hair up. I shared the story about the gentleman on the plane. She laughed and asked if she could help me. “That bad”, I asked. She raised her eyebrows and nodded, so I invited her to brush my hair and put it back up. She stayed with me until my second flight. On the second plane, the flight attendants again seated me by the window in the bulkhead. They explained the situation to the young woman who was my seatmate and asked if she would be willing to help me. She said yes, but appeared apprehensive. Her parents were with her and she was on a recruitment trip to Wichita State for basketball. Immediately after takeoff, the flight attendant told her it was almost time for me to take my next dose of pain pills, but that I needed to eat first. She paused to let this sink in. “You want me to feed her?”, the young woman asked. “If you’d be willing, if not, I’ll do it”, the flight attendant replied. “No, I can do it”, the young woman replied. The flight attendant brought her hummus, crackers, almonds and olives. She made me tiny crackers topped with hummus and maybe an olive or an almond and fed them slowly to me, offering me water in between bites. I ate a bit as we talked, and then she gave me my pain pill and reclined my seat for me. I fell instantly asleep, but at one point heard the flight attendant ask the young woman how I was doing. “Sleeping peacefully. She ate, drank some water, and took her pill”, she replied. “Thank you for taking care of her” the flight attendant replied. “No problem”, the young woman said. I felt myself smile and slept until they woke me when the plane landed. I was again last off the plane, my friend waiting for me in the terminal.  I sighed with relief, happy to be home.

Sidelined by Broken Wrists – Part 1

Sidelined by broken wrists – Part 1

October 13, 2012:

I was at the annual Organization for the Study of Communication, Language and Gender Conference in Tacoma, WA, October 13, 2012. Earlier that day, I had been awarded the OSCLG Teacher/Mentor Award (to be honest, an award I had coveted my entire professional career). The evening event for our conference was a dance and karaoke party on the University of Puget Sound’s campus. I had purchased and shipped glass for family and friends that day at the glass museum and had dinner with wonderful friends.

At the dance party, I was in line to sing karaoke and dancing to a Madonna song with some friends. A friend came up and decided to spin me. At the height of the spin when I was backwards, she pulled her hand from mine and I went sailing backward, off the small dance floor, went airborne and put my hands behind me to catch myself as I fell. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.)

When I landed, it hurt, a lot, but I wasn’t thinking about my wrists. My first comment to my friend as she apologized and pulled me up by my hands from the floor was “Oh my God! I fell on my ass in front of the Foss sisters!” (top scholars in my discipline). Then I realized that I was really hurt. I turned white and my friend helped me to a chair. I had never felt pain like the pain that was emanating from my hands (that was how I identified it at that point).

I laid my head on the table and asked for ice. My friend got me a large pack of ice and I rested my wrists and hands on it. The pain was getting worse. I asked for more ice to put on top of my hands.  She brought me a smaller bag and I cried as she put it on my hands. It was excruciating. She knelt down next to me and asked, “Do we need to get you to the emergency room?”  I nodded yes and said “But there’s no way I can walk”.

Another friend got a van and 4 friends lifted the chair I was in to carry me to the van. I adopted what was to become a familiar pose over the next several months, my hands pointing upward and across my chest. At the hospital, the nurse who met our van at the emergency room asked, “Was there alcohol involved?” I quipped, “Clearly not enough”. She said, “Good, you have a sense of humor.”

As we sat in the waiting room, my two friends and I, I kept joking about hurting my wrists dancing. That became a pretty popular story that evening in the ER. Through the pain, there was a lot of laughter. When we were finally led back to the examination room, I realized that my fingers were swelling. “Oh my gosh! We have to get my rings off”, I exclaimed. “I’ll cry if they have to cut them off”. All of my rings have stories and are very meaningful to me. My friend took them off and put them in her purse. It was an evening full of waiting, but I was fully present. My friends and I talked and laughed and then one of them would disappear for a while to call and update our friends at the conference about my progress. I don’t know why, but I kept making people laugh. I don’t normally think I’m especially funny, but that night, I guess I was. One of my friends told me the next year at the conference that the nurses told her: “Your mom is a hoot!” She thought I might be offended the nurse thought I was her mom. I’m wasn’t, of course, she’s tall, gorgeous and looks like a model.  I was far from offended. 🙂

We spent from roughly 9:30 p.m. until 3 a.m. in the emergency room. The verdict, a bilateral fracture of my left wrist, a trilateral fracture of my right wrist. After they gave me major pain pills, which they held off on doing until they were sure I didn’t need surgery, they splinted my wrists and put me in slings, my arms across my chest. We went back to the hotel so I could rest a bit before my flight.

