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Benton MacKaye Trail Winter Thru-Hike Slide Show!

Regina, founder of Forgiveness Walks, completed the 300-mile Benton MacKaye Trail during a walk in January, 2013. Follow her journey, photographed by John Lemberg in slides and music.

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Gratitude Celebration 14: Rescue Me!

Betsy

Betsy brought us to the trailhead of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail

My sister Betsy rescued me several times in my life! The last time was as recent as 6 months ago! I’m celebrating my 60th birthday with 60 days of gratitude for people in my life, and today I’m celebrating Betsy’s “life”-saving deeds.

“I’ll be there in an hour.” Betsy said without hesitation, when I called her from the lodge at Seven Springs Ski Resort. My hiking partner, John, and I had been stumped, faced with an obstacle we were resigned to ending our week-long hike. On our fifth day of winter hiking in Pennsylvania, we stopped dead in our tracks when the trail opened up onto a ski slope teeming with skiers. It was the first snowy Sunday of 2013 and thousands of people had hit the slopes! We were not aware until that moment that the trail literally followed the ski slope for half a mile to the top of the mountain. It was early afternoon and we still had nine miles to go after surmounting the ski slope to reach our required destination. I was not willing to walk up the ski slope and there was not enough time in the day to arrange a ride up the lift to the top of the mountain. We had chosen to call it quits on the trip and see if Betsy would pick us up and shuttle us to our car, thirty miles down the trail.

She came right away! “Where do you want to go? I’ll take you anywhere – to your car, to another place on the trail, wherever you want to go!”  John realized that there was a parking lot just a half mile from our original destination for the night. “How about if she took us there?!” he suggested. Done! We didn’t have to abort our trip after all. Betsy’s shuttle put us back on track for completing our walk, and the next two days out in the picturesque snow seemed like a precious gift!

Betsy also rescued me when I abruptly left another adventure in Pennsylvania. I had been working at a church camp with my three children in tow. I had just gotten fired for nursing my four-year old son in view of the teenaged campers. I only had myself to blame because I had disobeyed the directors’ order to nurse only in private by sneaking into the back of the assembly hoping no one would see me. I needed help leaving quickly because I had too much stuff to move away in one carload. My job had been to set up the nature study program, so I had shipped equipment and supplies ahead before the season started. I called Betsy, who said, “Sure. I’ll be there tomorrow morning with the truck. You can come to our place and get everything sorted out.” Done!

It was Betsy who I felt worthy to admit that I would be getting a divorce. She said, “I’m sorry that’s happening. How can I help?” She didn’t say all the things that I had thought my siblings would say.

So, thanks, Betsy, for being the one to get me out of those jams, with compassion, swiftness, and creativity!  I hope I can rescue you sometime when you need it!

Gratitude Celebration 13: Humor and Boundaries

Boundaries give us the space to take our time. Today, in my thirteenth post in my 60 days of gratitude for people in my life, I celebrate my brother, Jim.

Jim is my brother who is eight years younger than I.  Jim played a big role in a pivotal time in my walk of the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. He lives within a few hours of the spot where I needed to get off the trail to take a week off for completing my training as a Radical Forgiveness Coach. He and his wife, Katherine took a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, picked me up, and took me to the Richmond, VA airport. A week later, they brought me back, along with my husband, who was planning to hike with me for three weeks.

Other than that, I don’t have have many memories of doing things with my brother Jim!  What stands out is trying to get him to go to bed when I was supposed to be babysitting him as a teenager. I would take him upstairs, then hurry downstairs to watch TV, because that was the special privilege that I had when my parents were out. Well, of course Jim would have none of that and sneaked back down the stairs. I would hear something and go find him sitting at the bottom of the stairs. “Come on, Jimmy!  Just go to bed! That’s all you have to do, just go to bed!”  I laugh now at how ineffective I was as my brother’s persuader!

And it continues to this day! I can’t hold a candle to Jim’s arguments. He can always win with words, in my opinion.  And he is a master of wit, sarcasm, and word play. That used to bother me, but I now see it as Jim’s gift to me. Jim models the art of setting boundaries for sharing what’s close to one’s heart.

