Home..what does it mean to me?

Totem Poles stand at the entrance to Sitka National Historic Park in Sitka, Alaska
Totem Poles stand at the entrance to Sitka National Historic Park in Sitka, Alaska

I finally get to publish my first post, sorry my computer is being wonky!

Home, what does it mean to me?

Home is the rainforest and the ocean. When I think of home, I see the mist on the mountain tops. This is the home of my people, both my beautiful children were born in Sitka. My village is on the west coast of Baranof Island, in the southeast Alaska panhandle. The population is around 9,000 (except during tour season, then it can jump to as high as 15,000 if there are 3 cruise ships in that day) with 2 stop lights and 1 roundabout reflecting our heavy traffic necessities. You can visit, but you have to take a cruise or fly to get there. There are eagles, bears, a volcano, sea otter…clean air and clean water. I love the remoteness. I love seeing the ocean everywhere, every day.

Home is where I am going to go back to when I am finished being a student.
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970965_486470804776637_754950431_n #photography101

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Paying It Forward In Today’s World

I find myself fighting what seems like a losing battle some days with my son. He thinks he should get to do whatever his heart desires, act any way he likes, whine about what other kids get to do, the kind of toys they get to have, etc…in order to fit in with everyone else, he thinks he has to be just like everyone else. I tell him daily that having THINGS, no matter how flipping many, should not be the source of your happiness. THEN he leaves the house, and BAM! it’s like Mom never said a thing.

I think it is hard to raise a socially responsible child in our disposable society. How can it not be when everything we use day to day can be found at any store, we use our cell phones to instantly pay bills and buy things, when we see television programming that depicts the break down of relationships and families. Does it really take that much time to sit your child down and talk about values? How do I make my son understand the most treasured things he could call his own can not be found for love nor money at the local Walgreen’s or the mall? Respect, honor, empathy, courtesy, self respect, love, just to name a few good ones must be cultivated in each of us for us to see the results. Yet I know that not every parent does this. How do I know? My son tells me how other children use foul language and don’t respect his personal space at school. He sees older children bullying others. Just last week he was exposed to violence by witnessing the fallout of a school shooting where one child disregarded 4 other people and used a gun to express his feelings.

Yet I can not be discouraged. In fact, it makes me want my son to know the satisfaction of helping another human being in need. I want him to be able to say to himself when he is an adult, “I don’t need material things to define who I am.” I want him to be brave enough to give of himself even if those around him discourage it. I want my son to lead where others would only follow.

Each day brings each of us the chance to do something we didn’t do yesterday. It gives us the opportunity to push our limits, step out of our comfort zones and do things we never thought we would be able to do. I know that I must do those things each day as well. I wonder if everyone realized that he or she is a role model for someone, would they care? Do you notice other people around you doing something out of the kindness of their hearts? What would you do if you knew you could help one person make it through tough times or even just one more day by giving assistance in a way only YOU could? Would it matter to you?

I talked about these things as my son was getting ready for bed. I think he understands. I told him it is never to early to learn to be humble, to help others. I am not saying he should make this his life’s work, don’t get me wrong. I simply want to make him more aware of HIS actions and how his interaction with others could impact not only his life, but someone else’s as well. I want him to be aware, so he won’t ever think being rude or hateful is okay. I caught myself rambling on and on as he was climbing under the covers with that jeez Mom look on his face. I smiled at him and said being kind doesn’t cost you a thing son.

You never know, a stranger’s kindness could save your life someday. Would you do the same?

The World IS Going Mad…

Last week started as usual. Monday, get the boy ready for school, I myself depart for my classes in the late afternoon. Repeat until Thursday. I don’t pay as much attention to the news as I should and on Friday I was completely unprepared to hear of a shooting at a high school in a town in the area. A shooting where 4 students were injured and 2 died during what was supposed to be lunch period inside the school. My mind reeling, I continued reading and saw the image of the shooter provided by the news agency- a gorgeous Native boy, smiling at the camera in a shot taken before the shooting- and just cried. At the time speculation was rampant as to the why’s and exactly what happened. I couldn’t read any more of the article; I was stuck staring at this boy who felt he couldn’t deal with life any longer and chose to injure those around him and then kill himself. He KILLED himself. He was in the 9th grade and a well liked boy in his community, but my brain couldn’t stop repeating: he killed himself.  I immediately thought of my gorgeous Native boy- my witty loving happy go lucky 10 year old who is in 4th grade sitting in front of the television watching his shows on the Disney channel, oblivious to his Momma standing in the kitchen crying quietly as she prepared dinner, grateful beyond words that he is safe.

How did this happen? What do I tell my son, how do I explain this? Or how to explain the fallout from this sad traumatic event that rocked Marysville-Pilchuck High School on Friday, or the coverage on just about every news station of the shooting? How do I explain suicide and murder to a 10 year old? I want to know the answers to all of these questions and so many more racing through my mind that I as an adult could not fathom happening to my family, to my son. I finished cooking dinner, grabbed a cigarette and stepped outside into the blowing wind and rain in the darkness and smoked my cigarette and cried for the parents of the boy who used the gun, for the families of the children who were shot.

I spent the weekend hearing updates about the situation, catching bits of news conferences as I tried to change the channel before I could hear too much, all the while thinking about my son.  I learned that the Ferndale school district (my family’s second choice for enrollment) just one day before the event at Marysville-Pilchuck High’s fatal event conducted an active shooter drill, complete with the SWAT team showing up in full armored gear as well as children from the school itself encouraged to participate with a student volunteer from nearby Whatcom Community College as the active ‘shooter’, in an event that took law enforcement over a year to plan and execute all for students’ safety.

I think I am a biased parent in that my family has lived on an island in rural southeast Alaska for the past 20 years, my son having his entire educational career occuring in a town with a population of almost 9,000 and only reachable by boat or plane. Our remoteness is one of the reasons why we lived there. I am going to college here on the peninsula and am familiar with living in large urban areas, my son is not. To be honest, I am still horrified that my son is here in the States, I feel like he is exposed when he leaves the house, waves at me when he boards the bus, and goes to school. This week, I keep thinking how those children kissed their mothers goodbye to go to school, made plans with their families only to never be seen alive again after going to school-a safe place.  I am afraid my fear of the ugliness of our current society and the rampant disregard for basic human interaction like courtesy and respect being displayed in full color any time of the day on television will bring more attention to my son about the harsh and deadly time we live in.

This morning as my son was waiting in the driveway for his school bus, I took his picture: smiling, clutching his back pack wearing his winter hat and coat, his shoes with the neon laces. I hugged and kissed him, told him I loved him and watched him get on the bus to school.  I said a prayer and made a reminder to myself to not turn on the television, clean the house, smoke a cigarette-do anything to try not to cry at the mindless waste of bright life that was taken on Friday by an unhappy boy.