May. High school graduations.
Do you think back on yours? Did your eyebrows raise the way mine did when I asked myself, “When the hell did THAT happen?”
I proudly graduated from Harrington High School in 1967, shocked and humbled to be valedictorian. Truth be known, my dear friend, Dr. Sue Perry, now a social worker, was way smarter than I, and I thought she deserved it. I’m sure she was right on my heels as salutatorian. I think about positive psychology now and the concept of “grit” comes to mind. Grit = Passion, perseverance and sustained effort for long term goals. I wasn’t as smart as Sue, but maybe grit contributed to my good fortune.
I also remember the only day I cut my afternoon classes. With my good friend classmate, Brenda Neeman, we drove an hour away to a boys’ state track meet in Wilmington, DE. It just happened to be the same day our tall, skinny, Ichabod Crane look-alike principal, Archie Fagen, tried unsuccessfully to find me to regale me with my valedictorian news. Instead, the next day he tracked me down and took me to the emotionally-laden verbal wood shed with a long switch. Busted! I still remember where I was standing when he spied me in the hall. Menacing index finger pointed and shaking in my face, with a sharp, admonishing scary voice, he ripped me a new one! But that chewing out versus attending my friends’ last high school track meet was worth it. My goody two-shoes needed to come off for an afternoon, but the next day, I had wished they were running shoes!
For many years, I have been our Harrington High School Class of 1967 historian. I love staying connected with my classmates. Rare in this day and age, perhaps. Me, the pestering one writing to my classmates requesting a blurb about their yearly comings and goings. I often feel like a used car salesman or old-fashioned encyclopedia hawker trying to create a pitch to motivate my classmates to call or write. Happy to say, the computer has made this task easier. Look for the good.
Isn’t it remarkable our entire high school, you read that right, everyone who has ever graduated from our high school, still meets each year on the first Sat in May?
We give out scholarships, eat dinner and yak. Folks from ages 100 and younger compare notes and have a grand time. People like me fly in from all over the world. Many times you have heard me cite the quote from positive psychology pioneer and beloved mentor, Dr. Chris Peterson, ”Other people matter.” And relationships rock your world with wellness and psychological well-being more than any other gift you give yourself.
In marketing classes, they tell you how to save time in your career. They challenge you to re-purpose and use everything you write three times. Really? I’ve never done that. But I remembered that strategy as I sat here in Puerto Vallarta writing this May blog for you.
My blog below is as personal as it gets. Way too much information. Vulnerability personified. Stop reading right now if you are not curious about the last 50 years of my life after high school. Not that you should be. It took me forever to write this tome for our Harrington High School Alumni News. Fifty years to summarize in a few paragraphs? And my news for this last year, too? I could have summed it all up in a few words: gratitude, love, friendship, sharing, adventure and appreciating beauty. But you know me, I had to wax philosophical and savor memories.
Also, I hope you enjoy the poem my grandfather wrote about what really mattered in life to him. The apple didn’t fall too far from the Burgess tree.
Maybe you have a life summary. Or perhaps you would like to explore writing about your life since you graduated high school. If so, I would love to read it, if your spirit moves you to send it along.
Thanks to you for continuing to add joy to my journey.
Big hugs of happiness and positive reminiscing,
(Here’s my 50 year synopsis for our Harrington High School Alumni News ):
Judy Burgess Krings, Ph.D., PCC. Fifty years. The golden flash. Seventy-three of us together walked those hallowed halls of Harrington High School. At our 1967 graduation, I wish we had written down our dreams. We could now go back and laugh, sigh, celebrate or maybe roll our eyeballs at how our lives actually panned out.
If I had had a crystal ball in 1967, and it forecast the mysteries of my future life, I would have incredulously retorted, “Nope. You have someone else’s life here. No way…This can’t be. But a wondrous whirlwind, over-the-top lucky life after high school twisted my kaleidoscope into a myriad of colorful events: athletic and academic scholarships at Roanoke College, thanks to our beloved Miss Testerman; another college scholarship to study art in European capitals; dwellings in four countries and five states; three interesting and accomplished kids and four teenager grand kids; the gift of finding real love and getting married on the sunny shores of Moorea, French Polynesia; and many trips to Delaware to visit with Mom, Cheryl and Bob Nash and Gene Price at the Senior Center. What an unexpected ride my life has been, albeit sometime on a bucking bronco!
The crystal ball continued to enthrall and visioned my career to be like a tree with many branches: Special education teacher, school psychologist, and clinical psychologist in private practice for 46 years; work for the military in Germany, helping guys returning from Vietnam, and consult with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Creighton Abrams who offered me a job working for him in Washington; create three radio shows and one nationally syndicated show; develop and produce a mental health themed TV show; make presentations all over creation; become certified and practice a new niche as a positive psychology coach; and to work and reside half the time in welcoming Mexico.
Shocking little 5’1” me, the crystal ball’s predictions envisioned my life to be like a heaven-touching sequoia tree. It would grow so tall and open the whole world for unsuspecting me to see: I’d adopt a family from Nepal; travel the world with Mom and Ken, with favorites including St. Barts, Paris, Sydney, AU, Venice and Florence, Italy, Thailand, China, Nepal, Tibet, Kenya, the Amazon, Columbia, Egypt, and Montenegro, Croatia; visit classmate Anita in Bolivia; live Mom’s dream for me and travel to Cuba; write a bestseller book about Cuba for Mom; author another relationship book and present it in India; and write for national and international magazines and blogs.
