Gratitude Celebration 23: High School Beaus

 “He said Yes!” I told Doug, feeling fluttery and happy inside.”My dad said, Yes I can go with you to the movie!” I had braced myself for my dad’s firm No when I went down into his basement workshop to ask if I could go on my first date with Doug, the popular fullback on the public high school football team. My assumption, based on my older sister’s experience when she had wanted to date a certain boy, was that Doug’s non-Catholic  Blackness would make him ineligible for me to date. To my surprise, though, he said. “That’s fine. What are you going to do?”  Perhaps five years of parenting since my sister had asked permission to date a non-Catholic boy had relaxed the standard. I had fun with Doug, more fondly called Bubba by most people, just because he was so different from me! He was a good friend of Kathy and Dan, my friends from The Living Arts Center where we were all creative types used to being on the fringe.

We laughed through the film, Bananas, which I’d have to go see again to remember it, and then Doug showed me his favorite nighttime lookout point from a hilltop in Dayton, Ohio. I felt happy and respected, and very special to get to go out with such a popular boy!  Over that summer, Doug took me out a few times, and over to his house. When he came to our house, I wouldn’t get to talk with him much because my little brothers and sisters would use Bubba as a jungle gym, climbing and jumping up on him, like a living playground. I was embarrassed, but he didn’t seem to mind. At least he didn’t say anything!

Doug tried to help me out when he went away to Ohio State University, on a football scholarship, of course! My senior year I had rejoined the Girl Scouts, trying one more time to get involved in a group that might open up opportunities to camp and get outdoors.  One thing I could count on as a Girl Scout was being expected to sell Girl Scout cookies! When Doug came home to visit, he volunteered to sell cookies for me at his dorm! He quickly sold a hundred dollars worth.  He ended up with nothing but crumbs, though, because someone stole the cookie money from his room and he had to use his own money to pay the Girl Scouts for all those cookies.

Doug and I just naturally went separate ways, but I always perked up when I heard his name mentioned as a player for the Los Angeles Rams.

I also went on a few dates with Dan, my friend from Living Arts. At first, I was surprised that he had asked me out because he and Kathy had been pretty close for the first couple of years I knew them both.  They had drifted apart while she went away to France and during that time Dan took me out. The first time, he asked me the day before.  “Mom!” I cried. “Dan asked me out and I don’t have anything to wear!”  Being a student at a Catholic girls’ high school gave me few chances to wear anything but my uniform, so I had a bare closet, in my opinion. But, I could sew!

I have never discerned why I never thought of shopping for readymade clothes. I think I assumed they would cost too much. I had not yet discovered Goodwill, either. So, when I wanted new clothes, my first place to look was in my mother’s big drawer of fabric up in the attic. If I didn’t find anything there, I’d visit the fabric store, pore through pattern books, then pick out a pattern and fabric to make an outfit.  This time, I made a long skirt, the fashion of 1971, from a gold and purple Indian-style piece of cotton.  I could wear a cream-colored shiny blouse I already had.  Alas, I had no coat for this wintry date night, so I pleaded with my mom to help me make something. “How about a cape?” she suggested. “You would have time to make that.”  This was a moment when we both demonstrated our confident creativity! My date was that same night!

We drove to the fabric store, found a pattern for a cape – maroon red, wide-wale corduroy paired with a complementary print cotton, rich with tiny roses between narrow maroon stripes, for lining. We also got Polarguard insulation to make the cape warm. I got to work immediately when we got home, with about four hours to go. At 7:45, we were folding up the hem and taping it with masking tape, which was quicker than sewing, to be ready for Dan to arrive at 8:00. I felt well-dressed and happy as I ate dinner with Dan at Surf-n-Turf. After dinner, we stood outside in Dan’s front yard, gazing at the stars. My warm, regal cape felt like part of the cloud of happiness I was standing on!

When Kathy returned from France at the end of that summer, I think they got back together.  I didn’t see Dan much. He had already graduated from high school and went on to other things. He continued his passion for photography, and is now well known for his aviation photos.

Dan’s book, 50 Aircraft that Changed the World

My dates with Doug and Dan must have all occurred AFTER the prom in my junior year because I went to that dance with Kathy Davies, my co-chair for the Decorations Committee!  After we taped a couple hundred paper flowers on the walls, set flower pots with bouquets of those dipped film flowers on the tables, and festooned the wicker throne with huge tissue paper flowers, we sat in the balcony of the Dayton Mall and watched our classmates dance with their dates.  I had even made myself a dress specifically for that dance – a lavender linen frock softened with lace taken from an old dress of my grandmother’s. Typical of my habit of not asking for help, I had no ride arranged for the late hour after all the decorations had been removed, so Mr. Zubelick, my history teacher and prom chaperone, took me home.

