Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Memories of Halloween as a Kid

Memories of Halloween as a Kid

I always loved Halloween as a kid. My favorite costume was a clown costume my mom made. I wore it for several years. It was always so much fun to get dressed up and head out to trick or treat. Although in north central Indiana we sometimes had to wear our winter coats UNDER the costume!

Generally, my brother and sister and I headed out with my dad accompanying us. We were only allowed to visit houses of people we knew in the neighborhood. Dad would drive us to the houses farther away, which usually included some family friends and babysitters who loved to see us dressed up. We never went to the scary houses of people we didn’t know who were more likely to put razor blades in our apples! But even at that time, it was a concern. This is not a 21st Century phenomenon.

When we returned with our loot, mom confiscated it so we wouldn’t over indulge in candy, buzz around on a sugar high and ruin our teeth! She consolidated the haul into a container she kept on top of the refrigerator and doled out the treats so they would last. I’ve no doubt she pilfered some of the choicer bits of chocolate after we’d gone to bed.

While we children were marginally resentful that we couldn’t stuff ourselves with candy until we were ready to burst, our parents taught us some lessons of moderation that still resonate today.  

I am thankful that candy and treats were rationed. Even now I am satisfied with one cookie or one piece of chocolate when I need a fix. And….as one of the young participants at a conference I attended a few years ago noted…..I have really nice teeth….for my age!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Amazing Wonders of the Universe & My Belief in a Higher Power

The Amazing Wonders of the Universe & My Belief in a Higher Power

There is nothing more beautiful, destructive, amazing, terrifying or powerful than Mother Nature or the Universe proving the existence of a higher power. During times in my life when I’ve searched for my own understanding of a higher power, sometimes feeling lost or unsure of my path, I’ve always known and accepted there is a power or are powers greater than myself.

The path of destruction and devastation of Sandy illustrates how we humans have no power over other people, places and things. Despite the technological advances of modern society, we cannot influence the direction of a storm. We can take precautions and use computer models in an attempt to estimate the path of the storm and evacuate areas particularly vulnerable, but we cannot alter trajectory of the storm, stop the winds, or build fortifications of sufficient strength to stop the raging waters. I watched the news reports in awe at what nature wrought.

But just when we humans finds ourselves in the midst of devastation, the sun comes out, the winds subside, the waters recede, and we are filled with hope. We have seen the power greater than ourselves at her worst and recall her at her best.

After devastation there is always rebirth. I still recall my amazement following the forest fires in Yellowstone National Park in the fall of 1988 that swept through thousands of acres killing scores of animals and leavings the park scorched and blackened. But almost immediately, there were signs of regrowth. That trip, more than any other experience, instilled in me the belief in a higher power.  While I may not be a religious person, I feel at one with the Universe in the midst of a storm and after, when we are given the hope we need to rebuild. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Parental Alienation Harms Multiple Generations

Parental Alienation Harms Multiple Generations

While many married couples of my parents’ generation have weathered the highs and lows of life and successfully navigated more than five decades of marriage,  a significant number of my friends, acquaintances and contemporaries have been less successful.  This has resulted in an increasing phenomenon of parental alienation, a situation in which a bitter, angry, hurt custodial parent will either unintentionally or actively try to destroy their child’s relationship parent they believe to be evil incarnate and the reason for everything that has gone awry in their lives.

It is my belief that my youngest stepdaughter has been alienated from her father. She accepts as fact every negative thing her mother said about her dad. While I have no idea whether the alienation was intentional or accidental borne out of frustration and bitterness, the results have been painful. But the indoctrination was so all encompassing that even as a young adult, she refuses to accept there are two sides to every story, that it takes 2 people in a relationship to make it work, that every individual has his or her own truth, and that ultimately, one needs to love and accept a parent for who he or she is today – not 25 years ago.

Because of the estrangement, our grandson has been deprived of developing a relationship with his grandfather, his great grandparents, and his great, great grandmother.  My in-laws were deprived of the opportunity to bond with their granddaughter and to enjoy their great grandson.  My stepdaughter declined to attend the 100th birthday party for her great grandmother. She has distanced herself from an aunt she reportedly loves who told her something she didn’t want to hear and recommended that she learn to appreciate her father for all that he is, was and will be.

Ultimately, five generations have been harmed by this alienation. For someone who feels such gratitude that I still have both of my parents in my life and who still misses my paternal grandfather who died in early 1989, it is nearly beyond my comprehension that my stepdaughter does not feel the same gratitude for the dynamic people now on the periphery of her life and that of her child, that she doesn’t see how she is harming her child in depriving him of what could be valuable, happy, and memorable relationships.

Life is short.  I hope she doesn’t wait too long to make amends.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Delightful Day at the Unison Heritage Day 2012

A Delightful Day at the Unison Heritage Day 2012

Todd & I spent a beautiful autumn day at Unison Heritage Day 2012, which celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Unison, a charming village in Loudoun County, Virginia.

We set up our fly and A -frame tent at the Unison United Methodist Church, which was used as a field hospital during the battle. One can still see the pencil scratched inscriptions by the casualties on the walls. It was such a pleasure to talk with the locals and explain the historic photographic processes. The re-enactors that participate in the Unison event are top notch living historians. We proudly advised the villagers they were viewing the best of the best cavalry, artillery and infantry impressions in the hobby.

Unison is one of the earliest settlements in Loudoun County, Virginia – dating from the 1730’s. It is still a charming gem in the midst of the horse country. Despite its being overshadowed by more glamorous battles, Unison was critical in prolonging the war. Following the bloody engagements at Antietam, President Lincoln looked for an opportunity to stop Lee and capture Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. The Confederate cavalry led by JEB Stuart kept the federals at bay and allowed Lee to regroup.  This led to the removal of General McClellan, a decision still debated by Civil War historians today.

For us Unison is a confluence of spending a day as a living historian absorbing the beauty of the countryside, the joy spending time with friends, the pleasure of sharing our love of historic photography and recreating history, the opportunity to meet fascinating people and the fabulous hospitality of the Unison Preservation Society who have worked tirelessly to raise money and to generate interest in the history of this critical but little known battle.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

One Day At A Time

One Day At A Time

The past few weeks I’ve allowed things over which I have no control to adversely impact my attitude and physical well being – a clear indication that I needed to attend an Al Anon meeting.

Since I no longer live with active alcoholism and have been in recovery for many years, I sometimes believe I’ve got all the tools of the program embedded in my psyche and can skip meetings for several weeks.  I forget that I need the support of the group and the experience, strength and hope of other members to keep myself on an even keel.

The challenges of every day life can at times seem overwhelming to the point that I can forget my blessings and allow dormant fears and anxieties to rise to the surface and rob me of the serenity I’ve worked so long and hard to attain. I’ve found myself wallowing in frustration and allowing things over which I have no control to affect me.

The meeting I attended this evening focused on the Al Anon slogans. In particular I was reminded to take “one day at a time”.  Focus on today.   I’ve neglected to hop out of bed and say to myself with absolute certainty: I am blessed to have today and will make it a fabulous day!  When I start each day with a positive attitude that it will be a good day, it always is.  When I allow negativity to infiltrate my attitude, things don’t go so well.

Fortunately, my positive focused yoga class and the subsequent Al Anon meeting helped me hit my reset button.  I need reminding constantly that I have it within myself to live a life of  fulfillment, peace and serenity and I am thankful for the friend and the resources I have that keep me balanced.