The Bare Bones of Courage, Compassion and Hope Define Us

"Queen of Diamonds" mixed-media 20x20

“Queen of Diamonds” mixed-media 20×20

I’m finishing another book “The girl from Krakow” about hatred and war. These dire circumstances often bring out the depraved character of desperate people.

When basic needs are not met, there is little else to occupy the mind. The gnawing in your stomach. The loneliness and fear. The lack of creature comforts. Separation from family and friends. The loss of loved ones.

In that scenario, the brutal, the corrupt and the vicious crawl out from their slimy hiding places along with the courageous, the stalwart and the survivors. The skeletal structure of a country is laid bare. The degeneration of basic values such as honesty, morality, and tolerance are exposed. Some acquiesce to get along or because of fear. Others become enmeshed in their own greed for power and succumb to evil.

As the English poet, Alexander Pope (1688-1744) penned:

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien As to be hated needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Family Soldiers0002

Will you be one of those people who get lost in the evil around you and wallow in depravity? Will you become a survivor willing to do anything to stay alive? How will you carve out a life for yourself that will stand you in good stead when the crisis is over?

Character is formed in the heated fire of decision. There are those who manage to summon courage not only for themselves, but for others. When the battle rages, there are those who lift spirits, shelter strangers and comfort the lost.

Those who prey on the needy are the neediest of all. They bully and threaten their way to the top, scrambling over the arms and legs of their victims. When the battle is over, they slink back to their dark corners waiting for the next opportunity to take what isn’t theirs, even if it’s only a man or woman’s dignity.

Evil is cowardly. Evil attacks us from behind. Prowess disguised as strength uses criticism and character assassination to bring others down to their puny size. Unrelenting in their pursuit of domination, the attacker wields authority, power, and rage to destroy and denigrate. Some are able to withstand the assault and pressure others are not.

I read about these horrible times in history with a great deal of empathy and understanding. Will I be able to endure should the fight be brought to our shores?

My grandson serving in the Navy and then working with the Coast Guard.

My grandson serving in the Navy and then working with the Coast Guard.

We all wonder “What is my mettle? Will I end up a hero, a coward, or a chameleon blending in with evil and doing nothing to change it? In preparing for disaster, we must calculate our strengths and build a reserve of courage, compassion and faith. It is only in the present that we may work to change the future.

Calamities, Disasters and Embarassing Blunders

"Oopsi Daisy" Inez Ibis falls as she tries to fly with her injured leg.

“Oopsi Daisy” Inez Ibis falls as she tries to fly with her injured leg.

Certain people are always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Though innocent, they often collide with those who are not. Law abiding, oblivious and unafraid, they may end up in an intersection with a drunk driver’s car wrapped around theirs. They fall into holes that others leave uncovered. They trip on the obstacles that careless people leave behind. We call these folks accident prone.

My niece was one of those people. Her brand new Mazda Miata was totaled when someone else ran a red light. She hit a rock while mountain biking and spun out of control. A few minutes before, she had loaned her helmet to her riding companion; yet it was she who managed to hit the rock, skid sideways, and wipe out in gravel causing a tragic head injury which required months of rehabilitation.

I don’t know whether I’m accident prone or just clumsy. But under stress, I have a tendency to drop things. I shatter dishes and glasses, and pull embarrassing blunders. After a stressful divorce, I was out on a date eating buttery movie popcorn. I had placed my soda on the floor within reach, or so I thought. I reached down to pick it up, and got as far as my lap when the lid came off spilling sticky liquid all over my skirt. The rest of the evening I sat in my wet outfit trying to ignore what just happened.

I’ve bumped the straw on my glass, reaching for the salt, causing water to spill all over the table; I’ve dropped my silverware when it stuck to my forearm and then crashed noisily to the floor; I’ve spilled hot coffee over my blouse when the cup I lifted to my mouth turned out to be light-weight melamine instead of stoneware.

Calamity follows some people wherever they go. And if not them, to those they associate their lives with. In 1852, Martha Jane Cannary was born; the oldest of five siblings, in Princeton, MO., though she sometimes claimed Illinois or Wyoming in her dairies.


Martha Jane Cannary

She was married, or so she says, to Clinton Burke in 1885. They lived together for at least six years, but the marriage was never documented and historians doubt its existence. A child came out of that union, although it may have been Burke’s before he met Martha Jane or hers with another man. Things recorded in her dairies were part truth and part fiction. Her life was fraught with difficulties and she may have wrote them as she wished them to be.

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Martha Jane dressed as a man.

In later years, Martha Jane dressed in every way like a man. She moved around mining towns, railroad camps and the occasional military fort. She worked on the railroad and as a mule skinner to “eke out a living.” She may have protected herself from abuse by dressing as a man, although, some say she may also have worked as a prostitute.

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Martha Jane on her mount.

Stocky and strong, she worked like a man, drank like a man, and was a real frontiersman. She worked as a “Scout” and guide, but the Indians stayed away from her thinking she was “titched.” A good marksman, she appeared in Wild West shows with Buffalo Bill. When she died (most likely from pneumonia, inflammation of the bowels, or alcoholism), she was buried next to Wild Bill in Deadwood, Dakota at Mount Moriah Cemetery.

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She had a rough and tumble life. She threatened any man who bothered her with a “calamity” and soon became known as Calamity Jane. As her name implied, she was a most interesting and tragic person who seemed often to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Calamity Jane’s feminine side.

Link to her biography:
Calamity Jane Biography

We all have our days; some of us more than others. We fail to check out our surroundings for trip wires and red flags. We hurry too fast when we should slow down. We allow our uneasiness in new situations to shake us up. We become distracted by conversation and the noise level around us.

In either case, instead of being ourselves and feeling relaxed, we try to fit in and mimic the behavior of others making us feel more unnatural and uneasy. We may be too eager to please, or too curious about matters which are none of our business.

A favorite children’s book “Curious George” by Hans Agusto and Margret Rey is behind many books and a children’s T.V. show. During the episodes, George is always getting into trouble because of his curious nature. We love his escapades with the beloved “man in the yellow hat!”


Curiosity helps us learn new things, but it may also be our downfall.


Jean Partrager the lead character in “As Time Goes By” on PBS is about as curious as anyone can get. She listens behind closed doors and offers unwanted advice when others can’t make decisions. She gets her panties in a twist so often that she tells white lies to cover up her falsehoods. Her intentions are good; the well being of her family and loved ones, but she lives out the adage: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

Is there a cure for people who meddle or for those who find themselves the brunt of small jokes or unwanted disaster? Probably not, but I find this advice helpful: “make the best of every situation, and allow laughter and good humor to put everyone else at ease.”


“Inez Ibis sees stars when she is hit by a car.”