Jim said it best himself. “I prefer to keep my deeper feelings close so as not to have someone’s “big shoes” crush them like  a beer can.” That’s a reference to our dad who was the one with the “big shoes” – his heavy Vasque hiking boots that he wore all the time and he would threaten to step on toys that were left on the floor.

I can relate to what Jim says. I kept my feelings close as a child and young adult, except that I called it “not letting them get my goat.” That meant don’t let anyone see that I’m holding back my feelings and the words that I wanted to vent. I was told, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

In the fall of 2006, a door into a different way of regarding my feelings was flung wide open for me as I participated in Colin Tipping’s  “Miracles Workshop.” We were instructed to vent our feelings, really dramatically!  This was not to dwell on the words or their meaning, or even to validate what we were saying  – or yelling, or crying. What he was coaching us to experience is that feelings are actually energy that’s been stuffed down in our physical body.

All that stuck energy is what could be available for relating with others, or creating something purposeful and expressive, or for healing physical conditions, or dancing or hiking or any number of things we could be doing.  Instead, we’re focused on not saying things, or believing certain thoughts, or paying attention to a certain behavior or playing it safe.

This was a new idea for me, and frankly it frightened me terribly to be in that workshop room when others were expressing pent up anger and sadness and fear. It took all I had to not run out. But, when I finally allowed myself, in that safe and reverent space for feeling our feelings, to move that energy, it felt really good!  I did feel a lot lighter, and even a little morefree of the fear of having those feelings. Actually feeling the feelings instead of holding them down any more, like trying to hold a beach ball under water, opened a gateway to freedom.

Since that workshop, I’ve practiced feeling my feelings, especially in using other tools that Colin Tipping teaches in Radical Forgiveness, Making Room for the Miracle. I especially like how feelings are regarded in the board game, Satori. One of the squares players land on is “Blame Game” where you get to vent and have everyone else say, “You tell ‘em!”

What Jim showed me is that it’s ok for me to feel my feelings, but I don’t have to insist that others do the same. It will happen when the time is right for them.

If it’s the right time for you to open the gateway to freedom and power by releasing your stuck feelings, the best way I know to do this is by playing a game! That’s the board game, Satori, invented by Debbie Unterman and Deanna Hohnhorst at the request of Colin Tipping. It’s akin to a metaphysical Candyland where you journey on a path from Victimland to Awakening, transforming an old story of disempowerment to a new story of freedom, choice, and power. Come see how it’s played!

http://forgivenesswalks.com/satori/

 

Gratitude Celebration 12: Generosity and Persistence

Generosity and persistence are my brother, Tom’s, virtues for which I am thankful. I’m celebrating my 60th birthday with 60 days of gratitude for people in my life. Enjoy! Please comment with your own stories, and feel free to read previous and subsequent essays.

Today’s gratitude goes to my brother Tom for his generosity and persistence. What I’ve noticed about Tom is that he insists on making sure that people have what they need. He goes out of his way to help people. He did that for me when I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. My trip started close to San Diego where he lives. Tom, and his wife, Mary, invited me and my hiking partner to stay at their house for our last few days of preparation. Tom opened his workshop to create a special mailing tube to send our food canister when we needed it.

He drove us to Lake Moreno for the ADZPCTKO, which is the abbreviation for Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off, the 4-day camping gathering for PCT hikers. His support didn’t end there, either! He went out of his way at least four other times to support us on our long journey.

Tom and Mary came all the way from San Diego to Kennedy Meadows to bring us our change of gear as we left the desert and entered the Sierra Nevada Mountains. For me, it was the closest we could come to “going home” while still being on the trail. They brought the comforts of a resupply at home out to us in the wild – our gear, sumptuous and ample food, and family.

There were other times that I remember Tom being a generous provider.  During the family’s visit to Idaho for our niece, Naomi’s, memorial, Tom coordinated and supplied a meal for all of us.

He traveled to Ohio to build a 25-ft ramp for my dad to get out into the back yard during his long degeneration.

