Wednesday, September 12, 2012

a busy couple days and a life changing experience

My head is full of thoughts and ideas today so forgive me if i come off of point in this blog!  In the past couple of weeks I've had some amazing experiences, been through some very painful moments and learned so much about my self and  those I love and at the risk of sounding cliche, I really feel I've learned a lot about life in general. 

It's actually sort of funny that the instant I wrote the last line about "life in general" i realized that though I feel  like I've learned so much, I feel like gaining that knowledge comes at the expense of far more questions and even a bit of confusion!  Let's start by talking about where I've been and why...

August 30th 2012:  I find myself sitting on a plane being asked to turn my cell phone off.  It was a brutal moment for me as there were some serious personal issues at home that, short of walking off the plane, I was helpless to do anything about.  I turned off the phone with a whirlwind of things on my mind.  I was scared, angry and feeling very helpless, as I was facing a long flight from KC to Lisbon, Portugal, cut off from the situation and powerless to help resolve it.  I wont go into the specifics of what was going on, but it was hard to leave, and even harder to imagine being gone for over a week with a job to do, all while things at home seemed so unstable.

Upon arrival I was greeted warmly by Francisco and Nelson, who were very happy to see me, and soon we were on our way to Obidos, a city within a ancient castle, and site of the event I was to take part in.  I tried to forget the troubles at home and focus on the job i was expected to do and it became much easier with ever person I met.  Teresa H is the head of  the Association Nationale Cake Design, or as I think of it, the Portuguese version of Ices. There are some very big differences between the two, and I much prefer their version!  I was blown away by the spirit and friendship that was shared with me.  So many talented and excited people, all just wanting to learn and share their energy with me.  I guess I was guilty of  the typical American ideology, believing that we in the USA have a patent on cakes and creativity, but I quickly learned otherwise!  I was very impressed and humbled by the quality and creativity of the people there, but even more so by the fact that there didn't seem to be the politics, the exclusivity and limitations I've frequently experienced at home.  So often in the US, i meet people that believe they hold the keys to different techniques, styles or even believe they have the power to make or break others within our industry. ( and by industry I mean the general creative world of cakes)  Way to often I have found people who claim to want to advance our craft, really stand for themselves and the perverse power trip they get from being admired.  I've struggled at times with my own security issues, doubts and concerns about someone coming along and doing it better than me too, but I've never tried to convince anyone, nor believed that I knew "the way".  I've found that there will always be someone better, and someone who does it differently than me, and in Portugal they seem to embrace this!  Maybe it was the language barrier, but of all the people, things and emotions I came to love about Portugal, that was my favorite.  The freedom to do what feels right, even if it differs from the instructed techniques or accepted "way" and the willingness of the people to so openly welcome outside ideas, even to embrace the difference was very refreshing!  In my 8 days in Portugal I heard far more people refer to what we do as an art form, than I may ever have.  That is how they seem to live their life.  It's an art form, and as much as we seem to think we live to the fullest, I find myself wondering if we even come close to getting it right. 

I was everyday in awe by how friendly and open Teresa, her family and the Portuguese people were with me.  I had friends at every turn, and a drink in hand every chance they got!  It made the mess my life seemed to be at home, much easier to stomach, and I feel changed by it.  I feel bettered by it, and that's a hard thing to come by these days.

Sept 9th  Honor Flight Meet n Greet
    Having only been home a day Carey and I gathered all of the donated supplies and food for our first real event with Honor Flight.  The luncheon was designed to be a meeting for all the veterans who were going on the flight and their families, as well as format to share information with Vets, families and guardians about the upcoming flight.  We stayed pretty busy serving food, but afterward I got to chat with several of the vets about their experiences and their excitement about going on the next flight.  As you may know, we are working with Honor Flight Network KC, to produce a series of short documentaries about their work, the experiences of these deserving veterans and the flights themselves.  Most of the footage will be used to promote HFN, but some will be included in the TV pilot we are now in production of.  It was a very emotional day as these men shared their excitement and very often stories about their experiences in combat during WWII.
It made us want to download all of their stories, from memory so that we could share them all with the world. We loose on average 1000, of these veterans a day, imagine the stories of lives lived, lost forever...

