Sunday, June 27, 2010

Children Will Listen, Part 2

Continuing a discussion on the topic started yesterday.  As always, I welcome your comments!

Proverbs 22:6 - "Train up a child in the way s/he should go, and when s/he grows up, s/he will not depart from it."  That is essentially the same admonishment as "Children will listen."  But you will notice perhaps one slight, but reassuring difference.  The scripture says "and when s/he grows up..."  Whew!  That doesn't say anything about before they grow up!  There are frequently lots of detours taken along the path to being grown up. And we all know that children grow up at different rates, and lessons taught may not be understood until much later in a child's life. Not seeing the sprouts does not mean they are not there taking root, deep inside the hearts and minds of our children.

It is a relief also to know that children learn from a variety of sources, and that when parents fail to lead exemplary lives, there can be influential people around them who do live lives worthy of honor. Even if we are not parents in the strictest definition of the word, we all can behave as honorable "de facto" parents, and help to fill in the gaps left by the oversights and errors of even the best of mothers and fathers.  This truth has been borne out in a number of sociological studies of  "Invulnerables" and "Vulnerables," those children identified in early life as being high risk, who are either "resilient" despite their circumstances, or "unresilient" as a result of similar difficult circumstances.   

Two sociologists by the name of "...Werner and Smith conducted a 30-year longevity study that followed 623 children born in 1955 on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, from birth to adulthood. The study group consisted of the children and grandchildren of immigrants who left the poverty of their Asian or European homelands to work in the sugar or pineapple plantations on the island of Kauai. Werner and Smith (1982) designated one-third of the subjects "high-risk" because of a combination of factors, including extreme poverty, family instability and poor parenting skills, parental lack of education, and parental psychopathology. They found that one-third of the indexed "high-risk" group revealed evidence of resilience (Werner & Smith, 1982). These subjects grew into 'competent and autonomous young adults who worked well, played well, loved well, and expected well' (Werner & Smith, 1982, p.153). Werner and Smith (1982) categorized the results into three types of protective attributes that supported resilience: dispositional attributes of the individual, affectional ties with the family, and external support systems in the environment. During early childhood, resilient high-risk boys and girls experienced fewer illnesses and their parents perceived them to be very active, affectionate, and socially responsive (Werner & Smith, 1982). During the first two years of life, resilient youngsters displayed self-help skills and adequate sensorimotor and language development; in middle school, resilient children possessed adequate problem-solving, communication skills and perceptual-motor development (Werner & Smith, 1982). In late adolescence, resilient teens possessed a high degree of internal locus of control, a positive self-esteem, and an achievement-oriented attitude, and in early adulthood, resilient subjects were able to draw upon numerous informal sources of support within their environment and expressed a desire to "improve themselves" (Werner & Smith, 1982). The authors clarified their findings by stating that resilience does not mean that these children never experienced distress. Werner and Smith (1982) summarized their findings by stating, 'along the way we learned that both vulnerability (susceptibility to negative developmental outcomes) and resiliency (successful adaptation following exposure to stressful life events) are relative concepts that do not preclude change over time'(p.73)." (From:IDENTIFYING THE RESILIENT CHILD: AN EMERGING TREND FOR AMERICA’S INNER-CITY SCHOOLS by Jane Thielemann, University of Houston.)

From the same report cited above:

"Another powerful attribute found to influence resilient children is a supportive caregiver that has high expectations for the child. In a 30-year longitudinal study with the children of Kauai, Werner and Smith (1982) found that the resilient children identified in the study had a close bond with a caregiver who offered nurturing attention during the first years of life, thereby establishing a strong sense of trust. This caregiver usually was the mother or father; however, other individuals, such as grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and older siblings, often served as alternative caregivers if the parents were unable. (Italics are mine - ptc)

"Peng, Lee, Wang, and Walberg (1991) used the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) database of the U.S. Department of Education from 1988 to identify unique characteristics and experiences of low socio-economic (SES), urban students who displayed high scores on a national normed test of reading and mathematics. Peng et al. (1991) found that these students "felt internally controlled, interacted often with parents, and attended schools where learning was emphasized" (p. 49). Peng et al. (1991) found that the parents of these students had high expectations for their children and, thus, exerted pressure on the child to work diligently toward academic achievement. Masten (1994) also found this attribute important and described the common elements of parents who serve in the "protective attribute" role for resilient children. These parents encouraged the undertaking of new challenges that they felt their child could handle and provided opportunities for confidence-building experiences. Rutter (1979) described a good relationship with a parent as one in which the child experiences a high level of acceptance and nurturing and a low level of criticism.

