Lucky Witness

I sat behind a married couple in church today who reminded me of how my parents looked together 30 years ago.  He was a balding man in his sixties, neat, dressed in a fitted suit and tie. He wore a gold signet ring on his right hand and wedding ring on the left. His wife, sitting respectfully close was also dressed in a detailed pants suit with jacket. Her hair cut neat, her perfume pleasant like a fresh cut flower. Small gold diamond earrings tucked in her ears, and a matching necklace, her finger spun a little too big gold wedding band set on her left hand. She checked her gold watch as the service began, and tucked it back under her sleeve. They both had silver glasses on with similar frame shapes as though they planned it that way.

Once in a while, the husband would lean over and whisper something in her ear and she would nod her head or cover her mouth in a gesture of “I can’t believe you just said that in church” sort of way. He would then smile and pat her knee. During the service, and during a prayer, her hand would simply join his perfectly, fingers laced gently as though they had practiced since childhood. There minimal movements were beautifully synchronized as though they were dancing. His arm slid behind her protectively and she leaned into him slightly.

While the chapel lighting was as dim as the grayness of the day, the warmth reflected from their years of shared history lit their space. No one else seemed to notice the knowing that passed between them in gestures instead of words. I alone was aware of the mastery of their language.

My parents had their own language of marriage learned from over 50 years together. A slight touch or signal look to one another. It developed from occupying the same space and trusting the safety of that space with one another. Knowing the other is there unconditionally and without a word spoken is a pure gift. I am the lucky witness.

Advertisements

“We are not the characters we want to be. We are the characters we are. ” Thomas Wolfe.

When I think about writing and what I studied in college, I often wonder why we didn’t study Thomas Wolfe. To study his work falls short of his life from what I have pieced from articles and books about him, but his work was unique.

While his work is long like Melville’s transcendental Moby Dick, Wolfe had a rhapsodic prose like no other. It amazes me that Wolfe, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Willa Cather all lived and worked on now famous prose in that era of the 1920s and 1930s. They were all very different writers in method and voice, but all wrote because they felt the need to do it. Their characters give readers a vision of tangible lives that might have been. Great characters create great characters, as Wolfe lived and proved.

Thomas Wolfe’s quote leads me to think about my writing. We are not the characters we want to be. I understand that statement in so many ways. I live through the characters I write in that they can do things I cannot, and say things I wish I could. I also give them situations to contend with that I wonder how I would handle. We are the characters we are. I interpret this two ways.  My first interpretation is that I am all the characters I create and they are me. I put some or all of my emotions, experiences, and desires into the character’s lives to make them real. I also give them a voice that matches my inner voices, including the darkest of whispers I dare not share. Sometimes the only way we can really change our deepest self is to grow through our characters when they are witnessed by the world, real or imaginary. When we are not the character we want to be we create on paper what we want to be.

The creation of character is a personal, lonely and sometimes torturous activity for some writers. When a writer has met that goal of a recognized creative presence by a publisher or any writing success, it gives life to the character and also to the author. The author feels the life lived above the page is an alternate reality to the life characters live on the page. The writer and what is written is woven together for that time of invention. This is why it is hard for an author to let go of their words and finish the work to move on to the next piece.

I have yet to finish every single word of any Thomas Wolfe novel. I end up skipping, losing site of the story within the poetics, and generally don’t want to finish because I enjoy the journey too much. Once in a while I read a sentence that I have to read several times to grasp the complete intent and it stops me from moving forward. Like the characters I write, sometimes I lose motivation–they lose motivation–because I don’t want the story to end.

I own a copy of “You Can’t Go Home Again” and feel it will ultimately leave me feeling a little sad when I finish it. Because of my reading about Wolfe, I know the summary of this story well. Parts of this story reflects a basic emotion in me. I miss my hometown and family terribly and am living far away. I know I cannot regain what was lost through time and even if I return, life there will not be the same. I carry a version of my original character in life with me but, ever changing, I will not be the same even if I return to the same place I once lived. This is my second interpretation to the quote, We are not the characters we want to be. We are the characters we are.

 

Crystal City…Could It Happen Again?

