Songs are a holiday

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Whenever an extra strong dose of stress hits; this one can heal.

“Tall and tanned and young and lovely

The girl from Ipanema goes walking

And when she passes, each one she passes goes, ‘ah,’

That swings so cool and sways so gently

That when she passes, each one she passes goes, ‘ah.’”

“The Girl from Ipanema” written by Norman Gimbel, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius De Moraes, when sung by Stan Getz and Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto, is a straight shot of mellow right into the bloodstream. Each word is a calm, manly well-placed sound, seducing the tension away like a snake charmer.

It was a worldwide hit in the mid-1960s and won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1965. Loving the song so much, I dug deeper. Ipanema is a neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, whose beach at Ipanema became known internationally with the popularity of the song.

The lyrics are inspired by Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto, a 17-year-old girl who lived on Montenegro Street in Ipanema, according to research.

I want to be her sometimes.

Another song, “Shambala,” written by Daniel Joseph Moore was sung by B.W. Stevenson in 1973. Liking the song sent me to discover the location of Shambala.

The song is based on a mythical Buddhist kingdom that exists between the Gobi Desert and the Himalaya Mountains. In Shambhala, all of the citizens have achieved enlightenment, so it is the embodiment of Tibetan Buddhist perfection, according to research.

“Everyone is helpful, everyone is kind

On the road to Shambala

Everyone is lucky, everyone is kind

On the road to Shambala.”

I want to go there sometimes.

And finally, the song that takes me back on the longest journey is “Delta Dawn,” written by Alex Harvey and Larry Collins.

When my cousin, Carmen, was little, my sisters and I would have her sing it over and over and over again into an old, portable Am/Fm cassette tape stereo. With confidence and increasing volume, she would sing:

“She’s forty-one and her daddy still calls her ‘baby’

All the folks around Brownsville say she’s crazy

‘Cause she walks downtown with a suitcase in her hand

Looking for a mysterious dark-haired man.”

When Tanya Tucker belts out the lyrics, it is in the realm of possibilities that I could be her, without being 41 or living in Brownsville.

Music can take us beyond ordinary perception and experience.

Up for the ride; and that is all.

Published in The Herald.

Snake oil and hope

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“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”

These words of journalist and Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist Margaret Mitchell are true — and yet we try. I have fallen under the seductive spell of the daydream, as have others.

However powerful the barrier — walls, electricity, bombs, poisonous vapors, barbed wires and soldiers — they come. From drug smuggling to the desire for a better life — we can’t legislate hope. However, legislation exists to propagate it.

The first modern government-run U.S. lottery was established in Puerto Rico in 1934, followed by New Hampshire in 1964. Since 1964, lotteries have raised more than $502 billion for government programs in the U.S., and more than $100 billion (CAD) in Canada.

Then came the ease of scratch cards in the 1970s, also a major source of lottery revenue. Twinkling jewels, their candy-like allure grabs folks at the cash register, reminding them before they leave in a bold, confident whisper — you can win!

Total ticket sales for fiscal year 2018-19 came in $132.6 million above the estimate, with 31.7% of the excess attributable to online games and 68.3% attributable to instant games, according to the Revenue Estimating Conference reviewing lottery sales and transfers.

And in recent years, the investment is ever ready, with such applications as Lottery.com and Jackpocket for folks to purchase lotteries over their smartphones. Like modern-day snake oil salesmen selling cure-all elixirs in traveling medicine shows, folks driven by hope purchase possibilities the dollar tickets might bring.

I too have drunk the Kool-Aid. Participating so rarely, other hope-fulfilling mental tactics pull through — “I never play so I know I will win.” My mind has gone through the fantasy of having succeeded in purchasing the winning ticket — becoming the heroine and paying off my family’s bills, traveling the world before buying a home to discover the best possible location, and maybe never making the deal — retaining the freedom to simply go.

But the few times I have purchased a losing ticket have resulted in flinging myself on the bed in despair, my dreams dashed with the promise never to play again, preventing the burn of lingering disappointment.

