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Posts Tagged ‘things I learn from my family’

By Louis Robertson

 
 

This list is a work-in-progress and represents some of the lessons life has taught me. I started it as a “gift” to my children and wanted it to be something they could return to again and again to help put things into perspective and to add focus to their lives. QuoinMonkey, whose opinion I have always trusted, encouraged me to share it with a larger audience. I agreed hoping that the readers of red Ravine may find something in this they can use.

 
 
 

Things I Wanted You To Learn

 
 

1 – As long as you remember me I will stay alive in your memories. You are my legacy, my magnum opus.

 
 

2 – I am very proud of the person each of you has become. Although I did not say it as much as I felt it, you are the source of my joy and pride as a father.

 
 

3 – You can achieve anything! If you can imagine it, you can do it, but it will take hard work. It will not come easy, but if you believe in your ability to achieve, know you have the desire to see it through and persevere, then it can happen. Oh, and a good plan helps.

 
 

4 – Everyone has worth! Even the marginalized — especially the marginalized — have something to contribute to your life. You need to work beyond the visceral feelings, put yourself in their place, and look for the lesson.

 
 

5 – You are constantly being presented with opportunities to learn and grow. God doesn’t give things to you, rather he allows opportunities to be presented to you and it is your responsibility to recognize them, learn from them, and grow.

 
 

6 – Don’t get stuck in the past. What happened, happened. No amount of rehashing, bitching, complaining, or wishing will change the fact that it happened. Look for the lesson and move on, but understand that sometimes it may take years for the lesson to present itself to you.

 
 

7 – When someone has the ability to really irritate you, either by their actions or beliefs, step back! Try to identify what is bothersome and put a new face on it. For example, that person who is always butting into your conversations? Ask yourself, What purpose does this serve to them? Are they lonely, feeling marginalized, friendless, or just trying to get noticed? Then wonder what their self worth may be to have to do this to feel alive, noticed, or a part of something. Maybe even wonder how things must be at home for them. Now ask yourself “How can I help them feel better about their life?” But also remember, sometimes people are just jerks.

 
 

8 – Always remember that you are loved and have a large family to fall back on when things are tough. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; it is not a sign of weakness. It took me 43 years to realize that allowing people to step up and take some of the burden from me is often a gift to them.

 
 

9 – Remember the lesson I taught you as a kid about power. You have a reservoir of power that you control. Be stingy with who you give it to. That kid that knows he can make you mad by calling you fat is taking away some of your power. To get it back you need to be aware of your reaction and change it. This will not only help you with your personal interactions but is essential when trying to break a cycle of reactionary behavior. Once you fall into a pattern, the pattern will repeat itself until something changes. Changing your reaction will make the interaction more real and will cause you to look at it from another perspective. Once you change the pattern it will either fall apart or create a new trigger to a new pattern. Listen to that little voice that says, “Why do we always have the same argument over and over?” and use that pause to look for the pattern, and then change it.

 
 

10 – Make at least one person smile every day. Find something to compliment them on. Do something unexpected for them. Tell them they are important to you. Some days it may be the catalyst that changes their lives or the start of a chain reaction of passing the smile on. When you are given the choice, make a positive impact rather than a negative impression.

 
 

11 – Challenge yourself to be the best person you can be! Don’t settle for okay, strive to be great! Do each task to the best of your ability. Make it a game or a challenge. Don’t just do the job to check it off a list, do it so you can stand back and say out loud, “I did that!”

 
 
 
 

∞ ∞ ∞

 
 
 

About Louis: Louis Robertson (R3) is a divorced father of two teenage children who lives in South Central Pennsylvania. His day-to-day life centers on his children and teaching them about responsible living. He earns a living as a computer systems consultant.

Louis has experienced medical challenges since he was a teenager. After his first liver transplant in 1993, his perspective on life became more focused and his appreciation for the little treasures life grants increased. When he learned he needed a second liver transplant, his focus moved to preparing his family and children for a future without him. He now is a candidate for a third liver transplant and lives his life watching for life lessons he can pass on to his children.

 

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 Let Sleeping Towels Lie! aka Brant's Terrible Towel!, somewhere near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by J. All rights reserved.

Let Sleeping Towels Lie! aka Brant’s Terrible Towel!, somewhere near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Brant’s Grandfather J. All rights reserved.



In a few hours, Super Bowl XLIII begins at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida where an estimated 72,500 people will attend the 6:30 EST kickoff of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals. The National Football League champions of the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC) will battle it out for the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy. Can you guess who my family in Pennsylvania will be cheering for?

Liz saw an NFL poll yesterday that showed 55% voting for the Cardinals to win. But I don’t know. I lived my teenage years in Pennsylvania and I know what a powerhouse the Steelers can be! Steelers fans are hardcore.