The following May, however, I got to sew another prom dress. This time, I had a date! Chuck had discovered me behind the scrim on the stage of my senior class play earlier that spring. I was in the backstage, playing piano. He had come from the boys’ school and landed the part of the Juggler in our production of Carnival. The play was poorly done, but falling in young love with Chuck was quite a success! With Chuck, I felt cherished and beautiful, fun and inspiring. He liked my ideas for walking in the local parks where my dad had taken me for long walks.  He was also my first “Leave No Trace” convert. He told me a month or so after we started dating that it was because of me that his red VW Bug was messy with litter. “I used to throw my trash out the window. But because of you I just throw it on the floor!” I couldn’t believe anyone I knew would even consider littering, so I’m happy I could be his reason for keeping America beautiful!

Chuck and I dated through the summer after my senior year. We had tons of fun going walking, sailboating, and kissing in his darkroom. Chuck was already working full time, even as a junior in high school, in his dad’s basement print shop. I learned how to set business cards in the big offset printer and enjoy the smell of ink. Chuck would take extra long developing the mock-ups for the jobs so we could smooch in the darkroom.

It was I who ended that relationship, rather coldly, I admit, by telling him on the eve of my departure for college that “I’m sure I’ll meet other people, I’m going away to college! It seems silly to think of marrying my high school boyfriend. I’ll be learning all sorts of things and having a career and all. So, let’s not expect to keep dating.” I was so sure of myself, and I was a little surprised, in my arrogance, that he didn’t understand all that.

A few days later, I did go off to college and I did meet people.   During my third week there I read a letter tucked in my mailbox. “I’m coming to visit you on Friday.” Love, Chuck. “That’s today!” I cried. “Well, I don’t want to see him! Why is he coming here?!”  Then, I did a mean thing. I ran off into the woods and asked a new friend to tell Chuck I wasn’t there.   Chuck did ask for me at the dorm, and he was told that I wasn’t there. And he left, driving back the 60 miles home without seeing me.  Guess who I went to visit during our first holiday break, though! You’re right, Chuck!  And guess who I asked for a ride back to school a few months later after Thanksgiving weekend. Yep. That was Chuck. For some reason, he was willing to keep being my friend, even though I wasn’t necessarily a very good one!

Well, I got to be a friend to him at the end of his senior year the following May. I had just finished my freshman year and come home to create a summer plan. Somehow I found out that Chuck’s date for the prom had gotten sick at the last minute and he was stuck with a tux and no date. Maybe he even had the flowers too! “Would you go with me?” he asked. “Sure! I’d love to go with you to your prom!” I chirped. In yet another sewing burst, I altered the dress I had worn for prom the year before, relaxing the neckline a bit, and met him for a delightfully free evening of dancing. I had so much fun feeling friendship without fear or expectation and enjoying Chuck’s precociousness.  It felt to me that we had both grown up that year, and we relaxed into the rhythm and warmth of “Color My World.”  After that prom, we didn’t spend time together, because I went off again to work at a summer camp.

The next time Chuck showed his graciousness and friendship was when he printed up my wedding invitations. It seemed pretty bold of me to call him to do that job, but I wanted someone I could trust to do a good job!  That would be Chuck, who had even been doing print jobs for my dad since we stopped dating. Chuck produced an invitation that was even more creative and beautiful than I had imagined. He hired an artist to create a whimsical plant pattern and designed a paper-saving tri-fold card that had a panel that guests could tear off and return as an RSVP. That worked well for my ecological preferences that had developed in my three years as program director at an outdoor education center.

My heart feels full and happy with these memories of the young men who cherished me during my teenage years. I am humbly grateful to Doug and Dan and Chuck for affirming my worthiness and giving me the chance to explore love and partnership, even playing the part of the one who says goodbye.