Winning can bring out the best and the worst in people, evoking our full saturation. In the few examples I know it is an outpouring of who they are, such as the kind and responsible teacher, who asked each family member to bring their bills to his home, after which he paid them all. And the lost soul, who continued buying drugs from the cash in his briefcase.  

And sadly, the hope has turned the best people into addicts, gambling away their hard-earned money after every work shift. While the assured odds deter me from being a regular, these words by Dave Loggins keep me in the game — just a little.

“I live in a house that looks out over the ocean

And there’s some starts that fell from the sky

Livin’up on the hill.”

While fighting the shallow, living within these means has assured me — some dreams must be bought. But just look at what wonderful dreams have come true; and that is all.

Published in The Herald.

Taking a new view

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Broken glass is everywhere.

Lining the curbs, parking lots, sidewalks and streets — I am amazed it has not deflated any of my tires — both bicycle and automobile. But short of cleaning it with a broom, there is nothing to be done. I can, however, enjoy its brilliance like stars shimmering hither and yon.

Sunday, noticing a few square inches of it ground into the gravel outside of the laundro-mat, the beauty was alluring. Through the blurry veil of my reading glasses, the bright sun cast the diamonds into a mesmerizing kaleidoscope effect, bringing a few minutes of joy to the background noise of my clothes spinning in the 90-degree heat. If the same appreciation was ever-present for other unwanted offerings, the passing of time would be golden.

During my son Joey’s fifth summer, we rented a Folly Beach beach house within our budget. While the price was low, we had no idea the realty company could rent us a hideout for John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd. Our first sight of it, following the nine-hour drive, was the broken sign bearing its name Tide n’ Ting.

Our unairconditioned car smoked to an exhausted halt, its backfire alerting the neighbors — the West Virginians had arrived. We tried being positive and calm looking at the faded pink shack, ignoring the broken front window and the damaged roof with the mangled metal antenna. After all — we were at the beach! But it was clear this home had been damaged by a hurricane, 100 years ago, and had been a holding cell for random drifters.

As the doors opened, the smell of mold and cigarette smoke hit, penetrating the sea-salted air. Paint hung from the bowed walls and upon closer inspection, tiny bugs emerged from little holes. Slanted floors, a rusty toilet and rotted bathroom pipes were also part of the layout, and the owners spared no expense in providing a stench-filled polyester bedspread to keep us warm at night, through the ripped screens.

The bonus, an outbuilding which the brochure counted as an extra bedroom, was full of trash, dead animals, and rotten vegetation. After the shock of the tour and owning the fault — I got what I paid for — the disappointment grew until I looked down at Joey, who said smiling widely, “I just love the Tide n’ Ting. Thank you for bringing me here.”

In all its broken ugliness, Joey saw the beauty — a powerful escape from our home to a world of waves, chasing us onto a playground where castles are made of sand and shells, starfish are aplenty and seagulls screech, dart and soar.

Who cared where we slept? Through his rose-colored spectacles, I saw the days ahead were full of wonder, instead of focusing on the squalor we saved our money up to rent. Whoever sees the good in the ugly, holds the secret of life.

I am working on my sight: and that is all.

Published in The Herald.  