The Terrible Towel in the photographs is vintage 1976. That cute little guy is my grand nephew, Brant (or is it great nephew?), taking a little rest after one of the play-off games. He’s covered by the Terrible Towel belonging to his Grandmother D. (known to us on red Ravine as alittlediddy).



Abbey Wearing The Terrible Towel, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Brant with his Fisher-Price camera. All rights reserved.

Abbey Wearing The "Terrible Towel", near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Brant with his Fisher-Price camera. All rights reserved.



D.’s Terrible Towel is a never-been-washed original. It was a Super Bowl gift from her brother in 1976 when she went home to watch Super Bowl X with her family. The game was between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys — Steelers won 21 to 17. Her dress attire consisted of black jeans, yellow turtleneck with black sweater, and, of course, yellow earmuffs and black gloves, all the while, waving her Terrible Towel.

We went back and forth about the Towel on a New Year’s Day post on Sunshine Shrimp (which, by the way, would make a great Super Bowl appetizer!). I’m a fair-weather play-off fan; she’s die-hard Steelers. The story of the creation of Myron Cope’s Terrible Towel jumped out at me. When Liz saw a piece about it in The New York Times this week, that was all it took — the Tales Of The Terrible Towel post was born!



Ivory & The Terrible Towel, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Brant with his Fisher-Price camera. All rights reserved.

Ivory & The "Terrible Towel", near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Brant with his Fisher-Price camera. All rights reserved.



Myron Cope, the Pittsburgh broadcaster credited with creating the Terrible Towel in 1975, (and inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2005), died last February at age 79. His daughter Elizabeth Cope watched last year’s Super Bowl with him in his hospital room; she draped his coffin with a quilt that a fan had made out of Terrible Towels.

But what’s remarkable about Myron Cope’s story, is the way he has left a legacy of paying it forward. Most of the proceeds from the sale of the Terrible Towel go to Allegheny Valley School (AVS) where his 41-year-old son, Danny Cope, diagnosed with severe mental retardation when he was 2, and later with autism, has been a resident since 1982.

Danny Cope now lives in a supervised group home with four others in a Pittsburgh suburb, shops and goes to sports events, and has a paying job packaging pretzels and snacks on an assembly line. About 80 employees with severe disabilities help fold, tag, and box shipments of Terrible Towels at a workshop in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, similar to the one where Danny Cope works.



Brants Photo Of His Grandmother D.s Original Terrible Towel, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Brant with his Fisher-Price camera. All rights reserved.

Brant's Photo Of His Grandmother D.'s Original "Terrible Towel", near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Brant with his Fisher-Price camera. All rights reserved.



You have to applaud the generosity of spirit of Elizabeth Cope, Danny’s sister, who receives none of the proceeds from the Terrible Towel. Her father transferred the trademark in 1996 out of gratitude to AVS, a network of campuses and group homes across Pennsylvania for people with severe developmental disablities. According to the Allegheny Valley School website and the recent NY Times article, President and Chief Executive Officer Regis Champ tells it this way:


Myron Cope was a true friend to Allegheny Valley School and his gift of The Terrible Towel® trademark has created a living legacy to his incredible life. He came into my office, and he had a pile of papers. He threw them down on my desk and said, ‘Regis, I’m giving you the Terrible Towel.’ I said, ‘Myron, I have about 10 of them. I’ll take another one, but …He said, ‘No, I’m giving you the rights, and you’ll be able to get all the proceeds from the Terrible Towels.’ I was speechless.

Before this season, Allegheny Valley School had received more than $2.5 million from the towels since 1996. With the final tab for last year’s Super Bowl at $2.5 billion, isn’t it comforting to know that the proceeds from this year’s Terrible Towel will go to a worthy cause?



The Terrible Towel, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by my brother, J. All rights reserved.The Terrible Towel, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by my brother, J. All rights reserved.The Terrible Towel, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by my brother, J. All rights reserved.



My grand-nephew Brant is 7 years old. Born at the end of June, he’s a Gemini just like his Grandmother D. Brant will inherit his grandmother’s Terrible Towel as part of the family legacy. Along with that inheritance, comes the vision of Myron Cope, the notion that anyone can take a simple idea like a terrycloth towel, and do something good for the world.

If you buy a towel for the Super Bowl, make sure it’s authentic. McArthur Towel & Sports of Baraboo, Wisconsin produced 450,000 Terrible Towels last week, after the Steelers won the A.F.C. championship. And a Steelers Super Bowl victory may lead to orders of at least 500,000 more (one set with the score against the Cardinals, another declaring the Steelers six-time Super Bowl champs). I admit, I usually go for the underdog. But with the stakes so high for Allegheny Valley School, I’m waving for the Steelers.




