Fucking up and other adventures….


Hello my darlings,


Today’s big news: I’m starting a brand-new chapter in my life, and it scares the shit outta me! I thought when I began writing that beginning a career this late in life was a big jump. Hell’s Bells--putting my house on the market and selling is even bigger. The squiggles in my stomach are moving fast and furious, but I have a hunch this is going to go smoother than I ever dreamed. The part that’s most gut-wrenching is the actual move across country—twelve hundred and thirty miles to be exact. Who does that at this age? ME.


Moving is not my favorite thing, no surprise there. The packing—UGH. There are lots of things to get organized and plan for, so I guess I better start making a list. What has surprised me the most is the reaction by my friends. Everything from sorrow/disappointment to “good for you” and “I’m so happy for you.” (The latter are the friends that probably want me out of the neighborhood. LOL) I have a few neighbors that I will miss dearly, but where I’m going is simply another new adventure.


My new location is one that I’m familiar with, as I lived there many years ago with my husband, Dennis. In fact, it’s where my first child was born. We only lived in the area for about 2 years, but the deep and abiding friendship with a certain family there has survived the years. Returning to the Midwest makes sense for me because I’ll once again be within the same time-zone as my kids and grandkids. Most importantly, I will be within driving distance in case of emergencies.


Many years back I had to learn how to let go of my kids. It’s the hardest thing a mother has to do—letting her kids live their own lives and make mistakes that she cannot or must not straighten out. For how else would they grow? How else would they become who they are meant to become? Do you remember the poem On Children Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) wrote?


“Your children are not your children.

They are sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you.

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth....."


Wow. When I first read that poem, it had a profound effect on me. Recognizing it as truth, I have tried to live by its guidance once my children had grown and left home. Before that I was too caught up in societal norms, wanting the kids to “be good”, “study hard”, and to learn responsibility.


After they flew the nest, I recognized that young ones need more guidance and love than they do discipline. You know the moms that run a strict household? That was me. And I thought I was doing the right thing. I have since changed my mind—but it didn’t come until after I got into therapy and saw my parenting skills as something other than totally appropriate. In fact, they sucked a lot of the time. Apologizing to my kids became rather easy for me (I think that’s called Lutheran guilt) as I was certain I had fucked up their lives. (They remember my thinking The Smurfs were a satanic thing all too well.) It was my thinking that was fucked up back then. But in my defense, I was being negatively influenced by certain Fundamentalists that I was associating with at the time. I quickly recognized the error of my ways when I began recognizing how controlling and mean-spirited Fundamentalist beliefs were and are still to this day. So glad I was ex-communicatedJ and lived to wear it as a badge of honor.


One of the saddest cultural things happening today are people spewing hatred in Christ’s name. And a lot of them wear their Christianinty cloaked in white hoods and robes. Great harm is being done around the world to wonderful people in God’s name. All one has to do is turn on the nightly news or read online about the latest bullshit being spit out by certain politicians and religious groups. These are NOT my people. They do not belong in my tribe. I live and profess love and acceptance. Tolerance and lending a helping hand. But I do admit to being intolerant at times of what “they” are preaching—it is simply toxic to me. Walking away is what I have learned to do to protect myself from that kind of poison. And having no cable TV or DISH assists my efforts. (How can one stand all those commercials, anyway?)


Back to my kids. Turns out, my three are rather wonderful, each in his or her own way. I’ve done my best to not interfere in their lives while supporting them emotionally the best I can. Wasn’t it Soren Kierkegaard who said, “We live life forward but understand it backward.?” That’s another of my favorite quotes simply because it’s very true. How often do we (I) lose the big picture when something happens? That’s when “trusting the Universe” is my go-to plan. When raising children, I simply did the best I could with the tools and knowledge I had. Later, a light bulb comes on and I grew exponentially. It was then I recognized my poor parenting skill. It became time to ask for forgiveness as well as learn how to forgive myself. I continue to work on that (forgiving myself) in all areas.