Gratitude Celebration 22: Self-Perception Clarified

Donning glasses in third grade had plunged me into a cage of visual self-loathing. I hated how I looked! When Mr. Oddie took pictures of our family to use for a series of posters depicting family closeness, I was convinced that he had purposely put me in the background, featuring my beautiful big sister instead. She didn’t wear glasses!
Nothing I could do helped me see my beauty while wearing glasses, especially sparkly blue speckled cat’s eye frames mended with a grey blob of epoxy. Getting whacked in the glasses by a missed kickball, had proven my athletic ineptitude in fifth grade. To have my glasses break added misfortune to shame, magnifying my sense of alienation from others. Going back to school the next day with patched glasses required bravado I had not previously needed. That calamity did open the door to a new chance at looking good, however. I got new eyeglass frames.
This time, the frames were a little less conspicuous and had a natural shape. Their brown color that matched my hair seemed less gaudy than the blue speckled cat’s eye frames. They didn’t improve my athletic skills or my popularity, however, and I lost out to the beautiful, unbespectacled girls for cheerleading and softball. I was convinced that wearing glasses made me unfit for these and other junior high activities that I believed used good looks for their criteria.
Somehow my friend Barb must have seen past the glasses because we got along great and were fast friends during eighth grade. Our other friends in Girl Scouts didn’t seem to mind my looks, either, and I had fun on our outings and campouts. My cage of self-consciousness relaxed a bit that year, especially when I caught the bouquet at my new Aunt Jean’s wedding! “Wow!” I dreamed in my twelve year old mind. “ Even a girl with glasses could snatch the fairytale of marriage”.
As a freshman in high school, I made friends with Kathy and Carol, Martha, Ann, and Patty, Mary Jo and Claire, who didn’t even seem to notice that I was so ugly and different. Kathy even declared we were best friends and gave me a sterling silver “friendship” ring. I scraped together the few dollars it took to buy her a matching one. I even liked my sophomore class picture because I realized that I had a nice smile.
In the Fall of sophomore year, however, Doctor Miller, the optometrist who I was by now very familiar to me, opened a whole new realm of possibility for me! For seven years I had taken semi-annual trips to his office for vision check-ups. Most years the Fall checkup would result in new lenses with a stronger prescription. I was getting used to the usual three days’ adjustment time when the kitchen floor, with its speckled pattern of white and pink flakes in a background of grey seemed to pop up at me. Dr. Miller could make my trip home from the office easy, though! He lived next door to us. And his wife, Madeleine was his assistant! I remember that on the days I got new lenses, I could go to his office by myself, wearing my old glasses. He would change the lenses right there in his office while I waited, gazing around the waiting room in a blurry interlude. Then, he would take me home in his luxury car. Sometimes I would imagine choosing optometry as my career, believing that I’d be rich.
That sophomore year, he had a new idea! After doing the usual check-up he said that this time I had a choice between glasses and contact lenses. If I chose contacts, I would be able to have clear vision without glasses! It was like he had just waved a magic wand like Cinderella’s fairy godmother and my rags had turned into a gilded gown! I could be beautiful! I only hesitated a few minutes when I learned that it would take some time to get used to wearing contacts and that they would take extra care. They were more expensive than glasses, but my mom was willing to invest in them. We said yes.
When I got home that evening, I took off my glasses and gazed in the mirror at my eyes. For the first time, I admitted that I had beautiful, blue eyes and with contacts my eyes would not be hidden behind glasses anymore! I liked the way I looked without glasses.
Dr. Miller was right about the arduous adjustment period for wearing contacts. It took a few weeks to get used to the scratchy discs under my eyelids. And taking care of those tiny pieces of blue plastic did require meticulous discipline. All that, however, was a small inconvenience compared to the luxury of self-respect that was unleashed when contacts were part of my lifestyle. I loved the new way I looked and I lost my self-consciousness and shyness. I rarely questioned my outer beauty again, and look fondly at my senior portrait that joins those of my other nine siblings in my mom’s study.
At sixty, I wonder why I couldn’t see my true beauty, and send love to that young girl who hid behind her glasses. Perhaps, feeling the opposite of self-love helped me know how it feels to transform self-hatred into healthy self-love, something that I guide others to do in my current profession. Whatever it means, I am grateful today for the man who opened that door for me with his optometry skill. Thanks, Dr. Miller, for doing your job! I remain a grateful patient!

Gratitude Celebration 21: Extra Parents

“Get off that roof!” I heard Mr. Steigerwald yell from across the street. I had crawled out my bedroom window to sit on the roof where I could think on my own for a bit, but one of my “extra parents” had seen me and scolded me for it. I was thinking, “You’re not my dad, so you can’t tell me what to do!” But I really didn’t believe that. If I didn’t do what he said, he would be calling my dad and let him know where I was. Other times, Mr. Steigerwald would help me out and I ‘d really appreciate his parenting. Like when my brothers and I could walk a few blocks from the swimming pool  to the bearing shop where he worked and get a ride home instead of walking for an hour and a half.
We had several neighbors who I felt were extensions of my parents. I knew they were watching out for us and cared about us.
All of us kids on our block, once I counted a hundred, knew which yards were fair game for our Kick-the-Can and Cops-n-Robbers marathons which would last from morning’til the street lights went in. We’d have twenty kids playing and could spread out over about half the block, running through the yards of certain neighbors.

Another extra parent was Mrs. Spinnato who lived across the alley behind our house. One time my younger  sister,four years old, cried, “I hate you Mom! I’m going to run away from home!” And my three-year old brother said, “Me too!” Mom made a phone call. I heard her say, “OK, thanks, Ann, I’ll send them over.” Then she handed my siblings a bag and said, “Here’s a bag with some clothes and a snack. You can run away to Spinnatos for awhile. Regina, would you please walk them over there!” So I did!

