The End of An Era

“Takaani went to be with Dan this morning at 10:30 am. He went peacefully with me and the doctor and nurses by his side.” Those were the words I received in a text from my sister-in-law, Jan about her beautiful malamute. He had outlived my brother, Dan, by six years. I had mixed emotions. I believe it’s possible to feel sad and yet hang on to gratitude for a life well lived. Beautiful memories enveloped me.

Dan and Jan had raised Takaani from the time he was three months old. Like all puppies he was frisky and loved to play. They immediately accompanied him to obedience training until he responded to their commands. Takaani seemed perfect in every way possible.

The first time the three of them visited my home, I was hesitant. Dan and Jan had asked permission to bring him and my husband and I said yes. When they arrived, we weren’t prepared for his size. I didn’t think he’d fit in our small living room, but I said nothing and hoped he was well behaved.

I needn’t have worried. He squeezed into a spot and lay down upon my brother’s command. Soon, though, he wanted everyone to pet him and he made the rounds—but gently, without knocking anything over. I had never met a dog like this.

My brother depended on Takaani during his three-year battle with cancer. Like all chemo treatments, Dan experienced some horrible days. Jan had to work so my brother’s beloved dog was his solace during the day. Takaani often snuggled with Dan on the floor or sat by him, laying his head on Dan’s footstool.

In the last days of my brother’s life, Takaani took a position by his bed. The final day we were all together, we left the room one by one and cried. Mister T, as we sometimes called him, walked out last. He whined and he had never done that before this. It was the end and he knew it.

Three or four years later, Jan and Takaani moved to another state. I missed them and my heart was incomplete. I dreaded the day I knew would come, but come it did. It was the end of an era.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Return to Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Israel March, 2017

March 25th signaled our final day in Jerusalem and filled us with memories. It was Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath and a free day for us. It was also our son’s forty-fifth birthday.

He had celebrated his fifth birthday in our Jerusalem apartment, and his paternal grandparents were visiting us. They were commemorating their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Jim and I had decided Israel, with all its significance for us, was the place for us to celebrate that momentous milestone.

Our hotel arranged for a three-hour taxi excursion to visit our former home in Kiryat HaYovel, the monster slide our son had played on, the Israeli kindergarten he attended, his pre-school and the building of the Jewish Christians with whom we had worshipped.

Our Arab Muslim driver met us in the hotel lobby and escorted us to his van. My husband, our son, his partner and I climbed in the van and rode to the park that contained the slide. Our son’s face lit with a smile. He remembered it and so did we. The monster was ugly. It was formed like a face with small pointed ears on the top of the head. It was narrower at the top and as it sloped downward it spread as if to make a splash. The cameras came out as Todd walked behind the slide and up the stairs to the top. We then ran to the front and click, click, clicked our cameras as he slid down one of the three red tongues coming out of the black and white striped head. We laughed and chatted with one of the young mothers sitting near there and explained our presence.

Our driver then made his way to our apartment building, which was not far from the park. We spotted it and asked him to stop. We got out and walked down the sidewalk gawking, not quite comprehending. The structure had a slight curve and spanned more than the length of a football field. There were small air conditioners in some windows. None existed when we lived there. And the lovely balconies now had walls built out to the railings. I wondered if there were still black-out shades to pull down in case of war. The ground floor contained bomb shelters and storage closets.

We searched for the entry that led up the narrow stairs to our old apartment. Our son knew where it was. I felt lost. The walls closed in on us as we trekked to the third floor. It was dark and only a low voltage light bulb shed light. We had seen on the mailboxes the name of our former neighbors and we knocked on their door hoping they still lived there or perhaps one of their children. No one answered.

The space behind the building was covered with asphalt. In the garden behind the rock retaining wall, our son had buried his pet miniature turtle. He and his partner walked the length of the space and huddled together talking. Jim and I conversed by ourselves, remembering the many times we had walked the stairs to the parking lot above. When we joined our guys again, our son shed tears. We asked why. He said he didn’t know except that the apartment was the first home he remembered. He recalled how he felt different—blond hair versus dark, non-Jewish and in a school where Hebrew was the spoken language. A bit of shame overtook me and I said I was sorry for subjecting him to that. He and Will reminded me that all children feel that way. It’s part of growing up.

