Marion Witte

August 13, 2018

The Tea Cups in Our Lives

Filed under: Thoughts — Marion Witte @ 12:00 am

I thought about the following story during a recent email exchange with my niece.  As a reminder to myself, and anybody else who may benefit from its reading, I think now is an appropriate time to re-share it with others.

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It was with more than a little trepidation that I slid into the front seat of my brother’s truck for the ride from my hotel to my mother’s house. I was in Fargo, North Dakota as part of a ten-day adventure to visit family and friends in the Midwest, and my daughter Angela was accompanying me on my journey back to my homeland. One of the goals of this trip was to say hello to my mother, or at least knock on her door in an attempt to find out if she was interested in talking to me. We had not spoken for eight years, and during that time I had published a book about my life and my childhood experiences on the farm on which I was raised. I assumed that she was not happy about the contents of my memoir, and so I expected that she may not answer the door, or perhaps she would slam it in my face. I had braced myself emotionally and mentally for either of those outcomes. What I had not prepared myself for were the events that would actually unfold.

My brother Frank also lives in Fargo, and he graciously offered to assist me in making the connection with my mother, by placing a telephone call to her to confirm that she was home. He asked my mother if he could stop over to take a look at something on her car, and I heard him tell her to make sure she was up and dressed. He said nothing to mom about me being in town.

My brother picked up my daughter and I at our hotel, and we made the short trip to my mother’s house. When we arrived, I exited his truck and stood in the driveway by the vehicle’s open door. My brother walked up to our mother’s front door and knocked on it. I saw it swing open, yet I did not immediately see my mother, as she remained inside. I heard him say to her “You won’t believe what the cat has drug in!” My mother stepped out, looked over at the truck, and then at me. A look of anguish came over her face, and I saw she was, to put it mildly, shocked. She hesitated for a moment, and then she proceeded down the sidewalk.

As the contorted look on her face started to gradually fade away, I focused more clearly on the almost 90-year-old woman walking towards me. I was struck at how much weight she had lost since I had last seen her, and the degree to which her face had aged. On the other hand, she was maneuvering quite well down the sidewalk towards me, so I was confused that this woman, with her life experiences now literally etched on her face, had maintained her physical health. This was all a bit disconcerting to me, and I was trying to take it all in as she approached the truck.

She stood directly in front of me, looking me squarely in eyes, making no further movement. I took the initiative to make the first move, and I reached over and put my arms around her and hugged her. Then I said something that I do not ever remember saying to her – “I love you, Mom.” She reacted to neither the hug nor my words, and I released my hold.

At that moment, Angela got out of the truck, and my mother went over to her, and gave her a hug. Obviously still flustered, she said “Well, I guess we should go inside.”

We all proceeded to enter her small condominium and Angela and I took our seats on the couch and she sat in her recliner. My brother then surprised me by saying, “You know, I have some errands to do, so I will pick you up in a couple of hours.” I was stunned at his words, and at first I was a little miffed. Then I reminded myself that it was me that wanted this experience, and I settled into our visit, leaving myself open to whatever was about to occur.

My mother was very talkative, and much of the conversation revolved around her life and what she was doing. She brought me up to date on what was happening with the relatives, her friends and the church. She spoke to Angela, and I paid attention as they engaged in conversation. For my part, I listened to my mother, and I answered any questions she posed to me. Our conversation was cordial and light, and we did not talk about the past, nor was any mention made of my book.

My mother stated that she was getting her affairs in order, and I commented that it was always good to have things set up the way you want them to be. I could tell from her comments that she has reached a point in life where she is divesting herself of her personal possessions. She offered me a box of old photographs that she had collected over the years, and I accepted them as graciously as I could, and said I would go through them when I got back to California. She asked Angela to pick out some teacups and saucers from her collection in the dining room china cabinet, as a remembrance of her. Angela chose two that appealed to her, and my mother was delighted when my daughter told her she was going to put them beside the vases she received from her other grandmother.

Then my mother asked me to pick out two sets of cups and saucers for myself. Almost instantly, the little three-year old girl still inside of me started to tell me she did not want anything from this person! So, in an attempt to appease that child-like part of myself, I declined the tea cups and gave my mother the excuse that they were fragile, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to get them back home safely on the plane. I watched my mother’s lighthearted expression change when I made that comment. At that moment, a piece of advice that I am accustomed to giving others came into my consciousness, and it immediately altered my thinking and the mood. I heard my mind silently speaking to me as it said “It is better to make the choice to be kind, instead of always needing to be right.” My mother was offering me a gift, and if I was going to walk my talk, I needed to take the higher road of gratitude and acceptance.

