the strength of character I seek

In my life, I seek to be like my late great-aunt Vi, who never stopped in her practice of her faith.

I have unending respect for Vi. She was a teacher who, in the 60s, taught her fourth-graders lessons about human rights and dignity, issues people were dying for daily in those years.

My great-aunt, Violet Panzram, 1910-1996
My great-aunt, Violet Panzram, 1910-1996

She did more than teach those children. She sent money to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as evidenced by a letter now in the archives of The King Center, dated April 20, 1967.

“You have been in our fourth grade Hall of Fame for many years,” she wrote to this great leader, “but never have I held you in such high esteem as since your strong statement against the war in Vietnam.”

She went on to refer to a slide show she’d seen of children affected by napalm. She was appalled.. In response, she sent a check to Dr. King “for (his) peace efforts,” and told him she prayed for him daily.

If she said she prayed for him daily, that’s what she did. There was never a truer Christian than Violet Panzram. Her faith led her to action and compassion, and a kindness that shown like a beacon.

In her 86 years no doubt she faced trials that tested her strength, character and faith, but I have no idea what they were. A few years ago, I found myself wishing I knew more about how she worked through her dark days as I faced my own.

I’d been betrayed by someone I trusted to a point where I’d lost my career, my home and my trusting nature.

I’d been betrayed by someone I trusted to a point where I’d lost my career, my home and my trusting nature. Thankfully, I didn’t lose my friends, nor did those who knew me best stop believing in me, and never did they believe the horrible lies that spread through our community.

I realize that because of mental health issues, I’m limited in some of the ways I can change in my behavior. There are times when the beast within me takes control, and I struggle to fight without fully realizing what’s happening.  I’ve sought changes in my life, but some won’t come until I learn other hidden truths & solutions, or until I die and shed the constraints I’m bound by in this life.

Me
Me

Yet thankfully there are changes no amount of depression, anxiety or the multitude of issues I deal with can halt. Some of those changes include the excellence of character my great-aunt demonstrated, so I pursue that through the choices I make every day.

Surely Vi had her good days and bad, perhaps not in the same manner I experience them, but with their own restrictive features.

I move forward, and trust I’ll be a better person tomorrow, and even better the day after. I’ll always have my faults and my failures that anger and frustrate those around me, but I pray the good in me will be what’s remembered when I’m gone.

Featured image credit: (candles) © 9comeback — fotolia.com; (background) © lpopba — Dreamstime.com; (background) © Leksustuss — Dreamstime.com.

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Hey Ship!! Here’s Your Harbor!!

Recently I ready brief biography of music composer Dorothy Fields on a fellow bloggers site. One quote from her stood out to me:

When your ship doesn’t come in, go out and find it.

How often does our ship actually come in? Certainly there are times we are lucky enough to have good fortune fall our way. But more often than not, we need to create our own possibilities.

I’ve written before about being prepared for opportunity, and I think that’s part of it. Training and experience obviously help in the job hunt, and having an updated resume at the ready is wise. But there’s another part of it. Sometimes we need to take action and actually get out there and look for our own good luck.

We need to be brave.

Going back to the ship analogy, it isn’t always easy to set out in choppy seas to find a wayward vessel. But what are your options? Sit at the harbor and get rained on while your ship is sailing further away?

We need to make sacrifices.

Sometimes it’s small things we need to give up, and those can be the hardest to let go of. Consider your monthly expenses and pare those down. You may end up with greater discretionary income to cover the costs of seeking your ship.

We need to be patient.

It’s easy to give up and say “I tried, but it didn’t work.” Maybe you need to give up on reigning in one wayward ship and believe another is on the horizon. Don’t stop looking because your last opportunity is now out of reach.

Believe in yourself.

If you struggle with this, I have no quips or easy answers. However, I do know taking risks builds confidence, especially if you keep those risks in perspective.

I’ve had ships come and go, and some remain a steady part of my fleet. Now I’ve exhausted the metaphor.

But if your ship hasn’t come in, go out and find it.


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Thank You

For the last seven years I’ve suffered at the hands of those with greater power and lesser insight.

It’s not that my life has been all hell and horror, but it’s safe to say the worst moments of my existence happened during this time. So I’m thrilled to announce it’s officially over.

