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Posts from the ‘community’ Category

six months

a family recovers

I suppose I should begin with a statement along the lines of, “the views and opinions expressed in this post are mine alone, and do not necessarily represent the views of , well …  anybody else – organization, agency or otherwise”.

Today marks six months since our community was devastated by the April 27th tornados.  I was invited to attend a community gathering to celebrate one family’s perseverance and hard work on their journey to recovery, as they moved into their new home – built on the very site where they had lost everything six months ago.  The rebuilding was a collaborative effort – from the weeks and months of sweat and toil by the homeowners, coupled with help from several local agencies, the long term recovery committee, and the generosity of numerous local contractors and suppliers who provided manpower and materials.  I applaud them all, and I am so happy that this family has been able to rebuild and remain in the place they know as home.    It exemplifies the good that can be accomplished by a community pulling together, and the strength of a family who never gave up hope.

But as the minutes passed, and the state and local political dignitaries arrived, along with their carloads of security detail, the media, etc.,  I couldn’t help feeling a little uncomfortable.  I know it is “the way of things”, but I personally dislike the whole ribbon-cutting-for-political-photo-ops routine, the talking-head political speech-izing for exposure…  the pat-myself-on-the-back “yes, I knew I had to get on the waiting jet to fly home from my duties in the legislature to see what I could do, blah, blah, blah.”  (Yes, one of them really said that.)

political photo-op field day, all cameras on the politicians as one of the homeowners (red-haired woman in background) stands aside and watches

And as wonderful as it was to see so much rebuilding in this hard-hit neighborhood, there are still many families who are still struggling to recover – houses right across the street that have no roof, people fighting with insurance providers, homes that have been left damaged and even abandoned.  Several neighbors (in less fortunate states of rebuilding) were watching all of the hoopla of politicians and the media from across the street – and I couldn’t help wonder how they were feeling?

still struggling... across the street

a neighborhood coming back - gradually

across the street

I was happy that the homeowner was given the chance to say a few words, but at the end of the day it felt a like political showcase.  And, in my opinion, Mr. Legislator, the press-worthy heros – or at least the ones I would rather celebrate and hear speak on this day – are the first responders, firefighters and emergency response workers (standing quietly in the background today) who were pulling people from the wreckage of their homes in the dark;  the families who ran to help their neighbors and offered them shelter;  the local businessmen who donated tens of thousands of dollars in relief supplies;  the local community agencies and the long term recovery team who continue to work with struggling families.  While I know that politics played a part somewhere in the disaster response equation, it is the reaction, action and perseverance of the local citizens and community that has accomplished the most good.

heros ... in the background

the politics of ribbon cutting

I confess I left with mixed feelings.  Happiness for the family returning home, grateful to the countless community heros who are still hard at work, troubled by the sight of neighbors who continue struggling to recover and rebuild – and sadly, some disdain for the politicians who grabbed this opportunity for press coverage.  Just my opinion.

There were some drawings from neighborhood school children that were clipped to a clothesline in the background of all of the ceremonial stuff … and they spoke to me.  I’m not even sure if any of the politicians noticed them?  When the words “hope” and “joy” are clouds above a piece of heavy equipment moving debris, when the sky is streaked with ink black and crimson, when the sun is bright yellow above a family cat that survived the storm – these are the voices of recovery I hear, and the ones I will never forget.

Hope and Joy

 

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among the Amish

visiting Pennsylvania

Spent last week in northwestern Pennsylvania, visiting my husband’s family.  We took our bikes, hoping for some nice riding on the rural roads with leaves turning and crisp temperatures.  Sadly, the weather did not want to cooperate.  Gusting winds, rain and temps in the 40’s (F) held little enticement for cycling …

Pennsylvania countryside near the Amish community of Atlantic

My in-laws live in a small community in rural PA; there are lots of Amish and Mennonite families in the area.  It’s an odd feeling to pedal along and approach (or be passed by) a horse and buggy.  Better than being passed by cars any day.

Toward the end of the week when the skies began to clear, we took a ride to the Conneaut Lake Park – an old amusement park that originated in the 1890’s that became a local area attraction in the mid-1900’s.  In it’s steel boom hey-day, it was a big draw to families employed by the railroad, as well as a convenient vacation getaway for people from Pittsburgh.  When my husband was growing up in the area, he and his brother and sister all had summer jobs at the Park.  Sadly, it has become one of those places largely lost to the past … although it still opens in the summer, it is barely able to survive any more.  It was kind of fascinating to walk around the largely deserted grounds, covered in falling leaves.

marshland ride-by

(can you spy my bike?)

along the boardwalk, Conneaut Lake Park

Even though we didn’t get to ride as much as we had hoped to, it was a good visit.  Nice to see family, good to feel the chill of the North, and great to have a slice (or two) of my mother in-law’s always-amazing pies.  😀

A few of the other pictures ….

my mother in-law and her famous Shoo Fly pie

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and the winner is …

I thank all of you who took time leave a comment (entry) for the YMX jersey; I wish I could send everyone a jersey.  But the winner, by random draw, happens to be Myrna from MN – and Myrna, I am also a big fan of Bridget Jones.  😉

Myrna from MN ... cyclist, pilot, mom, wife and writer

I was thinking about other women cyclists, and have gotten to know Myrna over the past year or so from twitter and comments on this blog.  This just seemed like the perfect opportunity to profile another strong and capable “girl on a bike” – and at my request, she was kind enough to send me her bike-ography and a couple of cycling photos … which I want to share with you.

Congrats, Myrna! (And thanks for this “guest post”!)