Mrs. Spinnato was also there when I fell off the backyard trapeze and hurt my arm. It hurt so bad I was delirious, but I saw her there with my mom and heard her voice, “I think it might be broken, Pat, you need to take her to the hospital.”

Years later, I stayed at her house myself when I was secretly requesting donations for a fiftieth anniversary gift for my parents. I had come home while they were away to meet with neighbors and church friends and I didn’t want to stay in the house! Mrs. Spinnato welcomed me at their house and kept my secret too!

And there were the Platts down the street who took us berry picking and helped us pick and arrange the flowers for my sister, Claudia’s wedding. When my brother died, Mrs. Platt opened her house for Claudia and I to stay.

I’m sure there were plenty of other times the Steigerwalds, Spinnatos, and Platts helped our family that I don’t remember or even know about! They were always invited to the gatherings we had at our house.  I just know in my heart that they shared a special bond with my parents that made my own parenting richer.

I know my mom contributed to that community too. We would often hear “Pat! Paaaat! Pat Bernarrrrd!” resonating from the window next door. That would be Mrs. Varley, our next door neighbor whose twelve children outnumbered our ten. She needed help sometimes too!

So, to my extra parents, I extend my thanks and my acknowledgment for your generosity, humility, and wisdom to create the community we all needed.

 

Gratitude Celebration 20: Bold New World

Broadening my views of life and people and enticing me to love my body and outwardly express myself were the gifts offered by my Living Arts teachers. I’m celebrating my 60th birthday with 60 days of gratitude for people who made a difference in my life. Today’s recipients are three men who had very different views of life than my Catholic School teachers.

Bing Davis was probably the most radical person I had ever encountered. His art and conversation opened up a whole new world of self expression and raw opinion. He was the first African American teacher I had, and a very outspoken one at that. My first encounter with him was at an introduction to The Living Arts Center that I attended with John Spinnato and both of our moms.

Mr. Davis was showing pictures of junk yards and talking about their abundant potential as resources for art. Other slides showed sculptures made from scrap metal and old gears and tires and such. He was so excited and passionate about the freedom of thought and expression that students could experience in this new program supported by the public schools. We had ventured into the auditorium of Van Cleve School, the neighborhood public school. I had not been there since my kindergarten days with Mrs. Wilson. The hallowed halls of Corpus Christi elementary and Julienne high Catholic Schools had been my exclusive seat of education until then. Listening to Bing Davis astounded me with a peak into a vast world of unfettered communication that actually scared me with its boldness.  John signed up right away for acting classes. It took me two more years and friendship with Kathy Brinkman, who thrived at Living Arts, to enter the refurbished warehouse way over on the east side of town and let my own creativity and voice sneak out.

My first class with Mr. Davis, tall, thin – and Black, was Painting. Under his tutelage, I painted with acrylics and watercolor in ways of movement that I had not experienced before. Looking back, I am grateful to him for patiently coaxing out of me the freedom to let out the artistic voice that was bound up tight inside. He gave me permission, and technical skills, to put into color and form the emotions that had been held inside. My favorite painting experience was the day we sat outside on a floodwall overlooking the city with big sheets of watercolor paper and paint. What I saw and painted was a huge tree leafed out in a thousand dabs of shades of green dominating the grey blocks of buildings in the background. The painting still hangs in my mother’s bedroom and confirms my true spirit of noticing Nature’s beauty wherever I am, that was called forth by Bing Davis.

He also gave me a chance to  value my sewing skills. He admired a jacket I had fashioned from a couple of deer hides my mom had and he asked me to sew him a jacket.  I found a pattern of a long style with a ‘Neru’ collar. The fabric was a bold African pattern in brown, orange and blue. It was a new experience to sew for someone besides myself, and I felt really proud to see him wearing it and to get paid for sewing clothes!  I’m pretty sure now that Bing Davis knew that jacket meant a lot more to ME than it ever did for HIM. What a wise and compassionate educator he was!

Another teacher at Living Arts was Clarence Walls who taught writing. Although I didn’t take any of his classes, I would go along with Kathy to chat with Mr. Walls. Mostly, we would just joke and talk about things going on in the world, or about getting along with other people.  I’m pretty sure Mr. Walls didn’t realize he was shaking the very foundations of my communication style when he casually said in the middle of one of our lighthearted group conversations, “Regina, you are so cynical!” I was stunned, because I had usually been lurking in the background, letting Dan, Kathy and her sister, Patty, lead the conversations while I listened. But, Mr. Walls was speaking right to me personally, and calling me something I didn’t even know the meaning of!  I had to consult a dictionary when I got home to learn that someone I looked up to observed me as someone who saw only the bad side of things and kept myself separate in an arrogant way.  For a while after that I was very careful about what I said and noticed that I DID have this edge to my comments. What really struck me, though, is that I also noticed that what I SAID wasn’t really what I was THINKING!  I was thinking that I wanted to belong in the group and I wanted to be genuine and friendly and see the best in others! I started to choose different words, and to this day I still work on speaking words that build others up and not tear them down. I’m grateful to Mr. Walls for that epiphany!