That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to live with the consequences, nor does it vindicate those who caused this pain. And for my part in it, I’ve paid the price. A proportionately higher price than our society accepts. Life isn’t fair sometime.

But we are not a product of what happens to us. We are a product of how we respond to those events, the accusations, the unjust decisions. I’m not saying the events themselves don’t change us. They do. But what shapes us, in the end, lies within our hearts.

So I thank not only those who stood by me, but those who inspired me over my lifetime. All of you who shared your wisdom and built a tower of strength within me.

And I thank God for holding me close.

Thank you.


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Random Thoughts and Quirky Coincidences

Today I started a new job, a part-time gig at Joann Fabrics. I think I’m going to like it (although I’m still searching for the career opportunity).

While filling out the paperwork, the assistant manager exclaimed, “we have the same birthday!” Day and month, as it turns out. She’s several years older than me. But that simple fact startled her, and she brought it up several times during our one-on-one orientation.

So I get home and turn on the TV. During commercials I typically zone out, but this phrase captured my attention: “January 21st is Squirrel Appreciation Day.” That’s my birthday! This was an ad for AARP and I have no idea what they were selling, but the coincidence struck me as quirky. My birthday pops up twice in the span of a few hours, three months after the big day?AdobeStock_122344525 [Converted]

The squirrel thing got me thinking about the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. Rocky, of course, was a flying squirrel. What a lot of people don’t know is there really is such a critter. Real-life flying squirrels don’t fly like Superman as Rocky did. They leap from branch to branch and kind of float down. It’s a cool thing to see — we had them in our backyard at my last home in Minnesota.

That thought then led to memories of a favorite expression of a favorite college professor, Father Whalen: “All the squirrels aren’t in the trees.” I’ve quoted him on occasion and more often than not the others in the room don’t get it. But I’m sure you do.

Speaking of birthdays coinciding with days of honor, tomorrow (April 11th) is International Louie Louie Day. It’s also my nephew Louie’s birthday. And no, his parents were not aware of ILLD before their son was born (and named).

Just a few random thoughts about quirky coincidences. Any in your life?


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Choices

A friend of mine readily admits some of her fondest memories involve watching “Pretty Little Liars” with her grandmother. Her nana.

Nana told me she had no interest in the program, but it was a way to spend time with her youngest grandchild on a regular basis. Despite her lack of concern for the fate of the various characters, she could handily talk through any given plot line from the show. Heather, her granddaughter, would proudly ask Nana a question about the series, and Nana would give a complete answer, smiling as she relayed the tale.

I’ve written before about the right or wrong of spending time doing something you don’t enjoy for the sake of one you care about. I believe sometimes you suck it up and go to the shower you’d rather avoid, because your love for the cousin who’s being honored is greater than your disdain for ditzy party games.

I understand the thinking of those who say “life is too short for me to do something like (fill in the blank), no matter who’s involved,” and in some ways I endorse it. There are certainly multiple opportunities to honor a loved one (and if there truly is only one chance, consider that fact carefully).

How do we balance looking out for ourselves first without being unnecessarily selfish? With children, it’s an easier decision. Sometimes the best way to build trust with a child is to watch a television show they love or read aloud a book that sends you screaming.

It would be a rare situation where I’d watch The Young and the Restless just to make a roommate happy. And yet, that’s exactly what happened nearly 30 years ago. My then-roommate and I weren’t getting along. We liked and respected each other, but living together presented challenges. We also had one television set between us. Compromise was essential.

We agreed to air the taped episodes two nights a week, and reluctantly I joined her. I never did embrace soap opera fandom, but watching and safely gossiping about those shows created a bond. We are friends to this day.

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In today’s world this example is a bit moot. With the ability to watch your favorite program at your leisure on your choice of devices, you can easily distance yourself from the undesirable family member or roommate.

But where does that get you?

I offer no answers, only questions to ponder. When is being selfish cutting yourself off from healthy relationships? On the flip side, when is it saving you from an antagonistic experience?

Life is full of choices, and the answers so often are ambiguous. The thinking process, however, needn’t be so vague. Ultimately, the decision is yours. And sometimes taking care of others is taking care of yourself.


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