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A Noble Profession

May 19, 2013 12 comments
A5

©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

“….He doesn’t know what lies ahead

But he’s always willing to try,

And he hopes he’s always alert to hear

The sounds of a little child’s cry…”

~ Walter J. Hall

This weekend a local firehouse had a party and invited a few close friends.

Many came on foot but most rolled into town, all donning their Sunday Best. They were sparkling and shiny and ready to party!

Pride and dignity accompanied them.

They came to help our Hughsonville Fire Company celebrate 100-years of service. One-hundred-years. It was a sight to behold, one that stirred emotion and awe; something you may only have the opportunity to see once-in-a-life-time, at a centennial celebration.

Among the rolling revelers were The Beast, The Beast from the East, Big Mother II, Foam Boy and Always Ready

The Beast

The Beast
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

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The Beast From The East
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

Big Mother II

Big Mother II
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

Foam Boy

Foam Boy
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

Always Ready

Always Ready
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

On hand and in honor of this celebration were a few “old-timers” as well…

Old Timer

Old Timer
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

1952

1952
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

Millbrook

Millbrook
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

The trucks were impressive. The men and woman were inspirational. Are admirable. Often the first to respond to an emergency scene, Firefighters arrive ready to react. These men and women endure rigorous training and are expected to maintain a calm demeanor in the face of crisis, instantly assess a situation and make sound decisions on how to proceed. Many of them do this on a volunteer basis and do not get paid.

Who chooses such a physically demanding career that requires rock-solid resolve and the ability to summon a courage that surmounts all traces of fear in a moment’s notice?

They are the moms and dads at any given PTA meeting, the neighbor who keeps odd hours, a friend whose always working on the weekends. She might be your sister or a cousin. He could be your son or …

My nephew, Peter. ©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

My nephew, Peter.
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

…my nephew.

Whoever they are in your life, be grateful they are in your life.

One day, they may save your life.

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Art ~ Norman Rockwell

Categories: Art, Culture, Family, Gratitude, Life Tags:

Common Threads

March 24, 2013 9 comments

CommonThreads

About a week ago, I spoke on a Victim’s Impact Panel.

Somehow I ended up speaking last. For the past two and a half years, each time before this time, I spoke first. Not that it matters what order we go in. It’s just how it’s been. And even though going first was the same experience before, there’s always a different kind of vibe to being in front of this room-full of offenders. The first time was scary, kind of like having an out-of-body experience. Surreal. I was fixated and fascinated by the men and women who sat before me. I knew I was speaking but I couldn’t really hear myself. Six months later, the numbness had worn off. My wounds resurfaced and there was anger in my words. The anger stayed with me for the third time as well. Time I have discovered does indeed heal wounds but it does not take them away, completely.

After that, I realized in having their undivided, mandatory attention, if I could manage to get over myself and my hurt, maybe I could seize the opportunity and convey a message. One that might say something like…

“Hey, you had no right to do what you did!” with composure and conviction instead of anger.

So that’s what I did.

There’s a certain kind of pressure that comes with going first though that leaves you wishing you had said ‘this or that’ by the time it’s over but this time, I spoke last.

This time, I began with the words “I’m blessed, because I am. In so many ways.

Being the last to speak gave me the opportunity to really hear the others’ stories in a way that I hadn’t before, even though I had.

After hearing the other women panelists’ speak, I realized in comparison, how truly blessed I was to be in the company of such courage. I also realized how truly blessed my family is. We did not suffer physical assault. We were not beaten like the two brothers that were jumped for their iPods on their way home from school and ended up in the hospital. There was no loss of limb like the carpenter whose thumb was taken from him by a machetes-wielding, teenage boy who pushed his way into his home looking for his daughter. There was no rape; no loss of life. For us there was a repeated home-invasion over a period of several months, there was, the not knowing who or why for so long, but our obvious losses were only material ones.

This time despite how different our stories are I set aside the details and through all of our anguish, heard the common threads.

