Tag: Fearlessness

Lessons from the Couch Test

Lessons from the Couch Test

Slap him or ignore the comment and walk away?  Is this the time to take a stand?

I laughed it off but wondered, “Is this what everyone thinks?”

It was the second time in my short career a white male made the comment, “I guess you passed the couch test,” when I was hired or chosen for a job.

In both cases the men who hired me were complete gentlemen and never made an inappropriate suggestion or move.  As my career progressed, it was the enlightened men and women who were supportive and influential.  The insecure stood in my way, or tried to.

inner-light-2

Over thirty years ago I was a whistle blower.  While reading new-hire files, including the interviewers’ notes, this comment in the file of a young woman is burned in my memory,

“Heavy thighs, otherwise attractive.”

It was a pivotal moment for me.

The Senior V.P. of Human Resources, my boss, was encouraging this type of comment or it would have been eliminated from the file.

Not only was it inappropriate, it was illegal and could have gotten the organization in big trouble.  I went to the highest ranking person I knew at the corporate level to report it.  I figured it might be the end of my employment with that organization, but I was not willing to work for this person.

The corporate attorney got involved; files were scrubbed of such comments; some disciplinary action was taken.

As for me, the organization structure changed and my Training Department moved out of Human Resources and began reporting to the Director of Stores.  Supportive, enlightened people who believed in me protected me.

From the outside, my decisions to take or leave a job probably make no sense.  Often my jobs were out-placed, downsized, right-sized or eliminated.  When the leaving was my choice, it very well might have been prompted by witnessing the abuse of power or a violation of human rights and the inability to look the other way.

inner-light-3Earlier this year I was reminded to stand in my light and own it.

When you allow others to see the light in you, it reflects on everyone around you and everyone benefits.

I hope that my light reflects my desire for  equal rights and the compassionate treatment of all human beings.

 

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.

ethan 2

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!

ethan 4

 

The Cone Zone

The Cone Zone

Summer Sojourn 2016, Part Two

Of the six states and two continents I have called home, Kentucky is byky roads far the plushest and greenest of them all.  The rolling hills, narrow country roads covered by a canopy of trees and lined with fences speak of a gentle life style.

Both Lexington, Kentucky and Gainesville, Florida claim to be the “horse capital of the world.”  I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but between the two, Lexington wins, hands down.

* * *

Heading north on I75, just before you cross the Ohio River, a spectacular view of Cincinnati appears on the horizon.  Take a good look.  It doesn’t last long and it beats the view from ground level as you drive through. Once out of the Greater Cincinnati Area, Ohio is basically flat.

Ohio – it should be named “The state of Perpetual Road Construction.”  Orange cones, barrels and signs of “road work ahead” abound.  I intentionally did the drive on a Sunday to avoid construction slowdowns.  For the most part, it was a good strategy.

I’ve been travelling this stretch of road for decades.  One of my favorite land marks used to be “Big Butter Jesus” until it was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

If you have never seen this edifice, the best description can be found in the following song on YouTube:  Before the fire…  I apologize in advance if you find it sacrilegious.

After the fire, a new last verse was written to the song and can be viewed here:  After the fire…  Fast-forward to the end.  It is worth it!

* * *

Michigan, My Michigan!  The very minute you cross the state line it’s hard not to notice how much more aggressively people drive here.  Keep your wits about you, an eye on your side mirrors and another on the rearview mirror.

I suspect there are more cars than people in Michigan.  One person may own an everyday car to get to work, a vanity car, and an SUV or truck to pull a boat or RV.  One word of advice:  plan your north- and southbound trips to avoid the masses migrating “up north” to their cottage/cabin on Friday and returning home/south on Sunday.

Michigan is also known for the prevalence of construction zones lined with orange cones and barrels.  The local news report includes a “Cone Zone” advisory.  With all of the construction going on you would think the roads would be in better condition.  The hard winters and number of cars on the road do take their toll.

And so as Part Two of the Summer Sojourn unfolds, I leave you with this from the Mitten State.

Welcome to Michigan Sign at State Border
AJ7400 Welcome to Michigan Sign at State Border
The Slow Lane

The Slow Lane

On the first leg of my summer sojourn I witnessed many types of fearlessness.  So this is less of a story and more of a travel log of the first four states on my journey.

us 19I left my home in Florida, north bound traveling the back roads.  Once off U.S. 19, a four-lane divided highway, it was two-lane country roads into Georgia.  A road sign indicating a town was often followed by a blinking light, no commerce, no residential district in sight.  No sign of civilization as far as the eye could see.

Fearless are those who have chosen to live on the road less traveled.  Where do they shop for groceries?  How often do they make the trek?  Do they have large gardens and farm animals for food?  Are they lonely?  Why have they chosen such an isolated existence?

* * *

One consistent sight along north Florida and southern Georgia roads was the plethora of Baptist churches.  Most were small, white buildings with steeples, the kind ybaptist churchou see in movies, very picturesque.  No two of them were of the same denomination.

Fearless were the missionaries who blanketed the south propagating the faith.  What was their motivation?  What population were they targeting?  Could there have been enough money to keep so many congregations alive?  How do they all still survive?