I didn’t cry as I reminisced. Perhaps because our three years there were intense. The first year, my husband and I attended the school for overseas students on Mount Scopus, a part of the Hebrew University. We were immersed in language learning and subjects related to the Jewish people. Our son was in pre-school at a Finnish Lutheran Missionary Society school. He became ill with scarlet fever and it took nine months to get him well. Overwhelmed, I tried to keep up with studies, take Todd to the doctor and labs for blood work, all the while afraid I wasn’t understanding the often poor English of the medical personnel.

Cultural adjustments had to be made. Israelis and perhaps all Jews think, based on Talmudic writers, you agree with them if you remain silent in a debate or argument. Jewish students and scholars always debate and question the written words of the Bible (Tenach), Talmud and Mishna. Buying furniture, a car and a washing machine took all of our Friday mornings for a while. I had to squeeze grocery shopping in before sundown too. Tired to the bone, I tried to make an appetizing meal for the beginning of the Sabbath, which became family time for the three of us. Saturday morning we worshipped and then relaxed the rest of the afternoon or did homework. Sunday we began our routine again. All the things that make life what it is were more difficult in a foreign country.

Across the street from our home, small apartment buildings made of stucco still stood. Years ago they had housed mostly Jewish immigrants from Arab countries. The three of us had fond memories of Todd’s best friend, Mani. They used to walk down the path to the required Israeli kindergarten both of them attended. It was in a small one story building with a bomb shelter inside. Parents had to take turns doing guard duty, as did I, but without a gun. (Schools for older children were fenced and had armed guards.) One day, I asked the teacher what to do if a terrorist came. She said, “Yell, and run inside.” I said okay but figured I wouldn’t live to tell the story if it happened.

Now, we couldn’t find a path to the kindergarten. Gardens and additional apartment buildings filled the land. Disappointed, we walked back to the van.

Our driver asked if he could drive to his house so that he could give his daughter her notebook, which she had left in the vehicle. It wasn’t too far and we were surprised to find a Muslim neighborhood in the area. He explained he was born in the Old City in the Muslim Quarter, but his family had been edged out of their home there. Fortunately, the family owned land in this area and a home built of hewn stone was on it. He wanted to rebuild the house and a contractor proceeded. However, his skills were less than stellar and in a storm the walls fell. Our driver decided to build the house. Including the time to wait for a building permit from the Israeli government and build the house, ten years passed before it was finished. His story was important to us. His neighborhood was peaceful among the Jewish neighborhoods without the use of fences.

Our next stop was across Jerusalem in search of our son’s preschool, which was run by the Finnish Lutheran Missionary Society. He was three when he started there and was somewhat prepared for Israeli kindergarten since Lisu, his teacher, taught a little Hebrew and Arabic. Todd loved his teacher. Now, however, a private residence was there and enclosed by a wall and a locked gate. We fared no better when we saw our old place of worship. Its gate was also locked. We returned to our hotel and then walked to the International YMCA for an early birthday dinner.

I’d be remiss in my descriptions if I didn’t write about the discussion with our driver. He was adamant that all humans are equal and important regardless of religion, race or political persuasion. We agreed and Jim described his involvement with an interfaith community in our area in the States. He told of his attendance at the interfaith solidarity gathering held at the mosque in Walnut Creek, California where at least two-hundred and fifty people attended. Our driver was delighted. I’m glad we shared stories. Human to human and in friendship.

Everyone has a story. What is yours?

 

 

Return to Israel, March 2017

Shock enveloped my brain. In 1975 the population was around three and a half million. Now? Greater than eight and a half million people. More than those who died in the Holocaust. Major thoroughfares and highways that had once been two lanes were now four to eight lanes. Traffic jammed the highways. The three major cities, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa teemed with people, high rise apartments and businesses. My husband and I recognized very little. Israel was no longer a sleepy, rural country.

