Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Heartfelt Memories

By Linda Goodman

©Linda Goodman August 8, 2017

Today I attended a funeral for the sister of one of my fellow church members.  As part of the service, the minister asked for those who knew the deceased to share a memory about her. Some lovely, heartfelt moments came from those memories. They warmed my heart.

When I was 13, my baby sister Evelyn’s best friend, Ann, lost her father to a heart attack. I escorted Evelyn, who was 11 years old at the time, to the funeral at the Methodist church that was just across the street from our house apartment building.

Besides Ann and the woman she lived with, Evelyn and I were the only ones there. Ann had been taken from her mother after her mother had gone on a drunk and had set her own bed on fire. Rather than take Ann in, her father paid a women to take care of her. Ann lived in the woman’s home. Her father picked her up every Saturday morning and brought her back to the woman’s house just after dark. Often he invited Evelyn and me to spend the day with them. He told my father that he had no idea what to do with a child, and that having Evelyn and me along for the day took a lot of pressure off of him.

Ann’s Father would always buy us lunch. Afterwards we might go to a movie or a ballgame, but usually we just spent the day in the bowling alley, where beer was served freely. Before he took us home, he bought us chocolate milkshakes and treated himself to one more beer.

I cried when no one came to his funeral, but I was crying for Ann; not him. He was Ann’s only family, and Ann loved him more than anything else in the world. I knew she was scared. I was scared for her! Did her daddy have a fund set up to take care of her? If he did not, how would the woman who cared for Ann get paid? Would she still take care of Ann if she did not get paid?

I also knew that Ann was devastated that no one, other than Evelyn and me, had come to his funeral. She thought that her daddy had lots of friends at his work. She was so distraught that I could not help but feel her pain. I made a vow right then and there that I would do everything in my power to go to the funerals of the people that I knew. I would go for their families, assuring them that their loved ones were special people who would be remembered with honor, respect and love.

When my own father died, my biggest fear was that no one would come to his funeral. On the evening of August 10, 1987, the hospital had called me at my parents’ apartment to let me know that my father, who had suffered from multiple myeloma for 11 months, had passed away.  I called my brothers and my sister.  We all gathered together with my mother, trying to imagine our family without its anchor.  Tears flowed freely at first.  All we could see was darkness.

I need not have worried about people coming to the funeral. The chapel in the funeral home was full. This surprised all of us, as my father was not one to socialize. I did not think he had a lot of friends. Then something amazing happened: the minister extended an  invitation for those in attendance to share stories about my father. I heard stories about my father that were completely new to me. Neighbors told about good deeds that he had done on their behalf, never mentioning his good works to others. Co-workers told stories of his integrity and kindness.   

Then the family chimed in. My brother Lee told the story about how my father had once gotten his foot stuck in my mother’s favorite coffee pot.  Then I told the story of the time that Daddy thought the preacher was the Fuller Brush man.  My brother-in-law Donald told about how he and Daddy had saved a neighbor woman from an ax murderer. My sister Evelyn told about the day Daddy had just walked right on into the wrong house to wait for my brother Lee to come home. My brother Allen told about the time Daddy had made delicious biscuits, but had not checked the measuring cup first.  Our biscuits were filled with screws, nuts, and bolts. Suddenly the tears were replaced by laughter, and the image of our father suffering in that hospital bed was vanquished.  The stories enabled us to celebrate the strong and vital man that he had been, the man whom we were blessed to call father.


I will continue to keep my vow and give comfort and support whenever someone I know loses a loved one. I pray that you will do the same. No one should have to be alone when a loved one is taken away. A kind word is always appreciated. Heartfelt memories are golden. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Intruder

(c)Linda Goodman July 30, 2017 

     In the spring of 2013 I went grocery shopping and returned home with a car full of bright blue, plastic Food Lion grocery bags. My husband, Phil, and I had just moved to Waxhaw, North Carolina a few months earlier, and we were enjoying our  peaceful home in the woods. We lived on a one-half mile long street that had only ten houses on it. All our neighbors worked for businesses in Charlotte or Monroe, so they were not home during the day. My husband, however, was retired; and I worked my storytelling business from home. Sometimes the dead silence felt creepy. As I got my groceries out of the car I thought to myself, if a wild animal (coyote, bear) were to attack me, no matter how loud I screamed, no one would hear me. 
     