"However, not all resilient children had close relationships with their parents; instead, some resilient children reached beyond their parents to others who would act as caregivers. In a study of children with mentally ill mothers, Musick et al. (1987) stated that having access to outside others allowed for a changing experience in which failings of the past could be mastered and success could be achieved beyond that which would have been predicted. (Italics are mine - ptc) Cowen and Work (1988) identified the coping skills of resilient children by describing their ability to distance themselves from family or friends who were distressed in order to accomplish constructive goals."

In light of the evidence today that more and more parents are abrogating their responsibilities to their families and expecting our schools, television, and movies to do their job for them, I feel an enormous responsibility to be careful and mindful of all children. "The shallowness of our moral comprehension, the incapacity to sense the depth of misery caused by our own failures is a simple fact of fallen humanity which no explanation can cover up." (Abraham Heschel) A depressing and very discouraging statement, and sometimes such thoughts and can lead us to throw up our hands, rationalize our inaction, and say "What can I do?  How could I possibly make a difference?  What is required of me that I could actually accomplish?" There is an answer, from Micah 6:8 - "God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." Do, love, walk...all words of action. We need to be mindful, and get busy!

You just never know who may be listening and watching...we are all mirrors that brightly reflect (whether we want to or not!)
Gentle reader, I wish for you an open heart, an open mind, and open eyes - to all around you, and


Photo above use by permission and through the courtesy of:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Children Will Listen, Part 1

Today's (and tomorrow's) post title is from a song in one of Stephen J. Sondheim's musicals, "Into the Woods."  (For a synopsis of the plot, go to

(words and music by Stephen J. Sondheim, ©1986)

How do you say to your child in the night?
Nothing's all black, but then nothing's all white
How do you say it will all be all right
When you know that it might not be true?
What do you do?

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say 'Listen to me'
Children will listen

Careful the wish you make
Wishes are children
Careful the path they take
Wishes come true, not free
Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometimes the spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you
Careful the tale you tell
That is the spell
Children will listen

How can you say to a child who's in flight
'Don't slip away and I won't hold so tight'
What can you say that no matter how slight Won't be misunderstood
What do you leave to your child when you're dead?
Only whatever you put in it's head
Things that you're mother and father had said
Which were left to them too
Careful what you say
Children will listen
Careful you do it too
Children will see
And learn, oh guide them that step away
Children will listen
Tamper with what is true
And children will turn
If just to be free
Careful before you say
'Listen to me'

The powerful message in those lyrics sounds a warning to everyone.  I am one of world's worst at forgetting that advice, and ignoring the caution - consequently I frequently suffer from "Foot-in-Mouth Disease."  It is so difficult to take back what has been said and to undo what has been done. In the same way that "nothing done for a child is ever wasted," it is true that "nothing said to a child is forgotten."  Many parents, I realize, would argue that point!  How many of us have so often bemoaned the fact that our children don't "listen to what we say!"  But the fact of the matter is they do.  Our words and actions seep into the recesses of their hearts and subconscious minds, and are expressed in unexpected ways.  Our words and deeds, through the behavior of our children, can haunt or bring honor to us.

I heard a series of sermons many years ago, the subject of which was the Ten Commandments.  In one of those sermons the question was asked,  "How can one honor one's father and mother when they are not honorable people?"  We have all either known or heard of such parents, or seen dishonorable behavior in action. The question is not only "how" but "why?"  Well, why is not really an issue for those who seek to follow the commandments - we try to follow them because God commanded us to!  Besides, in order to live within a community, and for that community to function well, the Ten Commandments are essentially mandatory.  Almost all codified law throughout the world today is based on those ten rules for right and "civilized" living.

