Kids and roses

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Last month I had the opportunity to speak in a sixth grade history class in Saddle Brook, NJ. I “enjoy” speaking to students especially middle school students as they ask the best questions. I am pretty sure the high schoolers I speak with have questions but they aren’t as willing to ask.I am confident if they could text me, there would be more questions. Anyway back on September 27, I was fortunate to be able to spend over an hour with two groups of students meeting as one. The teacher had done an excellent job teaching her classes about September 11, 2001. The students had interviewed their parents or other adults. They had lots of questions, lots of good questions, lots of thought provoking questions about the attacks, the terrorist, the Memorial, the Museum. I could definitely tell that their teacher had prepared them for a visitor. 
I had mentioned that after the September 11 line of duty death of my husband, my daughters had asked me three questions. “Will we still live in this house?” “Can we still go to Eastern Christian High School?” “What will happen when we get married?” I shared my responses with the students “as far as I am able we will stay in this house. I will also try to make sure that you can continue at EC. And currently neither of you have boyfriends so we don’t have to worry yet about when you get married.” There was a giggle from the students. I also mentioned to the students that through the generosity of many people I never paid tuition for Emily’s senior year or all four of Meghan’s high school years. I never paid for a field trip, yearbook or prom. I explained to them how simple kindnesses and generosities have helped me, my daughters and so many others. I also said my daughters are married and I have photos I can show them if they would like to see me when I am finished speaking. As my time with the class ended the teacher gave me a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses, I thanked her, the students applauded and with what seemed to be a great sense of urgency one little arm shot up. “Yes.” I asked. “Can we see the photos of your daughters’ weddings?” asked a smiling sixth grade girl. “I glanced at the teacher, she nodded yes and a dozen girls moved forward so they could see the photos. 😊

Yesterday two boys at church gave me gifts they had purchased for me while on their recent family trip to FL. The one gift was a Mickey Mouse mug with a spoon. To quote the gift giver “if you cut the twist ties, you can remove the spoon and use it stir your drink.” I commented “thank you. I love the shape of the mug.” The gift giver responded “I liked that too. You don’t see square mugs to often.” I smiled because this exchange was so this child’s personality. His brother gave me a single Lego rose. It took my breath away. I almost started to cry. It is perfect and everything about it reminds me of the child who gave it to me. 
I am so blessed to be able to teach children in all different arenas (Tribute Center, dance class and church) and sometimes I am super blessed to receive roses (and mugs) as well. 😉

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Familiar but foreign

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It was my third trip to Japan in four years. Japan is a place that feels familiar but foreign to me. This trip was similar but different. I visited some of the same destinations as I had in 2013 and 2014 but also some new ones. To me the main thing that had changed since 2014 was the sense of a new normal. There wasn’t as much uncertainty as to what the future holds. Rebuilding is underway, memorials have been established, possibilities of moving back are on the calendar, sharing of stories has begun. This trip was far more about being ears to listen than being a storyteller. It was far more about I am only a half step further down the road from my disaster after fifteen years than you are after your disaster five years ago. This trip was about resilience.

In future blog posts I will explain more of what I experienced and learned on yet another life changing trip to Japan.  Below is the information I received before the trip from our organizers. 

5th International Outreach Program for School Children and Community Survivors of

3/11 Great East Japan Disasters

Back Ground: Now more than five years after the 3.11 Great East Japan Earthquake, still 170,000 evacuees from disaster stricken areas with 99,000 evacuees from radiation contamination continue to suffer the consequences (3/4/2016 report by Reconstruction Agency). In particular, children’s emotional well being is concerning as they continue to be displaced away from their communities and show signs of emotional stress.

Goals: We wish to empower school communities with self-motivation toward recovery by showing concrete examples of resilience and people overcoming disasters.

Sadako’s Soaring Crane: Together with American Airlines, we brought an origami crane monument fabricated out of steel recovered from 9/11 on our 1st mission in 2012. This symbol for recovery from the international community dedicated for children’s comfort was inspired by Sadako Sasaki, who died at age 12 from radiation exposure after the bombing of Hiroshima. Sadako’s origami cranes was previously donated to the 9/11 Tribute Center and we made a symbolic return of Sadako’s wish for peace and comfort for children. KyodoNews

Children’s Storybook: We have published a children’s storybook of late 12-year-old girl’s story about strength and courage to move forward and how Sadako’s Soaring Crane monument came to Fukushima. This storybook is touted as a “book of life” and “Hiroshima–NY–Fukushima connected with hope.” We have donated more than 10,000 copies of storybooks to school children in Fukushima. The story will continue to touch the kids around the world.