A valuable great aunt

She was barely 5 feet tall. But like all tiny dogs, my Great-Aunt Mary had no idea. With her wild red mane outlining her face like the sun, she shared the Vaudeville stage with the late W.C. Fields.
Visiting her Dayton, Ohio – home was always an adventure, as she rationed out her brazen opinions while swallowing whole garlic cloves. Wanting to see our eyes when our bangs hung there, she pulled one of the longest bobby pins imaginable — out of nowhere — sweeping them away into a mound at the front of our foreheads, leaving me, my sisters and cousins laughing at our funny faces.
Another character, her parrot Chico, lived long after her almost 100-year-long life. “Chico’s a bad, bad boy,” she said to him daily, along with some choice profanities. The spooky part — after her death Chico lived on and on, reciting her words in the sound of her voice, screeching from the other room.
She shared with us her rich history rolled out in exciting tales of suspense, such as the one of her home. She often talked about the family who had lived there before her and died, claiming she saw them sometimes.
“One night I had fallen asleep on the couch and awoke to this bright light,” she told in her shrill, raspy tone. “The father was standing behind the mother, who was seated on the floor, here, rolling a ball to their baby. They looked at me and disappeared.” After that story, I always felt the others living there, thinking I saw their faces in the wavy glass of her old French doors.
Other interesting parts of her life included her marriage to the late war hero, Emerson R. Smith, who served in the U.S. Army, American Expeditionary Forces, during World War I. On July 9, 1918, he was presented with the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in action while serving near le Channel, France, on July 26 of the same year. I am told he was a loving, great and generous man, so perfect for Aunt Mary.
Another sadness came long before, around midnight one Christmas Eve, when a crash killed Mary’s mother. The accident turned her into the mother of her sister, Della, giving her a critical role in the fate of Della’s children, who were sent to St. Joseph’s orphanage upon Della’s death in the late 1930s. Aunt Mary also collected and catalogued the family American Indian history, saying we are related to Chief Pontiac, an Ottawa war chief, who was killed in 1769. She showed us photographs of a couple of the Indian graves of his descendants. She also had a photograph of my grandma Della, herself, their mother and great-aunt, who was a full-blooded American Indian. Underneath the photo, it has lines pointing at the faces, with the words “American Indian,” underneath the arrow pointing at the woman. I wish I knew the whereabouts of these treasures, but feel lucky to have seen them.
While Great-Aunt Mary is gone, the rich memories she shared are with me. So glad I listened; and that is all.

Published in The Herald.

Balancing the sadness with candy

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A juxtaposition is two things placed close together with contrasting effect. Easter is this. Growing up, the seriousness of Good Friday — when from 1 to 3 p.m. a heavy hush came over the house as dad meditated to his cassette tapes of the late Bishop Fulton Sheen — often brought rain. The next day began the excitement of dying Easter eggs, filling the kitchen with the smell of vinegar dripped into mugs of food coloring sustaining the hues.

With birthday candles, our names were melted on the warm boiled eggs before we dyed them, some getting a star worth extra points when found. Momma used butter to glaze them, placing them in a special large glass bowl.

And then Easter baskets filled with the Dayton, Ohio-based Esther Price candies greeted us Sunday morning. Our bodies were clad in dresses, usually too summery for the season, and our heads with bonnets as we filed into the church pew; lots of work for momma.

With the same enthusiasm and diligence, pastors and priests prepare for the upcoming holiday. Our parish priest starkly laid out the Good Friday sorrow with strong incense, without music and leaving the alter in silence drawing reflection. During that time a Passion narrative is read, often taken from The Bible book of John 18:1-19:37, beginning with the betrayal and arrest of Jesus and ending with His crucifixion.

Everyone in church is assigned to read different parts, with the priest reading the words of Jesus. As a child, I had trouble with the part I was assigned as a parishioner, “the crowd,” who said, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.” When the words came, I stood silent in protest. To be sure I would not have said those words, instead standing up against the soldiers to protect Jesus. But in my adult mind I have wondered — would fear have allowed me to defend Him? And the part about His death being predestined has always confused my feelings. It was a well-thought-out plan with perfect execution, according to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life.”

This brings happiness, but yet I struggle with the reality. Jesus was nailed to a cross with three iron spikes between 7 to 9 inches long. The nails were driven in-between the bones of His forearms up close to the wrists, while not severing any major arteries or veins. The last nail was driven through both feet, His body sagging slowly down, enduring the pain — for us.

One poem my dad shared during Easter time, “Friday Morning” by Sidney Carter, was recited by the late Sheen. The first stanza reads:
“It was a Friday morning, and they took me from the cell. And I saw they had a carpenter to crucify as well. You can blame it on to Pilate, you can blame it on the Jews, You can blame it on the devil, it’s God I accuse.” “And it was God!” Sheen said at the end. It was God’s plan.

Additional conflicting thoughts accompanied the catechism classes I attended from kindergarten through high school graduation. One of my grade school teachers brought in actual crucifixion nails showing the seriousness and gravity of Christ’s death. It was grounding, passing them around feeling the weight and seeing the length and diameter. Our chatter halted with silencing despair as it all percolated.