     Carrying several bags of groceries, I walked up the sidewalk on my way to the front door, when I glanced at one of our garage windows and noticed a man dressed in black, wearing a wide brimmed black hat, walking across the garage. It took a minute for my internal bells to sound the alarm. SOMEONE WAS IN MY GARAGE! 

     I looked again, but saw no one. Was my garage door locked? I couldn't remember.  That man could be in my house at this very minute, I realized. He could be waiting in a closet or behind a door to rob me, or worse! 

    Take it easy, I told myself; don't let your imagination run away with you. THINK! My husband was fishing with our son-in-law that day. Neither of them would be of any help to me. My cell phone was in the house. As usual, I had forgotten to put it in my purse before I left for the grocery store.

     I considered that I could get back in my car, drive to the convenience store down the road, and call the police. That was probably the smartest thing to do; but I did not act smart. I panicked. I took my key out of my purse and opened the door.

     "Phil, honey," I yelled, "I think there is someone in the house. Get your gun out of the car."

     I was hoping that this would scare the man into running out the back door, but nothing happened.

     "Whoever is in here, you better leave," I shouted. "We have a gun and we know how to use it. My husband has a sharp-shooter medal from the Marines!"

     Nothing happened.

     I lowered the register of my voice and did a fair impression of my angry husband, "We are going to leave and come back in 10 minutes. If you are still here when we get back, I'm going to blow your head off!"

     I deposited my grocery bags on the front porch and went back to the car. I drove to the convenience store and got myself a half-and-half ice tea. After hearing my story, the store clerk convinced me that I should call the police. 

     Ten minutes later, I stood on my front porch waiting for the police to arrive. When they got there, I unlocked my front door. As they searched my house I mourned the ice cream bars that had surely melted by that time. This was not turning out to be a very good day. No one had ever invaded my home before. I would never feel safe in this house again.

     The two policemen took their time and did a thorough search. They found no one. 

     "He must have run off while I went to the convenience store," I advised them. "He was probably scared of my husband's invisible gun."

     "Ma'am, there was no one in your house," the younger of the two policemen insisted. "There was no sign of forced entry, either. Did you leave one of the doors unlocked?"

     "Impossible," I said. "I am adamant about locking my doors. I check them over and over again before I go anywhere."

     "Where did you say you saw this man?" the policeman asked.

     "He was walking past the garage windows," I replied.

     The policeman's brow furrowed. "Was he walking on air?"

     "What do you mean, was he walking on air?" I asked.

     "Well, Ma'am," the policeman explained, "while we were searching the garage, I noticed that the garage windows were seven feet off the ground. The man would have had to have been very tall for you to have seen him walking past those windows."

     That had not occurred to me, but I had to admit that the young policeman was right.

     The older policeman decided to add his two cents, "It was probably old Sully," he said. "Old Sully had a fit when he found out that homes were going to be built on this land. It was land that was taken from him to pay back taxes. He took to wearing black after the building started. He was in mourning for his land."

     "Well that proves that I saw someone," I concluded. "The man I saw was wearing black. Are you going to arrest this Sully person?"

     The older policeman shook his head. "We can't arrest Old Sully, Ma'am. He died about three weeks after the construction of these homes began. You're not the first person on this street to get a visit from him. Reckon he is still mad about his land."

     After the police left and I had put my groceries away, I went through everything in the house to make sure that nothing was missing. Early that evening, while I was reading on my back deck, I saw a black flash streak through the woods behind our house. "Bye, Old Sully," I called out. "Don't come back. It's my house now."

     I never saw Old Sully again.