Impact of Survivor Exchange Program: We continue to gauge the impact of post-3/11 outreach efforts on both the 3/11 “recipient” community and the 9/11 “donor” community. The success of this outreach program may be partially attributable to the fact that it meets the basic objectives of psychological first aid to “establish human connection in a non intrusive, compassionate manner”; “support positive coping and empower survivors to take an active role in recovery”; and “facilitate continuity and ensure other sources of support when leaving.”

little stones

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Many times as I share my personal story while leading walking tours of the National September 11 Memorial, I make the following statement:

“Before I started volunteering with the Tribute Center, I only had my story and that was quite enough. But now I know the stories of downtown residents, survivors, other family members, volunteers and first responders. To me the story of September 11 is like a mosaic, it is hundreds if not thousands of stories that lay next to each other they don’t necessarily interlock like a puzzle to tell the story of that day and years since. We need all of those stories to understand what happened. We need your stories as well.”

Yesterday I read the May 3 entry in Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey. It really spoke to me and I wanted to share it with you.

“A mosaic consists of thousands of little stones. Some are blue, some are green, some are yellow, some are gold. When we bring our faces close to the mosaic, we can admire the beauty of each stone. But as we step back from it, we can see that all these stones reveal to us a beautiful picture, telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself. That is what our life in community is about. Each of us is a little stone, but together we reveal the face of God to the world. Nobody can say, “I make God visible.” But others who see us together can say, “They make God visible.” Community is where humility and glory touch.”

The italics are mine. I want to admire the beauty of each stone but I also want to step back and see the whole beautiful picture. How about you?

mosaic

March Moments

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When I owned my studio March was a slow month. The majority of the prep work for the recital was done before March – music chosen, students measured, costumes ordered, monies collected and choreography started. March was the month I got to concentrate on just one thing, teaching dance. I have been retired almost five years now and you would think my “March” would be even slower than it had been when I worked but alas this March has been a whirlwind.

March 1- 5 – I was in Brussels where I spoke at the EPP hearing at the European Parliament on victims of terrorism. https://missannsays.com/2016/02/12/remedial-class/   I also ventured out to explore with a bus trip to Ghent and Bruges. Speaking at the EP was a first and this was also the first time I traveled alone in a country other than England. I did enroll in the US State Department STEP program https://step.state.gov/step/ which means the American Embassy in Belgium knew I was “in country” and where to find me. In today’s world I would suggest enrolling. I also dressed as a professional woman not a person on vacation. Even though I was in Brussels I used my New York City walk – woman on a mission not wandering. Don’t mess with me.

March 7 – I lead two tours at the 9/11 Tribute Center.

March 8 – I was a panel member at Asia Society 3-11 and 9-11 survivor stories. It was a wonderful reunion with those I had traveled to Japan with in 2013 and 2014. The panel discussion was followed by a delicious dinner attended not only by myself and my Tribute Center family but by Japan’s ambassador to the United Nations. http://asiasociety.org/new-york/events/3-11-and-9-11-survivor-stories.

March 9 – taught two classes, had my taxes done and led Children’s Bible quizzing at church.

March 10 – 14 – flew to FL to visit good friends. I enjoyed relaxing days, yummy food, great conversation and many laughs. We realized in our time together we have known each other over 40 years which makes me feel old and extremely blessed.

March 16 – taught one class, had my hair done and led Children’s Bible quizzing at church.

March 17 – 22 – Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in CA. I met some talented writers, gracious agents and encouraging editors. The key-note speaker was Carol Kent. If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak you will be challenged and encouraged by her words. Once I am home I have much writing to accomplish. Exciting. Scary. Taunting. Good stuff.

Terrorist attacks in Brussels bring tears to my eyes, sorrow to my heart and prayers to my lips.

March 22 – 27 – visiting with my daughter and son-in-law in Seattle. Emily and I have done some touristy things. I would highly recommend the Boeing factory tour and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation visitor center. The cherry blossoms at University of Washington were in bloom and we had a delightful walk around Emily’s alma mater.  Also saw My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 which was a fun movie. As we walked to the car after the movie, Emily said she really wanted baklava so a trip to the grocery store was in order. 🙂

The old adage is “March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion.” March 2016 for me has been an adventure that will take some time to process. I am truly a blessed.

My ABC’s from 2015.

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Golden glitter

 

A is for adventures. A week in Florida Keys, a weekend in Chicago and being a tourist in my own city all qualify.

B is for ballet. I taught one class a week at a Modern Dance studio.

C is for Colton James. He was born on April 29, 2015.

D is for Dunkin Donuts. I drank quite a few cups of coffee.

E is for Eagle Rock Resort. Enjoyed my cabin and the amenities.

F is for faith, family and friends. I can’t do life without them.

G is for Grammy. My new title thanks to Colton James. 🙂

H is for hope. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I is for interview. I did a couple of those.

J is for Joy.

K is for kindness.

L is for Library Book Club. Still going strong on the first Tuesday of each month.

M is for my Mum. She is doing well even though she is confined to a wheelchair.