Cassi asked me to share a bit about myself…I’m Myrna the very lucky and super happy winner of the YMX sleeveless jersey. In addition to being a happy jersey winner, I’m a freelance writer and mom of two who lives in the country about a half hour south of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’m also a private pilot, a gardener (well, I have a lot of flowers and a lot of weeds), a quilter who hasn’t had time to quilt and a person who loves to bake.

I’m also a fledgling bicyclist. Sure, like most people I rode as a kid – I even went on a long distance bike trip from Minnesota to Michigan with my youth group when I was about 15 – but I really only started riding with any regularity two years ago.

What happened two years ago to get me bicycling? Well, my friend, an avid bicyclist, had a mechanical and his bike pedal broke when he was going uphill – fast. He crashed. His helmet probably saved his life. At that point I had a bike that I rode sometimes but I didn’t have a helmet.  My kids had bikes and helmets but they didn’t want to wear them. I figured if I should get a helmet and thought if I wore one it might help my kids wear their helmets, too.

So I went to the local bike shop to buy a helmet and I saw a flyer for a charity ride, the Jesse James Bike Tour. For some reason I decided I could manage to ride the 25 mile route even though the ride was just a month away.

Long story short, I rode the 25 mile route on my Specialized Crossroads bike with my husband. It was fun and we decided we liked bicycling enough that it would be worth getting road bikes. The next spring, March 2010, I bought us each a road bike. Yay! I planned to do a lot of biking but signing up for the first 30 Days of Biking challenge is what really got me going!

Thirty Days of Biking got me riding my bike each day, which was great fun even with the challenges. Through reading the tweets and blog entries of the many participants I learned that all sorts of people have fun with bikes and that the bicycling community is very diverse and full of neat people. I also learned the most important thing about bicycling, for me, anyway…Bicycling is not about going far or going fast – it’s about having fun along the way.

But best of all, I got to “meet” so many cool people through 30 Days of Biking –  like Cassi here at shebicycles.com and Darryl from lovingthebike.com – these two people inspired me to keep bicycling more than anyone else I met along the way.

So here I am just two years after deciding to buying a helmet and deciding to do a 25 mile charity ride – where I am now? My husband and two children, Rose is 12 and Ryan is 9, are very much into bicycling. Adding bicycling to our lives has prompted us to become active year-round and has brought us closer together as a family.

I’m doing the same charity ride, the Jesse James Bike Tour, again in one week and plan to ride the 60 mile route this time. I’m a member of two bike clubs, ride both of my bikes regularly – my old Specialized Crossroads and a Giant Avail – and want to own more bikes (I’m thinking a mountain bike and a fat bike for the snow are in my future)! I’m also doing 30 Days of Biking again for the fourth time.

Bicycling has changed my life. I suppose that sounds sort of silly but it’s true!

~ Myrna

http://www.myrnacgmibus.com

Myrna and her bike 🙂

disaster relief on two wheels

a hawk dropped into the frame

It is a very good thing that I completed #330daysofbiking when I did … I think I have just had the longest stretch of not being on a bicycle in several years.  Twelve days, no cycling; fourteen days of Red Cross Disaster Relief.   And not a moment of regret.  It has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

Are things back to normal?  Hardly.  A funny thing about natural disasters  – from tornados, to hurricanes, earthquakes and floods – when cable news has moved on to the next breaking story, the communities that were effected will spend months, even years, recovering and rebuilding.   Healing –  on all levels –  takes a very, very long time.

I have to believe that almost everyone who lives here has been affected, either directly or indirectly.  Colleagues at work who have lost their homes, neighbors who have lost family members, friends at school who were severely injured … everyone is connected to the devastation to some degree.  Lives have changed.   At present, we are simply out of the immediate “crisis” mode.  Now begins the recovery.  And it will be a long ride.

My boys have all arrived home from college (for a few weeks, anyway), and on my first day “off” and away from the disaster efforts, I finally had a chance to take long and much-needed ride with my son Mason.

While too many familiar landscapes have been drastically altered and damaged, and it’s still nearly impossible to travel many of our local back roads without encountering various work crews still continuing the endless repairs and clean-up, I realized that I really needed a change of course.

I needed to leave the piles of rubble and the smell of burning pine behind me.   I needed some open space, green fields and fresh air.  I needed roadside daisies.  I needed to find beauty again.

And my heart lifted when I found that it was all still out there.

Getting out on my bicycle again, seeing green fields, being with my son, feeling the rhythm of  heartbeat, pedals and breath … it was my own personal disaster “relief”.

What lies ahead?  I am not entirely sure.  I have signed on with the Red Cross as a regular volunteer and have enrolled in their Disaster Services Human Resource System.  I’m continuing to help with follow-up work being coordinated through our local Chapter’s office, and am looking forward to continuing disaster response training and becoming an active responder.  I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with experienced Red Cross Disaster Relief teams who came in from around the country; I learned so much from them, and made some very close friendships along the way.

I also want to extend an enormous and overdue thank you to all of my friends (both local and cyber) who extended so much help and support – from your personal notes, to finding much-needed material items (including a twin bed), monetary donations, offers of manpower, and even mailing a hand-crafted prayer shawl across the country for a woman in our community.  Your generosity and kindness is unparalleled, and has been appreciated more than I can express.

Mostly, I have been forever touched by the individuals and families I have been privileged to serve and have gotten to know over the past few weeks.  You are in my heart, and I will never forget you.

(Slideshow:  amazing friends from Red Cross Disaster Relief)

 

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