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 in November 2014

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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my song

In my baby book, my mother recorded that from the time I could stand in my crib, I would dance and sway to ballads, and there is no better ballad than “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin.

This song was climbing the charts the day I was born, and I like to think it was the first song I ever heard played on the radio. We’ll never know, so it might as well be so.
Crashing Waves at Sunset
Over the years, it has never failed to charm and soothe me. Yes, it’s romantic, but that wasn’t its first appeal for me. Or perhaps it was, but in a different sense.

As a child, my family would sometimes spend an afternoon at the beaches in Monterey, CA. These are beautiful, scenic waterfronts, the ones with the otters, and I’d look out in awe of the vastness of the ocean. To me, it held wonders known and unknown, for how could we be certain what lay at the bottom of the sea?

When I heard my song, I pictured another imaginative soul, wearing clothing from a bygone era, also standing on the shore in wonder.

Today when it plays I close my eyes and dream of dancing with the ideal partner to this music. Others on the dance floor stop and clear the floor as we move in perfection. It’s truly a dream, for I am not a dancer, and it’s a rare man who could match my vision.

Whether or not it was the first song I heard played on the radio, it no doubt was one I heard often in my earliest days of life. I hope it’s one I continue to hear all my days, and it never loses its charm for me.

Image Credit © wolterke — fotolia.com 

sometimes light as snow, sometimes dark as hell

Ah, snowfall.

It’s coming soon for many of you. I may get some too, but it’s a little different here. I won’t experience anything like what surrounded me during a situation I once thought of as the most embarrassing moment of my life, a story I knew better than to tell. Until now.

It was my first significant snowstorm

since moving to Minnesota, and light, powdery snow was piled high all around. Stir crazy and not particularly savvy about wintery road conditions, I bundled up and blithely took a walk a few blocks down to the grocery store.

Not a good idea.

Sidewalks were snowed over, so on my way back, rather than walking on the street, I chose an obviously safer route across the parking lot and down a hill. Obvious, that is, to a lifelong Californian.

What I foolishly didn’t calculate

was the three feet of snow now jutting out from the side of that hill. As I plowed through the fresh powder on the ground, suddenly the earth gave out under me and I dropped five feet straight down.

Damn. What to do now.

I waited until I was pretty sure all current traffic at that stop light had passed before working my way out. Then, with as much dignity as I could muster, (which is to say, not a whole lot) I proceeded home.

Fortunately, I was new to the area, not to mention bundled up and resembling a cookie jar, so likely no one recognized me.

Seriously,

that’s my most embarrassing moment? OF COURSE NOT. Comical, perhaps, and a good mental laugh-inducing picture, but I’ve lived through a lot worse since then.

But you won’t hear about those moments from me. It’s taken me decades to tell this story, and it’s more funny than embarrassing. No doubt you’ve lived through one or two of your own, and I’m always up for a good laugh.

Some of the other moments, well, best to lay those memories to rest.

Which makes me wonder how many really painful memories others have that they wisely don’t tell, except that sharing them might make the rest of us fools feel a little less lonesome? I’m talking those times we behave outside of our own character, seemingly controlled by demons unknown to us.

If that resonates with you, those demons, if it wrenches your heart, then you know what I mean, the divide within yourself.

picture of me I’m not promoting a soul-wrenching, innermost-self baring session for anyone with anyone except on your own terms in your own time. You need to guard your heart.

But every once in awhile, I’d like someone to say the words, whatever they are, that would tell me the anguish of my most humiliating moments isn’t mine alone. Maybe each of us, most of us, or even just some of us, go through the same thing at times in our lives.

If you know those words, let me know.

truth to tell

And then...and then..

“And then…and then…”

It’s at times entertaining to watch a pre-schooler try to lie their way out of a sticky situation. So endearing, in fact, parents may pretend to believe everything the little tall-tale-teller is saying, just to hear them say it. They’re so earnest and sincere.

