Tag Archives: story-telling

Lifting a Glass…Once Again

We, all, have those days that we mark on our calendars to reflect on something or someone. Whether we do so to honor or simply remember is usually up to each individual to decide upon. As a Nation, even Congress, for their lacking in getting most of what really needs to get done accomplished… they do manage to get a lot of endless resolutions passed like “National Take Your French Poodle To Lunch Day” (Ok, probably not a real resolution but I’ve seen the lists and this one is close.)

Today is a day that has always been a special one in my life and I wanted to share it with you. First by telling you a few interesting things that happened in 1930…

# The first literary character licensing agreement is signed by A.A. Milne, granting Stephen Slesinger U.S. and Canadian merchandising rights to the Winnie-the-Pooh works. ( over 80 years later he’s still a “Tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff.” )

# The first frozen foods of Clarence Birdseye go on sale in Springfield, Massachusetts. ( A good raw steak was replaced by a frozen bag of peas for a black eye)

# Mahatma Gandi set off on his 200 mile protest “Salt March” to the sea.(Truth be known he did a lot more than march in 1930)

# Hostess Twinkies are invented. ( But it will take many years before the pot smoking craze in the 60’s will place them on the lists of harmful addictions)

#The first Soccer World Cup starts. ( Willing to bet that the spectators weren’t as over-zealous back than as they are now)

#Warner Bros. release their first cartoon series called ‘Looney Tunes’ ( They would survive into this century only fall under the Right Wing’s censorship eye.)

#The first night game in organized baseball history takes place in Independence, Kansas. (Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, carried portable lights around on their team bus.)

#The dedication of George Washington’s head is held at Mount Rushmore. ( The dedication of former President G.W. Bush’s head done in butter will have to wait due to global warming.)

#Judge Joseph Force Crater steps into a taxi in New York and disappears.( the taxi part turned out to be a myth probably brought on by disgruntled bus drivers or subway conductors trying to stifle the taxi industry)

#Betty Boop premiers in the animated film “Dizzy Dishes”. ( Today, I fear she would be banned by the social right as sexist)

#Cecil George Paine, a pathologist in England, achieves the first recorded cure using penicillin. ( Who would of thought how important moldy bread would become.)

#U.S. President Herbert Hoover goes before Congress and asks for a US $150 million public works program to help generate jobs and stimulate the economy. ( There are those who think only President Obama has asked Congress for job money)

#W9XAP in Chicago, Illinois, broadcasts the U.S. senatorial election returns, which is the first time a senatorial race, with non-stop vote tallies, is ever televised. ( And look at what it started)

#The chocolate chip cookie is invented by Ruth Wakefield. (Waistlines were never the same.)

Another less documented but in my eyes equally important event on a day in 1930, a child was born…a male child to a house painter and a church school teacher in Chicago,Illinios.

Right from the start he stood out with a head full of curly almost white hair which would bring him a fifteen minutes of fame moment early in his life. In the first week  of  April, 1932…this 18 month old boy and his mother were taken from a park and detained by the Chicago police for hours until the boy’s father could be found and even then there was panic until he could produce proof of the child’s identity.

A month before in New Jersey, 20-month old Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., was abducted by an intruder from his crib and this child in Chicago very closely resembled the picture on the poster the officers kept waving in the poor woman’s face and the multitudes of dark suits men around her shouting increased the fear and confusion within her.

The woman….my  grandmother.The young child…my father. The story of that day would always eventually be told at every family reunion I attended but it was only at the top of a very long list as my father’s life was a fascinating mixture of this country’s history as well as the ups and downs of everyday life. Though not a rich or famous person, his experiences and life events were woven into a timeline of major conflicts and changes in this country.

In a lot of ways he was a rebel…in as much transition as the nation surrounding him. Restless and wanting, he left school and home at 14. Hitch hiking and rail riding all over the states though he would later complain that the only two states he never managed to make it to Alsaka or Hawaii. He would later describe it to us as his “seemingly endless class trip”.

He enlisted in the Army (took him three tries as he was underage at the time). Luck was on his side because at the time we were engaged in the Korean War and a lot of young men’s true ages were overlooked. He began to grow in the service…getting his much needed schooling and rising in the ranks to Drill Sargent. He admitted that being a short skinny guy made him a bit tougher on those recruits taller and more buff than him but in all honesty he was also taught that being hard on them would make them strong for their roads ahead.

While on leave from Fort Benning,Georgia, He traveled to Atlantic City,NJ where he and a friend were almost run over by a 1951 Chevy fleetline. He fell to the ground …giving the car’s bumper a smack on the way down, giving the illusion that they had hit him. He pretended to be hurt all because they had noticed that the car was being driven by a young girl and her friend.

The courtship was whirlwind to say the least and juicy material for another sharing. For now I will tease you with the fact that they only knew each other for three weeks before they were married.

The war was in full throttle as he tried to do his best with his duties as a drill Sargent but the responsibility of preparing young men for war is not an easy one and news of how many of his trainees were being wounded or killed overseas weighed heavy on him.

He tried to get deployed with one unit that he had become very attached to but a back injury could not be as  easily disguised as his early age was. Many years later I got to meet some of the men that my father had trained and they overwhelming said that it was the skills that he had taught them that pulled them through.

He was stationed in Panama for awhile but my mother wanted more than the Army was giving them and with many regrets he left the service.

