Saturday, February 4, 2023

Everyone Has A Dawnzer Song

     It happens to everyone, many times in our lives, but most commonly it happens during childhood. Sometimes it's embarrassing, sometimes it's funny, and sometimes it becomes a story that is told for many years at family gatherings. The experience I am referring to is the Dawnzer Song. 

    The Dawnzer Song is what happens when someone confidently figures something out, but because their knowledge on the topic lacks some crucial details, they end up being wrong. Children, who are new to the world and often do not have things explained to them adequately, experience Dawnzer Songs the most abundantly. Examples of this include "figuring out" that a quarter of an hour means twenty five minutes because a quarter of a dollar is twenty five cents, or old pictures that are in black-and-white might lead some children to conclude that the picture was taken before color was invented and that the world had indeed, a long time ago, been black-and-white. 

    Of course, experiencing Dawnzer Songs is not just a childhood thing. Teenagers and adults are also prone to pulling their limited knowledge of something together to invent a "fact" that does not work in this world. Keep in mind; this is not stupidity. It is simply a matter of not having all the facts while trying to make sense of the world. Everyone, including the brightest of minds, have had their share of Dawnzer Songs. It is also not the same as being intentionally misled or fooled. It is simply an innocent mistake. 

    The origin on The Dawnzer Song comes from a children's book, Ramona the Pest, by Beverly Cleary. Cleary wrote many of her stories through the eyes of children as they travel through life, trying hard to figure out the complex would around them, and sometimes things come out wrong. Such was the case for said character, Ramona. 

    Every day in kindergarten, her class would start the day by singing the American national anthem, "Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light..."

    But what Ramona understood the words to say was, " the dawnzer lee light." After puzzling over what a dawnzer might be, she decided that because it gave a light, then it must be a lamp. After that, until she was eventually corrected, she thought of that part of her kindergarten class's morning routine as singing a song about a lamp.

    Goodness knows, I have had my fair share of Dawnzer Songs, especially in my childhood! Grownups were often impatient with my questions, did not understand my questions, or answered my questions in a way that was out of my level of understanding. Too often, it was up to me to "figure it out."

    One such case was when I was younger than six. We lived near some railroad tracks which were raised on a ten-foot mound of rocks. On the other side of that mound was a highway. Several trains went by on the tracks daily. I loved standing close to the mound so that I could wave at the engineer, count the cars, wave at stowaways in the open cattle cars, and then wave at the people in the caboose. I enjoyed this highlight of my youth several times a day!

    From the highway, on the other side of the railroad track mound was often the whoosh of the vehicles going by, but since I couldn't see them, I didn't know what those sounds were. Sometimes, I could see the tops of the tall trailers of semi trucks swish by as they went along the highway. From my vantage point, it looked to me like they were single flat rectangular trains running smoothly on the tracks, rather than behind them. So I believed that they were trains. When someone would try to point out to me that what I saw was a truck, I would immediately dismiss them, because trucks don't run on the railroad tracks, silly! Such was the extent of my knowledge on what I knew and what I was able to see. 

    Dawnzer Songs help remind us to keep learning. Never stop figuring things out. True, sometimes you will be wrong, but if you stop trying, then you will never be right. Sometimes you will be embarrassed to be wrong, but you are not the first, nor will you be the last to do so. Being wrong sometimes is how we grow. Some of your Dawnzer Songs will make you laugh and some will make you cringe. It is something that we all experience at one point or another. 

    It is something that we can all figure out our own lyrics to. 


Monday, April 18, 2022

What's a Jim Zorn?

     In the tail end of the 1970s, when I was seven years old, I had quite inadvertently found myself the owner of a valuable prize from the sports world. 

    Both of my brothers were in the Boy Scouts, and both of my parents were scout leaders, so whatever the Boy Scouts were involved in, I tagged along as the unofficial little-sister Boy Scout. When local Boy Scout conventions for scouts and their families were held, naturally I was there too. 