Fear. Stress. Anger.

We are bonded by these common threads that continue to reappear in our lives as a result of the actions of another human being. We are all still trying to pick up and put together some of the broken pieces of our lives.

So, yes,I am blessed” I said,

BUT…

“…the tentacles of your crimes extend further than you can see. Further than you can imagine. Further than I ever imagined they would continue to go even after you were arrested.”

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And still, they reach.

No matter how far we move away, or how much we move on, no matter how long it’s been or how incredibly, fiercely, strong we have become, the domino effects of what you did lingers in the lives we live today.

Fractured families.

We all have them, now. Once, we were whole, in a way; in our own livable way but what you did served to sever that. We became unraveled. All of us have children that were affected. All of us felt helpless when it came to protecting them. This is the saddest common thread of all. All of our families are fractured now. Alcoholism. Separation. Divorce. Suicide. Everyone copes differently with any given circumstance. When a tragic event occurs, some of us find the strength to keep moving forward. Some of us get stuck and can’t move forward. Some of us never will.

My message this time was that your actions affect other people – hugely—in ways you can’t even begin to imagine.

Think.

At that moment in time, when you did what you did, you couldn’t possibly have thought ahead, to what your behavior then, might bring two or three or five years down the road. There is no way you considered how many lives; children, families would be negatively effected by your deeds. If you had stopped and thought about it, even just a little, maybe, oh, just maybe, you would not have done what you did.

Bryan Quain unlawfully in my home #1

©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

Bryan Quain unlawfully in my home #2

©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

Bryan Quain unlawfully in my home #3

©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

I’m blessed it’s true, to be bonded to these women who continue to be a power of example to me, who continue to help me move forward in gratitude.

Related Posts: My Edward,  Life’s Terms – Not Mine, Unsolicited Journey

Photo Credits #1 & 2 Google Images

Castles In The Sky

January 27, 2013 18 comments

Castle1

Take your sword and your shield
There’s a battle on the field
You’re a knight and you’re right
So with dragons now you’ll fight…

Fairytales live in me
Fables coming from my memory
Fantasy is not a crime
Find your castle in the sky 

~ Dj Satomi

Wasn't it just yesterday that they were building castles in the sand?

Nothing contents a mother’s heart like the distant sound of chatter or laughter coming from the place where her children are playing. And nothing jump-starts a mother’s heart like the sudden shriek of discord coming from the place where her children are playing.

Sibling relationships are complicated. Mysterious. Maybe that’s because most siblings are polar opposites.

So, while it’s true that the work of children is play, it may also be said that the work of siblings is rivalry.

In a loving way of course.

Because aside from our parents, they are our first introduction to love.

love1

They’re also our first introduction to conflict.

playmate

They are our first playmates.

playmateB

And our first best friend.

July2005

Yep. Since the age of dawn or shortly there-after, let’s say since the days of Cain and Abel anyway, sibling rivalry has been a mainstay in family dynamics. It certainly was in mine and it is for my kids. I’m always suspect when people tell me they never rivaled in some way with their siblings growing up. Really? I can’t imagine what that’s like.

It’s not a bad thing; sibling rivalry. It’s a natural thing. Siblings are practice people. They help us understand who we are and let us know how we’re perceived by others. They help us find our limits and our boundaries. And when they’re not rivaling with us, they teach us about friendship.

Siblings get the first glimpse of our future through the dreams we share with them. They are lifetime confidants, the only ones who really understand the inner workings of their unique family dynamic. It’s the bond that keeps them together and tears them apart. The relationship between siblings is fickle. It can be fractured by the slightest of provocations just as easily as it can be mended by a few soft-spoken, intentional words.

castle 001

If you let them, they will build it.

They might even build it together.   ~ Kavst

Little do they know, while it definitely gets easier as they grow up, it also gets harder.

It’s complex.

