Sunday, April 10, 2016

Ivan Drago mode

A not-so-funny thing happened on the first Friday of Lent.  I had not yet experienced my Lenten Miracle so an incident that occurred prompted a reaction more intense than You’re Ruining My Advent.  I went into Ivan Drago mode. 

Ivan Drago, for you non-Rocky franchise fans, is the foe in Rocky 4. 
He is the Russian fighting machine played by Ms. Grace Jones’ then-boyfriend , Rhodes Scholar-turned-model Dolph Lundgren.  Drago is methodical, ruthless, and cold as the Siberian tundra.
Drago's statement of purpose
Not only was he physically superior to Philly’s finest, Rocky Balboa, but Drago was mentally Teflon.  
No heart of gold here.  In fact, you could argue Drago was heartless.  
Serving up sideeye
When questioned about the possibility that he could fatally injure Rocky in their international title bout, Drago utters his famous line, “If he dies, he dies.” 

What I could possibly gain or learn from such a character?  I know there’s value in protecting myself and handling business.  After all, I struggle with rattlesnake in pocket syndrome(Marsupium Crotalus); I’ve been betrayed by those I trusted, even as recently as this year. I also struggle with fear of intimidating personalities.  I am making it a priority to tap into my fighting spirit. (#innermongoose) At some point, I need to fully commit to the professional and personal work before me.   I need to focus on completing my goals. So yes, I will go Ivan Drago if the situation warrants it.  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A reader's reflections

By Emily Dickinson
“We are all connected. You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.” Mitch Albom

“To survive you must tell stories.” Umberto Eco

Tengo mucho que hacer and yet I always make time, somehow, when my alma mater comes calling. Every year, I read scholarship essays.  I may have to carve out time between mommy duties after busy workdays. It is time well spent.

My task is to read 25 scholarship applications in a week’s time. The applicants are asked to detail their extracurricular activities and respond to three short essay prompts. They are asked to discuss their lives, their leadership, and their goals. As a former English teacher and Upward Bound teacher, I have spent hours helping high school students tell their story to colleges in a way that is authentic and compelling.  It is no easy task. The scholarships for which I serve as a reader are earmarked for first-generation college students.  More often than not, these young people balance family caretaking and part-time jobs with their busy schedules of honors and AP classes, club meetings, practices, and volunteer work.  Their stories are worth hearing.

During my recent reading gig, I read stories that have made an impact on me.  While some applications were less than engaging, there were some who stood out. My heart ached for the student with a lifelong health challenge.  I felt teary-eyed for the young farmer whose reflections on love of land and animals were wise and poignant.  I pondered the limitless courage of the child who raised both parents while they battled addiction.  While I may never know whether or not these young people won the awards or admission, I did my small part to help.


I cannot lose sight of the opportunities I was given. I was one of those students.  Someone saw my potential and helped me.  I will not stop offering those opportunities to others.  In return, I am blessed with the gifts of inspiration and motivation.  I am reminded of my purpose. 
Image by Tom Grey

Monday, March 28, 2016

A fearless favorite

When I was about 5 years old, maybe younger or slightly older, I remember watching a cartoon about a mongoose, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. 
From the 1975 Chuck Jones TV special
He befriended a British family after they moved into a house next to the garden he visited.  He became close enough to them that he fought against his mortal enemies, Nag and Nagaina, a cobra couple.  I distinctly remember Rikki’s red eyes, fast moves, and gutsiness.  I remember how my heart pounded as I watched Rikki in battle.  I couldn’t help but admire an animal that didn’t fear poisonous snakes.

Fast forward almost four decades. I recently read Rudyard Kipling’s story to M. She’s into chapter books now so an illustrated version of the classic short story was a good bedtime option.  I told her how I had seen a cartoon of the story when I was around her age. She asked me if I was scared.  I told her I was but that I believed in Rikki. 

Given certain challenges I have faced recently, venomous snakes have been on my mind. (Blog about dealing with the snakes among us)It makes sense that my longtime admiration of the mongoose would resurface. 
Y que?!? 
In the last two weeks, I have downloaded and shared images, read National Geographic entries, and laughed at Snoop Dogg’s unbridled support of “mongooses.”  A mongoose is a bold and quick fighter. My research has revealed that the mongoose's nerve receptors have mutated so that a mongoose is immune to snake venom.  
Yasss!!!!
It is undeterred by cobras, crocodiles, even lions. It embodies guts, cojones, ganas.  

As someone who tends to choose flight over fight, I admire an animal that fights with all its sleek little body has. I can admit I fear intimidating foes. I may be able to stare into cold eyes but my heart is pounding. I’m waiting on those awful fangs.  In confrontation, I choose to talk and usually(sometimes to my own chagrin)politely.  I do stand firm.  I may be cowering within but I won’t backpedal, waver, or cry, at least not in that moment of facing off against an opponent. I may not strike like a mongoose; maybe it’s not in my nature to fight like one.
Badassery in full effect
 I still believe in Rikki. I still believe we all have the capacity to fight and win against a cobra. 
#youtried

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The other sibling

That's big bro on the right passing judgment
For years, I have pondered the apparent good fortune of people who engage in meanness and foolishness.  Earlier this week, I grumbled that my good friend died young while an individual who has recently faced discipline for their lack of professionalism is “hale and hearty.”  Another acquaintance, a woman of integrity and compassion, is facing a family tragedy.  As someone who strives to always take the high road, I struggle with feeling compassion for others, especially if I don't feel they deserve it. 

Last Sunday’s Gospel reading is one of my favorites, the parable of the Prodigal Son. Each time I hear this parable, I hear something new or I relate to the story in a different way. At present, I hear the words of the indignant older brother.
“’Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes; you killed the fatted calf for him!’ “Luke 15: 29-30, Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version

How often do I cringe when someone I judge as unworthy goes unpunished or is even celebrated? I have no problem admitting one of my greatest flaws is my judgmental attitude. 

The loving father offers wisdom, “‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” Luke 15: 31-32, Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version

The father does appreciate his elder son; he does not love him less because he is less of a problem child.  The father wants to celebrate the willingness of his younger son to change. He wants to celebrate his younger son taking the first step to being a good person. 

Like the elder son, I have a self-righteous streak.  I focus on the other person’s flaws and wonder why they are reaping benefits I feel they haven’t earned.  Also, I struggle with those who have yet to choose change.  I find it challenging to have compassion for those who are in the throes of behavior I find problematic.  It is hard work to learn to forgive and accept. 

Once I was that prodigal child. I found forgiveness and joy in acceptance.   I pray that someday I may act more like that loving parent, one who waits with open arms and open heart to receive a lost soul.  I’m praying daily.