Bruce Jenner Owes His Life to My Friend Tammy

When I was merely sixteen, my friend Tammy and I were cautiously driving through her neighborhood (specifically, Tammy, who’d just gotten her license, was driving) when, suddenly, out of nowhere, this startlingly handsome, exceptionally well-built man dashed in front of the car. Tammy slammed on the brakes, narrowly missing hitting him straight-on.

She was doing nothing wrong, in fact, she was driving well under the speed limit, which is probably what saved this man from critical injury. Tammy was driving the family car, and it was a hefty vehicle. No such thing as a little bump from its front end.

The man was her neighbor, an Olympic hopeful you’ve all come to know in recent years for very different things, Bruce Jenner. Aka Caitlyn Jenner. Remarkably, I had a hard time finding a copyright-free picture of Bruce from that time, frankly, I had a hard time finding any pictures.  I did, however, find this documentary on YouTube, and if you aren’t familiar with Caitlyn/Bruce Jenner as the Greatest Athlete in the World, I encourage you to watch at least a couple minutes of this footage, just to see who he was then.*

And why hitting him with her car, even when not at fault, would have changed Tammy’s life in oh-so-many ways. Hitting anybody would have been bad, but we were weeks away from the ’76 Summer Olympics.

This isn’t a commentary on anything LGBT. Rather, it’s a look at what could have been. While Tammy and I joked for years “Bruce Jenner owes his life to me/my friend,” the reality is, his own carelessness (as I see it) almost did cost him his Olympic dreams, at the very least. How many of us lesser mortals are alive and walking today in much the same way?

Just two and a half years before this, I’d been out Christmas caroling with a group of friends. This was California, and while it wasn’t summer-like weather, it was warm enough for all of us to pile into the back of a neighbor’s pick-up truck and drive from house to house. Sensibilities about such things were different then.

Thirteen of us were in the back and two were in the cab with the driver when the brakes failed and the truck began to roll backward. The driver and the girls up front managed to get out, and several of the kids in the back jumped to safety as well. I sat there, frozen, not fully aware of what was happening, staring at my friend Susan, who was screaming, “jump out! jump out!”

The truck was heading for a cliff. By the grace of God, when it hit the edge, it flipped over, and those of us remaining in the truck were tossed on the side of a small incline. From there, it was a sheer drop to certain death.

Everyone survived, although the girls who had been in the cab suffered critical injuries. One hit her head on the pavement, the other, Tracy, was run over by the truck. Her mom was the driver. Later, they found the remains of the truck and were able to determine it was not her fault.

It is so easy to imagine the scenario where that would have been a tragic accident, killing up to fifteen teens and pre-teens, many of them siblings, and one adult. The world would be a different place today. How different, I have no way of knowing.

My life has not impacted the public at large, but who’s to say an offhand remark of mine, or one of the others in that truck that day, hasn’t had tremendous influence on someone who is frequently in the news?

Perhaps the injuries Tracy suffered led to medical breakthroughs. It was a once-in-a-lifetime case, doctors frequently said, challenging all they knew of medicine.

What they learned then may have saved the life of someone you know.

The lives of public figures have one sort of value to us, the lives of those in our immediate circle have quite another. Yet they are entwined in ways we don’t even know.

I may owe my life to you, today or sometime in the future, and never know it. Thank you.

Rose
 


*(Yes, I’m using masculine pronouns here, since I’m talking about Bruce as we knew him them. My apologies if this offends. Grammatically, there is is no consistency from the experts in how to refer to a famous transgender person pre-transition.)

Crisis

Carefree and Campy

During our “break-up” talk, my now ex-boyfriend did everything he could to hurt me. One comment, however, had entirely the opposite effect.

“You’re kind of…offbeat,” he said, in a tone clearly not meant to be complimentary.

“Yes, I am,” I replied with a smile. Truer words were never said.

A junior high crush worded it differently, and at the time, it did hurt. “She’s different,” he told my friend when she asked the crucial question, “do you like her?” I felt like an outsider then.

As part of my offbeat side, I’ve always been drawn to the campy. While my wardrobe is actually fairly conservative, in fact, at this point, one might say, boring, I easily could have become known for a flamboyant style. Back in high school my life-long love of classic films began, particularly the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films of the 30s. Their second to last movie with RKO Pictures, Carefree (1938), featured Ginger in a couple of outfits I desperately wanted to emulate.

carefree2

Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers

Carefree is not the best Astaire/Rogers film, either in plot or dance numbers, but this sweater caught my attention. It’s actually a bit, well, tacky, compared to what Ginger normally wore, but is true to the character, who has the hearts & minds of a variety of men and can’t make up her mind whom she cares for most.