It is said we can’t go back to what was. That’s true. I was curious as to what my response would be to the memories often vivid in my heart and mind. My perspective had changed. Forty years later, I had been influenced, not only by the three years I lived in Israel, but also by my experiences since then. What bonded me to the country and people now?

My husband and I arrived in Jerusalem with student visas on July 1, 1975, and our three year sold son accompanied us. Our reason for being there seems unimaginable now. In the spiritual mystical world of Pentecostalism, we believed God asked us to serve in Israel under the auspices of our Christian denomination. Jim was a minister at that time and our commitment to God drove our actions.

Our concept of God changed over the years and the process started then. We met Jews, religious and not, Muslims with deep devotion to God, people of other branches of Christianity. In my small world, I had never met or heard of Greek or Russian Orthodox faiths. Jerusalem draws people of many beliefs who live there and serve God. However, the law of the land is that only churches which had a presence in Israel before it became a nation in 1948 can have permanent residency. Our church had let their registration lapse, thus the reason for our student visas. My husband had the task to renew it. They also have anti-missionary laws and we could not proselytize Jews. How do you practice your faith in a situation like that? Through love.

Memories flooded me. We studied modern Hebrew when we were students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Our introduction to learning the language was in the Ulpan, an intense three month, five days a week, five hours a day study. It commenced before the onset of the school year.

On the first day, our teacher informed us that no English would be spoken in class. What? How were we to learn? Edna said a word in Hebrew and then gesticulated the meaning, like saying gever and then pointing at a male student. Foreign letters of the alphabet plagued us. It is a Semitic language as are Arabic and Aramaic. It reads from right to left and many sounds are guttural, made as if you have a cough. I lay awake nights memorizing words and letters. Spent evenings doing the homework—all in Hebrew. Struggled in class to speak, write and read.

All the time our teacher said, “Speak it everywhere you go.” So we tried, only to feel like two-year olds spitting out a word here and there. I remember my chagrin at the post office. I had learned how to say, “I want to buy stamps.” Proudly, I said those words in Hebrew. Then the postal worker said something back. I didn’t understand and stood with my mouth open not knowing what to do. Someone saved me and asked me in English what kind of stamps I wanted and how many. My muscles relaxed. Gradually, we became proficient enough to make our way in our life there.

Eliezer Ben Yehuda was the father of modern Hebrew. This well educated man emigrated from the Russian empire to Palestine in 1881 with the purpose of reviving Hebrew for use in daily life. He believed the language would unify the Jewish people who came from diverse countries. He and his second wife, Hemda, worked to make some revisions to Biblical Hebrew in order to make it a little easier for people to learn. Modern words had to be invented because there weren’t matching words in the Bible. Opposition to Eliezer’s efforts came from the Hassidic Jews who believe Hebrew is holy, only to be used in reading the Bible, Talmud and Mishna. However, with the help of Hemda, he pressed forward.

Here I was again. I had forgotten much of what I learned. And then, as we ate at restaurants and traveled the country we listened to people speak Hebrew. We started to remember simple words, simple sentences. We used it in the places we visited and with anyone who took the time to listen. They understood us as we conversed. I love the language. It often expresses what I cannot say adequately in English.

Since the Hebrew language, the culture and religion of the Jews and a nation of their own still brings unity to Israel among the Jews, I wondered about my own connectivity now. Speaking the language again gave me a sense of belonging. Visiting the Holocaust Museum showed me great suffering, and awakened my own experiences, though different, to parts of my own life. I still believe the Jewish people need a country of their own. Spiritually, my concept of God is different from forty years ago. I cannot define God. I believe in a Spirit that dwells among all of us and throughout the universe. Most religions I know about have mystical aspects to them. (My husband learned about Jewish Mysticism in one of his classes.) They are often reflected in events beyond understanding in the human mind, or in stories told to relate a concept which are unexplainable by rational thought. All of these things say to me that as human beings, we belong together. And our commonality must be found in Spirit through love.

