May 13, 2008

Seven Types of Cheese

Yesterday morning it was raining. It poured all day long but it was especially bad in the morning. Nothing is worse than a cold rainy Monday morning. I parked my car in Monkeytown and trudged to the office avoiding the puddles and cursing the resurgent winter for all it's rain and cold.

Of course that's nothing compared with what the Chinese woke up to. Nearly 10,000 are estimated dead in the earthquake that struck central China . And it's nothing compared to what the Burmese woke up to last week when a cyclone leveled Myanmar. Up to 100,000 may have been killed in Cyclone Nargis.

Yesterday afternoon, I left the office, walked back through the rain and the puddles and sat in traffic on the way home. I turned on the radio and heard the reports from both China and Myanmar. I wasn't prepared to hear the stories about the vast amounts of children who had perished in both disasters. And I just don't know what to do with that knowledge except maybe double-over and cry.

There is nothing more precious to me than my children. I cannot under any circumstances understand or imagine what these people halfway around the world are going through. I don't want to. What I do know without having gone through it myself - and please, that's an experience I don't want to have - is that they're facing the worst thing a person could.

Last night, Mia wouldn't tell us what she wanted for dinner. The only clue she gave us was that it involved cheese. So we ran through every type we had in the fridge - holey cheese (swiss), spicy pepper cheese (pepper jack), pizza cheese (mozzarella), round cheese to bite (provolone), cream cheese, noodle cheese (Parmesan), and yellow cheese that's lost its yellow (organic cheddar). That's seven types of cheeses. Seven fucking kinds of cheese. And then we played Attack Of The Killer Mushrooms (long story) with Mia.

Two observations. 1) Seven fucking kinds of cheese. Some people in Myanmar and China have never even seen cheese. 2) I love my kids. I love to attack my kid with mushrooms. I'm a better person for having become a father and I wouldn't trade that experience for anything in the whole wide world. And I can't imagine how life must be for those with children that were swallowed up by the earth.

Yesterday morning it was raining. It poured all day long but it was especially bad in the morning. But there are things that are much worse than a cold rainy Monday morning. Life is still very good. And I'm a lucky man. Please think about doing something for those less fortunate.

Posted by Chris at May 13, 2008 6:36 AM

I used to work for a children's grief and hospice organization. As a parent, I never understood how those who lost children could continue to walk around and breathe and look normal. I am sure that it is the most painful thing to survive. For those that do . . . My teenager looks at me like I'm crazy when I lecture him for continually forgetting to turn his cell phone back on after school. We are blessed here. Beyond what most of us will ever be able to comprehend.

Posted by: OS at May 13, 2008 7:47 AM

I was watching the news this morning and just sat there shaking my head, thinking of all the beautiful children I am priviledged to work with every single day... and how lucky I am that I am here and not there. Some days you really have to remember to be thankful for all the wonder in your life, and this post is a good reminder of that.

Posted by: Kate at May 13, 2008 7:47 AM

Very well written. Thanks for posting this.

Posted by: Alissa at May 13, 2008 7:59 AM

Children are the biggest blessing we can have. I hugged mine extra tight this morning as he left for school after having read your post. Thanks Chris.

Posted by: NotAMeanGirl at May 13, 2008 8:11 AM

Those children break my heart. I will never have children, but to me children are precious.

Everything is better with cheese. Cheese makes everything better. Mia may have been trying to cheer you up.

Posted by: Maria at May 13, 2008 8:15 AM

Good post, Chris.

Posted by: Alison at May 13, 2008 8:20 AM

When disasters like that happen, I always try to help financially if I can. For Katrina, I sent a donation to Second Harvest. And I felt like at least I could help in some small way. (Maybe send some cheese!) But then, Second Harvest keeps sending me stuff saying to keep giving and I always feel so BAD, because they waste all that paper and the envelope and it's this circle of bad things. And maybe if I could just keep giving money, they'd stop sending me all that paper. I don't know.

Posted by: claire at May 13, 2008 8:26 AM

On 9/11 my daughter was at Ground Zero. She was missing for an hour and a half -- the longest 90 minutes of my life. Out of gratitude I decided to look for a way to give something back to the world. I found Vitamin Angels -- -- a small charity in Santa Barbara run by one very caring man, Howard Schiffer.

In 1994 Howard began using his contacts in the natural foods industry to get donations of vitamins. He slowly built up a network to distribute them to children in 45 countries. I contacted Howard and told him I didn't know anybody with vitamins, but I had some marketing skills I could offer up, and I knew some companies with money. After learning more I found out that more than 100 million children are at risk of going blind from Vitamin A Deficiency. Half a million do go blind and about half of them die. The cure, megadoses of Vitamin A that can be administered by injection twice a year. The cost: 25 cents a year to save one child.