RESOURCES & READINGS


To read more about the Super Bowl, the history of the Terrible Towel, and Myron Cope, below are links to the resources used in this essay:



The Terrible Towel, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by my brother, J. All rights reserved.  — all photographs used with permisson of the family, parents and grandparents of my grand nephew, Brant. Brant’s camera equipment is Fisher-Price. No animals were harmed in the making of these photographs!    
            



-posted on red Ravine, the 43rd Super Bowl Sunday, February 1st, 2009

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I remember my first car, an Austin-Healey Sprite. It wasn’t new. In fact, it was so used, it wasn’t even running. The car was stored in my grandparent’s barn. It had belonged to my uncle. He said I could have it if we towed it away and did all the repair. I imagined that he had raced it across emerald corn fields and yellow crops of wheat.

My grandparents and uncle lived in a rural area near East Berlin, Pennsylvania. When we moved from the South in 1966, we stayed with my grandparents for a time. I slept in a room with my sister. There was a door leading up to the attic and sometimes we heard bats scraping around the eaves up there.

The Sprite was tomato red, a 1962 or 1963, I can’t remember for sure, and had a black roll bar, 4-on-the-floor, was a soft-top convertible. That Summer and Fall would be one of the bonding moments between me and my step-dad. He worked his butt off repairing the engine, well, even getting that car to run was a miracle.

I didn’t do much of the hands-on. But looking back, I wish I had. My brothers were all good at fixing their cars, taking care of them, changing the wheels out, replacing spark plugs (do cars even have spark plugs anymore?), fixing the brakes. Even my mother had helped tear down and put back together an engine once in her twenties. It seemed like there was nothing my family could not do in taking car of their cars.

I learned by osmosis. I stood in the cool garage, watching my step-dad work on the engine, helping him out when he needed an extra set of hands, learning about metric tools. I thought it was my first year of college. But my sister remembers it as being my junior or senior year of high school. I must have been 17. Time becomes fuzzy. It’s good to document with photographs or write things down. I only have one or two photos of the Austin-Healey, and I haven’t been able to locate them. Yet. I wish I had taken more photos. It was once-in-a-lifetime kind of car.

I learned to drive a stick. I’ll never forget the day we took the Sprite out for its first spin. My step-dad was tall, over 6 feet. He hunkered down and slid into the driver’s seat. I am much shorter. I hopped into the passenger side, excited, a little scared. Off we went on the two-lane rural road down to the post office, flying about 80 mph. Did the thing even have seatbelts? I can’t remember. Just the roll bar.

I remember the convertible top was up that day; I think it had metal snaps. But what I remember most about the first time we took the Sprite out is my step-dad teaching me to slip the clutch. He told me racers used that technique to gain speed, and there we were, racing down a slow moving Pennsylvania road, rrrrrummmm, rrrrrrummm, rrrrummmm, every time he changed gears.

My mother got involved, too. She helped to fix up the interior of the car, added carpet where there was exposed glue and rough edges. By the time we were all done, it looked like a million bucks. I can’t say it ran like a dream. It had serious wear and tear from use and abuse by my uncle. But I was so proud to be driving that Austin-Healey. Me and Mary, my girlfriend at the time (she had purple suede boots, flaming red hair, and red tinted glasses to match), would show up at softball games with the top down, hop out with our cleats, gloves, and bat bags, and head over to the dugout. There is something about leaving a convertible parked with the top down. What is it?

I don’t know if I would do that today. There is an overall lack of respect for other people’s property that seems to permeate the greater public. I don’t know if I trust people the way I used to. We live in different times. But my mother wasn’t very trusting of the public back in the early 70’s when I was driving the Sprite either. I remember one thing about that car – the muffler kept falling down in unexpected places at uncommon hours. Once on Interstate 83, it happened again – the muffler fell to the road. Mary and I often would tie it up with a wire coat hanger. This time it wasn’t working.

We got out in the roaring traffic, stared under the car, looked at each other, and decided to hitchhike the 5 or 6 miles home. My mother was furious with us. How could we be so trusting, hitchhiking along a major freeway? Who knows who might have picked us up! Back then, we were coming off the tail end of the 1960’s. It was common for women and men to hitchhike wherever they needed to go. I cringe at the thought in the year 2008. I have to tell you, I’d never hitchhike anywhere today.

