Childhood can be Painful, but Nothing Lasts Forever

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“Beach Buddies II” 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

I’ve never figured out why the news media and the talk shows delight in keeping us on the edge of our seats. Not from excitement, mind you, but unadulterated fear! I personally know many women who avoid the news altogether because of how it leaves them at the end of the day: wilted, worried, and unable to sleep. Like ostriches, they prefer having their news spoon fed to them in small doses.

I must admit I was quaking in my slippers when a new “super bug” made its debut on the Nightly News. The spread of this dreaded super-sect is caused from a “teensy weensy” camera on the end of a gastric probe commonly used by Gastrologists to detect stomach and bowel problems. Apparently, the magical instrument on the end of the probe is difficult if not impossible to sterilize.

My ears perked up as I moved to the edge of our soft leather couch. I had had that test this past year. My “hypochondriac tendencies” went on high alert. “Is that why I’ve been feeling so lousy these past few months?”

It’s not only super bugs we have to deal with. Many of the old diseases that were once eradicated are making a comeback; and with a vengeance! Outbreaks of old fashioned Red Measles have been playing out in large cities and states across the nation. Tuberculosis is becoming more and more prevalent. Yet not once have I heard anyone ask “What about all those illegal aliens who flooded the borders and were transported by bus to places across the country?” Most of them had never been immunized at all, and some were carrying viruses and bacteria that children in the United States had never come in contact with before.

When I was a child, Polio was not only a new word but a disease to be feared. Children who didn’t die from it were left crippled and prone to get diseases later on in life. The aftermath was almost as bad as the disease itself. If you survived, your limbs became shrunken and deformed, at least on one side, and you probably limped for the rest of your life.

“Few diseases frightened parents more in the early part of the 20th century. Polio struck in the warm summer months, sweeping through towns in epidemics every few years. Though most people recovered quickly from polio, some suffered temporary or permanent paralysis and even death. Many polio survivors were disabled for life. They were a visible, painful reminder to society of the enormous toll this disease took on young lives.” (Wickipedia)

My grade school playmate Eddie Knowles died from polio. We used to climb trees together and play outdoors all summer long. My mother would supply us with popsicles when we were sweaty and hot. Eddie liked to dunk his in the irrigation ditch running beside our property. It made the icy pop melt in his mouth. At the time, I firmly believed that this had caused his polio, although, we now know the disease is caused by a virus.

More from Wickipedia: “Because of widespread vaccination, polio was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in 1994. Today, it continues to circulate in a handful of countries, with occasional spread to neighboring countries. (Endemic countries are Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan as of 2013.) Vigorous vaccination programs are being conducted to eliminate these last pockets. Polio vaccination is still recommended worldwide because of the risk of imported cases. Polio has no cure, so prevention is the most effective means to combat it.”

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“India Rising — Prince of Thieves” mixed media

Another school mate, Alice Johnson, had polio, and because of it she was teased and taunted most of her childhood; but especially into the teen years. She had a shriveled right arm and leg, and when she limped, it made the smaller arm flop up and down. If not for the love of her family, I don’t think she would have survived the relentless nicknames and the other health problems she incurred.

As a kid, I had my own nemesis. During puberty I had hormonal problems which caused me to break out in pimples. For awhile, some people even thought I had the measles. It was a painful ordeal that took several months and years to rectify. Childhood is painful enough, but when we’re saddled with a disability or a visible problem it becomes almost unbearable.

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“Broken Hearted” pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame or canvas print

My heart goes out to these brave little souls who weather the taunts of their friends and deal with a fatal disease or a discriminating disability. As we mature, most of us outgrow the need to put others down so that we may appear better or smarter. My friend Nancy was one of those people. When I was 12 and feeling like a leper and the ugliest toad on earth, she invited me to her father’s ranch on the lake for the weekend. I was thrilled!

I learned how to ride bareback on a shiny black horse that reminded me of my two favorite books: “Black Beauty” and “Red Horse Hill.” After that ride, I fell in love with books about horses. I devoured them like peanuts.

About this time I also began bringing home stray cats. Animals don’t care what you look like or how ugly you feel, and these strays were sometimes as scabby and scrubby looking as I felt. They sopped up every ounce of love I could give, and then gave it back to me. Animals can heal a lost soul.

