BEATING THE ODDS IN A PANDEMIC WAR

By Niki Glanz, Ed.D.

We’re certainly facing an abundance of odds; we know them all too well. No need to recite them here. Instead, better to focus on the difficult but heroic tasks needed to conquer Covid-19. Since national leaders tell us – and it feels like – “we’re at war,” let’s enhance our creativity by reviewing tactics employed by a real-life “Bourne” we’ll call “Rolf,” in homage to his Slovakian roots.

Mercifully, Rolf had a kind and loving mother who taught him elementary reading and math. Otherwise his childhood was anything but normal. His father forced him “to kneel on a sharp piece of wood” beginning at age 5 for “any disobedience” and compelled him to walk through forests “in total darkness, no water allowed” to overcome any fear of “wild boars, bears, or other animals and build a strong will.” Instructors at a boy’s boarding school slapped his face “almost daily” for errors in reading. Once World War II began, Rolf’s nights were filled with sirens warning of American bombers overhead and German missiles shooting back. Dead soldiers and mass graves for as many as 400 surrounded him.

When the Soviet army invaded Slovakia and defeated the Germans, Rolf was just 18. He was accused by Russian authorities of “espionage – death penalty.” The nation’s soccer coach, who shared his jail cell, taught Rolf essential strategies: “You cannot admit anything. They’ll torture you for 7 days. If you confess, you’ll be hung as a spy [or] you’ll go to Soviet uranium mines and die of radiation.” Rolf lost 3 teeth but held on, enabling him to contact 2 jailed accomplices “about what he was going to tell the court,” as the coach suggested. To one he sent a message “as a pill” rolled and pushed into a piece of bread; the other he “telephoned through the sewage system.” Of all those the Russians had arrested, only Rolf and the coach survived, exonerated by their accomplices.

Rolf’s next challenge was “to escape from the Iron Curtain.” Fortunately, before the Russians came, Rolf, his brother, and father had dug a bunker in the forest and stocked it with food. He “hid there for 10 months [before] finding a connection” to cross a roadway patrolled by Soviet sharpshooters, just 2 miles from West Germany.

You can read more of Rolf’s incredible story in Memories to Momentum: Stories of Looking Back, Living Forward, available in eBook and paperback from Amazon. For now, let’s plumb Rolf’s experiences for strategies that might aid us in fighting a pandemic:

  1. Tolerate painful and adverse conditions when unable to change them
  2. Improvise technical solutions as needed
  3. Call on fortitude developed during prior hardships to persevere through current challenges
  4. Prepare for the future by setting aside ample cash and stocks
  5. Be patient until the right connection or moment occurs
  6. Cooperate with others you may have come to detest, especially those in “core” social groups, such as your family and community, to solve problems and secure the future
  7. Befriend others who have faced similar issues and learn from them

Recent research by Dr. Angela Duckworth and colleagues finds that grit, smarts, and physical prowess tend to be distinct traits: people high in one tend to be low on the others. Rolf, however, appears to be an exception. He displays cognitive brilliance in devising a telephone system via sewers, social intelligence by identifying a sharpshooter he could bribe, physical strength by living alone in a bunker for 10 months, and grit throughout all ordeals. Was “the hell” of his upbringing the key or did the key consist of kindnesses from his mother and the coach? Or both?

Memories matter. Find bits of yourself in Rolf’s and others’ life stories chronicling the adult impact of childhood memories. Researcher Dr. Niki Glanz toured North America 5 times to bring you these stories of courage, love, laughter, tragedy, growth, and success. 59 incredibly diverse accounts await you! Enjoy!

 

Memories to Momentum, on sale now at Amazon. Available in Paperback or eBook.

© 2020

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BREAK A GLASS CEILING – IN HOLLYWOOD?

By Niki Glanz, Ed.D.

            For Sherry, it took both a lot and not much. Let me explain that contradiction by sharing some startling episodes from her life story – one of 70 stories I collected from a diverse group of people on 5 tours of North America. I was investigating how youthful memories impact adult life for my forthcoming, now-published book, Memories to Momentum. Sherry graciously agreed to an interview. As a newcomer to the city I happened to be visiting and a recent retiree, Sherry was open to meeting people. A friend I had known from years earlier introduced us. Little did my friend, who had chatted with Sherry a few days earlier as they waited in a café line, realize that Sherry had experienced a serious disability, much less made history.

Sherry’s success in dealing with her disability, childhood polio – plus some other, more minor experiences – is the “lot” that her ultimate victory apparently required. From 5 to 13 she underwent a series of surgeries, losing an entire school year at one point. Remedies, like the brace she wore from 8-10 that clanked with her every step may have enabled her legs to strengthen but didn’t help her mindset. Ever since she has walked with a limp. Her parents, meanwhile, were little help: “At home, I didn’t have the support of my parents in discussing polio, which I think was wrong,” Sherry acknowledges.

How, then, did she meet these challenges? She drew on deep reservoirs of personal courage, sociability, and talent. Perhaps #1 was music; Sherry learned to play piano by ear and also played saxophone and bassoon. At 14 she created an all-boy band of 3 boys, including a trumpet player she was dating, and joined them for performances at various schools.

