Marta literally hit ground zero when she broke a hold, careened off a cliff she was climbing, then slammed into the boulders 15 feet below, breaking 4 vertebrae in her spine. As she endured a 12 hour journey to the hospital she had a lot of time for pondering. She arose from that fall asking herself, “If I’m given another chance at life, how do I want to live it?”
People who have come to Still & Moving Center for a long time recognize Marta as someone at my side from the beginning, helping me to design its remodel, create its logo, paint its interior and exterior wall decor, and take most of its early photographs. She even managed our operations for a year while heading up our aerial department.
Marta climbs rocks. Seriously. She’s a world class climber who likes leading the life of an adventuring nomad. Staying on Oahu for 7 years, married to a fellow climber and only occasionally going off-island on climbing trips, anchored Marta for a longer than usual time. Eventually, she responded to the call of those wild rocks – ours in Hawaii being pretty tame in comparison – and moved on. She and I have worked together over the phone and computer everywhere from Tahoe to Turkey to Tasmania. For reals!
Once she broke her back, things changed for Marta. She could no longer take things for granted that she had assumed about her life, her beliefs, her future.
She set to work straightening out the various dysfunctional relationships she had accumulated so far in her life, especially focusing on all the changes she needed to make to become the person she really wants to be.
The very week she and her husband finished remodeling the first home they had ever owned and were about to settle into it, Marta decided she needed a divorce. That started the ball rolling. To their credit, she and Dave have since worked through all sorts of old stories and habits to develop a close, valuable friendship.
Marta was creating the life she wanted to live. Realizing that she had more garbage/treasure from her past that she needed to sort through, Marta began working by phone with a local counselor here in Kailua, Nancy Rubin, on the recommendation of a close friends. As one of Marta’s friends says, “I could have saved myself years of therapy if I had worked first with Nancy!” Marta also benefited enormously from working with Nancy.
Moving from one climbing location to the next, Marta surrounded herself with a galaxy of interesting characters. In various friendships and romantic relationships, she noticed old patterns recurring and began finding ways to interrupt those patterns to put her relationships onto healthier footing.
Digging through her self-work, she gained insights that she then shared with friends who were struggling through life choices and relationships. Eventually her counselor said, “Marta, I’m so glad you are now finally ready to step into your life’s calling of working with people to help them on their journey of living more fulfilled lives.”
As much as that sounded amazing to Marta, she didn’t quite know how to get started. She took her time finding the way into her calling. She made an appointment with my business coach Tony Bonnici – a long-time mutual friend of ours and had him mentor her into the practice of coaching.
She began by gifting 100 coaching sessions, and enrolled herself in high level training with an international group of coaches. Once Marta opened her door and phone for public business, her client base expanded rapidly.
Marta can be very clear-sighted, honest and direct. She also cares a lot. And she has the guts to re-make herself. I’d never wish a broken back on anybody. I’m glad, though, that she’s used her accident as a catalyst to seek the best way to benefit others and contribute to the world she lives in. She will serve a lot of people going through tricky, rough terrain that they’d have trouble navigating alone.
Lisa had been working in a regular hair salon for years, with little symptoms popping up – her hands tingled when she used a new shampoo, her skin got itchy for no reason she could detect, she sometimes had trouble breathing in the salon. Then one day as she was using a commercial dye to color someone’s hair, she turned bright red. Her heart starting palpitating so fast, she had to run out of the shop, saying, “I can’t do this any more!” She was experiencing a life-changing allergic reaction to the cosmetic chemicals para-phenylenediamine (PPD), propylene glycol, and formaldehyde (also used to embalm corpses), three toxic ingredients commonly found in hair dye.
Lisa says that what happened to her that day – in May of 2009 – was the best thing ever. Her body siren went off, she paid attention to it, and opened herself to huge changes to her life.