Repeat. One child, 25 cents a year.

We created Operation 20/20 and our goal is to eradicate VAD childhood blindness from the planet by the year 2020. I was fortunate enough to convince Johnson and Johnson to be our first corporate sponsor and today (with the help of a growing list of sponsors) we are reaching 4.5 million kids in 18 countries.

My point - one person can make a difference. Howard made his decision to get involved after the North Ridge earthquake in 1994. I was motivated by 9/11. But sometimes, the catalyst can be as simple as a piece of cheese.

Or in your case, Chris, seven.

Posted by: Marshall at May 13, 2008 8:35 AM

I can't even begin to comprehend those numbers, can't even begin to wrap my mind around all the children and broken families and uncertainty and fear everyone must feel. This morning I saw on CNN that they suspect 18,000 people are trapped beneath rubble in one town. 18,000? Trapped? I can't even imagine. I saw someone mention that her daughter was at Ground Zero on 9/11. A testament to a mother's love for her children: my mom did not rest until she spoke to both my brother and I on the phone that day, even though I was in California and my brother was 10 minutes away from her.

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at May 13, 2008 8:55 AM

You, my friend, rock! Excellent post. Seven kinds of cheese? Not bad.

Posted by: Kelly M. at May 13, 2008 9:22 AM

Ok, so not to miss the point of the post because it was a wonderful post and there's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said by yourself and my fellow commenters, I have to ask -

what WAS for dinner? All those cheeses, I'm dying to know!

Posted by: Kris at May 13, 2008 9:34 AM

You know, this stuff has been going on for centuries. Can you imagine the number of people who have died in natural disasters over the past thousands of years? How many will we NEVER know about?


Posted by: Edge at May 13, 2008 9:50 AM

I know, Chris.... The children. We are so blessed every single day.... We are very very lucky.

Posted by: Haley-O at May 13, 2008 10:10 AM

Well spoken. Will do.

Posted by: Brad at May 13, 2008 10:14 AM

And children in Haiti, right on our doorstep, are eating dirt cookies.

Ray and I live on Social Security and my small retirement pension. We're probably a good way under what most would consider middle class.

And yet...

We held a bbq in my yard on Sunday to celebrate the 8th birthday of a little friend and Mother's Day. The menu was hamburgers and hot dogs rather than shrimp and steak but there was no shortage of food that day or the next or the next.

We have a small roof over our heads, we have clothing, and I'm writing this on a PC which means we have electricity (and my own computer). I don't have to wash our clothing in the river and we sleep on beds, not a floor.

We even manage to help others in small ways.

What do I have to complain about?

As for China and Myanmar, I don't even know what to say. Yes, of course I'll help, but how to even begin with that huge a loss?

Posted by: Ann Adams at May 13, 2008 10:15 AM

Well said, Chris. I love it when you make me think. You are a wonderful father - that's very obvious.

Posted by: Much More Than A Mom at May 13, 2008 12:41 PM

You know you can throw all 7 cheeses and a few knobs of butter in a pot of hot pasta and you'll get something delicious out of that. ;-D

I'm trying not to think about Myanmar and China too much because I seriously can't wrap my head around it. Sure, I hold a little national grudge against Myanmar (The golden effing pagoda? All the gold from MY kingdom, goddammit!), but it sucks for all of those people how the help is not getting where it needs to be. And China? If a rogue quake ever hit Bangkok that way, it could be a heck of a lot worse.

P.S. Thanks for the weather report the other day. Brandon is grateful to have brought his jacket.

Posted by: oakley at May 13, 2008 12:58 PM

Heavy stuff to be thinking. I am right there with you though. I make it a point to hug my kids every chance I get because you never know when you may have another chance!

Posted by: Jeff A at May 13, 2008 12:59 PM

When I look at the lives we Americans have in comparison to other people around the world with a granular of salt of perspective, I am in awe.

When I look at the life I personally have with a granular of salt of perspective, I am humbled to the point of tears.

Posted by: Mindy at May 13, 2008 1:50 PM

I was pondering this, as the Boy and I were riding to work...
The world is a hard place to be a kid. Even worse when you live in oppressive regimes.

So I am hugging my kid a bit more this week.

Posted by: Nat at May 13, 2008 7:55 PM

Well written. Puts it all in perspective.

Posted by: jeanie at May 14, 2008 12:10 AM