And he gave my son, David a leg up by hosting him and giving him a job in his own construction company for three months. It was hard work for David and gave him a taste for figuring out what to do in his own life. It meant other things to him as well. When I oicjed him up at the train station at the end of his journey he said, “Well, I’m not afraid of life anymore and I appreciate my parents”. That was a pretty insightful statement from a twenty-year-old

I believe his passion for helping the underdog had early roots as well. I may have this wrong, but wasn’t it Tom who secretly harbored a neighborhood waif, Papine, in our laundry room closet?

I love seeing pictures of Tom’s current recipient of his compassion and generosity. That’s his grandson, who he pampers and enjoys as only a grandpa can!

Thanks, Tom, for your generosity and compassion. You made my walk through California comfortable and safe!

 

 

Gratitude Celebration 11: Seeds of Self-Forgiveness

Today’s gratitude is for Seeds of transformation planted by my sister, Mary Rose.  I’m celebrating my 60th birthday with 60 days of gratitude for people in my life.

My gratitude today must begin with an apology.  I’m sorry that I wasn’t a better big sister, a kind and caretaking big sister to my little sister, Mary.  I was mean to her by kicking on her mattress on the bunk bed above mine, trying to get her to stop rocking herself to sleep. It didn’t occur to me to hold her or sing to her or tell her a story.

When she was pregnant for her first time, feeling really crappy all around, I practically scolded her for not doing things the way I thought she should be doing them!  I’m sorry, once again, that I didn’t know how to affirm her and love her just the way she was and just be there to suggest gentle next steps.

And again, when Mary Rose offered a song for our family gathering to remember our dear niece Naomi, I discounted it, which upset her and left her feeling unwelcome and ostracized.  And I was totally oblivious to what I had done!

Still, somehow, Mary Rose.  and her husband, Vince, have weathered  my self-righteous and arrogant bossing, parented four loving children,  and coordinated annual retreats for spiritual growth.  And they still talk to me! In fact, I credit Vince with introducing me vicariously to the tools of Radical Forgiveness which have implemented my transformation from arrogant, self-righteous sister to grateful and compassionate one.

This turn-around is actually a perfect example of the worldview at the foundation of Radical Forgiveness. That’s the view that at the soul level we have chosen to be with others who help us experience the OPPOSITE of what it is we came to Earth to experience. It’s by knowing the absence of compassion, in this case, that both of us can come into an experience of compassion.  So, from a Radical Forgiveness view, Mary Rose and I have been doing a healing dance with and for each other.  We were not aware of that, of course, as children and young adults. But, having now awakened to that possibility, we can be open to it and see what we have done and what we have been for each other. Make sense?

In 2007, when I was leading my first Radical Forgiveness Circle Ceremony, I invited Mary Rose and Vince to join the circle. I wanted someone in my family to be there to support and witness my graduation into this new way of being. They graciously accepted my invitation and squeezed the quick trip into their busy lives to participate. I was honored by that! I didn’t realize at the time just how influential the tools of Radical Forgiveness would be in the following years for helping me choose a new path for my life.

Today, I’m getting ready to lead another Radical Forgiveness Circle Ceremony – as the featured workshop at their healing retreat! It’s quietly magical how the seed that Vince planted has worked in the soil of my soul and now I can give it back for us to nurture together.  I am grateful for my sister, Mary Rose, for dancing with me even when we didn’t know it!

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Do you have something from your past that you want to forgive yourself for? The tools that I used to do that myself are powerful, and actually pretty easy to use, if you’re open to the idea that what happened in your past had a purpose.

13 Steps to Self-Forgiveness

13 Steps to Self-Forgiveness

What really worked to help me forgive myself for being mean to my sister was the 13 Steps to Radical Self-Forgiveness. The simple process and especially the song helped me let go of the guilt and shame from my past and come to a new realization and acceptance of myself that on a spiritual level my sister and I were doing a healing dance with and for each other.

