Monday, May 12, 2008
Earlier this week, Mother called to share yet another sighting. Daddy went in to for a check up at his doctor's office and found a printed copy of the photo along with my words explaining the ages and relationships in the photo. Melinda's beautiful poem, Grandma's Hands, was not with this version hanging on the wall in Marble Falls, Texas.
My father paused to read it, then said to the receptionist, "My daughter took that picture, and that's my family." The folks in the office didn't believe him until he assured them he could bring in one of the "models" and prove it. One of the nurses remarked, "Well, they must have made a lot of money off of that!"
When Mom relayed the story to me, she commented, "Isn't that a coincidence?!" I told her that ~ more than coincidence ~ it just goes to show how widespread the distribution really has been.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
I am a woman of a lot of WORDS ~ a lot of words that want to come to OUT. This can be quite trying in a house full of men ~ we have 3 sons ~ as the male species typically doesn't have that need (or patience) for that many words. Face it, there is a direct relationship between the number of words a female speaks and the degree at which the male eyes glaze over. I've known this for quite some time. LESS is MORE especially when it comes to sharing with the men in my life. But this is not easy for a woman of many words, ESPECIALLY when she is certain she has so much good stuff to say!
With our oldest son now away at college, my opportunities for connecting with him and sharing have shifted from conversations to emails. We send each other blog sites or on-line articles of interest, along with just a comment or two of reflection. In this way, I am able to fill my need to impart 'motherly advice' without holding him hostage in a conversation, trapped like a deer in the headlights who's desperately longing to leap the nearest barbed wire fence & make his escape.
In some ways, we have been able to "go deeper" in our writing than what we share face-to-face. Perhaps it's because it's not so forced or on "my time" that this is so, or maybe it's because he's just growing up, but I really enjoy our written exchanges and have come to treasure them almost more than our talks. After all, these I can hold onto long after the words of conversation fade away.
Earlier this spring, I sent him the following from an online article I ran across along with a short message.
Interesting Article on Relationships. Don't know if you think Dad & I have a good relationship (I do) but I think this is a pretty accurate summation.I wanted to say more, elaborate on each of the points, but I left it at that & sent along the article.
Ten Characteristics of Successful Relationships
By Lisa Brookes Kift, Ma, Mft
Marriage and Family Therapist draws from extensive experience with couples to identify her top ten characteristics of successful relationships
As a couple’s therapist, I’ve seen a myriad of relationships styles. People who come in for counseling are clearly looking to change something they see problematic in their partnership. The problems range from the relatively benign tweaks in communication to serious pain and trust violations due to infidelity and all sorts of issues in between. Filtering through all of this, I’ve identified ten characteristics of successful relationships. These qualities are integral parts of a healthy relationship foundation and I believe increase the chances of weathering the storms that life inevitably dishes out.
The ten characteristics are as follows and are in no particular order:
1) Friendship: Couples who have a strong friendship have staying power. They not only love each other but genuinely like each other as people. They enjoy hanging out together. They might even consider each other their "best friend."
2) Humor: Partners who can make each other laugh tend to be good at de-escalating conflicts when they do arise. It’s the great mood lightener. I’ve noticed the use of funny nicknames can be an indicator of great fondness for one another. The names often stem from a "you had to be there" moment from the beginning of their relationship.
3) Communication: As obvious as this may seem, many couples are not very good at it. Those who are able to openly express their feelings in an emotionally safe environment typically deal with situations as they come up and avoid burying frustrations which always have a way of coming out at some point.
4) Chore Sharing: Those who divvy up the household or parenting responsibilities - in a way that is mutually agreed upon way are less likely to hold resentments about what they perceive as "unfair." Each participates (albeit maybe begrudgingly) and both contribute to the relationship in this way.
5) Sexual Intimacy: Couples who have their sexual needs met or at least have negotiated a reasonable compromise if their levels of need aren’t compatible, feel taken care of by the other. Some are highly active, engaging in lovemaking multiple times a week and others are content with far less. There is no "right" or "wrong" amount. However, often times a negotiation is needed to make sure no one feels neglected by the other.
6) Affection: Partners who stay in physical contact in some way throughout the day have appeared to be the happiest ones. These moments don’t need to necessarily lead to sexual intimacy but are rather easy ways to say, "I love you," without the words. These moments can be invaluable, especially these days when everyone seems to be racing around to get "somewhere." Whether it’s a hug, kiss, swat on the rear, tussle of the hair or a sit on the lap, these acts of affection keep couples connected when life gets crazy.
