Changing Times, Their Ensuing Struggles, & How to Press On

Some of us are recovering from job losses.  Art is a great way to work through grief.  Social media abounds with promises for book writing and entrepreneurial opportunities.  So, I’ve been slugging away at it for over six years.  Here is how it started.

I had a vision one day pushing my baby buggy up the hill at the National Zoo.  We were on the Asia trail on the upside of the hill that overlooks the red panda exhibit.  I was hearing similar complaints from the other visitors, “That’s not a panda!” ” Where are the pandas?”  “I want to see the pandas!”

The icon of the Smithsonian National Zoo on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C.  is the Giant Panda.  In fact, I think it may have overturned the famous portrait of George Washington and may even be the icon for the entire Smithsonian as a whole if my memory serves me right.  So, one can some what empathize with the poorly informed visitors of their expectations.

But, I learned something new that caught my attention.  These adorable balls of fluff were the first to be named panda, not the giant pandas!  So, I parked my stroller closer to the viewing area and listened closely.  Then I questioned, what if these two critters could hear these comments?  Would they take offense like my 8th grade students do in public school?  That evening before bed, I asked my husband if it would bother him if I stay up huddle over my computer next to him to write out this story that came to me.

That night I scoured over the Internet researching to learn more about these animals because the gift shop only had books on giant pandas. As I learned more,  I typed away an allegory or parable for my daughter of many lessons I had learned the hard way through broken dreams, relationship and job losses, and bouts of depression.  I was also concerned that in less than 10 years she would be struggling like many of my students because her genes express mixed race.

I like most parents wanted to give my daughter a better future.  But the future I was thinking about was an healthier outlook resilient to anxiety and depression, not a bigger and more secure paycheck.  Even though I was a big believer in the asthma and allergy products that I represented for a major pharmaceutical company for 9 years previous to my return to teaching public school, as a patient, I had no relief from various classes of different anti-depressants I tried.  Each one seemed to exacerbate anxiety and suicidal thoughts except one of which numbed my pain and ability to think deeply which eventually caused a potentially life threatening rash.

I was absolutely clueless as to why I struggled with so much depression.  Overall, I loved life, had good opportunities, and enjoyed a wide variety of activities.  I read my Bible daily since I was in the 3rd grade.  It didn’t make sense.  The spiritual experience that strengthen me in middle school that I write about in my August 28, 2016 blog wasn’t giving me the joy that I once knew.  Honestly, I felt pretty happy during those middle school years unlike most.  However, what took a toll on me was hearing my mother go on for hours on the phone with dramatic prayer requests regarding my situation.

I need to clarify that I’m not trying to blame my mother right now.  From what I’ve been able to piece together,  she was doing all she knew and was taught to do.  Her parents were very religious individuals in a church that has a history of being pretty emotionally and religiously abusive.  This is really hard to unravel for those of us that love God at an early age and buy certain explanations of how to interpret, “Honor thy father and mother.” “Pray for your leaders.” “Respect those in authority.”  It can behave like the perfect combination to set one up to co-depend upon others.  It also ensures plenty of compliant individuals for bad leadership to dominate with their corrupt authority, otherwise known as narcissistic bullies.

The other problem that occurs is where the expression, “Do as I say, not as I do” comes into play.  My mother came to Jesus soon after I was born.  So I was the child who she nursed with Bible Stories, songs, and prayers.  However, her default behavior was to mirror her parents behaviors which were to live in complete fear of an angry God who will punish you if you don’t comply.   They faithfully attended all services at their church, ran a strict religious home, and lived in fear of poverty and concentration camps.  They didn’t live in freedom of the joy of the Lord.  Rather, they over worked to try to fit in a small town and persuade people they were on America’s side.

To complicate things further, my mother grew up loving many of the religious practices in her home.  They provided a sense of identity, some joy, and love that was shared in her family.  But they were culturally strange to my father and his parents.  To make matters worse, my father was taught to love others through an abusive form of humor: making fun of them.  Yes, my father truly believes that you make fun of those that you love.  And many others do too.  It wasn’t until the late Dr. Elda Arce, M.D. Assistant Professor of Adolescent Medicine at Children’t National Medical Center that I learned that it is teasing can be a form of emotional abuse.