I selected two sets of pastel cups and saucers, each decorated with the variety of a flower that you would find in a Midwest garden. As I held them up to look more closely at each one, I noticed how delicate they were. I also chuckled to myself as I wondered how long it had been, since the age of Starbucks and Coffee Bean, that anyone had used a saucer. I thought about the hundreds of cups of coffee they held and the various people who had enjoyed the porcelain decorations. As I examined them, I realized that they had held their beauty, even when most people would no longer consider them useful. A lot like we treat people, I thought!

My brother returned, two hours later, and suggested we all go out to dinner (they call it supper in the Midwest!). My mother was delighted to be asked, so we journeyed off to their favorite barbecue rib place, where I ate way too much food!

We drove back to my mother’s condo to drop her off after dinner, and I got out of the truck to walk her up the pathway, and make sure she got the front door unlocked and opened. As she was about to go in, I wrapped my arms around her and once again said “No matter what happened, I love you Mom.” She was silent, although she hugged me back.

And then, as I was walking down the sidewalk towards my brother’s truck, I heard my Mother’s voice calling out after me. “Marion,” she said, “This was a great day.”

For a split second, I thought about responding, yet my instincts told me to stay silent, for everything that needed to be said has been said. I turned around, smiled and waved goodbye.

I sat in silence in the front seat of the truck as my brother drove us to the hotel, and I pondered what has just transpired. I thought about my mother and her last comment. Before this trip, I was pretty sure my mother was wrong about anything of importance. My thinking was altered during this visit, as I now knew she was right about at least one thing.

Indeed, it was a great day!

 

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November 20, 2016

Who Is That Person?

Filed under: Thoughts — Marion Witte @ 12:13 pm

1974-gloria-steinem-yearsI haven’t been on Facebook for about six months now and, amazingly, I have discovered that I am not really missing anything of importance.  And so, I did not know that my daughter, Angela, had posted a tribute to me on her Page.  She has become an activist in her own way, and is a strong supporter of women’s rights – a topic she knows is near and dear to my heart, and the reason she posted this article.  I am so proud of the young idealist she has become.

I want to share her kind words with you.

And please enjoy the picture she included of me from the 1970s, in my Gloria Steinem look-alike outfit!

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Angela Scaletta Facebook Page – November 8, 2016

In 1969 my mom graduated college first in her class, completing her education in 3 years and becoming one of the youngest CPA’s in the U.S.

She served as president of the National Association of Accountants and the American Society of Women Accountants. She is an honoree of Who’s Who in American Business Women and is recognized as an expert witness by the Federal court system.

After leaving an international public accounting firm, she served as the Executive Vice President for one of the largest tour operators in the upper Midwest. Since I’ve known her, she’s formed a computer consulting business, a real estate development company, a CPA firm, and a publishing company.

She is a published author, public speaker, president of a child advocacy foundation and a Court Appointed Special Advocate.

And she is currently battling through her second bout of breast cancer.

Every day, I am proud to be her daughter.

She’s taught me there’s nothing I can’t do if I want it badly enough. She’s taught me to always be myself and to always surround myself with others who support me. I am thankful for women like her who get up every day and power through adversity and negativity because they see a brighter future ahead.

I. Am. With. Her.

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April 11, 2016

Heaven Got Another Angel

Filed under: Thoughts — Marion Witte @ 11:46 pm
Cheryl-portrait

Cheryl

There’s another angel in heaven right now, as my friend Cheryl Dawson Castillo makes her way to the next stop on her spiritual journey.  She lived 59 years on this earth, yet she had a much older soul.

Cheryl lived in my guest house for two years in the mid-1990s, and it was due to her guidance, and sometime her firm hand, that I learned many lessons. She taught me to listen more to my heart, and she helped me to open up to my intuitive capabilities. And mostly she taught me how to play. Cheryl could predict future events (or so she said), a talent I was very skeptical about when I first encountered her. When my daughter was 12, Cheryl told me Angela would be leaving our house to start a new life on her own in a couple of years. I thought she was downright crazy, and I remember getting very upset with her at the time for telling me such a ridiculous story.

