Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

The surreal life July 14, 2013

Filed under: Rotary — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:30 pm
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I thought I’d share with you this recent comment I left on the blog of a young lady recently returned from time abroad (slightly edited for broader audience!)

We have a saying in Rotary, “Once an exchange student, always an exchange student.”

If I am in a room, outbound exchange students find me, whether they know I was one or not. They bounce in their chairs, anticipating their year, and I share their enthusiasm, offer packing tips, and give them hugs.

At school, students from far away sit in my class room to discuss ‘life’ in the surreal bubble that is an inbound exchange year.  They vent their frustrations, shout their celebrations, observe their confusions.  I listen, encourage, bake, and give them hugs.

They write when they’re back home,  rebound students, about the strange dream that their year abroad becomes in memory.  The students my club sent join me at my table at our Rotary meeting upon their return in a numbed stupor.  I commiserate about the loss they’re experiencing, the strange sensation of being home, but being far from home.  I give them hugs.

Suomi1983Lanttagoodbye

See that sad face? That’s me on my last day in Finland posing with my 4th host family. That is the face of a broken heart. Still miss them and think of them every day!  (Thank heaven for Facebook).

We are tied by the experience of youth exchange, because it’s all paradox.  We feel disconnected and connected. Lost and found. Happy and sad.

We each leave pieces of our heart behind in these places that become our second homes, and we never get them back. Hopefully, those we love and leave behind, cherish those pieces for the precious parts of ourselves that they are. Sometimes we are blessed with an opportunity to hold those people against our hearts again, but most of the people who made such a profound impact on our lives, we will never touch again. It is a bitter sweet reality of those who live and love abroad.

Welcome home. Welcome to life with pieces missing. We just go on.  We find others with missing pieces and we hold each other as we celebrate what we have known.

Rotary Youth Exchange:

Opening minds and breaking hearts

since 1929. 

If you know any exchange students returning home this month.  Listen to their stories, ask questions about their year, and give them hugs.  They really need them right now.

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trust July 6, 2013

Filed under: Rotary — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:43 pm
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A poem originally posted November 2010 for your reading pleasure.

Shawn L. Bird

She trusts him
-the truth of him
–the truth of them

but she fears
the helplessness
-having watched him
unfold and unravel
under eyes that glowed
with glorious attention.

Temptation trails closely
behind such glowing eyes
and apparently intelligence

and good intention
are not always
adequte protection
from ampilified admiration.

That’s the truth of them

-the truth of him

–the truth of trust.

.

.

A submission for One Shot Wednesday.  Check out the poets.

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polio today- we’re THIS CLOSE!

Filed under: Rotary — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:42 pm
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Shawn L. Bird

http://www.polioeradication.org/Dataandmonitoring/Poliothisweek.aspx

Wow.  From a thousand cases a DAY when Rotary started the campaign to eradicate polio back in 1985 to only 134 cases so far in ALL of 2012!!

Yay Rotary and partners!  We’re THIS CLOSE to ending polio!

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June thankfulness June 5, 2013

Filed under: Poetry,Rotary invocations — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:25 am
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Skies bluer than sapphires

Sun glowing, turned the world into High Definition.

Birds calling, trilling, chirping, clicking, singing

Swooping, sailing on a sky sea

Warm breeze a caress,

blowing sultry scents into nostrils.

Barbeque sauce tangoing on the tongue.

With friends, in fellowship,

we celebrate service above ourselves.

There is a lot to be thankful for in June.

.

June is Rotary Fellowships month.  Fellowships are Rotarians who share a passion, like chess, travel, puzzles, etc.

 

Spring invocation March 5, 2013

Filed under: Rotary,Rotary invocations — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:53 am
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Snows are melting; spring is come

This Rotary year is almost done.

As we reflect on projects from the year

upon our activities both far and near,

We’re thankful for successes enjoyed

We’re thankful for resources employed

in the service of others, in service of peace,

for in serving others our joys increase.

Let’s be thankful at this meeting for food and friends,

for hearts to serve and helpful hands.

.

(c) Shawn Bird.
  For free use within Rotary, but please leave a comment saying when and where you use this invocation, and credit Shawn as the author.
 

Fictional truths March 3, 2013

March is Literacy Month in the world of Rotary, and there is an interesting article in this month’s  The Rotarian magazine.  It quotes cognitive psychologist Keith Oatley saying,

…reading more fiction enables you to understand other people better.  Fiction is about exploring a range of circumstances and interactions and characters you’re likely to meet.  Fiction is not a description of ordinary life; it’s a simulation.

Well, duh.  Any writer could tell you that.  My husband, who has a psychology degree, vets my characters and makes sure I am keeping consistent psychological profiles and responses.  I write teen fantasy, mind you.  Even those of us crafting fictional worlds do so with care.

Our worlds are crafted to give our readers an opportunity to explore another life, other responses, other realities.

I find it vaguely amusing that the professional business world may not have realised that there is a reason literature is in the curriculum.  It would behove more of our leaders to pay close attention to the lessons of Orwell’s 1984, for example.  A more well-read population should also be quicker to recognise the danger signs they’ve seen in literature.  That’s why I’m a high school English teacher.  Along side the history teachers, I aim to provide warnings and inspiration.  To raise the next generation to see with clear eyes and communicate their vision with well-chosen words.

Later in the article they quote Oatley quoting Aristotle, “History…tells us only what has happened, whereas fiction tells us what can happen, which can stretch our moral imaginations and give us insights into ourselves and other people.”  He adds that fiction “measurably enhances our abilities to empathize with other people and connect with something larger than ourselves.”

Hear. Hear.

.

Work cited:

Bures, Frank.  “The Truth about Fiction.” The Rotarian.  Vol 191 No. 9  March 2013.  pp.29-30.

PS. It behoves me to mention that ‘behove’ is the British spelling of ‘behoove.’

 

thankful February 12, 2013

Filed under: Rotary — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:30 am
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I was just chatting with our school’s exchange student, a lovely girl here for the year from Finland.  Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I was an exchange student in Finland myself, many years ago.  It has been really great having Satu here.  We greet each other in Finnish in the halls, and once a week or so we chat more thoroughly about things.  I hope she enjoys having someone to speak her own language to, because I sure love speaking with her.

I talk to myself in Finnish to practice, but that doesn’t help my listening skills.  I can tune into Finnish radio, but radio doesn’t have the necessary pauses that allow assimilation of meaning nor does it provide opportunity to clarify meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary.  Having Satu here has been fantastic.  In September, there was a lot that I struggled with when I listened to her.  I constantly had to check words.  Now, I find that I understand her so much better.  I’ve learned some vocabulary (What does it tell you about my exchange that I didn’t know the word for ‘homework’! lol).  It makes me so happy that so many years after my return to Canada, I can still speak fluently enough to have these interesting conversations with her.  When I promised my 4th mom that I would never forget my Finnish, I meant it.  I have kept my promise.

I also have really enjoyed the excuse to do some Finnish baking now and then.  When I take karjalan piirakoita or some pulla buns to school for her, it’s nice to know I’ve brought a bit of ‘home’ into her week.

It makes me thankful, once again, for the existance of the Rotary Exchange Student program, and thankful that I was part of it.  It is amazing how it never leaves you.  When you meet another exchange student, of any age, from any country, you instantly have a  common bond of experience.   There is always something to talk about.  Eyes sparkle with fun or commiseration.

Once an exchange student, always an exchange student.

 

 
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