But how to honor the dishonorable, those completely unworthy of honor?  The sermon was of great interest to me, not because I did not have honorable parents and grandparents - far from it!  How do you teach that lesson to all unless it applies to all?  The answer was:  live honorably, and in so doing you will reflect honor on those who raised you, whether they deserve it or not.  Simple to say, and hard to do, because if your father and mother were not careful in what they said and in what they did, there would seem to be only bad examples to follow and emulate.  The situation, however, is not hopeless, and I'll talk a bit about that hope in tomorrow's continuation.

For most of us I suspect that the joys of parenthood (and grand-parenthood, or guardianship, etc.) far outnumber the trials.  It just feels at times like the trials are what stand out in our minds; however, "children will listen" is not just a warning, it is also a wonderful promise.  Yes, the warning to put your mind in gear before putting your mouth into motion is vitally important (and not just around children), but there is also the wonderful assurance that the good examples you set are seeds that will bear fruit in abundance.  Sometimes we never see or taste the sweet harvest of that which we have sown, but it does happen, and when it does, it's a wonderful gift.

I invite your comments.

To be continued - for now, it is enough...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vanity, vanity...all is vanity!

Something I am not prone to do on my blog is to feature another writer...which is probably something I should do...especially since part of this post concerns vanity!  First read the following,  by Leona Palmer from The Huffington Post, (June 22, 2010), then my comments, and then, please make yours!

What do Julia Roberts, Jamie Oliver, Full Figure Fashion Week, and my grandmother have in common? Dinner.

In a recent post I described the death of the supermodel. It seems that her death was followed almost immediately by the deaths of the middle class and the middle bodied--tied together by the purse strings. Last week confirmed my suspicions. 
Late one night Pretty Woman caught my eye, and a moment in the film struck me. When no one on Rodeo Drive will help Roberts' character, the hotel manager sends her to a personal shopper at a department store. As soon as she sees Julia, she comments, "So you are about a size 6." Roberts is amazed at her eye, saying "How'd you know?" and they go on to laugh about the specialized knowledge of certain professions. The exchange seemed so notable because, at this moment in our culture, it's unimaginable that a young, beautiful, popular starlet would identify her body, in character or out, as a size 6. It's practically an elephantine number in Hollywood, for some a dirty little secret. 
Recently I'd also been caught up in Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, in which he takes on our school lunches. Factory farming, high fructose corn syrup, chemical preservatives/additives, and diabetes are dire factors that need to be addressed immediately. But I was saddened by the fact that most of the families and schools cited finances or budgets as the primary reason for feeding food to their children that they knew was bad for them. Industry spends billions of dollars inventing new flavors of chips and soft drinks, but in the aisle these empty calories are cheaper than basic produce. 
In this economy cable television, gym memberships, and dining out are the first cuts. We all know that eating in saves money. Yet the grocery bill itself comes under intense scrutiny. As someone who remembers the exact taste and texture of commodity foods, especially the cheese, I'm intimately familiar with the pains my mother took to feed our family in the mid-eighties. My parents are avid gardeners and we ate loads of fresh, free produce in the summer. But there were also hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, lots of pb&j sandwiches, and the look on her face as she balanced that checkbook each month. Children record all these moments in HD.