In spite of our different approaches to life, we had grand adventures together. One road trip had us visiting various sites in Arizona and New Mexico. As we left the Desert, we stopped to see my friends at Chiriaco Summit, and they gave us each a souvenir 50-gallon hat to wear on our adventure. I wasn’t sure where we would use them, although I knew they would come in handy at some point. They were so big, it was impossible to wear them in the car, so most of the time they were stowed away in the back end of the Jeep, where they took up most of the storage area.

One of our stops was at the quaint little mining town of Jerome, Arizona, where the streets, and some of the floors in the buildings, slant downhill. This town had a real cowboy vibe to it, so we put on our 50-gallon hats and entered one of the local bars to get something to eat. We had to go in the swinging doors sideways to keep our hats on. At that time, I was a smaller white woman and Cheryl was an abundant, sassy black woman. To say that we got stares, as we navigated the downward slanting floor in our obscenely large hats, would be a gross understatement. It was a blast, since both of us actually liked making people a little uncomfortable and getting them out of their comfort zone.

We stayed at The Enchantment Hotel in Sedona, an area of Arizona that Cheryl loved, and where her life would ultimately end. Visiting the Painted Desert in the Petrified Forest, being tourists in Santa Fe and meeting the people at the Taos Pueblo were highlights of that adventure.

On another trip, I rented a suite in Newport Beach, where I was working on a book, and Cheryl came to inspire me. OK, that’s not really true. She came to play. The facility was a lovely refurbished older hotel located directly on the water. Cheryl complained every morning that there were a lot of male ghosts coming and going out of her room at night, and there was very high sexual energy. As usual, I rolled my eyes and thought “Yeah, right.” At the end of our stay, as we were checking out, the clerk asked how we liked our rooms. Cheryl relayed the story about the comings and goings in her room, as I looked on with chagrin. The clerk said, with an absolute straight face, “Well that makes sense. The room you were in was one of the old brothel suites in the hotel.” Cheryl looked over at me with that “I told you so” look. Nothing more needed to be said.

Cheryl moved from my home to Catalina Island to marry the love of her life, George. They held a beautiful ceremony on the bluff overlooking the Avalon Harbor, and Cheryl was radiant, both inside and out. Sadly, we all returned three years later for George’s memorial service, when he passed away from brain cancer. Cheryl wrote about her love affair with George in a story titled “Love Lost and Found,” which is published in one of my books, Courage of the Soul.

Cheryl-Sedona

Cheryl in Sedona

Cheryl died in Sedona, Arizona. She let me know the last time we spoke that she was happier than she had been in a long time.

She was an avid traveler, and she loved to cook – mostly because she loved to eat! She adored her sister, Robin, and she loved her Mom and Dad. And she felt a special kinship with her nephew Brandon. She saw that inner spark in him (that perhaps others missed) and she had great hopes for the light that he would ultimately bring into the world.

I will miss you, my soul sister and my earthly angel.  I know you are in Heaven’s hands.

And by the way, two years after Cheryl moved to Catalina, my daughter approached me, at age 13, with the request that she be allowed to move away and go to a boarding high school in Claremont, California.

Cheryl had obviously wanted to prepare me for that inevitable event, and I know that was a large part of why I was able to let Angela go.

Yeah, Cheryl was right again!

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January 3, 2016

Finding the Pony in the Pony Shit

Filed under: Thoughts — Marion Witte @ 12:42 am

For many people, myself included, 2015 was a challenging year. Losses, heartbreaks, health issues, financial difficulties and various trials seem to have occurred with more frequency than they have in the past.  In an effort to “find the pony in the pony shit,” I have been thinking about my personal challenges, and what I learned from them.

Crazy Neighbor:

The Pony Shit – It was a first for me to have a neighbor call the authorities to file a police report against me.  I thought I was actually part of an Ashton Kutcher “punk” when I opened the door to a man in dressed in a Ventura Police Department uniform.  He was following up on a complaint from the elderly lady down the hall.  It had been reported that I had taken her keys, and then broken into her condo at 3:00 in the morning, where I sprinkled itching powder on her and her dog.  This was the latest in a series of bizarre behaviors on her part, including two months of her knocking on my door at all hours to get back the keys I took, and standing outside my door trying to peer in the peep hole.  I had filed complaints with my landlord, the homeowners association and adult protective services – to no avail.

