The Five Stages of Refugee Status
Oct 2012 31

The Kubler-Ross model for grieving seems to apply to being a refugee at the hands of Hurricane Sandy as well.

Denial: The following tweet might have been a little bit cavalier of me:

Anger: As the storm raged outside and the power plant in our neighborhood blew up and knocked out all the entirety of lower Manhattan, the denial that we would be effected quickly switched to anger that our preparations for a day or two wouldn’t be near enough to last the early reports that it would be at least 3-4 days before we had power and water, if not a full week.

Bargaining: As the reality of our situation set in, Annie and I just had to get out and walk it off. We headed north for more than a mile before we say the first flicker of power or a working stop light. I also figured that this was the best excuse ever to satisfy my recent urge for some unlimited salad and breadsticks at the Times Square Olive Garden. That bargaining worked but when we arrived we found out that they, like apparently every other organization not run by an immigrant Mom and Pop were closed.

Depression: The most common phrase yesterday was “Wish I would have known….” and then the sincere feeling of ignorance, naivety, and actual depression about my complete lack of preparation. It was a lot of internal reassuring that there is no way I could have known having never actually lived through a hurricane or dealing with days upon days of power and water outages. While I would say that I’ve pushed through this one, it is still lingering when I look at my suitcase and realize that its contents are the only things I’ll have access to of my own for days to come.

Acceptance: The closest thing to a turning point in the depression stage was when we just decided that we had to leave our apartment and make plans towards that end. We were overwhelmed by all of the friends around the city that weren’t hit as hard as we were that offered us a place to stay. While you never want to need help, especially as New Yorkers, it was pretty amazing to see how many folks reached out.

There are a ton of thoughts swirling in my head right now about what I would do differently and how this storm has a ton of parallels to real life, but I’ll leave those for another day. But, in a effort to establish a little bit of order to this chaos that is my reality for the foreseeable future, I did the only thing I knew for a fact would help: I made breakfast tacos. 

Detours, Delays, and Destinations
Jun 2012 20

When traveling, it is in the unexpected that real memories happen. When everything goes according to plan, the journey is forgettable. When there are detours and delays, that is when everyone finds out how much everyone else really wants to get to the final destination.

This past weekend, Annie and I traveled upstate to one of our favorite places in the world, The Sagamore. We’d gone before a couple of years ago and it was the most that I had ever spent on a hotel room but it was also the least I had ever cared how much a hotel room cost. It was just that terrific. And this past weekend was no exception.

But, both going to and coming back from our destination, there were some detours and a couple of delays. When we got off the major interstate and started taking some roads less traveled, the comfort level dropped and the Google Maps came out. And as we got further off the main road, the reception on the maps dropped as low as the comfort level and the surroundings looked less and less like what we thought we were getting ourselves into. But, in both cases, what we discovered when we found our way through the detours were fantastic memories that will last a lot longer than if the road had been clear and we’d made it where we thought we were headed the first time.

Over the past nine years, Annie has been there through the detours and the delays. When things have been rougher than I’ll ever admit to anyone else, she’s been the one believing with me that there is more ahead and that the destinations we’re seeking are ones worth fighting through rough roads and unexpected setbacks. And it is because we have and do fight through the detours and the delays together that makes the destinations we have and will arrive at that much more meaningful.

There is no one that I would rather navigate this journey called life with.

Happy Anniversary Annie, I truly am the lucky one.

Oct 2011 07

My better half is from Arizona and has been known to say that “The American southwest, especially Arizona, makes you feel simultaneously powerful and insignificant.” 

This video captures that sentiment perfectly.

(watch this full screen and with the sound turned up)

Aug 2011 17

Last night, Annie and I went out with one of our favorite couples to The Smith in the East Village.  Our dinner conversation ranged from the insanity of extended families to politics to Bob Ross’ Joy of Painting (happy little trees!) The discussion also turned to the lists that we all wrote down as kids about what we wanted out of life when we grew up. We all recounted the categories and the hilarity of the details that we went into when describing our expectations of the future.   My favorite was the description of the perfect husband though the eyes of a 17 year old: “He must be good looking (if at all possible) and not go bald.”

This morning, still relishing in the glow of the great dinner (think beer battered green beans, bacon wrapped apricots, and a culinary piece of perfection:”Stout Braised Beef Short Ribs.”), I got to thinking: when do we stop writing down what we want out of life with the expectation that it is still something that can and should happen? When do our lists have more to do with this week’s to-dos and less to do with the biggest ideas that we can imagine? When did the lists we make change from our dreams and goals to a detailed account of this week’s groceries and bills that need to be paid?

My favorite book in the world is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Early on in the book main character, a young boy name Santiago, meets a wise king. The king exhorts the young boy to not believe the world’s greatest lie:

“What’s the world’s greatest lie?” the boy asked, completely surprised. The King responded, “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

At a certain point we all run into a brick wall on our way to achieving what we committed ourselves to when we had the innocence of a child. That brick wall, the first failure or set back of our adult life, is the end of their pursuit of the much larger vision they envisioned for themselves before the toils and responsibilities of “growing up” were upon them. That first roadblock is enough of a disappointment for the majority to stop, slow down, and put away their childhood lists. It is enough to convince them to believe the world’s greatest lie.

But for others, like Santiago in The Alchemist, it is just the beginning of an incredible adventure up, over, around, or through that wall.  It is hitting that wall, and the next, and the next, that strengthens our resolve to go through this life with a resolve that we were made for the things of our dreams and the only thing standing between us and the life we’ve imagined is our own cowardice and willingness to turn our backs on the dreams of our youth.

Jul 2011 08

Since the day she was born, my sister Katie has been the first to do a lot of things. The first in our family to get a tattoo. The first to skydive. The first to give up her Thanksgiving holiday to serve people in India. Today she’s begun her next first: riding her bike across New York. The whole state. In five days.

Katie first told me about her ride last year and that she had found an awesome way to do something adventurous and bring awareness to an issue that is important to her (and the world), human trafficking. There are millions of men, women, and children that are suffering the injustice of slavery and worse around the world and Katie’s heart for these mostly unknown and voiceless people group compelled her to action. When she arrives in Buffalo today, she’ll be meting up with a group of other passionate adventures from around the world and their bikes and beginning a trek across the Empire State. Each day they’ll ride as a team and each night they’ll be hosting rallies and meetings in the cities where they’ll be staying to bring awareness to the cause and share how folks can get involved and help.

To say that I am proud of my sister would be a huge understatement. She is the most selfless and authentic person that I know and I can’t wait to see her next weekend when she rides into the Big Apple.

If you want to keep track of her journey, or cheer her one, check her out on Twitter: @Ellweezie