Tag: courage

E is for Ethan

E is for Ethan

The road to adoption is not for the faint of heart.  It takes courage, faith, persistence, determination and a whole lot of fearlessness on both sides of the adoption.  The newest member of our family, Ethan celebrates his first birthday this week.  This one’s for you Ethan.

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E is for Enchanted.  Your parents were enchanted with you from the first minute they met you.  At one day old you captured their hearts and souls.

E is for Ever-lasting Love You will always be loved Ethan.  If you ever doubt it, just look around you.  You are surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who love you now and forever.

E is for Elated.  Every time your Mommy and Daddy look at you they can hardly believe they get to call you “our son.”  They have permanent smiles on their faces.  They radiate in your presence.

E is for Excited.  Your cousins are lining up to spend time with you.  They are so excited to have you as a part of the family.  You are excited to see them too.  You light up when they are in the room and look for them when they disappear from sight.

E is for Extraordinary You will have an extraordinary life as the son of two extraordinary people.

E is for Extreme.  We are extremely grateful to Ethan’s birth mother for the courage it took to evaluate her options and choose adoption.

E is for Eager.  We are eager to watch you grow and develop into a fine young man.

E is for Emotions It is hard to express all of the emotions swirling around you.

E is for Explode.  It feels as if our hearts will explode.  We love you so much.

E is for Enjoy.  Enjoy this very special family you are part of.  Enjoy each day.

Happy First Birthday Ethan!

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The Bus Stop

The Bus Stop

May was rocking back and forth at the bus stop.  The butterflies in her stomach smoothed out for a few seconds when one of the other girls admired her new, pink, canvas shoes with blue laces.  May loved how her shoes matched her dress and the ribbons in her hair.

No matter how bus 4many times she changed schools, the first day didn’t get any easier.  May was hoping she would be at Sterling Elementary for more than a few months.  May’s father moved her and her mother around when neighbors were too friendly or too nosy.  “It’s time for a change,” he would say.  She counted the schools on her fingers; five schools in two years.

May’s eyes welled up with tears as she climbed onto the bus, her head spinning with questions.  Would anyone sit next to her?  Would she find any friends at school?  Would the teacher be nice?  Would she be smart enough to keep up?  Turning back, looking at her mother, May pleaded with her eyes, Please don’t make me go.  Her mother, Ellen, waved and blew May a kiss.

As the bus pulled away, three mothers crossed the street, headed for home.  Kim suggested they get together for coffee since they lived so close to one another.

Nora said, “I have to get home.  My husband is watching the baby and waiting for me to get back so he can go to work.”
Ellen thanked Kim, and said in a voice, barely above a whisper, “My husband is waiting for his breakfast.” Ellen looked at her watch and started home.

* * *

Ellen was allowed outside the apartment, unescorted, twice a day.  She walked May to and from the bus stop.  Nick, Ellen’s husband, knew down to the minute how long the journey took.  If she was gone a minute longer, there would be hell to pay.

Those few minutes in the morning and afternoon were the only time Ellen was alone with May.  After school, May did her homework while Ellen prepared dinner.  After dinner, Ellen would check May’s work, give her a bath then read to May before tucking her in for the night.  With Ellen’s sleeves rolled up during bath time, May could tell when new bruises appeared.  The two never talked about the bruises or the shouting when her father thought May was asleep.

One day, on the way to the bus stop May said wistfully, “Momma, maybe someday we can both get on the bus and never come back.”

“We have nowhere to go honey, no one to stay with,” Ellen said in a small voice.  But May’s suggestion started Ellen thinking.

That evening, Ellen ripped a sheet of paper from May’s notebook when they were going over homework.  The next morning she walked onto the bus and slipped the driver a note whispering, “Please read this later.”

* * *

The next day, the bus driver motioned for Ellen to come onto the bus. He slipped her a piece of paper.  Ellen read the note, looked into the bus driver’s warm eyes. With the smallest of movements she nodded her head.  The driver put another note in her hand.  Ellen stepped off the bus and waved to May as usual.

