When Teresa Thaman heard how bad the storm was going to be, she, her daughter and her husband closed themselves in their bathroom and hid under a mattress, just like they’d done every other time a tornado warning had been issued. This time, though, was terribly different. The storm didn’t pass. The windows exploded before the roof tore off, piece by piece, and the wood in the walls cracked apart. Teresa and her family clung to the toilet and tub, unable to comfort one another or even hear each other scream. And as debris pounded the mattress and the suction intensified, she was sure they were going to die.
When the storm passed and the family emerged from a pile of wood and rubble, dirt filled their mouths, eyes and pockets, and the once varied skyline was leveled flat for miles. Family heirlooms, photographs, every piece of furniture and clothing they’d ever owned were all gone – taken in a matter of minutes by the 2011 Joplin tornado. Continue reading →
For a long time I’ve had two identities. Most days I’m a working mom, reliable, responsible and professional. I go to work, pay the bills, and do the things most mothers do to run a home and raise a child. But then there are those few nights a month I let go of all of my inhibitions and get in touch with the deepest part of myself. It’s a place I’ve never been able to describe, but have always needed to access to feel whole. With emotional hunger and a sense of abandon, I shed any trace of convention, walk into a crowded room with the company of four men… and pick up a microphone. The next few hours can only be described as transcendent, an amazing exchange of energy, expression and passion between musicians and an audience. People express their good-natured envy all the time; I’m a mom who gets to be a diva.
In the 1970’s a folk artist from Detroit penned and recorded some of the most poignant songs of our time. An edgy brand of inner-city poetry, his songs addressed societal issues that were tearing our country apart: war, racial inequality, abuse of women, poverty, drugs and corruption. They were heartrending and profound. They expressed the frustration of an entire generation. And due to a lack of commercial success… they were never heard.
Across the Atlantic, South Africa was being rocked by the oppression and violence of apartheid at the same time. However, thanks to the underground anti-establishment songs of one particular musician, the seeds of full-blown protest were being sown. In a country where speaking out against apartheid meant imprisonment and other atrocities, this was nothing short of a miracle. His records were secreted into every liberal home, and he became a bigger household name than Bob Dylan.
Just two weeks ago, the world watched in awe as Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Key West, in shark-infested water without a protective cage. Throughout the 100 mile trip, the endurance swimmer contended with harsh wind, exceptionally cold water, fatigue and jellyfish. Hardly a novice, Nyad had attempted the crossing four times before, each time dealing with storms, asthma attacks, a swollen tongue and lips, and even vomiting due to excessive intake of salt water. But all of this isn’t even the most impressive part to me. Her fifth and final attempt took 53 hours, resulting in a historic achievement, all at the tender age of 64. Continue reading →
Words. They can build confidence or implant doubt, heal a relationship or destroy one, generate interest or suppress it in a mere phrase. Words express our deepest feelings, sell our skills and ideas, and set plans in motion every day. Words are the basis of communication and expression, but we often don’t even think about what we’re really saying. We often forget the simple fact that words have power. I read a terrific blog post by Seth Godin today. In it, he describes how the words we choose greatly affect how we and our ideas are perceived by others. I’d like to take this idea a step further, though; I think the words we use also influence the way we perceive ourselves.
In the midst of the challenges and chaos of our day to day existence, it’s easy to forget that there’s a world of opportunity out there. Sure, we dream of alternate careers, travel, starting a new business, moving to that distant place we’ve always dreamed about, learning to play the piano. We even imagine how rewarding it would be, but at the end of the day we often file these cravings away in folders labeled Someday, Pipe Dreams or Impossible. The reality is, many of our dreams don’t have to be “out there” at all. They’re not only possible, they’re attainable with some planning and work. And the only things stopping us are two little words…. “I can’t.” Continue reading →
There’s a section of the Alps between Austria and Italy that’s so incredibly steep and high, that it was considered impossible to cross years ago. Because it was treacherous even for pack animals, travelers had no choice but to take the long journey around it. It was inconvenient. It was costly and it was time consuming. And even though people wished for a path through the mountains, they also said it couldn’t be made. Carl von Ghega built one anyway. It took twelve years and 20,000 workers, but the determined engineer designed and oversaw the construction of a railway that consisted of 41 kilometers of track, 14 tunnels, 16 viaducts and 111 bridges.
But the most amazing part? He built the railway before there was a train in existence that could make the trip.