 

I’d like to share this with YOU!
The first 10 people to schedule a one and a half hour ($67)
“Heartsingers Self-Forgiveness Experience”
will receive a FREE 13 Steps to Forgiveness cd ($13 value)
To schedule

send me an email at regina@forgivenesswalks.com
with the subject Self-Forgiveness and Free cd
and a short description of what you want to forgive yourself for

I will respond and we’ll set up a date to meet by phone for your Heartsingers Self-Forgiveness Experience

contact me today, and you’ll soon be singing along with me,

“I’m working on forgiveness, working really hard
‘Cause I’ve noticed how it lightens up my spirit and my heart…….”
~Karen Taylor Good

 

 

Gratitude Celebration 10: Noble Heart

“Noble” is how I describe my brother, Mike, who I celebrate today in my Gratitude Celebration series. I’m celebrating my 60th birthday with 60 days of gratitude for people in my life. Enjoy! And please add your comments!

Today, I want to thank my brother, Mike. He’s three years younger than I am, but I look up to him for his courage out in the wide world.  Mike’s world is completely foreign to me! He had a career as a naval officer, living on those floating cities of aircraft carriers. I have only laid eyes on one, and that was when my brother Tom took me to the naval yard near San Diego right before my hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. The size of the ship astonished me, as I struggled to imagine a seaman’s lifestyle. I’m pretty content walking on the firm earth of hiking trails. And that’s as close as I’ve come to understanding Mike’s way of life. But, I’m still fascinated by it!

I have great respect for the courage Mike had to pursue his dream of the sea, whether to move TOWARD something or AWAY.  It’s only been in the past couple of years that I’ve been fortunate to get to have some conversations with Mike exploring our personal views, beliefs, and life journeys.  What a wonderful new phase it’s been. I am deeply grateful for Mike’s respect for my views while standing for his own. Someone who is willing to say, “Frankly, Regina, I don’t see it that way, but I can see how that works for you, and I’m willing to consider that view,” is a breath of fresh air.  The irony here is that I’m not sure others have the same experience with Mike.

Here’s what I’m making of this. I think my brother is mirroring my own willingness to respect the views of others while standing for – and sharing my own. You see, in the past I have been invisibly keeping my way of looking at the world to myself, silently detaching myself from conversations that are fueled by opinions and personal perspectives.  My reason was that I didn’t respect myself and my opinions, especially ones that differed from the arguments on the table.  As I have gained more experience in the power of authentic sharing and with acting on my passionate calling to walk long trails, my courage to share what I’m thinking has increased.  The more I’m being true to what really lights me up,  and taking responsibility to do the work that I’ve always wanted to do but was afraid to pursue, the more authentic I feel. And the world is answering me back with respect. Well, Mike was giving me that all along, even before I had it for myself!

I’m grateful to have begun having conversations of the heart more and more with Mike, especially as several traumatic events have occurred within our family. Being able to open our hearts to each other has been a blessing that I appreciate more every day.

I am also grateful for my brother Mike’s golden tongue and trustworthy influence in helping my son Adam get his first job. Mike, without complete assurance that his reputation would stand, introduced Adam to his acquaintances at a software engineering firm.  They hired him based on Mike’s recommendation.  Adam exceeded everyone’s expectations and now stands on his own reputation, but Mike helped him get his foot in the door.  Thanks, Mike, for seeing beyond Adam’s experience to his potential and his character and being willing to boost him up!

I have always admired Mike for leading with his heart and for his willingness to take a stand for the truth, even when his view is not understood or supported by others. This virtue has been called upon at least twice that I know, once, when his son was killed in a bizarre car wreck and just recently when our youngest brother died.  In both of those heart-wrenching losses, Mike has been the one to take a stand for an unpopular position and view. Although wounded to his core, he has maintained what he thinks is right. To me, that’s what it is to be noble.

Who do you know who leads with their heart?

 

Gratitude Celebration 9: Home and High Notes

I’m celebrating my 60th birthday with 60 days of gratitude for people in my life. Today, I bring to mind my older brother, Dan who keeps high notes coming and the home fires burning.

