Saturday, December 31, 2011

The End of an Era/Happy New Year

Seven weeks ago I had surgery for a hysterectomy.  I am grateful that the surgery was successful and that the results showed there to be no cancer.  The seven week recovery period has been going well and has also given me an opportunity for much reflection. The thoughts that have been going around in my mind are of endings and beginnings.  The surgery has been a sign of an ending for me.  I am out of the season of life where I will be bearing and raising children.  That season now belongs to my daughters and daughter in law.  I have also exited the season of being an energetic youth where aches and pains are more easily overcome due to resilience that is quicker to obtain.  Going through this surgery has also made me more aware of my fragile mortality and the gratitude that I have for the Lord’s hand in my life to help me manage it.
This may seem like a eulogy, and in some ways it is.  I am experiencing the passing of a season.  It has taken me awhile to accept that my children are grown and creating their own lives.  They no longer need me in the same way as when they were children in my home.  I am grateful we have relationships that allow for me to enjoy being a part of their lives in a whole new dimension; I enjoy watching them progress in their adults lives and especially love being a grandmother to my four wonderful and most adorable grandchildren.  
I am now in a new season.  I am noticing in this new season that there is a new found freedom that I am unaccustomed to; I can do what I want.  It’s funny because I remember when I was raising children I used to dream about being able to have time to pursue other activities that I didn’t have time for. Well that day is here and I often feel like the analogy of the elephant a chain.  While he was on the chain he could only move around in an area as far as the chain would allow.  However, once he was unchained he still moved only as far as the chain would allow.  He wasn’t used to the idea that he could move further.  I notice this in myself, I still tend to move only as far as my preverbal chain would allow. 
 My goal for the New Year is to begin to embrace this new season that I am in.  The Lord has preserved my life and has helped improve the quality of my life through a successful surgery.  He has a plan for me and I desire to find out what my purpose is and to live it by learning to move beyond where my previous chain would allow. 
Though this is an end of an era it is also a Happy New Year!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Square Dance

Yesterday, I watched an episode of "The Wonder Years."  It was a series that ran on the ABC network from 1988-1992 and follows the Arnold family during the late 1960's-early 1970's.  The main focus is on the character Kevin Arnold (played by Fred Savage) as he goes through adolescence beginning with junior high school.  I enjoy this series because I personally remember that time period and how close to real life they portray the characters and situations. 

 The episode I watched was from the second season episode 15 called "The Square Dance."  Kevin finds himself in a dilemma when during P.E. class he is partnered with the weird and unpopular Margaret Farquhar during their unit on square dancing. As friends and his brother tease him mercilessly Kevin tries to find a way out of the situation, but in the process he begins to befriend her.  However, fears of what his peers will think overcome him and in a final scene held in the school hallway he tries to convince her that their friendship should remain a secret from others.  As the other kids in the hallway start to take notice and begin to taunt them, Kevin stands and does nothing to defend her. In the final narration of the episode, an adult Kevin (narrated by ac tor Daniel Stern) shares his lesson learned:

“It was horrible.  I wanted to tell them to knock it off leave her alone and Margaret I wanted to scream at her why did she have to be so weird, why couldn’t she just be normal? I could have said something, but I didn’t, I couldn’t…maybe if I was a little braver I could have been her friend…but in the 7th grade who you are is what other 7th graders say you are.”

I remember being in the 7th grade and struggling to fit in.  I remember being teased when what I did or said went against the societal grain and I found myself in situations a little like the above; where someone decided they didn’t want to be my friend anymore because I was too different.  When you are young you get so many mixed messages about how valuable it is to be an individual and yet still encouraged to become part of the herd.  I thought as I got older that the struggle would disappear, but discovered in my adult relationships that me and those I was involved with still had a tendency toward channeling our inner 7th grader.  It saddens me that I allowed others to define who I was and that at the time I wasn’t secure enough to stop playing the part.  I was always under the impression that I had to be different, not different in being who I truly was, but  different in being the same as others said I should be.

 When we are young sometimes it is difficult to stand up because we don’t want to stand out.  Our identities are so fragile and easily influenced we want to please we want to belong.  The societal programming is often so strong that even as grownups we face the same difficulties during our adult years and find it isn’t always easy to escape the 7th grade mentality.
But there is an escape.  I was told by my wonderful mother in law Enid Faust  that when we get into our 50’s we need to stop being so concerned about what other people think we are or should be, that we need to give up on trying to impress and prove ourselves to others.   There are times in our lives when we are building and growing and do have things to prove as we begin careers and start raising families.  But after children have grown we now face a new season, a season where we have opportunities to exercise our identities in new ways because certain challenges do not exist.   

I am currently in this season of life and I am beginning to realize that I want graduate from the 7th grade and start enjoying my unique square dance and stop worrying about how others are measuring me by the partner I have chosen and how exact I do the steps.   After all, it’s my dance.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Lessons from "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory."

Speaking of the 4th grade, I remember my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Larsen with great affection.  She was one of those rare people who looked for the good and ways to help bring that out in her students.  She truly encouraged confidence in my 9 yr old self.

