If I were…

“She was just sixteen and all alone when I came to be.  So we grew up together…mama-child and me.  Now things were bad and she was scared, but whenever I would cry, she’d calm my fear and dry my tears with a rock and toll lullaby…” (1972) Rock And Roll Lullaby.  Recorded by:  B.J. Thomas.  Composers:  Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil.

With age, I have learned that…

If I were the teen who fought through a sexual assault, then carried an unwanted pregnancy, debating the heart’s choices, then allowing life to grow, I would be a spectacular teenager wise beyond my years.

If I were a parent who protected my newborn from assault and murder at the hands of the father, with a sacrificial unselfish front, I would be a medal of honor recipient.

If I were to end an abusive marriage, to defend and shield my innocent toddler, knowing there would be no child support, I would be a heroine authors would write about.

If I were a single parent constantly contending with the voices of psychological demons, chanting accusations of worthlessness, depreciation, and shame, all the while rising above it all to raise my child, I would be the dragon-slayer described in countless novels.

If I were to defeat my fear by moving into an uncharted world, away from family, to make a life for my young child, I would be a courageous warrior with monuments anointing the landscape.

If I were one who taught my toddler the true value of the gift of grandparents, I would be a brilliant educator with my name on the walls of universities.

If I were to faithfully read scripture to my young child each night, combined with the simplicity of personal prayer and church attendance, I would be a righteousness seeker with my statue erected by the world’s cathedrals.

If I were to seek out the finest pre-schools and kindergartens, in the attempt to assure my only child got a leg up, I would be a proactive parent to be noticed.

If I were to be rejected for loans and credit, due to being a single parent in the 1960’s, only to exercise faith while tackling a life of poverty with my head held high, I would be a fearless champion in my child’s eyes.

If I were to knock on every door to find a job waiting tables, or struggle with an overnight shift on an assembly line, I would be a humble workhorse of a provider for others to impersonate.

If I were to give away the opportunity to have a brilliant singing & recording career, just to be home with my child at the end of a hard night’s work, I would be self-sacrificing, worthy of a screenwriter’s time.

If I were to provide for my child after several lay-offs, by way of two or three jobs, I would be Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman combined, never being poor in spirit.

If I were to train my child well enough to leave him alone overnight, in order to work the graveyard shifts, I would be an example of a strong tower of faith.

If I were to work overtime to aid in the development of my elementary age child with raw musical abilities, by paying for piano, violin, guitar, and voice lessons, my portrait would hang in Carnegie Hall.

If I were to be a staunch, independent single parent, refusing financial aid from my parents, I would be wealthy of heart.

Mom & Me Granddad's Coin Box

From my granddad’s cedar coin box.  The two of us from 1969.

If I were to resist the temptation of suicide, while being beaten down by company lay-offs, Green Stamp submissions, and accepting government blocks of cheese, I would be a brave ferocious fighter for my child’s future.

If I were to support my teen’s sports and musical interests, which differ from mine, I would be a liberally devoted parent of love and understanding.

If I were to tirelessly stand up to my rebellious teenager, with the possibility of damaging our relationship, I would have attributes resembling the God of the Bible.

If I were to sit all alone in a church pew watching my child wed, I would have earned the vision of a soldier adorned in glistening armor after a long battle.

If I were to bless my grandchildren with my physical presence, my mind, as well as my heart, I would be worth my weight in gold.

Mom & Megan 1992ish

My mom with my middle daughter, Megan. (1992)

If I were to deny myself, for the betterment of my child, to the point of self-injury, while killing my own pursuits, and avoiding life’s trinkets that shine in the night, I would be Joan of Arc, Boudicca, Anne Sullivan, and Rosa Parks rolled into one.

If I were to be an example for my adult child, by being the caretaker of my aging parents, suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia, along with other elderly ones in my community, I would reflect what I have always been…a mountain of love, compassion, and selflessness.

If I were to describe a fictitious character from my own dreams, they could not come close to the one I have held in my heart for my entire life.

I don’t have to write the words “If I WERE…”  The reason being, I simply could never measure up.  The one described above is my mom, Carolyn Atherton-Brown.