Within 6 weeks, after getting the diagnosis of what she was allergic to, Lisa did her research, assembled a new set of chemical-free, pure plant products, and held a grand opening for her new hair shop: Megumi Organic Salon. It’s the only shop of its kind in Hawaii, which is a situation Lisa wants to change.
Lisa hopes that her discoveries will help others to live more chemical-free, healthy lives. She hopes that every hair salon will learn to work on their clients with non-chemical hair products – to at least have the possibility in their menu of options. She’s already taught a few hair stylists in San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Sedona how to use organic hair dye, and she’d love to teach many others.
Lisa has found henna alone to be a safe, chemical-free coloring agent, in addition to two other plants: indigo and cassia.
“Henna is one of the most well known botanicals on earth, yet it is also quite possibly the most underutilized for its many healing properties.” – Hannah Stalnaker from Living Ayurveda.
Lisa laments the bad rap people have given to henna. She has heard so much mis-information about henna being spread, including at cosmetology schools. All of the supposed problems associated with henna come from the other products people mix in. In particular, the metallic salts can damage hair that has been treated with other chemical products, creating an unfortunate reaction.
Lisa tried many health-food store henna products before opening her new salon, and they all without exception made her sick. They all contained additives. And we’re not even talking about the dyi hair-dyes at regular drug stores and groceries.
Lisa went to India to find a supplier of her three color sources, all pure plant products: henna (reddish), cassia (blonde on white hair) and indigo (a darkening agent). With these three natural dyes, Lisa achieves a great range of colors, including black, with a two-step henna/indigo process. She has discovered that the simpler her recipes, the more effective they are on clients.
Interestingly, only one of Lisa’s hundreds of original clients followed her to her new salon. She had to build up her clientele from scratch.
Many of her clients have come to her because they have discovered for themselves the hard way that they are chemically sensitive. They may have experienced autoimmune disease, cancer, severe allergic reaction, or hair loss – possibly from problems in the gut or thyroid. Sometimes it takes hitting a zero point for people to be willing to make life-style changes.
Before Lisa had her chemical awakening, so to speak, she considered drinking Diet Coke to be health conscious! As she began to pay more attention to what her body was telling her, she learned that it was reacting to the preservatives on chips and many other processed foods. Her food choices have evolved a lot over time.
The conversation in Lisa’s hair salon has changed from more external beauty stuff to topics about health. Lisa continues to learn from and share information extensively with her clients. They talk about naturopaths who have helped them, new organic foods available, vaccines, gluten, chemical-free cleaning products etc. She finds that people in general are more awake about such things.
Certainly her brain is more clear from not breathing in and absorbing the synthesized ingredients at hair salons that are bleaching, dyeing, straightening and perming people’s hair.
Lisa is all about sustainability. Before she cuts their hair, Lisa asks her clients, “Can you maintain this hairstyle in your daily life? No? What can you do to care for your hair on your own? Let’s find a haircut that you look good in every day.”
Summing up our conversation, Lisa tells me, “I love what I do. It’s therapeutic. I learn from my clients. We share a lot. It’s molding me to be a better, stronger woman.
“I’m a one woman show, 5 days a week. I’m not an empire builder. But I don’t want to take what I’ve learned about healthy hair treatment to the grave. I can imagine people everywhere learning and using these simple techniques. They’re healthy, they’re sustainable, they should be in every salon, and I’m willing to promote and teach them.”
- Megumi Hair Salon
- 1137 11th Ave. #206, Honululu, HI 96816
- Located right next to Himalayan Kitchen restaurant. Convenient parking in the Kaimuki Municipal parking lot
- Saturday – Wednesday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
- (Closed Thursday / Friday)
by Marta Czajkowska
“The more you schedule and practice discomfort deliberately, the less unplanned discomfort will throw you off center and control your life.” – Seneca
Seneca, a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman and writer, suggested that anyone wealthy – like himself – benefits from practicing poverty. He walked his talk. Each month he set aside a few days to get away from the luxury of his comfortable bed, ate very little food and wore his shabbiest clothes.