Tea In Tripoli: Book Recommendation

By Bernadette Nason
Pulblished by Brave Bear & Company
Recommended by Linda Goodman

I know that I have read a good book when (1) I am hooked from the first word, (2) I put off watching television shows and movies that are promising because I cannot put the book down, (3) I go into mourning when the book is over, and I cannot get it out of my head. Bernadette Nason's memoir, Tea in Tripoli, meets all three criteria and then some. This story of a young woman who believes that she can escape her troubled past by leaving her home in Winchester, England to take a job as an oil company secretary in Libya has it all: humor, angst, danger, and heartbreak. Nason is a first rate narrator who is not afraid to expose her own weaknesses. In doing so, she finds her strength.  


To find out how you can get your copy of Tea in Tripoli, email Bernadette at bnason@austin.rr.com,

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16910249.Bernadette_Nason

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Jesus' Disciples Went Out to Pray


©Linda Goodman,June 27, 2017
            

(to the tune of “Five Little Dinosaurs Went Out to Play”)

Jesus’ Disciples went out to pray
In the Garden of Gethsemane one day,
But Judas was coming, and some soldiers, too.
Peter said, “Jesus, I’ll take care of you.”

Jesus’ Disciples went out to pray
In the Garden of Gethsemane one day,         
But Judas was coming, and some soldiers, too
Judas said, “Jesus, we have come for you.”

Jesus’ Disciples went out to pray
In the Garden of Gethsemane one day,
But Judas was coming, and some soldiers, too.
Peter took a knife and cut an ear in two.

Jesus’ Disciples went out to pray
In the Garden of Gethsemane one day,         
But Judas was coming, and some soldiers, too.
Jesus healed the ear and said, “Shame on you!”

Jesus’ Disciples went out to pray
In the Garden of Gethsemane one day,         
But Judas was coming, and some soldiers, too
They took Jesus away, as they were told to do.

No Disciples went out to pray
In the Garden of Gethsemane one day,         
Jesus our savior died on a cross.
The world had suffered a tragic loss.

Jesus’ Disciples went out to pray
In the Garden of Gethsemane one day,         
It was three days later, and the Lord returned,
Saving us with Grace we had not earned.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Revolution of Small Kindness

©Linda Goodman, May 16, 2017

Just when I had decided that the world was going to hell in a hand basket, a flock of earth angels convinced me that there was still hope. A few days ago, I threw on a tee shirt and a pair of  jeans and went to the Belk in Lancaster, South Carolina to exchange am ill-fitting bathing suit.

Once the transaction was complete I walked out to my car, only to find that my car key was missing. I went back inside and starting rummaging through my purse, but no luck.

A woman nearby noticed me and asked, "Is everything okay?"

I shared my dilemma with her, and she began helping me look for my key. Others saw us and joined in the hunt. There were about six ladies checking every nook and cranny in the store. Still no luck.

 Finally, one woman said, "Empty your purse."

"I have already done that three times," I told her.

"Do it again," she insisted.

In this case, the fourth time was the charm. I found the key hiding behind my checkbook.

I thanked everyone profusely, and they all said they were glad to have been of help. The woman who told me to check my purse again recommended that I get a bigger key fob.

As I walked to my car with my key, I noticed a policeman approaching me. "Uh-oh," I said to myself. "What did I do now?"

The smiling policeman said to me, "Are you the lady who lost her keys?"

I confessed that I was.

"My wife called me on the phone and told me to get over here and help you out," he announced.

"Voila!" I exclaimed as I showed him my key."But thank you so much for coming to my rescue."

As he walked away, he hollered back to me, "Great tee shirt!"


I looked down at my lime green tee shirt, which I had thrown on without taking notice of the message on the front, and read, "I am a volunteer in a revolution of small kindness," followed by a quote from Stephen Grelet, "I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; Let me do it now."
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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Reading Lesson


© Linda Goodman, April 2017

                In 2012, my friend Les and I, under the auspices of the Virginia Storytelling Alliance (VASA), started a story club for kids at a downtown branch of the Richmond Public Library.