Two young girls I met on location last weekend (shooting at a lake in New Jersey) noted that our snacks were from the expensive grocery store in town, and one stated "No one does a Roll Back like Wal-Mart, you can get an eight-pack of Reese's peanut butter cups for one dollar!" My inner child got excited about that. But my inner child used to be overweight. So when pundits note that one out of three children are severely overweight or obese, my heartstrings go taut. 
Moving to NYC and walking everywhere, followed rapidly by yoga, farmers' markets, a modeling contract and a nutritionist all reformed my relationship to my body and my health. When the New York Times covered Full Figured Fashion Week recently, they focused predominately on obesity and the resulting business opportunities in the enlargement of America. Money spent in the grocery store, money spent on larger wardrobes--they seemed to be drawing a direct line. 
Clearly there is a relationship between what we eat, how active we are, and our health. But I bristle at the notion that a woman who doesn't fit a size 6 or even 12 means that she is essentially unhealthy. The irony is not lost on me when, at many photo shoots, I am making the same lunch choices and swapping nutritional advice with the size 2 model. Plus modeling has become a safety net for many of the taller, larger-framed models who cannot maintain the razor-edge silhouette required, even with an eating disorder. (We cannot ignore the health risks also suffered by those chronically underweight, as opposed to obese.) After transitioning to "plus" they generally settle at a healthy 10-14, presumably their natural size, but still read "thin" on camera. 
One of Michael Pollan's guidelines in Food Rules is to eat food that your grandmother would recognize. My grandmother grew up in the 'twenties on a farm in northern Wisconsin. In many pictures she is on her way to feed the livestock, milk the cows, and work in the garden or the house. This is not a sedentary woman. By all accounts she ate plenty of eggs and potatoes, fruit and vegetables both fresh and preserved, meat more rarely. All organic we can assume. But her frame was not exactly slender. Seeing these pictures revolutionized my idea of myself. They reconciled my ideal of beauty with my gene pool. I finally understood that being healthy is not a result of my jean size, but of my habits and my personal care--whatever the number on my clothes, my cholesterol and blood sugar are in good shape. 
Food has become the enemy because we cannot make peace with our bodies, small or large. There is an egregious assumption that if we adhere to a balanced diet of healthy foods and get regular exercise, we will have the perfect movie star body. Most of us won't. This is the propaganda of diet gurus, personal trainers, and a media industry of extreme fads, quick fixes, and unsustainable programs for sale. The problem is that "healthy diet" and "weight-loss diet" are not the same; neither are "active lifestyle" and "athletic conditioning." Healthy moderation may not get the airbrushed cover of a magazine to show up in the mirror, but we'll be far from obese. 
Two tummies: the six-pack of cultural media or the flab of the food industry. Choosing becomes a constant struggle. Do we live in a state of rigid deprivation or let ourselves go entirely? Do we count calories or dollars? All because we've made it too expensive to be healthy and at the same time believe that being healthy means being impossibly thin and forever young. This dead-end struggle is what our children absorb.
Our bodies are extraordinary, built to carry us through life on waves of sensory perception and emotion. If we put power into taking care of them instead of altering or ignoring them, we could settle into a healthy range of sizes and shapes. Freed from being terrorized by media fantasies. Divorcing our idea of health from our size, but instead to the quality of life: how much energy we have, how our food was grown, and how we feel after eating it. 
We want children to have a positive body image and real, affordable, and nutritious food on their plates. Which means we cannot remain obsessed with attaining the perfect body or ignore the situation in American grocery stores, because doing so is becoming lethal to the most innocent among us.


Interesting, no?  Over the past year I have lost a significant amount weight.  I see this as no reason to celebrate at the moment, simply because losing weight has never been a problem for me.  Once I make up my mind to, the weight comes off quite easily.  However, the huge challenge for me has been KEEPING IT OFF!  So, I will have a celebration in the year 2015 if my weight is still within 5 pounds one way or the other of what it is today, (or has been since the end of April).  I have a long way to go before any sort of victory can be declared.

Back in 1983 a series of things happened to me as regards my weight.  First of all, let me say that I have always been a big person...tall (5'11-1/2"), and with a large frame, so I have never been a light-weight.  But all those years ago, after our first two boys were born, I made an effort to trim down, and did.  This was followed by a long siege of very poor health, but the two are not related.  In any event, my weight has fluctuated wildly over the last 27 years or so - from quite obese (primarily caused by medication, but also by eating too much for all the wrong reasons) to what one of my sisters-in-love refers to as "gaunt."   Anyway, back in '83, after I had gotten my weight down, I had to purchase some new clothes.  My two most prized purchases were a couple of pairs of Calvin Klein jeans, size 12.  Wow!  I thought, I have really done it this time!  Through all of the ensuing years and various sizes, I saved those two pairs of jeans (the only clothes I did save, because I loved them and they represented so much to me at the time).  As of about a month ago, I have been able to wear them again.  They are a bit large around the hips, and in the seat, but the waist is comfortable, and they don't look like I'm swimming in them.  Last month I bought some new clothes, among which was another pair of slacks...SIZE 6!  Something is wrong here, people.  It is what I refer to as Vanity Sizing, and it has become rampant in the fashion world.  People, esp. women, who have quite naturally changed sizes as their bodies have changed with age, simply demand that the size number on their clothes not reflect the increase in their bulk.  It seems to me that designers are caving in to something that is absolutely ridiculous!

