I am still alive and kicking!

It has been two months since I last posted.  I suppose that kind of behavior does not a blogger make. Yet, there are always times when we have to step back and reassess, and figure out where we are going and what we are doing.

That is where I have been. Where I am. The good thing is that I am still alive and kicking and have not gone anywhere.

In these next few months, I will be looking at my blog, and changing the focus.  I will also be launching other sites, as I learn more about what it will take for me to be more “with it” in today’s online world.

I also promise to check-in here more often during the changeover.  The plans are not yet definitive.  But then, many of you know I am a learn-as-I-go kinda gal.

I appreciate all who continue to stick by me as I learn and grow, and continue to try to take the world on by storm.

Lessons of Winter Solstice

According to WebProNews, “It happens every year between December 20th and the 23rd, the first day of winter – the Winter Solstice…” when the “sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees…when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun.”

This year it happens on Tuesday, December 22nd, at 04:48 UTC, which is 8:48 PM MondayPacific Time (PT) here in the Northwest United States.

So today marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. With all the hustle and bustle of the upcoming holidays, I am not sure that most even pay attention to this fact.

For some of us, Winter Solstice is a day of hope.

Both literally and figuratively, I am one that likes light. Though I am not much of a sun worshiper, I do like it to stay light longer into the evening. I also like to see what I am facing, so that I can prepare for what is to come.

Light feels like a smile upon my soul. Knowledge feels the same to me.

Tomorrow will shine just a bit more light than it did today. I am hopeful that I will also be open to learn a bit more than I knew yesterday.

I am grateful for Winter Solstice and the lesson it teaches me each year.

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” ~Plato

Copyright © 2015 Coral Levang

Christmas Memories

This week, it will be my 61st Christmas Eve and Day on this earth. Certainly some holidays have stood out more than the others. Not all were filled with tidings of comfort and joy. But there have been several that hold some of my fondest memories.

I went to Redeemer Lutheran School and church in my first and second grade years. I was five when I started first grade, never going to Kindergarten.

We put on a Nativity pageant, and that first year in 1960, four months after turning five, I was the angel. With my celestial attire of a white cotton sheet, and wire hanger wings and halo wrapped in tinsel garland, I delivered my first lines on stage: “Unto you a child is born.”

There were a couple of childhood years that were magical, and were my favorites–Childhood Christmas Memories from the Early 1960s. Being a “big sister,” to my first sister, Sonja, was part of the magic for me. She arrived in 1962.

Christmas 1965 was one of the years that I was on the Lawrence Welk Christmas show. Thanks to YouTube, I can watch this clip and see my father, brother, sister and I. There are glimpses of a family still intact. Even though I knew the “truth” about Santa, I still see wonder and joy in my 10-year-old face.

My daughter was born in September 1975. I had very little money. I bought her these two little cloth dolls–boy and girl–that were the closest thing I could afford to a Raggedy Ann and Andy. By 1978 they were so raggedy, and had been washed so many times, they were lifeless. But oh, how she loved them, nearly as much as I loved her.

Sometime in the 1980s, I went back to California to visit around the holidays. Ours had been a tense relationship over the years.  That one year, she asked me if I had been to “Candy Cane Lane.”  I was not quite sure what she meant, but we got into the car–just the two of us–and she drove around for us to look at the Christmas light displays in and around our area. It was one of the most magical moments I remember having with my mother in our adult years.

Christmas 1999/New Years 2000 was the season I went to England and Scotland with a backpack and stayed in youth hostels. It was probably one of my favorite Christmases ever! I was in Glasgow for Christmas Eve, and Perth, for New Years Eve. I spent nearly three weeks with strangers, and it was the most fun I think I ever had during the holidays.

Christmas 2001 was special because of a reconciliation. It was the first Christmas spent with my grandchildren, who were nearly five and two years of age at that time. I will never forget the feeling of my grandson crawling up on my lap that first Christmas. We have all missed out on so much, and I pray that more reconciliation will allow the special bonds of family to be renewed one day. But I will never forget having that magical moment

Christmas and New Years 2006/7 was the holiday I spent with my friend, Julitta, and her husband, Per-Erik, visiting them in Sweden. I arrived early in the month so I could be there to celebrate Julitta’s fiftieth birthday. I lived in Sweden with them for about five weeks, and we made so many memories. It was probably one of the best five weeks of my life. They truly are my Swedish “family.” (Julitta is from Poland; Per-Erik is a Swede.)

