Tuesday, July 29, 2014

SHEEPISHLY YOURS.....

All art displayed on this post is by Dennis Cox
Rights purchased by author for her use.
 
 
 "Encourage yourself by encouraging others. 
It's tough to encourage others without lifting your own spirits up."
Kevin Ngo
 
For an individual who once was painfully shy, I've blossomed and become of all things...an encourager.  I'm nothing compared to Barnabas but I continually try to improve...I'm thinking it's working.  It became important to me because I felt like the 'ugly duckling'...sure did.  Self-conscious as all get out and very unsure of myself...until I met Michael. 
 
After two auto accidents I was a bit lost...depressed for a very long time.  Enter my encourager...beginning with our life changing move to China in 2002.  Michael suggested I begin a weekly journal to send to friends and our home congregation. 
 
I had always enjoyed writing letters, sending cards, etc. so the seed M planted quickly took root and write I did.  I'd never been one to finish what I started; I would get these wild-hare fancy ideas...get all the paraphernalia to work with and off like a rocket.  Only to sputter much too soon and pack it all in.  M knew that but kept it to himself...all the way.
 
From July 2002 until November 2005 I faithfully and excitedly wrote each week about what we were doing in Changsha and later, in Qingdao.  It wasn't difficult to come up with material...we had so many characters in our daily lives that it was a breeze to introduce and keep them in the mix of life there.
 
Many mornings I would be up at 4, writing away while watching the night patrolman flash his light down the promenade toward our building...a perfect time for reflection and writing. 
 
Writing encouraged me...I hope it encouraged others...it 'grew me'...years later it continues doing so with the blog "Balanced Heart".   
 
  
"Consider the rights of others before your own feelings
and the feelings of others before your own rights."
John Wooden

For me, writing takes careful consideration.  Reading, studying...knowing about others, their thoughts, their opinions is important. 

Making fun of those who don't measure up to my idea of what's nice/right opposed to what's crude...what's pretty to what's ugly...is not what I'm about and if you catch me, please let me know.  Laughing, making fun of others isn't nice...at least not in my thinking.  I wonder if some think sarcasm is witty and needing to be expressed...for self-satisfaction.  Everyone has feelings and I want to be considerate of that/them.  If you've been on the receiving end...you know what I mean.
"Sometimes reaching out and taking someone's hand
is the beginning of a journey. 
At other times it is allowing another to take yours. 
Vera Nazarian 
 
Michael has always been one who gives...and gives...and gives.  He doesn't want anything for himself (I've written that before).  I enjoy giving...okay, I also enjoy receiving...but I'd rather give.  It's about 'passing it on' which is a wonderful thing.

We had an awesome example of that in Chicago...during the annual reunion of the friends and veterans of the 285th Heavy Tank Company that served together in the Korean Conflict.
 
After we registered at the hotel we rode the elevator w/two young women.  As always, I managed to exchange info in a few seconds; they wished us a happy anniversary and that was it for the time being.  They were in Chicago for an FAA seminar.
 
The following evening we were in the hospitality area when the two 'elevator' ladies approached me and struck up a conversation.  They became quite interested in our group and had lots of conversations going; seems one's father had also served in Korea...a common thread.
 
Our group had gathered in the lobby heading for dinner when one of them asked M where we were going...he told her and off we went.  There were twenty-two of us on our way to Gino's (best ever)...for a big feast.
 
Gino's head waitress told us they had a surprise for us but we had to wait until after dinner...mmm, what do you suppose?  Ready to pay the check and no check to pay.  $450.oo worth of dinner was a gift from an unknown benefactor.  It seemed someone called the restaurant prior to our arrival and made all the secretive arrangements.
 
Later, our group had a business meeting back at the hotel that I skipped; put on my snoop gear and went to work...wasn't difficult because I had this odd sense when, at the restaurant, they mentioned 'surprise'.  I got it...knew what it was going to be.  The new friend had given me her room number so I called...identifying myself as the 'elevator lady' and had a question for her.  "I think that you're a good Samaritan, aren't you?"  "Well, I could be...I might be."  "I know you are and all of us thank you very much."
 
She wanted it kept secret; I honored her request.  However...I made a special card and asked each one of our group to write a short note of thanks/appreciation, which they did.  I used the internet for her address and sent her our card/notes.  Now she and I are 'friends' and 'passing it on'.  From a simple exchange in an elevator...a great object lesson and an example for all of us...love it.
 
             "Step with care and great tact,
             and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act."
                    Dr. Seuss                 

I have this great ability, without even engaging my brain, to gig people.  Are gigs and digs the same thing?  Seems to me our society has lost much of the gentleness/tactfulness that I thought we had.  Maybe we never had it, you think? Could it be just me?  Don't know!  
 
Life is complicated...someone wrote 'life is hard and not always fair'.  I imagine it has always been difficult...no age is immune.  These days?  Oh...many are saying this country is going down, down, down.   We don't seem to be the Lone Ranger's in that department...take a survey of the countries at dangerous odds with each other.  Country against country protesting and demonstrating against any and everything. 
 
