In Self Reflections and Refinements

Rude Meets Rude for an Unhappy World

The other day I was stressed for no real reason at all. Since I was stressed, I was feeling very irritable. I only have days like this once in a while and I just liken it to waking up on the wrong side of the bed. 

I went to Polly's Country Market to return some bottles and cans for the deposit money. The machine told me that it wouldn't take many of the ones I had, because the store did not carry that brand. I figured I could try taking them inside to see if there was anything the cashier could do for me.

Apparently she wasn't having the best day either. She reiterated what the machine said and told me I would have to take them back to where I bought them. Now it's difficult to convey tone while typing, but she didn't greet me with the friendliest of spirits. No smile, no apology, just the facts. 

Since I was particularly on edge I decided that since she was rude to me, she deserved to be rude to as well. This only meant that I walked away with out saying thank you and never cracked a smile, but  for me that's rude. The malice was there in my heart. The intent was to not give her any respect.

Since this is not a normal sentiment I take and I wasn't proud of the negativity I felt. Typically I will just let things like that roll of my back. But I got to thinking; 

What about people who walk around like this all the time?  

Later that afternoon I had to stop in the Comcast store to ask a question about my Internet service. Still stuck in my head in my own bad mood, I didn't expect great things about about my encounter.  The receptionist took my name and informed me I'd have to wait. Still not ready to be nice I walked off and found a place to camp out. After about 10 minutes, the receptionist came up to me at my seat and started a conversation. In that moment I made a quick choice to notice and appreciate her kindness. I made a conscious effort to let that wall I'd put up, break down. 

To sum up my point, I know that some people walk around with malice in their heart and stress on their mind, all the time. I am not one of those people. I got a firsthand look about how living with that perspective can effect others and in turn, effect you. They always say "kill them with kindness" and now I believe that more than ever. If my mood was effected so easily by two different womens' attitudes, you never know how many other moods can be effected that way. 

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Dispatches From a Fire Truck

Just as I promised both my readers and myself, I returned to the city of Jackson Fire Station to have a ride along experience. 

I entered the building at about 5 p.m. just as the shift workers were starting to discuss dinner. It became known to me that the issue of the night was going to be how to remove the lid, which was severely stuck, from the the pot of bean soup. As the two guys, whom are firefighters I might remind, realized they couldn't free the lid from the pot, they decided they would be treating themselves to Klavon's Pizza. 

Unlike my first experience at this fire station, these guys weren't so talkative and friendly. Ultimately I was hanging out with the crew, hoping a call might come in, until I had to leave at 7 p.m. The captain briefed me on what I would do if a call was to come in and I just waited. They said they had had one call that day, but inevitably when riders along come in there are no calls. Well that was not one such night. 

At about 5:45 the first call came in. Bells went off and a female voice from the 911 dispatch center was piped through the intercom system telling us to go to a nearby elderly home. Two firefighters and I hopped on the latter truck and headed that way. As the truck pulled out of the station, the siren went on, and the speed increased, I could not wipe the smile off my face. Aside from my love of roller coasters, I don't consider myself an Adeline junkie...but this was WAY cool! 

The call was quick and before I knew it, we were pulling back in, only to hear another call. I switched trucks and headed out to a street near mine for a possible overdose case. If you were unaware, fire personnel goes along with ambulance whenever they are called. All the calls I had anything to do with were medical. 

The second call was rather interesting. A young woman, high on something was hysterical and refusing to get out of her parked vehicle. Police, fire, and paramedics were on scene to help her. As she refused to get out of the car herself, the men forceably removed her and as she fought, six grown men had to strap her to a gurney for her ride to the hospital. 

When we returned and the men began eating their Klavon's Pizza, a third call came in! This time toa nearby apartment complex with someone choking. This was another quick in and out call. I noted to the men is was obvious they don't seem to hang around the scene too long. Each call I went on lasted no longer that 15-25 minutes. They made the point that the department is so understaffed that they have to quickly get off the scene and be ready to receive the next call. With 5,000 calls a year, they are busy. 

I didn't see any fires or bad injuries, which is more or less how I wanted it. I got to ride on the truck three times and found it tough to stop the smile reflex on my face. I felt like I was holding on for dear life. The truck didn't provide the coziest, comfiest ride I've ever had but there was something about the power of the truck, made me feel powerful too. I also got to wear a headset! As I learned, the siren is very loud and those headsets they are wearing allow the firefighters to talk with one another over the sounds. 