Dr. Arce was born in Peru.  She had a special respect and concern for me.  I earned her respect as a peer in the area of asthma and allergies.  I was trained to be a medical liaison for an American pharmaceutical company that spent millions of dollars into research to find alternative therapies for asthma.  However, liver studies revealed safety concerns and reality that these drugs would not be recovering any of their investment in the market.  So I jumped ship and returned to medical center sales for an International pharmaceutical company who had products already on the market with more promising they would follow.  This is how I met and became friends with Elda.

What I loved about my friendship with Dr. Arce was that she could clearly see, identify, label, and deal with the flaws of American culture because it wasn’t her native one.  However, she embraced it, loved it, and was committed to improving it not just for her own sons and each and every patient she treated.  She cared about me.  At the time, I was a pharmaceutical representative, some one that frequently was disdained and blamed for high prescription drug costs at cocktail parties.

I’ve mentioned before there is a common trait that unites all humans that no one wants to embrace.  Naked we come into the world with a selfish propensity and desire to self-preserve at the cost of others.   How that impacts each culture varies.  For me, what I’ve learned and say as a motto is, “Everyone is getting something right and everyone is getting something wrong.”  Therefore, I seek opportunities for cross-cultural experiences to see what they might be doing that I’m not that I’d like to try.  One of the experiences I was looking for was a Black Christian Church service.  And Wanda made that easy.

I had just snapped this photo:

to post on my book, Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the ZooFace Book page for the upcoming National Holiday.  Wanda came out of the church and invited us to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 90th Birthday Celebration while she hopped into her car to head out for the day.

Well, not only did she do that, but she opened the door yesterday morning and welcomed my daughter and I with the warmest hugs.  We arrived early to ensure we got parking and a seat.  But it was really early, so we followed Wanda back down the stairs where she introduced me to Docent Brenda.  Brenda proceeded to choose really well.  She focused on educating and encouraging me and let the other ladies put my daughter to work in setting up the tables to receive lots of visitors.

First, we got chatting about the March books (depicted above) I had packed to keep my daughter busy while we waited.   Brenda had just seen a PBS special the evening prior discussing these books.  I had purchased volumes 1 & 3 at The Freedom Riders Museum last year when I learned about it after my daughter re-enacted as a Creek Indian at Alabama Frontier Days while we were still traveling in our RV from our evacuation from Hurricane Irma in South Florida.

Then we moved on to so many other topics.  What moved me most, is Brenda validated the racism I experienced at the hands of a former Chinese’s boyfriend’s parents who ended our relationship because I wasn’t Chinese.  This docent wasn’t indifferent like so many of my own kind have been to the troubles I’ve experienced in my life.  She cared.  We bonded.  And then before I knew it we had to scamper quickly up the stairs before no more seats were left because we talked too long.

In route, I noticed a beautifully painted mural on the wall that covers a significant time period in  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.  I pulled out my cell phone and snapped a picture faster than I could read the sign that my daughter embarrassed had to inform me stated, “No pictures of the mural.”  What happen next amazed me.  Nothing.  No one yelled at me.  Do you know what happens to them when they break a rule???  Instead, they saw and continued to greet me with a smile.  Now, I’m going to mind my manners and not post that photo here.  Instead, I’m going to invite you to go visit Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama to see it for yourself because it took the artist over 2 years to complete it.  It’s not something a photo can do justice of.

After we found seat, I picked up the African American Heritage Hymnal 2001 by GIA Publications, Inc.  I am shocked but not surprised at what I read in the introduction, “The majority Protestant community in the United States has not paid much serious attention to the exercise of faith and practice in African American life.  The telling impact of gospel music in the religious life of the nation and of the world is a sign that America is probably poorer culturally and spiritually for ignoring the musical tradition of African American Christians.”