* * *

Once I joined fellow travelers on I 75 no words can describe the antics of fearless drivers on the road.  They seem to have no value for their own life or the lives of anyone around them.  What is waiting for them at the end of their trip?  It must be something special to risk everything to get there a few minutes sooner.

i 75
They send me to the slow lane, fearful I might be caught in bumper to bumper traffic crawling past them, their car crushed on the side of the road.  Hopefully no one will be injured.

* * *

Tcowswo fearless cows, one brown and one white, pushed their noses out the trailer window.  Traveling 70 mph, face in the wind must have been exhilarating for them.  Or maybe they just wanted some fresh air.  It was a comical sight I wish I could have caught on camera.

 

* * *

Are animals that try to cross a major interstate fearless or merely unaware of the danger they are in?  When they don’t make it, the fearless carrion birds show up, risking their lives for a fresh meal

* * *

Fearless were the crews thatt road 2 blasted through mountains to build the roads in Tennessee.  Not to be outdone by man, Mother Nature shows her fearless side in the plants and trees growing out of the rocks bordering the interstate.

 

* * *

On a respite in Kentucky, I am once again struck by the fearless beauty of the horse farms; miles and miles of fences.  Pastures glow sporting thirty shades of green.  Horses strut and gallop with fearless grace and glee.

horse farm

* * *

If you are fearless enough to leave home and bask in the beauty of this great country we live in, your efforts will be rewarded may times over.  You don’t have to go far.  Just look around you.  See the beauty you have driven by so many times before.  Look for the unexpected in the ordinary.

Go fearlessly on your journey.  I recommend the slow lane.

 

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.

horses 2

 

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

Sweet Space

Sweet Space

“Dying is nothing to fear. It can be the most wonderful experience of your life. It all depends on how you have lived.”  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Today’s “fearlessness” post is about death.  I had the privilege of being with both of my parents when they died.  Each passing was unique.  Each passing was a reflection of a life well-lived.

Sweet Space

There is a sweet space between waking and dreaming where time is suspended; my mind stops flitting from thought to thought, my breathing is steady and my heart is open.  I was in my sweet space when I heard my deceased father’s voice.

“I will be coming for your mother soon.  I miss her.  It’s time.  I need her more than you do.  You will be okay.  You always were.”

During the fifty-nine years of their marriage, my father’s whole purpose in life was to take care of my mother.  He created a bubble around her.  At the same time he was teaching her to be independent.  He cared for her when she was sick and he wanted to be sure she didn’t take herself too seriously.

In our last conversation, my dad asked me if my mother could still laugh at herself.  I assured him she could and told him a story about a recent event when she did something silly and made a joke out of it.

Later that day he slipped into a coma-like state.  His body could no longer keep fighting and he knew my brothers and I would make sure my mother would be well cared for.

To say my father had a strong spirit would be an understatement.  He survived thirty-four months in a Japanese prison camp and the Bataan Death March.  When dementia had nearly taken over his mind, he continued to look for my mother around every corner of the hospital.

When his spirit came to me twenty-one months after his death to let me know he missed my mother and would be coming for her soon, I took him seriously but protested.

“You can’t have her yet.  She’s not ready.  I am not ready.”

death 1

My mother was in good health, active and not about to slow down any time soon.  She was getting ready for her second knee replacement in less than twelve months.  She didn’t want the surgery and put it off until winter when she wouldn’t mind being inside while a Michigan winter raged on outdoors.

* * *

Two weeks after my father’s spirit came to me and nine days after mom’s knee surgery, we were in the emergency room.  Mom’s nitro pills were not controlling her chest pains.

This was not our first time in the ER.  Before following the ambulance to the hospital, I grabbed her medications and medical power of attorney.  No matter how many times we had been to this hospital, they always wanted the paperwork.

Mom was having a conversation with the nurse when a traumatic event occurred.  The ER doctor asked the attendant at the desk to call “the team.”  I knew this meant a Code Blue.  A handful of nurses moved her to a trauma room to work on her.  The wheels were in motion and my father’s spirit was following the action.

I spoke with the doctor and asked him to stop any extraordinary measures.  I showed him mom’s advanced directives.

He confirmed my identity and asked me, “Is today the day?”

“This is what she wants.  So I guess today is the day,” I said. There was no time to think about what I wanted, only time enough to think about what my mother wanted.

Two nurses stood on one side of my mom while I sat on the other holding her hand, watching her struggle for breath, her body tensed from head to toe.  She was caught in that space between staying and leaving.  I could sense by father’s spirit hovering above her.

I stroked her brow and said, “It’s okay to let go mom.  Go be with dad.  He needs you and I will be okay.”

Her body relaxed and her breathing settled, becoming shallower and shallower.  My father reached out for her and she slipped away with him into sweet space.

Today was their day.

“Those who have the strength and the love to sit with a dying patient in the silence that goes beyond words will know that this moment is neither frightening nor painful, but a peaceful cessation of the functioning of the body.”  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

If you have made it this far, let’s end on a lighter note.

 death 3

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.”