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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Corinne, Mom



I can still smell the homemade bread and buns baking in the kitchen.  Can’t wait until they get out of the oven.  Eight or ten hands waiting impatiently armed with a knife for butter to wipe over the top or coat the inside.  Maybe just grab it while it’s hot and eat it.

I remember the time she baked pies.  Loved to bake.  Mince Meat, I think.  For dinner, she cut a huge piece for my dad and a tiny sliver for her.  After many questions as to why the difference in sizes, we find out that at one time, there were two pies, and now only one.  Hmmm . . .  And they laughed, Dad with his hearty roar, Mom a bit sheepishly.  But they laughed.  Laughter is good.  Always good.

In the early years before I was born, there was always one or two in diapers.  Donna and Judy.  Mary and Betty.  Joanne and Jack, I think.  Camping trips using the trailer that dad built himself.  The tent that leaked.  At Christmas riding through town so Mom could see the lights on houses, and always finding a road that would take us to the A & W Root Beer. 

All of us packed in the green station wagon.  A Plymouth.  The radio didn’t work so we sang in three and four part harmony.  Still remember those songs and the older ones angry at us younger ones if we missed a note.  Mom turning around and winking at us that it was okay.  More than okay.

Ten of us.  Not easy raising a family during the depression, World War II.  One bathroom.  Ten kids.  One salary.  Hand-me-downs.  Recycled toys.  Mostly, we had each other.  Mom and Dad.  That was enough.  More than enough.

Saint?  Not by a long-shot.  Sinner?  Probably, but who am I to judge?  I have my own sins, my own transgressions to worry about.  And worry I do.  Perfect, no not really.  Except maybe to me.  Did the best she could with what she had in her backpack.  We all do, and she no less.

Hurts and sharp words?  A lot.  It happens.  We do the best we can at the time.  No guide book, no manual that says . . .

Saw her husband, my dad pass away in ’78.  Saw her daughters, my sisters pass away.  Saw a son-in-law pass away to join his wife, my sister.  Saw . . .

She’s 98.  Seen a lot.  Watched even more.  Listened and heard and laughed and cried.  Me too.

When I visit, I have to remind her of who I am, not just once or twice. Maybe three or four times.  That’s okay, because maybe she won’t remember my unspoken words, or even my spoken words.  Maybe she won’t remember what I did, or even what I didn’t do.  That’s okay.  I hope.

98.

She tried and did her best.  She succeeded here and there, failed here and there.  We all do.  All do.  She did the best she could with what she had.  We all do.  All do.

One of these days, Judy, who has now assumed the role of family matriarch will call.  Maybe it will be one of my sisters, a brother-in-law.  More than likely, Mom.  Mom, who will start our family all over again.  With Dad, with Donna, with Joanne, with Jackie and Sue and Jim.  One of these days, but not now.  Not now.  Not yet.

Don’t know quite how this will end.  Don’t quite know where I want to go with this.  Perhaps that’s as it should be.  How it’s meant to be.  Mom.  My Mom.  Your Mom.  For Better or Worse.  For Right or Wrong.  And I, we, should be so lucky.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Thing About Legos


I’ll be the first to admit that I am a mechanical and technological idiot.  Truly.  No exaggeration.  I barely know the difference between a screwdriver and a wrench and a hammer.  I have zero aptitude and zero interest and zero patience with those things. 

On the other hand, my older brother, Jim, is one of those individuals who can make something out of anything.  He knows what to do, how to do it, and somehow has this gift to see a result before he even begins.  Give him something we’d consider junk and he turns it into art.  Something of beauty, of purpose.  Gifted, by any measure.  He has designed houses, buildings, and created works of art.  He is an artist and architect by trade but wanted to teach.  His students loved him.  His ability to laugh at himself.  His sense of humor.  His wit.  His “Jim-ness”.