All the puzzle pieces in my head connected.  These statements are absolutely true.   Why else did Vivien Thomas experience what he did in his life especially when he moved his wife and young family to Baltimore Maryland to join Dr. Blalock at Johns Hopkins?  Why did I hear my dad and grandparent make certain derogatory comments when I grew up in the North who was supposed to fight in the Civil War against Black slavery in the South?  Why did I feel that I had better not come home with a black boyfriend even though one of the earliest songs my mom taught me was Jesus Loves the Little Children?  Why could I not locate There is a Balm in Gilead in the old Lutheran and Presbyterian Hymnals that I have?  Let me get back to waiting for the service to begin.

A family of several women, three young children, and a man asked if they could sit next to us.  After they squeezed in, I felt selfish that I had more leg room at the end of the pew than this big man.  His knees extended right into the pew in front.  I asked him if he wanted to switch for more comfort and he declined.  He was fine.  Wow,! That wasn’t how I got treated on a bus by a professional male in Philadelphia when he indignantly continued to read his newspaper comfortably in his seat while my 5 year old daughter and I stood dangerously in the aisle in the front of the bus a few years ago.

Since it was still early before the service began, I pulled out three copies of my coloring sheets (depicted above) and my colored pencils.  I offered them for his kids.  He thanked me and then returned the pencils when the kids were done.

The children were so well behaved and waited so patiently for 30+ minutes.  (How many other young children would be so quiet and patient?)  I began to realize that what my daughter said last week was true, “Mom, the blacks get it.  It’s the whites that don’t.”  Being very white and raised WASP myself I finally got it.  This family had more to teach me than I them.  So, I mustered up the courage to ask the guy if he recognized all pictured in the flyer.

He did.  I only recognized a few, but he knew them all.  Now I recognized most of the names, but I couldn’t match the names with the faces.  Why not?  I wasn’t taught that it was important.  But gee, go back to Vivien Thomas, where would modern surgery be today without him?  So as we approach Black History Month, February, reconsider its importance and take time to learn more.  For example did you know MLK Jr. was not named Martin at birth?  I didn’t know until yesterday’s service.  But first, back to the service.

Rev. Cromwell A. Handy, Pastor, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church led this service so beautifully.  He accredited musicians to being the one who gave the strength before the historic march.  He permitted the congregation to break out in song to the pianist offertory How Great Is Our God.  The emphasis was on God and his greatness through a faithful servant.  It was not a praise service for MLK Jr.   There was also no disrespect for the current administration in Washington, slams, or innuendos.

Then Dr. Shannon stepped up to the pulpit and preached on Luke 8:23-28.  He emphasized that we need to stand strong.  God creates out of nothing.  Yet preparation is key.  That’s exactly what God did through MLK Jr.  he was preparing him through each phase of his childhood to do what he would do between 24 and 38 years of age.  We need to correct our hermaneutics before the homily can be delivered.  Too much of scripture has been misinterpreted. We need to listen to the calling of God on our lives not matter how uncomfortable it may make us.  We should take heart when experiencing rejection.  Because that must be experienced before a yes can be received.  Don’t always look for money.  You will never be comfortable until you do the will of God. You must calm down before you can be of any useful service.  High emotions regarding injustice must be worked through and settled if you’re going to be effective.  And in summary Galatians 3:28 we need to be one, not constantly bickering and casting stones at one another.

Thank you all who were involved in this special Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.s 90th Birthday Celebration.  It filled in many of the gaps and questions in my own life’s challenges and has inspired me to continue on in my art, calling, and mission which is to grow beyond beyond my childish selfish pity me and entitled ways to become emotionally healthy and spiritually mature so that I can encourage others to do likewise.

#racism #tourismMontgomery,AL #MLK Jr. Day #dexterkingmemorialbaptistchurch #Freedomridersmuseum #hymns #praisemusic #depression #healing #blackhistorymonth #overcome #civilrights #crossculturemarriage

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Mary Poppins

It took me a while to coordinate finding the time to get to the silver screen to see this latest masterpiece from Disney.  Usually, I wait until they appear in Redbox so that I can accommodate my personal schedule and enjoy the comfort of my home with some of my best company, my two large black dogs.  However, the significance of who Mary Poppins means to me personally, it was time to make an exception.