I am reading The Train to Crystal City, a book by Jan Jarboe Russell.  I have been amazed at this little discussed historical place in Crystal City, Texas. In no history class have I ever heard of how many U.S. naturalized citizens were herded up and sent off to this internment camp in the 1940s because they were originally from Japan, Germany, or Italy.

I have included copies of these U.S. Gov’t Relocation films released to explain the plan behind the internment camps. However, in reading more interviews, and reports in newspapers regarding the stories of families, there were many injustices by our government officials against American born children of detainees. 

The highlighted text above will take you to the original article from which I pasted the below films.

 

While one of the films shows aspects of the camp that reflect a spa-like quality, the vast majority of the detainees interviewed do not have happy memories of the camp life in Crystal City, surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.

In Russell’s book, the Germans in camp were more divided than the Japanese and had more internal conflicts because there was a Nazi faction in the camp and German Americans who were loyal to the U.S. This caused a great deal of problems for German American families within the camp. The Japanese were larger in number and had come from a country exampling more government organization. Therefore, they created a strong committee with officers who met with camp officials and bargained for  better treatment and housing for their people. The German detainees also had representatives, but more agitators created difficulty in finding compromises with camp administration.

According to Russell’s investigation into the camp, the families transferred to this camp to be reunited with their husbands had to sign an application for repatriation, which resulted in them giving the U.S. the right to trade them in prisoner exchange to the warring government for release of American prisoners of war. This volunteer act did not necessarily mean the families were guilty of treason against the United States, but it relinquished their freedoms in order to be reunited with fathers, and to be guaranteed to be given food and water, and very basic necessities. For some of these women and children, who had lost their homes and all their savings (frozen or taken by the government), they really had no choice but to take this action or starve. The fathers of these families had already been robbed of their freedoms, their right to answer to their charges, and most were never told what evidence against them caused their incarceration.

The writ of habeas corpus did not apply in any of these detainees cases because the Alien and Sedition Acts, and the Executive Order 9066, signed by FDR, made any immigrants from countries at war with the United States potentially dangerous and under suspicion. There were at least 10 camps holding over 125,000 detainees from 1942 to 1948. (This is an estimated number. Some of my research stated from 25,000 to as many as 250,000. The most common number in most reports, articles, and documents referred to the 100,000 number in relation to the Japanese and German detainees combined.) Many detainees were released at the end of the war as undocumented immigrants, but many more had been repatriated during the war to decrease numbers at the camps.   Some of the detainees were held much longer (according to government documents stating the camp continued and did not close until 1948), and I have not been able to determine who they were or why.

Sounds familiar to the current President’s attempt to ban specific cultural or religious groups of immigrants, doesn’t it? I do believe history is trying to repeat itself in our country today.  Thank God for some of the elected officials and citizens who are trying to uphold the freedoms that represent the best ideals of our country. I pray that this kind of sweeping denial of human rights and cultural separation does not occur on this scale again, but only time will tell.

I encourage anyone who has ancestors who are immigrants (umm, everyone) to read this book, read other books, investigate this piece of our history, and stay informed of the actions of our leaders against our citizens. What is your immigrant history? Would your family have been at risk in 1942 of internment? Think about it!

[Please note that I am not a historian, and some of these facts may be controversial or contradicted by other reports not viewed by this writer. This piece is intended only to spark an interest for those who have not considered their past familial immigrant status.]

The Interview

The Interview

Most people really hate interviewing for jobs. I don’t. I have had maybe ten interviews in my life because six of those I was hired from.  I moved, and had life changes that forced me to go elsewhere.  I have always gone into every interview with the thought that I have nothing to lose and maybe an acquaintance to gain. Each meeting is an opportunity to market yourself to not only a potential boss, but to a potential client, or community contact that might benefit you in the future.  First impressions are remembered. I learned a lot from each interview experience.

A smile, Eye contact, clear thoughtful speech, and a calm demeanor will make you appear smart and approachable to the interviewer. Being honest but also keeping in mind what the interviewer wants to hear is important. But being prepared is as important as the interview itself. Make sure you investigate the company. Look them up on line and on the Better Business bureau website. This ensures you have something to talk about with the interviewer when they ask you if you have any questions for them.