Meanwhile, Father Charles Sala, our Italian white-haired priest, whose spirit sang of all things good wandered in smiling, swinging a candy-filled pillow case, telling us in his heavily accented English to dig in and get a big handful. If he thought our hands were small, he allowed two. He embodied the Holy Spirit in his generous love for us all.

In turn, I have learned that in times of great sadness, there is nothing like the cure of Cadbury Mini Eggs, made with rich and creamy milk chocolate centers and coated with pastel candy shells. In my haste to gulp them down, I have broken many a tooth, a small price to pay for their sugary goodness and momentary emotional healing.

Some of us have memories of asking someone, “Do you love me this much?” while extending our arms to show the great span. My high school friend, coming from generations of pastors, brought a new meaning to this exchange. She drew a cross on paper and said, “Jesus loves us this much, and He spread out His arms, and He died,” drawing His stick figure there, hanging, again bringing those conflicting thoughts.

I may not be holy enough to feel this joy His resurrection should bring. The self-indulgence of analyzing my feelings brings a memory of someone I interviewed years ago, a World War II Jewish Holocaust survivor. She said laughing, “You Christians and your feelings: do something about them.”

Dwelling in my dark imaginings this Good Friday of the deep sorrow Jesus’ mother Mary helplessly felt watching her son die — for us — I will try; and that is all.

Published in The Herald.

‘Oh the humanity and all the passengers screaming’

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“In the spring of 1937, my family and I were totally unaware that a truly catastrophic event was about to take place, and that I would be there to witness it.”

These words were spoken by John-Boy Walton during the prologue of “The Inferno,” an episode of “The Waltons” broadcast in 1977.

John-Boy wins a writing competition and is awarded the opportunity to witness and write a story on the arrival of the Hindenburg airship and to accompany reporters in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

His excitement is huge, his family cheering him on and then the emotional aftermath, shared with his daddy on Walton’s Mountain — fire, death and despair.

May 6, 1937 is the anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster, which occurred in Manchester Township, New Jersey. The German passenger airship “LZ 129 Hindenburg” caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast at Naval Air Station Lakehurst.

Out of 97 people on board, the crash killed 35 — 13 passengers and 22 crewmen. The disaster was the subject of newsreel coverage, photographs and Herbert Morrison’s recorded radio eyewitness reports from the landing field.

Morrison, an American radio journalist, became known for the coverage, barely keeping it together through the horror unfolding. A transcript and audio recording of that coverage, “WLS Radio (Chicago) Broadcast on the Hindenburg Disaster,” is available at bit.ly/3dvrFTR.

Hearing it brings tears every time. The following is part of the transcript on May 6, 1937.

“The Hindenburg left Frankfurt, Germany Tuesday evening, rather, at 7:30 their time and for better than two-and-a-half days they’ve been speeding through the skies over miles and miles of water here to America. Now they’re coming in to make a landing of the Zeppelin. I’m going to step out here and cover it from the outside.

“Well, here it comes, ladies and gentlemen; we’re out now, outside of the hangar. And what a great sight it is, a thrilling one, just a marvelous sight. It’s coming down out of the sky, pointed directly towards us and toward the mooring mast.

“The mighty diesel motors just roared, the propellers biting into the air and throwing it back into a gale-like whirlpool. No wonder this great floating palace can travel through the air at such a speed, with these powerful motors behind it.

“It’s practically standing still now; they’ve dropped ropes out of the nose of the ship, and it’s been taken a hold of down on the field by a number of men. It’s starting to rain again — the rain had slacked up a little bit. The back motors of the ship are just holding it, just enough to keep it from — — —

“It burst into flames! Get out of the way! Get out of the way! Get this Charley! Get this Charley! It’s burning and it’s crashing! It’s crashing terrible! Oh my, get out of the way please. It’s burning, bursting into flames and it’s — and it’s falling on the mooring mast and all the folks agree that this is terrible. This is one of the worst catastrophes in the world.

“And oh, it’s … burning, oh, four or five hundred feet into the sky. It’s a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. The smoke and the flames now and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast.