    The conventions in Seattle were held in the Kingdome. Each Boy Scout den in the area had their own booth to run. These booths had games to win prizes, crafts to take home, and lots of fliers and coupons to take home and never read. I loved these events! After my parents saw to it that their booth was up and running, one of them would walk with me so that I could either craft or play games, while they talked with other den leaders. 

    There was one booth in particular that I approached and someone handed me a paper with some lines on top and a large rectangle in the middle. The lines were for my name, age, address, and phone number. The rectangle was for me to draw a picture of what I was thankful to God for. I had no idea why they wanted my personal information but I was eager to fill that rectangle in! What nobody knew at the time was that I am autistic and the need to tune the world out for a while, especially in a busy, noisy, and crowded building, was as important to me as daily food and drawing was one of my favorite outlets! 

    Happily, I sat down and drew. Drawing was how I recharged my energy at home and at school. Stories and events, both real and imagined, were sketched out on paper. I had boxes full of my drawings and stories at home. The noises and bustle around me faded away as I tuned into creating visual images of the things that brought me joy. 

   Recharged, I lay the pencil down, handed in my drawing, and went on my way to visit more booths. Later in the day, towards the end of the event, I was starting to get tired and overwhelmed so I asked if I could go back to the drawing booth, but all the booths were being taken down and I had to stay put. I was very cranky.

    A few weeks later there was a phone call for me. The person who called was a grownup who said a bunch of stuff to me that I didn't know how to answer. Finally, he either asked to speak to my parents or I just bewilderedly handed the phone to my mom. Then my brothers and I stood and watched on as my mom talked to this mysterious stranger who spoke to seven-year-old-nobody me!

    I was scared that I was possibly in trouble. Why did that man know who I was and call me like I was a grownup equal to himself? What did I do to gain his attention? What if I had accidentally said something wrong on the phone to him and now he was tattling to my mom? 

    After she hung up, she smiled and excitedly told us something that sounded something to me like, "Julie... (then she said a whole bunch of words I didn't know the meaning of yet) ...Jim Zorn!"

    My brothers got very excited indeed!

    I had no idea what was going on and started to get anxious. I had no idea what a Jim Zorn was. This could either be really good or really bad!

    My mom explained to me that when I drew that picture at the Kingdome, that I had actually entered a drawing contest, and I won a prize; the prize being an autographed football by Jim Zorn, quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks! 

    Really? I won a prize for just recharging my energy by drawing a picture? I knew nothing about football or the significance of famous people writing their name on stuff, but I knew by my brothers' jealous behavior, that I had struck gold!

    The next day my mom and I set out to the house where the the winners of the drawing contest went to collect their prizes. There were three Nerf footballs with Jim Zorn's autograph scrawled on one end of each. One of them was yellow. Having never seen a yellow football before I chose that one.  

    So, now I had won a prize in a contest I didn't know that I had entered, and now had a toy that my brothers were envious of, but I wasn't allowed to play with it because it might ruin the scribble from some guy with a funny name. I wasn't allowed to scribble on my toys but winning a toy with a famous person's scribble on it was a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Okay, got it. 

    Yes, the win was very confusing for me at the time. At the same time, I was happy to have done something that everyone treated as important and was sure that I would figure out the significance of it all someday. I kept my yellow football in a special place, away from my common toys, among my breakables that were for looking at only. 

    Well over 40 years later I still have that yellow football with the scribble at one end. I am still not much into sports, and still need a quiet place to recharge to get through the day, but I am very proud to have earned a prize just for taking part as an unofficial little-sister Boy Scout!



Friday, November 26, 2021

Ramona's Christmas List

     There are many Christmas stories and most people have a favorite one or few. Of course, there is the original Christmas story of the birth of baby Jesus. Then there are stories involving Santa Claus, or stories of families getting together, or a miracle in the spirit of Christmas, or the very strange stories that have nothing to do with Christmas except that it takes place during Christmastime. 

    My favorite Christmas story, besides the original one, is the book, Ramona and Her Father, by Beverly Cleary (spoiler alert!) Although it is not labeled as a Christmas story as such, it's a beautiful read, connecting the specialness of the holiday with combining touches of both the secular and religious. It's also a book about faith.