The actual thought that I could be anywhere close to the size Julia Roberts was in Pretty Woman, absolutely staggers the imagination.  I realize my body image is skewed, but not anywhere near that skewed!  Also, I will grant that Calvins did tend to run small; but even if you consider that 1983 Calvin 12's were the equivalent of everybody else's 1983 size 10, that doesn't account for the new size equivalencies:  Old size 10 is a new size 6???  Come on!!!  No wonder that there are now sizes marketed for women that are listed as a size Zero, or -1, or -2, etc.!

Let me know what you think.  Have we all become more concerned about the number rather than the actual size - are we really that self-delusional?  My suggestion is to be more European in our sizing, and that is to list all sizes as actual measurements - inches or centimeters - and be done with it.  Seems like it would be a lot easier to shop.  I mean before I bought those 6's (which I almost didn't, I was so incredulous), I had to take back several different pairs of slacks by several different designers that were in sizes 12, 10, and 8, because they would not stay on!

Am I overly caught up in this thing, or have we as a nation all become way too conscious about what other people think about how we look, what size we are, etc., and less concerned for our own health, well being, and wearing clothes that actually fit?

So for now, enough is, well, enough...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"And pluck 'til time and times are done..."

apple Pictures, Images and PhotosI am often astounded at the power of language - the spoken and written word.  I know the saying goes, "One picture is worth a thousand words."  That may well be true, but pictures seldom harm or heal in quite the same way that words, and the sounds of words, can and do  Language is a medium of sight, sound, feeling, taste and smell.  It is an expression that is far more than just shimmering waves and frequencies, or the black squiggles on paper, that it perhaps appears to be.

I remember listening to Joni Mitchell's eponymous first album, over forty years ago.  It was the first album I had ever listened to that was built around one theme, and essentially told one story as it progressed through the tracks.  I still love that recording, and I purchased it when it really was an album...vinyl, and with a jacket and everything!  (Makes me feel old if and when I have to explain that!).  In her album notes there is a dedication to her father, as the one "who taught me to love words."  It was the same for me growing up.  My Dad was a stickler for the English language.  He loved it and (most of) the words that are in its makeup.  I was NEVER allowed to use profanity or obscenity (not even a "heck" or a "darn!") as a child (can't say I have stuck to that rule as an adult, however!).  The prohibition was not so much because of decorum, politeness, or being virtuous.  To Daddy, swearing exhibited "a lack of vocabulary."  He felt there are a lot more legitimate words in the English language that are far more expressive than the four-letter words so many people use to express their frustrations and anger.  I will say however, that "shit" is probably one of the most descriptive words in our language, and highly appropriate at certain times - especially when used sparingly! (Pardon me, Daddy!  I hope, now that you have rolled over, you are more comfortable!)

I and my brothers were forever being told to "go and look it up," when we heard a word we didn't know, and then encouraged to use the new-found word in at least three different sentences during the rest of the day, so that the word would take root and become a part of our daily vocabulary.  I remember, in all seriousness, complaining to Daddy about this requirement:  "But Dad!  Won't you PLEASE just tell me what the word means?!?  If I have to go to the dictionary and look up the meaning of the word 'pasta,' it will tell me to see 'macaroni,' and if I look up 'macaroni,' it will say, 'see pasta!'"  (I think I actually used those words for the example, too!...I couldn't have been all that serious!)  Or I would say something like, "How can I look up how to spell it if I don't know how to spell it?"

Sometimes it seemed like my Dad should have the motto: "Never use a 'nickel word' when a 'five-dollar word' will say it more precisely!" (Well, it might be more precise, but it often makes one less understood - without Mssrs. Merriam and Webster, of course!) But despite all my eye-rolling and groans, I knew that he was right.  Learning how to express yourself well is important.  Proper and elegant language illuminates your thinking and can clarify for yourself and others what you are trying to convey.  Yes, my Daddy taught me to love words, and one of my fondest memories is sitting in his lap as a very young girl and kibitzing with him on the New York Times crossword puzzle.  He solved them every day, and I have continued that wonderful pastime.

