Words of Comfort

Patriot’s Day – April 15, 2013 – Boston Marathon Bombing

Our prayers and condolences for those who lost someone today. Our prayers are with those who are injured and traumatized from today’s violent act of terrorism.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”  – Fred Rogers, American educator, Presbyterian minister, songwriter, author, and television host. Rogers was most famous for creating and hosting Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968–2001).

“When tragedies strike, heroes rise to meet the challenge: the first responders seen sprinting toward the blast site, the runners who changed course to run to local hospitals to donate blood, and the fine citizens of Boston who at once opened their homes to marathoners in need of a place to stay. When we come together, we cannot be brought down.” – George Takei


Happiness Teeth

Christie LeeDents du bonheur” (happiness teeth) as the French call them, are what dominated my expression every time I smiled and laughed as a young girl. I did not consider the most prominent teeth in my mouth to be “happy”! I was gapped-toothed with a slight overbite until the age of 14, painfully shy, and covered my mouth when I grinned.  Somehow the photographer for our eigth grade class photos managed to get me to smile with hands folded in my lap.

By the time I was a sophomore in high school in 1962, my parents thought it best to sent me to an oral surgeon that summer to remove the tough, muscular webbing forcing my two front teeth apart (diastema). I got up out of the dental chair wearing an awkward dental appliance to wear day and night to slowly coerce my two front teeth back and together. I still remember the sensations of pain and pressure, popping that pink, hard-molded acrylic into the roof of my mouth, the metal bar sliding over my teeth. I only took it out to brush it and my teeth, and to eat. At the start of my junior year, while taking a lunch break as I worked on a project in the art room, I slipped out my retainer and quickly wrapped it in a piece of paper towel from off the roll by the sink. I remember the sinking feeling, then panic, at home later that night, the moment I said, “Oh, no! What did I do with my “bite plate?!” I rushed back to school the next morning to rummage through the trash, but it was not to be found. My parents couldn’t afford to replace it. That was the last I saw of my retainer, which left me with a lasting, although ever so slight, twist to my left front tooth – the kind of subtle difference one feels when you slide your tongue across your teeth. But like everything in life as I was discovering,  things are rarely, if ever, “perfect”.

Over time, the habit of covering my mouth eventually stopped and I became less and less self-conscious; shyness took much longer to overcome.  As a youth, I let something as small as the space between my two front teeth take up significant space in my life. I wish I had met happy gap-toothed kids along the way. I might have understood that it was okay to be different, I could be happy being “me”.  As I matured, I grew to appreciate inner beauty and countenance more than physical appearance, with a growing awareness of my own.

The beautiful actress Amanda Seyfried shares a similar experience growing up:

“I was super-outgoing until I was around 10. I got a bit older and started getting shy. Way too shy. I felt so extremely ugly. When I look back, I was not ugly …I was cute and had a gap in my teeth. But I wish I could have enjoyed that part of my life and be more confident.”

Other gap-toothed women known for their unique beauty are Anna Paquin, Lauren Hutton, Condoleezza Rice, Brigitte Bardo, Esther Rolle, Madonna, Natalie Cole…. I imagine that for many of these women and men, it never dawned on them when they were young that they were pretty or handsome. For others, what makes them different may be their eyes, their nose, their ears, their height, their disability…. We have an opportunity to reflect back to each one we meet what makes them uniquely special, even beautiful.

If you have a similar experience, please share it with us. Leave a comment.

One and two stories high

Tyler Street MuralThe Jefferson County Historical Society tells the story of our town, describing Port Townsend as a remote outpost and village that grew into a a bustling seaport with a population of over 7,000 people, a city of dreams. Teeming with life along the water front, during the height of maritime commerce in the mid to late 1800’s, every kind of business and entrepreneurial enterprise sprang up to accomodate the influx of sailors, workers, and folks settling in to make a life and a living on the Olympic Peninsula. After the turn of the century, Port Townsend lost it’s advantage of the position it held as a gem of prosperity and opportunity on the Puget Sound – an ideal location for maritime commerce. The economy began to plummet partly due to the advent of steam-powered ships, which were by then routing their cargo to the customs office that was relocated to Seattle in 1911, along with the loss of the anticipated railroad. The population plummeted to 3,300 by 1910.

Today, we can still enjoy many of the landmarks, architecture, and other historic features and structures that have stood the test of time, many renovated at one time or another over the years. Both downtown and Uptown areas of Port Townsend are once again thriving business communities that have grown along with the growing population of over 9,000 people. Some of the mural graphics, both old and new, which cover some of the exteriors of brick buildings, one, even two stories high, such as the one pictured here, are preserved and appreciated for the unique, Victorian images they conjure up and the visual stories they tell of then and now.

A visit to the Historical Society, as well as self-guided walking tours of the town and marinas are how I first acquainted myself with Port Townsend’s rich history. The historic building plaque project is also a good place to start acquainting oneself with Port Townsend’s past and present. Today, Port Townsend is well known as a Victorian Seaport and hosts an annual Victorian Festival in March. It was after learning something of Port Townsend’s colorful maritime history and meeting local shanty enthusiasts that I became one myself, hosting a family-friendly shanty sing monthly since January of 2012. Out of that gathering, a group of us formed to work on a songbook project to preserve and enjoy maritime music. Sing Shanties & Songs About the Sea was published last August. Port Townsend is still referred to as the City of Dreams, and rightly so.