When we were little, he had an Erector Set.  Remember those?  Different metal pieces of different sizes and shapes with tiny nuts and bolts and wires.  If you had the deluxe set, you even had a tiny motor that could make the pieces move this way and that way.  In the right hands, in Jim’s hands, it was magical.  Me?  It was better that I watched from afar.  My very presence had the possibility of destroying it.

Erector Sets and Tinker Toys gave way to Legos.  Those little plastic pieces of different shapes and sizes that you’d snap together to make something.  They used to come in one big box of different colors.  Now, you can get a Lego Kit with directions on what to make and how to make it. 

Well, directions are another topic for discussion for some other Tuesday or Friday post. 

Jim didn’t need directions.  He’d scoff at directions.  He’d toss them aside as an annoyance.  Like I said, he could make something out of anything.  Me?  Well . . .

The Thing About Legos, Erector Sets and Tinker Toys is that each piece is significant because without it, you can’t put together what you set out to make.  You need each piece.  Each piece is important to the whole.

One piece by itself is nothing more than junk.  You can’t do much with it. (Except step on it with bare feet and scream bloody murder as you dance one footed around the living room, right?)

One piece is insignificant by itself.  But one piece is significant to the whole.  Without that one piece, the whole ceases to exist.  It doesn’t become. Without that one piece, something is always missing.  Without that one piece, the whole is incomplete.

In an early post, A Drop In The Ocean, I quoted Mother Teresa as saying that, “Without that one drop, the ocean would be less.”

The Thing About Legos . . . The Thing About Us, is that each of us is significant and important to the whole.  Unlike Legos, each of us is significant of and by ourselves. 

But Like Legos, how much more significant are we to the whole?  Very.  We bring a different color, a different perspective, a different view to the whole.  We contribute to make that whole.  We are significant.  Each of us.  Little or small.  Young or old.  Each of us.  Believe that.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Magic Feather


I’m not exactly sure why, but Dumbo has been one of my favorite characters since I was a toddler.  I’m not sure who gave it to me, but I even remember the stuffed animal I couldn’t part with, a baby elephant with a red corduroy vest and big red corduroy ears. 

In the Disney movie Dumbo, a baby elephant was ‘delivered’ to Mrs. Jumbo and it had big, floppy ears.  He was made fun of and wasn’t accepted.  During one of the circus acts, Dumbo was supposed to be at the top of the elephant pyramid, but tripped over his ears, toppling the Big Top and injuring the other elephants.  He was banished from the act and turned into a clown.  His feelings were hurt. But Timothy Q. Mouse felt sorry for him.  Timothy convinced Dumbo that if he held a ‘Magic Feather’ in his trunk, he could fly.  When Dumbo leapt from the platform way up in the Big Top, he lost his feather and it was only Timothy’s urgent prodding and convincing that indeed, Dumbo flew and became the darling of the circus and turned the scorn of the other elephants into respect.

A lot to think about in this one.

I could talk about acceptance and making fun of another because he or she was different.

Not today.

Legend has it that elephants are afraid of mice.  Not sure if that’s true or not, but I thought it interesting that an “enemy” was chosen as Dumbo’s “friend”.  Upon seeing Dumbo picked on and made fun of him, the smallest of creatures, an “enemy” came to his defense and rescue.  He became Dumbo’s mentor, his cheerleader, his coach, his counselor and his teacher. 

How often I see individuals of all walks and stations in life looking out for someone! 

Earlier this year, there was a student trying to pump ketchup onto her tray when an air bubble caused ketchup to burst onto her blouse and slacks.  Two students saw it happen, left their lunch and took this young lady into the bathroom to help her get cleaned up. 

The interesting thing about this story? 

Only one student knew who the girl was and only as an acquaintance.  The other girl didn’t know her, but saw she needed help.  Easily, the two girls could have laughed.  Easily, the two girls could have kept on eating their lunch.  After all, they only have twenty or twenty-five minutes to do so.  But they didn’t.  They saw someone in need and helped out.  They moved so quickly that no one had the opportunity to laugh or make fun of the girl.