When I had a chance to give back, I made friends with the kids who had problems like Alice, the overweight friend who limped from having polio, and Gale who was neglected and so poor there was rarely anything to eat in her cupboards or refrigerator. One day I shared a moldy piece of cake with her that was left on the counter top. Her sad eyes told me how lonely she felt when she came home to an empty house after school.

Sadly I had a new problem to deal with: I was being teased and taunted for befriending the un-friendless, the outcast or the new kids in town. Thankfully, I ignored their sarcasm and did what I knew I had to do.

"Looking Outward" 3-D painting in an actual window frame

“Looking Outward” 3-D painting in an actual used window frame

Lorraine had a bedwetting problem. You could smell it when she walked into class. Every afternoon during story time, we’d hear the sound of water trickling to the floor and we knew it was Lorraine. She handled her humiliation well. The janitor was called and he mopped it up quickly and silently, and then the teacher would go back to reading. But at recess, Lorraine stood alone.

I wish I’d found a way to reach out to her, but I didn’t; although, I thought about her a lot. I did hear she married and had a family. I’m certain she eventually overcame her lack of muscle control.

These problems seem insurmountable when we’re young. They only become bearable when we have a friend or a loving family.

And you know what? Our lives don’t really change that much as we grow older. There are new hurdles to overcome and harder challenges to cope with. Acceptance is sometimes the only way to suffer through. “. . Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

If we just wait it out and hope for the best, we will finally get to the other side.

Handles, Nicknames and Monikers – Bullying or Harmless Fun?

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“Mother and Child” brush drawing in oils

When my kids were young, I made up silly names for them. It was a playful way of adding extra affection and fun to our relationship. The handles were cute and harmless and never said outside of our home. They were just between us.

I soon discovered that my children had shared them with their friends. When my oldest son got married, he asked me to tell his new wife a few of them because he couldn’t say them the way I did. They wore those nicknames like a badge of honor which said: “My mother loves me.”

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“Moody Blues” mixed media on canvas

Some names can also be a form of bullying. They go from the playful into teasing and taunting. One of my daughters was called “fat Pat” by her brothers because they knew it irritated her. She was far from fat, but over time she began to believe them. She fretted over her weight and it became a negative focus into her teen years.

My youngest son was dressed up in a girl’s dress by his sister when he was only three years old. She even burdened him with a feminine name. When his siblings teased him and chanted this name, he grew angry, especially as he got older. Calling him this after knowing it made him angry was really a form of bullying. To this day he hates this name and cringes whenever he hears it.

Another daughter had a severe case of chicken pox. They were so bad that even the bottoms of her feet were covered and her tongue. Afterward she was left with a large scar on her cheek.

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“Broken Hearted” 11×14 Pastel, matted and ready to frame.

Before that time she had been full of spunk and self-confidence. But one day a boy at school called her “crater face” and she shriveled into a door mouse. The scar and the teasing made her feel inferior and ugly; not a good way to enter the teenage years. Eventually she outgrew this hurt as the scar grew smaller and she became a beautiful young woman.

I know how she felt. When I got my first pair of glasses as a child, I was called “four-eyes” and learned the negative quip: “Boys seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Even when a young admirer told me I had beautiful eyes, I didn’t believe him. “How could he see my eyes,” I wondered. “I’m wearing glasses?”

We all have battle scars and memories of being picked on or made to feel different. For some it’s a disability. For others, it’s a behavior, a personality quirk or an actual physical characteristic that others may find odd or funny. “Freckle face,” Carrot Top,” “Cowboy” (for bowed legs), “gimpy,” “hunch back,” and “sissy” are stings that you never outgrow. They stick in your mind and may hurt for a lifetime.

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“Broken” mixed media (SOLD) Prints available

Childhood is filled with pain until we finally grow up and discover who we really are. But for some, the burden of pain stays hidden beneath a wall of self-protection making relationships and friendships hard to come by and difficult, perhaps even dangerous if it pushes someone over the edge.

Wild Bill Hickok was one of those people. That’s right: The “Bill” part of his name was just as much a nickname as “Wild” — his full name wasn’t William, but James Butler Hickok. Bill was actually a wisecrack about his appearance, and specifically on his giant slope of a nose and protruding upper lip. The first version of Hickok’s nickname was actually “Duck Bill.” He changed it to Wild Bill to divert people’s attention from his nose to his skills.