Siblings. They are the keeper of each others’ secrets. The holder of one another’s dreams and may they always, always help each other build their castles in the sky.

castle 034

Photo Credits #1-8: ©2013 KarenSzczukaTeich & Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

Shaking-Up The Apple Tree!

October 14, 2012 7 comments

I’ve been known to shake-up the apple tree — on occasion.

My kids do too.

Every now and then.

After all….

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

So “they” say.

Actually, “they” are right. The apple, when it falls, usually lands right below the tree or very close to it anyway and if it sits there too long, without being picked up and taken home to be turned into a delicious pie, turn-over, sauce or eaten as is, it gets mushy and eventually stomped on and smushed. I know this to be true because I spent a glorious afternoon at Barton Orchards, picking apples with my family last weekend.

We’re blessed here in the Northeast with fantastic, fall foliage, spectacular autumn views and orchards open to the public for picking farm-fresh, delicious eats. Like cutting down your very own Christmas tree in December, it’s tradition around these parts, at this time of year, to pick-a-pumpkin, grab a gourd or avalanche a cascade of apples into your bag with a few good shakes of the tree.

Not only does Barton Orchards in Poughquag, NY offer palatable produce for the pickin’, they also have a petite petting zoo and playground, a crazy corn maze, walking trails, a bouncy house, live entertainment, magnificent mums, amazing apple-cider doughnuts, smiles galore and quality time with your kids. For the older goblins in your group, you can go for the scare, if you dare and take a tour of the Rotten Core Manor.  There’s something for everyone!

I love spending time with my kids but as they get older, it gets a little harder finding something we can all enjoy doing. This was a fun-filled, family day that lent itself to all kinds of opportunities for talking, walking and laughing together. Even the weather cooperated! It was the perfect temperature; just heart-warming enough to take the chill out of the cool October air.

What kinds of things do you do with your family?

Photo Credits: ©Karen Szczuka Teich & http://www.Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

Through The Looking Glass

October 7, 2012 11 comments

I saw myself in the mirror the other day.

It wasn’t like I do each night before I go to bed when I wash my face and brush my teeth and go through the routine of doing what I do before I sleep. It wasn’t like each morning when I repeat the nightly routine, brush my hair and apply my makeup to ready myself for the day to come, as I stand in front of the mirror either. This moment was not like those at all. I hardly ever take the time, at those times, to really see myself.

This was unplanned. It was different.

Like a rabbit emerging from a dark hole, I was blinded by the light of my own reflection and found myself for first time in a long time, seeing myself, through this looking glass. It was an instant that gave me pause, compelling me to stop just long enough to really be present in the moment and look deep inside of who I am -today- after these last few tumultuous years of growth and change.

I didn’t look away. Instead, I contemplated the glimpse I caught and was content with what I saw. I could look myself in the eye and feel confident with the person I am and continue to strive to be; imperfect but honest, open-minded and willing to do whatever-it-takes to help myself and my kids continue to move in a forward direction.

In that moment also, stood the handsome young man who now has whiskers on his chin where sweet, velvet skin used to be when he was a boy. He doesn’t need me to tend to his bruise or tie his shoes anymore. He’s capable, focused and tenacious now and he makes me so proud I could burst. There too in my mind’s eye stood my beautiful little girl who has managed to outgrow me in shoe size, height and heart. Her endless compassion for others humbles me. Truly.

It gave me pause, this unexpected glimpse, that moment.

Time waits for no one. It has no patience, empathy or understanding. With great determination and complete indifference, it barrels its way through good days and bad, sorrows and laughter. It constantly transforms life as we know it, right before our very eyes; only we don’t always see it as it happens. We’re too busy and often blinded by the blur of our own living.

It’s important to climb out of our holes every once in a while, to take a step outside of ourselves, so we can see ourselves. It’s important to take a moment, pause and contemplate what we see.

What do you see when you stand before the looking glass?