The Pony:  Thank you Maggie, for giving me the final straw I needed to move.  I found a safe, secure place to live, where my neighbors are kind and helpful – and not crazy.  And by the way – where does one get itching powder, if that even exists???

My Beloved Car:

The Pony Shit – Towanda, my loyal 1999 Toyota Avalon, finally gave up the goods in May. She served me well for 16 years, until finally too many things were breaking down, and it wasn’t worth the cost of repairing them.  Much like me.  It was hard to say goodbye, for she had become my long-term travelling companion.

The Pony – I purchased a used Toyota Rav4 in a beautiful ocean blue color, with only 28,000 miles on it. It feels like new to me. And my loyal sidekick let me know that she didn’t have any hard feelings when I “put her down,” as she let me take the plates off with her name, and put them on the new car!

CASA Service:

The Pony Shit – I completed my first year of service as a CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate), where we advocate for children in the foster care system. I had no idea how demanding and sometimes thankless this work could be. On many occasions we get little respect, and we are often discounted and ignored.  People ask me how I like it, and I tell them it is the hardest, most demanding job I have every had – and to top it off you don’t get paid.

The Pony – Someone has to do this work, for these are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. What has become very clear to me is what happens to children when they don’t get the love they deserve at an early age.  And more importantly, I have learned how giving them that love can change the direction of their life.

Friends:

The Pony Shit – I had several issues with “friends,” some of the situations being very painful. I have learned that individuals who only come around when it suits them, or who demand that things should always be done their way, leave me feeling marginalized and unloved.

The Pony – It took going through these situations to realize that good relationships demonstrate a solid balance of compromise and mutual respect. I will be looking for more of these in 2016, and leaving the former type behind.

A Drummer’s Death:

The Pony Shit – And on the last day of the year, my friend Michael, a drummer in the band Iron Butterfly, decided to leave the planet.  He died.

The Pony – He was a good guy, and a good musician, and I was lucky to be able to see his last performance this summer. I found a copy of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida on ITunes, and I blast it out of my computer speakers. That’s the best farewell I could give him, as I also take the time to remember how short life truly is.

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And so here’s to a productive, creative 2016, with less drama and trauma than the year before.

And may all your ponies be beautiful – and may the little piles they leave behind be sweet-smelling!

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June 30, 2015

Inside Out – A Must See Movie!

Filed under: Thoughts — Marion Witte @ 12:12 am

 

Inside Out

As a Court-Appointed Special Advocate, I see a lot of G-rated and PG movies with my foster kids.  Those adventures have become one of the unexpected rewards of this program.

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing “Inside Out” and I can truly say it is one of the most amazing movies I have seen in years.  It is one of those special creations that only Disney/Pixar can produce.  It is billed as appealing to children, and I can truly say, from my personal experience, that it spoke to that little girl still inside of me.

I went with a 10-year old foster girl, and we kept looking at each during the movie.  I think we were trying to see what feelings it was bringing up in each of us.  The movie centers on the issue that we all have a variety of emotions, and it is OK to acknowledge them.  The main characters are Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust.

At the end of the movie, she asked me if I liked it, and I started to gush about it.  I posed the same question to her, and she smiled and replied that she also loved the movie.  I went on to ask which character she liked the best, and she responded “Sadness.”  I felt my own Sadness come up when I heard her words, until she went on to explain why.

She informed me that “I also liked Joy, but how can you know what Joy is, unless you know what Sadness is.”

I became totally speechless, for there is nothing an adult can add to these words of wisdom.

Kudos to the everyone at Disney for creating this educational, inspiring and conscious work of art.  See this movie and you will find out what I am talking about!

 

 

 

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April 20, 2013

How To Create Fear-Driven Events

Filed under: Thoughts — Marion Witte @ 12:36 am

— Layer the following ingredients:

– A large dose of fear
– Anger fueled by misunderstanding
– Vitriolic dialogue spewed by the cable news networks
– A huge helping of bigotry
– Several pinches of prejudice
– A healthy portion of ignorance
– More anger and more fear, to taste

— Toss the above ingredients

–Sprinkle more fear on top layer

— Place the above mixture on a fire built from righteous indignation

— Allow the media to fuel the flames with inflammatory rhetoric

— Wait for explosion to happen

— Be shocked when it occurs!

Only known antidote to this poisonous concoction is equal portions of LOVE, COMPASSION and UNDERSTANDING

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March 23, 2013

My Newest Hero – A Man Before His Time!