I remember she had shared with the class that she had visited Japan and enjoyed the culture.  To emphasize this, she created an assignment for the class to make hand puppets with a Japanese flair.  She even built a little puppet theatre that she called "The Cherry Blossom Theatre" where we would perform the little plays that she had duets of students write.  The plays would be performed for parent night at school.  It was during this assignment that Mrs. Larsen encouraged my ability to write and perform and I will be forever grateful for her influence.  I got an A+ in puppets on my report card that year.

She also used to read out loud to us and introduced me to the book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."  I was so intrigued by this book that after she was finished reading it to the class, she allowed me to take it home and read it on my own.  I loved that story as a child and was thrilled when in 1971, they made a movie based on the book called "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," it starred Gene Wilder.  Back in the day, going to the movie theatre was a rare treat, so I didn't actually see the movie until it came on television.   It still remains a beloved favorite.

As a child, I saw this story in such a simplistic way, 5 kids found a Golden Ticket after they had bought and consumed many Wonka Bars.  This ticket was the door to a golden opportunity to visit the mysterious and reclusive Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. In the film (not the book) after the children got their golden ticket, they were approached by a stranger whose name we discover is Slugworth, a competitor of Wonka's who offers them rewards beyond their wildest dreams if they provide him with Wonka's secrets and a sample of his new candy "The Amazing Gobstopper.
 Four of the children; Veruca Salt, Augustus Gloop, Mike TeeVee and Violet Beauregarde are shown to come from well to do families, with parents that spoil and encourage their individual weaknesses, such as entitlement, lack of self control, ingratitude, gluttony, competitiveness and obsession.  In my young mind they were brats who didn't deserve the opportunity. Charlie on the other hand  deserved it because he comes from a very impoverished family, his mother is a laundress and Charlie delivers papers to add a few pennies the meager earnings and they take care of their four grandparents who are bedridden.

However, as I have grown a bit older and experienced a bit of life, my take on the movie has matured.  Possibly I am seeing a little more of what the author had intended but with my own insight.  The children in a broad sense, represent many weaknesses that all in society are challenged with in one way or the other, even Charlie.  As a child, I identified Charlie as being so different than the other four children, that I didn't see that he was given the same temptation as all the other children.  Wonka was testing all of them.  The tour of the chocolate factory served as vehicle to test the children's weaknesses and the choices they would make as a result of them.  The first four children's dilemma's were so blantantly obvious to the audience;  they disobeyed the rules set down by Wonka and then gave in and  fell victim to their weakness, parents in tow, they did not finish the tour.  Charlie and Grandpa Joe's disobedience by sneaking a sip of a fizzy lifting drink seemed tame in comparison to the others it even appeared to go unnoticed.  However, his misdeed did not go unnoticed by Wonka.  After Charlie finished the tour, he expected the reward that was promised for making it to the end; a lifetime supply of chocolate.  In the film he was confused because Wonka was so casual as he showed them the door.  Grandpa Joe became indignant and asked for Charlie's reward.  Wonka then explained that he had noticed their misdeed, they broke the rules and Charlie would get nothing. Grandpa Joe then told him off and suggested Charlie give Slugworth the gobstopper.  Here was Charlie's moment to choose.  Even though this was not in the book, I enjoyed the value that was brought out.  At the end of the day Charlie chose to give the gobstopper back to Wonka, he didn't use his poverty as an excuse his actions or  make accusations of unfairness,  he chose to be honest and accountable.  At the end of the day he discovered that he had passed the test and that his reward beyond any he imagined.

All of us have our weaknesses, challenges and tests that we have to deal with during our sojourn on this earth.  Sometimes we are painfully aware of them, other times we are shown them during times of temptation on our life's tour of the chocolate factory.  It's how we choose to respond to and learn from them that is the key.  Do we use our weaknesses, challenges and tests as a reason to disobey and an excuse when we get caught sneaking the fizzy lifting drinks that face us? Or do we choose to take the higher road by being honest with ourselves and the Lord and hope for His reward, a reward beyond our imagination?

It was interesting to me that the children and parents were deceived into believing that if they provided Slugworth with what he wanted they had something more to gain,  unfortunately in reality unless they followed the rules they would end up with nothing. Satan is out there disguised as Slugworth, waiting to tempt us to give up the greater blessings for little or nothing all we have to do is give up our integrity or our testimony to have it.  The truth is that when we obey the commandments, follow the Lord's ways and utilize the power of His atonement we have all his blessings to gain.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Welcome to my beat

Hello my name is Cheryl M and this is my beat.  My daughter helped me set up this blog so that I would have a place to express my creative genius, insights, inspirations or anything else that might happed to find it's way on this blog. 

Ever since I was a very young girl I enjoyed writing.  I wrote my first poem in the 4th grade called "Flower Power."  I really wish I remembered how it went, but unfortunately due to time and age it lays back in the archives of my mind much like what they did with the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" it's in some crate in my mind with a number on it!

In any case, writing has been one way I have used over the years to express myself, and it is my desire to use this blog as a creative venue for one of my talents.  I do appreciate my daughter Elizabeth helping me to set this blog up. 

So again, welcome to my beat!