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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women with sharp claws and sharper tongues

woman wearing grey felt hat in retro stlyleLast summer, a young woman I work with took a few days of her precious vacation time to be in a childhood friend’s wedding. It turns out the other bridesmaids were sorority sisters of the bride, and Lindsey didn’t hit it off with them.

Since they were the only guests at the wedding she even halfway knew, she spent most of her time alone at a table, talking occasionally to relatives kind enough to stop by and ask how she was doing.

The maid-of-honor had something to say about this. In a pseudo-friendly manner, she reached out to Lindsey and said, “you know, you’re kind of a sweet, socially awkward nerd.” The other bridesmaids laughed a little, and reassured her, “we mean that in a nice way!”

MRRRREOW.

That comment is #1 on today’s list.

After she related this story to us the following week, I told my young co-worker, “better to be a socially awkward nerd than a catty bitch.”  I wasn’t even certain about their assessment of her. But no matter.

Lindsey is hesitant to call anyone her longtime friend would have in her wedding a catty bitch. So to help her identify these types in the future, I gave her – and now you – six examples of CB conversation (as I mentioned earlier, #1 the bridesmaids provided for us). We’ve all heard these things said in one form or the other:

#2 “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that’s the dress I gave Goodwill last year.”

Sandwiched by insincere compliments.

#3 “It’s a shame the bride didn’t stick with matching just the color of the bridesmaid dresses.”

Said near the presumably (excuse the pun) misfit bridesmaid.

#4 “Oh, don’t worry, I’m sure in the right lighting that lipstick works.”
labios3
 

Unsolicited, to the woman standing next to her at the mirror in the ladies room.

#5 “My husband has a shirt made of the same fabric as your dress, but I refuse to let him be seen wearing it in public.”

Zing! Zing! Multiple targets there.

#6 “Is shrimp supposed to taste like this?” (Granted, in the right situation that may be an appropriate question.)

Most often said when eating chicken.

Stick with being a socially awkward nerd, Lindsey, if in fact that’s what you are. You’ll grow out of it, but these woman will never change.

Photo Credit (woman with cat) © evasilchenko — fotolia.com (lipstick) © piresphoto — fotolia.com

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 

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.

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

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
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ten things I’ve learned along the way

Random lessons…some of it wisdom shared from others…

Obviously, not a comprehensive list of what life (and my dad) has taught me, but here are ten thoughts:

  • Whether times are good or times are bad, they always change.
  • Listen when someone you respect tells you another person is not to be trusted.
  • Every generation thinks they invented sex and swearing.
  • You cannot save the world, so choose your obligations wisely.
  • Life is better with a loving pet, and the most loving pets are rescued animals.
  • Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day.
  • It’s wrong to always need to be right. You wear people out, lose friends and anger those forced to be around you.
  • You are known by the company you keep.
  • Quality, classic clothing is worth the extra money. It lasts longer, looks better and is more honorable for worldwide humanitarian reasons.
  • No one wants to listen to you do all the talking, no matter how fascinating you think you are. They would rather talk about themselves.

sing to me a lifetime song lr

Image Credit: (hourglass) © kuzmafoto – DollarPhotoClub.com; (sky background) © Pakhnyushchyy – DollarPhotoClub.com