Stock car racing…cross-country trucking…even dabbled at honky-tonkin’ down south where he met some interesting fellas just starting out (again tales for another time).He came to settle on being an ace car mechanic, who could listen to an engine for less than a minute and tell you what was wrong with it.He was a king of barters finding ways to provide for his family by loaning out his skills to all that had something to trade. He would work many jobs at one time to keep his growing family taken care of.

Our home was an open door to any one who needed a place to go. My early memories start in Chicago. My father was a Scout leader. A member of more than one community help group. On occasion a police officer might drop by our house with a homeless or runaway teen who they didn’t want to take to jail but needed some guidance that they thought my father could provide and he usually did. A time when there was a much greater sense of caring in our country.

His life stories would be the foundation of his skills as a mentor and father. He was by many standards a quiet man so that when he sat down with a multitude of young eyes and ears surrounding him there was always a tale…always a shared memory that would have a lesson learned or simply evoked a room full of laughter.  I was the most fortunate of all his children to be the closest to him.

Starting in grade school when I would be called to the office because my father was there to take me to a doctor’s appointment. There was no appointment. He would take me to the ball park for a Cubs game or other special places that would later shape me into the person I became. He had a great love of history,music and passing down of family stories.Some of them I found entertaining but hard to believe until later years when much to my amazement I learned that they were for the most part all true. I grew up watching him keep rooms full of people enthralled with his wisdom and charm.

He never called me his favorite instead telling me that he wanted some company and I was the only one that wouldn’t tell on him to Mom.

My sons never got to meet their grandfather as my father died at the young age of 53. He had led an adventure filled life and I receive so much joy in making sure his grandsons know who he was. Sharing him here with you also give me pause to smile and reflect on how truly special this man was.

Today is his birthday and as it has been for the last 33 years since his passing…I keep a bottle of Crown Royal ( his favorite brand) on my desk. It is only opened once a year on this day…in honor and remembrance of a man who did so much for so many…

A man who taught me that life was seldom easy but always interesting…A man who taught me that giving a hand to help another was the greatest feeling on earth…I fear that it is also the most lost lesson in our nation right now.

But that too is for another time…for now, won’t you lift a glass ( with whatever beverage pleases you) and give a small wink skyward in celebration of a very special man…named Owen.   Happy Birthday, Dad.

“It’s A Boy…x2”

I know that I have described my childhood home as a small place filled with a lot of people and love…so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I grew up wanting a houseful of my own. My early beginnings were mixed with the “Norman Rockwell” family that was open and warm to all who knew us and my own secret hell of hidden molestation that went unknown to my family for over twenty years. I know now that many bad memories were buried deep when at nine years old I got sick …I spent a couple dangerous weeks with high temperatures that had me in a coma (which, while I have your attention…if you ever wanted to know if coma patients know if you are there…I am living proof that makes me  truly believe they do.) The aftermath of my illness has been with me all my life but it was an appointment in my late teens that shattered my initial maternal dreams.

My doctor was the same one who had saved my life when I was younger. I had been one of his first patients as he had just started his practice a week before I had gotten so sick. When you see someone almost every day for a year and than once a week for six more you tend to develop a special rapport with them.

This visit was different than any of the others though because it was my first grown-up woman one. You have to remember way back then it was assumed not to be necessary until you were older and anticipating becoming sexually active because of my illness, I had been late to most of my physical development stages and it had becoming a running chuckle between us when he would ask each time…”So, are you ready to talk about sex ?”…to which I would turn very red and always giggle when I replied “No”. I had also gotten to the point where I usually went alone to my appointments so when the doctor had made some discoveries and had concerns, he wanted to contact my parents which I quickly talked him out of. They were dealing with so much at the time because my little sister was sick & my Mom had just been diagnosed with cervical cancer. I was almost 18 and convinced him that I could deal with my problems on my own.

His concerns involved deep scarring and several other disturbing things. He cancelled the rest of his appointments that day…He and I spent hours talking… for the first time I described to someone the horrors of the  molestations….I remember crying a lot especially about how much I wanted him to keep my secret…(he did agree though years later he told me that he regretted that choice.) Many tests later he had the sad task of telling me that it would highly unlikely that I would ever be able to have children. Another secret that I kept from my parents.

I waited until I was 21 to have my first lover….He was 15 years my senior…(which is another very interesting tale I will someday share with you) It was also still that “sex-is-safe” attitude time and because I knew I couldn’t get pregnant we didn’t use any precautions. We were together for almost five years when it ended…he had even moved away to another state but when news of my father’s sudden death reached him almost a half of year later, he came and spent a very touching weekend with me. Three months went by… After feeling a bit run down and no longer living close to my family doctor anymore, I went to a clinic…When they told me what they thought was my problem, I laughed and explained they were wrong and to do more tests…end results had me picking up the phone and telling a certain  sweet MD that he had been slightly wrong in his predictions. I was going to have a baby after all.

It was a very difficult pregnancy filled with complications and constant fears of miscarriage…to add to the dilemma this child (whose conception date I knew) decided not to make an appearance for 9 & ½ months instead of the tradition 9. Then prolonged it with more intensity with the 48 hours of labor it took to finally be told…”It’s a Boy !” I had prior knowledge of this but it was really cool to hear it confirmed that way.

That first time they placed him in my arms, I cried not only because I felt so very blessed at that moment but also totally terrified…His father couldn’t deal with the situation which for the most part I had already understood and accepted but my family had seemingly decided to not want to be a part of this as well which I couldn’t understand or accept. I knew my mother had issues with me not being married as well as her, still hurting, pain that I had  not told her about my abuse until after my father’s death but I had always been there supporting and helping each of my siblings through all of their life dramas and events…now there I was in a hospital room… alone… with a new young life in my arms…Who the hell did I think I was ? I had thought I was so screwed up inside when the only one I had to take care of was me plus I didn’t think I was doing it very well…How could I possibly be able to care for this beautiful baby boy ?