Words and language can be such wonderful and powerful things!  One of my most beautiful "butterfly memories" is about a conversation I had with my (then) 4-year-old nephew, Christopher.  My mother had a table in her home office upon which she displayed several sea shells she had collected over the years.  I was spending some time with Chris one afternoon when he and his family were visiting.  He was and still is a remarkably intelligent and insightful young man, now of almost 40 years.  I was telling him that if he held  the seashell up to his ear and listened, he could hear the ocean - the sound of the waves coming ashore.  He gently picked up the shell and placed it against his ear, as I had shown him.  His eyes lit up in a way that brought tears to my own.  But, being the sort of person I am, I decided to do some "wise-cracking" - the type of humor I thought might appeal to a 4-year old:  "Say, Chris!  Why do you suppose you can hear the ocean from inside that shell?  Does it have a tiny telephone or a little-bitty radio inside there, sending the sea-song to your ear?"  Instead of giggling, he took on a very thoughtful expression, hesitated a moment, and then said, "No, Aunt Paula, I think the shell has a 'special remembering thing' inside it.  And that way, no matter where it is, it carries the ocean with it."  I can still taste the sweetness of that moment, and can bring to my mind, at will, the fragrance it left in the air.   I was humbled by the thoughtfulness and wisdom of this child, and the way his words conveyed a picture and a feeling in a way no other medium could accomplish.

Words can also cause great pain.  Most of us have heard the old schoolyard rhyme "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!"  In my experience, one could hardly get further from the truth. I can think of no person who has escaped unscathed the injuries inflicted by name-calling.  Consider how the use of the spoken and written word has shaped our own families, races, nations, and creeds - surely there is no one who has not felt the stings and arrows of outrageous abuse of words against one another (Sorry WS!). All language - written, verbal, non-verbal, and/or pictorial - has the power to hurt and the power to heal.  We all need to consider a bit more carefully sometimes what we are about to say or write.  I have unfortunately become a conaisseuse of shoe leather - especially my own.  I endeavor each day to put my mind into gear before putting my mouth into motion, but being the impulsive and rash being that I sometimes am, my language frequently gets me into all sorts of humbling situations, and has led me to partake in a large number of shoe meals and crow feasts.  It seems that my eagerness to speak correctly has often led me to speak unkindly.  Something I am only just beginning to learn (though I'm sure my Dad tried to teach me) is the fine line that separates the right word from the correct word, and the difference between a bon mot and the appropriate word. While my humor can often "leave 'em laughing," it also can hurt - regardless of my intentions. I am learning to choose more wisely.

This post ends with two of my favorite quotations about language and words:  
Proverbs 18:21 - "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit."  Proverbs 25:11 - "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."

Yeah, Solomon was on to something there.  So I'll close now, going in search of some golden apples, wishing you all


Addendum - August 3, 2010:  The title of this post is in reference to not only the proverb, but a partial quote from a poem by William Butler Yeats, and it is one of my favorites:  You can read it at the following link:

And speaking of choosing's a giggle for you!  

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I'll start with a little background so you will have some idea of what I'm trying to write in this post. About 5 or 6 years ago, I broke my right elbow.  It was not a bad fracture, and not displaced, just painful, as you can probably imagine if you've ever whacked your "funny bone." ( If you haven't whacked or broken it, my advice is DON'T!)  The elbow did a good job of healing - at least the Dr. and I thought so, until a few months later, I started to feel and hear some grating in my arm whenever I used it (yes, I'm right-handed...I used that arm a lot!).  The Dr. and I both felt that he should probably scope my elbow and see what he could do about trimming the bone edge before it sliced through a tendon or some such, so I took a couple of days from my job and had the surgery done. Unfortunately, when I awoke from the surgery I could no longer use my right hand.  The radial motor nerve to my wrist and hand had been severed, and I almost completely lost the use of them both.  What followed over the next few months were a series of "tendon transfers" to give me back some partial use of my hand.  I used to play the piano, was an excellent typist, and played other instruments that required the dexterity of both hands, but particularly my right, as that was the dominant hand; I could no longer do any of those, at least not well.