The reason for this uncomfortable task? Completing it, he realized it wasn’t as bad as he had dreaded, and he felt much readier to face anything that life might have in store for him.
We can summarize the logic of voluntary poverty this way: Having comfort means having something we can lose. Fear of losing comfort enslaves us. However, when we deliberately practice discomfort, we diminish our fear of losing it. Merely thinking about misfortune won’t do the trick – for those of us who live comfortable lives most of the time, Seneca recommends that we create a situation of deprivation to prove to ourselves that we can do without, that neither comfort nor discomfort can master us.
We commonly fret and worry about the unknown. Our fears often have no basis in reality. Once we face an empirical experience of poverty, we know it, we’ve lived it. By consciously creating a worst-case scenario that frightens us, then going through it, we free ourselves of fearing it.
Seneca wisely taught: “Poverty is good for at least one thing: It’s an opportunity to practice forbearance and discipline, a chance to see that you would not be crushed by fate.”
How to practice poverty?
Deprive yourself of something that feels scary to lose. You can start small, giving up something comfortable to your body, your image of yourself, or your style of living. If you love your hot showers, how about trying a cold shower? Letting your hair go gray? Skipping dinner? Cleaning the toilet at work? Going a full day without spending any money? Taking a bus? Putting on no makeup? Sleeping outside on the ground?
Dig a little deeper. How about stepping down from a role that gives you status? Apologizing publicly for a misdeed? Spending a night on the street? The more threatening a poverty practice sounds to your ego, the more it may loosen your attachment to comfort and free you from fears of losing it.
If you were writing your Ode to Joy, how would it sound? And how would you achieve it?
As we look into a new year, a new decade, with the theme of Deep Joy at Still & Moving Center, I’m wondering what it is that brings this sense of Joy. It’s not the kind of joy whose opposite it sorrow. This Deep Joy often finds its way through a world of suffering and sorrow, to emerge, radiant, connected to everyone and everything. Kahlil Gibran reminds us that the deeper sorrow carves into our being, the more room we have for Joy.
Actually, I suspect that we truly find this Deep Joy to the extent that we feel our life has purpose, meaning. When what we do affects others – hopefully positively – our existence here on earth has made a difference. It takes some people a long time to find their specific mission, and in the meantime, everything we do can be a preparation for it. Sometimes it just falls into our lap, after a long period of yearning and waiting. I didn’t know I was meant to open Still & Moving Center until 7 months before we opened, and I was 55 at the time.
I can’t tell you how much Joy it’s given me since then to hold space for our students, teachers, therapists and staff to “claim their magnificence” in this community center / school of moving meditation! I certainly could never have accomplished it any earlier in my life, as my work, study, family, professional experience, and spiritual practice all formed necessary foundational stones.
The book I’m reading now, The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling by Stephen Cope, is all about finding and pursuing our dharma, a richly conceptual Sanskrit word meaning our life-purpose, duty, raison d’être. The underlying assumption is that each of us comes into the world with a unique purpose to fulfil. If we look at our circumstances and at the many attributes of our natures, we can find what it is we are best suited to do in this life. It may or may not be how we earn our living, financially speaking. It always has to do with how we find the soul-satisfaction of finding and doing what we do best.
I love the author’s real-life examples, such as Harriet Tubman, a black slave who had watched her family members being split and sold to other plantations. After escaping herself, Harriet helped thousands of others to freedom via the “Underground Railroad” of which she was a “conductor”. She performed these services at great personal risk. She was a highly WANTED person by Southern plantation owners whose slaves she was spiriting away. They wanted her re-enslaved or dead. While she could have stayed safely in the North, Harriet felt absolutely compelled to return to the South again and again to rescue others, regardless of possible consequences.