I was truly blessed though because there were people who stepped into my life and into my heart. I had a support system and a frame of mind that saw us through a lot of the pitfalls being a single parent can have. I didn’t date for ten years. I was social but work and my son were always 1st priority. I chose to take the responsibility of being a mom very seriously and before any of you think how sad that might have been to go so long without you-know-what, trust me it wasn’t. Again maybe it was because of what had happen when I was young or maybe because I was taught to believe that you had to be in love ( my friends found it both strange and wonderful) …either way, I didn’t really think that much about it or miss it and considering how truly awesome a kid he was…I’m thinking I did quite a few things right…

There came a time though when even my son started to question my lack of a dating life and so I accepted a few now and then until I met an extremely wonderful young man who made me feel like a really complete person for the first time in my life.(Yet another facsinating bit of prose for me to share with you later) But alas…not everything in life works out like we want it to…I was sad but a part of me couldn’t help but be happy that I had gotten to feel such intensity….such love…so many don’t ever get to know that kind of feeling and I did…so being sorry for myself just wasn’t high on that priority list of mine. And apparently there was yet another surprise from who ever it is in the cosmos that guides these paths of ours… because after what I thought was maybe a bit too much “drowning of my sorrows” after the loss of that one-true-love….I, once again, was telling a doctor to do the tests over….Almost twelve years after my first miracle, I heard those sweet words echoing around me “It’s a Boy!”

This time old and wiser had a whole new set of reality mixed with it but I had the best of people around me and a even a few re-kindled family ties. The greatest of all was my oldest son’s reaction and input…He confessed shortly after his brother’s arrival that he had been praying for a little brother for a long time and that he was glad that God had heard him. It was another difficult pregnancy but I had accepted that struggles are a part of life that we can’t always avoid or change but we can always accept and deal with. The intriguing twist in this was that a somewhat new ultra-sound tech missed the mark so to speak in telling me that she could see that I was going to have a girl at the begining of my second trimester… causing me to spend the rest of my term planning for such an event. Not wanting the same problems I had the first time, they knocked me out for this one and upon coming out of the anesthetic, I heard “It’s healthy baby boy”… to which the nurses told me I replied “But it’s suppose to be a girl”….the anesthesiologist than asked me if I wanted them to put him back ? Everyone laughed including me.

I hadn’t picked out a boy’s name so I asked my oldest son for his assistance and as I had done for him, he picked one name out of the bible and one from our family tree. Our lives have been as blessed as anyone could hope for. There have been battles and struggles but when used as life-affirming lessons that teach and nurture…they have not been anything we couldn’t endure. We are close but I have strived for them each to also be fiercely independent. They have become very caring young men who do not hesitate to do what they can to help others. I didn’t have fathers for them but I did make sure they had the best of male role models in their lives. My youngest turned 16 last month…His brother and I never cease to be amazed as how wonderfully he has managed his challenges so far. My oldest son is turning 28 this week and despite what the economy has done to shatter and alter his career goals he still works hard to re-assess and move forward…

Am I mad that I wasn’t a more active player of the sexual freedom explosion ?

Did I miss out never marrying ?? ( I was asked several times)

 Did my sons miss out not knowing their fathers ?

Should I have used the law to make their fathers participate ? 

I have friends that dwell on such things but I don’t….why ? These are things that can’t be changed…I chose to have my children and I chose not to force their fathers to be something that they couldn’t be…It was my responsiblity that I accepted full control over… I’ve watched others use their children for revenge, monetary gain or simply as pawns in a game of unyielding bullsh*t…I can never understand why people can be hurtful and so spiteful about something as special as being a parent… Regrets are a dime a dozen in most people’s lives but what point is there in spending any amount of brain power on them when I’d rather think about how I can surprise my oldest on his birthday with something I can’t spend any money on…lol….family tradition with us….birthdays have to be from the head and the heart not from the wallet…more fun….more meaningful that way…

I was asked what it was like being a single mom… I just realized that I never think of  myself as anything other than just a mom. All good parents worry about their kids…about whether we’ve made the right choices…taught the right things….been there for them when they needed us…or even just if we showed them that we loved them enough…I don’t think these worries ever stop. I still can remember when they put that little bundle in my arms for the first time ….counting ten little fingers and ten little toes….totally facsinated by the tiniest of things as little kisses followed by little tears and so much amazing wonderment as you experience life all over again through their eyes…There is no greater reward on earth than to help a child…grow and learn…whether you have created this life within or reached out and connected with one in need of you….it doesn’t matter….what does matter is how you open your heart and mind to the responsibly you take on not only to that child but to the world in which that child will become a part of…

I feel very blessed to have been allowed to be a part of such a process and equally glad to be able to share these moments and thoughts with you 🙂

“It Was My Secret To Tell”

When I started writing again, the first thing I noticed was that I have way too much stuff in my head that I could write about…Such a quandary not knowing what would be of any relevance to any one other than my near and dear ones…Than a follower on Twitter asked me a question which I did try to answer but 140 characters is sometimes torture for a long winded broad like me. A few days later , a similar question was put to me…both based on a tweet that I try to re-tweet at least once a day when I can…

As a victim who survived I urge you to please help #StopChildAbuse ~Report It ! Donate a tweet a day. http://JustCoz.org/helpspreadthis

Maybe it’s because of what’s been in the news lately…maybe it’s just because it is the whole world’s dirty little secret that a lot of the children on this planet live in fear…but I did open the door when I put it out there that I was not only a victim but also one who survived… The question was posed again and I promised to try and answer it.

