6) One Way for a Child to Gain Self-Confidence That Works Every Time

In the last post you read about my grandmother from North Minneapolis, Minnesota. In this post you will read about the importance of self-confidence.

I talk a lot about self-confidence in this book.

Early encouragement from my Mom helped mine and supported my decisions
to make risky and sometimes contrarian choices during the next
50 years of my life. Not that those decisions have always been brilliant. But they have always been mine. And I haven’t been afraid to make them.

Being the youngest of the four – and I have recently heard this from brother Dean as well – as a child I was cute and energetic. These characteristics often endear a wee one to the family. Our family was no different and I felt well supported and therefore took that as encouragement to believe that in life, I could accomplish anything. That still drives me today.

After School Sports and the Gift of Athletics Helped me Build Self-Confidence – Even Before I Understood Why

Weights080205121740-largeOn the self-confidence, much of mine was built on playing sports after school with my friends. Later in life when I discovered the benefits of lifting weights, swimming, running and cycling, my self-confidence soared. More about that later. My brother and sisters have also been active in sports – although at times for me, fitness has been a consuming passion. I never set out to get confident with my fitness. But for me, one has followed the other.

Self-Confidence Helps People Take Action

From Jack Welch, former boss of The General Electric Company, on self-confidence, “Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do.
Because then they will act.”

As a 12-year-old, I didn’t know much about self-confidence. But looking back from my age now at 62, I can see the role fitness and family encouragement served to help build mine.

Later in this blog, when I was old enough to be curious about the relationship of self-confidence to “success” in life, I began to read and learn about this important human attribute.

Photo: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080205121740.htm

Are you confident? If so, how did you develop it?

Next: A Very Good Arm Wrestler, But an Even Better Locksmith

5) Why Grandma’s Breath Smelled Like Black Licorice

6a017d4102324a970c017c3859718b970b-120wiIn the last post you read about some long-term effects of childhood loss of a father. In this post you will read about some eccentricities of my Grandmother.

A few years later, when I was about 9 years old, Grandma (in photo on left with daughters) moved to North Minneapolis, Minnesota and lived in a tiny 2-story “Gingerbread” house on 26th Avenue North. Mom and I stayed with her for a while. Mom occupied an upstairs bedroom and I in the basement. The basement smelled like a root cellar, had a fake bar on one end and hand-painted images of buildings on the
other. The images were of buildings in Downtown Minneapolis. One
such painting was The Foshay Tower, modeled after the Washington
Monument and completed in 1929 just before the stock market
Grandma’s Breath Smelled Like Licorice

St._Anne_-_St._Joseph_Hien_Catholic_ChurchPerceiving a need, apparently, Grandma made me go to St. Joseph Hien Catholic Church (she called it St. Joe’s) on Queen Avenue North and West Broadway in Minneapolis. Grandma’s breath smelled of Sen-Sen (a combination of licorice and mint) and she made damn sure mine did as well. The Sen-Sen used to come in tiny card-board boxes, which, it seemed like, she was always giving me on Sundays. The best part about going to St. Joe’s was walking to the altar and lighting up as many of the candles as she would allow. I can still picture them glowing as they burn through their red glass containers.

Photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:St._Anne_-_St._Joseph_Hien_Catholic_Church.JPG

Do you go to church?

Next: One Way to Gain Self Confidence That Works  Every Time

4) Three Long Term Effects of Childhood Loss of Father

Losing2013-02-24_1135In the last post you read about my step father’s acts of cruelty. In this post I’ll share some research on the long-term effects of losing a Dad in early childhood.

You have read my story of witnessing the loss of Dad to a heart attack when I was four years old and then our family experiencing abuse by my first step-dad.

But my story is one of thousands who lose a parent to death in the early years. I wanted to understand more about the long-term effects of this so I poked around and identified the following findings:

One Result: Perceived Forfeited Childhood

“Among the findings: 73% believe their lives would be ‘much better’ if their parents hadn’t died young; 66% said that after their loss ‘they felt they weren’t a kid anymore.”

Cause of Grieving in Children Often Not Recognized or Treated

“Childhood grief is “one of society’s most chronically painful yet most underestimated phenomena,” says Comfort Zone founder Lynne Hughes, who lost both her parents before she was 13. She says she is worried that educators, doctors, and the clergy get little or no training to help them recognize signs of loneliness, isolation and depression in grieving children—and in adults who lost parents in childhood.”