Still, life go on...my life, your life.  Presently, Michael is in a Physical Therapy program ~ he practices trying to stay balanced.  Me?  Ha, I couldn't walk straight or keep my balance if my life depended on it. 
 
I have never been able to stay balanced (physically speaking) but hey, this blog is about my Balanced Heart and the mental me is making progress...takes practice, practice, practice.  Okay, so what if I fall off...actually I do it repeatedly...on the plus side I've been able to shake the shakes and keep going.  
 
Focused...focused... on what's important in life...knowing I must always step with care and great tact.  Trust me, if I can do the balancing thing (me, a basket case)...anyone can.
 
On second thought though...not on a skateboard...I'm not that balanced!  
 
From my heart...to yours,
Vasca  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

FRIENDLY PERSUASIONS...

 

"Don't be afraid that the world will end today.
It's already tomorrow in Australia."
Charles Schultz
 
Times have so changed...once we listened to the radio and read newspapers; went to the movies...there was always a newsreel.  Not now...newspapers are fading...we have our smart phones, ipads, computers and of course...television.  In other words, if we want it we have instant news 24/7. 

Surfing once only meant riding a board w/the waves...now we ride the wavy internet, right? 

But you know, there seem to be many who haven't a clue as to what's taking place anywhere...neighborhood, city or even our own country. ..much less the world.  Some say 'ignorance is bliss'...to each his own I suppose but personally  I want & like to be informed.   

I watch, read and listen to what's going on; and wow, there's a flood of activity worldwide.  Many have opinions as to what's right and what's wrong...agree? 
Mind you, I did not say ALL...I said many.  Ha, we agree to disagree!  


"Every truth has two-sides, it is as well to look at both,
before we commit ourselves to either."

People really do get around the world these days;
flying...via water...driving when/where possible. 
Doing so puts one in touch with many different
cultures...to each his own. 
Michael had been overseas before we married...
makes him a seasoned traveler compared
to the me and the four boys.

Imagine our awesome surprise...boys, we're moving to Greece...wow...wow!

 
For two years we lived 'above' our landlords...Kyriakos, Yolande & Eulala Kokkotis.  Kyriakos was a retired bodyguard in the government hierarchy;  he looked like one but he had a most ever-so-gentle personality.  Yolande, who was my great friend, wore black the entire two years that we shared their home; grieving her father's death.

The country suffered severely during WWII and they delight in castigating the Turks (religion as well as other things)...both countries love, love, love to argue!    We stayed on the safe side; never discussed politics, religions or wars.
 
Since we had the four little boys...plus a beautiful indoor Boxer (her owner named her Nebo and when he had to leave, we gave him peace of mind (not piece) and she moved in...all our floors were white marble?  Yolande declared no one was good enough to keep them clean but her...no argument there.  She would cook Greek goodies to share...talk about luscious?  Love Greek food to this day! 
 
They adored our little boys and would do anything for them.  Our oldest, Steve, had a terrific bicycle accident due to some careless gravel trucks...aka dumping a load of gravel blocking the road that Steve was riding down to the local Kiosk for colored pencils.  A young kid on a motorbike w/sidecar loaded Steve up and delivered him screaming to our door.  That became an adventure all of us could have done without. 

God was really watching, as always, and what do you know?  A Greek physician (trained at one of the best...McBride Bone and Joint in Oklahoma City) saved Steven's arm. 

In Stuttgart, Germany we lived with Herr & Frau Weggemann.  It was a beautiful pink house on a corner with a large garden Herr tended in his three piece suit.  We didn't speak German, they spoke no English but we had a relationship.  There was something in the air though...his position in the German army. 

Here we were, residents of a former German military man...it brought back a multitude of memories and sometimes I really had to work at squelching my resentment. 
 
China was something else...M certainly had pondered about it.  He had fought in the Korean Conflict...the North Koreans were heavily supplied with Chinese troops.  Viet Nam was the same.  Of course, Japan (now our ally) had done terrible harm to China...when China was our ally in WWII.  Our ally to our enemy in two wars...Korea and Viet Nam. 

Making friends is a good thing; keeping them is another.   In Greece we were 'among' friends...the fierce Greeks who were our allies fought against Italy. The Japanese shifted from our enemy to an ally.  Germany, in two world wars our enemy, became an ally.  In China our ally to...different concepts.

Time changes things...enemies become friends...friends become enemies.   Round and round we go...in a circle.  

We, the people, surely can lay differences aside...could be no one wants to...but you and I can give it our best shot, you think?  As for me...I intend to do my part. 
 
And a friend came to help!
 
From my heart...to yours,
Vasca

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

CHANGING SHOES...


 
 
 
 
Michael and I have just returned from Chicago where we participated in an annual get together of some of the veterans who served in Korea w/the 179th Heavy Tank Company.  This is a special time for all of us...vets and their friends/families...we're like a large and ever so happy family. 