I have started and stopped….deleted and re-assessed this piece over 30 times so far. The mere fact that I have had such difficulty putting into print something that I have lived with my entire conscious life fills me with such a sense of uncomfortable confusion as it is a subject I have spoken on….counseled on…for the most part had thought it had become no more than a teaching tool for me now….and yet…over 30 times ?

Granted it was a secret that started when I was only 5 years old …and other than one very sweet and caring family doctor… it stayed buried deep within me until I reached my 26th year of life… it was also something that I had thought I faced and dealt with a long time ago but apparently scars that may appear to be healed… are still a bit sensitive to the touch…

I was born into a somewhat lower middle-class family. We never went without the necessities but my father worked two jobs….sometimes three to provide for us. Our house was small and always filled to over-capacity as my father took in stray or stranded children the way some people take in cats…There was even a while there when I couldn’t tell who was or wasn’t one of my siblings. The school year was like an exercise in military efficiency (my father had been a drill sergeant in the Army)…we all had our schedules and amazingly it left my mother with, in her words, just enough “alone” time to keep the house and everything else in order…I know now though how hard it was on her…at one time she had three of us under five…(funny how it sometimes takes becoming a parent to appreciate one)

It’s my understanding that it was in the summer time…when school was out and there weren’t enough activities to keep us all busy…a choice was made that there would be summer camp when we could afford it or  they would pass us out for visiting trips to relatives… for what was really only a few weeks during those hot months…and that would  help my mother keep her sanity and even allow for some much needed romantic moments for her and my Dad…I know all this now but back then …well, not so much…

My Grandparents lived on a farm and for city kids, it was fun for the first few days after that it would kind of lose it’s charm…and while the older kids could do chores and stuff …my grandmother didn’t seem to have time or patience with 5 year old “too fidgety” me…I remember sitting in a big rocking chair on the porch doing nothing…being asked to be quiet was something I remember hearing a lot as a kid.

An Aunt and Uncle came for a visit and offered to take me off her hands for awhile…It was confusing in my young eyes to keep getting passed off, especially when my Uncle sat me on his lap and whispered in my ear as he wrapped his arms around me…”nobody wants you but me”… I remember it clear because it was his mantra…he repeated over and over to me whenever he could…always softly…always whispering so no one else could hear…He would add things like “I don’t understand why your mommy says you’re a bad little girl. I think you’re a good girl”…”They said we could keep you but if you’re good I’ll let you go home.”

 For the next few weeks I stayed with them…even though they had other children, I ended up being alone with my Uncle a lot….His hands….his fingers….the fowl odor of his breath…burned forever in my mind…not just from that brief two weeks but for the countless weeks and years that occurred after it…I will not describe anymore of the details as they are something that I do not desire to see in print…for four years he had his way with me…each summer visit made longer than the last…telling me how my mother really didn’t like me…how my father was too busy to be bothered with me but that uncle loved me and that as long as I did what he said and was good…he would make sure that my family didn’t give me away…He had good fuel for this as I did have a foster brother and had been told that his other family hadn’t loved him enough and that’s why he was going to live with us. How cunning these kind of perpetrators are…and how once violated… how openly vulnerable an innocent child is…

My time with my family became so unreal to me….I was the “perfect” child….did all my chores…never fussed…teachers actually sent home notes telling my parents I was too quiet but my grades were exceptional….I was most often found in a corner reading a book ( stories that could take me places and let me pretend that all was right with the world).I sometimes felt like I was only watching my family and not really a part any longer.I would cry about only one thing….not wanting to go away when the summer month of July came around but I was soon to realize that I wasn’t safe at home anymore either…

It was as if there was an invisible label on my back saying “Easy Target“…because two years into the summer “visits” with my Uncle…a so-called family friend began spending evenings at our house and offering to tuck us in at bedtime…spending more time with me than any others…he always acted as if I needed to be comforted or loved….as if I wasn’t…I’ll never know if he had somehow talked to my uncle or if people like this have some kind of radar but it sadly became a part of what I expected and my silence was necessary so that I wouldn’t be sent away for being bad.

Still not quite sure how two different perverts in two different cities managed to molest the same little girl but they did…The stopping point came when I was nine years old…( I did go through a period where I thought a higher power had intervened in a most strange way)…a cold turned into strep throat and went untreated which led to Rheumatic Fever…I was in a coma for weeks and than stuck in a bed for almost six months…All the attention that I got quickly buried the brainwashing notion that my father and mother didn’t love me or want me around.

The family friend stopped coming around…and my uncle…well…I had to put up with him awhile longer…but his tactics changed as I guess he knew his mantra wouldn’t work on me anymore…He told me that if my father were to find out what had happened between us that my father would kill my uncle and than go to prison for the rest of his life.He told me that my father would never be able to look at me again because I had done such bad things…Oh, how evil is the mind of an adult with such power over a child…I was only 10 at this time and still very much in this man’s control. He no longer even tried to touch me but he had a stare that at holidays and family events  usually sent me looking for a place to hide…I became the quiet non-social one…I became an outsider looking in with my family…but I kept the secret…

There was a part of me that resented my mother for not knowing what had happened to me…Our relationship spent years strained and distant…My father could do no wrong in my eyes…I somehow felt I was protecting him by keeping the secret…I was closer to him than any of the other children…He confided in me…trusted me…there came a time when I knew I had to tell him…but kept putting it off..there would be time later…He died suddenly of a massive heart attack at the young age of 53… a piece of my heart breaks every time I realize that I betrayed him by not believing that he would love me no matter what.