We had about eight storytellers in the group, ages two through fourteen.  Les was truly gifted when it came to keeping the attention of this diverse group. The toddlers enjoyed him as much as the teens did. Surprisingly, they all wanted to tell stories.

Of course, it took a few warm up exercises to get the kids loose enough to share with abandon each week. Les had a multitude of such exercises in his belt.

One afternoon, Les told me that he had a reading exercise for them. Each child would be given a piece of paper with a sentence or two written on it.  Each sentence was another step into the main event, a story. 

“Wait a minute, Les,” I warned him. “Joey (not his real name) doesn’t know how to read.”

“I will take that into consideration,” he replied. I breathed a sigh of relief.

The strips of paper were distributed. The exercise began. Students were eager to see how their sentences connected with others. One by one the sentences were eagerly read, until, finally, it was Joey’s turn.

Joey glanced quickly from side to side, and then focused on Les, who was not being sympathetic as he stood waiting for Joey’s contribution to the story. “Well, Joey?” he inquired as he patiently waited. “Go on.”

The look of shame on Joey’s face was heartbreaking. “I don’t read,” he said.

“Joey, you can do it. I know you can. Now read the sentence.”  Les gently insisted

Joey held the paper closer to his eyes and read, “Out ….in….the…barn….” It took him two minutes to read a sentence that should have taken no more than 30 seconds. Les did nothing to hurry him along, just continued to patiently wait until the entire sentence had been read.  Watching this ordeal was agonizing. Joey’s shame and discomfort were palpable. After finally getting the job done, he crumpled up his slip of paper and tossed it into the garbage can.

“Oh, Les,” I thought to myself. “How could you? This was a child who worked hard each and every day just to keep his head above water. Why would you subject him to this humiliation?”

Les stood up from his chair, walked over to Joey, and shook his hand.

“Joey, you are my hero,” he said. “This was an easy exercise for most of the class, but it was hard for you. But you stuck it out in front of everyone until you got the job done. You are the bravest boy I know.”

How beautiful to see the various emotions parade across Joey’s face: confusion, anxiety, relief, happiness, and pride.

I learned three things from Les that day: (1) do not excuse a child from a difficult task. The world is a hard taskmaster that does not cut breaks. A child must be taught to accept challenges. (2) The child who makes the attempt to succeed in spite of possible humiliation deserves to be acknowledged for his courage in trying. (3) Children don’t want to be treated like babies. They want to be taught how to gain confidence.

I left Richmond at the end of 2012. Les and the story club, now called the Story Warriors, continue to work on stories and have been included in numerous conferences and festivals. I hear they are looking for some new members. If you live in the Richmond area, you might want to check them out.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Do Something

March's blog was written by my daughter, Melanie, and addresses the needs of  "functioning" sick people. Melanie has chronic neurological Lyme disease and knows where of she speaks. Melanie presented this as a speech for Toastmasters and won 3rd place in their International Speaking Contest.



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(c)March 2017 Melanie Goodman Deal

I can change the world, with my own two hands

Make a better place, with my own two hands
Make a kinder place, oh with my, oh with my own two hands
With my own, with my own two hands

~~ from “With My Own Two Hands”, by Ben Harper

Let me ask you something.What does it take before you will do something for someone else? If you knew it didn’t have to be something big, like money, or even a huge amount of your time, would it change your answer in any way? How many of you are thinking, “Well…it depends.”?

A couple of months ago, I was listening to a storytelling podcast called “The Moth” and heard the story “Luminaria” by Denise Scheurmann. This story centers around the time when she was 15 years old. Her dad was terminally ill and in the hospital during the holiday season. As you can probably imagine, she, her mother, and her brother were consumed with everything they were having to deal with. They felt alone, and the holidays were not on their minds AT ALL. As they were coming home from the hospital on Christmas Eve, they noticed as they entered their neighborhood that the luminarias were lit. It was a tradition in their neighborhood to light them each year and place them along their driveways and sidewalks to welcome in Christmas. They thought, “Our house will be the only one not lit up”, and that just got them even more down. But as they drove up to their house, they saw that their luminarias were lit. An anonymous neighbor (or neighbors…they never did find out) had decided to do something for this family to make sure they felt included in the neighborhood tradition.

