This is my healing journal.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mom deserved better...

Yesterday, I received my copy of the December newsletter for the Blind Children's Fund. I was looking forward to reading it, since I had not gotten it in a while.

The first article was a tribute to my Mom, the founder of the Blind Children's Fund. I saw that it had been written by my sister-in-law Karla and hoped that it would portray adequately the greatness of Mom's life.

This is maybe going to sound like a rant. And, at this point, I don't care who reads this.

TO me, the writing Karla had written was inadequate, stilted, and a trifle sad. The reason? Mom, my brother Bob and his wife Karla stopped speaking in 2001. For six years, my Mom and my oldest brother and his wife have chosen not to forgive each other for what had happened between them, something I don't want to know.

Mom deserved better from Karla and Bob, and they deserved beter from her. Everyone concerned should have heard the words "I forgive you" and should have been able to move on. But, they didn't, and the sad thing is they never will now, now that Mom is gone!!!

I am so grateful that I was able to forgive Mom for what she had done to me. I think that may be why it is I can write so eloquently about her, if I may say so myself. The words while good from Karla lacked emotion, meaning, love.

Is that how I want my legacy to be? Do I want to have someone write a tribute to me and have it mean something? Or do I want a pile of crap for people to remember me by? I hope it's the former.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My name is Esther RUth

I am Bea's prize Martin guitar and my name is Esther Ruth. I'm what's called a D15 and
I'm the only guitar Bea owns with a female name.

Bea and her husband Bert strolled into Elderly Instruments to get a bunch of repairs done to his Guild guitar, , and found me sitting on a rack waiting to be played. Bert handed me to Bea and she immediately began to compose a song on me.

For the next day and a half, all Bea kept saying to Bert was that she wanted that guitar and that they could afford me.

On that Monday afternoon, they walked into the show room and couldn't find me. Then, Bert noticed that the Martins had been moved. I was handed to Bea again, and it was like meeting up with an old friend.

For the next seven years, I was Bea's constant companion at gigs. She has three other guitars. Stephen is the oldest. She's had him since she was fourteen. Joshua, a wonderful twelve string is next. Then, there's me and then Black Cloud, who she rescued from a friend who hadnot taken good care of him.

I'm made of Mahogony, a wood that is not always prized. Yet, because of the kind of wood it is, I have a warm, rich tone. Bea has composed many songs on me, since she got me.

But, on Wednesday, Bea and I had an unfortunate thing hapen to us. She was playing some songs on me, along with her husband Bert, as they were preparing for the concert they were doing at a new coffee venue. However, my strap came off at my tail end, and I fell to the floor, before Bea could catch me.

Poor Bea. Bert told her that it would have to be her money that would have to pay for me, or for a new guitar. She was devistated, as they prepared to take me up to Elderly Instruments.

I'm now lying in the hospital room, or actually it's known as a repair shop, waiting for the guys to come mend the huge crack on me. They told Bea that I would be good as new, and that the repairs would cost less than a new guitar. So, now, I lie in wait for my turn to be worked on, while Bea uses Joshua for some of the next few gigs.

I'll write more when I return home.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"I Won't Back Down"

As we pulled into the parking lot of the offfice where I work, my friend Carrie and I were listneing to Tom Petty's Greatest Hits. "American Girl" was playing at a moderately quiet pitch for us. We usually have her CD player a bit louder than we had it. However, we were talking and it took a lot for me to concentrate, as I was not feeling well.

I was reminded as I listened to him of just how much I loved Tom Petty's music. I remember the first time I really listened to his music. My Mom and I were riding in her car that she had bought which she had left for my brother and sister to drive when we moved to Massachusetts. We were on the way to my eye appointment. (I have artificial eyes, and we were in the process of trying to get them to set up appointments, so I could get new ones.) I was a junior in high school, visitting Oekmos on Spring Break, sick with the flu.

We had dropped my brother Nels's friend off at his house and were headed from the appointment to my Aunt's house, when Mom turned on the tape to try and comfort me. It worked. I don't even remember the songs. I just remember liking what I heard.