N is for nieces and nephews. 7 plus 12 “grand” nieces and nephews. 🙂

O is for opportunities. I am blessed with many.

P is for published. “Unexpected Blessings” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteer and Giving Back edition and a devotional in The Upper Room.

Q is for quizzing. After 19 years, Eastern Regional Quiz at ENC was my last hurrah as Metro New York Children’s Ministries director for the Church of the Nazarene.

S is for shore. Spent a few days at the Jersey Shore with the Bowers.

T is for tea with Miss Carol. Always a treat.

U is for university. I spoke on two campuses.

V is for volunteering at the 9/11 Tribute Center.

W is for writing.

X is for eXercise.

Y is for year. Hard to believe another has come and gone.

Z is for zero. The number of regrets I have.

In 2016, I want to read and write more. I want to be present and not distracted. I want to be who God intended me to be.

 

 

 

teaching children about September 11, 2001

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Through my volunteer work with the 9/11 Tribute Center I have had the amazing opportunity to share my story and story of September 11, 2001 with the next generation. I have spoken to school groups while sitting on the floor in gallery 5 of the Tribute Center or via the internet to classrooms in  another state or standing in a classroom in New York or New Jersey. Each time I am struck with what an awesome responsibility it is  to tell the facts and person to person history of the day that changed the world. As the 14th anniversary approaches I have included a list of resources that you may find helpful in teaching the children in your life about that tragic day.

9/11 Tribute Center has resources for parents and teachers – http://tributewtc.org/education/resources/for-parents

National September 11th Museum also has resources – https://www.911memorial.org/youth-and-families

Below are some books that appropriate for children. Please read the suggested ages in the book reviews on Amazon before reading a particular book to a child. The first six listed here are appropriate for elementary aged children. The other books are appropriate for older children. Please monitor what information your teens are finding online and don’t forgot to engage in real conversation with your teens about the events of that day. 

 

Related posts –

https://missannsays.com/2014/02/05/but-why/

https://missannsays.com/2012/02/18/respect-in-the-real-world-part-2/

 

channeling Corrie ten Boom

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Last week I was privileged to share my September 11 story with a group of fifth graders in North Carolina. I was sitting in front of a laptop in the 9/11 Tribute Center conference room and they were sitting on the floor of their music room in their public school in North Carolina.  Just that experience alone is amazing. I mean think about I was in New York City and they were in North Carolina and we could see and hear each other in real time.  As I thought about it I realized that is only a few steps away from “beam me up, Scottie” Okay, it is probably many steps away from “beam me up Scottie” but it is still cool. This wasn’t the first time I had participated in distance learning but it was the first time I was struck with wonder about the whole experience.

The session started with Sarah, one of Tribute’s educators, explaining the timeline of September 11, 2001 and showing the children age appropriate photos. Sarah introduced me. I commented to the students if we were together I would have sit on the floor, too but I have to have my head by the computer so I am sitting on a chair.  I proceeded to share my story after which the children were invited to ask questions. Little hands waved in the air and the teacher called on a child by name and then graciously repeated the question so Sarah or I could answer it. After 4 or 5 questions and answers, the teacher called on a child who we will call Kevin. Sarah and I could tell Kevin was speaking but we couldn’t make out any of what he was saying. The teacher thanked Kevin and then turned towards the computer and asked us how we would respond. “We couldn’t hear him.”

The teacher invited Kevin to come and stand in front of computer and repeat what he had said.  Kevin – “Thank you for telling us your story. I am sorry your husband died. You said you believe in God. I believe in God. My Dad is a pastor of a church. I don’t know what I would do if my Dad died. I don’t know what I would think about God.”  In that moment I was totally humbled by the opportunity that had been placed before me. I paused and remembered the words of Corrie ten Boom and decided that I needed to share those words with Kevin. “Kevin, since you have told me that you believe in God I am going to speak to you as a fellow believer. I am going to tell you what I used to tell my daughters. Is that okay?” He nodded his head yes. “Kevin, if you go to the amusement park with your dad when does he give you the ticket for the roller coaster. He doesn’t give you the ticket the week before, right?” Kevin nodded his head no. “He doesn’t give it to you until you need it. Until you are ready to go on the roller coaster. If he gave to you too early you could lose it.” Kevin nods his head yes. “Well, it is the same with God. He gives us what we need when we need it. Kevin, God can be trusted. We aren’t always happy about how things turn out but I can guarantee you God will give you what you need when you need it. He will give you peace. He will help you through” Kevin – “Thank you.” Me – “Thank you Kevin”

To give credit where credit is due:

Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket?”  I sniffed a few times, considering this.  “Why, just before we get on the train.”  “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need-just in time.”
― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

 

** photo is from a publicity shoot 9/11 Tribute Center did a few years ago to promote education classes. Very few schools in the USA teach about September 11, 2001. 😩