During bath time, Ellen told May to pick a toy to take to school for show and tell the next day.  May started listing her stuffed animals.  “Which one should I take Momma?”

“Which is your favorite?” Ellen asked.

May smiled, “Bunny.”  Her smile was quickly replaced with a frown.  In a small, sad voice May asked her mother, “Is dad moving us again?”

“No Mbus 5ay, dad is not moving us again.”  Ellen didn’t want to lie to May, but she was afraid to tell her about the plan for the next day.  Nick might overhear them.  May might say something to give it away.

* * *

In the morning, Ellen left the note the bus driver had given her on the kitchen counter as she and May left for the bus stop.  The note was from May’s teacher “reminding” her to come to school the next day to help in the classroom.

Ellen and May hung back as all of the other kids hopped on the bus.  It was a different bus driver than usual.  Holding on to May’s shoulders to keep her hands from shaking, Ellen looked at him, pleading with her eyes.  Gesturing toward the first row, he said “Come.  Sit behind me.”

Heart racing, Ellen kept looking over her shoulder as the bus pulled away.  What if Nick read the note before she was expected back?  He would pull her and May off the bus.  They would be moved out of the apartment by dinner time.  Nick was always planning two moves ahead.

As the bus drove off, Nora and Kim looked at one another.  “I wonder what that’s all about,” Kim said.

“I don’t know,” Nora replied, “but don’t you think it’s odd that May had a stuffed animal, and they both looked like they had on too many clothes for such a nice day.”

“Wasn’t that a substitute bus driver?  I have never seen that man before,” Kim added.

* * *

The bus made a few more stops to pick up kids.  When the driver pulled into the bus lane at May’s school, he told Ellen and May to wait for the others to leave.  Once everyone else was gone, he said, “Slouch down so no one can see you.”

May knew that something was happening.  She also knew not ask any questions.  She held tight to her mother’s hand clutching Bunny in the other.

“Remember how you wanted to get on the bus together and go away?  The bus driver is going to take us to a special place.  Somewhere safe,” Ellen whispered, trying to keep May from getting upset.  Several blocks away from the school, the driver let them know it was okay to sit up again.  bus 7

After a twenty minute ride from May’s school, the bus pulled into the parking lot of a plain looking building.  The driver turned to Ellen and May.  “My name is Dan.  I volunteer at The Haven.  It just so happens I used to drive a bus and I still have my license.  Once inside you will meet with an advocate who will ask you a lot of questions.  If anyone can help you, this is the place, these are the people.”

Hanging tightly onto May’s hand, Ellen entered the shelter.  “Welcome, my name is Tina; let’s go talk about how to make sure you two ladies are safe.”

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The End of the Line

Father’s Day always brings to mind one of the most fearless people I know, Raymond F Barry, my dad.  He was proud of his service as a Staff Sergeant in the Army during World War II.  Originally stationed at Clark Field on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, he spent thirty-four months as a prisoner of war.  He didn’t talk about it very often.  He did however save articles, books, photos and letters.

raymond barry

I would like to share two excerpts from a memory book about his service.  This first piece is taken from “History of Cabanatuan Prison Camp 1942-1945” written by Maj. Gen. Chester L. Johnson, US Army.

On April 9, 1942, some 75,000 Filipino and American soldiers and prisoners of the Japanese, captured on Bataan began the infamous “Death March” out of the Bataan Peninsula to central Luzon.

After being forced to march the 85 miles to San Fernando, under the most inhuman conditions, the prisoners were forced into small freight cars and hauled to the town of Capas, which was 45 miles away, in the hot sun with the doors to the freight car closed.  From Capas they were forced to march the final 8 miles to the Camp O’Donnell POW camp.

Weakened from four months of continuous combat, living on starvation rations and minimal or no medical attention, thousands of men died on the death march, in the freight cars and at Camp O’Donnell.