Mom salon

I am her portrait.  I am her monument.  I am her novel.  I am her screenplay.  I am her statue.  I am her champion.  I am her armored soldier.  I am the medal of honor.

To be gracefully broken, brilliantly strengthened, and beautifully poised is to be one who drinks deeply from the well of fuel for the race.

“…As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord.  I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the Lord.  For his whole life he will be given to the Lord…” – The words of Hannah –   I Samuel 1:26b-28a (NIV)

 

 

Slippery Slopes

“…She was going way too fast.  Before she knew it she was spinning on a thin black sheet of glass.  She saw both their lives flash before her eyes.  She didn’t have time to cry.  She was so scared.  She threw her hands up in the air.  Jesus, take the wheel.  Take it from my hands. ‘Cause I can’t do this on my own.  I’m letting go…”  – Jesus, Take The Wheel, (2005)  Recorded by:  Carrie Underwood.  Composers:  Brett James, Gordon Sampson, Hillary Lindsey.

14 years ago, an old friend of mine, Jaylene Johnson, miraculously survived a severe crash.  (See her car above.)

She is a successful singer/songwriter/recording artist, Juno Award nominee and Covenant Award winner from Winnipeg, Canada.  To say she was exhausted at the end of a cross-Canada solo tour, would be an understatement.  With her heater blowing full throttle, as she was driving home after a heavy snowfall in North Western Ontario, she was eager to see her hometown.  Jaylene was negotiating the roads as well as could be expected.  There was a moment in time she thought maybe it was best to grab a hotel before they closed the highways, but that had yet to happen.  Her car was packed to the roof with her guitars, keyboard, sound equipment, promotional products, and luggage.  The only thing on her mind was the weather conditions bearing down on the route.  She is a cautious driver, well versed in winter driving, but the semis nipping at her bumper were not so careful.  The rear-view mirror became her friend.

jaylene johnson performing

Jaylene on-tour.  Photo:  Tim Hellsten

The last thing she recalls is the map.  She had made it just outside of Upsala, Ontario, in the Thunder Bay District, when all went dark.  (Some of the following details came from eyewitnesses, EMT’s & police reports, along with her own post-accident inquiry.)

Travelling westbound, she had reached the top of a ridge overlooking a valley below.  As she began to descend into the valley, she slipped on some unexpected black ice covering the highway, and lost control.  As her little vehicle slid across the highway, she hit a transport coming eastbound head-on.  When she came to in the wreckage, a stranger on the scene, named “Willie”, pulled her through a shattered window, held her hand, and covered her with his coat before the EMT’s arrived.  As she sobbed, he comforted her while stroking her hair as she laid there in shock.  Fast-forward, she spent the rest of the day on a back brace in a Thunder Bay hospital.  Her body was riddled with pieces of broken glass.

Back in 2004, I was doing a radio show in Buffalo, NY while she had just released her first major album.  At the time, it was rare for Canadian artists to get radio airplay on the USA side of the border, especially independent bands.  I wanted to change that trend in the corner where I was.  The station I worked for was operating with 110,000 watts, reaching well north of Toronto, generally all of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).  The signal stretched over the entire Western New York area, northwestern Pennsylvania, and some portions of Ohio.  There was too many stellar Canadian artists putting out top-shelf cuts, not being heard on the U.S. side.  My number one focus was quality writing, production, along with terrific vocals to debut south of the Canadian border.  However, it was under a global relief, development and advocacy banner where our roads converged.

World Vision International had approached the two of us to join their work in El Salvador, as part of an ad campaign for support.  We worked together there, alongside other Canadian artists, for a week or so.  I was doing live reports back to the radio station as I interviewed World Vision workers, as well as benefactors.  It was there Jaylene and I became friends in a much warmer climate.

me in el salvador with world vision 2004

Jaylene took this photo of an interview I was doing with a World Vision recipient through a World Vision interpreter.

After our trip, we kept in touch.  Jaylene graced my show, in studio, a couple of times when she was performing in the GTA or WNY.  Through the years I kept track of her tours and television appearances.