I remember falling in love though with "The Waiting" a year later. Though the subject matter of the song was not about waiting to hear from a school as to whether I had gotten accepted or not, it comforted me, as I was waiting to hear if I had been accepted at Interlochen Arts Academy for my senior year. (Mom had held me back a year, so I could prepare for that.)

Fast forward about eight years. I was a masters level social worker intern at a substance abuse clinic. The kids I worked with loved a lot of music that I could not stomach. But, they all loved Tom Petty's music, in particular "Running Down a Dream" and "I Won't Back Down". I had learned to play the latter, and often that song would be requested, along with another one that was popular at the time by another artist called "Love Song" which one of the kids gave me the tape to learn that song from. In particular, "I WOn't Back Down" was requested a lot by the girls in the program.

I was thinking about those kids, as I listened to Tom Petty do the half time show at the Super Bowl, and was reminded of one in particular, as I listned to how Tom sang "i Won't Back Down" these days. The angry edge was gone from the time he had recorded it. Instead, I heard the voice of a very humble man.

The kid I was thinking of had his stepmother confescate all his tapes and I had to sit down and listen to them with him, to help him distinguish what was positive music and what wasn't. I personally loved this kid. I could see a lot of potential in him, that I could not always see in the boys in particular. And listening to music for or with him was not a problem. I had to do that with other kids there as well, especially since I was teaching the music appreciation unit for the program. Anyway, I sat with him for two hours, listening to every tape in bits and pieces and actually letting him make the decision about the tapes. His stepmother actually was sort of pissed at me for doing it that way, because she felt he would not be able to make such a decision.

Fast forward about eleven years. I had since married and moved to Jackson. We were driving through Kalamazoo on our way to South Haven to sing at a church. We had pulled into a gas station off of M43, close to the Western boundary of Kalamazoo. Bert had gone in to get something to drink for us both, and a truck pulled alongside of us. We had the windows rolled down, because our air conditioning hasn't worked in our car for God knows how long.

The driver of the car walked up and asked how I was doing. I told him okay, and then he asked if I remembered him. Of course I did! How could I forget Tony? He then thanked me for listening to him and for helping him with the music he had been listening to.

To think I had believed in him enough to actually not back down but show him that kindness and love could help him become a better person. "No, I won't back down" from being who I am. Thanks Tom Petty for your music, and Tony for your kid words.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A father and son tribute

On Valentine's Day, Bert and I went to listen to one of our personal favorite performers. His name is Steeve Tucker. We had known Steve for years, as our friend the Late Ben Arnold had been good friends with him. We had heard him sing with different groups around town. But, my personal favorite way to hear him was alone. I particularly loved his covers of Jackson Brown's songs "A Taste of Something Fine" and "These Days" when he sung them at Ben's memorial service three years ago.

At that same memorial service, we had had the chance to hear Steeve's son Brian play, and from him, our favorite cover will always be the song "Alleluia" which is featured in the first Shrek movie. We've since heard Brian a number of times at the Nomad.

I'll always appreciate both Brian's and Steeve's clear bell like voices. As I said with regards to both of them, they can do their own material as well as Jackson Brown's material almost flawlessly and make it sound like it's really no effort.

What was especially cool on Thursday night was hearing Steeve do a set and then let Brian do part of a set, with him singing some background vocals on some of Brian's songs.

I'm reminded by that of just how much we take for granted in our parents. When we don't realize how much we should value them is when they're gone. I will always treasure the times I had with my Mom and my Dad. I loved the long car rides Mom and I used to take to go visit my grandmother in the Upper Peninsula or her Aunt Ethel in South Haven. I loved working with Dad in his studio in the clay. I loved the times I'd work with either one of them in the kitchen, as they both helped me realize I could do things for myself.

Parents should also realize that the time they have with their children should also not be taken for granted. How many parents have I known who have been frustrated with their children more times than not?