After the fall of Corregidor and the Manilla Bay Fortress islands on May 6, 1942, 16,000 Filipinos and American servicemen were ferried to Manilla.

The American POW’s were marched through the streets of Manilla…as a show for the Filipino civilians.  The American POW’s were shipped by train to Cabanatuan where the Japanese had established an American POW compound.

American POW’s in Cabanatuan were assigned to work on a farm…all the work performed was hard labor…the results were that in a 30-month period, 3,000 died at Cabanatuan alone.

These POW’s died from disease, executions, beatings and starvations.  It should be noted that more Americans died at Cabanatuan than any other prison camp since Andersonville in the Civil War.

In October and November of 1944, the Japanese moved able bodied POW’s to Manilla…Only about 500 American POW’s judged too ill or too crippled to work were left behind in Cabanatuan.

On January 30th, 1945 at 7:45 p.m. An American team of 100 Rangers…along with two small Alamo Scout teams (22 men in all)…in a totally successful surprise attack liberated the camp.

* * *

In Dad’s own words:

freight car

After walking five days without food, this (boxcar) is what is waiting for us at San Fernando.  We were squeezed into these small cars and hauled to a town called Cabas which was about forty-five miles away, in the hot sun with the doors closed.  The trip lasted five hours.  Some prisoners succeeded in opening holes in the sides of the car to let in fresh air.  We were weak, tired and sick.  I can’t describe the feeling, to be treated worse than cattle by a stranger who does not know you, and hates you bitterly.  From Capas it was about an eight mile walk to Camp O’Donnell.  Another Death Trap.  This surely was the end of the line.

* * *

It wasn’t the end of the line.  He was moved to Cabanatuan, worked on the farm, buried the dead, and eventually was left behind with those too ill to work.

Dad returned home legally blind from malnutrition and suffered other health issues throughout his life.

He was married to the same woman for 58 years, raised four relatively normal children and lived to be 86.  Along the way he earned a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Michigan and taught school for 24 years.

As a side note:  Near the end of Dad’s life, while in the Veterans’ Hospital, one of the Rangers on the team that liberated Cabanatuan was in the same facility.  He would stop by dad’s room every day to ask he needed anything.  He felt responsible for the life he saved.

And so on this Father’s Day, I salute you Staff Sergeant Raymond F Barry for your fearless determination to survive, your fearless dedication to your family and friends, your fearless insistence on the importance of getting an education, and your fearless guidance that serves me still.

Happy Father’s Day from Your Favorite (and only) Daughter

Eight Daring Women

Eight Daring Women

I spent last weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with seven of my new best friends.  Our purpose:  explore and respond to our soul’s whisper and heart’s desire.  The journey within can be more fearful than traveling to the most remote corners of the world.  Here is my ode to my fellow travelers.

Eight daring women step into the arena.

Four stalwart horses stand at attention, electric with anticipation.

Eight daring heartbeats racing, pulsing through the sultry, arid ether.

Eight daring women eye-to-eye with one-thousand pound sentient beings.

Eight daring women exposed and vulnerable.

Eight daring women open to the possibilities.

Eight daring women supporting one another through tears and laughter.

Eight daring women forever changed.

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Thank you Beth Bryce, my fellow travelers and my two equine teachers, Dandi and Lilly, for helping me understand the importance of stillness and letting my bright light shine.

Exit Stage Left

Exit Stage Left

I walked out from behind the curtain, found my mark on stage and delivered my line.  As I turned to take my exit, the audience broke out in laughter.  I was paralyzed. It was the first time performing for a live audience.  I wasn’t prepared for their reaction.

I played the maid in George Washington Slept Here, the basis for the television show Green Acres.  I was comic relief inside a comedy.

Summer Theater was a six credit course at Central Michigan University.  Two directors were staging three productions.  They required every student to work on two shows.  We submitted our credits and read some lines.