Harriet showed an uncanny ability to avoid capture, to change plans in a twinkling based on an intuition that told her to do so. As a Christian, she always felt as if she was guided and protected by Providence. She asked for no payment for her services, and even after the Civil War and Emancipation of the slaves, she lived the most modest of lives in meager circumstances. Doing our dharma doesn’t always yield a pay check. I imagine her satisfaction, her Joy, at realizing how many people she had saved from cruelty and led to freedom, how many families she had reunited.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s fulfilling of his life purpose led him through tremendous suffering in other ways. He was born to a musical family, receiving his early musical training from his father, a talented but hard-hearted man. Ludwig developed such an eccentric personality, it was difficult to spend time with him. No one else at the time could completely comprehend the new rhythmic and melodic structures he was creating. Yet his dedication to his work and his genius as a musician, composer and conductor dazzled all the society people of his day.
To his horror, Beethoven began losing his hearing while still in his twenties. He first tried to hide it from people, then went into seclusion. Being thwarted in the occupation he so brilliantly performed, he questioned his existence, came close to losing his mind, and contemplated suicide. Yet he kept hearing the music in his head, in his soul. Beethoven held onto his musical dharma for dear life – literally – when all else failed him, and went on to compose his greatest masterpieces after becoming deaf. He came to realize that the world needed his music. Only by bringing forth the music moving within him did Beethoven find a sense of peace, even Joy.
Indeed, he composed his final complete symphony, Beethoven’s 9th, based on Schiller’s poem “Ode to Joy”. Its debut performance in 1824 happened less than three years before his death at age 56. Violinist Joseph Böhm recalled the performance:
“Beethoven himself conducted, that is, he stood in front of a conductor’s stand and threw himself back and forth like a madman. At one moment he stretched to his full height, at the next he crouched down to the floor, he flailed about with his hands and feet as though he wanted to play all the instruments and sing all the chorus parts. — The actual direction was in [Louis] Duport’s hands; we musicians followed his baton only.”
Beethoven was several measures off and still ‘conducting’ when the musicians finished the piece and the audience began applauding exuberantly. One of the singers then walked over and turned Beethoven around to accept the audience’s acclaim. Even though he could not hear their clapping and cheers, he could see their five ovations, with handkerchiefs in the air, hats, and raised hands.
While the audience’s reception undoubtedly gratified Beethoven when he saw it, he was in a state of utter Joy directing his symphony before he ever turned around to see their response.
Mahatma Gandhi found an entirely different path to Joy. His life course led him from fear as a child and dismal failure as a young lawyer, to eventually leading the entire nation of India to freedom from the British Empire. To shrink the vastness of his 80-year life story into a few words, Gandhi came to realize that he did indeed have assets and abilities that he could access… but only when he stopped worrying about his own success or failure and instead put himself to work for the sake of others. Just as a trustee for a non-profit organization takes care to see that all the organization’s assets are put to the highest and best use, Gandhi came to see that his life did not belong to him, it belonged to the world.
With that realization, Gandhi cheerfully spent years locked in British-run prisons for his non-violent civil disobedience campaigns to free his people. He faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles and willingly looked death in the face on many occasions, knowing that his life was being spent for a greater cause than himself, following his dharma. Personal suffering became insignificant to him – it was all part of a deeper Joy.
Most people’s dharma lines are less grandiose – and absolutely as valuable – as those of Harriet Tubman, Beethoven and Gandhi. Yet the example of these three people’s lives begs the question of us: Are we open to finding and refinding our dharma, our life path, which could lead us – and others – to Deep Joy?
Dancing in Joy and resting in stillness with you,
And you, dear reader?
Just hit reply – I always love hearing from you.
Dr. Malia Smith started her new year on the beach with the traditional Hawaiian chant “E ala ei!” to greet the rising sun. Significantly, her work in Waimānalo has the effect of bringing the light of knowledge to a community open to reawakening.
Coming from the academic world, where she was a professor and department head at Hawaii Pacific University for eight years, Malia determined she needed to make a change in order to make a difference. She needed to take her classroom out of the thralls of bureaucracy and into the world.