Sept 11th, Patriots Day and the 11year anniversary of 9-11.
What a day!  Sitting aboard the plane with my new friend Jack and 50 more of the nations greatest heroes, I was excited!  We had arrived at the airport at 4 am and in spite of the early hour the energy level of these men and women was outstanding!  I'm so used to traveling with a younger crowd, I didn't know what to expect, but as we taxied out to the runway these veterans were full of energy, the youngest was 84, the oldest 94 years old!  every window was filled with the face of a deserving veteran, excited to see the world outside,  many were so enthralled by the world outside they seldom took pause to look away from the world below as we flew to DC.  As I said, I'm so used to the more common crowd of modern travelers,  most often the shade is drawn and very regularly the traveler never lifts the shade to see the world outside!  It was fun to see these men and women enjoying something so simple that so many take so for granted today.  We've become so accustomed to the modern age, we don't stop to think about what we're missing right outside our window...

The reception at the airport had me in tears...  As we neared the terminal, the US Airways ground crews were poised to welcome these heroes.  Fire trucks used their cannons to form an archway that the jet taxied under, while baggage handlers sped along side with their baggage carts covered with welcome signs and flags!  instead of the normal orange cones, ground handlers held American flags and everyone on the tarmac, stopped and waved at the plane, smiling, waving and some cheering for these men.  My new friend Jack had been on a Sherman Tank crew in the European Theater during WWII, and as tears filled his eyes he explained that he had seen nothing like this in his life.  I was proud to accompany him on this pilgrimage.

After reaching the Jetway, Jack was greeted by several active duty uniformed veterans, soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen.  They greeted my friend Jack as only another veteran could.  Firm handshakes and solemn thank yous were presented, accompanied by some deeply meaningful salutes.  As we made our way up the Jetway, we found that US Airways crews had come from all over just to decorate and welcome them. 
The most moving moment was as we got nearer to the terminal, as we could hear music and people cheering!  My new friend grew several inches in his wheelchair as people shook his hand, cheered and thanked him for his service.  People hugged him, patted him on the back and a member of the Veterans guard, a group of motorcycle riders that dedicate themselves to protecting the rights of vets, stopped Jack, bent over and excitedly handed him a small US flag and exclaimed: " way to go sir,  way to show em!  you guys really kicked some ass over there!"  Jack burst into a sort of laugh, and tears filled his eyes.  I could barely stand to push him through the crowd, as I didn't want it to end for him!  We continued along as we were on a mission to meet our bus, but all the while people were stopping us, thanking him for his service and frequently giving him a well deserved and long overdue hug.  I was proud to be an American that day more than I think I have ever been.  Proud to be with so many deserving and sweet men and women, proud to have been allowed to share in the journey, proud to see the goodness and respect so many people showed to these veterans!  Throughout the day we visited the memorials dedicated to these men, and all of them seemed so full of youthful energy and zest that I couldn't believe their average age was more than twice that of mine!  many stories were shared and many memories brought back to the front of thought for these men and women.  In a word, amazing.

Finally after each veteran had received mail-call on the return flight, which consisted of letters from family, local school kids and even senators and fellow veterans  we landed in KC at nearly 10:00pm.  16 hours after we had embarked on our journey.  Most of the vets felt like it was over, but much like they had received in DC, the good hard working people of KC came to welcome them back.  I watched as once again the received cheers and handshakes, hugs and heartfelt thanks, and I couldn't help but notice the type of people who had taken the time to show these men the gratitude they so very much deserved.  There were no doctors, lawyers or men in suits.  Instead the halls were lined once again with even more of the veterans bikers groups each holding full sized flags, airport employees, and average everyday people.  It seems to me just as it was then that the greatness of this country does not and has never depended upon the upper class and wealthy.  It is founded on the everyday, hard working and sometimes down and dirty men and women, who often receive less of the "American dream", but seem to hold it closest to heart.  In 1941, our greatest generation gave up their lives, their families and their way of life to serve our nation and the world in it's hour of greatest despair and need.  Years spent from home under fire in strange lands, friends and family killed in action, lives changed forever and the freedom of the world preserved.  They gave up their "today" to ensure future generations "tomorrow"...  They have faded quietly into history.  Their stories lost, and forgotten.  The simple joy of looking out an airplane window, and a short trip to Washington DC their only real reward.  But never did I hear a single complaint.  These men and women know what price they paid, and the reward, though sometimes unseen, is the satisfaction they each share.  The knowledge of a job well done, a nation served, and a people saved.  WWII was won by the PFC.  not the general.  Most of the men on Honor Flight, were your everyday average "Joe"  average Joe's who shared a common trait; uncommon valor.

We can't wait to continue working with them and to hold Cakefest in their honor.  each flight is monumentally expensive, and even more important as time is now the enemy.  Since the previous flight 17 veterans passed.  17 veterans wont get to experience the gratitude so due to them. Join with us to help get as many of them as possible the respect and gratitude they have earned.
see you soon, at KC Cakefest...

peace n love

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