Thanks Steve and Brian for that example.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A special Award

I would like to thank Suzanne R. for the award of cheerfulness she bestowed on me on her blog. I personally don't feel I always am cheerful. Yet, knowing I can help her feel cheerful really means a lot to me.

I would like to also bestow the award of always making me feel cheerful to Suzanne R. Reading about her busy life on her blog really is a blesing.

I now am going to bestow a few awards on to a few of my blogging friends. If you wish to do the same back on your blogs, that would be awesome, as this is what Suzanne did to me after she had received the award from a friend of hers.

I would like to at this time bestow the award of gentle courage on Julie and Lino. They've gone through so much in their marriage and have posted about what they've gone through often on Julie's blog. Yet, they also let everyone know that they have enough courage to pull them through in their faith, in their trust and in their hope for each other.

I would bestow the award of wisdom to Indigo Red. Sorry, I don't always read your blog. Yet, when I do, I always walk away feeling I've learned something important.

I would bestow the award of quiet strength and perseverance on to Tom C. Tom, it's been a blessing to know the one thing I always valued in your friendship is still evident. No matter what is going on in people's lives, it's your quiet strength which you so freely give to others when they're down that really is a blessing. Your perseverance, regardless of what life has thrown at you is so evident in your life. You helped me learn that lesson long ago, and I've never fogotten it.

Ryan, I would bestow the award of gentle prayer warrior on both you and Rainee. There's never a moment goes by when someone puts up a prayer request, that you're not letting people know it's already being lifted up.

I would bestow the award of sense of sarcastic humor to Annette. While I've only gotten to know you through lists over the past year and a bit, I've always appreciated that about you.

I would bestow the award of direct boldness to Lynn. Thanks for being direct enough in whatever you have to offer to so many.

Finally, to Michael and Gail, I would bestow the award of always being able to sing, no matter what the circumstances are in your lives. Thank you for that.

Thanks to all of you.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

To be able to serve!!!

I am just totally amazed at the team I've been asked to serve on for the Emmaus walk! I know I said I would devote my blog to some of the people who have blest me in the past, and I will continue that series throughout the next little while. But, this is too good for me to not blog about now!!!

When I went to my first training meeting two weeks ago, I found myself wondering if I would be able to handle the role of music co-director. Not because I felt I could not do the job. I felt maybe I would not be able to actually participate fully, especially when it came to the picking out of the songs, because I would not have the hand-outs in front of me in a format I could read. Well, I really didn't say anything. I did however feel that at least letting people know that when they don't describe slides for those who might be visually challenged, they really weren't considering everyone who would be on the walk. I wasn't thinking of myself though. I was only thinking of those who actually have vision problems.

It turns out that one of the women on the walk is an interpreter for the deaf and she shares an office with the teacher consultant for the blind and visually impaired children in her county. She thought that she might be able to do something about making sure I had stuff in an alternative format. However, she didn't say a word to me about it, until I came in today for our second meeting.

When I walked in, I just barely got my coat off, when Cindy came racing up to me and told me that she had something for me in the room we would be using as our conference room for the day. She then guided me over to a chair and then put something in front of me. It was a Braille copy of the music director's schedule for the walk! All the times for the walks were listed, all the times the music director was supposed to do something! And, I could read it!!!

Never in all my churchgoing years, have I ever had anyone think enough of me to make sure I had that stuff available. When I was at Okemos Community Church, they never had the song books available for me to read for youth group, which meant I was sort of pinch hitting it at times. However, they had started getting the hymns in Braille for me when I was involved in the church choir my tenth grade year. But, that stopped after December of that year.

When I attended St. John's Student Parish in East Lansing while I was in college, we had Braile songbooks made. However, they were a bit clumsy for blind people to use, as they were three volumes. Plus, I played guitar anyway while I was there. So, for me, it really wasn't an issue. I would often read through the songbook though so I could learn the words to some of my favorite Catholic folk hymns. To me, some of those are the greatest songs I've ever sung and still continue to sing.