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In Youth Development

Girl? Boy? Scouts

I very rarely write anything about current events. However, this one has got me full of things to say.  It recently came out that the Boy Scouts of America would be accepting girls into their program in 2018. I want to preface this piece by saying I support the Boy Scouts as an incredible organization for the development of boys and young men. I respect the role they play in the lives of young people and effect if has on the lives of young men. I'm just not happy with this choice, and here's why.

Initial reactions: 
  • This is an organization that banned openly gay leaders and scouts from serving until 2015.
  • An organization that prohibited atheist or agnostic individuals from serving until 2014. 
  • We have an organization for girls. It's called Girl Scouts. 
  • By 2019, the organization will allow girls to achieve the highest rank in Boy Scouts, the Eagle Scout Award. Again, Girl Scouts has a parallel distinction called the Gold Award. 
The organization that, until recently, had many reasons to exclude people, makes a 180 degree turn and decides to include everyone. 

A history lesson:
In 1908 England, Sir Robert Baden-Powell started an organization for boys aged 11-18. In 1911, Juliette Gordon Lowe, a wealthy widow from Savannah, Georgia met Baden-Powell and learned about this organization. Knowing it didn't admit girls and that there was no organization of its kind admitting girls in the USA, she quickly got home and decided to start her own organization founded, led, and participated in by girls and women. A cornerstone of Girl Scouts, from now since it's inception is that it is 100% girl led. 

Girls vs. Boys:
I believe, that for most youth, adolescents is a time of awkwardness, embarrassment, and shame. One of the greatest things about these two organizations is that it allows youth to develop during these stages in the comfort of their own gender. I know that when I was a young girl, who was poor at sports, I wouldn't feel comfortable throwing a ball in front of a boy. I wouldn't have been able to do my best, because I would have been too preoccupied with not making a fool of myself. Meanwhile, boys at this age like to show off. For some, it's when they start testing the waters of their masculine nature. Scouting should not be the place for young boys and girls to get in the way of each others' growth. 

Personally, this just feels like a slap in the face to women. It feels like a huge discredit to Girl Scouts founder, Juliette Gordon Lowe. We work hard to have something of our own and men need to come in and take it. 

Scouting in general has seen a decline over the years. Having worked for Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan in Jackson, I know first hand how hard we have to work to find leadership, get girls, and keep them in the program. Scouting can be a big commitment, but the rewards are worth it. And with all the extra curricular activities available to youth these days, scouting has suffered. 

Again, I do love what Boy Scouts does for boys. I respect their organization and the people in it. Through years of working with Girl Scouts I have come to know they are the premiere organization for girl and female empowerment. Here girls can grow and develop in a safe space where they can learn who they are and what they are good at. Women couldn't vote for way too long, we couldn't attend universities, couldn't work in many business positions, and couldn't serve in certain areas of the military. Also we couldn't seem to get into the Oval Office. Men in charge, just let us have this one. Stay in your lane.

I believe this decision comes less from a place of wanting to be inclusive, but rather from a business one. Boy Scouts enrollment is down, they have been clouded in different controversies over the years, and they decided to make the most politically correct move. News came out on International Day of the Girl. It may have been picked to show celebration and  welcome on a day that was ours. But I see it as a day of theft on a day that was ours. Don't steal our girls for financial or political gain. Don't try and wipe out the progress that we've made for ourselves. And most of all, don't take our cookies.

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In Little Adventures

City of Jackson Fire Station

After meeting a retired firefighter I asked him how a curious person like myself could get a tour of an active fire station. He said all I would have to do is show up, and ask them! 

Seeing as the City of Jackson fire station is just one block from one of my jobs I headed down there after work one day. There was practically nothing going on so the friendly man who answered the door gladly showed me around the station. 

I think firefighters are extremely cool people. They selflessly protect us from injury and fire, how heroic! I am interested in how they live their lives, while at work. What the flow of their day is like. Where they sleep. Do they really still use fire poles? Plus, oddly, one of my favorite sounds in the world is the sound of a fire truck decelerating. After telling this to a firefighter they quickly named it, it's called the Jake Brake. My love has a name!  

Seeing the kitchen, I learned that the lowest ranked firefighter on any particular shift is the one who does the cooking. Sometimes with good and bad results. Members of the shift crew grocery shop, cook, and eat together, each person pitching in a little cash each time. 

Wondering about the fire poles? I learned that the station I visited is the last station in the county with active fire poles. According to updated regulations, stations must be equipped with slides, not poles. If work were to be done on the station and the poles had to be removed, they would be gone forever. They work with body weight. There is essentially a trap door that is closed, to prevent someone from falling down the hole. Once weight is put on the pole the trap door opens.  