Mary and I took one long trip in the Austin-Healey, down to the Washington D.C. area to see a concert. We were going to see the Allman Brothers. It turned out, the Grateful Dead were also playing in that outdoor concert. We weren’t Dead Heads. But now I can say I saw the Grateful Dead play. And don’t tell my mother, but I remember we slept with a blanket on the ground in this open green field with a bunch of other concert goers that night, went to McDonalds for breakfast in the morning, and drove back home on backroads. Wanna-be hippie that I was (even though at the time, I was a jock and as straight-laced as they come), I had the time of my life. I felt like a rebel; a female James Dean.

I did love that car. Doesn’t everyone love their first car? But my parents made it special for me, a labor of love, a gift. I think I only drove it a year, maybe two. It was already almost 10 years old. And needed too much maintenance and upkeep for me to take it away to college. But the smell of the engine, the chrome, the sporty headlights, the way the knobs were simple flip switches on a carved wooden dashboard, the feel of hopping in under the roll bar, the way it felt to run down the road with long 70’s hair flying in the wind — I never felt so free.



-posted on red Ravine, Monday, October 20th, 2008

-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — MEMORIES OF CARS


Post Script: I was excited to see if I could actually find a photo that looked similar to the Austin-Healey I owned. No exact matches. The closest I could find was this 1963 Austin Healey Sprite MK II (HAN7 37761). It’s a cool link because you can see the steps he went through to rebuild and refurbish the car. The Mark II’s were second generation; they made them from 1961 to 1964. You can also read more about Sprite history at Austin-Healey Sprite.

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MoonSet, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

MoonSmear, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

MoonShine, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Moonset, Moonsmear, Moonshine, July Moons over Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




I was on the road for most of the many moons of July. Under the Full Thunder Moon, I traveled to Pennsylvania by plane, with intentions of heading on to Georgia and South Carolina by car. I planned the trip months ago, to drive South to do more research for my memoir, to work with my mother on missing pieces of the family tree. But all did not go as planned.

My brother went into the ICU the day before I left for Pennsylvania. And Mom and I weren’t even sure we should make the trip to Georgia at all. Mom spent a whole week, sometimes 8 hours a day, with my sister-in-law in waiting rooms, visiting at J’s side. His dad drove up from South Carolina and sat with us, too. I watched my parents (only recently connected again after over 40 years) standing side by side together over J’s bed. They never wavered. There were tears. And laughter. Things turned. 

By a miracle and a lot of prayers, my brother is out of the hospital. And though he is not yet out of the woods, he is home and in the arms of family caregivers. A whole new regimen begins, his recovery. It is stressful for family members in a different way. It is through crises like these that you get to see what a family is made of. Each member shows up in the ways that he or she can; it is not the same for everyone.



MoonSlit, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I am back in Minnesota. And in some ways removed. I have always been the one who has lived away from home, miles and miles away (at least 1200 miles have separated me and my family since I was in my early 20’s). It can be a helpless feeling. And I have had my share of guilt. But distance offers a different perspective. It is not something I would have wished, but under the Salmon Moon (Haidi) in the Month of the Fledgling Hawk (Kelmuya), I gained an overview. And realized all that I have shielded myself from by living so far away.

I have great admiration and respect for the members of my family. They really show up for one another regardless of what else is going on between them. They have integrity and grace and humor. And they are crazy and stubborn and flawed, as all families are — as I am. Thank goodness for that. In each member of my family I see my own strengths; and I see my weaknesses. Whatever I see inside them — it’s in me, too.

The trip was a mixed blessing of sadness, fear, laughter and joy. At the Grass Cutter Moon (Abenaki), Mom, Liz, and I visited the islands and towns where my ancestors homesteaded. We walked where they had walked in the 1600’s and 1700’s. Liz flew into Georgia, my dad met us for breakfast, I had a wonderful birthday, and a great time on St. Simons and in Savannah. But there were moments I felt alone, scared, fearful of the future. I was holding it all; my family was holding it all. Because all of this makes up life.

Under the Moon of the Horse (Apache) I accomplished more toward my goals of researching and shaping a memoir. It was different from last June. I was digging deeper emotionally; I had to grow up a little more. Under the Ripe Corn Moon (Cherokee), I ripened, too. Through all of the recorded years of births and deaths, walking marble graves and granite cemeteries with Mom, I am more aware than ever that one day, I will be there, too. So will we all. And we have no idea when that time might come.

 

 Moon Over Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Moon Over Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Three things I learned (again) under the Thunder Moon:

  • Memoir is about the past. The past can be healing; the past can be sad. When you dig into the past, be prepared for what you will find.
  • When you write, you have to be willing to hold everything – past, present, future – grief, sadness, loss, joy. In order to do hold everything, you have to stay present to the moment.
  • Life and death continue on with or without you. Don’t be tossed away.




-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

-related to posts: PRACTICE – Summer – 20min, Thunder Moon haiku (July), winter haiku trilogy

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