Be prepared for common questions such as the following:

  1.  Tell me a little something about yourself.

This is not your cue to tell the interviewer what you had for breakfast, or why you wore blue today. This is your chance to tell them what kind of worker and human being you are going to be if working in their organization. It’s okay to tell them you are a married mother of one living near their workplace, and that you have been employed steadily for x-employer for so many years. It is a good idea to tell them if you are involved or support any charitable organizations or alumni associations, and if you do volunteer work. It is the time to tell them any special skills that might be important to the current job, or if you recently were relicensed at a skill.

2.  Why are you leaving your current or previous employer?

This can be a hard question to answer if you are leaving because of disputes with coworkers or employers. It is a good idea to use a political hat when answering the question. Use a tactic of answering a question but maybe not directly the question asked. Explain that there were differences of opinion in ethics of the ways a client was handled that made you rethink your purpose with the company. Perhaps you felt that your skills were not being utilized in your current position and there was no opportunity to expand those abilities in your current place of employment. Maybe it was a matter of money? Don’t say that. Just say that there is no opportunity to advance in the company or that you were seeking benefits that were equal to your skill set that were not utilized in your current position.This is an answer without skewering a specific person at your work.

3.  How will hiring you benefit my company?

This is a question that always make me cringe because there are so many ways you can answer this wrong!  I came up with a solution to this question. I may not know the company well, but I know me well, so I answer this way:

I give 100 percent when I am on the job. I show up on time, I work effectively and efficiently completing tasks on time if humanly possible. I respect those around me who do their jobs well, and learn from them by asking questions. I help others who are struggling if I can make their load lighter. I do not take shortcuts to sacrifice getting a job done right the first time. My goal is to make a difference and leave at knowing I did my very best to deliver work I can be proud of at the end of every day.

This is a long-winded version of what I have said on job interviews but it easily meets most employers ethical standards. The other questions I have been asked include those about my skill set, or how I would handle a certain situation. It is hard to address questions about a specific scenario, but they have one thing in common, a challenge.  The question about what would you do if– is meant to find out how you handle a challenging situation and if you will handle it with sense and maturity.

I usually go with what I think the interviewer wants to hear and what the job description tells you about the company. If you will be hiring into a bank and they ask you what if…..and it involves an unhappy customer that answer is very different than how you would handle a bank robber!  These answers need to focus on your ability to handle stress and a mature answer should include reasonable thoughts.

Example: Remove the unruly customer from the main lobby if possible and invite them into a closed office where you ensure them a manager will address their complaint straight away while doing so in a respectful and humble manner. This gives the person time to cool off and feel important. Also, offer that you would certainly follow the institution or company guidelines on situations such as this. That let’s them know that you respect the policy of the company as much as using common sense.

Interviewers are not trying to make you answer foolish questions or trick you into saying anything terrible. What they are doing is looking for someone special with common sense who meets the requirements, shows up to work, and works hard for their paycheck. It is your job to convince them at the end of the 30 minute meeting that you are that person they seek.

Social Media: Do not post on Facebook, Twitter, or any websites, any derogatory information about a previous employer even if the company is on the 5 o’clock news! It doesn’t pay to burn your bridges or damn a specific person on public forum because some day they might be the only person around after you have fallen and can’t get up! That’s called Karma. Use your heads people! Many employers today seek the employees out on social media sites. If you are posting graphic pictures, or posting drunk comments on Twitter,  you may be cutting off your chance to a better position.

Follow up:  When is it appropriate to follow up after an interview? You should ask at the interview, usually the end, if the decision of hiring will be by a certain date or when you can expect to hear of any decision. This is appropriate and will likely get answered more readily than upon a call back. It is important that you get the name of the interviewer and an email address, or a business card from the front desk.  This allows you to send an email in 24 hours thanking your interviewer for their time and for the information about their services. This shows your respect and appreciation to the interviewer and gives them a chance to remember who you are while they are interviewing others. Respect goes a long way to keeping your encounter current in their minds. If a week has gone by, it is acceptable to call for an update. If you get no response, it is reasonable to think you need to move on to the next interview someplace else. Good Luck on your interview process, and remember that you have nothing to lose!