The Emmaus Walks are sponsored by the Upper Room, and they have made sure that Braille copies of the book they use are made available. Again though, the book is three volumes, and if you don't know what book to use, you're stuck.

Cindy made an announcement today to the team to everyone giving a talk, that they get materials to her by the next meeting in a Word document, so that I can have the talks to look at right when everyone else was going to be reading it off the slides! SHe then will take them to her friend to see if they can be transcribed into Braille!!! You mean, I won't have to poke with my slate and stylus anymore to write up stuff? (Sorry for those of you who read this and have the wonders of modern technology in the form of portable note takers. The slate and stylus is still my favorite method of writing when it comes to anything I want to read.) I won't have to worry about missing anything! I'll be able to participate fully! I'll be able to serve more freely than I did when I was a table leader! It may not sound like much to some of you. But, to me, that's my whole reason for being to serve! Now, I'll be able to more fully! Thanks Cindy and all the rest of the team!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Other MSb Friends

I often wonder how it is my family was able to cope with the friends I had made at MSB. But, cope with them they did.

Mom often felt that it was necessary for me to have parties to which I could invite my friends from MSB, and invite I did. There was just one problem. Unlike my brothers and sisters, I could only invite "the Girls". Something about Mom feeling she would have to turn it into a school outing, which would have meant staff would have to have been invited if we invited any of the guys? That meant most of the guys that I was close to, which was a few, never got to see my house, nor interaqct with my family. I often wonder how talks betwen my brother Nels, and Larry would have gone.

Ihad had Joy, Lori and Betsy over to my house often to spend the night, and Joy, Lori and I had celebrated my ninth and tenth birthdays together. My fifth grade year, my eleventh birthday was special, because Mom had said Betsy could come as well. I remember the four of us devouring plates full of "Joy's" favorite food. (Yes, Tom. Any time we had Joy come to spend the night, we were relagated to two, count them two different dinner choices! Those were hamburgers and chicken, and we had to have chocolate cake on those nights for dessert. Don't ask...)

In normal circumstances, the four of us probably would not have chosen to hang out together. But, we were all we had really for a number of years. Betsy was a year ahead of Joy, Lori and I. Because she had such a sweet spirit, we could not turn her away. For that matter, I never would have. Through all the years of my adulthood, we've known how to stay in touch, and the conversations we have now are just as meaningful. I think she mainly hung with us, because in her class, at least when the classes were separated into Blind and partially sighted kids, she really was about the only girl in her class. But, that was okay with us.

Joy was the first person I met when I came to the school. She was a good kid, almost too good, always the teacher's favorite, always the one who was more book smart. Always the Christian, who felt she had to Lord it over all of us. I remember one time Lori saying, "I love Joy in my way. But, in God's way?"

Lori was always the loud one. And, I do mean loud! I honestly think she could yell and everyone could hear her at least a quarter of a mile away. She was the one who cursed worse than any of the guys. She always wanted to be noticed, and noticed she was, though she would often say I was the one who was noticed. Though the three of us always sang together for school functions, and I played guitar often, Lori was the one who could play anything on the piano, and yet? She would always say I was the one who played circles around her.

I was the tomboy and the athlete. Having long legs and looking somewhat like a beanpole when I was in elementary school, Miss Brunger then began grooming me for track. Betsy was taller than me. But, like I said, she was a grade ahead of me. I was often picked on for being the tallest in our class, right up until fifth grade when Wally joined our class.

I was also the one who played fair, and more often than not, got in trouble for it. I don't know how many times when Joy, her friend Bethann and I had to play against the guys in our class, Tom and Kevin had to defend me, because I dared to point out that my teammates were being unfair. I remember Kevin being extremely vocal one day, when he had had enough of Joy and realized I had. I think what had Joy upset that day was the fact Tom and Gary were answering all the questions she couldn't answer. There was always this competition between the three of them as to who the best student was , though for Tom, it came easiest and he never really participated. I think it was Tom who had gotten a question right when Joy screamed that it wasn't fair, and I pointed out to her that it not only was fair, he deserved the point. Joy started saying something about how unfair I was being, and Kevin just looked at her and said that she was damned lucky I was on her team.