After hearing from her on the details of the accident, I grew concerned about her health in the wake of such trauma.  In the end, there was no need for concern on my part.  God took the wheel, indeed.

I’ve had my own experiences with icy paths.  When you believe you can negotiate the roads in that condition, caution and prep would be top priority.

Come to think of it, no matter what climate you travel through, icy roads can derail your life.  Do you know what I mean?  We can be living life as a smooth operator, no issues in sight.  Then suddenly, without warning, our feet come right out from under us.  Zero traction takes us by surprise.  We’re never really prepared for it.  Just when we think we are, “BOOM”, on our tailbone we go.  (And it’s always the tailbone, right?)  For some, it might be losing traction on funds and finances.  We might experience losing traction on world peace.  Maybe a loss in traction with our child, our health, our marriage, or our nation.  It happens.  Before you know it, we slide hard into a nearby ditch, off the trek we were to be on. Just like Jaylene’s shellacked pavement, the ice doesn’t have to be thick to cause a head-on collision.  We can find slippage on the invisible, and/or what we deem as non-threatening.  It’s a tragic mistake.  Some find slippery slopes that lead to life-ending results.  There are non-negotiables out there which can transport you to where you don’t want to be.

“…stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand….and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace…” – St. Paul, Ephesians 6. 

In Paul’s time, Roman soldiers were fitted into special sandals with studs on the soles, like cleats.  For me, my preference are my insulated snow-boots with cleats on the rubber soles.  Better yet, Paul indicates a true gripping.  It’s more like the spikes on a mountain climber’s boot.  Anyone who has ever fallen hard on the ice, or slid down a slippery slope in the winter, or did so in a social, political, or economic climate, would recommend cleats in decision making.  Just ask the citizens of Venezuela.  Unlike Jaylene, when driving in the ice on bald tires, your future is certain.

Prep all you want.  There’s always the God-factor outside of your own abilities and strength.  Have you been there?  Maybe you have and you didn’t truly take the time to consider it.

As for Jaylene’s ordeal, a couple of mysteries still hover.  One unsolved oddity surrounds “Willie”.  As she was being placed in the ambulance, she looked back for him.  He, and his coat, were gone.  No person at the scene could tell her who he was, where he came from , or where he went.  Plus, according to the reports, the shear impact from the head-on collision with the transport, and her small vehicle, was of tremendous force.  Yet, she walked out of the hospital, on her own power later the SAME DAY!  Just shocking.

Also, one of the EMT’s was familiar with her music from Canadian radio.  He went the extra mile after taking her to the hospital.  He went back to the scene and helped to retrieve her property from the wreckage, all on his own time.

Lasting effects remain with her, mostly psychological in nature.  To this day, Jaylene will tell you, she can’t seem to fully relax anymore.  Yet, she does see God’s hand in the incident on several levels.  So do I.

jaylene johnson promo Jaylenejohnson.COM

I’m proud to say she continues to write, record, and perform.  She’s now married and raising a family.

When in slippery, tight places, it goes better when fitted with the cleats of fuel for the race.

“For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.  They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.”  -Psalm 91:11-12 (NAS)

 

Tripped Triggers

Photo:  Skepchick

“…Inconsequential things occur.  Alarms are triggered.  Memories stir.  It’s not the way it has to be…”  Darkness (2002)  Written & recorded by:  Peter Gabriel

The following is really for my own therapy.  Do you type away to find some relief somewhere deep inside?  It’s probably more common than I imagine.  Really, I’m not sure if any inspiration can be gleaned from the below.  Maybe I’m wrong.

Humanity dictates that we must be surprised by certain sudden events, words, and actions.  There’s no mistake when we, sometimes out of the blue, look back and discover we have tripwires that have developed from our own personal history.  I am so grateful for the benign tripwires from innocent, wonderful, and good benchmarks from my past.  When those triggers are tripped, and I am flooded with memories delivered, it brightens my day.  In fact, I find myself smiling a lot more often in its aftermath.  Then, there are the inevitable triggers I would rather avoid altogether.  Those are of a unique brand, hidden like armed mines in the underbrush of my rocky, scarred past.  When the trigger is tripped, I can be swallowed up in its snare.

snare - prepperology.net

Photo:  Prepperology.net

You know the kind I speak of.  You never see it coming.  Am I right?  You’re walking along the path of your day when suddenly…SNAP & BOOM!