Malia prioritizes us becoming more sustainable, for the sake of the earth, its creatures and the people living upon it. Seeing the needs of the state of Hawaii to become more agriculturally self-sufficient, of Waimānalo farmers to find more markets for their produce, and of Waimānalo people living in something of a “food desert” with little access to fresh fruits and vegetables, Malia left her position at HPU and opened ʻAi Love Nalo restaurant in August of 2015.
“You can’t do that!” was the universal chorus from her business friends and colleagues when they heard her plans to open ʻAi Love Nalo. Nobody thought a vegan restaurant in the very “local” town of Waimānalo would be successful. This is where you get coffee, cigarettes and a packaged doughnut at 7-Eleven for breakfast and plate-lunch at L & L Drive-Inn open daily up ‘til 9 pm.
Guess what? They were wrong. People adore this place! In fact they come from all over the island and even from off island to enjoy the view of the Ko’olau and eat hearty, healthy, well-prepared food, largely grown on local farms. It’s been a hit!
Meanwhile, Malia is marching on with far bigger plans towards a sustainable environment and healthy Hawaiian people. Since the restaurant hit its stride, Malia has been able to leave its daily workings in others’ hands to focus on her Hā‘ehuola Program, improving the health of native Hawaiians. This is where she considers her kuleana (responsibility) to lie, having Hawaiian lineage herself, as well as clear insight into the culture and into the current needs of its people.
The program was birthed in this way: Several years ago, a very heavy young Hawaiian man came to Dr. Malia asking for help. He needed to have open-heart surgery, but his excess weight made it too risky for the doctors to operate. This young man comes from a group typically living in food deserts, suffering high levels of heart disease and diabetes.
Dr. Malia agreed to take him on with the understanding that he was willing to make significant life changes. She began to teach him the basics of healthy food shopping and cooking, then provided him with 2 vegan meals a day for 3 months from ʻAi Love Nalo. Within 2 months he had already lost 26 pounds and was able to undergo surgery successfully. He soon brought a friend of his to Dr. Malia for help… and then another friend.
In taking on this challenge, Dr. Malia began to formulate the 7 Levels of Health as the basis for the Hā‘ehuola Program that she is now taking to larger groups of people, in an organically growing manner.
The 7 Levels of Health concept radiates from “Me” to “We”. It’s comprised of two sets: First, personal health: Physical (including lomilomi, yoga, meditation – all offered on the ʻAi Love Nalo premises), Psychological (both mental and emotional), and Financial. Second, community health: Ecological, Socio-Cultural and Economic, She weaves all 6 of these levels into the most significant aspect, the Spiritual.
The program focuses on native Hawaiians, significantly drawing upon local Hawaiian values, principles and practices. Malia recognizes and teaches that our individual behavior affects the world, so that working with any one group will naturally and inevitably have a spillover effect that will impact the whole.
One of our local kumu hula (hula masters), Leimomi Kiyona – hula ‘sister’ to our kumu hula Mālia Helela – approached Dr. Malia Smith asking whether she would lead Kumu Leimomi’s entire hula halau (school) through the Hā‘ehuola Program in 2019. Dr. Malia agreed! Leimomi and her halau then set to work doing fund-raising to eventually pay for the healthy meals that would be part of their health journey.
With Leimomi’s strong co-leadership and example, Dr. Malia took the 27 halau members through the program, with classroom and kitchen time, teaching a plant-based diet, the Hawaiian practice of conflict resolution called ho’oponopono, sound healing, walking meditation, and personal financial planning and investment. There’s a spiritual (not religious) side of the program that reaches the whole person.
Dr. Malia began by preparing and assessing the participants’ readiness to make changes in their life-style, without which the program cannot succeed. Once they had proven themselves ready for change, program participants received 12 weeks of ʻAi Love Nalo meals, preceded by and followed by blood testing.