I have a few clear memories of childhood play with my brother, Dan, who is just 16 months older than I. As toddlers, we created our world in the dining room with stools, chairs, and blankets. Our playhouse included an upstairs formed by the wooden window seat. That 5’x8’ space between the dining room table and the window was our preschool playspace for doing the important work of three and four year olds.

Dan was also my companion as teenagers riding our bikes across the neighborhood to the Leland Science Center in Dayton, Ohio, where we took a class exploring the Stillwater River.  We would take a two-gallon metal bucket with us to collect our river treasures. Dan would hang it from the handlebars of his bike, taking the lead with me close behind. Well, one morning, the bucket got in the way of his turn and he and the bike hit the pavement. I couldn’t stop in time and just ran over his arm with my big balloon tires. Upset and hurting, Dan picked himself up and said, “I’m going home,” and turned around. I don’t remember if we discussed it, but I continued on to the Center, just another quarter mile up the road and went to class by myself. I don’t know that I ever said, “Dan, I’m sorry for running over your arm!”

Dan tried to teach me how to drive his stick-shift truck. Well, that didn’t work!  I couldn’t pull the seat up close enough to get solid pressure on that clutch pedal, so guess what?  All we did was jerk and stall, jerk and stall each time I tried. So, Dan gave up on that! Well, I am grateful that he tried, and I did eventually learn to drive a clutch well enough to drive a dump truck when I was 25, which is another story!

When I was 17 and considering my options for life after high school, it never occurred to me to stay in my hometown! My view of growing up meant leaving home, getting away from all those younger brothers and sisters, and discovering the World! But Dan must have had a different view because he stayed in Dayton, moved to a house in another neighborhood, had a business installing siding, and years later got a degree in engineering that allowed him to get a desk job. I can’t admit to always being gracious and appreciative of Dan’s choice, being self-righteous and all about my own, but I now appreciate that he and his wife, Anita, are providing a stable home base for my mom and for the extended family. I admire their 10-acre homestead estate with its pond and trees.  There’s just something really grounding for me about Dan’s husbandry of the land as he mourns the loss of the half acre ash woods and his efforts to reforest his land. He’ll stay there and keep working on it.

Dan and Anita have a roomy house, so they could take the big oak dining table that my dad refinished 50 years ago.  And Dan could accommodate Dad’s massive workbench, making it even better with refinishing. There’s a little tug of the heart strings when I see those symbols of the idea of “home,” and hold them up to my nomadic lifestyle.

But, what I most enjoy about my big brother Dan is that he can hit the most amazing high notes on a trumpet! I have always been proud that my brother Dan was the one, in whichever band he was in, who had the high-note solos! I remember when the first band was starting up in our grade school. I was a little jealous of Dan and my older sister Karen for getting to play band instruments while I stayed with piano. Dan got to go to Band Camp! From my view at the time, that seemed like a really fun thing to do – march around outside all day playing music!  I guess I never wanted to do it bad enough to switch instruments, though!

I rarely see him play in one of his several bands now, but when I do it’s simply delightful! I still feel proud that the one hitting the high notes is my brother Dan!  So, Dan, I’m grateful to you today for having the fortitude to keep the “home” fires burning, for keeping the happy music flowing, and for hitting those high notes every time!

If you’re in Dayton, Ohio and like jazz band music, go hear my brother Dan hit the high notes with Generations Big Band!

https://www.facebook.com/GenerationsBigBand

 

 

Gratitude Celebration 8: Graciousness and Interest

I’m celebrating my 60th birthday by expressing gratitude to people in my life for 60 days. Today, my nod goes to my Aunt Priscilla and Uncle John.

I want to honor my Aunt Priscilla for following her heart and leaving the convent when she wanted to get married instead. My memories are those of a teenager as I witnessed her making that transition. Of course, at the time, I only watched. But now, I have a little more understanding of what a significant choice that would have had to be, and I honor her for it! The family she and Uncle John raised are all truly wonderful people!