7) No "Horsemen of the Apocalypse:" This is a term coined by a famous couples researcher named John Gottman (www.gottman.com) who claims to be able to predict divorce with incredible accuracy. His "four horsemen of the apocalypse" are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. His research has shown that couples who demonstrate a high level of these in their relationships are in big trouble.
8) Mutual and Separate Friends: Partners who socialize with other couples and also maintain separate friendships have greater balance in regards to honoring themselves as individuals, within the relationship. This leads to more self satisfaction which translates to relationship satisfaction.
9) Reliability: Most of us want follow-through with our friendships and our partners. If couples do what they say and say what they do, they create an atmosphere of comfort in knowing their words mean something to the other.
10) Relationship Vision: It’s interesting the number of couples I’ve seen who don’t seem to have the big picture of their relationship in mind. Where do they see themselves in ten year? What are their relationship goals? Couples who have created a relationship vision for themselves know where they’re going as they’ve planned it together. They get joy out of reaching for their goals as a team and are less likely to be derailed by surprises down the line.
A few hours after I sent the email, he replied, in part:
I definitely think you and Dad have a good relationship, I'm glad y'all never fought in front of us. I think it set a precedent in my life. I try and carry all these attributes into any relationship whether it be girlfriend or friend, being compassionate goes a long way.Then he went on to share a story, how he had drawn on something I told him in making a difficult decision & then wrote,
It was interesting how I pulled my... I guess "childhood" into my life now. Funny that I'm getting to that point in my life.I have reread that message many times since filled with such gratitude; Gratitude that his father and I were able to give him something that he looks at with pride, gratitude for his willingness to share that with me, and most of all, gratitude for this relationship I have with my son. Given the time, Less IS More. It doesn't get any "more" than that, does it?!
Monday, March 17, 2008
I wrote to Jennifer with my own unsolicited advice. In my marriage, I have had to learn to create a "Win-Win" situation whenever possible. We all want our way and it's so easy to get focused on that outcome ~ whether it's where you go on vacation, what couch you purchase for the family room, or how you spend the weekend. While the personal victories along the way may feel momentarily satisfying, they ultimately take a toll on the relationship. When one person feels that they lose, then the relationship takes a hit. It may just be a small chip but damage is done. Whenever possible, strive for that Win-Win in all it's various forms.
My parents offer a great example of this in how they move into a new home. Married 55 years, they have navigated this road a number of times, and as recently as this past year. Their "deal" as they buy new furniture, decorate and landscape works something like this: they take both opinions into consideration. Many times they agree. But if they don't, here's how they decide: if it has to do with something inside the house, Mom gets 51% of the votes. If it's outside, it's Dad's domain!
This works for them in many ways. Frankly, my Dad cares more about what's happening outside than Mother and visa versa. Plus, they respect each other and always honor especially strong feelings. In that way, neither one feels like they are always caving in, losing, coming up short. It is a Win-Win!
Earlier this week, I read some advice I had never heard before, or at least in this form. Writer Gretchen Rubin has published several books and is currently working on The Happiness Project described as “an account of the year she spent test-driving every conceivable principle about how to be happy, from Aristotle to Ben Franklin to Oprah to Martin Seligman.” Her popular blog, The Happiness Project, details her experiences testing out these principles. She is also a contributing writer for the Real Simple magazine online blog Simply Stated. In a post earlier this month, she wrote about the marital advice she had received. It's worth implementing no matter how long you've been married, and is my new challenge ...
When I got engaged, a friend passed along a piece of advice that she’d heard from her boss: “In a good marriage, both spouses leave three things unsaid each day.”Comments: What's the best marriage advice you received or would offer? Please share!
I was surprised. I thought her advice would be something like, “Remember to say ‘I love you,’” or “Be sure to say ‘Thanks.’” I couldn’t imagine why I would have to leave things unsaid.
Well, now I know. And I realize that this advice was tremendously useful.
I only manage to follow the advice part of the time, but just in the last few days, I’ve left unsaid the following statements:
And these are just the statements I can think of off the top of my head.
- I’ve told you that three times already.
- You said you’d try to come, but are you really going to try?
- Can’t you do it this time?
- Don’t stay up late tonight and then, tomorrow afternoon, tell me that you need a nap.
- Can’t we talk about this now?
Research backs up my friend’s advice to “leave things unsaid.” Studies show that one fact of human nature is that people have a “negativity bias”: we react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good.