Not my second grade teacher, though. Mrs. Smith didn’t take falsehoods from anybody, in particular her son, Tim. One day she told our class Tim had only lied to her once, back when he was three years old. She caught him, and he was so ashamed he never did it again.

Not one kid in our class bought that story. She stuck to her guns. Tim was as honest as the day was long.

A few weeks later this poor guy, now 19, showed up at our class to drop off car keys for his mom. He innocently walked into a room full of skeptical, disapproving seven-year-olds, having no idea of the tale we’d heard. In short order, his face was as red as his scruffy, shoulder-length hair. He didn’t look like a saint to us and we had no problem saying as much.

Maybe we weren’t being fair and he actually was that good. I can’t imagine any child NEVER lying to their parents, but I’m not sure what it said about us kids that we were so jaded about telling — and hearing — the truth.

I was visiting a friend last summer and as I approached the front door, a child about the age of her youngest daughter came running up to me. With hair cropped short, jeans and a team-logo sweatshirt, I assumed it was a little boy, probably a neighborhood friend. It wasn’t. It was her wild child five-year-old girl, who told me she’d cut off her shoulder-length hair the week before. All by herself.

blue scissors II smI laughingly asked Pam about it, and she signaled me to come inside.

“That girl’s hair was cut short and straight across the back,” she said in a low, firm voice. “And there wasn’t one single scraggly piece I had to trim. No way she did it herself.”

Right at that moment one of Pam’s older daughters walked by. “We told you what happened!” this one said defensively.

“I know what you said,” she replied mildly, then turned to me and continued in the same low, yet clearly distinguishable to those eavesdropping, voice. “They’re not telling me the truth and it’s obvious what happened, but since no one was hurt, I just punished all of them for leaving the scissors out.” Older daughter walked away.

Pam looked at me and sighed. “I have no idea what happened and I can’t get them to budge on their story.”

No illusions on her part. I don’t think her girls are particularly dishonest or deceptive, in fact, I think they’re fairly transparent. Well, two are teenagers now, so let me revise that: for the most part I think they are, at the heart, trustworthy girls. One of whom probably cuts hair.

When I was young, I was always afraid what would happen to me if I was caught being wrong. That was how I saw it, by the way, being wrong, not doing something wrong. I became a pretty decent liar. I was clever, with a good imagination and even better memory. Fortunately, I got tired of it, physically, emotionally tired, and I stopped well before adulthood.

My parents were not abusive, so I can’t say what it was that caused that fear, probably a more subtle message they weren’t aware of and didn’t intend to send to their highly sensitive child. What could they have done differently? I don’t know.

I’ve said it before: parents, you have an impossible job, but you do it. Hang in there. Believe in your children. Believe in their overall character, not their occasional deeds. Know that lying is something any child is going to do, if not this day, the next, for his or her own reason. Deal with it, of course, but save up a few stories to laugh at when they have kids of their own.

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the truth is in there somewhere

It isn’t easy to dispute popular opinion, especially when that opinion is idealistic. Yet those are the concepts that need delicate dissent to understand the balance to the idealism. the pitfalls to the practice. Often, popular opinion fits the era it grows in and goes out of style as the environment changes.

Shine a light on it VPopular thought can be confusing, and become useless. It’s learning to discern the core of truth behind the thinking that’s important, and forget the fluff others will use to distort the issue. When you get down to the foundation of a belief, everything you hear about it becomes easier to sort through.

That’s when you start the debate, the discussions, the conversations with those whose heart is turned to helping you. You’ve created your own basis for belief and can build on it through the wisdom of others.

It’s also the time when you look at that core belief critically. Take a step back and think, “if everyone told me this was a lie, would I still believe it was true?”

At that point, of course, you’d have to consider why they might think it was a lie. Always good to play devil’s advocate with your own thinking. If you don’t do it, at some point someone else will, and it can get really messy if you’re not used to it.

There are multiple reasons for deeming something true, and we each have our own tolerance for these various ways. Experience, science, faith, because your parents told you so are some of them.