Actually it has been a combination of Disney’s original Mary Poppins movie, Julie Andrews, and the 1965 movie The Sound of Music that has contributed to the inspiration of my song writing and parenting style.

As well intended and loving as my mother was, she ruled our home by shame inducing lectures, yelling, and tirades.  Ironically, she is the one who also ensured I grew up watching these classic films as well.  Isn’t this so human of all of us?  We are all so full of contradictions.

When I finally became a mother myself at 39.5 years of age, I began to understand my mom much better.  Children usually do not listen the first time they are instructed, they pitch selfish fits, and demand literal justice for every little thing.  It can be quite draining and easier to yell than to take a deep breath as Julie Andrews and Emily Blunt model fantastically as Mary Poppins in both films.

I had been teaching 8th Grade Science in Montgomery County Public Schools for the year prior to the arrival of my precious bundle of joy.  Professional development and faculty meetings inspired me to manage my classes without resorting to yelling even though it was my default template when my patience had expired.  How could I pour such creative energy into children who weren’t mine and leave my own to suffer through my screaming even though her behavior most probably warranted it?  More importantly, I saw that it didn’t work for my daughter at all.  She was born resilient to it and would instead incite more of it.  Why?  because it’s all about power.  She discovered this gave her some ability to control or rather “push my buttons”.  Therefore I wrote my own tune to sing to calm both of us down.  Who needed the lyrics more?  Me or her?

What I found in Mary Poppins Returns was much more than just more fun catchy tunes that Julie Andrew had sung for over 50 years to me as I watched the original Disney classic.

Emily Blunt just like Julie Andrews portrayed the ever calm and highly needed Nanny for the Banks family.  Most families need an outsider to help with each family’s limitations passed down generation after generation empowered by life’s usual  pain filled struggles.

Julie Andrew’s Mary Poppins taught George Banks what was truly important and needed in his life.  He made the changes needed that he was convicted of and raised Jane and Michael much better after Mary Poppins left.  This is evident in the career choice Michael made.  He didn’t immediately follow into his father’s foot steps in the financial industry.  He pursued something very daring especially when one needs to pay the bills, the art world.  But when life’s hardships came as they do to each of us, Michael defaults back to his father’s model.

Over come with grief of his wife’s death and the responsibility to fill both parent’s roles in his three children’s lives, he had fallen prey to take out a bad loan that would be difficult to pay with his fluctuating income as an artist.  Unable to keep up with it and other financial responsibilities Michael’s faith begins to waiver.  Desperate times call for desperate measures so he secures a job as a bank teller.

Then the three banks children behave in just that manner.  Annable played by Pixie Davis,  mimics everything that mother taught and said.  Georgie, played by Joel Dawson, easily distracts and wanders off accordingly.  John, played by Nathanael Saleh along with the other two blame the others for all that is wrong, but seeks to try to save father and the home.

To complicate things further, the world is full of evil individuals who feed off of the vulnerability of others, especially the nice ones.   Colin Firth plays the typical menacing bully Wilkins at the bank.  He has no regard for others and views any of their hardships as an opportunity to feed his selfish narcissistic greed further.  He changes history to suit his own agenda, usurps the law to his advantage, gives lawyers a bad name, twist the truth, and calls those who bear it liars,

Therefore, Michael Banks played by Ben Whishaw is in desperate need of the Christ like figure in Mary Poppins to return in Emily Blunt.  His sister Jane, played by Emily Mortimer, and he struggle to believe what was once their childhood dream.  Through the tough love of Mary Poppins and good friendship in Jack played by Lin-Manual Miranda, neighbors and housekeeper, Ellen played by Julie Walters, Michael comes around to see the truth, embrace it, face it, and rediscover what is most important, love.

May we each in turn continue to grow up in similar manner.  First, let us accept help from the outside observer who see our families needs better than ourselves.  Then, honor our parents by accrediting them with it was the best that they knew.  Continue on to find inspiration in wonderful lyrics contained in each song in this soundtrack especially, “Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover.”  And put it all together as we take responsibility for our lives by maintaining order and taking time to read the whole book, fly kits and balloons with our children and/or loved ones.

