Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Keeping My Thoughts Straight

Day two of attempting to find a venue for the event, and all the county red tape has my head spinning. In the interest of holding so much new information in my head, as well as aiding anyone else who attempts this process, I'm going to jot it down here.

I spoke with Palm Harbor Middle School, who told me that the project needed to be approved through the PCSB, since it would be a 501-c donating to another 501-c. After speaking with the financial office at the school board, they told me that it could indeed be approved, with the caveat that the club director for the club that would be hosting the event agrees, the club members agree, and the club has already had less than two fundraisers this year. If that's the case, the club director is able to submit a request to the principal. If the principal likes the idea, it is then submitted to the assistant superintendent for approval. Once he or she signs off on it, it's a go.This means that the middle school may be a viable option, but the thick forest of red tape to be sliced through is making somewhere public a somewhat more appealing option. 

Unfortunately, somehow 'public' and 'free' don't seem to equate to one another. Almost all of the public parks have event fees, only 25% of which are waived for a charity. Fred Howard Park seemed like a good location, but unfortunately there is a $2,500 road closure permit fee for the paved area, so the overwhelming cost of the road closure pretty much writes it out.

I'm hoping perhaps the Dunedin Causeway doesn't charge for events, since I couldn't find anything on their website. It seems to be almost impossible to wade through the endless labyrinth of "Press 1" and "Press 2", only to repeatedly find a busy signal that hangs up on you at the other end to speak to someone at their offices, so perhaps the Causeway is a free-for-all. I'm leaving it on the table as a possibility. 


Around, and around, and around we go. I finally got a hold of Honeymoon Island State Park, which advertises the Dunedin Causeway on its website. They promptly directed me to another line, a single digit away. After calling this alternate office, I am informed that Honeymoon Island State Park does not own the Dunedin Causeway- it's the property of the City of Dunedin. The cheerful phone operator at HISP gave me the phone contact for the City of Dunedin, which I called. Unfortunately, the offices for the City of Dunedin close at 4:00, so I just missed them while I was navigating the school board maze. Good thing my project plan budgets 7 days for this - it might take the whole week! 

*Update Update*

The City of Dunedin called me back this morning, and their Special Events Coordinator explained to me that the Dunedin Causeway has three elements in play: the beach, the sidewalk, and the street. The beach is owned by Dunedin Parks & Rec, the sidewalk is owned by Pinellas County Parks and Rec, and the street itself belongs to the City of Dunedin- so depending on where things are located, I could need as many as three permits to do this there. She also informed me that relatively nothing else as far as the city parks go is wheelchair accessible, so I may have to make the causeway work. Unfortunately, the causeway isn't 5k long- in order to make the run a 5k, I'd have to have the runners loop back up the other bridge and come back- and the looping back requires a road closure, which brings us again to the $2,500 road closure permit. Ack.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Starting Line

In my journeys stumbling around the blogosphere, I came across the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation. Beautiful Gwendolyn is a little lady who is living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, more commonly known as SMA. If you're unfamiliar with the condition, it is a genetic condition that slowly robs a child of their motor skills and eventually, his or her life.

With the medical technology we have, I personally feel that this is unacceptable. In a world where we have Viagra, laser eye surgery, the booty-pop, and Botox, why don't we have a cure for this yet?

Fortunately, Gwendolyn has amazing parents who have already raised upwards of $100,000 for medical research, and they oh-so-cleverly added a "What You Can Do" tab to their website, which I clicked on. They wrote, and I read: and now the 'doing' is on.

Well, to state that more accurately, the extensive planning stage is on. The 'doing' is a projected 66 days away (give or take). Reading about Gwendolyn and the other children in her unfortunately-not-unique situation is a poignant reminder never to take your life or abilities for granted. It's a reminder why it is so important to cherish what you have the power do, and to use it to help others. What can I do? I can run. I have the gift of being healthy and young, and it's time to give back. By the grace of God, no one I personally know is afflicted by SMA, but that doesn't mean that it's not my problem. When children are suffering, it's everyone's problem. I feel that we are all responsible for doing what we can. 

 So a 5k fun-run fundraiser it is, and I'm going to blog all about it right here, from the starting line of conceptualization to the literal finish line. I'm doing this with the hope that others will see that you don't have to be a rich celebrity, a big corporation, or personally impacted directly by a situation to get out there and help in whatever capacity is accessible to you.  All it takes is an idea, some passion, and a nice big heap of 'go and do it'.