This year, amidst life’s challenges that seem to face so many of us, let us all find some joy and memory-making moments in this season.

I look forward to telling you of those special moments soon!!

 

 

 

 

Mirror, Mirror…

pretty-woman-635258_640I remember a wise person in my lifetime who said, “When you have an extreme reaction to or dislike for a person, where you find it necessary to let others know how much you despise him or her, it usually means that you see something in that person that reminds you of yourself.”

When I first heard those words in my early adult years, I vehemently denied that to be true. Truth be told, I had a few choice words about the one I now consider to be a sage, decades later.

I saw this person as “full of self,” and showed my righteous indignation with my relentless “How DARE (fill-in-the-blank)?” I continued to tell my story of how I was wronged to anyone who would listen. Of course, it was always from my perspective, as I pointed out each and every flaw of my nemesis.

It was my own ego that kept me telling this story–and others like it as I saw myself as a victim–over-and-over again.

As I continue to learn and have shared this similar lesson with others, I admit that I can now better appreciate the wisdom shared with me decades ago, and wish that I had been willing to get to know this person. I would have spared myself many other uncomfortable life’s lessons, if only I had been willing to seek to truly understand more.

There will always be times when we will hear words that seem harsh to us, especially when challenged to take an honest look at a situation. Of course, we all come to these moments from a perception that has been framed by our own individual experiences in life…just as others do.

But just as we look at others with the judgment we can so quickly dole out, we must be willing to look in the mirror and concern ourselves with what it is in the reflection that is so similar to what we say we dislike in another.

Once we can look in that mirror without the anger, and begin to own what we see and learn to be kinder to ourselves, we may find that there are more opportunities to learn and grow from others who are much like us.

A Sunday morning in Hawaii

HI SunriseIt was a Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941, much like today, and around 8 a.m. when Japanese planes attacked the American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaii Territory. President Franklin Roosevelt went on to say that it was “a date which will live in infamy.”

That surprise attack killed more than 2,300 Americans, and it destroyed the battleship, U.S.S. Arizona, and capsized the U.S.S. Oklahoma. Other ships were sunk or damaged, and more than 300 U.S. aircraft were destroyed or damaged. The property and personal loss was immeasurable. And no one was prepared for it.

The following day Congress declared war on Japan and its allies, and in a few short days, war was declared on Germany and Italy. America entered into four years of what would become the “deadliest military conflict in history,” claiming more than 60 million lives around the world, including 420 thousand Americans, according to Wikipedia.com.

I have often thought about that day, which was 14 years before I was born. I heard the stories of war from my uncle who had served. I knew of the heartache of the battle-worn civilians who worried, and waited, and worked to support the war efforts. These stories and people are the reasons I chose to serve by joining the military at a time during the Vietnam conflict when it was no longer popular to do so.

HI Arizona MemorialI lived in the Pearl Harbor area for two years, 38 years after the air attack. I havestood on the Arizona Memorial, remembering those who gave their lives on that day in history, as 1,102 of them continue to “lie in state” in their sunken battleship coffin, the ocean floor their grave.

As a military musician, I have played many times on military bases for the Colors ceremony at 8:00 a.m. I can only imagine what the day would have been like for all, including those military musicians who also felt the fear and terror, as they played the National Anthem on their military station in the Hawaiian Islands before running for cover for their lives.

I think about those we send off to war, even today. Some might say that they serve (or have served), because we were attacked. Knowing what is right or wrong for us to do as a nation or as an individual is something that cannot predict until we are placed in a situation that requires us to make that decision.

We must always remember that there is a price to pay for war, just as there a price to walk away from those who attack us.

Today, on the eve of the 74th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, let us never forget those men and women, military and civilian, who lost their lives that day and in the years to follow. They are the ones who paid the ultimate price.

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Why Me or Why Not Me? That Is the Question

Perhaps, it is because December is dark and dreary here for many north of the equator….or maybe, it is due to the holidays losing their magic for many. I have heard the lament, “Why me?” several times in the past few days. I felt it was time to revisit this post from June…

BEYOND THE CHALLENGES OF LIFE

question-25527_640I have had my moments in life of asking “What now?” or “Why me?” I am no different than others who have faced their share of challenges, both large and small.