    Those familiar with books involving Ramona Quimby may recall how she started out as a side character in the book, Henry Huggins, as the two-year-old neighborhood pest. Later books showed the world through Ramona's eyes, fleshing her out as a real person with feelings the reader could relate to. Readers followed her though triumphs and tragedies such as standing up to a scary dog, the embarrassment of misunderstanding song lyrics, fearing that her teachers don't like her, and the proud satisfaction of personalizing how she printed the letter "Q." However, Ramona and Her Father takes on a new level of her experience of the world around her, as she realizes that there are things in the world that are out of her parent's control, and it can be a scary realization.  

    The story starts out in September and Ramona, aged seven and "making a joyful noise," as prompted by her Sunday School, is happily starting early on her Christmas list. When her father comes home, however, and the family learns that he had lost his job and money was going to be tight, Ramona's list suddenly seemed like a sad dream that could never happen. Hoping to make the list achievable, she crossed out the items she had happily wrote down just a little while before, and added One Happy Family at the bottom. 

    Ramona quickly learned that stress over money problems spilled over into everything else. Her family seemed moody and distracted. Even the family cat was resentful of the cheaper brand of cat food. 

    Ramona felt helpless against the grown-up problems that weighed her family down, yet being the only happy family member left, she believed that it was her responsibility to save them from despair. She looked for ways to make money herself, yet her attempts to get herself noticed enough for some talent agent to offer her an acting career had all turned out wrong by annoying her family, embarrassing her teacher, and having her own hair stuck full of burrs. Other ways that she tried to bring smiles to her family members had a tendency to backfire leaving her with fewer ideas on how to save them. 

    In early December, her Sunday school teacher started laying out plans for their annual Christmas Nativity. To Ramona's surprise, her older sister, Beezus, was given the role of the Virgin Mary. Suddenly filled with yearning to play a major role as well, and not just be a face blended in with the children's choir, Ramona spoke up to say that she wanted to be a sheep. Since sheep had not been a part of the pageant lineup before, there was no sheep costume, but her Sunday school teacher assured Ramona that she could be a sheep if she could get a costume. 

    Unfortunately, Ramona did not foresee the problem attached to asking her mother to make a sheep costume. Her mother, with her full time job, had no time to sew together a costume with material that they could not afford to buy. However, she did agree to try her best to get a costume together. Ramona's father, however, did not approve. Eavesdropping through the air vent, Ramona learned that he felt that giving in to her request would make her a spoiled brat. Hearing this made her feel that all her attempts to make her family happy were invalidated. 

    The next few weeks were tense for Ramona. Her mother indeed had very little time to get a costume together and it looked as if it would not be done in time for the Nativity. On top of that, Ramona was angry with her father about what he said about her behind her back, but she could not talk to him about it without admitting that she had eavesdropped. 

    Come the day of the Nativity, they were in the car, on their way to the church. Ramona's mother was happy that she had completed the costume, using an old terry-cloth bathrobe for a tail and headdress with ears, and faded pajamas for the body. Ramona's father was happy because he had been offered a job that would start after the New Year. Beezus was happy to play the role of Mary. 

    Ramona, however, was all happied out. Months of her family being unhappy had finally gotten to her. She was cross with the world and annoyed that her family was happy. She was especially upset that her costume consisted of pajamas that was printed all over with pink rabbits. They were very faded and hard to see, but Ramona could see them, and to her, the costume was ruined. She was a very grumpy sheep and tried to foul her family's mood by announcing that she would not be in the Nativity. Her mood did not improve when her family, rather than recoil in shock, blithely accepted her announcement.

    Upon reaching the church basement, where all the children were getting ready, a sad little sheep slipped unnoticed behind the Christmas tree, and felt very alone. She wanted to join the others, but in light of her announcement to her family, she did not want to admit defeat. She was even hoping that someone would see her and make her march upstairs and be a sheep but poor little Ramona was forgotten. She prayed to God to get her out of this mess. 