“Bodies are beautiful in their expression, and there’s no need to cover up the shape of your body,” is the invitation that Mr. Chi, my dance teacher, offered. I didn’t accept his invitation, though, and wore a loose t-shirt over my leotard thoughout the year of free form dance lessons with him.  In his classes I moved my whole body, speaking out the feelings that were being coaxed out of me in my Living Arts experience. My friend, Kathy Harmon, had enticed me into the dance classes that were her favorite form of expression.  Mr. Chi, a small-bodied man whose best communication was through movement rather than speech had me creating movements large and small, stretching, bending, leaping, rolling. By the time I had worked with him several months I was comfortable enough with my body to perform in an afternoon program to introduce the public to Living Arts. Thanks to Mr. Chi, I am free to dance!

My two years at The Living Arts Center, a bold, experimental program of the Dayton City Public Schools, were magical for me! I have to thank my mom for letting me go there. It was quite an adventure for me to take the bus across town, having to transfer routes downtown, even at night. What that program did for me was open my eyes to myself and to a world of diversity and artistic expression with all parts of my body! My mom saw in me the inner desire and talent for self-expression and Living Arts was designed to foster that.  Bing Davis’ vision of going to the ‘junk yard’ where unrealized and cast aside beauty could be fashioned into bold, authentic, and passionate communication was most certainly fulfilled in me! I honor and celebrate his courageous vision and his contribution to my life!

Bing Davis is still opening the door to creative expression!http://bingdavis.com/bing_about.html

 

Gratitude Celebration 19: Friends at Last

I’m celebrating my 60th birthday with 60 days of gratitude for people in my life. Yesterday, I remembered two girls who gave me the opportunity to feel the pain of rejection and make me question my value as a friend. Today, I want to express my gratitude for two young women who lavished me with friendship without question. They liked me just the way I was and I liked them back!

Barb, who I met in eighth grade became my friend for that year. I don’t know why I had not known her all along in my Catholic school years, since most of my classmates had been there since first grade! Maybe she and her family moved in later, or didn’t put their kids in the school until that year. Anyway, Barb and I seemed to bet along pretty well, and we did a lot together because we were in the same Girl Scout troop. I had not been active in Girl Scouts for a few years, but Barb’s mom organized a troop for “Cadettes”, junior high aged girls, and I joined it.

Barb’s house was on a long way home to mine, so we would walk together, dropping her off first. I could stay for a little while before going home. One memory that stands out is a time that Barb’s dad got upset at us, though.  As I recall, we had been dismissed from evening play practice early. I said, “Barb, we could just walk you home, then maybe your dad would take me.” She liked that idea and we headed out, cutting across the park and over to her house. It was just a block away from the school! To my surprise, her dad, instead of acknowledging our promptness, yelled at us. “You shouldn’t be walking in that park at night! Don’t you know how dangerous that is?!! There are all kinds of bad people there at night! You should have called me!” Then, he stomped away. He didn’t say anything about taking me home, so I just left to walk myself home, another three short blocks. I was thinking, “If it’s so dangerous to be out at night, why doesn’t he offer to take me home? I guess he doesn’t care about me, just Barb.”

I was walking home, and on the way I met Mr. McGary, who lived in the house on a corner I passed. I knew him because he was our Track coach. He said, “Why are you out alone? I’ll walk you home.” And he did. I have no idea why I had not called my own parents. I probably thought they were busy, and wouldn’t mind me walking home anyway.  So, I guess I can add my gratitude for Mr. McGary reaching out to me, and to Mr. Gephardt for giving me that little challenge to my sense of well-being and safety.

Anyway, back to Barb! I liked her because she was beautiful, with her dark hair. I felt good being with her! She got the lead in our Eighth Grade production of The Mikado, and got to be Yum-Yum. I loved being one of her character’s attendants as Pitti-Sing, even though the kimono I had made myself wasn’t as perfect as hers. (Remember from my post about Teachers in Gratitude 17, I had learned to do things myself even if the outcome was inferior!)

Barb and I got to go to Girl Scout Camp together! Those four weeks were some of the best in my life so far! Four weeks of camping, making ice cream, walking, singing, and being with Barb and the other friends we met. I’m grateful that I got to go to that camp and for being with Barb. I think I would have kept being Barb’s friend for a while if she had not moved away out to the suburbs later that summer.  I did go to one slumber party at her new house, but we didn’t stay in touch after that.