I remember that day, Mrs. Cordon pulled me aside and told me I was going to win no popularity contests with the guys for always siding with them. I didn't point out to her that most of the guys knew I really could care less about that.

I mentioned Bethann, who though always considering me her "Friend" I never could stand. Funny thing was, neither could Lori or Betsy. I remember my sixth grade party, Joy had insisted that Bethann should be invited as well, and Mom capitulated to her old "Do what the company wants" theme and agreed. That was hard on that particular time for Mom, because she had done a lot for Lori and Joy both. She had made sure they both had things they needed, because Lori's family was so far away from her, and Joy's family were not exactly doing well enough financially. Many were the times she would send me to school with bags of my old clothes for Joy to take home and use when I outgrew them. And then there was the time we had given Joy a bunch of my old recordds, (or should I say the family's old records) because she had no stories or songs to listen to at home. Many had been the times Mom would let Joy stay with us, because her family would not be willing to pick her up late at night when we did singing events. Joy has since thanked me for those times. But, the one she really should have thanked for always giving into her was my Mom. I should add that thank you came after Mom's passing.

Getting back to the story, Lori, Betsy and I basically made it clear, Joy wanted Bethann there? Then, they had to sleep in a separte room from us. The three of us were actually too tired to talk and were just getting ready to drift off to sleep, when Joy came whining to us, begging us to let her stay with us, because Bethann was keeping her awake, and we all said no, including Mom!

It got to a point where, if you saw one of us, you usually saw the four of us, though after I moved into the dorm, you mainly saw Betsy and I together more often than not. Though we could always laugh at Lori's jokes and talk with Joy about God, we often found we could not talk to them about other things.

I remember when Joy, Lori and I tried out for cheerleading. Betsy didn't for some reason that year, though her classmate Marcie did. I tried out, because Joy and Lori had me convinced that it would be fun for us to do it together. But, after three months of it, I had to try my best not to quit. A squad of three cheerleaders would not look right. However, I got tired of the demeaning way the coaches treated me. Again, I was the tallest, and while long legs are great for track, they're not always the best thing for cheerleading, especially when everyone else on the squad was shorter than me. Some of the guys had to have known, in fact, I remember one person actually telling me not to take it to heart. But, I just could not deal with it anymore, once spring rolled around.

My tenth grade year, we began to drift apart. Part of it was the fact, I was in public school virtually full time and was taking a couple of classes at MSB, just so they could keep me on the track team. I remember an incident happening at the last track meet, where I felt like a lone wolf, because no one took my side. I had come to the defense of one of the girls on the team, when Gary had gone after her, with help. He had managed to get Carol into one of the hotel bathrooms at the Holiday Inn we were staying at for the regional track meet and had Larry hold his foot against the door to keep her in. I remember coming to the door and yelling as loud as I could, when I heard her screaming for him to leave her alone.

Though the incident was never taken to administration, amongst ourselves, Carol had everyone convinced I had been in on the deed. When Lori tried to defend me, she relented and agreed when Carol said she knew what she knew.

I remember watching a lot from the outside after that. Betsy still always talked with me, because we were both going through different degrees of transition. However, after that night, Lori and Joy didn't talk to me as much. Joy still did stuff with me, and actually was my roommate for one term. Things between Lori and I were somewhat strained though.

As adults, Joy, Betsy and I still talk. But, Lori moved on. From what I last heard, she's still doing absolutely nothing with her life. Whatever happened to her dreams of being the next famous singer? Betsy became what she always wanted to be, a wife and mother. Joy is currently working as an events coordinator at Great Lakes Bible College, and I'm still doing music, practicing massage and enjoying life. So strange, how at a place where friends were like family, once we left or changed in ways others didn't want us to change, we lost touch. Yet, in getting back in touch, we were able to see the beauty of the sisterhood we had had.