My friends tried to get ahold of my graduate students. I was at the conference with 2 of them. We were to leave the next morning for home and had to be at the airport by 6 a.m. for our flight. My friend wanted me to stay with her in Tacoma, but I knew I’d rest better at home, so I declined. After all, I had 2 students with me to assist. What could go wrong?!

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Who am I on this Hunger Awareness journey?

Each of our journeys with hunger is unique. What brought us to passionately want to eradicate hunger is equally so. For me, in the autumn of 2009, I was finding my land legs in my new home at Wichita State University. I joined the faculty here in August 2007 as a professor in the Elliott School of Communication, and the Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Chair in Strategic Communication. After more than 20 years in Nevada, I had forgotten that it takes a while to acclimate to a new place, but after 1 ½ years, I was feeling pretty settled. My daughter was doing well in school. I was learning the university. It was time to look outside our personal journeys and find something that would feed our souls, something that would allow us to make a positive difference.

The door that opened that autumn was to Numana, Inc.  and I have been committed to this organization ever since.  A colleague asked me to review some early press releases and media articles and offer suggestions. Not being a journalist, I agreed, hesitantly, but also offered to run it by my journalism colleagues. (This is one of the benefits for a social scientist of working in an integrated school of communication. If I don’t have the skills, someone else does.) I gave my feedback on content and my colleague Eric Wilson gave his on format. I was hooked. Rick McNary, founder and CEO of Numana told a compelling story of hungry children in Nicaragua and the idea of starting a “feed children in schools program”.  Children, schools, food… I was in.

My daughter, her youth group, my son, some of my graduate students,  and I took part in the first ever Numana packaging event in El Dorado, Kansas. Almost 4000 volunteers packaged more than 285,000 meals for Haiti that weekend. It was fun, exciting, and invigorating! What was unique about Numana’s effort to “empower people to save the starving” was the hands-on nature of their events. Volunteers rolled up their sleeves, donned plastic aprons, gloves and shower caps and mixed, packaged and prepared the food for shipment to Salvation Army schools in Haiti.  At tables of 12-14 volunteers, rice, soy, freeze dried vegetables, and a 21 vitamin/mineral tablet, a diet specifically designed for the metabolism of people who are starving, were measured into 6-serving bags, vacuum sealed, packed 36 to a box, and loaded on a truck, The truck would carry the food to Norfolk, Virginia, where it would be shipped by boat to Haiti. The food was expected to arrive in 6-8 weeks. Then the earthquake hit and the situation was so much more severe. Our food was airlifted in by the U.S. 82nd Airborne as some of the first food to reach Haiti following the earthquake.

Superbowl weekend, 2010, I hosted WSU Feeds Haiti, again with my daughter and a group of amazing students. Over 3000 volunteers packaged more than 641,000 meals that weekend. I continued to go to events, to offer my support, and in the first year, more than 125,000 volunteers nationwide packaged over 21 million meals at Numana events.

People want to do things that matter, that make a difference, just as I did.

Now my focus has expanded. After the Kansas Hunger Dialogue last March, I also want to understand hunger on the local level. I wanted to know if there’s a problem here on the WSU campus. I believe there is. Again, I brought together students, this time in a Health Communication Seminar, to understand the nature and scoop of hunger and food insecurity on our campus. The response has been phenomenal. Campus-wide support and interest has simply poured in.

On our website, http://wsuhunger.wordpress.com, you will be able to follow the journeys of each of the 8 students in our class. Our goal is to understand and to empower the change that is needed on our campus. This class is, for me, a way to teach what I practice, to use communication capacity, and skills, to empower others. Personally, it also keeps me on my journey to choose to do things that make a difference. I invite you to join us on this journey!