But the better question is: “Why NOT me?”

Does anyone deserve more or less than others in this life? What do any one of us have that is so much more special than others of us who have been put on this earth?

I am sure that each of us have someone or a number of other people in our lives who feel that they are the privileged ones. Or deserving. Or entitled to things, situations, money or a “break.”

These are the people who, when things are going in the manner they think they deserve, are happy. But the moment that something “bad” happens to them (whatever they deem that to be for the moment), the proverbial pity party…

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When Thanksgiving Day Changes

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We all have expectations of what the Thanksgiving holidays are meant to be.

Media has certainly played a big part in creating what the “perfect ” day is supposed to be.  So, when the situations in life are less than Hallmark-perfect, the feelings of loss or being “less than” can eat away at the very core of what we have come to believe is normal.

I have had many share with me over the years that they feel that “the joy of holidays has disappeared.” I am convinced that this is not uncommon. There are simply those who retreat for a few days, allowing others to believe that they are busy and happy.

Things change. Family dynamics change. People struggle to change with them, not knowing how to do things differently. They are thrown into a tailspin and nothing resembles what was or what is “supposed” to be.

I have had many years of Thanksgivings to learn to do things differently. Many of them have been fun, and filled with much love and peace. Yet, I still have not learned how to manage them well.

Life has changed drastically for family members and friends that they are learning to deal with their own expectations of what holidays and life truly mean. I suppose that I had talked myself into believing that some situations would go back to what they once were long ago. But that is my own version of what I was taught to believe today should bring.

Today, I will not host a Thanksgiving dinner. There are no definitive holiday plans or invitations to join any one else in a celebration of the holiday, or to help them in hosting such an event. Today will be like any other day.

There is not a moment where we are not surrounded with the commercial visions of sugarplums and Santa and Norman Rockwell-inspired visions of family gatherings.

Wait!  Sugarplums and Santa?  Aren’t we still talking about Thanksgiving? I am confused. Halloween to New Years becomes such a blur when Christmas decorations are being sold in October.

Anyone of us can fall into a pit melancholy, hurt and pain. We can feel slighted for not getting invitations. We may feel discarded by those who “should” (fill-in-the-blank).

I admit that I have fallen into that pit a time or two over the years.

Yet, I have learned that every day can be a day of thanksgiving, whether or not it is filled with turkey and stuffing, and pumpkin pie while watching football games with people you may see once a year.

But who is to say that you cannot stuff a turkey with bread, or bake a pumpkin pie in July, if you wanted?

Has Thanksgiving been reduced to simply a turkey, cranberries, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows?  Is this what it has become because we have all bought into unrealistic expectations that have been shoved down our throats by society, media, and (dare I say) dysfunctional family?

Each day we wake up, there is an opportunity to give thanks for whatever we have. Is that not what the words represent?  Thanks giving?

I do not know if I will eat turkey or pumpkin pie today. I might just have pancakes and eggs at my local Denny’s.

On Saturday I am meeting a group of people for a traditional dinner and game night, if I need my tryptophan-fix.

Yet, today I will reflect on many things for which I am thankful:

  • LIFE itself
  • People who have remained by my side to care for me since my 2012 diagnosis
  • Living in a place where I am safe
  • The few dear friends and family members who continue to make it a point to let me know they love me by picking up a telephone or sending me something in the mail to surprise me
  • Having enough
  • Opportunities presented to me when I trust in the process, others and myself
  • A new life born on Tuesday–my grand niece, Rosie, at 9 lbs. 6 oz.
  • Being enough

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For those of you who celebrate today, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with much joy and love and peace that you so deserve on this day and always.

And for those of you who are sitting at home alone, maybe you will join me for those pancakes at Denny’s.

 

For what things are you thankful for today?

Veterans are a rare breed

As of 2014, 7.3 percent of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives.The overall percentage varies by gender — 1.4 percent of all living female Americans have ever served in the armed services, compared to 13.4 percent of all male Americans. (Source: Veterans Administration)

Veterans are a rare breed. Each joins for a different reason. Many today do not fully understand just what it means to many of the old-timers like myself.

I joined the military because of the influence the World War II and Korean War veterans had on me. Many of the men did not agree with me, as they felt that I, as a woman, did not belong in the service.

I grew up hearing stories from people who remembered when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Others told their stories of escaping Nazi Germany. Many of them did not serve in the military, but felt indebted to those who did.