“Oh, the humanity and all the passengers screaming around here. I told you. It’s — I can’t even talk to people whose friends were on there. It — It’s … I — I can’t talk ladies and gentlemen. Honest, it’s completely a mass of smoking wreckage. And everybody can’t hardly breathe. It’s hard, it’s crazy. Lady, I — I — I’m sorry. Honestly, I — I can hardly breathe.

“I — I’m gonna step inside where I cannot see it. Charley, that’s terrible. I — I can’t … Listen folks, I — I’m gonna have to stop for a minute because I’ve lost my voice. This is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed.”

Imagine seeing the bright flames whirling ‘round the sky like fireworks, passing the ascending, dead souls on their way down.

Morrison died in Morgantown, West Virginia. I have seen his photo and story hanging in the Museum of Radio and Technology, located near the western end of Ritter Park in Huntington.

In the spring of 2020, my family and I were totally unaware that a truly catastrophic event was about to take place, and that I would be there to witness it.

German-American writer Charles Bukowski said, “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”

Just look how far we’ve come; and that is all.

Published in The Herald.

Changing the conversation about ageing

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These hands have always been old.

My sister Robin shouted while standing in the kitchen one day, “Your hands are like an old lady’s and I’m going to bury them in the kitchen floor!”

I was 5 and too impressed with her creativity to be upset. But since then, the sinew attaching the muscle to bone in my hands resembles roots on an ancient tree and the veins are raised.

I have traced them with markers and pens while talking on the phone, creating beautiful designs out of the ravaged and rickety. And constantly being mistaken for a bare-knuckle boxer, my knuckles extend way above the normal height — sure to pack a mean punch that might cut.

Man oh man, the feeling of calm that reassurance brings.

Before my German, West Virginian friend could write her name she was painting. I have written about Inge Klein before, the extraordinary 90-something year old, who prolifically draws and paints throughout the night.

Almost every morning I am elevated by her latest masterpieces — the many including flowers, insects, spiritual forces, the one above, and the newest — seahorses, my favorite.

In analyzing the elements of art, one is about the lines — the vertical, horizontal, diagonal, zigzag, curved, fragile, hatched, broken and radial. Do they guide the eye around the entire drawing, or do they fall short?

Inge’s lines are all the above, gesturally proclaiming her subjects alive and well. I picture her ancient hands fast at work while the moon turns into the sun.

On a radio show this morning, I heard someone ask — “Have you thanked God for your wrinkles?” Her questions brought laughs.

These well-placed gestural lines of life, guiding the eye around one’s face trace the experiences that brought them. We have earned these my friends. If faced with the temptation — here’s hoping they won’t be ironed out or injected with toxins.

But without the celebration of the older, it is understandable some of us might give in to the erasing. Anyone from Mars or Jupiter experiencing the U.S. for the first time might find themselves rejecting senior citizens.

Where is the information celebrating the aging adult? The key in combating this is understanding the influence.

Market research reveals most older adults are unhappy with marketing aimed at their age group, and many reported displeasure with stereotypes used to illustrate their experience.

And according to the World Health Association, people worldwide are living longer. Today, for the first time in history, most people can expect to live into their sixties and beyond.

By 2050, the world’s population aged 60 years and older is expected to total 2 billion, up from 900 million in 2015. In 2018, 125 million people were aged 80 years or older.

If the information representing us is failing — there are enough of us around to change the story.

Author and attorney Kilroy J. Oldster said,
“No age of life is inglorious. Youth has its merits, but living to a ripe old age is the true statement of value. Aging is the road that we take to discern our character. Fame and fortune can elude us, but character is immortal. We must encounter a sufficient variety of experiences, including both failures and accomplishments, in order to gain nobility of character.”

Seeking a new narrative; and that is all.

Published in The Herald.

Portfolio

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While I have published too many to list here, a few stories are below. Some are linked to websites requiring paid subscriptions. I have the full versions – just ask!