And, what of the ‘Magic Feather’?

A couple of years ago at the beginning of the year, I showed a brief clip of Dumbo and challenged my teachers and staff to be the Timothy Q. Mouse for at least one student, and somehow, someway give that student a ‘Magic Feather’ to help that student ‘fly’.
For some, it was a challenge.  It takes time.  It takes effort.  Sometimes, there doesn’t seem to be the anticipated results.  And sometimes, there is no appreciation given. 

But every now and then . . .

Pat is a teacher who has a difficult student in a difficult group of students in one class.  The student was disruptive, belligerent, and passive-aggressive, you name it.  Pat told her what was expected and reminded her when she wasn’t rising to those expectations.  Then, Pat went above and beyond.  She noticed when the student met those expectations and complimented her, said things like, “Good job!” or “Keep up the good work!” and “I appreciate your effort!” Those sorts of things.

One Friday as the girl left Pat’s room, she handed Pat a note thanking her for caring, for supporting her, for being there.

Kids notice.  We notice.

All of us, especially kids, need a Timothy Q. Mouse in their lives.  There are times when we need a mentor, a sounding board, a coach.  There are times when we need a shoulder to lean on, someone to listen to us, be silent with us.  There are times when we need support, comfort, a friend.

And, there are times when we need a Magic Feather to make it work.  Perhaps, and to me the best thing, is that we can be that Magic Feather for each other, for someone else.  We can convince someone that flight is possible, that it is possible to soar above the clouds and into the sun, and beyond the horizon. 

To be a Magic Feather for someone.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, April 19, 2013

What Is 'Real'?


The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is one of my all-time favorite books.  So simple, yet complex.  A short little read, but there is such depth to it.  It can be read and reread and always something new will pop out at you.  It’s one of those books that as an author, you think to yourself, ‘If only I had written that!’  Knowing, of course, that Margery Williams was the best writer of it because it was truly hers.  She felt it.  It came from her.  It came from her eyes and from her heart and from her soul.

One of my favorite passages from the book is a conversation between Rabbit and the Skin Horse on what is real?  How do you know if you’re real or not?  What does it feel like?  What does it look like?

The passage goes like this . . .

“What is REAL?" asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day... "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real

“Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again.  It lasts for always.”

I think that’s my second favorite line.

Hannah has Bunny and Bear.  I can’t tell you how many times Bunny had her ears sown back up.  She had a whole new face put on, along with an arm and a leg.  But Bunny is Bunny.  For nineteen years, Hannah has loved Bunny, taken her on overnights and vacations and is at college with her as I write this.  Bear was the first gift my wife had given me when we had first started dating.  It didn’t take long for Hannah to ‘adopt’ Bear as her own.  Bear’s fur has disappeared in spots.  Bear’s button-eyes are a bit scratched.  I remember sewing some stitches here and there.  But like Bunny, Bear has been on sleep-overs, vacations and is at college alongside Bunny.

“Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again.  It lasts for always.”

I’d say that Bunny and Bear are pretty real.  I look at Bunny and Bear and I see Hannah.  I love Bunny and Bear because I love Hannah.  Bunny and Bear are as Real to me as Hannah is.

My favorite line from Velveteen Rabbit?

“. . . once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand . . .”

Pat was my secretary once upon a time when I was a counselor.  She had developed arthritis and was in so much pain that she had trouble walking, especially up and down stairs.  She used to say that she and her husband would grow “lumpy together.”  She would say that with a self-depreciating laugh, always poking fun at herself.

“Lumpy together.”

My hope for you this day, and each day, every day, is that you find someone in your life with whom you can grow ‘lumpy together’ with.  Because if you do, you will be forever happy, forever accepted.  You’ll find that you can carry on conversations in silence, with a look, with a touch.  If you find someone with whom you can grow ‘lumpy together’ with, you will know you are always loved.  Always loved.  Always!

Mostly, if you’re ‘lumpy together’, then I believe . . . “you are Real and you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand . . .” Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!