Believe it or not, #2 was sports. Following hours of practice in her backyard perfecting her badminton serve and shooting hoops, she made her high school badminton team and played guard on the basketball team, “running my way,” as she puts it. Her father taught her how to pitch a fast ball, curve ball, and slow ball, so she also pitched for the school’s baseball team, although the coach substituted base runners for her. Admittedly, Sherry found this “embarrassing,” but adds, “I hit so well, so why not?” Following high school, with only one year of finishing school and one month’s free rent, she remembers saying to herself on landing in Manhattan, “New York City, I will master you!”

That she did through a variety of jobs, especially excelling as a free-lance photographer. When she applied for a position with one of the wire services, AP or UPI, however, she was told point-blank: “We do not hire women.” She waited until 1972, when she decided to switch to the television industry and was hired. Yes, this is the “not much” that Sherry benefitted from: a complete change to the country’s legal landscape she credits to “women’s lib.” She sued and won; a long-standing glass ceiling quickly broke into shards.

Sherry’s story confirms research on resilience by Dr. Mark Seery and colleagues published in 2010 that prior but not too much adversity – at least 1 and usually 2-4 instances – appear to promote coping with a subsequent, major adversity. People inexperienced in meeting adversities are typically unable to do so. They also tend to have lower emotional stability scores, suggesting that they lack the “toughness” of people who have experienced some adversity. People who experience more than 4 adversities, though, tend to be overwhelmed by yet more instances due to negative effects on their mental health and well-being.

The secret to Sherry’s history-making, successful legal suit may be the unusual mashup of her life story: a terrible struggle with polio juxtaposed with extraordinary musical and athletic accomplishments. While she rose to the challenge of polio, she also gained confidence from her successes. As she explained, “I had a sense that I had to show everyone that I was as good as they are because of my polio, “They’re going to know me!” Sherry stands as a hero and model for us all. Her astonishing legal victory is the “icing on the cake.” May we salute and congratulate her on her incredible efforts and outstanding success!

 

Memories matter. You’ll find more about Sherry and additional people who experience adversity, plus other types of memories, in the 59 incredibly diverse stories featured in Memories to Momentum by Niki Glanz.

Available from Amazon in Paperback or eBook. Enjoy!

© 2020

THE POWER OF ROMANTIC LOVE

By Niki Glanz, Ed.D.

“Love is a many-splendored thing.” Right? Romantic euphoria may play out differently for every couple, but few deny its potentiality. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here are a few excerpts from Memories to Momentum stories attesting to love’s sweet exaltation. 

Doris, a retired visiting nurse and homemaker, now in her 80s reflects: 

My husband had just come home to see me for a couple of hours, though we weren’t married yet. He had been overseas: Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, all of them. Before he went into the service, we didn’t even go together, but when he came home, it was like, “Yep!” I always told him that God was saving him for me. I believe it! I believe it!

See, my husband’s mother died when he was two, and he never had a home. He wandered all over the country; he even hoboed with Johnny Cash. After we got married, I baked him a birthday cake. He cried because he’d never had a birthday cake. So, I not only loved him, I made a home for him. 

Of course, we had rough times like everybody else. But I dwell on the good things that happened. We had a very good marriage, just like my father and mother. Look – don’t get me wrong – my husband and I had disagreements, but if we had something to complain about, we talked to each other before we got angry. “Discussions,” I called it and never in front of the children.

Murray, a musician and building manager in his late 50s describes the impact of family members:

My grandmother on my mother’s side was a grand master at bridge. I never was very close to her husband, but he was a paragon in my mind about masculinity. He was bald and handsome: the strong, silent type. I loved the sweet way he treated my grandmother. Every so often she’d flip out – start screaming and saying very unpleasant things. He would calm her, “Oh, darlin’, OK, that’s fine.” 

When I say that he was sweet with her, I don’t mean that he acted sweet with her. How you act is one thing, but how you are – Oh my God, the difference! I don’t think my grandfather had a non-genuine bone in his body. Of course, this was the first 20th Century generation; that generation had moral standards. Honor had great meaning to everything they said and did. Oh my God, if somebody puts that above anything else, you can rely on them. Yeah!

I never heard my father’s parents fight, ever. She was like, “Your way’s my way,” and he would always say, “But your way is my way, so it’s all the same way.” It was like dreamland: complete absence of conflict, complete trust, complete warmth. 

It defined love for me: what love feels like, looks like, and acts like. It’s comforting and dependable. When my wife and I get heated with each other, we handle it right then. It’s not that we stifle ourselves, but we don’t get even with each other. They say, “You have to fight to have a good relationship.” Not necessarily.

Ambrae, beverage host at a natural-foods restaurant, in her early 30s, recalls a childhood episode:

Another memory between nine and ten is going into the garage of our house and seeing my parents get comfortable with each other. They had just gotten off work, and we [children] were already home. Being as I was the oldest child, I was looking for them. Our kitchen led into the garage, and I opened the door slowly. They didn’t hear me nor saw me.