 

High school at the all-girls and Catholic Julienne put me in the company of hundreds of girls. I could branch out from my grade school where Barb had been my only good friend, and make new friends. And I did! I made a friend in Kathy Brinkman, who sat very close to me in homeroom where we sat in alphabetical order. As Regina Bernard, there was just one other girl named Bridget between us. I got along with Kathy because she matched my sarcasm, which I had mastered. Nothing went by that didn’t inspire some joke in my mind. Kathy and I both saw a lot to criticize in the regimented, narrow minded ways of the Catholic school. Kathy, especially, kept up on the news and got involved in local politics. I was still compliant and ready to follow the lead, so I admired her pluck and wit.

She introduced me to The Living Arts Center where she could express her knowledge of a bigger world view and I could realize there WAS a bigger world view.  Kathy left the limited world of Julienne High School after two years to go to the public high school, which seemed so big and scary to me. She talked all about the principal there and how he embraced diversity and politics and encouraged Kathy to get involved in it. She beamed with excitement at her chance to go there where her boyfriend, Dan, went as well.  I got to meet Dan, too, at Living Arts. That was my first chance at being in a group of kids I felt I belonged with.  We took a variety of classes in visual arts, writing, and dance. With Kathy’s modeling, I learned how to joke around and talk with our teachers, who constantly challenged my narrow view of life.

The summer after our junior year, Kathy went to France in a student exchange program.  Although we wrote letters to each other, her experience there seemed distant and alienating. When she came back at the end of the summer, she didn’t seem interested in her old friends anymore and we drifted apart. I was sad, but believed that losing friends was a normal expectation of life, so I just moved on to other relationships. I continued going to Living Arts for another semester, but it just wasn’t the same without Kathy and Dan. Besides, it was my senior year and I was making other friends at Julienne, including my first boyfriend, Chuck. And that’s another story!

So, thanks, Barb and Kathy for being my friends when having just one was enough! On my bedroom wall during those years was a poster that said, “Forgive my trying on these many faces. I’m urgently looking for my own!” That’s a fitting line for my teenage years, and I’m grateful that my friends could mirror back my confusion with love.

Gratitude Celebration 18: Rejection Transformed

“If you were somebody worth being friends with, then we would be friends with you.” That’s what the note in my desk read. Did Ann and Jean really write that in response to the note I had left at Jean’s house? “I thought we would keep walking to school together. I want to be friends.” When I had gone across the street to pick her up as usual, she wasn’t there! I saw her walking down the street with Ann. Ditched! Rejected! Replaced!

My thirteen year old heart was broken and I didn’t know what to do. I wrote my note and hoped for the best, but I already knew that Jean, who had just moved into the neighborhood, was choosing Ann and not me. Ann and I had not been friends any time since first grade, so I figured we weren’t going to start now.

For days after that, I would watch from my bedroom window as Ann would go meet Jean at her house and they would walk to school together. I cried, feeling so sad to lose my friend. I didn’t talk to my mom or my older sisters about it either. “Just get over it,” they would say.

I added that “I’m-just-not-popular” belief to my catalog of limiting beliefs about myself. I didn’t make up with Ann and Jean or ever really talk with them again. I made other teenage friends in Barb and Judy, Kathy and Patty, yet still get a charge when I recall that event.

Today, at 60, I can look at that event in the light of Radical Forgiveness and see it as having been an opportunity to learn and grow. That’s why I can include Ann and Jean in my Gratitude Celebration. This is a perfect “Old Story” to play through a Satori Game!

In the game, I draw the event, “Someone rejected you big time,” and the context , “Relationships”. I land on Blame Game and vent all those feelings and judgments, “You were so MEAN! You’re not worth being friends with either. So there!” At the Gateway to Awareness I can be open to the idea that there’s a healing message in that story.
As the game unfolds, I get to love myself being in those feelings, release the blocked energy in my heart chakra, let go of the belief that “I’m not lovable the way I am” and see Ann and Jean as healing angels with and for each of us. I pick a New Story “Everyone respects and honors me.”

In the last level of the game, I release all my attachment to my old story and reframe the Old Story from a spiritual perspective that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps being rejected by Ann and Jean helped me feel the pain of separation and inspired me to learn to love and honor myself or to become an empathetic friend who communicates clearly and openly. Whatever the Divine Plan flowing in that situation, I can now see Ann and Jean as healing angels in my life, and be open to the possibility that from a spiritual perspective they did nothing wrong. That’s Radical Forgiveness applied to that teenage drama!

So thanks, Ann and Jean, for spiritually loving me so much that you were willing to play the role of rejecting me to mirror my belief that I was not loving myself just the way I am!  I forgive you and myself as well!

Play YOUR Awakening with Satori Board Game

Play YOUR Awakening with Satori Board Game

The Satori Board Game is one of my favorite ways to transform Old Stories – those dramas from the past that still bring up feelings of anger and sadness, guilt, shame, and hurt. This game is especially good at coaxing out feelings that we’ve suppressed, It takes energy, precious Life Energy, that we could be using to create fulfilling relationships, job opportunities, or life dreams, to keep those old feelings stuffed down. When our energy is being unconsciously drawn away to feed our limiting beliefs and unhealed dramas, we have little left for creating what we really want in our lives.