I am grateful for being invited to stay with Aunt Priscilla and Uncle John several times when my oldest son was just four years old so I could visit my grandmother while she was dying with cancer. It must have been a stressful time for everyone, so adding me and my son to the household was very gracious. My son had such a good time there, especially playing with John’s model train.

I’m also grateful for her interest in my business! Even though I’ve been self-conscious talking about what’s so dear to my heart with my family (There’s that old story of unworthiness creeping in!), when Aunt Priscilla asked about it, there was genuine interest and concern there. And why not, for she may have had the same questions for Uncle John when he was considering leaving his sales job to open a hardware store, the first relative I knew to have his own business.

“What do you mean by forgiveness?” she asked. In the past, I would have felt all defensive and speechlessly clammed up.  To my surprise, this time I sat still and answered the question. “By forgiveness, I mean to feel light and peace in one’s heart having the perspective that whatever happened had a spiritual reason, so in that regard there’s really nothing to forgive.”  I realized at that moment that my aunt was mirroring back for me my OWN development of worthiness and willingness to share myself openly with my family!

I’ll do that more now, and I have Aunt Priscilla to thank for opening that door for me.

Gratitude Celebration 7: My Steadfast Connection with God

I’m celebrating my  60th birthday with 60 days of gratitude to people in my life. Today’s gratitude goes to my cousin, Susan.

Today, I want to express my gratitude to the one person in my life who always reminds me of God, in particularly, how I am staying – or not staying – mindful of a reverent path.  I haven’t spent much time with her. We have only shared a few conversations in the midst of large family gatherings, and those just within the past 7 years. I have never visited her where she lived, never saw where she worked, never gone on an outing with just the two of us. She has not seen any of my homes or walked with me on a trail. If we have shared any of these moments, I don’t remember them!

Her yearly birthday cards and greetings, often simple handmade ones, have anchored me in the steadfastness of her role. She’s my Godmother, the woman who held me at my Baptism in the Catholic Church and said she would see to my spiritual growth. We have never talked about this, as far as I know, but just thinking about her is a reminder that tending to my spiritual path is a good idea.

My favorite of all of the cards she sent was the one for my First Communion when I was seven years old. It was made of a square of wrapping paper, gold background with two columns of white circles. In the left column, each circle contained a letter of my name R E G I N A. The words in the right column’s circles started with those letters. The only one I can remember today was the one with “I”. It said, “Instant obedience.” I’ll have to search through my secret box of special things in my storage unit and see if that card is still there. Even if it isn’t, the meaning that I’ve taken from that card and the consistent greetings over the years is that in God’s eyes I am special and unique and lovable.

There have been years when I was pretty sure that I was spiritually on my own in the world, when the Catholic Church was the last place I would go for my own connection with God, and still her cards or emails would arrive around my birthday. I would reflect, “So, here is one person who feels the movement of Spirit, especially in Nature and in the Mother Goddess energy, and who acknowledges my life in Spirit. Perhaps I can stay open to that Mystery as well.”

It still feels most sincere and authentic for me to practice a personal Spirituality, particularly while walking in Nature, and I’m still reluctant to talk about that with my Godmother, but my gratitude for her consistent reminders that I am precious in God’s eyes can be openly shared today!

So, to my cousin, Susan, who also goes by her religious name, Sister Pat, Thank You for being my steadfast connection to God, whether you have known it or not!

 

Gratitude Celebration 6: Music, Ingenuity, and Humor

I’m celebrating my 60th birthday with 60 posts of gratitude for significant people in my life. Today’s gratitude goes out to my Uncle Paul. Enjoy the story! Then, share one of yours!

Tears welled up in my eyes and I pulled my shoulders in and tucked my chin so I could be invisible. The thought forming in my mind at that moment was, “I don’t matter, even when I have served generously.”

It only took a few seconds for my Uncle Paul to notice me, but for me it was an eternity as I burned a limiting belief that would grow into my way of life into my heart’s hard drive. It was one of those moments of childhood that I can replay at any time to illustrate either a victim story or a story of transformation. At the time, it was a Victim Story. Now, it’s a transformative one.  And I have my mom’s youngest brother, Paul, to thank for it.