If you can’t tell from the picture, it’s a picture of a heart with numerous arrows aimed straight for it. It also has what is, on me, a flattering neckline, and slightly puffed sleeves, a look I favored for a time in my teens (hey, it was stylish then, I swear.)

I probably wouldn’t wear it today, but the sweater still makes me smile. It reminds me of a time in my life that, like the title of the movie, was carefree. Yes, I had my concerns and burdens. It was not an easy time in my life. But when it comes to adult responsibilities, I had few.

Life was ahead of me. Choices were exciting, opportunities were boundless. There are still choices and opportunities for me, but my life no longer stretches in front of me. My health limits me at times.

Still, I look for that desire in my life to create something new and exciting, modified for the times yet not compromised. Perhaps it’s time to watch Carefree again.


Carefree

As Good as a Feast

There is an alarming belief

that if you’re hungry, you’re grateful for anything, even stale or expired food. As long as it’s edible. Maybe, to an extent, that’s true, and certainly I’ve been shocked into reality when I’ve watched homeless men dig for food in trash bins. But our obligation to those in need goes beyond clearing out the pantry of all the old food we’ve finally figured out we’re never going to eat. We owe them dignity.

I was forced to go to food banks a few years ago, and it was appalling, some of the food I brought home. It literally made me ill to eat it. Now, some food banks buy most of the food themselves, and many accept donations of day-old bread and the like that are welcome. However, many rely on donations of canned goods and other food.

I got a jar of peanut butter once that was absolutely foul. It turns out the company had gone out of business many years before. Today, when I donate to food banks, peanut butter is on the top of my list, and I always buy a new jar of a name-brand product.

It is humbling going to a food bank.

It is humbling going to a food bank. You often wait forever, and sometimes have to sit through an interview where they assess your needs and ask you personal questions that seemingly have no connection to getting food. To end up with a bag of dusty cans and long-expired pancake mix is demeaning, heart-breaking. Yet you have to eat, so you end up with tasteless (at best) meals.

The food bank at my church, I’m proud to say, buys much of the food it gives out and supplements what it buys with food grown in a community garden. I’ve spent the last few weeks gathering tomatoes from a friend’s garden (with his blessing). Anyone with a tomato plant or two can tell you, they produce lots of fruit. Wonderful, juicy, fresh fruit that can be used in so many meals.

Vegetables in BasketThey also are known in the area as the food bank that treats the people who come to them in need with dignity and respect. (I must make note that my Episcopalian congregation is currently meeting in a Lutheran church, and it’s the Lutherans who started the food bank and should get credit for its success. The garden was my priest’s idea.)

The people who need help with putting a meal on their table sit next to you at work. They are the families a few doors down, their kids play with yours. Sometimes, it might even be you.

Give the food you would want to receive when you’re making a donation to a food bank. It’s as simple as that.


Photo Credit: © monticellllo – Fotolia

Feast

Reality, Thou Art a Factor…and a Blessing

Drive. Motivation. Passion.

“Find your passion, then do it. If your passion is your job, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

typing-690856_640Oh, baloney. You are going to work, no matter how much you love your job. There are going to be days you dread going into the office, or workplace, regardless of how much overall satisfaction your career provides you. There are going to be parts of your job that annoy and dismay you.

I believe in finding a job you care about and can do well. That isn’t always easy to figure out. For that matter, those perimeters can change as you age and grow. Then there’s always those factors over which you have little control: your boss’s style of management, your company’s business standards and ethics, the economy and its effect on your chosen profession.

Sometimes you have to take a really crummy job to make ends meet, to fulfill your obligations to yourself and your family. Following your passion doesn’t necessarily pay the bills, so you’d better figure out how you’re going to do that as well.

I’m a creative person. Typically, creative jobs don’t pay top dollar. Yes, there are exceptions, and God bless those who can make a fortune with them. But for the most part, even in the creative fields, you don’t make as much if you’re doing the actual creating. The jobs that bring a measurable amount of income to the company get the big bucks.

Bureaucratic Red Tape Problem

If your passion is in social services, and that’s a field that has a lot of passionate people in it, you can make a decent living, but don’t expect to get rich. And do factor in a lot of pain and frustration as you face red tape and roadblocks in your efforts to change your corner of the world.