 

 

 

 

“Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke.” -Lynda Barry

Relationships are work. Love is work. Sometimes it blows up in your face! Dating is gambling. You are gambling when you give your love away to every guy you date. I made that mistake for years. I thought if I emptied all I had to give on every man I dated maybe he would recognize the wonder of me and we would be perfect. What cinderella world had I been raised in?

I can’t believe that in this advanced age of exposure on media that young women still have a silly dream of a man she can change, and a young man who thinks she won’t change. Going in with no expectations at all other than friendship and getting to know the person should be the only plan of dating. If you begin developing feelings, talk about it. If he is in it for sex, and nothing more, the talk of feelings will speed him on his way and clear your path to a better man. Women still confuse love with sex, and men still do not.

Shred that list of what you want in a man ladies because it is ridiculous. A man is not a grocery store. Nobody is perfect! It took me ten years of blind dating and two divorces to wake up to the fact that love is what should come after. After friendship, after respect, after you have developed some trust and really know a person for a while. After he has seen you without makeup and crying over a sad movie. After he has seen you throw a tantrum in public. After he has seen how you drive, can’t parallel park, and order your food in drive-thru –in an annoying way. After you have called him at 2 am to come over and kill a wasp in your house and he does it. After you have met his friends, he has met yours, and you survive the teasing. After he has attended a family function with you and he calls you the next day anyway. After you have experienced holidays together and apart and still he calls. After you send him to the store with a feminine product on the list and he gets it. After the first time you vacation together after a long drive and little sleep. These are the things that test the honeymoon type of love in a new relationship. Lists don’t prevent love disasters or guarantee a perfect partner.

Women don’t really seem to feel they have value unless they have a man. It seems some credit all they are and who they should be to that man.  I have heard women say, “If I don’t give in and have sex with him by the third date, he won’t ask me out again.” Okay, then take yourself out. He is looking for a woman to conquer, not to keep.  There is no timeline on sex and love. If he puts a time line on it, remove the watch. You are way more valuable than the man who measures your love by the sexcapades you offer.

Sometimes love is just what you fill holes with in your life. There is not enough love to fill most holes in your life. This discussion brings to mind the following poem by Margaret Atwood.

‘Love’
“This is a word we use to plug holes with.
It’s the right size for those warm blanks in speech,
for those red heart- shaped vacancies on the page
that look nothing like real hearts.
Add lace and you can sell it.
We insert it also in the one empty space on the printed form
that comes with no instructions.
There are whole magazines with noth much in them but the word love,
you can rub it all over your body and you can cook with it too…

When we have a crappy job, or little self respect, love can fill that life hole for a while. When the love drifts away, we feel empty. The secret is to patch the holes in your life before you create a relationship that may or may not work.  Relationships don’t fix other complications of your life, it adds to them.

How do I do that? You find your way through like every other human being, with the help of other human beings. People in your family, friends, religion, meditation, or giving to others to climb out of your inner space. It takes energy and effort to fight off the demons of loneliness. I learned I sure as heck couldn’t fight those demons by sitting in my room with a television and a bag of chips. That only adds to the loneliness and depression. Taking advantage of those close friends and family by talking, living, and being, can help. I leaned on God heavily in my darkest times. When I felt unloved and negative about my life, I leaned on God, read the bible, and listened in church. Slowly, eventually, it sank in that I was already good with God. I didn’t need a man to be loved or accepted. I had God, I had family, I had the ability to rise above self-made circumstances and climb out of my head to help others. Actively seeking a passion outside of sex and love was fulfilling to me and helped me to patch the holes in my life.

After patching those holes, I drew new people into my life that supported my goals and did not require my surrender of all that I am in order to be loved. I found love, real love…after.

My Right As A Christian Woman

My beliefs are not only influenced by my upbringing in the rural midwest, but also by the total of my life experiences and exposure to witnessing the worst treatment of women by men, and by other women who judge them. As I sat watching excerpts from the last presidential debate, I specifically wanted to view the discussion about abortion. Now, what I am about to say is going to be shocking to some Christians and Nurses because I am both, but here we go. I support the right of a women to decide what happens to her body, and that includes abortion. Yes, I support the laws created under Roe vs. Wade.