Holocaust Museum, Jerusalem, Israel 2017

Yad Vashem

It rose to the sky, the concrete triangular pyramid structure. My steps slowed. It beckoned and yet filled me with trepidation. I knew its contents. I had been in the smaller Holocaust museum forty years ago when Israel was close to celebrating its thirtieth anniversary as a nation.

In our apartment in Jerusalem, Israel, and the young mother of a five-year old son, I had watched on Israeli television the movies filled with the horror of the mass murders of the Jews. I had seen the suppressed sorrow in the tear filled eyes of survivors. I had heard my neighbor say her five-year old son did not want to live. “He is too young to watch,” I said.

“We must never forget,” she replied. Those words were the crux of the Holocaust Museum in the Holy Land.

I experienced three Yom Hashoah (Day of Remembrance) observances in the years 1975 to 1978. It was as if dark clouds descended and covered the country in black. I sensed the grief and depression. My spirits plummeted. Memorial services were held and as if that was not enough, a few survivors committed suicide each year. Even at that, daily reminders existed. My husband and I knew a German Jewish woman who had endured the horrors. She wandered the streets mumbling incoherently, agitated and alone. She sometimes came into the bookstore Jim managed. He made tea for her and read verses to her from a German language Bible. It calmed her for a while. My neighbor’s husband had to have a fresh loaf of bread in the house each day. It consoled him, helped deter the memories of hunger during World War II.

So here I was in 2017 at the new Holocaust memorial building with a small tour group of twelve. Our guide, who remained outside, was a Jewish Israeli. My husband, son, his partner and I entered a violent sea of emotion. The only relief to the gray concrete floors, walls and ceilings in the vast stark space were the numerous galleries or alcoves, each with different displays of artifacts with explanatory plaques or videos commemorating the time period. We started together, made our way separately, and at times joined together to view and read.

I was surprised when I saw pictures of German Jews before the war. Smiles on their faces, dressed well, successful business owners, musicians, doctors and scientists who referred to themselves as Germans. Unusual because most Jews refer to themselves as Jews first and after that they name their country. They were shocked when Hitler came to power and started denouncing them. They were not of the pure race he wanted to create.

The container on the concrete floor with glass on the top and sides showed a pile of old shoes obtained from the concentration camps at the end of the war. Each pair represented a human being who had been seized by Hitler’s regime and ended in the gas chambers in the concentration camps. The shoes were old. The memories? Painful and fresh as if they had happened to me.

My husband and I stood with our son in a gallery reading an array of pieces about various aspects of the Holocaust. My eyes caught the words, “Fifteen to twenty thousand homosexuals died in the camps.” I pointed out the words to my husband and then my son. It felt like my heart plummeted to the hard, unfeeling concrete floor. I asked my son, “Do you know about this?” He nodded his head and said, “Yes. The pink star is a symbol among the gay community.” He didn’t say more, but I sensed his sadness. I wanted to cry and to talk, but there wasn’t time and it wasn’t the place.

I was appalled. Jewish and non-Jewish gay men were targeted. They were abused by the regime on the streets, jailed and killed. Some experienced having their testicles boiled in water and some had their nails pulled out. Like the Jewish heterosexual community who had to wear armbands with a gold Star of David on it, the homosexual people had to wear pink stars. In the camps they often suffered more heinous abuse than others. Hitler wanted people who procreated the Aryan race. He targeted minorities. Had my son and his partner lived in that day, they too would have experienced the unimaginable. As a mother, my heart grieves. As a believer in human rights, my heart grieves. As a believer in the good of people, my heart grieves.