A year later, I got up the courage to tell my mother…the look of pain in her eyes was almost more than I could bear…I had stayed away from family functions for over ten years by then and kept out of the family dramas…My uncle had been caught sexually abusing his own granddaughters and I know she didn’t mean to do it but my mother put a guilt trip on me of epic proportions making me feel that if I had told on him when I was a child… none of the others would of had to suffer…which also brought back memories of the family friend and put the thoughts of what other young lives had been hurt at his hand in my head.

This is where a lot of victims who like me, face a cross road…we can’t go back and change one damn thing about what had happened to us…and speaking up years after the fact bring a lot of mean, hateful things hurling towards us from those who don’t want to believe that anything you say is true…I did speak up…My aunt and her half of the family have pretty much let me know how much they hate me…The ex-family friend…was going through an ugly divorce…all I did was show up in court one day…I sat quietly in the back…He took one look at me and started to cry…in open court he told a judge that he was a bad man and that he no longer would fight for the custody of his kids…( one of which it turned out he was abusing)…

I call myself a survivor because I went on to volunteer at phone banks set up for abused children . I’ve worked with counselors to help victims know that they were not alone … that it was ok to report it….talk about it…hell, scream it from the roof tops if it’s helps…Silently suffering only helps the abusers… I might of had a problem writing about this but once I found it, my voice refused to stay silent. It is what it is and I have tried to use it for the better…

As soon as I knew that they could really understand me…I taught my sons that it was important to always talk to me about what was happening with them in regards to any interaction they might have with other adults. I might have been a bit over-protective of them when they were younger because of my past but I keep reminding them everyday that there isn’t anything they can’t tell me.. I refuse to feel sorry for myself…I refuse to let the past dictate whether I can live, love or laugh…I love life…I love people…I would not be me if I couldn’t keep an open heart and mind…I  have an unquenchable thirst for helping people…To do or be any other way than who you want to be… is to let the bastards continue to molesting your mind and even your very soul…

This was hard to write but I will have to admit that I am glad I did it…I hope that sharing it with you will turn out to be a good thing as well…

Now do me a favor…Give someone you love a hug and let them know you’re there if they need you 🙂

A Mother’s Thanks for Mr. Olbermann & His Thurber Readings

While alot of the lame-stream media put off even acknowledging OWS and still are practically ignoring or distorting the Occupy movements one of the journalist who isn’t is Keith Olbermann.I wanted to take a moment and share another part of this good man who has touched my family greatly.

It should to be said…There have only been a handful of men that I have greatly admired and respected in my life…My Father being always #1. He’s been gone over 28 years now but I still kind of talk to him and quite often can hear his voice in my head.(Not to be confused with those who hear bad voices in their head that tell them to run for President.)

It’s not that I’m a hard-to-please-male-bashing-woman….LOL, I love men…(though I did date a girl in college for awhile. I’m remembering that she was an extremely hot brunette …and being the open-minded free-thinker my father raised me to be…well, let’s just say it was an interesting summer.) Whoa, cool flash back moments…where was I ??

Oh, yeah…men I admire….Tim Russert was my man of choice for explaining to my common sense mind what the whacked-out power-hungry people were doing….Always understood him….Always trusted him….If memory serves me, (and I am finding that the older one gets the more one looks back) it is because of the wonderful Mr. Russert, that I first became aware of Mr. Keith Olbermann…

Mr. Olbermann with his handsome face, strong jaw, warm smile…Oh what the hell, you’ve heard all that fan BS before…probably tired of it or find it disingenuous…let’s just say that it was his gorgeous hypnotic eyes that caught my attention at first and I was hooked. Not in a scary show up at your door naked way…( damn, sorry….more flash backs…) but in a true sense of belief and respect that he was what he presented himself to be and than some.

Being a single mom, I have always tried to put good male role models in front of my sons. What they listen to and watch is just as important to me. I am very proud of both of them with the progress they are making to find themselves and the paths that they are meant to be on.. Every now and than I get a glimpse into their ways of thinking that tells me that I might just be doing a good job as a mom… which brings me to the reason behind this long winded compliment to Mr. Olbermann.

From the first time he explained why he wanted to read Thurber to us…

“My father was in the hospital and every night when I visited him, I read aloud to him. James Thurber. And one night he said, ‘You really should do that on your show,’ and I said, ‘Dad, it’s a television newscast. I’d love to, but how could it possibly fit?’ And he said, ‘How often have I ever suggested anything for your shows?’ And I remembered that he never had. But I also reminded him that there were things like copyrights and bills, to which he said, ‘Try it. You never know.’ ~ Keith Olbermann

And from the posting of his Thurber readings on online to be enjoyed more than once…Mr. Olbermann captured my 15 year old son’s heart and imagination.How many kids out there sit down practically every evening and watch the news with a parent ? My youngest was a bit of a shy reserved kid. I had received several notes from school that he was too quiet and perhaps needed testing to “see” what his problem was. I held tight to my father’s teachings that we all find our voice in due time.Watching CountDown  together was a wonderful way for him to share with me what he was thinking. As time went on he did this more and more.

