Saturday, September 20, 2008

How a biker aids medical workers in Africa

Andrea Coleman is a biker, and she describes in this podcast how she applied her skills to improve the conditions of medical workers in Africa. She points out a few specific examples:
  • One of their early technicians has progressed to the point where he helps manage their whole African organization.
  • Their workers have been able to travel out, do their work, and return home and have a life, rather than their old way of walking out, sleeping over, and walking somewhere else on another day. One of them was pleased to have gained "a stone" of weight since using the bikes (though she's still thin).
  • They have shown how they have enabled medical workers get "five fold increase in the number of patients seen, and five times more visits for each patient".
I've realized that these podcasts are inspiring to me only partly because of the stories of helping people out; it's been awesome to hear how these entrepreneurs are pursuing their passions and really being creative in solving problems to make the world a better place for others. It's fantastic to hear about.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Raw Nature, in a movie and under a moonlit sky

Tonight we saw "Into The Wild", the movie about Christopher McCandless, the 20-something who left his family and life behind to travel on the road and went to Alaska and died in the wild there. It was very intriguing for me because I've always enjoyed the outdoors, but I appreciate it more and more as I age. This year's camping trips with my family have been some of the highlights of my whole life; I wish that I'd taken the time to write about them. So the movie brought to mind what it might be like to live a less structured lifestyle in a more wild environment. I don't aspire to do anything like that, but it was an interesting feeling, and the movie was well-done.

One thought from the movie was that you don't always need other people around to enjoy the best parts of life. That struck me. I've been very focused on the rewards of life that come while doing things with people, but I think there's some validity to that idea as well. (Later, he says that happiness comes from sharing with others.)

Afterward, I went out into my backyard where it was chilly; I was wrapped up in my coat, and I lay down on our padded bench and simply enjoyed the chill and the dark sky with a bright full moon and a few scattered stars. I only spent a few minutes out there, and I dozed off a bit... and I enjoyed every second.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Helping parents and kids with "Scream Free" Parenting

I rarely listen to popular music stations for long, but this morning I was hooked by 97.1 at 8:30 because they had Hal Runkel on, who runs "Scream Free Parenting". I've never heard of it before, and he was fascinating: he talked about issues with a high-school relationship class, and then he took calls and answered emails and talked with the hosts. I found myself still listening when he signed off at 9. (You can hear it in their podcast for this morning; you'll want to skip halfway through the segment for the start of the interview.)

Now there's work that really makes a difference in people's lives! For example, they read an email from a previous caller from a few weeks ago who says that homework is going so much better with her teenage daughter now. He talked about the issues in specific, and he did it very clearly such that I could relate and recall things that I should be doing better in my own life. As host "Danger Boy" (?) said, we've got to be reminded about these things hundreds of times, just like our children.

Very inspiring.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Comforting a Frightened Child

Tonight Ellie was fighting Olivia about having the light on; she said she was scared of the dark, and she started balling at the thought of having it all dark. After while, she finally said, "I'm scared because of something inside, but I can't tell anyone or it'll get worse." That's a bit scary to hear from your child. So I sat by her and talked about how it's the opposite: the only way to make it better is to let it out, and if you just leave it inside it gets worse and worse. So she told me that she saw a game where a robot cut off a guy's head, and now she imagines it's coming after her. (That was sure a relief!)

I held her, and we talked a bit about when I was scared when I was little, and we talked about fighting it with fun thoughts, possibly by reading a book. Then I said something about reality, and said, "There's not really any robot coming after you." Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped and she started sobbing; she dropped down to her pillow and pulled the cover over her head, so all I could see were her eyes, looking out at me in terror.

I remember thinking during the move "The Sixth Sense" how I cannot think of anything more horrible than for a child to be subjected to scary and nasty things. And now here was Ellie, terrified by an idea that something is coming for her; I don't think I'll ever forget the look in those eyes, pleading for help while fear gripped her deep down.

I rubbed her back a minute, and I talked about good thoughts that might replace the evil ones. She talked with me, and finally came out of the covers and showed me the book she's reading, and she lit up as she described what was going on in it. She really turned around quickly, and she actually seemed content as I left her reading her book, so the bad thoughts must have been far gone.

It's a good feeling to help with something like that.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Road Trip

This past week I went on a road trip to Minnesota with Jason and Amy Buchanan. I don't have any specific stories to tell (because I just don't have time to discuss the Tuba of Liberty, the terrible Happy Chef restaurant, the awesome Perkins family restaurant that was so good we went to two others when we saw them, the bomb scare, the high-kick soreness, the sickness, and the states we weren't supposed to visit), but I laughed a lot, was uncomfortable a lot, and got to know two good people a lot better. I guess I had no choice, spending 36 hours together on the road! I will always have fond memories of this week.

Energized by caring

Kids impose on your time and sap your energy. Every day, almost every time you interact, they ask for some help or they don't ask for help but are in a mess where you have to help to preserve your sanity. This can be extremely draining.

For some reason, last night was different for me. We all sat down and watched "Newsies" before bed. Tolman and Thomas wanted me to rub their backs, and so I alternated between them and Lynnette, and they were happy with that (whereas they have been known to complain the moment you take your hand off).

Then Ellie started throwing up. Thankfully, she is mature enough to keep it contained in the bathroom or in a bowl. But Lynnette didn't want her to sleep in her bed in case she throws up there, so I got out our inflatable bed and blew it up and put on a sheet and got her into a comfortable place that would be easy to clean.

This was all way past my ideal bedtime of 9 PM. But this time was different because I was satisfied that I had made life a bit more comfortable for everyone. I wish I knew what was different about the whole situation that made it rewarding rather than draining. When I find out, I'll make sure to bottle it and share with everyone.