Monday, September 28, 2009

Facebook, My First Kiss and the Beatles

Are you on it? I'm starting to love this phenomenon. I have had dinner with three high school friends so far and we've renewed our friendships. It probably wouldn't have happened without Facebook. But just this morning I discovered something that I'm sure I never would have known if not for this social networking site.

One of my dearest childhood friends lost her father last night. In expressing my sadness I saw one of her other friends was the first boy who ever kissed me. I was probably in 7th grade. If I remember correctly we had a mostly telephone relationship because he didn't live very close. He was just a boy I met at a party and never heard from again. I requested his "friendship" and looked at his info page. Then I saw that we had two mutual friends. He is a cousin to my daughter's best friend and he apparently worked with my future daughter-in-law's sister.

That is just so random and weird to me. Mind you, it's been almost 40 years since that first kiss! I remember it was dark and there was a song playing over and over. If you ever visit my basement you will see a mural of The Beatles. You will notice the lyrics to "Let It Be" written above it. That was the song.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Real Thing

On my walk yesterday, my ipod on shuffle, the song "The Real Thing" by Kenny Loggins came on. It's a song from his album "Leap of Faith" from 1991. It was his divorce/starting life over album and it was a lifeline for me. I still cry at "The Real Thing".

I did it for you and the boys
because love should teach you joy
and not the imitation
that your mama and daddy tried to show you
I did it for you and for me
and because I still believe
there is one thing you can never
give up and never compromise on
and it's the real thing
you need in love.

I still cry for my children's broken home. But both of my children chose to rise above all that went wrong. They each chose the high road of forgiveness and love, not anger and resentment. For this, I will always admire them.

Now my son is engaged and I see my dream for him coming true. I believe with all my hear that my kids will do it right because I have seen them learn from their parents' mistakes.

The end of "The Real Thing" says:

Everybody's got a boat out on the ocean
but not everybody's sailing out to sea
and is there someone there for me?
I'm ready to believe.

I chose to believe and there was somebody out there for me - and now I've got The Real Thing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


As life moves,
and days wither to nights,
perspective is paramount.

What did I care about
one year ago today?

Whose opinion upset me
last winter?

On which day was the house
dirtier than I could bear?

What was it that we
disagreed about last spring?

I don't know.

Yet, I took those days
and smashed them like
a cigarette under my shoe.

The countdown of good days
has begun
and I've made it shorter.

Monday, September 21, 2009

NEO Leaf

I've lived in northeast Ohio my entire life and I don't think I've ever seen a leaf this big! It's a yummy-smelling sycamore (just the leaf, not my foot.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

More Cleveland

Here's something I didn't even know we had around Cleveland - The German Central Foundation, founded in 1925. We attended its Oktoberfest last night and it was like pleasantly stepping back in time. The small fairgrounds area reminded me of the old Euclid Beach. It had a beer garden, outdoor dance floor, indoor ballroom and stands selling German items and pretzels with sellers in traditional German clothing. There was a live band complete with accordian and German dancers. I loved them! My dinner included schnitzel, sauerkraut, German potato salad and potato pancakes. YUM! And strudel for dessert.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cleveland in the New York Times

Check out HERE for a real look at Cleveland circa 2009. In the New York Times no less! Thanks Brett Sokol whoever you are!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Coexist XXVI - With God

I spent most of my teenage years sharing my Christian faith with others. I grew up in a Methodist church at a time when contemporary music was rare and daring. The associate pastor and his wife were wonderful musicians and they had a heart for teens. I fell into a life of singing,performing and sharing my faith quite naturally.

My high school years were filled with rehearsing and traveling in Christian musicals. Some for teens and then for whole families. I co-directed a musical with the next group of teens, and that unique era in our lives lasted well into my twenties.

As a young wife and mother I continued to be involved in every aspect of the church. My then-husband and I became youth leaders in an attempt to keep that part of our lives with us a little longer. My little children went everywhere with us, including weekend retreats and camps.

Prayer chains and Bible studies were a constant, as well as the many songs I shared as solos in church. I had a one-woman Lenten concert that encapsulated all my beliefs in songs and commentary. Soon after that my entire life fell apart and nothing in my head or heart was familiar anymore. I learned that serving on committees, teaching Sunday school and abstaining from drinking and swearing were not what being a Christian was all about. I discovered that only one thing remained in times of overwhelming pain - and that was God.

The church failed me, friends failed me, my husband most certainly failed me and I fell complettely apart. I learned through counseling that I was a human being with all the same temptations and weaknesses everyone else had. I found out that putting forth an image of being good and spotless did not make you that way. I experienced rage and terror and despair. Many people in my church stopped speaking to me. I was tired of being perfect, tired of being a good example, tired of being a Christian.

I became a single mother and looked for love in all the wrong places. I wore my friends out with my anxiety and I discovered that none of them had any idea what I was going through. I screamed "why me!" over and over at night and I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. And God held me in His arms when no one else would.