    Amidst the chaos of the basement Ramona noticed three older girls who started putting on outfits and using makeup to make themselves look very different. Intrigued by the makeup, Ramona moved to get a better look, and one of the girls spotted her. They coaxed her out, called her costume adorable, and tried to encourage her to be in the Nativity. Nobody seemed to even notice the pink rabbits. When Ramona asked what they were doing they explained that the boys who were supposed to play the part of the Three Wise Men backed out at the last minute so they were filling in as the Three Wise Persons. 

    Inspired by how the girls looked very different with their makeup, Ramona asked for some too, so that she could have a sheep's black nose. This way, she could be in the Nativity and her family wouldn't recognize her. When the girls helped her out, she happily ran upstairs to join the other children. 

    During the Nativity, Ramona was awed and mystified that her sister could look every bit as lovely and holy as the Virgin Mary appeared on Christmas cards, and was proud of her. Then, looking out at the congregation, she saw her parents looking at Beezus with pride. Ramona suddenly wanted them to be proud of her as well! She wanted to be a part of this happy family that she had spent months trying to preserve. Then she noticed that her father was looking at her, had recognized her through her makeup, and indicated that he every bit as proud of her as he was with her sister. 

    Ramona's edited Christmas list had indeed come true! She did indeed have a happy family!

    I am inspired by this Christmas story because it's very moving and real, with elements of the power of God, but without the forced in-your-face religion. 

    Ramona had faith that she could save her family from the very adult-world sadness. As we all know, faith does not mean that disappointments, embarrassments, and misunderstandings do not happen. Sometimes faith, especially when handling it alone, could be exhausting, as Ramona had experienced on the day of the Nativity. But faith does not go unrewarded. She just needed some encouragement to help her to do the right thing to complete her Christmas list. 

    One thing that she did right was that she prayed. It wasn't a wordy or a complicated prayer, and in the moment, it seemed that her little prayer in the church basement would be lost in the larger scheme of things. But was it?

    Why did the boys suddenly back out of being Wise Men, prompting the Sunday School teacher to find Wise Persons, who needed to put on costumes and change their looks at the last minute? Why couldn't the Sunday School teacher find three other boys willing to play the part, who wouldn't need that makeup which fascinated Ramona? Had that not happened, would Ramona have spent the entirety of the Nativity hiding behind the Christmas tree? Was this because she had prayed?

    Although the book is, for the most part, a non-religious story, I find it beautiful how the story wraps together inside a church, and that it was Ramona's faith that completed it. Although the book never specifically mentioned faith, Ramona's belief in God combined with the love for her family brings together for the reader a gentle example of acts of faith, making this a very sweet and tender Christmas story. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

I Love You Forever...

     Often times in our lives, we are faced with ambiguity, leaving us unsure where we stand with someone. Then, sometimes, it takes only a small gesture to displace the ambiguity forever. 

    Such was the case with my Aunt Mary Carol. She was a relative who was just kind of there for the taking or leaving. She did not impose herself nor was she standoffish. She just was. 

    I, too, just was. I was an unconventional child who never fit into any social group. Not that I never tried, of course. I just never fit into any conventional box. Because of this, I was under constant criticism, and my self esteem was in the dirt. 

    Sometimes, a relative or family friend would invite me to spend some time with them, only for me to realize (too late to escape) that they were not interested in actually spending time and getting to know me. It was only an opportunity for them to lecture to me on all the things I was doing "wrong" yet giving me no keys of advice on how to achieve "normalcy." Being a very trusting and lonely person I fell for this dehumanizing trap many many times. 

    In the summer of 1987, when I was 14, I was visiting relatives at the far end of the state from where I lived. My Aunt Mary Carol lived in the area, and showed up, wanting me to go to her place for the night. At the time, I never had much to do with her. Don't get me wrong, I liked her okay, there were simply some other relatives that I was closer to. I opted to go with her. This could be another trap but I was used to those. I thought those were normal. We got in her car.