Photo Credit #1 Through The Looking Glass ~ Google Images

Photo Credit #2 Emerging From The Rabbit Hole ~ Google Images

Categories: Comfort, Family, Life Tags:

Relax, Recharge, Repost #2: Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones But Names Can Break My Heart!

August 26, 2012 7 comments

Week #2 of taking a blogging break in August. For a few weeks, I’ll be Relaxing, Recharging and Re-posting some of what my stats say are YOUR  favorite reads.

Here’s one from January 2011….

Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones But Names…. Can Break My Heart!

“You know Mom, he’s lucky I didn’t SQUASH him like a bug!”

That’s what my 9-year-old daughter came home saying the other day after spending an afternoon at a birthday party. The “he” who is lucky “she”, didn’t, squash him like a bug, is a 10-year old classmate who was also at the party. “He” is her pal, her chum, her friend. He is her partner at school when pairing needs to be done. He is also the boy who tried to hold her hand when the lights went out in a Star Lab dome, but that’s not why she wants to pummel him.

There are some things you never forget: getting an award, your first sleep-over, punching a fella in the mouth for asking you to marry him (in first grade!), the soft, warm lips of a shy boy’s sweet and gentle kiss during a game of spin-the-bottle and of course, the first time someone embarrasses you in front of a group of friends by calling you a name. For me, it was buoy. And in 4th grade, I didn’t have a clue. So in a naive and unsuspecting way, I asked the boy who had just referred to me as a “buoy”, what that was.

You know, he said, it’s that round thing that bounces up and down, bobbing in the water. A buoy!

That was followed by what seemed to me, to be a roar of group laughter.

Painful. I forced a smile and walked away. I’m sure I could have flattened him but my heart had sunk to my knees and I was too hurt to react. I never forgot that feeling.

Like her mom, my girl is made of hardy stock. She is strong, confident and independent. She’s out-going and adventurous. She loves to laugh. Also like her mom however, she happens to be very sensitive.

He called me fat in front of all my friends at the party, she said. He embarrassed me. We were laughing about who would make the best Pińata and he said, ‘Hannah would, cause she’s fat!’

My heart immediately sank to that familiar place by my knees only this time, it broke.

He’s lucky I didn’t squash him like a bug! And you know I could, were the next words out of her mouth.

She’s right. She could.

Well then, I said, maybe next time, you should.

Okay, maybe that was wrong.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names…..

Honestly, I would have preferred if he threw the stone. That wound heals faster.

We spent a long time that evening discussing potential reasons why her friend might have said that about her. Insecurity. Bravado. Maybe he was trying to look cool in front of the other boys. Perhaps he didn’t mean it and it was just a poor choice of words. Most likely, he like, likes her. No matter how much we dissected it though, the result was always the same. She could get past the word. She knows she’s bigger and taller than the other kids in her class. She accepts that her body is changing and maturing faster than theirs.

It was the betrayal she had a hard time reconciling with. He’s her friend.

It was after midnight when she came into my bedroom and crawled into bed with me that night. She snuggled up close and whispered,

Mommy, why did he do that? I thought he was my friend?

Cue the breaking heart again. She slept with me for the first time in years. And it was a big wake-up call to me as a parent and an adult, just how omnipotent words can be. Life is hard enough without us hurting each other with the things we say. And I’m reminded of how critical it is for me to set the example, practice kindness, show compassion and be forgiving.

Words may not be able to break a bone but they sure can break a heart.

The flip-side of that however, is to know that words also have the great power to fill a heart! So in the end, my advice to Hannah was to have, an open heart.

We are after all, only human. We all make mistakes and good friendships are worth keeping. So, when the boy came to school the next day and said,

Hey, I was only kidding. I didn’t mean it that way. I can’t believe you thought I was serious!

That was all she needed to hear to buddy-up again and put it behind her.

Besides, she told him that if he EVER does that to her again, she is going to SQUASH him– like a bug!”

Photo credit:  Squashed Bug, Broken Heart

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