Over a year’s time in the program, Leimomi’s group of 27 made huge strides, collectively losing 450-550 pounds so far. Three people reversed their diabetes. Two are looking promising in their reduction of insulin. The Hemoglobin A1C count has decreased significantly. Hypertension, across the board, is null. When I spoke with one of the senior members of their halau recently, she was absolutely delighted with how much better she feels these days, lighter, moving more easily, and in better overall health.
The Hā‘ehuola Program continues to expand its reach, with Kaiser Permanente already, and potentially with the Waimānalo Canoe Club and one of the Hawaiian immersion schools. And it continues to partner with many community members, such as Kumu Ramsey Taum doing ho’oponopono, a lomilomi practitioner trained by the late Uncle Alva of Waimānalo, and many others.
Three cheers to Dr. Malia Smith for her ongoing efforts to spread light and enlightenment with her community in Waimānalo for the sake of a better world for us all to live in.
E ala ei!
from Steve Stephenson, 3 Foot Giant
Life may not always go the way we want it to. Here is a way to reverse-engineer your day to achieve your best life version possible:
- Think of times when your life works well! What are key things you do during those times? Write down 16 items that you do when your life works. These will be 16 activities for self-care. Dig deep.
Here are some examples:
- Dance (Sean provides a 3 minute Dance Party below!)
- Play Frisbee golf
- Eat salad
- Connect with a friend
- Drink water, etc.
2: Do at least 4 items from your When Life Works List every day. Make a monthly or weekly chart for tracking your daily progress in doing those 16 activities. Better yet, use your 2020 Still & Moving Center almanac daily for tracking your 4 When Life Works items!
3: Repeat for 3 months. Note the changes in how your life works!
See the first video below to hear Sean talk about his own When Life Works List.
Sarah herself began massaging her family at about age five, whenever they were sick or not feeling well in any other way. The healing power of touch fascinated her, and she had a natural will to share it with her loved ones. After extensive traveling, Sarah returns to Honolulu and Still & Moving Center ready to share her exquisite lomilomi massage practice, which she learned from the legendary kumu (master teacher) of lomilomi, Uncle Alva.
For three generations at least, massage has been a part of Sarah’s family’s everyday life. Her mother’s nanny in Iran massaged the children when they were ill or needing to sleep. Her mother also grew up with the tradition of going to Iranian bath houses where massage was offered for healing and health maintenance. Her mother gave Sarah and her sister massages almost nightly, especially when they were going through growing pains or other discomforts.
Gifted in many fields, Sarah also grew up riding, grooming and training horses, with whom subtle touch is critical for communication. She communicates her artistic nature through dance, photography and fine arts. Starting at age 12, she studied art under her grandfather, the well-known painter Snowden Hodges, eventually going on to study painting at the Florence Academy of Art in 2013.
While studying in Italy, Sarah felt curiously out of balance. Drawn back by the healing powers of Hawaii, Sarah landed in Waimānalo under that healing hands of Alva Andrews, Kahuna Lomi Lomi. Her first session with Uncle Alva did wonders for Sarah’s own health and wellbeing, and also set her onto the path of practicing massage professionally. In exquisite natural timing, Kumu Alva was just about to start a new lomilomi training group. “He told me he was starting the new class series that evening and invited me to attend. I of course accepted, and after attending one class I knew I was beginning a lifelong journey in the healing arts.”
Thrilled, Sarah attended every session of his training. Like his ancestors for the last 500 years, Alva Andrews believed that “the spirit of the individual must be healed; only then can permanent health be possible. Lokahi (Balance and Unity) of the mind, body, and soul is a must for total well-being.“ He remembered, as a kid, “when people would come over to the house, and his grandma and grandpa would make people feel better from their aches and pains. Starting with a pule (prayer), and then a good old fashion lomilomi, followed by a crack and a pop to align the posture, Alva learned at an early age the healing and spiritual effects of lomilomi.”
As a grateful student of Uncle Alva’s Hawaiian lineage and her family’s Persian lineage, Sarah shares her gift of loving, healing touch with her clients, and we are proud and delighted to welcome her as one of our excellent bodywork therapists at Still & Moving Center.