He was a college student then, living with us while he earned his engineering degree at the University of Dayton. My parents had gone away for the weekend and Mom charged me with making beef stew for dinner, enough for all of us kids. There would have been 7 or 8 at the time. I was around 10, maybe 12. I had seared, and cut, and chopped, and simmered up that pot of stew and felt really proud to sit in my mom’s chair at the foot of the big oak table while Paul ladled out bowls of stew for everyone, well, everyone but me. He sighed with his own relief at having accomplished the task of serving, when he saw me, too late for my fantasy wish of being acknowledged and praised. He asked, “Regina, what’s the matter?”

“I didn’t get any,” I whimpered.  He soon remedied that and passed me a bowl of stew. Done.

And there, my dear reader, we have a tale of how my “Life’s Story” of being invisible, unworthy, discounted, and never doing enough earned another credit, another ounce of proof for its veracity.

It was many years later that I learned about the whole idea of subconsciously building up false beliefs based on events that we misinterpret. I can always look to that moment as one of those. Of course, my Uncle Paul is totally innocent of perpetrating the STORY!  All he did was delay a bit in serving me a bowl of stew! But, I can thank him now for being part of my story, especially since it has become a story of transformation!  I now know that I do matter very much to lots of people, and I am only invisible when I choose to be.

And there’s so much more to share about my Uncle Paul too! I’m grateful to him for bringing music and ingenuity, good humor, and Aunt Jean into my life!

His Music came with songs that became family favorites, “One meatball, and no spaghetti……. Ya get no bread with one meatball.”  So pathetic and fun to sing.  And, when he pulled together a guitar arrangement of “On Wings of Song” for my wedding with about an hour’s notice.

His Ingenuity allowed the music to flow as he somehow hauled his bass violin all the way across town from our house to the University on his motorscooter. I loved watching him play it and hearing the deep bass notes keeping time for his band.

His Good Humor brightened up my high school graduation day with a silly film he made with me feigning to miss my ride.

And when he traded the bass violin for his girlfriend, Jean, to ride on his scooter, that was the most fun of all. They got married right after college graduation and immediately joined the Peace Corps for a two-year service in Peru. Their wedding was a highlight in my 12-year old life. Wearing the blue polka-dot dress with light blue velvet ribbon and catching Jean’s bouquet were delightful fairy-tale moments for me. I didn’t feel invisible then!

But, I’m most grateful today that Uncle Paul and Aunt Jean have grown into maturity together, that they have stayed together and supported each other in love.  I have lately taken Paul up on his offer of many years ago to “call and talk when I need to” and found his support genuine and heartfelt.

And one more thing, “Uncle Paul, would you please serve me some stew? I’m just learning that all I need to do is ask!”

P.S. Paul has been a faculty member in a wonderful organization called Engineers without Borders. See what they do here:

http://www.ewb-usa.org/

Please share YOUR stories of planting seeds of limiting beliefs. That’s the first step in transforming them to stories of gratitude.

 

 

Gratitude Celebration 5: $50,000 Roller Skates

This is my fifth day of 60 days of gratitude for people in my life. For 60 days I’m writing a post to celebrate my 60th birthday. Enjoy this essay about my Uncle Walt and Aunt Aileen!

“So I took the fifty thousand dollars and I bought a pair of roller skates!” That’s what my Uncle Walt said once and it became the line that everyone used to characterize him! I never understood the story, but those words somehow encapsulate his lighthearted view of life.

Uncle Walt was my Dad’s oldest brother by fifteen years. He was an attorney in the small town of Celina, OH, not far from the even smaller town of Coldwater where the Bernard family grew up.  Aileen Courtney, his wife, was my Grandma’s younger sister, making Aileen my aunt AND my great aunt!