That may seem like a small thing, but to this family, it meant the world. Denise said it made them realize they were not alone, and that people cared. In fact, she said that years later, when she was going through a divorce, remembering what her neighbors had done all those years ago helped her get through many dark moments.

Denise’s story resonated with me, because it made me think of my own story a bit. For those of you who may not know, I was diagnosed with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease in late 2012. That diagnosis came after more than a year of knowing that SOMETHING was wrong with me, but not knowing exactly what.I spent thousands of dollars on tests that showed nothing definitive. I thought I was crazy because many doctors told me it was all in my head or was just due to “stress”. I lost many important people in my life because they couldn’t deal with me talking about it so much and thought I was just looking for attention. During that time, and many times since, I’ve often felt alone. Lyme Disease has taken over my life.

However, God has amazing timing. He has placed several people in my path who have done for me what Denise’s neighbors did for her on that long ago Christmas Eve. They’ve made my world a better place, and they probably don’t even realize they’ve done anything at all.

I’m what you call a “functioning” sick person. You might be asking, “What does that mean?” Well, I go to my job, and I take care of myself and my family most days. I even exercise pretty regularly.Most people don’t even realize I’m sick. I don’t LOOK sick.Many people think, “If she’s REALLY sick, then shouldn’t she be in a wheelchair or something?” People don’t have a clue how to deal with someone like me. They don’t understand how many things I love that I’ve had to give up in order to “function” and make it through each day without being a burden. It can be pretty lonely.

In hopes of finding anything that could help me make sense of what I was dealing with both physically and emotionally, I stumbled across a blog called My Color is Lyme, written by a woman named Jennifer. Her post, Confessions of a “Functioning Lymie”, brought me to tears. It was like I wrote that post! The whole time I was reading, I was nodding my head in agreement, exclaiming, “Yes…YES! That’s it, exactly!” Like me, Jennifer struggled with various health issues for a long time before finally getting a diagnosis. Like me, she “functions” by being able to continue going to work each day and taking care of herself and her pets. And, like me, many people in her life walked away because they assume she is fine and should stop complaining.

People suffering, but “functioning”, like Jennifer and I, don’t usually feel comfortable putting their stories out there for the world to see, because they’re afraid of backlash and more abandonment. But Jennifer decided to do something, and by sharing her story, she has given me (and I’m sure many others) a bit of hope. She had the courage to put into words what I was unable (or, if I’m being honest, unwilling) to.

You never know who might be going through a tough time.There have been others who, like Jennifer, have made me feel less alone. Sometimes simply asking, “Is there anything I can do?” is enough.

Think back to Denise’s story.It probably took all of 5 minutes to light those luminarias. No big deal. But what WAS a big deal was those neighbors decided to do something; a something that meant the world to this family, giving them a bit of happiness not just for that evening, but for a lifetime. To this day, that small gift is still giving Denise some comfort.

At the end of her story, Denise challenged her audience to write their names and numbers down and give it to someone right then and there, as a reminder that they are never alone. How powerful is THAT? Another example of something that seems like a small thing to do. But imagine how it would feel to someone who is going through a tough time, someone who feels like they’re all alone in the world…imagine how seeing that little note from you might be what is needed to lift them up and remind them that someone cared enough to do something.


Author Samuel Johnson said, “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” I ask you to think about that for a minute. What is the something that YOU can do to make the world a better, kinder place…with your own two hands?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lost Love

(c)Linda Goodman 1981

I thought he was my savior, but his feet were made of clay.
I sacrificed my soul to him, but still he would not stay.
I cried for days unending
(Could it be to drown my loss?)
For my youth had vanished with him.
And my grief had dulled life's gloss.

I healed with time's slow passage. I began to undertake
Life's burdens by myself alone; my own decisions make.
Through lonely days and tear-filled nights
I came to realize
That happiness is not a gift.
It must come from inside.