The hardest part for me, from an emotional standpoint, has been giving up the piano - I love playing and used it a great deal in my sosng-writing.  But from the standpoint of job usage (the real money kind!) muy typing is what sufgered most.  If you wonder sometimes why it takes me so long between posts, most of it is because I dread the idea of sitting down after writing to read through and corret the countless mistakes that have been made by my very awkward use of left hand, plus one roight finger.  As you can tell, the results can sometimes be quite humorous, but I stress that it is not very funny to me at the time, particularly since I hate to read what I write after it has sailed the stream of my consciousness...I write in the first place to clear my head of all that nonsense...why read it anonly toa bsorb it again?

Now I can hear you saying "Get yourself one of those speech translating pieces of software so all you have to do is dictate into ta microphone.  The computer will then record it for you!"  Well, folks, I have tried it, and yes it does work to a degree, but it is also etremely frustrating!  For one thing, it requires me to think, which of course, is generally anathema to me.  For another, I still have to go back and read it because i have to make sure it has been transcribed correctly, or to see if I've missed dictating some punctuation, etc.  What a poain! I am greatful for spell check, which will do the red squiggle underline on the misspellings, but it doesn't highlight usage and syntax erors - I suggest blue squiggles for them, as that is the color the air turns when I find I have to make another correction, or perhaps a rewrite! *SigH*

I have always been one for pointing out the errors of other people's typing an grammar my nature to be a corrector.  Never want to hear it myself, but HEY!  I don't usually have to!  Whioch means of course that  am either perfect (in that respect) or close enough that  people would be too afraid to point it out to me...I guess i can be pretty intimidating! Grrrrrr.....  While I realize that many would see that trait as a weakness, it is har for me to get away from the thought that "I'm only trying to help!"  Uh-huh! Tell it to the Marines!

So now you know the real truth about my keyboarding ways...I no longer have any - effective ones that is.  To give you an idea of the LABORIOUS task it is to post a blog entry, I have left all but the firt paragraph just as written.  I'm not even sure I could decipher it, but if you can, more' the pity, beause it's really not a very good one, (I being the best ccritic of my own work!).  THE THING ABOUT KEYBOARDING THAT BOTHERS ME THE MOST THESE DAYS IS HOW i CAN ACIDENTALLY HIT THE CAPS LOCK AND NOT KNOW IT UNTIL i'M DONE...DRIVES ME CRAZY!  bUT THAT'S A STORY FOR ANOTHER TIME...IF YOU ARE UNLUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE ME TELL IT!

nOW, don't you feel sorry for poor pitiful mne?  Better not - one thing I hate as much as correction is pity! aND ISN'T THIS A CLEVER WAY i'VE AVOIDED EXTRA WORK? It's a waste of time, so I think I'll close by saying that for me, FOR TODAY, this is also


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Marriage, Divorce, Al and Tipper

Interesting news was revealed last week.  After 40 years of marriage, Al and Tipper Gore are calling an end to their marriage.  I don't know why I have such a sad feeling about this particular separation/divorce, especially since such action seems to have become the routine in our day and age. As the only thing I "knew" about their marriage was the longevity, I cannot comment about it specifically.  But it seems a commitment of 40 years would have come to an end in some other way;  this "amicable" parting seems ineffably sad because, lacking either death or adultery, the marriage appears to have run out of steam, as it were.  Such an end could and perhaps should be a warning to all couples who think they have gotten over the hump of challenges and difficulties that the first few years of marriage can bring.  Perhaps something bubbles beneath the surface for all of us married folk.  Is a "friendly separation" in our future?  The reasons why the Gores reached this point will never be known by anyone other than themselves, and that is as it should be.  It really is not mine, nor the business of anyone else who is not directly involved.  But, the concept of an amicable separation is what I would like to ponder for a while.

One commentator remarked that she saw this "not as a failure of marriage", but a "celebration of life."  Gentle Reader, I have to tell you:  that comment shocked and angered the pants off me!  No one I know has ever described their separation or divorce as a "celebration of life."  It has, however, been described to me many times as a "living death."  Some feel that their spouse has, for all intents and purposes, died - yet the living "ghost" of her or him still hangs around, ever near yet never present.  I am familiar somewhat with that particular description because I am a second wife.  My husband was married to his first wife for 10 years before she left him.  The fact that both of them had been unhappy in their marriage for most of those years in no way mitigated the pain my husband experienced.  I would never have called their separation and divorce "amicable," nor would I refer to it as "friendly."  It was, however, civil, and each treated the other with respect throughout the process.  It was hardly a celebration, and certainly it came with a huge feeling of failure.  In their case it was a failure to create a marriage in the first place, rather than the end of one that had been.