A bright spot in the museum was the gallery of the Righteous. It commemorates the many non-Jews who aided Jews during Hitler’s regime. Pictures of the gentiles and stories of what they did to hide the hunted and help them escape abound. Jews lived in many countries across Europe and as Hitler made his sweep of the nations, individuals and families put themselves in danger to help the Jews. Many of the righteous died in the camps. I’m grateful this is included. But unfortunately, most countries turned a blind eye to the plight of the Jews and would not accept refugees until after the war—after more than six million people died. Have we of the twenty-first century learned anything?

Time was running short. Soon we had to make our way to the tour bus. But before we left the building, we sat and watched the video of a survivor. She was free of the camps and was rescued by American soldiers. Tears flowed as she told her story. “I was emaciated and sick. I asked the soldiers, why now? What for? I want to die.” Her questions and feelings are valid. How do we as human beings make the journey from darkness to light? From evil to good? Many rely on their faith in a supreme being. Others immerse themselves in good deeds, family and friends. And others bury the memories so deeply they never speak of them again. But all are haunted by nightmares, neurotic behaviors, loneliness and betrayal.

We left the museum and experienced the sunshine of a spring day. I was ready to make my way to the bus, my emotions raw. And then my husband said he wanted to go to the children’s Holocaust memorial housed in another building. We entered darkness, could not see. Then our eyes adjusted. Candles reflected off mirrored walls in the form of millions of tiny lights representing one and a half million Jewish children who perished in the genocide. As we walked, translucent pictures of the children appeared. Their names, ages and country of origin were broadcast in English, Hebrew and Yiddish—one by one, star by star.

When we returned to the bus, I stood by our driver and guide, Tomer, a moment. He told me to sit down. I gripped his shoulder with my hand and squeezed hard. In Hebrew I said, “It hurts me so much. I’m so sorry.” He replied without looking at me, “It happens. It’s life.” I knew his response would be something like that. I had encountered it forty years ago. Israelis have a tough attitude. They can come across as having no feelings. But they do. They care deeply about their country, about their culture and faith, and when I lived there, I experienced their love for me. I hope Tomer felt my love for the Jews.

From Naivety to Knowledge

My teen years were spent in Pueblo, Colorado. We had moved there from southeastern Kansas when I was nine, which was mostly white. A few black people lived in Parsons, but there were no other minorities. Some of our neighbors were black and a teenage girl sometimes babysat me and my siblings. We loved Eleanor. I was ignorant about racial prejudice at that time and it served me well for a long time.

The dominant ethnicities of Pueblo were white, Mexican and Italian. At first we lived in rural Pueblo County and I was first introduced to these other cultures. Strange as they seemed to me, I adjusted well and had a wonderful Italian friend. I often went to her house for lunch where her immigrant mother made us fried egg sandwiches.

We moved to town when I was in sixth grade. Again, it was a mixture of ethnic backgrounds. In junior high and high school, I didn’t discriminate against the non-white kids who served on student council, were cheerleaders and athletes. We were students and that was enough for me.

For the most part my parents weren’t prejudiced, except my dad didn’t like Italians. He thought of them as the mafia. I ignored this and even had a crush on a half-Italian young man who attended my church in my teen years.

So it was to my great surprise when I graduated from high school and moved from home to get married at the ripe old age of nineteen, I learned that extreme prejudice existed in America. My husband listened to the radio and read the newspaper and I followed his example. Even at that, I didn’t understand why Watts burned, civil rights were talked about, or why segregation reigned in the South. And I certainly didn’t understand the significance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death. Naivety ruled my life.

I’ve reflected on this often. Part of the problem was the isolated world I lived in. At that point in my life, I loved church and enjoyed school most of the time. No one talked about current events. I didn’t read the newspaper. The headlines always scared me. So, yes, I was ignorant.

It’s been painful to make the leap from thinking the world was pretty much okay to understanding how much hate and violence exist. It was safer to be ignorant. I didn’t have to think. I didn’t have to feel. I didn’t have to leave my cocoon.

And yet, awareness has made me more human. Compassion for the pain of others means I can work for justice and help make this world a better place.