For example, within a marriage, it takes at least five good acts to repair the damage of one critical or destructive act.
So, by refraining from making an obnoxious comment, I’m actually doing a lot more to preserve the happiness of my marriage than by making a nice comment. The negative drags us down farther than the positive lifts us up.
Sisters annoy, interfere, criticize. Indulge in monumental sulks, in huffs, in snide remarks. Borrow. Break. Monopolize the bathroom. Are always underfoot. But if catastrophe should strike, sisters are there. Defending you against all comers. ~ Pam Brown
If you don't understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child. ~ Linda Sunshine
Our siblings push buttons that cast us in roles we felt sure we had let go of long ago - the baby, the peacekeeper, the caretaker, the avoider.... It doesn't seem to matter how much time has elapsed or how far we've traveled. ~ Jane Mersky Leder
A sister shares childhood memories and grown-up dreams. ~ Author Unknown
Our brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories to the inevitable dusk. ~ Susan Scarf Merrell
A sister smiles when one tells one's stories - for she knows where the decoration has been added. ~ Chris Montaigne
To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time. ~ Clara Ortega
*With special thanks to my favorite quote site: Quotegarden
Saturday, March 15, 2008
We had an impromptu gathering last night at dinner at a fondue restaurant in Colorado Springs. We laughed and shared stories, reminiscing about growing up & eating fondue. My parents had a slate coffee table and fairly often, we had a special Sunday night treat of eating fondue in the family room while watching TV ~ 60 Minutes, MASH, the FBI. (Hey, how many people can say the have "fondue memories"?!)
It is fun to hear the stories and the various perceptions of our shared experiences. Throw into the mix my cousin Kelly, who has been a part of many of our family events. She has this freaky gift for remembering trivial details. Like some kind of savant, Kelly can tell you not only what restaurant we went to after my sister's wedding in 1980, but where everybody SAT at the table. She frequently interjects color commentary and details my sisters and I forget
I am blessed to have a close family, something that is never far from my heart. Still, it is during these times that we come together, sharing our versions of history, that I am particularly attuned to this fact.
The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together. ~Erma Bombeck
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Reverend Browning Ware
Scratch anyone deep enough, and you will discover great hurt. I was reminded of the walking wounded recently when a list of church members came to my desk. Essentially healthy and energetic, these persons do not advertise their problems, yet I know that each of them has walked in the valley of the shadow.
A critical issue on life is not whether we will be wounded, but how we respond to our disappointments. Some of us waste energy in attempting to fix blame for our injuries. Such score-keeping provides bitter satisfaction; it does not nurture our future.
Several years ago, Gerald Mann and I were driving to a favorite fishing lake, south of Uvalde. We saw a deer that had not leaped high enough to escape entanglement in the top strands of a barbed-wire fence. The wound on one front let was not deadly, but the doe’s thrashing desperation had been.
Silent miles later, Gerald and I reflected on the experience: Most of life’s wounds are not mortal; although some certainly seem to be. The response that we make to an injury may be more damaging than the wound itself.
What shall we do with a deep hurt that doesn‘t fade away? First, acknowledge the problem. Denial of the issue embeds it more deeply and delays healing. Second, accept the problem as a painful school in which you have enrolled. Finally, use the injury, not parade it, to become compassionate. In helping others toward healing, we help ourselves.
“Browning’s compassion for people grew out of the pain he had experienced in his own life. His mother died when he was a Baylor student. Their youngest daughter Camille suffered from cancer when she was ten. Their son Brooks died when he was in his thirties. His closest friend took his own life the day after hunting season was over. His first marriage ended in divorce. Alzheimer’s took his wife Juanell from him and robbed him of companionship in his final years. Connie, his youngest brother, died of cancer a year before Browning.”The Reverend Ware passed away from cancer in October 2002 at the age of 73: Even in dying, Browning Ware listened and learned. A collection of his columns was published in 2003 by Augustine Press: Diary of a Modern Pilgrim: Life Notes From One Man’s Journey.
Comments: What does this article mean to you? Can you think of a time in your own life that illustrates – in either direction -- Reverend Ware’s message: “Wound May Not Be Fatal But Reaction to it Can Be”? What was the outcome?
Thursday, February 21, 2008
The month before my Grandmother died, I visited her in Missouri along with my mother, sister, niece and her new baby girl. My Grandma Pete was 93, tired and getting weak. In her own words, she was ready to go to God. We knew her days with us were coming to an end, and we wanted her to have the joy of seeing her first Great-Great Grandchild.