I might be small: I don't have a lot of status, or money, or political power. I'm one twenty-something-year-old college student... but 'small' doesn't mean 'powerless'. 'Small' just means it takes a lot of steps; it means pushing harder. We all have the tremendous potential to get moving and do something for the world. I have the power to find a venue, build a website, put up some flyers, shamelessly plug an event to my friends, family, and neighbors, and clean up the track when it's all said and done. Right now, I'm standing at the starting line.

Get ready... get set... GO!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nesting Catharsis

About once a year, I get ants in my pants and prune the house. It always starts off small – an earring I can’t find, or the quest for some AA batteries. Whatever the catalyst is, I start at one corner of the house and go through every drawer, dresser, closet, and cabinet until all of its contents are identified and organized. If it's ripped, stained, broken, or I'm bored of it, it gets donated or goes in the trash. Every time, I find an insane amount of wasted space. Old mail, items still in the packages, useless bits of things the vestigial hoarder in me saved with the intention of somehow using them later... they fill trash bags and amaze me. I wonder how so many items crept into my life over the course of a year; how they nestled into drawers and cabinets, forgotten, while I moved on to other things. I wonder how my sticky notes got in the arts and crafts box, or why my satin ribbons are in with the miscellaneous electronics, hopelessly tangled around spare USB wires. Often I find small unfinished projects, like the forlorn pieces of a flower pot I'd promised myself I would glue back together.

Sometimes I think that the things I come across when I go through my cabinets are like a physical metaphor for the journey through life. Some projects, like the flower pot, are started with the best of intentions, but slip through the cracks because in the grand scheme of finishing homework, keeping the bills paid, doing some research, and keeping my relationship, friendships, and pets alive, life gets in the way. Finding those broken pieces of clay reminded me that it's not always about the big stuff; it's important not to forget the little, inconsequential things that only matter because they make you happy. I wasted about 5x5 inches of space in my home this year and lacked a flower pot I really liked for want of 5 minutes to glue something back together. I'm sure something important called me away, and I tossed it into the cabinet, a simple, "I'll do that later" whispered in my mind. This morning, over a crisp glass of raspberry juice, I glued those pieces back - and I was happy. Even if it didn't happen as quickly as I would've liked, I eventually kept my promise to myself .

I think that's why I like pruning- it feels like coming full circle on all of the things that got procrastinated away. Often we procrastinate because we feel pressured, and the minor things just get put off until they become a figment of clutter-blindness, trapped in an indefinite limbo of 'getting done one day'. Going through and tying up all of those loose ends feels cathartic, in a way.

I think everyone wakes up sometimes feeling overwhelmed- but even feeling buried is a gift, and digging ourselves out of the hole can be a wonderful adventure. When I'm under pressure, I take time to consciously recognize how important it is to praise God for our trials. I am so thankful that I feel pressured because I've got too much family to see, too much homework to do, and too many belongings in my home. I'm thankful that there are people in my life that I love enough to miss sorely. I'm thankful for the hours spent writing seemingly endless boring term papers, because those hours spent mean that I have access to an education, which many men (and many, many more women) do not have. If I have to go through my home and donate things because our cup literally runneth over, I should be overjoyed, because that means that we have extra things when so many other people have nothing. Being thankful for our trials sheds joy into every shadow of our lives.

It's okay not to get everything done on time all the time. No one is perfect, and no one has time to do it all- but it's important to make time to make yourself happy, no matter how many other pressing matters call for your attention. Find your flower pot, and be thankful for the time you have.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Waiting Tables

One thing that my customers consistently remark is that I seem very cheerful to be waiting tables. I'm not sure how to take that. Should I appear to be miserable because I have a lowly restaurant job? Is it just a benign observation, or is there an implied comment about the station of my profession? The truth is, I appear to be cheerful when I'm waiting tables because I honestly like my job.

You see, I used to have an office job. I was a medical records clerk. I had reliable hours and pay. The pharmaceutical reps brought great lunches all the time. It was always... nice. Unfortunately, to say that my job was dull is much like saying that the Sistine Chapel is painted nicely. If there are any physicists looking to examine time abnormalities, they might want to check that office. I'm fairly certain that time does not move at a pace relative to the rest of the universe in that building. My general day consisted of something like this:
"Hi Helena, copy this chart." *I am handed a 500 page chart, and I resign myself to a few long hours of sitting at our ancient copy machine, copying each page individually, and adding the copy to the new pile.*
Now I work at a beautiful high-end waterfront restaurant. As I take my tables, I can look out of the marina and see the sun setting onto a strip of Dunedin islands, the pink and orange sky gently dotted with the silhouettes of palm trees. I'm immersed in a bouillabaisse of culture - people come from all over to visit our powdery white beaches. Occasionally I'll get to wait on some random B-list celebrity, and that'll be a fun novelty to bring up next time I dish with friends. I enjoy the huge palette of diversity; it thrills me that an exquisite tapestry of seemingly every variation of humanity is woven into the experience.