Free up your energy now! Play Satori!

Find out how, here.
Satori Board Game

Gratitude Celebration 17: Teachers

Today, I’m reflecting on my elementary school teachers in my 60 days of Gratitude to celebrate my 60th birthday.  Each of these women brought certain qualities that help shape and form my journey as a spiritual being having a human experience.  There was Sister Joanna Mary in first grade who I just remember as being very kind. She encouraged me to use a box to support my feet at my desk.  I was so short that my feet would not touch the floor when I sat on the seat.  I always sat in the first or second desk in the row.  I remember making a page with “what I wanted to be when I grow up”.  I want to be a teacher so I can teach others about God.”

My job, I believed, was to do whatever my teacher said. It wasn’t about being the best of all my classmates. That hierarchy was well-established even by second grade. Marty O’Connell, John Spinnato, and Frances Waldron were always the smartest. I was second or third, but not highest. It didn’t bother me, either. I was just not first, or best, or smartest. But, that’s another story!

Miss Eilerman was my second grade teacher. She was nice too. And she was beautiful. What I remember mainly about second grade was doing Math Facts races. It was thrilling to tie with Marty or John or Cindy or Tom. It was a thrill to feel the energy of getting those answers and stepping forward to the next desk. Sometimes, we would go pretty fast, saying the answers so quickly we were almost running up the row, breathless when we reached Miss Eilerman at the front.

Third grade brought self-consciousness and some doubts about my worthiness. That year, I was excited to get a seat at the back of the classroom.  I am grateful to Sister Francis Damien for alerting my mom that I had to walk all the way to the front of the classroom to clearly read what was written on the board. A week later, I came to class with glasses on. I could see the board, but I also saw myself as ugly.

Sister Francis Damien didn’t see my ugliness. She saw my eagerness to master whatever she taught, just exactly how she taught it. That’s why she chose me to be the first to learn the act she wanted to enter into the school’s variety show. I was surprised one Saturday to get a call from my teacher requesting me to come see her at the classroom! Whew! I wasn’t in trouble, I was happy to know. She needed my help! (Helping a teacher was my biggest honor of all!!!). What she wanted me to do was learn a ball-bouncing routine she had set to a short classical tune. I can still hum and bounce it to this day. I’m grateful that she picked me to demonstrate it to my class.

Fourth grade brought Miss Schmidt and my growing awareness that not everyone wanted to please the teacher. Miss Schmidt did her best to manage her students, and I tried my best to never get into trouble.  I have to hand it to her for sticking with teaching for a long time. To my surprise, she turned up again about 15 years later! This time, she was bringing her class, from a different school now, to the outdoor education center I was directing. She was still the same edgy and somewhat frazzled disciplinarian whom students tormented, but I could support her from my own place of authority not as a powerless classmate.

Mrs. Clark, my fifth grade teacher, somehow encouraged  me to be a leader.  I was elected class president by my classmates that year, although I can’t remember doing anything presidential.  I do recall heading up a committee to make and deliver a baby bib to her house when she left to have a baby. When she left, she gave each of us a card. Mine said, “To Regina: Always remember your qualities of true leadership.”

Sixth grade saw Sister Ann Stephen and Miss George taking the lead. Sister Ann Stephen chose me to make a May crown for the Virgin Mary statue in our classroom. I made it with shiny silver cardboard, sparkling with a single blue rhinestone jewel.  I sure was pleased to have made that crown!

What stands out about Miss George is that she always dressed impeccably, which was very noticeable to me since I wore the same uniform every day. She sure had a lot of outfits! The other thing I remember about her was that she changed her name. At the beginning of the year, she was “Mrs. O’Connell.” One day, she told us that from that day on, we would call her, “Miss George”.  I don’t remember how I found out, but there was something about her marriage being “anulled”, which meant it was like she had never been married. Well, that always baffled me and I wondered what could have happened to Mr. O’Connell, but I knew it wasn’t my business to ask! I just learned to call her by her new name and continued to like her just the same. Now, as a divorcee myself, I can look back and honor her for making her own choice at a time when divorce was not supported by the Catholic Church. And, I can thank her for being a model of self-love and integrity in my life.

Seventh grade brought Sister Marie Patrice into my life! What Miss Schmidt lacked in swift and uncertain control of unruly students, Sister Marie Patrice possessed as super-powers! We knew to tow a taut, straight line with her and behave with strict discipline. I credit her, as well, with the possible onset of a limiting belief that I’m still transforming!