I see my love at parties now. I can't believe the change,
For though I'm wise and worldly now, he has remained the same.
We say hello. We say goodbye.
We walk our separate paths.
He never was my savior.
My mended heart holds fast.


Note from Linda Goodman: I wrote this poem in 1981, and I have never liked the last line. Can anyone suggest a better one?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Resolutions

©Linda Goodman 1/8/17

                On January 1, 2000 I decided to make a New Year’s resolution. For the past several years, I had been having a problem with gossip.  I listened to it, I spread it – it was like living in my own personal soap opera. I was addicted to gossip. Once I realized the depravity of my addiction, I decided I needed to take serious action right away or I would be lost in moral turpitude forever.

                Hence the resolution.  I knew, however, that making the resolution, no matter how deep my resolve, would not be enough by itself for me to make this change. I needed reinforcement, and so I decided to pray, “Dear Lord, I don’t want my tongue to continue on its destructive path. I cannot control it alone. Please help me to conquer this problem.”

                It worked. Whenever I started to listen to gossip, something would happen (a call from a potential gig, for instance), and I would have to leave before the gist of the gossip was clear. Whenever I started to spread gossip, the intervention was on a greater scale. I would turn around and the person I was gossiping about would be standing right behind me.  Or I would have a coughing fit before I got to the good stuff.  Once, a fly flew into my mouth.  Sometimes I would forget what I was saying, in the middle of a sentence.

                But the granddaddy of all gossip squashers was an email that I sent to a friend who planned to visit Virginia. She had contacted me to ask if I might be able to help her find some storytelling work in the Richmond area, where I lived at the time.

                I replied that Richmond was not the hotbed of storytelling that New England (my friend lived in Massachusetts) was. “I hear that Richmond storytellers tend to recite more that tell,” I told her. “That is what the local public thinks when it hears the word storytelling. Nobody wants to pay to hear a recitation.”

                How I wish that there had been an intervention to stop me from sending that email!  I think God must have decided that I needed to be put in my place.  Several days after I replied to my friend, I received an email from Pete Houston, president of the Virginia Storytelling Alliance (VASA), saying, “Well, that was some epistle you sent out.  I imagine that you’ve gotten quite a few angry responses to that.”

                I had no idea what he was talking about. He explained that he was talking about my response to my friend from New England.

                “How did you get that,” I asked.

                “Everybody in the storytelling alliance got it,” he answered. “You must have sent it using the reply all key.”  I knew I had not done that. My friend’s email address was the only one to which my reply went. I checked. The email Pete had received, however, showed the email addresses of all the storytellers in VASA in the copy space. Even though I hit reply (not reply all), instead of going to just my friend, it somehow went to every storyteller in central Virginia.

                I did indeed get numerous responses from the recipients of that email. I was so ashamed that I did not open them for several weeks. When I finally did open them, I was dumbstruck. I had sent an email based on something I had heard about, not witnessed.  Not even one of those wonderful storytellers, however, took me to task for my mean sentiments and my carelessness. Instead, they said that I just needed to get to know the Virginia storytelling community better. They invited me to their guild meetings. They called just to chat so that we could get to know one another better. A storytelling theater in Richmond even invited me to become one of its members. I got involved with VASA and heard stories that sent chills up and down my spine, that made me laugh, and that touched my heart. Virginia storytellers are indeed as good as any I have ever heard. What impressed more than that, though, was how they were so willing and quick to forgive me.

                Just before I moved away from Virginia in 2013, I ran across another storyteller who was relocating to the Richmond area. “I am not real happy about this move,” she said.” I hear these Virginia storytellers are not that good.”

                “That is simply not true,” I told her. “You just have not seen enough of them to realize how wonderful they are. They are talented and skilled and delightful. More than that, they are generous, kind, and they cut you some slack when you make a mistake.


                I did not break that resolution again (well, maybe once or twice) for the remainder of that year. In fact, I am making that same resolution again – now.