Columns
Beneath the Bones: Father Pius brought joy to the community | Beneath The Bones | rrdailyherald.com
Beneath the Bones: ‘Darkness there and nothing more’ | Beneath The Bones | rrdailyherald.com
Beneath the Bones: ‘Oh the humanity and all the passengers screaming’ | Beneath The Bones | rrdailyherald.com
Beneath the Bones: Stone soup | Beneath The Bones | rrdailyherald.com
Beneath the Bones: Baseball is beautiful | Beneath The Bones | rrdailyherald.com

Articles
Cooper welcomes Roseburg: Company to invest $200M | | rrdailyherald.com
Three-phase power charger now available in Halifax: EV rapid charging station unveiled | Local News | rrdailyherald.com
Weather balloons allow for improved forecasting | Local News | rrdailyherald.com
Daphne’s Coffee Shop, new ‘shining star’ in Littleton | Local News | rrdailyherald.com
Harriet Tubman: ‘The Journey to Freedom’ | Local News | rrdailyherald.com
Artist Fiona Miller first art exhibit in DCCA season – Daily Advocate & Early Bird News
Pigs come to Lakeland | Local News | rrdailyherald.com
School closing brings about memories – Daily Advocate & Early Bird News
Superintendents discuss plans with commissioners | Local News | rrdailyherald.com
Marriage equality: A conversation | ColumbusFreePress.com
David Manges chronicling military history at Garst Museum – Daily Advocate & Early Bird News
‘The Dream Shall Never Die’ – A JFK exhibit at Garst highlights his life – Daily Advocate & Early Bird News
Organ Donation Awareness Month: Momma shares son’s heart with another | Local News | rrdailyherald.com
EMS station officially opens in Conway | Local News | rrdailyherald.com
2 weekend shootings: 1 fatality | Local News | rrdailyherald.com
Monyell Peterson in custody for Joyner shooting | Local News | rrdailyherald.com
Fatal Addiction: Locals pushing love to addicts – Daily Advocate & Early Bird News
Fatal Addiction: Heroin Awareness informational session helps educate public – Daily Advocate & Early Bird News
Fatal Addiction: Heroin Awareness offers insight – Daily Advocate & Early Bird News
Blog
Carolyn Kaiser Harmon | Beneath The Bones (wordpress.com)

Smile five times a day: It is contagious

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Mrs. Hite was her name.
During all of my years as a student, and there were many, this woman was my favorite teacher. In 1971, wearing pastel mini dresses and the pixie style haircut of Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music,” her soft face and features encouraged us all.
One of the treasured, exciting days before Christmas came in the form of a contest. Each student created a paper reindeer with the best one becoming Rudolph — the famous red-nosed one — leading the paper sleigh pinned to her bulletin board in the back of the room. The other reindeer became part of the sleigh team.
I HAD WON, she announced to the rest of the class. For the days ahead it was difficult not to keep my eyes in the back of the room and the butterflies out of my stomach.
Another great milestone of that year was my school photograph, with each one ever since paling in comparison. The bar was set too high that day with the ferocious hope inside burning like fire through my innocent brown eyes, full of the lovely possibilities life might bring.
Missing baby teeth defined my pirate’s smile, large enough for one of my dad’s Lucky Strike’s to fit into. And my dress was perfect, a comfortable hand-me-down with a red lace-up front, reminiscent of the immigrants in my bloodline.
The big reveal came through a small assembly as we sat in a circle in front of Mrs. Hite. She held up each person’s white packet from the photography company containing the photos, with a window that showed the child’s face.
“Who is this?” she asked with a warm grin, showing each little face to the crowd. We yelled out the child’s name in unison, who ran up and took the packet from her hand. She made us feel important and worthwhile.
We imbibed her great warmth as she helped build our confidence, a vital need that must come from within. But without a lesson in garnering the quality from the outside, some of us may fall short and in turn, missing the value inside others.
Adding to that the fear of COVID-19 and the uncertainty of the upcoming election, a number of us are lashing out.
I have read, to prevent folks from judging too harshly, picture the person in mind as a little child. It does seem to mellow the need to persecute too quickly. And inside, when we are too hard on ourselves, it might help to think of the little children we once were.
Practicing the gift of the benefit of the doubt allows the space to live up to good reputations. While at times it may be true that some folks are monsters, often it is a choice of the onlooker whether or not to find the good.
Photographer Michael Collopy shared a quote of the late Mother Teresa.
“I once asked her, ‘How is it that you never seem to judge anyone who comes to you?’ She said, ‘I never judge anyone because it doesn’t allow me the time to love them.’ ”
The humble woman also shared, “Smile five times a day at someone you don’t really want to smile at; do it for peace.”
Another bit of wisdom I find most powerful comes from my dear old friend, Winnie the Pooh.
“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh. “There there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”
These days the healing power of tea and honey can work wonders. I have discovered through friends, the best tea comes from Harney & Sons — Hot Cinnamon Spice in particular.
The taste is a cinnamon candy disc warming as it goes down, taking one to a place where the palm trees glisten in the sun, as the wildebeests gnash their crooked fangs near where the woods line the horizon.
Sitting around the teapot with or without friends, allows a much-deserved moment of nurturing. Since I cannot return to those magical first-grade days with Mrs. Hite — an occasional cup of tea will do.
Finding warmth in kindness; and that is all.