    One thing about me that seemed to irritate some people was that my music traveled with me. I had my boom box (remember, this was the 80s!) and several cassettes that traveled with me. It was just one of my many "things" that just came with the full package. Quiet drives just didn't happen with me. 

    I figured that if this was going to be another "I love you but your problem is..." visit, we may as well get that part out of the way as soon as possible. Maybe if the lecture was done first she might want some real time with me afterwards. It was worth a shot. I loaded my weapon, the ammunition being Billy Idol's Whiplash Smile, and slipped the cassette in my boom box. I turned the volume knob up all the way.

    The song, Don't Need a Gun, began. It starts out abruptly, yet quietly, with an ominous feeling that steadily grows for about a minute. When suddenly, Billy screams:


    Aunt Mary Carol's eyes went BOING!!!

    I laughed and asked her mischievously, "A little loud for you?"

    At this point, most people would have started in with something to the effect of, "Actually, I've been wanting to talk to you about your failings..."

    Instead, she said simply, "No, I like it."

    I did not expect that. Not at all. What she said had a much deeper meaning than the simplicity of her words. She was not just saying that she liked Billy Idol music or liked that it was loud. What she said told me that she liked me. All of me. Even the parts of me that the conventional society does not accept. This was not a lecture trip. Aunt Mary Carol wanted me to be with her just because. 

    I spent two days with her. We talked, played cards, went for walks. Sometimes we talked, but she seemed to understand that I was not terribly chatty, and she made no attempt to "fix" that so we had quiet times as well. She made no attempt to fix anything about me, except for the places in me that were broken for real, such as the lonely parts that craved acceptance. She accepted me. She loved me. There was no ambiguity in her love. 

    Towards the end of 2013, cancer ravaged my dear aunt. I stayed with her for the last week and a half of her life. We spent hours talking and not talking. That had been our way for decades. As the illness took parts of her away from me, both in body and in mind, she kept making sure I was there, not leaving her. She loved and accepted me. All of me. She needed all of me with her. 

    The day before she died, the last bits of who she was were reduced to her speaking a repetitive chant of, "I love you forever. I love you forever. I love you forever..." When she became to weak to chant, she spoke no more in this world. 

    I miss her. Her love for me was always real. I knew this to be true since 1987, thanks to Billy Idol. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Five Years, What a Surprise

 Five years ago, Planet Earth lost its Starman. 

The world reeled with sadness and loss when news had come over that David Bowie had passed away. He was, is, and always be my favorite singer. Even now, his passing doesn't yet seem quite real to me. 

He was also the largest influence on the members of Duran Duran. Without him, my favorite band just would not be. Naturally, the Duran Duran band members feel the gravity of his loss. 

Five years after Bowie's passing, Bowie's longtime pianist, Mike Garson, produced a concert that included various artists playing Bowie songs as a tribute to celebrate Bowie's life. This included Duran Duran playing one of Bowie's earlier songs, Five Years. 

This was an interesting choice. It was shortly after his father had passed away that Bowie had a dream that his father told him he only had five years to live, which distressed him greatly at the time. Of course, Bowie lived several decades after that, but it was beautiful how that song was used five years after his actual passing to keep his memory alive. 

As a Duran Duran fan, this was a delight for me! It was very sweet and moving to see them reach far back into the roots of their music to give the song a gentle embrace in a way that is so... Duran Duran. It was also good to see them look good while doing it. This has been a crazy time with the whole COVID thing, and John Taylor was even sick from it last year, but they all looked radiant and healthy. It was wonderful, and a relief, to see them in action again! Plus, it has been five years sine their last single, which makes the cover of the song all the more welcome!

As a David Bowie fan, however, I felt a bit conflicted with how Duran Duran covered Five Years. 

The first reason is that there was a slight change in the lyrics. Subtle, but I felt that the modernized lyrics was untrue to Bowie's art. David Bowie did not modernize. He recreated. He did not adjust his art to fit the times. He made the times fit his art. 