As the designated family photographer for the trip, I took a portrait of the five "women" -- all with smiling faces -- to commemorate the special occasion so many generations coming together. I asked them to let me follow it up with a more artsy shot of just their hands. This was met with some playful mock resistance (including "no notice given for manicures") but they were all game and eventually caved in to my "artistic demands." The idea for the composition had been suggested by a sales rep at Precision Camera where I shopped before our trip, and I wanted to give it a try.
It took some effort by everyone to capture the shot we wanted. My Grandmother was not very mobile so we worked around her seated position in her recliner. A couple of yards of black fabric from the local Wal-Mart draped over her lap and served as our backdrop. Then we set up everyone else. I stood on a kitchen chair and focused down while the "younger generations" (73, 51, & 27) leaned back as far as they could manage and still keep their hands (and the baby's) in the photo.
We made several adjustments to the hands before deciding on a chronological age arrangement that just seemed right. The photograph features the hands of my Grandma, Mom, Sister, Niece & Great Niece with each gently touching the next. Pleased with the result and proud to play a role in capturing our family's history, I named this special photograph: The Hands of Time.
We had hoped to run the photo, along with the traditional 5 generation portrait, in the local newspaper where Grandmother lived in Missouri. Unfortunately, we were not able to do this before she passed away just a month after our visit.
A little over a year later, my cousin emailed me an inspirational piece of writing "Grandma's Hands" commenting that it reminded her of my photo. The "unknown author" wrote of her 90-year old Grandma and the hardships of her life (many which paralleled my grandmother's) and how it will be these hands that "reach out and touch the face of God." This was just as my Grandmother fervently believed before she passed. It seemed as if that photo was taken to go with the writing. I immediately copied the poem, inserted my photo and emailed it out to family & friends, and the staff at the elementary school where I work.
Pamela McFarland Walsh
When I sat down beside her she didn't acknowledge my presence and the longer I sat I wondered if she was OK.
Finally, not really wanting to disturb her but wanting to check on her at the same time, I asked her if she was OK. She raised her head and looked at me and smiled. "Yes, I'm fine, thank you for asking," she said in a clear voice strong.
"I didn't mean to disturb you, Grandma, but you were just sitting here staring at your hands and I wanted to make sure you were OK," I explained to her.
"Have you ever looked at your hands?" she asked. "I mean really looked at your hands?"
I slowly opened my hands and stared down at them. I turned them over, palms up and then palms down. No, I guess I had never really looked at my hands as I tried to figure out the point she was making.
Grandma smiled and related this story:
"Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands, though wrinkled shriveled and weak have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life.
They braced and caught my fall when as a toddler I crashed upon the floor.
They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child, my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots. They held my husband and wiped my tears when he went off to serve our country in time of war.
They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. The left hand is decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special.
They wrote my letters to him and trembled and shook when I buried my parents and my spouse.
They have held my children and grandchildren, consoled neighbors, and shook in fists of anger when I didn't understand.
They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day when not much of anything else of me works real well, but these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer.
These hands are the mark of where I've been and the ruggedness of life.
But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when he leads me home. And with my hands He will lift me to His side and there I will use these hands to touch His Face."
I will never look at my hands the same again. But I remember God reached out and took my Grandma's hands and led her home.
When my hands are hurt or sore or when I stroke the face of my children and husband I think of Grandma. I know she has been stroked and caressed and held by the Hands of God.
"And Now," as Paul Harvey would say, "the REST of the Story!"
A few months after that email, one of the teachers I work with stopped me in the hallway and asked, "Wasn't it you who took that photo of the hands?" She said she was sure that she'd seen my picture in an email from a friend. I replied that it probably wasn't mine, someone else must have taken a similar pose, and promptly dismissed it.
A month or two later, my sister (whose hand is IN the photo) received an email from a good friend out in West Texas. It was a forward of a forward of a forwarded email with this message: "Just look at the picture a good while, and then read the rest. It will touch you." Lo & behold, if it wasn't the photo & the poem as I had sent it out. Ironically, her friend had no idea that it was Gayle's hand and family depicted. When Gayle told her, she said "Well, I thought that ring looked familiar."
I studied the chain of forwarded emails and recipients convinced I would find some link to explain it all, but was unable to do so despite the many addresses it contained. We got a big chuckle out of the whole thing and remarked about the power of the internet. Little did we know.