Coral USAFI joined the service at a time when things were changing. We were still in Vietnam. It was not sexy for anyone to join any longer. The romanticism of the “good guys going after the bad” was quickly losing its  appeal.

Yet, it was ingrained in me to be of service to others, especially “owing service to my country.”

Today, I still believe in service to my country, fellow man, and others who are in need. I am not quite the idealist as I was at 18-years-old. I also see things differently than those who are coming in to the military today.

Playing the cello pans with the Navy Steel Band in Summer 1983. (Photo taken by Navy journalist, name unknown)Yet, I am grateful to each and everyone who has made the commitment to join andbe ready to go into battle, if need be.  And I wish to honor all veterans today on this Veterans Day–those who have served before me, with me, and also after me.

Thank you for being willing to be one of the very few who has taken the oath of service.

It matters. You matter. At least to one old vet who remembers why we serve.

Three months comes to an end

This past several months have been filled with a whirlwind of events, as it is for us all nowadays. I have come to the point in my life that I do not want to continually “multi-task,” nor do I wish to be ever-vigilant, making sure that everything is compartmentalized, living by the “never-let-them-see-you-sweat” rule. Even when life gets hectic, it is nice to be able to step back and take a breather.

I have done just that. Taken some time off.

Taking a break

I work part-time as a contract trainer, though doing the work I do with our clientele, 25 hours can feel like an 80-hour work week. I think it is due to the nature of the job, always being in front of an audience. Always being “on.” Maybe it is due to how I do my job and my personality.

This is not a complaint! It is one of the things I love most about the job. I give it 110% of my heart, soul, and energy when I am there.  Even after I leave work, I am not one who can easily leave the people–my workshop participants–and forget about them.

After my last day of training on July 20th, I looked forward to “some time off.” I asked not to be put on the August schedule. Six weeks to simply not worry about others. Of course, it takes time to get used to letting that go.

By mid-August, I realized that there were going to be some “heavy” situations involving family and friends. I wanted to be of support to them, giving them the 110% of my heart, soul and energy while I was needed.  I did not want to have to split that part of me between the two parts of my life.

So, I asked for September’s schedule off so I could commit my time to my family.  I was not on the schedule until the last two weeks in September, so coverage was able to be found.  I am also happy to say that the crises moments have passed, and others are beginning to move beyond them, as life continues on.

Time and change can be frightening

I was not on October’s schedule until the 20th, so it meant that I would be off from any work for a total three months.  That scared me a bit, as I have come to rely on the income from two to four workshops a month over the last six years. That part has not been easy, but I am grateful for what I have that has allowed me the breather.

I have also wondered whether or not, after three months, I could walk back in and train with the same fervor–at the 110% level–as I have for nearly seven years. I know the material. I easily adapt to the audience. But will I be a bit rusty?

New opportunities and loyalties

Several days ago, I was contacted by a friend who has her own consulting firm, wondering if I might be interested in a short-term contract as part of a training team. We have known one another for six years, having attended the same training week upon hire.

After hearing the details of the contract, it is one that sounds exciting and gives me an opportunity that is unlike any other I have had. As well, I was able to recommend and refer another great trainer for the same opportunity, and she has agreed to be part of the team on this project. I am excited to be working with this woman–my friend and sister.

Both of us have commitments to other employment situations, but when opportunity knocks, it is hard to not answer the door. We each have talked to our prospective employers/project team lead and asked for the time to work on this special project.  Each will accommodate the schedule, accordingly. It is nice to know that there are employers and managers who understand and are willing to work things out with people that they value.

What is in store

So, it looks like I will be traveling to Texas for the last two weeks of October with the possibility of an extension, if needed.  I am not on schedule with my other gig until November 17th, so it works out from the time perspective.

We never know what life has in store for us when we are willing to step back, and allow ourselves some time to breathe. It gives us opportunity to view the world, ourselves, and the situations in our lives from a different perspective, when we are accustomed to running on “automatic.”

I am grateful for the relationships I have made with people who are supportive of me, and see value in me that I do not always see in myself. I am also glad to have come to a point in my life where I fear less and trust more.  

It starts with trusting in oneself to make the right decisions…for oneself, at any given moment in time.  I am glad to have had three months to give me the chance to breathe and allow myself some clarity and more perspective.