Obviously the veterans are now in their eighties...they were so young when they served together during the Korean conflict in the 50's; most were still wet behind their ears.  Wars tend to 'mature' people very quickly; these men are heroic and influential examples for countless individuals.  They are totally respected and loved...each and every one!

Four of them died between last year's reunion and this one but there were four attending this year, along with families which gave us a total of twenty-two.  We had one more terrific, happy time...creating precious, unforgettable memories.

Our host for this year did a great job of arranging things; the hotel was comfortable and well situated...everything was perfect.  Of course it didn't hurt that their made-to-order breakfast each morning was awesome!  Loved it and so did the eight floors of guests! 

Chicago is one of the many cities that is a 'melting pot' aka many nationalities.   Nonetheless, we were actually surprised Friday when crowds of Indians checked in...I do mean CROWDS.  Replete with huge wardrobes ...along with the families...wow! 
 
It seems there was to be a three day traditional Indian wedding across from the hotel in the convention center.  The Indians reserved it for the festivities...let the celebration begin...and begin it did. 

Families meant children, lots and lots of children...suddenly the hotel became a mini-convention center.  Seems the kids were performing 24/7...noise level was top of the world.  One of the employees told M & me that he carried one of the wedding sari's in and thought it had to weigh more than five pounds. 

M got into an elevator Saturday morning and the only occupant was the 'bridegroom'...
who asked M if he would please take another elevator so that he could ride alone.  Seems they were going to video him as he rode down in the glass elevator...M happily obliged.  Interesting times!  Yay!
 
We totally understood their excitement but the noise level was a momentary irritant.  Just one of those things, you know...or do you? 

Patience...compassion...understanding...qualities that much too often escape me.  How about you?  Bah-humbug had to go in the trash can!  Enjoy the glow and happiness of a new chapter in someone's life...oh yes!
 
Our four days passed and oops, it was time to leave.  The plane was posted to be 'on time'...whose time was mysterious; we checked in for our very short wait when, of course, a two hour delay time was posted.  Chicago's O'Hare is the busiest in the world...according to the experts.  Oh wow, I think they're right on target (okay, not always on time but they can count).
 
The seating area became more and more crowded by the minute...lots of people going to Dallas...more than lots.  Every nationality imaginable...accompanied by every age.  And everyone was becoming more restless as time slowly...and more slowly...passed.
 
 
M and I were surprised when a tall gentleman appeared in front of us, looking into our faces..."I thought that was you two and it is...how nice to see you here".  Ha, ha...it was one of M's top doc's for his Amyloidosis.  He had just cleared customs returning from Pakistan visiting his mother...heading home to Dallas on the same delayed flight as us.  A pleasant surprise indeed...you never know who you might run into...or where.
 
The wait was tolerable...until?  Oh wow, a little child began screaming and I do mean screaming...at the top of its lungs!  The family was back in a corner where they blessedly couldn't see many other passengers...but I'm sure they could just imagine!  If looks could have killed? 
 
Time to 'line up' and here the little family came; mom & dad w/the screamer in the stroller and a little sister who seemed to enjoy getting in the infant's proximity...she would cry that the infant was 'teasing' her...oh yeah. 
 
Suddenly the beautiful mom began sobbing her heart out, the husband was patting and comforting her...trying his best to let her know everything was going to be okay.  I felt very ashamed of myself when I realized she had run in a marathon that morning which she lost...she was totally exhausted...the two children had misbehaved and made a spectacle of her.  Hey, having been solo with our four boys who are only a few months apart?  Been there, done that and bawled accordingly. 
 
I had a slight change-of-heart that pricked...little blood, yes.  I smiled as I watched her squeeze her napkin letting all those tears run out and she felt better.  Rainbows followed the rain 'cause the kids were good on the flight...let's hear a shout out for blessings, especially for the mom.  Ah...peace for her...sigh of relief for her partner...happy kids!
 
Speed ahead (500 mph) to the DFW baggage area where I parked near a mom and her two children...M was eyeing the incoming luggage.  This mom looked so tired; I smiled at her and she didn't even see me.  I thought how unhappy she must be.  Then I noticed her beautiful little child in the stroller...a Down Syndrome infant...looked like a little cherub, a little angelic one!  I thought to myself, "No wonder she looks so worn out...a tad unhappy".  
 
That prick I mentioned stabbed me and that's when the actual 'change of heart' occurred. 
 
Little angel stuck its precious, bare, fat feet up out of the stroller...wiggling the little toes and that awesome mom lit up with a glowing smile, looked into that babies face and began laughing and talking to her angel and all was well with the world...in a most gentle, touching way!  Such a way that moved and moves me to tears.


"Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes,
feeling with his or her heart,
seeing with his or her eyes. 
Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate,
but it makes the world a better place."
Daniel H. Pink
 
Lesson learned for me...how could I think thoughts as I do about others...
when I have been in those places, walked their way, felt with my heart...
I simply had forgotten. 
 
I'm telling you, my Father and myself...
I am intent on making the world a better place.
Stepping gently, feeling the way...seeing with loving eyes.  I understand.
 
From my heart...to yours,
Vasca