One night my son came into my room and asked if he could read something to me. I thought maybe it was a school paper or maybe something he had found on the net…

He sat down and started to open a small book…I asked him what it was…He showed me the cover “Rex Stout’s Black Orchids” A Nero Wolf classic…than I asked him why he wanted to read it to me…he smiled saying that he liked the idea of us having something special to share…that he liked watching Mr. Olbermann read Thurber and he liked the way I smiled watching Thurber being read….

My son and I, both loved mysteries…until just a couple years ago I use to read out loud to him two times a week ..now according to him, it was his turn….I secretly wished I could of video tape him doing this as I was so totally amazed by someone who up to this point had been shy and reserved in his manner and speech.

He worked so hard at not letting the old English of Stout’s style throw him…animating his words with occasional hand gestures to fit the prose….looking up from time to time to make sure he still had my attention. (Which he totally did ) His voice cracking now and then in that adolescent it’s-getting-deeper-but-not-yet way …

Bless the wonderful late actor, Maury Chaykin…we had watched the DVDs of the Nero Wolf series and here my son was, normally very soft spoken, boldly speaking Wolf’s words with such a passion…. gulping hard when he took a drink of water…but keeping a tone of excitement in his voice for over an hour …teasing me with the last few pages…asking me who I thought did it….chuckling at me when I gave my answer…not giving me even the slightest hint until the final paragraphs when the murderer was revealed.

He had to have already read this once before… maybe even practiced reading it out loud because he delivery towards the end was so melodramatic and thought out. I was in such wonder and awe of him….

He is starting that time of his life that will be full of chaos and confusion. As much as I want to wrap my arms around him and protect him from everything… I know he has to make his own choices….learn from his own missteps. He loves his games, books and friends…leaving less time for me, which I sadly understand…but as he kissed me good-night that evening…he smiled and asked if we could make time next week for him to read me another…I could feel the tears swelling up in my eyes as I looked up at my handsome young son and told him yes…

I wanted to make note of this because I’ve read online some who criticize Mr. Olbermann for taking the time to still share Thurber with us when he can and because I wanted to remind people that our children don’t just learn from us…. they also learn from all the things and people we put in their world…

I am grateful that Mr. Olbermann was and continues to be a positive influence on both my sons especially after his Special Comment this last August. My oldest has become a part of community groups trying to help efforts to change this broke system of ours as well as getting out the messages of such great causes like NAFC…National Association of Free Clinics-  http://www.freeclinics.us

My youngest spent his summer volunteering so he could, in his words “step up” and be part rather than sit silently on the sidelines. He still does read out loud to me though I have to wait awhile sometimes for him to “fit” me in… He brought home his first report card from high school this month…all A’s & one B+…from a kid who barely opened his mouth and had been struggling to keep a C average…

Do I believe that a television journalist helped my son find a better way to enjoy his path in life ??

I truly do and what’s more if you asked my son he would agree as well.

“The Wonder of Wire-Coat Hangers and a Political Education”

It is so amazing to me now, how much of what we learn is not in a classroom. I know that there has been a hundred years of studies on how environment, culture, race, religion, sexual orientation and quite possibly whether you got to play with a yo-yo or not have an impact on how and why you end up thinking the way you do…on the equally mundane as well as important amounts of the matter and anti-matter that consumes us.

We seem to get selectively assigned early in life. We either rebel against it, expand on it or heck, just find a different path entirely. This for all intent and purpose works for almost every level of existence however for this sharing I would like to dwell momentarily on a few things that fell into place for my brain to work as it does.

I was not a student of journalism. I tried once but was asked to drop the class as my professor told me that a true journalist could say in two sentences what it took me three pages to explain. The following semester, I wanted to try again. I even wrote him  (in my opinion) a wonderful essay…five pages long …telling him what a great teacher he was, how I would work very hard to learn, what virtues and insights that I possessed to add to group discussions and projects, and asking him if I could once again take his class. Two days later the reply in the mail…one page with letterhead, signature and the simple message “NO”.

I was not a student of politics…though I think I was fortunate to have a parent who taught us by his actions as well as his words when I was growing up. He encouraged us to do volunteer work in school and around the community. I went to rallies, even attended a few “sit-ins” but did I really research any of my young votes??…No! I was a democrat from day one and voted that way. I cared deeply about my little piece of the world and the people in it but somehow missed out on the “big picture”…

I didn’t think of myself as student…and yet I did learn….

My Father was quite possibly the most fascinating man I will ever meet. A child of the depression who got most of his formal education in the Army where he rose to the rank of Drill Sergeant during the Korean War, a position that added a deep sadness to him that he would not share with us for many years.

He liked things to have order but more importantly he liked us to understand why he wanted things the way he did and from the second I learned what language was…his major house rules were embedded in my mind:

#”Be respectful of your elders”…they have lived longer and deserved it (until proven otherwise) was always added because Dad firmly believed that age had little to do with stupidity.

#”Don’t lie, cheat or steal”…these all kind of fell into that “be honest” category and breaking any of them usually brought forth the harshest of punishments.

#”No one is always right and no one is always wrong”… My mother disliked this one as she never wanted to have to explain and preferred falling back on that “I’m your mother and I say so” line.

#”Arguing with words…good. Arguing with fists…bad!” I was pretty sure this rule was directed at all the young men that lived in our house though I learned the hard way not to come between two sisters in a heated discussion about almost anything.

# “Have Faith…in yourself and in whatever you chose to believe in.” This one was the hardest to not only understand but to achieve. It was his strongest rule and yet it was the one least discussed.