 

Tornadoes

Tornadoes in the mid-west blanket the news too often. Whether they’re worse under the effects of climate change in our present day than years ago, I don’t know. One affected me, my sister, mom and dad on May 1, 1948.

My dad told the story often as I grew-up and I have a copy of the Chanute Tribune dated May 3, 1948, which told the tale too. We lived on a farm in rural southeastern Kansas. While outside, taking his car for a spin, or as we used to call it, a joy ride, my dad saw the dark threatening funnel cloud form and coming our way. He went back to the house and yelled for my mom to bring me, eight months old. She was nursing me. Dad grabbed my sister, Linda, age two and a half, and ran to the basement under the wash house outside. Dan Mundy in Washhouse Cellar where family his during May 1 1948 tornado They laid me and Linda prone on the concrete floor and then my mom covered us with her body. Then, my dad lay on top of us, afraid the tornado would lift us up and toss us around or killing us when the wash house was gone. He hung on to a ledge to prevent this. The storm hit and blew the wash house away, completely destroying it. My mom suffered a severe laceration on one of her upper left arms.

I can’t imagine the shock they received when the storm was over. The house was gone, including the grass on the land. The shell of bent metal was all that remained of the car. A cow somehow didn’t die and wandered around, I’m sure in a daze.Mundy Car after Tornado May 2 1948Mundy House foundation after Tornado May 1 1948

The tornado cut a path of thirty miles, sometimes the width of one mile, through Neosho County, terrorizing all in its path. I have a picture that was found 50 miles away near Ft. Scott, Kansas. Pic of Dan Mundy and child found after tornado at Ft Scott KSAn estimate of half a million dollars in damage to sixty farms and farmland gives an idea of the severity of the storm. I don’t know how that equates to our dollar today. Two people died in the county. However, the storm swept through several states.

My dad was quite the story teller. He told the newspaper reporter that a length of chain he had on a post stood straight out in the strong wind. Perhaps it’s true.

The Red Cross, Salvation Army and other organizations immediately helped those devastated by the tornado. They found places for people to relocate and gave furniture and food too. I have a picture of me and Linda sitting in front of the furniture given to us. Linda looks traumatized while I’m happy to examine a large candy cane.Linda and Janie Mundy in Heilmans house after tornado 1948

Growing up, I didn’t understand my mother’s fear of storms. One time she put us under a bed, by then not having a cellar to hide in. My siblings and I wanted to go to the windows and watch the trees sway, uproot and fall down. The rain beat against the windows. The house wasn’t hit.

My dad and mom were alive when hurricane Katrina hit the south. It was only then I thought to ask how he had felt after the tornado. He said he was walking up some stairs in a house and had a hard time making his legs move. He mentioned it to the Red Cross worker. She told him he was in shock.

I often think of his words when I see the devastation on television of tornadoes. Peoples’ lives are torn apart. Too often the question is asked by reporters, “How do you feel?” Sometimes people cry, others say they will rebuild. At least they have their lives. I think it’s a cruel question. Shock sets in at some point and the enormous task of rebuilding emotions and a home must begin. I often wonder if they will be as resilient as my parents were.

Interfaith Peace House

I enjoyed three meetings with women of religious faiths other than my own in January and February, 2016. We only knew each other from one previous meeting so our exchange was even more meaningful because we shared so intimately.

Our facilitator was an active, vibrant woman, age 90, who has degrees in psychology, law and seminary. The wealth of knowledge she brought to us was delivered with warmth and caring. She led us to share about the core of ourselves. This included the difficult times that make all of us human as well as the triumphs of joy. This commonality made it easy to share— and the fact that each person had an accepting attitude.

Not once did we ask, “What religion are you?” It didn’t matter. Acceptance and love of each other made the experience worthwhile. Instead, we shared what our experiences as women had been. Are we able to express our views to others with belief in ourselves and with courage? As women, we’ve fought hard to gain our voice in voting, being free of sexual harassment and assault, and equal rights. But sometimes life experiences stilt what we say and we cower, afraid to speak out.