Fast forward to this past weekend ... Looking through a folder that I've kept for many years ~ a file of "keepers" containing inspirational pieces, poems, motivational articles and quotes ~ I decided to start posting some of these favorites on a new blog. Since I consider these to be written gems, I've named this blog "Retold Gold," a nod to the fact that they aren't first run editions.
Now, I have always believed it is important to credit work. As such, I decided that I'll always make a sincere effort to find out who authored a piece before posting it here, even if it comes to me as "Unknown Author." Sadly, this is one of the pitfalls of the internet; people frequently leave off the author's name when they copy, paste and share. On the flip side, the Internet makes it really easy to find the original source if it's somewhere "out there." Just by googling a line from a piece of writing (with quote marks around the phrase) it's possible to find multiple sites that have it posted, and often the author's name as well.
WHICH brings me back to the photo. Following the first item on this blog (which ironically focuses on the importance of crediting work) I decided to post "Grandma's Hands" along with the photo I took as I had originally sent it out last fall. But, I didn't have the author's name. In keeping with my intention to always give credit whenever possible, I quickly googled a phrase from the piece.
Well, I found what I was looking for. And more! Not only did the writing appear on numerous sites, I found it posted many times with my"Hands of Time" photo attached. From the National Call to Prayer website to over 25 different blogs across the country, this photo and poem have appeared together. People have posted reflections on their own grandparents and being prompted to take similar pictures. People write about its origins: "this widely circulated email" that "I'm sure you've seen before." And some sites post it with the original words I included:
I was privileged to take a photo of 'Five Generations of Women' shortly before my 93 year-old Grandmother passed away last year. The photo, shown below, features the hands of my Grandmother, Mom, Sister, Niece and Great-Niece. While I can't take credit for the idea, I was so happy to have had the suggestion & capture this moment. It inspired a friend of mine to do something similar which turned out so beautiful and a special keepsake prior to her father's passing.I have found it posted on the photo sharing sites Photobucket and FLICKR with a challenge to go take one like it. I have seen my image used as someone's desktop wallpaper. I have seen it edited with the hands placed onto a different background. I even found someone who posted it claiming that SHE took the photo, and then was having other people rate it! (I suppose the good news is that it had received 10 out of 10 stars on all ratings.)
Almost everyone has posted it as author (and obviously photographer) unknown with acknowledgment for its inspiration to them. For this I am grateful. After a bit of searching, I was able to determine who authored the piece, and I contacted her directly. Melinda Clements originally wrote it as Grandpa's Hands, copyright 2004. When I shared my discovery with her, she said, "Oh, I've seen your photo before." We have enjoyed a newfound friendship and connection. Unknowingly and without intention, we have become forever entwined by our respective works.
As I have journeyed through the land of internet anonymity, I've experienced first-hand the feelings of not be credited for my work. I do understand that people can't ask -- or give credit to -- someone if they don't know who it is. But it's just an odd feeling, or should I say, a mixture of many: knowing it's so OUT there, knowing it's inspired people, knowing that no one knows it's mine, knowing that people have taken it and CHANGED it, knowing that people have claimed it as THEIR OWN.
Apart from my photo, I found one person who posted Melinda Clement's piece on his Christian website with HIS name, a supposed copyright along side it, and the incredulous message to "Feel free to copy and distribute this to everyone you know." As if its his to grant?! Like the woman who claimed my photo as hers, that completely boggles my mind.
So with renewed passion, I reiterate my founding guideline: Whenever possible, CREDIT work to the responsible CREATORS. This can start whenever you copy something down. Whether by pen or keyboard or Xerox machine, take the time to capture and include the author's name if it's there. If you can't do that, at least acknowledge that the work is someone else's, and certainly NEVER claim (or even give the impression) that it's yours when it's not.
The morning I discovered the widespread distribution of my photo, I sat anchored to my computer. Clicking link after link, I welled with emotion as I read the heartfelt comments of strangers describing the feelings it evoked in them. I am so deeply touched and honored that my photo, along with Melinda's words, has resonated with so many people. Truly I am. Yet at the same time, it felt strange realizing that people have been sharing and posting my family photo on such a large scale while I was completely unaware.
It is amazing, humbling and a bit bizarre all at the same time.
Pamela McFarland Walsh
The "Unknown" Photographer
Voicethread is a unique place to share photos and comments. Featured below is the voicethread I created about this story, along with related photos. Click on the play button to view. You can make comments by logging in on their site. Click here to access this thread directly.