I loved my backstage experiences, making sets, sewing costumes, calling light cues from the booth, and changing sets between scenes.  I had no desire to perform on stage.

stage 2

Assignments were posted on the bulletin board.  Stage Manager for Our Town, that makes sense.  (Jeff Daniels played the lead.)  But my name next to a stage role, surely it was a mistake.  My eyes flew open, I held my breath.  Dr. Smith, the Director, can fix this, he must fix this.  I begged, pleaded, bargained.  It was not optional.  He wanted me for that role.

In George Washington Slept Here I had maybe two lines.  No big deal, until the audience reacted.  I knew then, for certain, that the theater was not calling to me.  It was my first last and only acting experience, or was it.

In my career(s) as a trainer, consultant, yoga teacher, fundraiser, and community development speaker I put myself in front of one audience after another for decades.  It may not qualify as acting, but I was most certainly always performing a role.

stage 3

 

Retro-Fear

Retro-Fear

Retro-Fear.  I made that up, I think. Naiveté often looks like fearlessness. Or, “If I knew then what I know now, I might not have (insert act of fearlessness.)”

It all began with a lie, the decision to leave Atlantic City and move to New York City (NYC).

My boss sat on the other side of his desk and lied to my face. Unaware I knew the truth about the possibility of moving from the training department to the marketing department, he told me the job was a demotion and paid less money.

I’d met with the Vice-President of Merchandising beforehand to work out the details. Writing marketing copy seemed much more interesting than writing training manuals.

My boss lied to me.  I was sick to my stomach.  I pressed my lips together and took a deep breath.

Asking my boss to inquire about the job opening was a courtesy and the politically correct thing to do. Calling him on his lie would have been political suicide for me and put others in harm’s way. So I held my tongue.

Back at my desk, fuming on the inside, steam coming out my ears, I vowed to be gone in thirty days.

My college roommate lived in NYC. I called to find out if she knew anyone needing a roommate. She was looking for a new apartment and needed a roommate.  We hatched a plan.

I used vacation time and weekends to look for an apartment and look for a job. At the end of the month I had both. I borrowed the company van and moved my belongings to New York.

fear 2

Three important bits of self-knowledge came from that move.

  1. Personal integrity is important to me and a vital quality in the people I surround myself with.
  2. Like Frank Sinatra sang so eloquently, “If you can make it there you can make it anywhere.” New York offers a lot, but is not an easy place to live. After that, nothing scares me, much.
  3.  Big cities are not for me.  I am a small-town girl through and through.

I wouldn’t even consider moving to NYC today. Is it retro-fear or knowledge and experience?

Every decision takes us down one path instead of another. No telling where I might be today if I had stayed in my job and not taken the path to the Big Apple.

fear 1

Whoa Boy!

Whoa Boy!

“Get back on the horse.”  It’s a metaphor, or an adage or an idiom.  You pick.  It generally means if you get hurt doing something, try again as soon as possible or you will be afraid of it forever.  Since this post is about fearlessness, let’s just say, I’m no stranger to getting back on the horse.

I fell while racing my bike around the circle at the end of the street when I was young.  The entire left calf scraped and ripped up.  I was back on the bike right away.  I suspect there are many other similar incidents.  That one has stuck with me.

When it comes to jobs, I’ve been laid off, down-sized, right-sized, and eliminated.  I kept going back for more until I decided to take control of my fate and work for myself, so to speak.

When it comes to relationships, I’ve tried a stable of horses.  My lips are sealed on that topic.

In this story, there I was, flat on my back on the Alaskan tundra, arms out stretched, nothing but sky above me.  I took a few deep breaths, enjoying the view and getting my bearings.

tundra 3

“Are you OK?  Like mother like daughter,” my brother quipped from his saddle.  Our mother was thrown from a horse on a summer trip to Yellowstone in 1960 something.  She landed on a rock and never did get on a horse again.

I wiggled my fingers, arms, toes and legs.  I felt my head and torso.  “Nothing hurts.  Am I bleeding?”