“Students are often promoted from grade to grade, with new teachers never being informed that they’re grieving. Adults visit physicians, speak of depression, but are never asked if a childhood loss might be a factor.”

Source: http://www.hellogrief.org/families-with-a-missing-piece/

Scars a Child in Ways Often Hidden but Powerful

“[Grief…]as a child can be a trauma very hard to overcome, especially at a very young age. It has consequences that go beyond the death of the loved one. It changes the child, it changes its future, its personality, its beliefs, its fears, its cravings, the way the child perceives the world.”

“It is hard for others, who have not had a similar experience, to understand what this means. It is hard for the adults around the child to comprehend how it scars the child. This scar will last forever. It will be with the child as she grows, year after year, until adulthood and beyond into the old age and it will never disappear.”

Source: http://algarveview.hubpages.com/hub/Losing-a-parent-as-a-child

Loss of Father Affects Intimacy

“The quality of a father-child relationship effects intimate relationships in adulthood February 19, 2007 Recent research at the University of Haifa School of Social Work revealed a connection between father-child relationship and the ability to achieve the interrelation intimacy in adulthood. The research, conducted by Dr. Nurit Nahmani, examined the quality of father-child relationships among three groups: orphans, children of divorced parents and children of intact families. 82% of the children of married parents reported being involved in an intimate relationship while only 62% of the orphans and 60% of the children of divorced parents did.”

Source: http://phys.org/news91115690.html#jCp

Book Cover Image: http://www.amazon.com/Losing-Parent-Death-Early-Years/dp/0943657725

Have you lost a parent during childhood?

Next: Grandma’s Breath Smelled Like Black Licorice

3) Three Cruelest Acts my Step Father Ever Committed

In the last post you read why Dad’s death solved Mom’s biggest problem. In this post you will read about my next step father and his cruelty.

Later, that same year, in 1955 while living with him at his
house in North Minneapolis, Uncle Jeremy sneezed on me. So close the spray covered the back of my neck.

Aunt Peg’s Kitchen

Just after that mess I can remember all of us standing in Aunt Meg’s kitchen. The kitchen floor in that big 2-story house was a checkerboard pattern with counter tops, painted wooden trim, an old electric mixer and bowl and an odd assortment of mismatched dishes that all appeared smeared with a nearly indistinguishable mixture of peanut-butter, oil and eggs that were several years old. I can recall the floors creaked under Aunt Meg’s weight. “Who do’s the cooking,” I asked, looking at Aunt Meg. “I do,” she said. “I’d sure like to try some of your cooking,” I said. “and, Aunt Meg, you ain’t fat either,” I said transparently.

I was lucky to have such a large extended family while
growing up in Minnesota, I guess. Lucky in the sense that after
Dad died in 1954, Folks could see Mom and I needed help and
sometimes took us in. My brother Dean and sisters Darla and
Pam also helped out Mom a lot, I am told. Mom remarried twice
during that time, I recall. Once to Curley and then Jim.

Mom’s Second Husband – Curley

02242013090620Mom married Curley when I was about 6 years old. Supposedly, Curley was part Chippewa Indian. The rumor was Mom married the first available man who had both legs intact, which is  nonsense. But I always wondered how the rumor got started.

And Three Disturbing Memories

One involved a fist-fight at our house on New Year’s eve. A small boy’s recollections are bigger than life, I suppose, but I can remember loud voices and bloody faces the next day – something like a scene from the movie “Gangs of New York”.

The second memory was when I was swimming in Shingle Creek and nearly drowning. I called Curley for help, since he was sitting on the bank of the creek. He didn’t help. I still recall the taste of the briny, fetid creek water as it raced down the back of my throat. The bastard never tried to help.

A third memory is when Curley held a shotgun on us for several hours. Apparently he didn’t like what Mom had served for dinner and with one motion, raked all of the plates full of food onto the floor. Curley held us at gunpoint for quite a while. It seemed like hours. As my brother Dean tells it, “I fought with Curley for control of the shotgun but he slammed the butt of the gun into my stomach and got the better of me.”

I didn’t hate my step father Curley. But I hate the memories.

Did you have a mean step father?