That year, we studied American History. She had assigned us a project to build something that showed American industry. I came to class on the day it was due beaming from ear to ear and feeling radiantly proud of what I had to show. The weeks leading up to that day had been some of the happiest in my life because every evening I got to work with my dad in his workshop building a model of a waterwheel.  It was about a foot tall, fashioned with plywood, and stained the same deep brown as our house. The wheel had been meticulously fashioned with two pieces of wood and metal fins inserted into narrow slits. I had learned how to use his tools and put together a neat little building. And the best part, that I demonstrated with a flourish of drama, is that this waterwheel worked!  My dad had supplied a tiny recirculating pump that we hid inside. It whirred quietly while my classmates sat mesmerized as the water cascaded over the wheel, filled the fins, then turned the wheel!  Sister Marie Patrice, however, sat with a stone face. She said, “I’m giving you a ‘B’, Regina. You obviously did not do that yourself. Someone else must have done your project.”

I was crestfallen. My delight was crushed. At that moment, I said to myself, “I guess getting help to make something really awesome is a bad thing to do. I should do everything myself, even if it means making things that are inferior. It’s better to make crummy things myself than to make spectacular things with help.”

It’s only recently that asking for help is getting easier for me. I have Sister Marie Patrice to thank for introducing that “I have to do everything on my own” belief and for giving me something to transform!

I honestly cannot remember my eighth grade teachers! I think that by that time I was more focused on interacting with my classmates and enduring the turmoils of puberty than on forming lasting impressions of my teachers. Peer relationships brought me a whole new chapter of incidents to build my lexicon of Victim Stories and Limiting Beliefs, which I will share in my next posts.

Each teacher brought her own energy.

Each teacher brought her own energy.

 

 

 

 

Gratitude Celebration 16: It’s a Human Experience!

She was steadfast and gently authoritarian, and I enjoyed her half-day kindergarten, my first foray from home. That was my teacher, Mrs. Wilson.   I walked to the school  by myself every day. I am very grateful that my neighborhood was safe for a five-year-old to walk 6 blocks to school every day. It’s interesting that I don’t have any recollection of meeting other kids for walking, or even making friends with anyone except Charlotte. Was her full name Charlotte Adams? That’s what pops into my head.

Anyway, I remember Mrs. Wilson singing to us while she played piano during nap time. I remember tables where we worked and sitting in a circle. I remember standing in a line as we exited the classroom. And I remember having to stay after school one day. That’s my most salient memory of Mrs. Wilson and kindergarten – having to stay after class.  My stomach knots up when I recall that moment, when Mrs. Wilson said, “OK class. It’s time to stop playing and get your things ready to go home. I was so enrapt in my imagination in the play kitchen that I ignored her. I wasn’t finished yet! She had to call me again, and this time she meted out a serious consequence for my slow response. “Regina, you’ll have to stay after school today because you didn’t stop playing when I called.”

I was so ashamed because I always wanted to do what Mrs. Wilson, or any adult, told me to do right away! I have always wondered why that incident stands out so vividly in my memory.  As I look at it now, I see that the principle of “Story” and the origins of our limiting beliefs could provide some insight. When Mrs. Wilson, someone who I thought loved and approved of me unconditionally, scolded me, I was shaken from my idyllic world of unity and love. It may not seem like a very traumatic incident, and yet it lurched me from my heavenly world. In that instant, I felt separate and alone. My creative imagination was stifled. My sense of self-perfection was shattered.

In Radical Forgiveness, Making Room for the Miracle, Colin Tipping talks about how our Victim Stories and limiting beliefs begin with incidents like this, where something happens that we don’t understand and then we do our best to interpret what it means. As children, we make it mean something about ourselves!  I made something up about myself and my creativity that day, and Mrs. Wilson helped me have that experience. Here are some of the limiting beliefs I may have made up that day:

  • “I’m bad and disobedient and don’t deserve love.”
  • “There’s never enough time to be creative”
  • “I’m not lovable just the way I am.”
  • “I get in trouble if I get carried away in my creative self-expression.”

 Am I making a mountain out of a molehill here? I don’t think so. From the view that “we are spiritual beings having a human experience” and that human experience is one of having  physical experiences of limitations with time and space, this would have been just one of many realizations that living in a physical body was a lot less free than being in the Spirit World where no such limitations exist! My five-year old interpretation of that simple incident was dramatic!

So where’s the gratitude? It’s in acknowledging Mrs. Wilson as being someone who gave me an experience of separation from Oneness, a gentle reminder that I was now living in physical form where there were parameters of time and space and authority.  I could not have thanked her then, because I was unconscious to this way of looking at the world, but from where I sit now, awakened to the possibility that I can choose peace about my past because even small incidents had a spiritual purpose, I can thank Mrs. Wilson.

What do you think? Do you have an incident that sparked a limiting belief or view that formed a foundation for how you have viewed the world? Please share it in the comments!