Eventually I healed and became a new, more real person. I related to Pinocchio wanting to be a real boy. I stopped being a wooden replica of a woman and actually became one, and realized that maybe that was God's plan all along.

I fell deeply in love for the first time and began a new life, but our not-the-Brady-Bunch blended family was a disaster. How could God let this happen to me again? Wait. Stop. God didn't make it happen. I chose it. Now I needed Him again.

Then to top it off my beloved church left me. Literally. Picked up and moved to another community, dividing the church family and obliterating everything it had once been in my life. I was beyond heartbroken. So,even people who love you let you down, and the fallible human-led church let's you down, and what do you have? Just God.

My son and I sat in the parking lot of the church - the one we'd both grown up in, the one he'd been baptized in by that same pastor I grew up with (and he's named after), the church I'd hoped my children would be married in, just as I was, - and I said: "This has nothing to do with God. He didn't do this. People did this. " But, of course, teenagers love a good excuse to hate church and my church-raised children were no exception. Shit.

I continued my new life with a new husband and a new church, but somehow all the trappings of my very Christian life seemed irrelevant now. Don't get me wrong - my faith stayed strong. God is still in my heart and soul. But that's just my point. Although I see nothing wrong with churches and bible studies and prayer chains - they won't save you. Only God will save you. Only God will love you when no one else does.

In the '70's I was strumming my guitar and singing Christian camp songs and listening to John Denver and James Taylor on the side. I have to admit I deeply regret missing a lot of amazing music that was surfacing at the time. In the '80's I was listening to Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. There was one simple Amy Grant song, written in 1986, that has always stuck with me, and I've always thought it says it all.

In a little while we'll be with the Father, can't you see Him smile.
In a little while we'll be home forever, in a while.
We're just here to learn to love Him and we'll be home, in a little while.

(From the album "Age to Age". Song by Grant, Chapman, Bannister, Keister)

We're just here to learn to love Him.
To me that line puts all of life in perspective. If you've met God and let Him into your life, then you love Him and you can rest in the knowledge of a loving eternity. This world will shortly be left behind. Earthly life is the time He gives us to choose, to know Him, to use what He's given us. This is your chance. Right now.

I made a stupendous effort to not be a part of the worldly world in my youth, and I succeeded, but at a cost. I believe that my life crisis was used by God to wake me up to the world I really live in. A beautiful world, full of experiences and joy and heartache. It's brief. It's amazing. It's the human experience.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Pile (A Ferri Tale)

With great optimism and hope the couple decided to combine their former lives into one new life and one house. The man and the woman packed up everything they had from their old loves and moved it into the new compromise house. Strangely, they both brought many boxes of manure with them, and every time one was brought into the new house is was promptly dumped in the center of the home - that area you must move through every day in living there.

After a short time the family noticed a putrid odor hanging in the air. It was difficult to have fun with the smell permeating every room of the house. They spent a lot of money on air fresheners, but nothing seemed to work. The children got angry and the adults were just annoyed. They really wanted to hang on to everything they brought with them.

Occasionally a discussion lasting through the night would cause one of them to take up a shovel, fill a box, and put it out in the trash. But most of the time everyone just stepped over the pile, getting some of it on their shoes and tracking it out of the house and into the car, leaving bits of it everywhere they went. Family and friends would often sniff the air and wonder what the foul smell was, but they were too polite to say anything.

On a particularly volatile night she fell smack into the pile, her tears wetting the dried up chunks, and the pieces that had stopped stinking started to smell again. The man usually avoided the pile altogether even when she pointed it out to him. This made her very angry.

She yelled, "I'm sick of your shit!"
He said, "It's mine and I'm keeping it."

As the years passed the pile diminished slightly. Sometimes they noticed the reduction of manure and were pleased, but sometimes old manure they thought they had dispossed of reappeared, and they were discouraged. It didn't smell quite as bad, but the stench was always present. They kind of got used to it.

After many years they saw something start to peek out from the pile. It looked clean and bright, but they were afraid to uncover it. The scent of something new hung in the air and sometimes even overpowered the bad smell. They looked at each other and smiled. What could it be? What could have lasted all these years under all that crap?

Finally, one day it surfaced. It smelled sweet and was well-preserved. It glowed from its place in the center of the pile. Apparently it had been there all the time, but neither of them had had the courage to dig down and uncover it. The dried up pieces of manure were easy to toss out and the sweet spot was revealed. It wasn't really a surprise. It was what they had started out with - a beautiful, unbreakable box of trust, respect, admiration - and true love. Then they remembered. They left the box in the central place where it could not be ignored. If it began to grow dim, or new manure rested on top of it, they swept it off, took out the trash, or flushed it down the toilet where it had always belonged anyway.

And the man and the woman never forgot how long it had taken them to uncover something beautiful that had been there all the time - and they knew it always would be.
The End.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Follow-up Quote

Collective fear stimulates herd instinct and tends to produce ferocity towards those who are not regarded as members of that herd.