Here’s the payoff, though: if you’re creative, chances are you can do a lot of things for yourself that may otherwise cost a lot of money. I sew all of my dresses, and even factoring in the projects that don’t work out, I save tons there and have some really cute clothes to boot. I make my own curtains, throw pillows and any number of other home accessories for a lot less, too. And my home is nicely decorated.

If you care about helping people, your job can change someone’s life. The woman who, until a recent job change, ran the local Head Start program, made some major differences in meeting nutritional needs for my poorest neighbors.

She tells a story of two little girls whose mother had a job doing housekeeping for a local fleabag motel. Part of her compensation was a room for the small family.  There wasn’t too much of a paycheck after that was deducted from her earnings. As a result, the girls, who got two meals a day when in school, didn’t eat at all over the weekend. At all. Nothing.

Their mother was eligible for food stamps, but didn’t have transportation to make it to the local DHS office, or any of the food banks. Besides, she had to work seven days a week from 7 in the morning to 6 at night. Illegal, yes, but she wasn’t going to complain and lose the only job she’d been able to find.

people waving hands

So Brenda went to local businesses and came up with a program that gives these children at least some food to take home on the weekend. It might not be the most nutritional fare, but it’s reasonable enough. It’s food that doesn’t require electricity to prepare, because a lot of these families don’t have power in their homes.

That’s a job worth having. It’s frustrating, demanding and comes with a lot of criticism no matter what you accomplish. But you do accomplish something, some days, so your drive and motivation to accomplish more is fed enough to survive.

Pithy  sayings such as “Find your passion and do it” have their value, but life is more complicated than a six-word quote. Still, there is truth in them. Consider the reality and then, find your passion. Do it.

 


Photo Credits: (hands typing)  Pixabay; (red tape) © digitalista — Bigstock; (helping hands) © Syda Productions – Fotolia

Drive

There is Help, There is Hope

Today I met a couple who are celebrating their 49th anniversary. That’s a long time of loving another person. Bill, the husband, is a Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD. He and Joy were married before he left to serve in that war, and she’s watched the symptoms grow over the years since he got back. Like so many, it’s gotten worse as time has gone by.

It started with anger, a constant rage. Now it manifests itself primarily in nightmares, and a fear of going to sleep and facing them once again.

Hopefully his discussions with another veteran of the same war, another man named Bill, will encourage him to get the help he needs.

walkers-486583_640If you haven’t been there, you don’t know, I’m told, and of course that’s true. I wasn’t there, but I’ve seen the war played out in the faces of the men and women who served those many years ago. They are haunted, just as servicemen and women returning home today from the Middle East no doubt are or will be in the coming years.

My friend  Beverly told me of a man she and her husband knew, who had also served in Vietnam. He seemed fine; no one, not even his wife, knew of any problems. Yet one day he shot and killed himself.

“I can’t take the nightmares anymore,” his note read.

Post-traumatic stress disorder isn’t limited to veterans. Victims of sexual assault make up the largest number of its victims in the United States, and like so many, they are reluctant to get help. Yet it can be treated, quite effectively.

Another woman visiting the bed and breakfast I work at is a retired psychologist, and she spoke of some treatments that seem a bit off-beat, yet they’ve had tremendous results in even the most jaded of individuals. I don’t know enough about them to speak effectively here, but they relate to eye movements.

candleThere is help. There is hope. Local Veteran’s Administration hospitals have experts on hand, and rape crisis centers can also refer victims to someone who can change your life for the better. A friend of mine who’s a social worker for the VA tells me she sees even the most reluctant veterans improve dramatically once they’ve gotten some basic treatment.

If you are suffering from PTSD or any other mental disorder, let the nightmare end.


Photo Credit: (candle) © 9comeback — Fotolia

Nightmare

Back Where I Started

A small farmhouseEvery few months I plan a trip to drive the 657 miles from my home to my mom’s. I don’t mind long drives, even though I’m worn out at the end (at least the drive home). I’ve gotten to know the radio stations in each city, what areas have no phone reception, and where to stop for both gas and a meal.

I’ve also learned to spend that time reflecting, pondering, thinking about things I don’t have the energy to commit to working through on a day to day basis. I pray and sometimes plead with God, and discover answers I didn’t expect.

Life is a journey, and sometimes, for me, it takes a road trip to put it all in perspective. I can live a lifetime in those ten-hour excursions, only to end up right where I left…literally. But the time on the road has changed me.

And it’s the subtle changes that bring me joy.


Photo Credit: © olly – Fotolia

Journey