As Elvis sang, “I’m caught in a trap.  I can’t walk out…”

I’m sure if you are a psychologist, you could tell me how this happens.  You very well might be able to tell me how to disarm these triggers, these mines.  You might even explain to me why I become trapped for many days in that same uncomfortable position, unable to shake it off.  Nevertheless, I soak in it.  Are you that way, too?

See if this rings a bell of familiarity.  The trigger can be a word said, a certain look on someone’s face, a song, a movie, a photo, or a specific action.  Whether it flickers in a deja vu method, or it hits like a sweeping tsunami, it has the strength to wash you back to a past event you’ve been running from.  Pain happens.  Emotional injury takes place in an instant.  An injury for some, unfortunately even fatal for others.

'Cut the blue wire!'

Sure, there’s counseling for this.  I’m sure I need it.

I must be extremely careful with the following.  Names and details will be omitted because of the very personal nature.

A few days ago, one of my triggers was tripped.  Honesty suggests to me there is no way to blame the actor who walked into my scene and leveled a sincere, hurtful, and harmful line.  In fact, if there’s blame to be placed, I am the guilty one for not speaking up first concerning the very sensitive ground about to be tread.  Yep, that’s right.  I had some warning it was coming, but I thought I was strong enough to stand.  So in an indirect way, I opened the gate myself.  The act occurred, words were spoken, and I was slain.  To the onlooker, if there had been one, the event would’ve seemed rather innocent.  However, for me, the act, the words, the laughter rushed me back to a traumatic event in my life from March 4, 2014.  I could even give you the time of day when the personal earthquake shattered my world.  True trauma can cause time stamps in the noggin.  The event this week didn’t take much, as I was already broken.  It’s a brokenness Humpty Dumpty could identify with.  The act didn’t take even a day, an afternoon, or the length of a production of Les Miserables.  Yet, it was 90 minutes of hell for me.  The burns remain as I type this sentence.

I hate triggers.  Maybe I should say, I hate the bad memories, the old wounds that can be ripped opened by them.  Triggers are usually small, but the mechanism attached above the trigger, forces movements of gears and springs.  Not unlike the chime of a vintage clock.  Keep in mind, for a trigger to be tripped at all, it takes outside force against it.  This is important to note.  When these components are in motion, it releases the hammer, or striker, colliding with the firing pin, causing a detonation of a waiting ballistic shell in the chamber.  The result is an explosion of energy.  Such an ignition, moves, or pierces, anything in its projected path.  In my case, I was greatly displaced emotionally, heart pierced.

gun trigger unisci24.com

Photo:  unisci24.com

Okay, enough said.  Frankly, I am still reeling from the recent occurrence.

Please understand, I am all for healing.  Healing happens.  I just wish it would happen quicker than the norm.  Simply put, I like relief.  How about you?  I like resolution.  I like calm seas.  More importantly, my faith must remain strong in order to add the balm needed for this injury.  I’m not saying it’s easy to do.  In fact, if it were easy, we would all be living in a utopia where all things are new and pain-free.  Although I know it to be my future, I am not there yet.  If a true, lasting faith were without struggle, then what use is it?

The faith I exercise is based on Jesus, the Redeemer, the promised Messiah.  Scripture says he was familiar with sorrow and grief.  Literally speaking, it means he experienced sorrow and grief, like you and I do.  Understanding sorrow and grief is NOT enough.  Experiencing sorrow and grief allows one to have compassion for another who is stricken by the same.  There, in the mystery of faith, the darkened stained glass of faith, the fogginess of faith, is my resting place when crap happens.

So, for now, I TEMPORARILY wrestle in the wake of springs sprung.

Remembering the shackles have been unlocked is part of fuel for the race.

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”  Amazing Grace (1779)  Written by: John Newton