You may already know Sarah, who started attending classes and workshops at Still & Moving the first year we opened, 2011. She played the lead role of Princess Sita to perfection in our Diwali play in 2016. We’re glad she’s back!
My grandmothers always seemed old to me. In 1967 when the Beatles brought out the song “When I’m Sixty-Four”, my grandmothers’ average age was about 64, and I was 11 or 12. Could I imagine ever being that old myself? I doubt it. Well, here I am approaching my sixty-fourth birthday in a few days, and I STILL don’t think of myself as being much like my “old” grandmothers!
I’m probably going through some of the same physical changes they did at this age. I’m amused to see little ‘wings’ flapping a bit under my arms. My belts need to be a little longer than before. My nose is longer and my face is becoming more topographically “interesting”, shall we say. These inevitable battle scars of life seem fairly insignificant compared with the joy I get dancing, spending time with family and working with wonderful people at Still & Moving, both local and from around the world. Thankfully, both my grandmothers blessed me with the genes for a sturdy constitution, and each of them modeled strength of character.
Here’s a mental snapshot of the two: My mother’s mother, Granny was demure with a broad, smooth face and dark brown eyes, always wore dresses when I was a child. My Grandma Coleman on my dad’s side was a little pistol with rackling blue eyes, casually clad at home in her housecoat, shorts or slacks. Neither of them, at age 64, would have dreamed of strolling about in the dance/yoga clothes that I wear.
My grandmothers endured both World War I and II and the Great Depression. They lived at the time when proper ladies wore girdles. I don’t really know what they thought about or exactly what they believed in. They really cared about their children and grandchildren – that I do know. To me, they were just my Granny, the calm, retired school teacher (I remember her rolling rivelly noodles between her hands, and her neighbor’s horse that we got to ride in the field behind her vegetable garden), and my Grandma Coleman, who joked around a lot (she made mayonnaise salad for Grandpa and had a penny slot-machine at her basement that sometimes gave us jackpots!)
I’ve enjoyed so many opportunities that my grandmothers never had…who knows what they might have been like if we’d shared more similar life experiences? And I believe that – through my parents – these women set me up for the life of remarkable opportunity.
My mom’s mom, Granny, had an easier life than Grandma Coleman, financially, being the granddaughter of a respected businessman working with local farmers. Yet worldly opportunities did not abound in the town of 700-800 people where Granny lived, taught in a one-room school after 6 weeks of Normal School training, married and raised 5 children. She then returned to the elementary classroom during WWII and taught for another 25 years.
Granny was married to Pop, and they did their best with the accepted parenting practices of the time. Every Friday when Pop came home from out-of-town work, Granny told him their two sons’ misdeeds of the week. He would take the boys, and occasionally my mischievous Aunt Jane, out to the woodshed for a licking. (I like to imagine that Pop and the kids sometimes staged some loud noises and crying to give the appearance that justice had been served.) I’m sure neither parent savored this routine; they just considered it as their duty to raise their children properly. Unlike Cliff and I, they never took their children on family trips – their car would not have held that many kids, in any case. The boys went off to fight WWII. Unlike many small town parents, Granny and Pop encouraged their girls to get an education.
Granny and Pop lived in a two-story brick house across the street from her parents’ home. By the time I knew them, they enjoyed a more relaxed life together. When my brother, cousins and I came to visit, we played dominoes and rummy on Granny’s kitchen table, while she told my mom stories about very ordinary things that happened at the market or during the last snowstorm. “Well, you know….” she would always start. I liked listening to her. And she always sent us birthday cards with checks.
Grandma Coleman had been a 21-year-old widow, returning back to rural Ohio from Arizona where her husband had died of tuberculosis. She had travelled across country by unheated train with no food service, three children under age five, her late husband’s corpse in the baggage compartment, and the $12 her neighbors collected for her trip at the start of the Depression. There on a hardscrabble farm, she began raising my dad and his two sisters alone.