We visited them regularly for summer holidays, driving the one and a half hours from Dayton, OH through small towns until we passed Grand Lake Saint Mary’s with all its tiny cottages right next to the road.  The usual activity at Uncle Walt’s house was playing croquet in their back yard. If you’re not familiar with croquet, it’s that game with wire wickets set up in a course around the yard through which players hit wooden balls with wooden mallets trying to be the first one to maneuver the entire course. Like the other games our family played, anyone could play, and my Dad and Uncle Walt offered handicaps to level the field.  It felt pretty good to be able to beat one of the grown- ups every once in a while!

Thanksgiving was the big day with them, though! Every year, with only a rare miss, until I was 24, I celebrated Thanksgiving at Aunt Aileen’s and Uncle Walt’s. We’d get up early and trundle into the already-packed car, arriving when they were just getting up. Dad wanted to go early so he and his brother, with an army of others, could go rabbit hunting in the farm fields of Mercer County.

Starting at around age 10, I had the privilege of going hunting with them. I didn’t carry or shoot a gun. My job was to walk abreast of my Dad, Uncle Walt, my cousins Terry and Nancy, then later, her husband, Stan, and my brother Dan. Those were the usual hunters who I remember. My job, I started to say, was to flush out the rabbits. I only remember flushing out one rabbit, and that was a frozen one, sitting perfectly upright and still!

Mostly, what I loved was just walking across the fields of cut corn and soybeans, smelling the dry crops, studying the frost on the edges of the broad leaves and listening to my relatives talking and making jokes.  It felt really special to me to get to go hunt rather than stay at the house with all the other family. I got to be outside all day!

There were so many farms there in the countryside, but Uncle Walt would say, “Oh, it’s OK if we hunt here. I know this farmer.” Sometimes he would talk with a farmer outside near the barn. I thought he must know EVERYONE! In fact, he even knew somebody at the ice cream stand on the other side of town from their house! I never did figure out who we were going to see when Uncle Walt would say, “Come with me. There’s a man I need to talk with on the other side of town.” Then, he’d drive to Dairy Queen and buy me an ice cream cone.

And I thought it was pretty impressive that my uncle had his name in gold letters emblazoned on a certain window on the second floor of a building on the main street in Celina. “Bernard Law” the arching letters said. “He must be really important,” I thought. Well, I knew he was important to ME, because he did those same fun things with me and my siblings every time we visited! We’d play, go see that man across town, build a fire in the fireplace, and cook out in the backyard.

The picture was completed with my Aunt Aileen’s part.  For Thanksgiving, she would make chili for lunch, her own brand of chocolate chip cookies for snack, and prepare a sumptuous banquet for supper. My mom would always bring the pies, but Aunt Aileen made everything else.

A few times I got to go visit Aunt Aileen and Uncle Walt (that always rolls out as one long word!) for a whole week by myself! Just like solo visits to my Grandma’s, these were special visits too. I don’t remember being lonely there because there were so many fascinating things to play with. Aunt Aileen had a cupboard in the kitchen with the games I could choose – Pick Up Sticks, Mr. Potatohead, and one of those cards with the face and the iron shavings that you’d move around with a magnetic rod. In the living room there were several decks of cards in a certain drawer. I would build card houses for hours!  And then, downstairs in the basement, there was this Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest board game to play.

But nothing created memories of Aunt Aileen’s basement like roller skating! Either by myself or with siblings, roller skating in Aunt Aileen’s basement was a formative practice second to none! I could skate there for hours, getting my maneuvering around each pole just right, moving around the chairs and the ping pong table without poking my hip, even occasionally sneaking through the huge built-in closet with two doors.

So, maybe that’s where that $50,000 for the roller skates came from! Maybe that’s all got to do with the investment my aunt and uncle made in taking care of his brother’s kids, that priceless gift of making us feel special and having childhood adventures and being conscientious community people in a small town. I’m sure Aunt Aileen and Uncle Walt had struggles and disagreements and difficult times, but in my eyes they were prosperous, generous, and optimistic.

It’s still hard for me to send off a loved-one who is driving off without dancing after them waving goodbye with both arms, making funny faces and shouting Goodbyyyye!” until they’re out of sight. That’s what Uncle Walt used to do, and it caught on.

So, thanks Uncle Walt and Aunt Aileen for helping me develop a light heart!