Filed under: Thoughts — Marion Witte @ 12:27 am

The great masters who walked this planet often delivered their messages well before the world was ready to receive them. I think one of them was Buckminster Fuller, also known as Bucky.

Thank you, Mr. Fuller, for the advice you gave us, which remains so relevant today.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete” — Buckminster Fuller

“There are three kinds of people in the world — those who are asleep, those who are stirring, and those who are awake. If you try to wake up the sleeping person, he will just mumble and go back to sleep. If you wake up the stirring person, he will wake up just long enough to curse you and then go back to sleep. Instead of trying to wake them up, if you come across someone who is asleep or stirring, what you should do is fluff their pillow, tuck them in, and kiss them on the forehead. The important joy for those who are awake is to seek each other out, connect with others who are awake, talk, sing and celebrate together. This will create a groundswell of awareness. As this groundswell increases and spreads out, it will awaken the stirring and will begin to stir those who are still sleeping.” — Buckminster Fuller

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June 4, 2011

My Brother’s Hands

Filed under: Thoughts — Marion Witte @ 12:03 am

Frankie and Marion

Frankie and Marion

I don’t remember my brother holding on to me as we sat on the steps of our old farmhouse. The picture of the two of us would suggest that he was protecting me from falling off the landing. I think it also reveals some sort of special bond, or perhaps an unspoken secret between us.

My Hero

I have a vague memory of my brother holding my hand as we stood on the sidewalk outside our great-aunt’s home in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He seems to be holding me back from racing ahead to some unknown danger on that street. Or perhaps it was from some personal danger that he knew all too well.

The next time I remember holding my brother’s hands was decades later, as we danced at his son’s wedding. He had developed farmer’s hands, weathered and calloused from years of working the soil, repairing machinery and enduring the bitter weather of North Dakota. It is not difficult to discern his occupation, for he wears it on his hands.

This spring, five years after that wedding, we were sitting at his kitchen table. No steps outside to sit on, no sidewalks to race down, no dance steps to follow. Now it was my turn to be the hand-holder, as I attempted to stop the tremors which neither he nor his medication seemed able to control. I gently reached over and patted his hand. I knew that my touch was but a temporary respite from the uncontrollable movements. The truth was, I was really making an attempt to let him know that I understood.

I find myself pondering why my brother was one of those unfortunate men who get Parkinson’s disease way too early in life. I have researched this illness, and discovered that its exact cause is undetermined, although theories suggest a link to genetic predisposition or perhaps an exposure to the many chemicals that are used by those in the field of agriculture.

I wonder about these things, as I have wondered about a lot of things the last few years. I do know that some little children, who experience things that no little child should experience, are forced to keep quiet and be still.

Lately I wonder if there is a time when the hands of those little children can no longer obey such a command.

I love you, Frankie.

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December 22, 2010

Intentions are Worthless Without Action

Filed under: Thoughts — Marion Witte @ 3:43 am

As this year draws to a close, many of us are beginning to establish our goals for the upcoming year (what we want to accomplish) and starting to set our intentions for the future (who we want to become). There are many good books available about the goal-setting process, although material about intention-setting is more difficult to find.

For sake of discussion, let’s assume that a person sets their intention for the upcoming year to live their life with a higher level of integrity. There are many definitions of that particular quality, and these are some I pulled out of the literature:

Having sound moral principles

Living life in a state of honesty, including interactions with others

Exhibiting wholeness of character

Correlating our actions with our spoken words

I would imagine that each of us would add our own criteria, and I did this with my personal list. I learned a lot about integrity and the lack thereof, because for years I did not live my life with integrity, although I so professed it to be one of my qualities. I have come to believe that lack of integrity, and especially dishonesty, may be a natural by-product of addiction and abuse. Now, many years later, because of what I learned as I examined my life, I can detect lack of integrity in myself, and oftentimes others, the same way I can detect bull-shit on a farm.

We can write our intentions down in our journal, tell them to a friend or a group of friends, post them as a status update on Facebook, or make them part of our mission statement. These are some excellent first steps.

But none of those actions matter unless we are willing to walk the walk, for words have no power to carry out our intentions unless they are backed up with intentional actions. What we say is worthless – how we act is priceless.

No justifying. No excuses. No enabling.

Here’s to your personal intentions in 2011 and beyond, and to all of getting closer to becoming that total person, inside each of us, that is waiting to blossom. The best of luck to all!

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