My father was raised  by a fire & brimstone…bible-thumping…church three days a week…”if you don’t do as I say you’ll burn in hell” woman with a husband (my beloved grandfather) who sat quietly in a corner chair smiling and nodding on occasion, did not tell his children who or what to believe in. Dad had some sort of deal with our mother, who until we reached the age of 13 took us to church every Sunday and made sure we attended a bible study group once a week.

I watched as those ahead of me chose to keep going or stop. We had so many different people as a part of our family. I think my father worked to make sure that we were exposed to as much diversity as he could find for us. We were encouraged to respect our friends through understanding by attending their churches and learning other religions.

When my 1st Sunday came, I decided to spend the day with Dad. No one seemed surprised, as I had come to be known as his shadow. After breakfast…. the flying around of schedules…. who’s going with who…what cars are in use…when will everyone be back…the house settled into an eerie quiet.

I could hear the TV from the kitchen and found my father sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee in his hand and the Sunday paper in a sort of neat pile at his feet. Across the room was our modest size one television set. (Yes, Virginia, there was a time when families only owned one TV) It was a black and white one as the colored sets were still a bit out of my dad’s budget though we did have this really weird screen cover that if you put it on upside down it made everything on the bottom of the picture blue and some of the people’s faces green. (Sorry, strange flashback)

The TV sat against the back wall of our living room, where surrounding it on the wall and even up onto some of the ceiling was the most elaborate honey comb of no less than 25 wire-coat hangers. They were all stretched out and connected, either by twisted ends or some sort of thin metal-like stuff  my mother used for hanging pictures. Most were those brown metallic colored ones a few those dipped in white paint ones against my mother’s “spring peach” painted walls

I remember watching Dad, as he would occasionally attach new ones to the maze. I remember the day my older brother fell off the chair he was standing on as Dad instructed him how to tack the one he was holding to the ceiling during a football game. I remember my mother’s anger as the wired monstrosity grew up and around her thoughtfully designed modern living room set.

Now I know that some of you are scratching your heads and thinking…What the hell do wire-coat hangers and an old black & white TV have to do with a political education?? Trust me…I will get there. For those of you, who understand the reasons behind the wire-coat hangers…I thank-you because  I worry that my grey hair is sometimes interfering with my grey matter.

In an ancient time of no cable and the city I grew up in, Chicago, living up to it’s nickname the “Windy City”, our antenna never seemed to be able to stay up on our roof. Hence the wire-coat hangers! Starting with a large set of rabbit ears ( please, any children present, just ask someone old) sitting on top of the TV, the coat hangers were attached to the tips and fanned out in all directions to be able to pick up more stations and get a better picture.

No wire adjustments needed that Sunday so long ago as I watched the screen…a very smart looking man with thick glasses was questioning a very smart but different looking lady. I started to ask my father who they were but his finger went to his lips letting me know to be quiet at the same time pointing to the screen. Another house rule…

#”Learn to listen.”

Her name I found was Golda Meir. The man’s name was Lawrence Spivak and the program was “Meet the Press”. It wasn’t like the evening news. It had people asking questions and people giving answers that to a young mind held a wonderment of clarity.

Even though I got wrapped up in being a teenager and becoming a young adult…no matter where I was…if only for that brief 30  minute window…I watched. Learning more as I went along. Mr. Spivak was known for his tough questioning. When asked about them he said “Since I wasn’t beholden to anyone, I just felt that the question had to asked. It just had to be fair and informative and accurate.”

Bill Monroe took me through my first voting years…and I will admit now and deny it later that it was Garrick Utley’s cool sounding name and dimples that held my glancing interest while I tried to be a single working mom in the late 80’s. This was also during a “maybe someone else can explain to me” period when Lesley Stahl could pull my attention to “Face the Nation” now and then.

Politics was getting increasing more complicated and everyone seemed to start having hidden agendas. I could watch one show and get an answer to something…switch to another show…same question totally different answer. I was starting to think that maybe I was just too dumb to understand the mess.

Than December 1991…turned on Meet the Press and a smiling man with the kindest eyes I had ever seen was on…My concern that Mr. Utley and his dimples had been replaced faded very quickly and right from the start…Mr. Tim Russert had my heart and my mind.

For the next 16 years he helped me to understand what the hell was going on. He did it in ways that left you wanting more not feeling stupid. His political coverage of elections and debates were matched by none.

I stayed up all night in 2000 and got to witness first hand what was marked as one of the 100 greatest moments in TV history. “Florida, Florida,Florida” on his white board with that grin on his face.

But it wasn’t just the way he did his job…it was the way he made me feel a part of his job and his life. He shared so many glimpses of his family, his humor,his love of sports. As a life-long fan of the Bears..I still couldn’t help but smile when he would cheer for his Buffalo Bills.

A father’s lessons and wire-coat hangers gave me “Meet the Press”…Years of insightful moderators gave me my education but I will always believe that it was Mr. Russert would made me feel like a participant and not a spectator in our nation’s politics.His passing left an un-fillable hole in my heart.

Today, I still see too many people with agendas and preaching to me instead of informing me. There is hope though a few new voices being heard and a few more seasoned ones getting the recognition they deserve. I have watched the start of a new horizon at Current TV, that I know will help us get our voices heard, bring more truth to the forefront and perhaps even re-educate those whose brains have been turned to mud by the extreme right media.

The era of wire-coat hangers is over but the purpose behind them…to find and hold a better picture of the world will hopefully never end.

“Within My Fathers Tears”

I can still remember that day I walked into a small polling place to vote for the first time. I had taken my grandmother to do “her civic duty” as she kept referring to it as. The whole ride there was filled with her lecturing me on the different aspects of this certain election and how important it was for our community, our country, our family and even myself that I take my responsibility seriously.