If it had been on film, it would have been in slow motion.  We were taking a break at the turn-around point of our ride.  My horse bolted for his place in line for the trip back to the barn.  Not expecting the sudden movement, I wasn’t hanging on and slowly slid to the left.  I became acutely aware that both feet were still in the stirrups.  I focused my attention on getting them loose or I would be dragged along like a stunt double in a movie.

The top layer of the tundra is spongey with plant life in the summer.  It was a soft landing.

Our guide rode over.  “Can you get back on your horse?”

“I guess so, but I’ll need a boost.  I can’t reach the stirrups from the ground.”

My options were to either climb on the large boulder that just happened to be nearby and get back on my horse or wait for the ATV to come fetch me.  I climbed on the boulder.

“I’ve been training for this my whole life.  See you at the barn.”

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

Today’s post is in the “fearless, memoir” category.

When I think of facing fear and acting with courage, this is the earliest memory that comes to mind.  It was the first, but certainly not the last time I would have to take this walk.  It got easier each time, which is the point of the story.  In my own words…

Sometimes acts of courage are thrust upon us.
Sometimes we knowingly choose to take the courageous path.
Each act of courage gives us the fortitude to face the next opportunity
with the knowledge that we have the strength to overcome our fears.

Strawberry Shortcake

At seven years old I stand at the end of the driveway, one step away from the sidewalk.  I’m dressed in shorts and a tee shirt, sandals on my feet.  Biting my lower lip, I look at the kitchen window of the only home I remember.  Is anybody even watching? I wonder.  I turn my head and size-up the one hundred feet to the next driveway.

In my right hand I’m holding a small, brown suitcase.  Normally it’s full of doll clothes.  Not today.  The doll clothes are piled neatly on my bed.  I’ve filled the suitcase with pajamas, a tooth brush and a change of clothes.  In my left hand, clutched to my chest, is my favorite stuffed animal, a tan dog with one dark, brown ear.  The other ear was ripped off in a tug-of-war with one of my brothers.

I take a big breath in and blow it out, making a sound like rushing wind.  My chest hurts; my heart is heavy.  So many thoughts are running through my mind.  Why am I the only one who has to leave? Why is mom in the hospital?  When will she come home?  When can I come home?  

Holding back tears, I step onto the sidewalk.  One foot in front of the other, I slowly take the longest walk of my life.  Approaching the neighbors’ house, I hear the family out back on their porch talking and laughing.  I stand outside the screen door, all forty-five pounds and forty-four inches of me.

“My dad told me to come over to spend the night,” I say in soft voice, quavering and uncertain, barely covering the sob that was about to leak out.

“Come in.  One of you boys take her suitcase and put it in the downstairs bedroom.   Would you like some strawberry shortcake?” the mom asked.

“Yes please.  That’s my mom’s favorite dessert.”

In Spite of Fear

courage 1

Travel back to 1967 – 1971 with me, if you will.

It’s half-time at the state basketball finals.  The score is tied and the crowd is going crazy.  Eight cheerleaders are lined-up at one corner of the court.  The mini-trampoline is set-up about three-fourths of the way to the opposite corner.

One-by-one, each girl takes a running start at the trampoline, hits the center of a 38-inch circle on springs, flies into the air, performs a trick, lands on her feet and runs off the court before the next person lands on her head.  And the crowd goes wild!

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Now who thought this was a good idea?

I loved being a cheerleader.  I hated/feared that trampoline.  Every practice and every game was the same.  Shut out the crowd, the sounds, the butterflies in my belly.  Eye-ball the distance to the trampoline, start off on the right (correct) foot, aim for the center of the circle, stay balanced in air, do something, and stick the landing.   Oh ya, smile like you mean it.

BREATHE!

For me, this was truly acting in spite of my fears.  The only trick I ever attempted in mid-air was the toe touch.  See the photo below, which is clearly not me; she looks happy.  The school colors are right though.

courage 2

What do you fear?  How do you act in spite of your fears?