People of every color, creed, ability, and disability come together to share a meal with one another, and I delight in taking part in the experience. My moments aren't the magic- most of mine involve scraping plates and carrying drinks. The moments I truly enjoy aren't mine at all- they are little pieces of moments that belong to other people. Based on really nothing other than proximity, I get to quietly enjoy their moments. I smile as I see excited new parents feeding tiny bites of their meal to their new babies. I revel on the inside when I see big families clearly excited to be together taking snapshots. Usually, I'll jump in and offer to take one of everybody together. I don't know these people - more often than not, I'll never see them again after I drop the check. They'll fly back to Wyoming or wherever they came from, and I'll go on with my life- but for that moment, I get to enjoy their joy.

If I do my job correctly, they won't remember me. When they look at the photo of the whole family together, they won't remember the waitress in the pink shirt who asked if they wanted her to take a photo. They'll remember laughing and talking with each other; maybe that face Uncle Frank made when he saw his hamburger, or something cute one of the kids did. They will remember the wonderful meal they had together when they went to that restaurant in Florida. So when people ask me why I look so cheerful and I reply that I like my job, maybe they shrug it off as a server's rote, scripted answer.

The truth? I like my job.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Amelia, humanity, and personhood.

By now, most of the internet is well aware of the ongoing battle between Amelia Rivera's parents and CHOP. If you somehow have missed all the controversy, you can go to the link below and catch up. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Read about Amelia

I couldn't believe what a commenter wrote on Elizabeth's blog in response to the issue.

In a nutshell, the part she said that really got me was this:

"there is a distinct difference between a "human" and a "person," a distinctio­n which may or may not be relevant here, but certainly is relevant in discussion of the right of significan­tly mentally disabled or incapacita­ted humans (like those in commas) to receive care, and the moral duty of others to provide it. Philosophe­r Mary Anne Warren provides one of the most cited criteria for personhood­, or humanity in the moral sense:

1. Consciousn­ess (of objects and events external and/or internal to the being), and in particular the capacity to feel pain;
2. Reasoning (the developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems);
3. Self-motiv­ated activity (activity which is relatively independen­t of either genetic or direct external control);
4. The capacity to communicat­e, by whatever means, messages of an indefinite variety of types, that is, not just with an indefinite number of possible contents, but on indefinite­ly many possible topics;
5. The presence of self-conce­pts, and self-aware­ness, either individual or racial, or both. source

These traits combined comprises a "full" person, but Warren doesn't believe that all attributes must be present to consider someone a person in some sense. "(1) and (2) alone may well be sufficient for personhood­," she claims, and neither does she insist that any one of the criteria is necessary, although she seems to believe that reasoning is both a necessary and sufficient condition for personhood­.

If we had infinite organs and resources to provide transplant­s for those organs, then yes all human should have them. However, we don't live in that world, and that does mean that persons have more of a right to an organ transplant than do non-person humans."

I was shocked, appalled... just numbly furious. How could anyone believe that? How could anyone say that? To deny a human being his or her very personhood - in her own words, their humanity based on genetic or cognitive differences...? Ignorant. Awful.

I feel very deeply within my soul that when we approach a place where there is the illusion of separation between a human being and his or her personhood, we as a society are in a very dark, lost place.

There is a German term that comes to mind when I hear people say things like that; "Lebensunwertes Leben". Loosely translated, it means 'Life unworthy of life', coined by the Nazi movement. It's an acrid, hateful term; the very utterance of it spits burning venom. The term describes an individual whose very existence is so worthless that it is best fit to simply end. It is the idea that an individual can be unfit for the privilege of enjoying the splendor of the world and the gift of life that God Himself bestowed upon them. The idea makes my eyes sting as the acid in my stomach reflexively curdles. It causes me physical pain to imagine that someone could believe this to be true.

When we start to believe that there are individuals unworthy of life because we cannot understand the depths of their personal existence, where do we draw the line? If we cannot relate- if there is no Rosetta stone; if we cannot reach the person on the other side - does their existence become less meaningful for lack of a parallel? If these ideas prevail, I weep for the fate of our world. We must remember to love everyone indiscriminately - even those whose perspectives we cannot comprehend. If we don't love each other, we will all be swept away.