Bertrand Russell

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Culture of Foolish Fears?

We've all read the forwarded emails about "the good old days" when we hung our feet out the car windows without seat belts, and the kids stayed out playing after dark and the playground equipment was mounted on hard asphalt. Yes, some things have changed for the better. But do you think some of our concerns have gone too far? I am, of course, thinking of the panic at the thought of the President speaking some words of wisdom to American students. A recorded message went out in my district from the board of education to tell all parents that if they did not want their children listening to the President of the United States then they should send a note the next day. SAY WHAT?

I would be incredulous at this no matter who the president was or what party he represented. To tell your children that our president might have a subversive message is the root of what now divides our country. What happened to teaching respect? This country did elect him, just as every other president. George Bush got a lot of disrespect and every time I heard a child echo his or her parents venom at the President I reminded them that he led our country and was to be respected no matter what our opinion was.

I think it is incredibly harmful to teach children the message they received this week. Here's another thing that irked me this week:
The fourth grade teachers in my building chose to do away with desks and have children work at tables. All school supplies were brought in and combined so they could be shared all year long. Pencils would sit in a container on the table. Now to me this is genious. Pencils disappear like socks and dinosaurs and your money. Pencil sharpening is the bane of a teacher's existence. Elementary students rarely have a decent pencil (someone stole it). An electric sharpener is too noisy. An old-fashioned one undependable and doesn't work for all pencils. Those little individual sharpeners ALWAYS end up on the floor with pencil shavings scattered. But an abundance of already sharpened pencils on the table - beautiful. The table idea also takes care of desks crammed with papers and books until they don't close. Those are just two reasons I loved the idea, but as you probably already guessed, one parent complained that her child was not to touch supplies of the other children for fear of getting the swine flu and he should have his own supplies. Fine. That's do-able - but I want to say to that mother - I guess your child will not be touching any gym equipment, go on the swings, touch a used library book or a door handle either!COME ON!

So I'll get off my soap box after I say - if you don't want your child in public, exposed to everything in public (including horrible messages from the President reminding students to do their best and take responsibility for their education) then take your child out of PUBLIC school! HMMPH!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Saving Lives

The Holocaust has been on my mind lately.
I wrote about the wonderful book "The Book Thief" on August 20th. Part of that story includes a family hiding a young Jewish man in their basement for two years in Nazi Germany. I read another book several months ago called "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay. It is partially told in present day as an American journalist living in Paris researches the little known round-up of Parisian Jews by French authorities in 1942. Thirteen thousand Jews were sent to death in Auchswitz from that incident. The story alternates with that of 10 year-old Sarah in 1942. I would recommend this book as well.

Then yesterday's paper had the story of Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 Jewish children 70 years ago by putting them on trains and sending them safely to foster homes on a hunch that Czechoslovakia would soon be invaded by the Nazis. He, of course, was correct.

Last week those children reunited with Winton, now 100 years old, in a London railway station to say thank you. It is estimated that 5000 people around the world owe Winton their lives - those children and their descendents. The kicker is that he never told anyone what he had done. Not even his wife for 40 years. She only found out in 1988 when she found correspondence referring to the prewar events.

This all reminded me of a favorite book I read as a young teen. It was called
"The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom.
Published in 1971 ten Boom recounted her Dutch family and the strong Christian faith that led them to help and hide as many Jewish families as they could. Someone asked Corrie to help hide his wife and when she agreed the entire family was arrested. (The hidden Jews remained safe). She and her sister Betsie ended up in Ravensbruck, a brutal workhouse for women. Corrie recounts her sister's unflagging faith and the risks she took sharing a secret Bible with the other prisoners. At one point Betsie thanks God even for the fleas and Corrie thinks her faith has gone too far. But later they discover that it was the fleas that kept the guards away and gave them the opportunity to share their Bible and their hope with the other women. Betsie died in the concentration camp, but Corrie lived on to tell their story.

This book made a big impact on me as a teenager, and now I find that many Holocaust stories continue to touch me. Many survivors of that time are in their 80's now. I think we should continue to listen and learn and be inspired by a time that most of us cannot even begin to imagine.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle wrote dozens of books many of them her own journals which I always found inspirational and quotable. L'Engle's most famous book is probably the young adult novel "A Wrinkle in Time."

I looked through one of my favorites "A Circle of Quiet", published in 1972 and found these words:

I haven't defined a self, nor do I want to. A self is not something static, tied up in a pretty parcel and handed to the child, finished and complete. A self is always becoming. Being does mean becoming, but we run so fast that it is only when we seem to stop - as sitting on the rock at the brook - that we are aware of our own is-ness, of being. But certainly this is not static, for this awareness of being is always a way of moving from the selfish self - the self-image - and towards the real.
Who am I, then? Who are you?

Madeleine L'Engle lived from 1918 - 2007. Read more about her HERE.