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.

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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.

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

teach me to ponder

“You study, study, study, and at the end, you are lucky enough to discover the greatest gift of education: that you know nothing at all.” — EJ Koh

I’ve heard this thought, expressed one hundred different ways, a thousand different times since I’ve left college. It rings true if you’re an honest student of your chosen profession, assuming, that is, your chosen profession requires any depth of knowledge for expertise.

keyYet there are those who never cease to set themselves up as ultimate experts. I know one man who relies on Wikipedia for all knowledge, and we laugh at his “degree” from the “university of Wikipedia.”

It’s not my intention to disparage the information you can find there, because I reference it myself frequently, but it’s not always balanced and is rarely complete. It doesn’t even claim to be. It is, after all, an encyclopedia, and that’s a center of knowledge best known for abstract pieces of truth that ultimately teach you nothing.

A quality education, therefore, is not what you learn, but how you learn it. The value comes from leaving not with a packet of notes, but a mind that discerns and questions. The source of your knowledge is not your textbooks or reference material provided by a single professor, but by the world of information available to you.

If I had only one course to take in college, it would be Logic, for that was the course that taught me to think and sort through the drudge and mire that surrounds so much of the information out there today.

A pile of information makes you an interesting, albeit limited, conversationalist. The ability to discern makes you a greater mind than most.

Photo Credit: © Denis Razumnly — Fotolia.com

if I trust you…

 

I have friends, true friends, who have stood by me when I fully believed they would walk away, and frankly, they had every right to, given the perceived circumstances. But I was more important than my presumed actions, and they stood by who I’d proved to be, not who others claimed I was.

You find out who your friends are when you have nothing left to hold ocat with mausen to but the people in your life.

It isn’t as though there weren’t clues beforehand about the coming betrayal, but sometimes we’re blind to them for one reason or the other, and other times we’re naïve in our beliefs. I always trusted authority, and now I shake my head at that foolish blind faith. I haven’t completely lost my trust of those in charge, but I’m much more cautious, far less willing to believe they’re always worth my confidence.

Shortly before the man I believed was my friend turned on me, I had a vivid dream of a wolf wearing a mask, dancing on a dark road. There were other elements, dark, foreboding images I’ve since forgotten. Far, far down that road were some white flowers.

While I didn’t, and for the most part still don’t, believe in dream interpretation, this one was so vivid I decided to look up the imagery. It was clear: someone close to me was going to betray me. But the white flowers meant there was hope further along the way.

snowflake-275367_1920-croppedI haven’t lost my confidence in everyone. In fact, in some ways I’m still the same person, inclined to believe in and trust others. But I’m wary, and yes, a little angry.

I’m clinging to that hope. Things are better, but they are not what they should be, and the future frightens me. This is where my faith kicks in. I’ve had faith most of my life, but I’ve never had to draw on it like I do now, to say: I trust in God, a God who provides for me, a God who conquers with faith, hope and love. And I trust in those friends who’ve stood by me when I needed them most.


Image Credit (cat and mouse) © wegener07 – Fotolia; (flowers) courtesy of Pixabay

devious secrets of my childhood

Emergency vehicle sirens terrified my brother, two years my junior, throughout his childhood.

He’d run crying and hide in a closet, refusing the comfort offered by my confused mother. For years both suffered his pain in their own way.

All the while the guilty culprits, those who prompted and perhaps cultivated this fear, went on with their lives and for a good long time kind of police carforgot what they’d done.

You guessed it – I was one of the guilty. My sister, the middle child, was the other. We were mean at the age of four and five, although our round faces and wide eyes belied that fact. And hey, Santa ALWAYS showed up. So just how bad were we?

Well, you be the judge: It’s a sunny day. The three of us are playing in our yard with a few friends. A siren is heard in the distance, perhaps a fire truck, perhaps a squad car.

the four of us and dad taking the picture
Mom and the three of us, with Dad taking the picture.

We amble over to our brother, age three. “Thommmmm,” we whisper. “They’re coming to get you. Those sirens? They’re going to take you away. We’ll never see you again.” Who knows how many times this happened, why we started or why we finally stopped.

As I write this, I’m mortified. That was really, really mean. After a short time, my brother forgot our threats, but clung to the fear,  and never could tell our mom why he was afraid. Eventually (in our early twenties) we confessed to him what we’d done. I think he forgave us. By that time, there was likely a heap of other things to make him angrier.

My mom, however, not knowing the truth, held on to the pain of not being able to help her son with his greatest fear. We had no idea how difficult that had been for her, and it was another twenty years after our initial confession before she found out the truth. I’m not sure what she thought about it, and I have no desire to bring it up, not being particularly proud of it.

Surprisingly, I grew up to be nice to a fault. So parents, never fear, you’re not necessarily raising sociopaths. I don’t know how you do it, the constant pressure to bring your kids up right, and the pain when you think you’ve failed in one way or the other. There are always those facts we don’t have, and maybe never will have, so don’t be too hard on yourself. After all, your kids will do that for you.

And who knows just how much of it in reality is their fault anyway.


In case you’re wondering about my relationship with my brother today, it all worked out. Here’s a post I wrote about it a few months ago: sibling revelry
.