The second reason is that Five Years feels watered down without the angst. Don't get me wrong, Simon LeBon sang it beautifully, and with apparent care. But when David Bowie recorded it, he threw all of his emotion into what he was doing to the point that he was very nearly uncontrollably crying and screaming towards the end of the song. It was reported that it took him a while to collect himself after they were done recording. The song covered in a controlled manner has left me a bit... underwhelmed. 

However, being both a David Bowie and Duran Duran fan, I am so very glad that this tribute happened.  It was a very moving experience to see Duran Duran collaborate with Mike Garson to help keep the spirit of Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, Aladdin Sane, Jareth, Black Star, and all of Bowie's personas alive for us all!

Smiling and waving and looking so fine~ Five Years

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Hello lovely readers.
I do apologize for my absence and that this is my first post for this year. Although I have very much wanted to write more frequently, life has been complicated.
After suffering a concussion over a year ago, in some ways, parts of the way that my brain processes things have not quite healed, and it's uncertain if I will ever completely heal.
One of the things that I have been struggling with has been an on-and-off blockage with my creative writing, which includes adding something interesting each time I add something to this blog. It seems the part of my brain that drives my creative writing has been broken, which has been very frustrating.
I have been waiting for something inspiring to come to me to add here... time passes... things in life happen... time passes... am I inspired to write something here? No? I wait some more... time passes... the world is struck with the plague of the century... yadda yadda yadda...
Yes, we have the Covid 19 thing going on, which has been giving thousands of people time to explore all kind of creative energies. However, my job has been declared "essential" which means I have been working extra hard for the past few months instead of attempting to see if I have healed enough to allow my imagination to flow through my fingers to my keyboard.
I am hopeful that life, both in the world and despite my injuries, will soon gradually come together in a kind of "normal" that will allow me to write here more frequently and I ask only for your patience and understanding.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

I Knew Santy Claus

Once upon a time, I was very small and had very limited knowledge of the world around me, but that didn't stop me from figuring things out... my own way.

A few houses up the street from where I grew up lived an elderly couple who were very much my surrogate grandparents. Their names were Jane and Emery. For reasons I never knew, everyone called Emery "Chub," so that's who I knew him as. Jane and Chub were a large part, and one of the best parts, of my world.

Something called Christmas was coming up, though I knew little about it. My dad got a tree and stood it up in the living room, though nobody seemed to think that this was strange, and put shiny balls on it that I wasn't allowed to touch because they could break. A special little open-faced house was placed on top of our television where all the little dolls in it were fixed to gaze lovingly at a special baby. The record player played special tunes that I knew had something to do with the tree and the little house, but these things weren't customarily explained to very small children.

One thing that everyone frequently did talk to me about was Santy Claus, an old man dressed in red who was going to give presents to me and my brothers. My experience with Christmas and Santy Claus was very limited at the time and I'm not sure if I had retained any information from the previous year concerning this mysterious man.

This Christmas thing finally did arrive and with it came Santy Claus!

He didn't come down the chimney, the way that he did in legend. Instead he knocked on the front door and came in when my dad answered. My brothers, who are older than me, were quick to point out that Santy was wearing Chub's glasses! They were right! I knew those glasses. Plus, Jane came in the door right after him. I knew exactly who wore the red suit!

It all made sense to me at that point. Chub was Santy Claus! It even said so in the book that was read to me frequently at that time of year, The Night Before Christmas, right in the line that read, "He was Chubby and plump..." What more proof was needed?

Chub was really and truly Santy Claus!

The rest of the world could go ahead and believe that he lived at the North Pole. Now I knew that he lived in secret, living a normal life, just a few houses down from me, where I got to enjoy him all year round. The rest of the world could believe in the fantasy all they wanted to, because I knew that it would be wrong to spill Chub's secret. Even when other kids would tell me that Santa Claus (yes, they always said his name wrong) wasn't real, I never told them that he was my neighbor. I would rather look foolish to them than to betray my friend.

I kept his secret too, long after Jane and Chub had left our world. Even so, Santy Claus is real!