has resulted in multitudes of blessings for me. I am presented with the gift of unwrapping personal, heartfelt, unabashedly brave narratives and chronicles that my unbelievable friends have chosen to provide. I have concluded that storytelling is one way to guarantee our immortality. I have stories of my parents, grandparents and I am lucky to have stories from great-grandparents that I have and will continue to share with my son and hopefully he with his own children creating oral and written documentation of all of our existences and impacts. With each story that my friends have shared, a piece of all of our history remains. Thank you all for trusting me with your personal history and legacies! Now, introducing Barbara…
Kim asked me to give some thought to commenting on her blog… and I am humbled and quite frankly, astounded that she would think I have something of value to say to her readers. I will let you judge for yourselves.
I was named Barbara Ann at birth (over 65 years ago, a big name in the 50s) and called Barby by my family – notice the spelling? Then in 1958 the Barbie doll arrived and I decided to change my spelling, assuming folks would think of me as that lovely doll. That worked fine until puberty when all pretense of looking like that early icon of womanhood was cast aside by one look in the mirror. So I returned to Barby and carried on without a backward look. Well, until the song, “Barbara Ann” which captivated my imagination for a bit; and of course, Barbra Streisand made another impact on my name spelling. By the time I went to college, I had returned to just Barbara and often Barb (although I have never introduced myself by anything other than Barbara).
You are probably getting a sense of my vivid imagination – which shows up over and over and over almost every day – even now. I am pretty sure I would have been the poster child for ADHD in the 1950s and 60s, had there been such a thing. Instead, I was labeled as lively, imaginative, chatty and somewhat of a rascal. To this day, my 94 year old Dad feels quilty and says, “Oh Barby, we spanked you so often”… which has no merit as far as I am concerned since I always knew there were consequences for any behavior, and accepted the simple swats on my fanny as the price to pay for my miscreant maneuverings.
By the way, I spent the first 15 years of my life in York, Pennsylvania, as the middle daughter of a “Leave It to Beaver” type of family. My baby brother came along when I was a teenager. My Mother and Dad were (and still are) loving, kind, family centered and deeply caring people. Our household was filled with good times, firm expectations, fair rules and the aforementioned consequences, both good and not so good.
We were all expected to be good examples of fairness, honesty, and good character…. And despite our various attempts at stepping over the line, I can truly say my parents did a wonderful job of showing us all how to live that way. The prevailing ideals in our home were shown to us everyday in every way. I am very grateful for that as it set a standard for my life that I continue to try to maintain.
Both my parents lived a life of service to others – not in the “get-a-plaque-with-your-name-on-it” kind of way, but in the simple everyday things they do to make a little impact on those around them. My Dad has never walked through a shopping center without going out of his way to return an abandoned cart to its rightful place. My mother will stoop to pick up a piece of trash anywhere she spots it. Once when my Dad noticed that a young woman with an infant having to take her baby in the car without a proper car seat, he purchased one for her – no strings attached. I saw these selfless actions as the routine way to live one’s life. The rewards of these small actions are endless… a personal natural anti-depressant that changes one’s world view.
Early on I decided to become a teacher. I LOVED school and especially my special seat beside the teacher in almost every grade right through middle school. I even got to correct the spelling tests with my own red pencil. It struck me one day as I was teaching in my own elementary classroom, that my “special” seat and attention from all those teachers had a reason – keep the rascal occupied. Those many teachers corralled my interest and energy in a very loving way. I was a pretty good student – until hormones and high school had to fight for my scattered attentions.
College was a fun-filled experience with all the opportunities to try to fail or try to succeed. I was a pretty tame co-ed, especially by the standards of the 1970s. The Age of Aquarius was mostly just a song for me, but I did have some striped bell bottom pants that would make Cher proud.
I met my husband of 45 years while in college and although I probably chose him for all the wrong reasons (tall, handsome, football player, smooth talker), I must have felt his deeper value unconsciously. Phew! I witness the same spirit of giving in him that I hold so dear. Our two daughters are the most precious gift I have ever received – and like every mother, I have no way to express just how deeply they have enriched my life and continue to do so. I am one lucky girl.
So by now you must be rolling your eyes and be ready to quit this blah, blah, blah… Please don’t give up yet. I have just described the most positive experience of my life – a loving, caring, family who laid a great foundation for decision making and attitude adjustment, a love of helping and teaching, and striving to do better.
Now to address the challenges of my life, and how those experiences test me.
As you may have figured, my family is the most important thing in my life. Leaving them behind was and is the most challenging thing that I have ever done. Through the course of my adult life, with the exception of my husband, I have physically moved many times, always farther and farther away from all of my family. Parents (both still living), sisters, brother, daughters, grand daughters and life long friends are all scattered by life’s wayside, all held dear in my heart and not nearly often enough in my arms. The emptiness left inside me is a challenge to fill.
With each change in my location, came the challenge to find a new fit, a new way to connect and fill my life with meaning. It was and continues to be a struggle for me.
Over the years, I have learned to fill the longing for the connection to my dearest ones with service to others. Finding ways to be positive, to teach and share with others in my life. In my career(s) – remember, we moved many times – I always sought positions that allowed me to teach and serve others. I found personal fulfillment as a classroom teacher, a library assistant, a card shop worker, a preschool teacher, a bank teller, an assembly line worker, a bank loan officer, a technology teacher, a corporate trainer, a hospital volunteer, and more. In every capacity, I found that the people I worked with and the people I served filled my desire for connections and meaning.
Professionally and personally, I strive to make a positive impact on everyone that I meet. In my experience, looking for ways to make a positive impact is simple… I talk to everyone, I listen to others, I try to find a way to bring a smile or a helping hand and of course, I look for that abandoned shopping cart and return it to the store!
Do I sound like Mary Poppins? Hardly. Inside I am often grumpy and sad, but I do find that helping others to be happier rebounds back to me many-fold.
Admittedly, I have had a very lucky life… at least on the surface. But that luck is earned, not given freely. I firmly believe that consciously looking for the good and positive things in everyday life will show you that it is all around you.
I think the idea “You will find what you are looking for” perfectly explains how one can choose a path. If you are looking for the bad, it is all around you – and conversely, looking for the good reveals an abundance of that, too. If you search for the little ways to make a difference for someone else you will be happier for it. Look that cashier in the eye and say hello, ask a question about someone’s life and listen to the answer, pick up some trash, pay for the next person’s donut, tell that stranger that they have some toilet paper on their shoe (or just step on it for them – I did that today and it cracked me up!)…you get the idea.
Choose for yourself, every day, every time, with every action and when you find that your view is becoming clouded with despair, dig deeper and look harder. Change your attitude and direction. It is your choice – always.
One of my favorite quotes – which exemplifies this idea is from Maya Angelou
“If you walk up a path and you look ahead and you don’t like where you’re going, and you look back and you don’t want to return, step off the path. Pick yourself a brand new road.”
The challenge for me and what keeps me moving forward each day, is finding the good, the kind, the positive in all that I do.
If I have to choose just one sentence of words to live by… again Maya Angelou sums it up nicely.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
For dear Kim, you (her readers) and myself, I hope our challenges are few and will be overwhelmed by positive thoughts and actions as we look for the good and ways to share it.