My father is 5’10” and my mother’s short, just 4’11”. My father lifted her up a bit, so that he could kiss her. My father has an oval face, and hers is more round. He wore his ears low, and at that age, he did wear a beard. Both my parents have brown-toned complexions and a very slim build. I think they were trying to hide out, kissing and hugging each other. Obviously, they did not want me to see or they wouldn’t be in the garage. So as I opened the door, I closed it and walked away.

That was a beautiful experience. A lot of times parents don’t show affection, especially black families, because they think it’s something private. Of course, it doesn’t need to be over the top. But seeing my parents’ affection for each other showed me the love and the relationship between a husband and a wife. Just being in the household, alone, doesn’t express it. That memory sticks with me as an example for when I finally get married. 

Doris, Murray, and Ambrae demonstrate that having good role models helps us achieve a loving relationship. Beyond the couple’s two lovers, others also benefit should one of them exhibit moral acts. Flushed with heartfelt admiration and affection, mates of such lovers tend to strive to become better people, opening their hearts to others and acting prosocially. The greater community typically benefits, say researchers Haidt, Power, Lapsley and colleagues. So yes, it’s true: “love makes the world go ‘round!”   

You’ll discover more about the power of emotions in 59 incredibly diverse, true stories featured in Memories to Momentum by Niki Glanz. Available from Amazon in Paperback or eBook. Enjoy!

© 2020

GIVING AND GETTING

By Niki Glanz, Ed.D.

Did you receive that “perfect gift” over the holidays – the one that makes you smile, giggle, or close your eyes in rapture each time you think of it?

Let me guess: it wasn’t a sled. Your feelings of gratitude, however, may resemble Robert’s intensity, recalling this much-loved Christmas gift received decades ago:

We had one, good sliding hill in town: it wasn’t all that steep, but it was long. Every day in winter we boys went sliding. One year for Christmas, even though I hadn’t asked for it, I got a new sled with a sleek, rounded front and a bar you could turn practically at right angles. It also had springs, so if you belly whopped, your body wasn’t shocked when it hit the sled. I had been using my dad’s sled, and my dad’s sled was probably his dad’s sled. It was real stiff. That new sled is the only Christmas present that I remember getting as a child.                         (M2M, p. 155)

Deep-down gratitude: a never-to-be-forgotten feeling whether for that rare “perfect present” or for others we also appreciate. These gifts ooze utility – physical or sentimental – signifying a changed reality: “Oh, am I going to glow on Valentine’s. Just look at this dress!” or “A new used car! The ole junker gets to die at last. Wahoo!”

Another reason for appreciating a gift is what it represents: a close connection to whoever gives us the gift. If the person is someone we genuinely love, affirmation of our connection brings overwhelming happiness. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

In fact, any time we express gratitude our feelings of pleasure increase, often reducing stress or depression. If the above-mentioned new dress or car prompts us to change our behavior – for example, to line dance or volunteer for Meals on Wheels – our health may even improve. Exercise, socializing, and helping others all link with healthful boosts.

What about when we give? For most of us, the warm glow we feel from giving typically exceeds that of receiving. Believe it or not, the happiness generated by giving to the same people in the same ways doesn’t fade as quickly as do positive feelings of gratitude. Nor does the amount we give seem to matter. Research confirms: it’s better to give than receive.  Material gifts aren’t even necessary, as Elise’s memories demonstrate:

                        Holidays were always a scramble because my parents were divorced. Our Christmas could be anywhere in the month of December to January – who knew? The tradition was about cherishing family bonds; our grandparents were very close to us and would come down. Even to this day, my sister or I – it has never worked out that it can be both of us – go and pick out the Christmas tree with my mom and stepfather. Then my sister, and I, and my mom decorate my mom’s tree together, just like we used to. It    always has those memento ornaments that we made as children. They’re hodge-podge with toothless pictures and hideous colors, but they were our pride and joy when we were four years old.                                                         (M2M, p. 51)

This holiday scenario, faithfully repeated each year, has enabled Elise to give of herself by joyfully participating in her mom’s Christmas, while also celebrating with her husband and two young sons.

Giving simply makes us feel good. It lights up regions of our brains that are associated with happiness. Like feelings of gratitude, giving is associated with bolstering social ties. Also like gratitude, it often confers health benefits, even for those with serious diseases.

So, what are we saying when we wish one another “Happy Holidays”? The “holidays” have evolved over the millennia from a combination of secular and religious traditions, long thought to be opposing forces. Now science reveals that spiritual/emotional benefits, including a boost in pleasure and enhanced relationships, and physical benefits emanating from the gift, itself, plus perhaps better health, instead may mingle. Material and spiritual together: a happy conclusion to our 2019 holidays. Now, let’s celebrate 2020!

We find bits of ourselves in others’ memories, here exemplified by Robert and Elise. You’ll find more memories that matter in the 59 deeply diverse, true stories recorded in Memories to Momentum by Niki Glanz, Ed.D. Available from Amazon in Paperback or eBook. Enjoy!

 

© 2020