Wanting to actually ride on the truck, I asked how a person might get the opportunity to do a ride along. It was as easy as it was to get a tour. I signed a waiver with the captain and was told that I could come back anytime I am free. I am able to hang out with the firefighters on shift and "hope" there will be a call. Since this station does 5,000 runs per year my odds are pretty good. I'd like to go during a dinner time, because I was told I could eat with them as well. Stay tuned because I'll be sure to write about that. 

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In Travel

Autumn in New York

I was fortunate enough to take a long weekend trip to New York City recently. About six to eight months ago I started hatching a plan that, then, I had no idea would would come to fruition. Each October, a group of 40 students from the high school I taught at in Japan take a class trip to New York City. For one week they experience Manhattan, Princeton, New Jersey, and Ithaca, New York. Knowing I would only be staying in Japan one year, I knew I would be back stateside when this year's trip came up. How cool would it be to fly to New York to meet my students in my country?, I thought. 

As the date got closer, I had to decide. Just do it I thought. I didn't have a job yet when I chose the dates and purchased the ticket, but I planned on just working around it when the time came. Before I knew it I was on a plane to New York City and my long-running pipe dream was coming true. 

More was wrapped up into this trip than a reunion with my students. My cousin Ellery has lived in Manhattan for two years now. I hadn't gotten the opportunity to visit her there and this was another perfect reason to go. 

I arrived on a Saturday afternoon and after many hugs, Ellery and I walked to get some lunch. Then I raided her closet for something cuter than what I had brought to wear during our outing with our other cousins Melissa and Brian. After catching up at their apartment and getting hugs from their two boys, the four of use we out for Mexican food and to two bars afterward. Being parents of two young boys, Melissa and Brian don't get out on their own much, so the four of us had a blast together.

Sunday, Ellery and I had a slow morning followed by some lunch and some exploring in Central Park.

Monday my Spidey-senses started tingling because I knew my students were landing in New York that morning. Melissa and I met up and went to an exercise class that kicked our butts. We then had a very Japanese day by visiting a matcha tea cafe, shopping at Uniqlo (a Japanese clothing brand), visited an Asian market, and had a poke bowl lunch (very similar to the sushi bowls I used to buy in Kanazawa).

After we parted ways I went back to Ellery's apartment to change my clothes then hopped on a Citi Bike to ride the five miles uptown to the American Museum of Natural History. I love this museum because of the movie Night at the Museum, when it comes alive at night. Though I also love history and learning more about the natural world. Of course I enjoyed the Hall of Asian Peoples, where I got to hear Japanese music and read about rural Japanese life. Thanks to a member card from Brian I got to visit for free.

I spent a little more time in Central Park before heading to the Watson Hotel where my students were staying. I met their teacher, Miss Niwa, just outside the hotel and we discussed how I would surprise the students. None of them knew I would be coming to meet them.

I had been dreaming about this moment for months and months. Now that I was just seconds away from having my big surprise moment, I was very nervous. They were all congregating in the hotel lobby to eat dinner so I thought I'd wait until a bit past their meeting time so they'd all be there. Should I wait for the teacher to announce the "mystery guest"? Should I sneak into the hotel restaurant and be waiting for them as they enter? With the anticipation becoming unbearable I finally realized I likely would never have the perfect entrance. With that, I simply walked in the front door.

In a domino effect, one by one, my students started seeing me and realizing what was going on. I got many beautiful bright faces, smiles, yells of my name, and hugs. Everything had been worth it! We spent about 90 minutes together eating dinner in the hotel restaurant. Then a small group of students hung out with me in the lobby as we talked about their trip and took pictures.

Leaving my students was no easy task. For a while we were just standing in a group and though they all realized they had to go to bed and I had to leave, no one would budge. My feelings of elation that they didn't want to say goodbye can't be matched. Then the followed me to the door and in a big group waved and I told them I love them. As I walked away I looked back, twice, to the still waving group of Japanese teens I love.

I swung through Times Square on my way home, still one of my favorite places in the world. I sat in all the lights and sounds and reflected on the beauty of my life. I got back to Ellery's apartment, high on life. When asked if it was sad, I really couldn't say yes, because I was so happy in my fortune of knowing those kids.

Tuesday was a finally day of exploration as I visited the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, again thanks to Brian. And I rounded out the trip by heading to the farthest south tip of the island to view the Statue of Liberty. My four-day trip was complete!

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