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Wild Bill Hickok became one of the most famous figures to emerge from the American Old West, his legend reaching mythical proportions. Hickok fought with the North in the Civil War. He was best known as a gunfighter, a scout, a professional gambler and a lawman. But for his contemporaries, and his sub-conscious, he would always be known as Wild Bill – the guy with the big schnozola.

Positive nicknames can actually enhance someone’s image. Here is a partial list of famous people and their monikers. If you want to see more, go to this site:  http://www.pubquizreference.co.uk/trivref/nicknames-of-famous-people.htm

FAMOUS PERSON NICKNAME EXTRA INFORMATION
Sportsman/Sportswoman Their Profession
Jim Corbett GENTLEMAN JIM Boxer
Jack Dempsey MANASSA MAULER, NONPAREIL Boxer US
Muhammad Ali LOUISVILLE LIP Boxer, US greatest ever arguably, now in his 50’s sadly suffers from Parkinson’s Disease
Nigel Benn DARK DESTROYER Boxer Eng
Georges Carpentier ORCHID KID Boxer Fra
Thomas Hearns HITMAN Boxer US
Ricky Hatton HITMAN Boxer Eng
Primo Carnera AMBLING ALP Boxer
Rocky Marciano BROCKTON BOMBER Boxer
Joe Louis BROWN BOMBER Boxer
Barry McGuigan CLONES CYCLONE Boxer
Eddie Edwards THE EAGLE Ski-Jumper, famous for his poor performance
Sergio Garcia EL NINO Spanish golfer
Florence Griffith-Joiner FLO JO Athlete, US 100m died aged just 38 after heavy drug use
Paavo Nurmi THE FLYING FINN Finnish Ski-Jumper
Ference Puskas THE GALLOPING MAJOR Hungarian Footballer, peaked around mid 50’s early 60’s
Jimmy Hill RABII Footballer UK, and later TV presenter and Football pundit
David Beckham GOLDENBALLS Footballer, Eng World Superstar off the pitch
Eusebio BLACK PANTHER Footballer
Stanley Matthews WIZARD OF DRIBBLE Footballer Eng, one of the greats of the 50’s, played league football at 50 yrs of age.
Duncan Ferguson DUNCAN DISORDERLY Footballer for Everton
Lev Yashin THE BLACK PANTHER Football Rus Goalkeeper
Norman Hunter BITES YOUR LEGS Footballer for Leeds
Dennis Law THE LAWMAN Football Sco prolific striker Man Utd & Scotland
Stuart Pearce PSYCHO Footballer Eng, England International left back, moved on to management
Paul Gascoigne GAZZA England Footballer, career blighted by addictions but still reached superstar status as much for his character as his skills.
Eddy Mercyx THE CANNIBAL Cycling Bel, winner of Tour De France 5 times
Martin Offiah CHARIOTS Rugby League and Union Eng Winger, one of fastest most elusive wingers in the game

Professional nicknames are fun, but they prevent us from remembering a person’s name which is more personal. Here are a few you’ve probably used yourself (note that most of them are disrespectful).

  • Bones for a surgeon or mortician
  • Sawbones for an orthopedic surgeon
  • Doc for a doctor or dentist
  • Sparky for an electrician or radio operator
  • Geek for a computer technician, a brainy person or nerd
  • Sarge for a military sergeant
  • Chief for a police or fire chief
  • Teach for a teacher
  • Prof for a Professor
  • Brains for someone who is clever or a genius
  • Moneybags for a wealthy person

You may enjoy creating your own nicknames and handles that describe someone in a positive way. Heaven knows we have enough sadness caused from bullying and name calling. Handles may lift someone’s self-esteem or tear it down.

I was never a good athlete. I’d be the last chosen for a team because in those days I was the shortest kid in my class. To this day I cringe when I hear someone called a sissy or the cat calls “Bet she throws like a girl.”

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“With These Hands — Hope”

Revenge is sweet. Some of these girl’s (and boys) grow into powerhouses! One day this gangly uncoordinated girl will look down on you when she’s the CEO of Yahoo, or Hewlett Packard, or GM. You better look out! “What goes around, comes around.”