This distinction is something that came to me when I was preparing to marry a divorced man.  The words pronounced over couples who celebrate a Christian marriage are, "Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder."  While the desire and intention of each couple that marches down the aisle together is that they are a "God-matched" pair, I  believe that this is not always the reality.  While I believe that all divorces are failures, not all failures end up in divorce.  As a matter of fact, failures can end up in marriage! Many marriages are unions created by the couple itself, and God is not always the "Joiner."  Even with all the prayers that each marriage be a heavenly match, surely the divorce rate in this country today would prove that God's blessing on the union is not in all respects the case.  Since the rate has remained at a steady 50 percent for a long time, it is apparent that indeed, God has not done all the joining, otherwise, many of those divorces would have never been. I do not mean to say that God's Will for a union is always done; many times God's Will is flaunted or ignored - which brings a sadness and grief all its own to bear on all involved.  But the fact that so many marriages are self-generated explains, to me anyway, why so many are then self-destroyed.  It also seems that some couples who are part of a DIY marriage are persistent in their efforts to stay together. While the result of such persistence  can be a Godly union; sometimes "staying together until parted by death" is simply that:  staying together - for reasons other than a true marriage.  It may be fear of a life alone, or fear of having no financial means, telling the children, or facing the unknown that is more than either party is willing to bear. For many it may also be the simple fact that a promise was made to one another, before God and witnesses, to remain married until parted by death. That reason is sometimes the saddest because it assumes that we are not capable of acknowledging our own mistakes, regardless of how well-intentioned they may have been, asking forgiveness, and moving on in life with some wisdom gained.  We are fallible beings, and all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.  How we handle ourselves in the midst of our failures has a much greater impact on our lives (and those of others) than the failure itself.  Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not concerned that you have fallen / I am concerned that you arise.”  How the Gores manage to relate to one another - either together or apart - will be the more instructive event in their lives. I do wonder, though, when couples "drift apart," how much time and effort have they really spent in trying to get back to each other before they find the distance between them is too large to bridge?

Still, I cannot see divorce as being a celebration.  Divorce may be necessary, and perhaps a relief, but how could it ever be called a celebration?  The one good thing about failure is that it is a "teachable moment."  If lessons are learned and new insights are gained, then failures - which are a fact of every human life - can be  valuable indeed - in ways successes could never be; but I submit that the failure is not the celebration!  What we do with our downfalls should be the true source of our celebration - assuming what we accomplish is worth celebrating!

I probably read way too much into what was quoted, and it is entirely possible that the excerpt I heard was totally out of context, (although it certainly sounded well within).  In any event, when did we as so-called "rational" human beings decide to "rationalize" all our sins, failures, and/or shortcomings, and turn them by definition into celebrations?  As I have said, there is a huge difference between managing to bring celebration out of disaster, and celebrating disaster!  Mentioning "sin" is perhaps risky in this particular forum, but since this is my forum, after all, I do not hesitate to use that word.  Sin is the act of separation from God (or Good, if you will), and therefore is particularly apropos in this discussion of marital separation and divorce.  It is also important that I add right here that sin/separation is a human act, and not of God.  We separate ourselves from God, and it is never the other way around. But, our perception of the presence of God is a topic for another posting.  Suffice it to say that we are getting far too good at "forgiving" ourselves, by never calling anything we do as something in need of forgiveness!  Think about it!  If our "separations" are a cause for celebration, for what should we ask forgiveness?

While my mind is still churning away, Gentle Reader, (if you have managed to stay with me all this way), I must call an end at least for now to this meandering.  Please let me know your thoughts on the subjects of separation and divorce. So many feelings are involved in such a complicated and intricate subject, that with your own unique insight, you may be able to bring some some clarity to mine.

For all of you - indeed, all of us, I wish enough time, enough love, enough failure, enough celebration, enough...