Each day we live holds its own challenges. And sometimes LIFE HAPPENS in very unexpected ways. Surprises that leave us gut-punched or whirling in circles like a dervish aren’t fun. But with friends (our Tribe) and family we make it through. Remember to ask for help. One of my therapists once said to me, “When the going gets tough, the tough LOWER THEIR STANDARDS.” This is excellent self-care. One thing at a time. Maybe one hour at a time. Whatever it takes—you and I will get through.


Love and light, my darlings-

Rosemary




GUTSY WOMAN: Belle Benchley




Belle Jennings Benchley (1882-1973) was an early glass-ceiling breaker when she became the world’s only female zoo director at the San Diego Zoo in 1927. Despite taking on all the responsibilities of a zoo director—after male directors didn’t make the cut—the zoo’s male board of directors gave her the title of “executive secretary!” It wasn’t until 1953 (just before her retirement) that she was voted “managing director.” (So typical of our patriarchal society.) By that time, the whole world knew her as “The Zoo Lady”.


Belle was born in Kansas and moved with her family to the San Diego area when she was five years old. As one of eight siblings, her home was offered up as Point Loma’s first elementary school. Her growing up years on a ranch would later equip her to do extraordinary things with animals. Belle graduated from San Diego Normal School (currently San Diego State University) and took up teaching duties on the Pala Indian Reservation (located just north of San Diego). After meeting and marrying William Benchley in 1906, the couple moved to Fullerton, California where her next seventeen years were consumed with motherhood and being a good wife. The marriage lasted until 1922, when Belle found herself a divorced single mother searching for a steady work that supported her and her teenage son, Edward.


She began at the fledgling San Diego Zoo as a civil servant bookkeeper. Her duties quickly included everything from sweeping cages to taking tickets. The cash-strapped zoo soon allowed her to take over directorial duties because of her skills and work ethic.


Hungry to prove herself, Belle began spending time with the animals and their caretakers during lunch breaks and any other available minutes she could scrounge up. Her goal was to get to know the wonderful animals and how to care for them, expanding her knowledge of all the creatures and building relationships with each caretaker. Belle also picked the brain of Dr. Harry Wegeforth—the zoo’s founder and president. A trust grew quickly between the two creating a symbiotic work team. Belle was soon helping with animal acquisitions and trading, bookkeeping, helping with fundraising, giving talks at both public and private events, and still managing the day-to-day work of the zoo.




Not afraid to get her hands dirty, Belle was dependable and hard-working. When it came time for Dr. Wegeforth to focus on his medical practice full time, he knew exactly who he would entrust with his duties. “You might as well run the place,” he told her, “You’re already doing it anyway.” From that day forward, Belle Benchley (“The Zoo Lady”) became a household name in San Diego.




Belle became well respected by the entire zoo community. She was the first woman elected president of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums. Beloved by the staff and animals, she was visited daily while hospitalized after a car accident in 1933. The staff often smuggled animals into her room. Among her visitors were binturongs (an Asian civet) and baby foxes. The caretakers were even able to hide “Maggie—the orangutan” under a coat, bringing Belle a personal favorite to brighten her recovery days.




In her memoir, Belle talked of her proudest achievement—bringing Mbongo and Ngagi to the Zoo in 1931. She had discovered that Martin and Osa Johnson were searching for a home for two Belgian Congo gorillas. After penning a letter touting the extraordinary advantages the San Diego Zoo could provide for the gorillas—year-round outdoor habitat, warm climate, fresh fruit and veggies, a great medical team and one of the few zoo hospitals in the country—the Johnson’s decision was easy. The gorillas found a happy home and Belle fell in love with the two unique creatures. The pair grew to love Belle emoting pleasurable rumbles when she appeared. Zoologists from around the world came to study the pair, and attendance at the Zoo sky rocketed.

“'Most of the animals in the Zoo knew her. They’d wait for her car. And it wasn’t to be fed. They knew Mrs. Benchley, and she knew them.' —Ken Stott, zoo curator and historian.”


Belle had many more animal friends at the park including Bum the Andean condor. He’d stick his beak in her pocket knowing he’d find treats placed there just for his pleasure. “In a newspaper article, she noted that Bum “likes me best. When he sits on the ground and spreads his wings, they measure more than eight feet across. He is so large and strong that he could knock down and beat me to death with his great wings. Or, he could cut off my finger with his large beak. Instead, he holds his head for me to pat, turning it around so that I can rub the sides and back. . . . He unties my shoe-laces without touching a thread of my silk stockings. If I run on the outside of the cage, he spreads his wings and runs with me.” (Those of us who are animal lovers recognize her marvelous animal instinct.)


