"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Where did September Go?

Life and its many other obligations seem to have taken over lately and I've been absent from regular blogging for far too long. So while I haven't been blogging much, I have been busy. I was relieved for summer to end. It's always full of fun but I was ready for a break from all the activity and a slower pace to life. Ha! September turned out to be the busiest month I've had in a long time. Much of the month was consumed by helping plan and organize a silent auction for the Utah Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Out of the Darkness Walk. It was a lot of work, but well worth it. The walk raised $80k, money that will be put to good use funding suicide prevention education and awareness efforts in Utah.

The end of September brought one of my favorite events of the year, Ogden's Harvest Moon Celebration. Here's a picture from that morning's suicide prevention walk that's organized by a local suicide prevention task force. Mike, along with my friend CJ and her sweet dog Sadie, joined me on the walk. It was CJ's first suicide walk in honor of her beloved friend James and an emotional experience for both of us. 

As if there wasn't already enough going on last month, Mike finally had some time to work on our wood floor project. The carpet has been torn up for most of the year so it was nice to finally make some progress. All of the rooms upstairs have original oak floors that were installed when my house was built in 1942. The bedrooms are in really good condition, the living room and dining room areas, not so much. After being sanded three times they looked almost new. It was a messy, dusty project and I'm not looking forward to going through it again for the remaining two rooms. It will all be worth it in the end though when I have gorgeous newly stained floors!
After sanding before being stained.
Gillian's room with dark walnut stain applied.
The next weekend we took a quick motorcycle trip to Southern Utah. The ride down was miserable and cold! We endured rain, wind and hail. I wasn't warm for the entire ride until the last 20 minutes when we entered St. George. Once we thawed out we had a fun, relaxing weekend. It was a nice getaway after a busy month, and thankfully the ride home was much more pleasant.
Bundled up for our ride.
Enjoying the Southern Utah sunshine. 
The following weekend it was party time! Gillian wanted to celebrate her 15th birthday by having a few friends for a sleepover. No problem. We decided they could sleep on our covered back patio. The plan was to hang canvas curtains to enclose it like a large tent, put cushions on the floor, set up the big screen T.V. and some space heaters and they could eat and watch movies all night long. Of course, we had our first cold snap and freezing temperatures that weekend so the party was moved indoors. Mike was a trooper and stayed up late mixing fancy mocktails and basically keeping an eye on things until the wee hours of the morning. He even made breakfast the next day, cooking two pounds of bacon that was consumed in an instant. Who knew teenage girls liked bacon so much?

Seven sleeping girls in my living room.

Last weekend I had two mini celebrities in my midst with a videographer following and recording Mike and Isaac for an upcoming video story that will be featured on NPR's Story Corps series. During the months long process of Isaac's dad's time in jail, deportation, Mike becoming Isaac's foster parent and Isaac gaining permanent residency status, a photographer documented his story for the local newspaper. It ran as a three-part series. The articles were seen by reporters for StoryCorps who came to Ogden and recorded interviews with Isaac and Mike for the series. They're working on an upcoming story series funded by Atlantic Philanthropies which records video stories about several of their focus areas, including immigration and the effect on children left in the U.S. after their parents are deported. Isaac's story was selected as the feature story on that topic. We had fun entertaining the photographer, Harvey Wang, who is based out of Brooklyn, New York, introducing him to O-town and its many charms. 

Isaac with Dave Foley, owner of Foley's MMA Training
Center where Mike met Isaac.
Most of Saturday morning was spent at Foley's, the boxing/MMA gym where Mike met Isaac and his dad. Harvey took a large group photo with many of the people who have been part of Isaac's life and have been there as supportive friends throughout his journey over the last 3+ years. The gym isn't just a place where people go to work out. It's a community, a place where everyone looks out for everybody else. It was a nice reminder of how lucky we are to be a part of the Foley's family. It was fitting to have much of the video shot at the place that has played such a central role in his story. I can't wait to see the finished product and will be sure to post the story when it comes out. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Journey Cut Short

Have you ever met someone who in a very short amount of time had a profound impact on your life? I had that experience earlier this year when I met a man named Joe Bell. He was passing through Ogden on a cross-country journey from Oregon to New York City, walking alone in honor of his teenage son Jadin, who had killed himself a few months earlier. Jadin was gay, and after coming out had been bullied because of his sexual orientation. 

Jadin had wanted to move to New York City when he was older, so Joe decided to set out on a trek to New York City raising awareness along the way about bullying and suicide prevention. He teamed up with some friends who were involved with a non-profit called Faces for Change and before long his journey had a name--Joe's Walk for Change. 

Me, Joe and my dad - June 6, 2013
I heard about Joe's walk on Facebook shortly before he arrived in Ogden. The moment I read his story I wanted to meet him, to shake his hand, hug him, and thank him for what he was doing. A few days after learning about his Walk for Change, I got to do just that. Joe was speaking at OUTreach, a local group for LGBTQ youth where they can gather in a place free from discrimination and work together to build happy, healthy lives. 

He was soft-spoken but his words were powerful. He wept as he told his story and nearly everyone in the room wept as they listened. His words were simple, yet powerful and touched the hearts of many, including mine. I watched him comfort a young man who told how he had been shunned and kicked out of his home by his own father because of his sexual orientation. I did get to shake Joe's hand, hug him and thank him for what he was doing. I left in awe of his strength, but also his humility and complete conviction about what he was doing. He was a hero, the kind of person the world needs more of. I began following his journey online, tracking his progress, reading his comments and experiences about his journey.

Yesterday evening he posted a picture of a road sign just outside a remote Colorado town with the words "Making headway, one step at a time." This morning as I scrolled through my Facebook feed I stopped to read about Joe's progress. My heart stopped as I read the news that he had been hit by a semi-truck and killed. I was stunned, overcome with sadness. All day my mind kept drifting to thoughts of him and his family and the tragedy of his death. I can't stop thinking about it. What about his surviving son? What is he thinking? How on earth is he going to pick up the pieces of his life and move on? I've also thought about Joe. I hope his death was sudden and painless. I don't believe in an afterlife, so thoughts of him having a reunion of sorts with his son bring me no comfort. In a strange way though, I feel relief for him. His journey is over. His grief has ended. He no longer has to live a life with a permanent void in it. Mostly though, I'm just sad because the world needs more people like Joe Bell and now he's gone. 

I don't know what his death means but I know his message of acceptance needs to continue to be shared. His son Jadin's life mattered. Joe's life mattered. His journey was too important for it to end. Joe touched so many lives as he walked for change. Somehow his work will continue and his message of acceptance will keep being shared. It has to, for Jadin, and now also for Joe.