#MaryPoppinsReturns #MaryPoppins #Disney #Growing Up #Healing #Parenting #HealingGrief #Grief

 

 

 

Insights gained from the theater

A gift I gave to my daughter and self was tickets to see the end of the year shows at Alabama Shakespeare Festival.  We were somewhat aware of the Sound of Music from watching the movie and listening to its accompanying sound track.  I had read the Gospel of Luke several times and was quite curious what the “show” would be like.

We attended the Wednesday matinee of the Sound of Music to see two of our friends acting in the cast as Von Trapp children.  The stage was curiously set with hills as the floor and  two fake grand pianos set back to back in the center.  The female adult cast opened the doors with angelic song and the story proceeded. Courtney Bassett, Maria, won our respect and hearts quickly, but I was still distracted by the setting and the two pianists.

Then Angela Dickson, Baroness Elberfeld, and Kevin Ligon, Max Detweiler,  portrayed the parts of two indifferent self serving people who topped it off singing No Way to Stop It.  I had no idea how different the Broadway Show was from the movie.  How Can Love Survive was another unfamiliar tune with thought provoking lyrics.  Enraptured by this shift of story line, I wanted to come see the show a second time.

This was easy to justify because one of the girls who acted as a fellow orphan with my daughter in ASF’s production of Annie this past summer was scheduled to perform in a different cast of Von Trapp children Saturday night.   I had already purchased our tickets to see the Saturday matinee of the Gospel of Luke, so sticking around for a second show would be possible.

ASF upgraded our seats to the front row for the Gospel of Luke.  We settled in.   My daughter and I briefly discussed that this show would be very different from the Sound of Music.  It was a one man show, with very few props, no fancy costumes, and no music.  Bruce Kuhn deliver just that.  But what surprised me was his first line was the beginning of the Gospel of John, not Luke.  Immediately, I regretted not bringing my Bible to follow along to see how the story differed.   My memory was all I had to rely on.  I was enthralled at the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Luke, John, or mix there of in similar manner to how it actually would have been told early on.

Most are unaware that original biblical scripts have no chapter or verse numbers marked much less any subtitles or headings.   They are also unaware of how story telling occurred and that this is how the history and teachings were passed on from one generation to the next.  Wow!  my daughter and I now propelled centuries back into what their world might have been like.

Unfortunately, we weren’t prepared to listen as intently as those back then would have.  It was tough to stay alert and listen closely, Mr. Kuhn did a great job trying to keep our attention, but I certainly appreciated a coffee and brief walk in the park at intermission.   I likened the experience somewhat to the best and longest sermon I ever heard preached . So, I came back for the second half much more in tune and ready to observe.

Prior to the evening shows at ASF we stood in the waiting area behind back stage to great my daughter’s friend and parents from Annie.   We were surprised when Mr. Kuhn came through the door and was happy to say, “Hello.”  I enjoyed such pleasant banter with this fine actor regarding the irony that this Gospel of Luke actually starts with the Gospel of John.

We proceeded to enjoy our second viewing of the Sound of Music much more as I had determined not to allow the hilly stage floor, fake grand pianos, and pianist distract me.  I wished that I could have watched the Gospel of Luke  a second time too, but I can’t.  What I can do though is sit down and read the entire Gospel of Luke in a single sitting.  And that’s exactly what we did the next day.

Some get hung up on “artist’s privilege” otherwise known as the changing of the original story line to make a show.   One reviewer of my book, Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo, had issue that an Asian animal was speaking Spanish.

But art is what makes the world colorful and hopefully inspires us to learn more.  The Von Trapps were a real historical family and figure.  How true are either the silver screen or stage versions to their experience?  Even the book written about it will be slightly biased.  It’s just how it goes.   So, we can either get all excited about these varied perspectives in a negative combative manner or in one that inspires us to learn more from a different angle.   What will you choose?

*Just an interesting side note: We learned from visiting the Knoxville Zoo that there are fossil remains that have been uncovered nearby matching that of red pandas.  They could actually be American!

#ASF #AlabamaShakespeareFestival #GospelofLuke #BruceKuhn #Broadway #SoundofMusic