Just for the record, hearing it repeated as a fact on a sitcom, or any form of mass entertainment, probably isn’t a good basis for belief. In fact, anytime you hear someone state something that’s clearly intended to evoke a reaction, consider whether the reaction is most important to them, or the response. The motivation behind words is important.

Generations have survived the time & tide of trendy thinking, parental influence and bad polling. Anytime someone gives me a ten- or twenty-word conclusive summary, or worse yet, pithy quote, of their philosophy about an important issue, I consider it worth a penny for every word. Abbreviated comments shouldn’t summarize a belief. They should launch it.

Intriguing debate, courteous disagreement, and the discretion to know when to walk away, literally or figuratively (and sometimes it takes the bigger person to do it only figuratively) help hone thoughts and ideas. A word of caution, don’t act like you’re willing to die for your beliefs unless you actually are, and decide ahead of time what those beliefs might be.

How did I come to these conclusions? I took my own advice, and this is what I’ve come to believe.

Image Credit: magnifying glass © mudretsov; script © orelphoto both — fotolia.com

oh, to be in falling, falling love

In real life I’m pragmatic and not very good at romance in relationships.
small heart and key

I like the idea of hearts and flowers on Valentine’s Day, but when it comes right down to it, wow, that’s a lot of money I’m not sure any man I’m dating should be spending in that way. There are probably other things I might appreciate just as much that would be far more practical, and I’m not crazy about roses anyway.

 today the minutes seem like hours/
the hours go so slowly/
and still the sky is light/
oh moon grow bright/
and make this endless day, endless night…

(from “Tonight, Tonight”)

But romantic songs, oh, I’m a goner. The musical West Side Story has a few good ones, and just recently I discovered that Jay & the Americans, that singing sensation from the 60s (“Cara Mia” “This Magic Moment”) had their first hit with this version of “Tonight, Tonight.” (below)

As my friend Bill says, Leonard Bernstein, who wrote the music, probably is turning in his grave every time it plays (it’s not exactly the way he wrote it), but it’s a great rendition. And listen to the lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Does it get any better? (yes, it does, with “Somewhere,” from the same musical).

I suppose no one over the age of, I’m not sure, but fairly early into young adulthood, can have too many illusions about lasting romance. I’m not talking lasting love, because that exists, and I’m not saying romance leaves a relationship. But that falling, falling feeling fades and real life takes over eventually.

But I think everyone, married or single, should be allowed to recapture that emotion once in a while,

to believe in the beauty and hope that comes with falling in love. Songs of the heart resonate for different reasons, if they do at all, but here’s a new favorite of mine, an old classic, I hope will bring a smile to your face.

By the way, the original lead singer of Jay & the Americans, the one performing on this single, was Jay Traynor, not the better known Jay Black. Because there’s such a difference in their voices and styles, and, well, I’m a huge fan of this romantic song as well, I’m including “This Magic Moment” also by Jay & the Americans, with lead singer Jay Black.

Image Credit (heart & key) GraphicStock.com

the power of momentum

Ah, one of my favorite quotes, most often abbreviated to “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”:

“Heaven hath no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.” — William Congreve, The Mourning Bride

That shortened form keeps part of the original thought intact, but it overlooks another important idea: there is no one we despise more than the one we once loved the most.

Something every divorce attorney knows, and the best make a fine living on that understanding. The rest of us can learn from it, too. Why do I hate him so much? He shouldn’t have this hold on me anymore.

Mobile mit Herzen - der Ansto zur Liebe, PartnerschaftBecause the pendulum has swung. Once upon a time, you would have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge for him. Now, you want to push him off it.

There’s good news about pendulums. They swing to one extreme, and then to another. Then the arc of the swing is smaller, until finally, there’s no more momentum. Unless, of course, something happens to start the swing all over again.

We’ve all seen that happen, and if you pay attention, it usually happens while the pendulum still has a pretty good arc. Once it’s stopped, it’s hard to start things up again.

A thought that has application both for you who dream of the day the passion will end and you who dream of the day it will begin again with the one who’s got the power over your pendulum.

Image Credit: ©blobbotronic — fotolia.com

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