We gained strengh from the stories we each told. We celebrated the gifts we each have to offer. We have hope for the future.

 

San Francisco Writers Conference

From February 11 to 14, 2016, I attended classes, met other writers, presenters, editors and agents. Everyone gave us their best advice and did it with kindness.

This conference would not exist without the many volunteers who gave their time before, during and after the conference. Their smiles and friendly attitude added to the appeal of the event.

The Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco gave a discounted rate to conference attendees. We appreciated that because it is a four star hotel with a great reputation. Their service was excellent and the meals outstanding. I recommend it to anyone.

I prepared for the conference by writing and memorizing the pitch for my completed novel, Against the Wall. My critique group helped me ahead of time by giving their input in order to make it the best presentation possible. On Sunday morning the agents listened to many writers tell about their book. Each of us had three minutes per agent. I saw six agents and four were interested in receiving a query letter and sample of my book. One agent said she was intrigued. My head swelled a bit at that compliment.

Now I need to compose four fantastic query letters and write in less than one page about my book. In addition, I’ll choose the sample of my writing I wish to include. This won’t be a simple process even though it sounds like it. Agents toss hundreds of queries a year because the writing in the letter is poor, the story is poorly written or they aren’t interested. They need to market a superb book to publishing houses. I want to meet the challenge.

Write from my Heart

I’m happy to say my short story One Small Sentence was published in the anthology Voices of the Valley: Word for Word. It is available on amazon.com.

The process of writing a story (fiction or non-fiction) begins with an idea. The fun part for me is the first draft. I let the words flow and come up with something I edit into a readable, publishable work of art. You know the cliché, it’s easier said than done.

I first deal with my emotions. My heart often rules my head and my writing reflects that. So, it’s not easy for me to let someone else critique my work. There, I said it. When I receive a critique of my writing, I often think, I thought I did it well the first time! How come this page is covered in red?

Then, I have to put on my tough skin persona and dig into the edits and figure out if I agree with the criticism. Oh dear. I often do. But—sometimes not. As I plow through the changes, the story becomes clearer and I learn to write better. Or, is that true? I think I have, until the next story or chapter of my novel is edited. I wonder again, what happened to my brain? Did it leave me to fend for myself in this art we call writing?

The hard work pays off and it makes me grateful for those challenging edits. My heart is intact, but my head eventually led the way. I feel satisfied when I see my poetry and stories published in an anthology or other publications.

Walk in Their Shoes

All of us have family, friends, and casual acquaintances who either mean a lot to us or we wish they would disappear. Those people, we love or like, are easier to celebrate. We attend birthday parties, graduations, marriage ceremonies, or lavish gifts on a new baby. Sometimes, these activities are inconvenient, but we go to them.

Then, throughout our histories together the hard times come to everyone including ourselves. What happens when a marriage fails? Do we choose one partner over the other instead of walking in the shoes of both? What do we say to the person whose child died, or their partner? Often we distance ourselves because we don’t know what to say. And yet, a hug is all that’s needed. There are no adequate words of comfort in divorce or death. After the shock has worn off and life must continue as normally as possible, the demand to send a card, invite them for a meal, coffee, or even a trip together is when we begin to understand their pain. Perhaps we’ve experienced the same thing. We can then, say, “I know some of what you feel.”

Sometimes the people we know lose their glow. They hurt us in some way. It can be anything – promise not kept, lies told about us, we disagree with their point of view, they abuse us emotionally or physically, and so on. Do we look into their life and ask them why, or do we ditch them and ask them not to be part of our future? That might be necessary. But on the other hand, do we need to forgive the harmful deed and try to heal the relationship? I can’t answer that question for anyone. Every case is different, and each of us must struggle with those issues individually.

Sometimes it means sacrifice of our time, money, and emotions until they’re back on their feet. Years may go by. We get blisters on our feet, we grow weary of the situation, and we ask, when is it enough? And yet as one human to another, I believe we’re often called to walk in another’s shoes.