To those Christians who will argue to the death that allowing abortion is wrong, I say this: Abortion is not acceptable to me as a Christian. However, the right to decide between right and wrong is called free will.  God gave us this option way back in Eden, remember? He told us the rules, and we picked from the tree anyway.  How does this compare to the Roe vs. Wade law to allow abortions? It is offering us free will to decide for ourselves between right and wrong without imposing a judicial punishment. Moral judgement is for God, not humans.

I have the right to choose to read smut magazines, but I don’t. I have the choice to watch porn, but I don’t. I have the right to put my self in danger physically and mentally, but I don’t.  I have the right to buy an assault rifle and use it as I please, but I won’t. Life in this world is about choices, both moral and legal.When we limit our choices, we limit our potential to grow and learn.  God could have struck down Cain before he killed Able, but he didn’t. Jesus offers choices all of the time to his children and his disciples.  He had the power to stop Judah, but did he? No. He let him choose his path and learn from his mistakes at great cost.  But that is what a good parent does. And that is what good leadership represents also–allowing the choice.

Our government should allow each governing state to decide the limitations of the details on abortions if a woman so chooses to go that route.  If a woman chooses to kill another being, it is her soul at risk. Making laws to punish people for making a wrong choice does not work. If that woman wants an abortion, making it illegal will not stop her from doing it herself or going to a doctor wannabe who will do it for the right money. The original case of Roe vs. Wade, introduced in 1971, was asking that a women not be denied an abortion in any state. However, it also dictates limitations placed on timeliness of the abortion (first, second, and third trimester) be at the discretion of the individual states. Before you judge unknowingly to the facts, see the following facts:  (click on space before this parenthesis)

I have never understood how Republicans balk at this law that returns limitations of the law, giving power involving the individual, back to the states and out of the hands of the government. For example, consider GOP statements like: “Much of what the federal government does can be improved, much should be replaced, and much needs to be done away with or returned to the states.” This statement is directly from the mission statement opening on the GOP.com website.

Then I hear the rebuttal in my head, “This is a standard of morality and not just of individual rights. It is not legal to kill another human. Therefore this law is unjust.” Yet, you want all sorts of gun laws revoked allowing people tools intended to kill. In what way is it different to allow the tools of death-i.e. assault rifles – in the hands of millions? We have the right to make a choice to buy mass murder weaponry but we don’t have the choice to abort a baby who will be born with horrible disfigurement and lacking a whole brain, costing $100,000 to try to save with no hope of living more than a few hours outside of the mother’s womb? Sorry people, you cannot have it both ways.

You can insert morality issues into every circumstance and every law if you like, but it only serves to support your view and not the facts. The fact is that all people are created equal but most live in inequality, particularly women. Women are still the largest minority in pay per hour and in leadership in every institution, including our government. We have the God given right to choose good or evil, kill or be killed, and yes, even suicide. If God wanted all options off of the table don’t you think he would have removed the tree of wisdom from Eden all together? I mean why would he have put it there to begin with if it had not been a test?

I don’t believe that turning over the Roe vs. Wade law will save lives at all. I also don’t believe that every woman having the ability to seek an abortion will have one. No more than I believe the average gun owner will kill people just because they can. Statistics won’t show the amount of secret abortions that will continue and mothers lives that will be lost due to complications from a risky birth.  For hundreds of years prior to this law, women mutilated themselves, threw babies away at birth, and sought out any form of assistance necessary to end the pregnancy if it was unwanted. What this law does do is allow women the right to free will without legal punishment. It will allow all women to choose their path by freedom of choice, or to Christians –to eventually answer for their sin’s through God’s judgement. It is a choice that has been available to humans since our creation. The law is a guideline for individual civil liberty and not for a morality lesson.

Trusting God

Trusting God

I don’t know why I am still amazed when God answers my prayers. I forget often that I have something to offer the world besides just existing in my own cocoon.  I went to my Sunday school class today instead of the service as I did last week.  I find a lot of comfort in the personal support and lessons I gain from going to bible studies.  This class I am taking was a draw of the hat. It was first labeled as an Andy Stanley based class using a study guide. I had just finished watching an Andy Stanley class on Netflix and really liked his lecture series. Therefore, it really interested me.