Published in The Herald.

Cherishing a memory

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Lake Michigan goes on as far as the eye can see — spanning the entire West Coast of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

It was somewhere along that space I found myself on a family trip during the early 1970s. Driving the 365 miles from our Ohio home, we joined my dad’s twin brother and his family meeting them halfway.

In the median of the road near the midway point, my uncle Dick and his son, John, dressed alike in striped bell-bottoms and matching hats, waved us on with grins from ear-to-ear, rustling up the butterflies.

The excitement mounted, as the four adults, Bob, Jan, Dick and Joyce — and 10 children — Robin, Della, Michael, me, Mindy, Kara, Kelly, John Tracy and Andy — descended upon the peace and tranquility of my Aunt Noni and Uncle Bill’s home, overlooking Lake Michigan.

Discovering later Noni had only approved one family at a time to visit — the surprised look on her face made sense as we unloaded in a clamorous rush, emerging from the exhalations of our dads’ cigarette smoke. And if we weren’t enough, we dragged in the newly-won carnival canes topped with plastic animal heads from our St. Leonard’s Catholic Church parish carnival.

Imagine our excitement — a carnival and a trip back-to back — which in those days, each one was a rarity. The temporary sleeping quarters were in the basement, complete with wasps nests hanging from the ceiling.

A favorite memory was climbing the stairs for breakfast discovering an extremely long built-in window booth in the kitchen, overlooking the lake. Laden with cereal, eggs, bacon and pancakes, it was long enough to hold us all, including Noni’s black and white German Shepard, Baron, and her three boys — Steve, Billy and Matt.

After that first breakfast out we went to discover the lake, finding our colorful carnival sticks broken in the trash can, the plastic animal faces impeding the view. Noni had placed them there after scurrying around the house all night collecting them, fearing the sticks might find their way into our eyes.

The view and smell of the water was a remedy for the disappointment, a lake which might as well have been an ocean, as we had never been. Taking turns climbing into my uncle’s tiny, gray speedboat, we rode the white caps, the wind whipping us into another world. Our laughter, screams and Baron’s barking, competed with the squawks of the ring-billed and herring seagulls.

The sunsets brought an unexpected icy chill from the water, creating the need for momma wrapping us in white, terry-cloth robes and soft, knitted hats, sitting in lawn chairs eating graham crackers.

One adventure involving my sister, Della, and cousin, Kelly, was a meeting with a weird woman in a white hat accompanied by a photographer, following them around offering candy.

Breathlessly they barely made it back telling their tale of suspense, causing us all to run around on a new adventure, trying to find the spooky strangers.

Another fun day took us out to Holland, Michigan, located on the shore of Lake Macatawa, where we sat on top of a giant replica of the house belonging to the “Old Woman who lived in a Shoe.”

A visit to a gift shop was also on the itinerary, where I purchased a pink wallet decorated with photos of Michigan and some wooden shoes. We also saw windmills, a lighthouse and fields of colorful tulips.

If only my eyes could see that again. What I would give for one more day, lounging by the lake, running with the seagulls — realizing it would never happen again.

Cherishing the memory; and that is all.