I smiled at her a lot that morning because she had no way of knowing that everything she was saying was already a very deep seeded part of my being, that her son…my father had in his own way given me a civic consciousness scattered out over the years with his lessons, his gifts of caring and sharing.

The dedication on the National Mall brought one such lesson flooding back to me and as this is my first diary, I wanted to share a part of the man who made me who I am today.

It was a hot, humid night in Chicago the spring of ’68…I was awakened by my mother’s voice calling for us all to get up. The window was on my side of the room and I could see that it was still dark outside. I arose quickly as I knew that tone in her voice and had learned not to question it. I struggled to wake up my little brother who shared a room with me. (My father divided us by age, not gender until we entered our pre-teen years)

For a small four-bedroom house, it was always filled beyond capacity and this night in particular it was busting at the seams with people…Family, friends, neighbors and quite a few people I did not recognize. Everyone was moving quickly about the rooms, talking over each other and filling my home with a very real sense of panic. I was becoming confused and upset as I searched the crowded rooms for the one person who I knew I could count on to help me understand what was happening.

I looked and there in front of our big picture glass living room window was my father. Standing there quietly with a cigarette in one hand and a highball glass in the other, staring intensely out not reacting at all to the chaos of the others running every which way behind him. I tugged at his shirt. He turned towards me with one of his famous half grins and for a moment I was no longer afraid.

Then things got crazy and blurred as some one came running in shouting about fires and a mob. My mother was non-stop crying by now as she gathered up the smaller children and herded the rest of us towards the streets outside lined with double parked cars. As the adults scrambled to place us in the cars, I turned towards the night sky.

Off to my left the dark blended into a strange yellow glow. Living in a big city there was always a night light glow to the sky but that night it was like none I had seen before. It flickered and flashed like one of my father’s lanterns that we took camping. My father was watching the sky as well and as he reached down to put my little sister in one of the cars there was a loud thundering sound that had him quicken his pace and for the first time yell out to my mother to hurry.

I ended up in the far back of a station wagon as we drove through the darkened neighborhoods, eventually away from the city, heading towards my grandparent’s farm in Indiana…my mother still upset but the sounds of my father’s whispering voice comforting her filled the car.

Our stay on the farm that next day, made me feel like the world was coming to an end. There were more than a dozen people camping outside the small farmhouse. My father had dropped us off and returned to the city, so my source of reassurance was gone.There was no tv and the adults had all the radios. As children we had to piece together what was going on from listening to the grown-ups talk to each other.

Martin Luther King had been killed and there had been wide spread chaos in Chicago. We had listened to Dr. King’s speeches as a family because my father had wanted us to grow with open hearts and open minds. We had just buried a friend who had died in Vietnam so I understood what killing was but this was beyond my understanding.

We went back a few days later, our neighborhood still for the most part intact but places around it still showed the signs of anger. My father, usually a quiet man, had made a special point to make sure we felt safe.Surprising us by becoming very excited in the weeks that followed. Senator Kennedy was coming to Chicago.

My brothers and sisters had gone along with my Uncle Bob on some of the visits to houses in our area, handing out election stuff supporting Sen. Kennedy for President. Uncle Bob talked to us about how he had helped campaign for President Kennedy and how important it was to help put good people in Washington. My father hardly ever talked politics to us, decided that he was going to take us to the rally that was being put together for the Senator the following month of June.

We went to spend the week before the rally on the farm…the trauma of that April was still lingering with the adults but we kids managed to have a good time…It was early on a Thursday morning, my father was suppose to be working in the city so we were very surprised to hear his car pull up outside. His face that morning as he walked into the farmhouse kitchen with all of his children sitting around a big table eating breakfast has stayed with me my whole life.

His eyes were red and big tears flowed done his cheeks. I had never seen my father cry before. I mean I was sure he had cried but never in front of us. My mother quickly wrapped her arms around him asking him what was wrong. “Senator Kennedy is dead…they killed him too.” was all he said as he buried his face on her shoulder and continued to sob.

Later that night I went and sat with him on the porch, as I took hold of his hand, he looked at me. I could see the sadness in his eyes as he tried to fake his half grin for me and if I had been older I might not have pressed him but I needed to know what he meant by “they killed him too”.

I can’t remember his exact words but the gist of it was that for all the good he believed there was in the world there also was an underlying evil. That there were people who thought that hatred and violence were the only ways they knew to get what they wanted.

He pulled me close to him wrapping his arms so very tightly around me. He was crying again and whispering to me that things would be alright and that we couldn’t let the bastards win.

A few months later in August, my mother had to go get he and my older brother out of jail because of a rather large heated debate outside the International Amphitheatre where the Democratic National Convention was being held.

My mother was so mad as she worried about the money that had gone for the bail but my father in true fashion smiled that half grin of his and said “we got to do what we got to do”.

Within my father’s tears I saw a passion for this country. We lost him at a young age but his actions and his words have always been with me. Part of me knows that he would be disappointed that I got wrapped up in my own personal world for a long time.

Someone pulled the blanket from over my head and made me look at what I helped let happen to our nation (but that’s a sharing for another time ).I am trying to right that wrong and set as good an example for my father’s grandsons that he had set for me. I have learned that alot of us lost that sense of National Pride but I truly feel that we can get it back.

We have come a long way since 1968 but there seems to be those who want us to backtrack instead of move ahead.We need to stick together and not let the bastards win… “We got to do what we got to do”.