When I entered the class, it was actually a study called, “Just Walk Across the Room” by Bill Hybels.  The Stanley course guides had not come in yet and were to be taught six weeks later.  The theme of this study is simply that your walk across the room to be present in someone else’s life could “change that person’s forever”.  It is with this in mind that I decided to stay in this class to help me face many questions about my life.

I have been struggling, as do many people with depression, as to my purpose in life.  I have found that I am doing much better off medication than I have at any other time in my life. I have been medicated for depression continuously for 25 years. God is my main treatment now for depression and anxiety. Consistent prayer and study is becoming a necessary medication for me daily with positive results. While the idea of leaving my cocoon to approach others in a walk with God is a bit intimidating, especially for a person with depression issues.

My three major questions or struggles are as follows:

  1. Why am I working a part time job? While it does allow me to write (my new profession), financially it is a poor decision when I have student loans hanging over my head, I have 15 years to retirement and no retirement savings, and I find myself using less than half of the education I worked hard to obtain. How can my doing this job ever make a difference?
  2. What purpose am I serving in writing books, or editing when I cannot find income from it that is steady or supportive to my family income? I am waiting impatiently for my agent to accept or reject my latest book which has a lot of references to my questioning why God let me wander while dating blindly. How can I purposefully serve God by writing?
  3. How can I be a good Christian by using my God given skills and abilities but still sustain a reasonably comfortable income and lifestyle? Am I misinterpreting God’s message to me about the desire I have to write? I really need to quit dreaming about writing for a living and get a real full time job.

These worries are to some a simple identity crisis brought on by life circumstances. These are the worries I have struggled with since my move to Texas from Indiana three years ago.Moving from a place where I had years of close and respected business associates, and many friends that were more like family, to a place where I had to earn respect and friendships all over again.  I am on a foreign planet and I have felt recently like my oxygen is in short supply.

Then today happened. I have been sending up more than a few prayers about my worries listed above. I know I have no control of circumstances but only control of how I react to them. So, with my worries in one hand and my study guide in the other I entered the class again today.

The first question was about analyzing whether you are a cocooner or a connecter. I immediately knew that I am a cocooner because depression makes me more fearful of sticking my neck out. However, I usually volunteer to do things to please people and regret it later after I am back in my cocoon.  As we went around the room several shared stories and we offered up our concerns for prayers.

  1. One lady opened up about her struggles with ADHD and having trouble focusing to meet challenges of returning to school in the second half of her life. I not only felt an immediate connection as my story is similar, but I also knew that my number one question and worry was being addressed by God. So, I offered my witness to her problem, my own experience, and what I felt she could do to address it. I have depression, work at an ADHD clinic with similar stories heard daily, and I have some ideas for you. My heart was happy to have been able to give her confirmation that “hey, I get you!”
  2. Then a question came up to mention a time that embarrassed us. I immediately thought of my blind dating situations, and my book that is sitting in the hands of my agent.  I was led to share a silly but somewhat embarrassing moment that brought a little laughter to the room.  I shared my book title and let them know that I handled the moment not with embarrassment, but with laughter. It had been my date that was embarrassed. He was enveloped by the embarrassed it while I embraced it and turned it on it’s ear. I remembered how much I love story-telling and making light of life’s little situations.
  3. After class, I spoke to a couple women from the class about the discussion when a gentleman from class asked me for my business card. That is so funny since I just got in new business cards for “writing” this week and decided it may have been a foolish expenditure given I have few circumstances to pass those out. Yet, here is a gentleman who specifically asked me for a card. He asked me what was my profession. I gave my resume of nursing, and now part-time office, then committed verbally to being a full-time writer. And it felt good. Then he adds that he is writing a book and would like to ask me a few questions. He gives me his card, and we part. I am sure he was my God’s comment on number three worry and question above. God was waiting for me to say it out loud and stop questioning why I was given a desire to write.

I came home with a giggle and realized that God was wiping his hands free of those questions and saying to me, “okay, what else you got?”.  And yes, that voice in my head was a bit smart-alecky.