During the Depression (and the Zoo’s early years), Belle negotiated with local businesses for food for the animals. She found scrap materials to build needed enclosures. Her saavy skills were especially advantageous when asking delinquent members for their dues. (Sweet shaming was not beyond her!)


“More than love of animals is required to make a zoo director or an animal man. I have often had to dismiss men, despite their love of animals, because they lacked that something which, for want of a better name, is called animal instinct, a vague term adequately describing something that one either has or has not. Animals discern it first. You may not recognize that you have it until the animal makes you aware—by the nature of his response—that a bond of confidence exists between you. —Belle Benchley, My Life in a Man-Made Jungle”


On top of all she did for the San Diego Zoo, Belle also brought animals into the homes across America through her beloved books. She wrote four popular books, all published in the 1940s. Her first book, My Life In a Man-Made Jungle, became an international bestseller. It was even sent overseas to troops to help boost morale during WWII. The war years and shortly after were as difficult as the “Depressions” years for the Zoo, but Belle successfully brought the popular park through it all. One of her most popular programs brought school busses of second-graders to the zoo, believing that when the children met the animals they would want to learn about caring for nature’s valuable creatures.


After announcing her retirement in 1953, the board of directors strongly protested her leaving! Over eight hundred people attended her retirement dinner where she was presented with a three month trip around the world. She finally had time to take that vacation that long eluded her during those hard-working years. Belle continued to visit her beloved animals and staff for the rest of her life. She died in 1972 at the age of 90.


Did you know?

1.) Mbongo and Ngagi are memorialized in bronze statues at the Zoo’s entrance.

2.) Belle’s gravestone is inscribed with her title “The Zoo Lady”. It also has a carving by her granddaughter, Laurel, of a smiling gorilla.

3.) Belle attributed her success to “being born under a lucky star.”



https://zoohistories.com/2019/06/23/belle-benchley-worlds-first-female-zoo-director/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belle_Benchley

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/local-history/story/2020-10-20/95-years-ago-belle-jennings-benchley-to-a-job-at-the-san-diego-zoo



Book Recommendation: West with Giraffes: A Novel

By Lynda Rutledge (Author)



An emotional, rousing novel inspired by the incredible true story of two giraffes who made headlines and won the hearts of Depression-era America.

“Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes…” Woodrow Wilson Nickel, age 105, feels his life ebbing away. But when he learns giraffes are going extinct, he finds himself recalling the unforgettable experience he cannot take to his grave....


It’s 1938. The Great Depression lingers. Hitler is threatening Europe, and world-weary Americans long for wonder. They find it in two giraffes who miraculously survive a hurricane while crossing the Atlantic. What follows is a twelve-day road trip in a custom truck to deliver Southern California’s first giraffes to the San Diego Zoo. Behind the wheel is the young Dust Bowl rowdy Woodrow. Inspired by true events, the tale weaves real-life figures with fictional ones, including the world’s first female zoo director, a crusty old man with a past, a young female photographer with a secret, and assorted reprobates as spotty as the giraffes.

Part adventure, part historical saga, and part coming-of-age love story, West with Giraffes explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time, and a story told before it’s too late. Amazon Review

***Personally, I loved this delightful novel (Historical Fiction). The “grace of animals,” indeed:) You will fall in love with these divine giraffes and fascinating characters. Lynda Rutledge has crafted an enchanting tale that was hard for me to put down. She has drawn a clear and artful painting of a cross-country trek filled with danger for not just Woody, Red, and Mr. Riley Jones but for the darlings—“Girl” and “Boy”. Any animal lover will treasure this book. Curl up with it in your hands and get ready for an adventure that brings staggering emotions to your heart. You’ll be so happy you did!


Sending love and hugs your way--


May you be free from Fear

May you treat yourself with kindness

May you love yourself as you are

May you know your own goodness

May you give yourself the compassion that you need





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