Next: Three Long-Term Effects of Childhood Loss of Father

2) Why Dad’s Death Solved Mom’s Biggest Problem

image - Rush D. Stanley
In yesterday’s post you read about Dad’s train accident in 1938, 12 years before I was born.

Mom (Myna R. Schmidt) and Dad (Rush D. Stanley) met around 1933 at a friends house. After Dad’s legs were severed in the train accident in 1938, Mom worked as a domestic during the time Dad was recovering from his accident and later during the time my sisters (Pam and Darla) and brother (Dean) were very young.


I was the last of Mom’s four children and was born on April 21, 1950 at The Swedish Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The first house I lived in, at 1508 53rd Ave. North, Brooklyn Center, is shown in the image on the left.

In 1951 our family bought a run-down tavern in Range, Wisconsin called The Log Cabin Cafe and lived there approximately one-year. According to my brother Dean, he and I slept in the basement, which from time to time, flooded.

Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 11.11.19 AM

Can you pick out Mom and Dad?

In 1952  we moved to 53rd Avenue N. & Knox Avenue N. in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And after a few years later – as best folks can remember – we spent a winter on a frozen farm in Wisconsin.

A Small Child Witnesses Something Ghastly

02122013121348“Dad, wake-up,” I recall saying, in 1954, when I was four years old. Dad couldn’t. He had just died of a heart attack at 39 years of age right there before my eyes. Dad was changing the license plates on the family car in our driveway. My brother Dean was 14 at the time and my sisters a few years older. How does the death (and witnessing it) of your father affect you the rest of your life? I cannot say for sure. Although it must. I miss him terribly at times. The photo just above shows Mom and me shortly after Dad’s passing. Notice the boy hanging his head? People speculate Mom was relieved when Dad died. She escaped the beatings. Their drunken combat was Mom’s biggest problem.

But Life Goes On, Doesn’t It?

Mom“I can remember many times just having bread, butter and sugar for you kids,” said my Mom, remembering that winter in 1955 on  Grand mother’s farm-house in Luck, Wisconsin, after Dad passed away. “Hold on. Hold on tight!” Dean shouted, pulling me on the saucer as his longer legs devoured the snow-covered ground beneath us in the pasture on that run-down, secluded country farm. Holding on to the canvas straps of the saucer with half-frozen mittens,  I could hear the sound soft snow makes as it is crushed beneath the tin disk upon which I sat. Dean pulled the saucer really fast, occasionally twirling me in a giant circle. He never seemed to get tired.

Will your life be worthy of a story like this one when you pass away?

Next – Three Cruelest Acts My Step Father Ever Committed

1) Warning: Gruesome Train Accident Severs Dad’s Legs

Train accident_2013-02-10_1821 (1)-framed

On a hot July evening in 1938 – much like any other – a 24-year-old man met with a very unfortunate train accident. As the story goes, later that night our family learned the man in the accident was our Dad. Rush D. Stanley’s legs had been gruesomely severed above his knees. Dad recovered and lived another 16 years before succumbing to heart failure on January 5, 1954 at 40 years of age. So by any ordinary measure, Dad led a short, tragic life.

Dad’s Driving Force

But Dad was no ordinary man. Family photographs of Dad show a man with no legs hunting deer, building his own house and designing a contraption to help himself control the gas and brake pedals of the family car. Those photos and childhood observations by my older brother Dean, paint a picture of a man possessed. A man possessed by a blinding determination to build his independence and resume a more normal life.
Rush Stanley and Ralph SchmidtDad wasn’t a war hero or a special Olympics star. In 1938, when he lost his legs, people’s attitudes were those of pity, not empowerment. Economically, Dad’s accident was devastating. He could not work and was completely dependent on Mom. Hardly any details were available about where Dad eventually found work when he recovered, but we will remember him more for his determination to become mobile, his love of the outdoors, his inventiveness and his occasional outbursts of meanness when he drank.

I inherited Dad’s love for tinkering – and I suppose, trying to break the mold.

An Autobiography with Something for Everyone

Today, 75 years later – in the year 2013 – here in my autobiography, I’ll share with you how I spent the last 50 years in search of my life’s work and some of the rotten luck as well as triumphs I’ve had along the way from North Minneapolis to Nob Hill.

Did you lose your Dad when you were young?


Next – How Dad’s Death Solved Mom’s Biggest Problem