As I climbed that great sequoia tree, some sparkling stardust visions would mesmerize me: I’d meet a few famous actors, singers, and authors; sit at dinner next to Tom Hanks and Penny Marshall; share the dance floor with John Mellencamp in Bermuda; be onstage doing a magic stunt with the Great Kreskin; sit beside Charleston Heston at dinner and be jaw-dropping enthralled as he stood up straight as an arrow and belted out a mesmerizing soliloquy; meet and talk with Oprah, Goldie Hawn, Marvin Hamlisch, Phil Donahue, and Patti LaBelle, who, kind soul, gave me her mac and cheese recipe!; invest with Key West’s Mel Fisher and find emeralds on his treasure ship; be proud of Sean when he dove with Mel’s son and unearthed treasure; shake my head in awe when Sean unveiled his Mom tattoo; para-sail, zip-wire, hot air balloon ride, whale-watch, climb pyramids, savor stunning gardens, ride elephants, camels, and gondolas, forge rapids, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, and perch upon majestic mountaintops…and I’d hope these adventures would never stop.
And to live this unimaginable life mostly as a blonde? Really?! Are you nuts, crystal ball? How could I ever be that lucky? But I was and still am. I feel super blessed and grateful every day.
I am forever indebted to my Mom, Louise Burgess, who encouraged me to go for the brass ring. She was the best part of my life. You knew her kindness, too. Mom’s quiet, inadvertent wisdom lessons were my guiding principles. “Get your education. It’s your meal-ticket out into the world. Work hard. Save your money. You don’t have to look far to see someone worse off than you. Never judge anyone until you have walked in their shoes. Always know you are lucky. Look for the good. When you are upset, just let it go. Appreciate your health. Never give up. Keep kickin’ even if it’s not so high.”
Having Mom work at school was the frosting on top of my education years’ cake. That and the ongoing friendships with you, my fellow classmates. I know I am not alone thinking ours was the best class ever. Lucky, indeed. Mom was so right to remind me to always feel gratitude. To look for the good. And speaking again of Mom, I am forever indebted to Cheryl and Bob Nash who gifted me with a wonderfully warm home away from home for the years I flew back to see Mom and share her life. And for their picking me up from the airport too many times to count. Their support colored my life with every bright hue in my crayon box of life.
Thanks to Gene Price, too, for allowing Mom to work at the Senior Center when she was deaf and and had 100% vertigo. He and his staff made Mom smile and gave me comfort. Also, special gratitude to classmates Susie Fair Engler, Joan Smith Myer, Debby Swain Coates and Mom’s dear friend, Bobbie O’Neal, whose visits always put a smile on Mom’s face.
On to the present. This year’s news was a hodge-podge of happiness and challenges. Last December, Cheryl and Bob Nash came for their yearly vacation. We celebrated our first real family Christmas and New Year’s in Puerto Vallarta. We had a blast of eating, going to parties, shopping and sheer relaxation. Later in the winter, my hometown “brother” Gene Price and friend, Fran, came for a week of relaxation. We also enjoyed our Harrington friend, Victoria Swain, and her hubby Dr. John Booth from VA. Puerto Vallarta re-kindles friendships with whale watching wonders and overflowing food and colorful fun. Monitoring my waistline here is like a long distance marathon!
Bead parties, costume parties, trips to the Botanical Garden, volunteer gardening, eating out, and treks to the market to people-watch kept Ken and I very busy. The zoo was a special treat. There had been many animal babies born. Vallarta is a terrific breeding climate, and the zoo helps restock other habitats and zoos around the world. Super fun, I was thrilled to hold and love up a lion cub who weighed as much as I did and took a nip out of my arm! I also cradled leopard, panther, tiger, puma, lemur and monkey babies.
Though still simmering, last year was the first time I put work on the back burner and worked less. I still love positive psychology coaching and mentoring others. I continue to teach positive psychology online. This past year I edited three books for other authors, presented an audio for an international group in India, and in April presented a keynote in Bethesda, MD, re: my relationship book. I continue to write my monthly blog and to write for other publications. I was thrilled and humbled my relationship book was mentioned in Forbes Magazine this year. I turned down more trips to India, Canada, and other places in MX, as Vallarta is too nice to leave in winter. My goal is to work less, and I am sticking to it.
This year was a tad unusual on many levels. Not one to dwell on the negative, I will say I had 4 foot surgeries in a year. I hope they finally got it right. I was mostly home-bound for my 6 months in WI, so no vacation. Even with kick-me-in-the-butt limited mobility, at least I could hobble around and de-clutter the house. I made friends with my big black ugly boot. It helps me navigate Vallarta’s cobblestones and potholes. I am officially screwed up, as titanium screws have replaced my big toe joint. But if I end up without a limp and no pain in a few months, I will be a happy hiker.
Great news was before my last surgery in Aug, we went to New York to surprise a Puerto Vallarta friend, Mark. We were his birthday gift! Serendipitously, we landed on the same floor at the same Hotel Edison off Times Square. How fun were those few days we feasted and feted! I was tickled pink to joyfully check off a bucket list fun activity with Ken. We had a 5-hour pedi-cab ride in Central Park. It was magical for us. If you are ever in NY City, before you go, email Richie Costello, Central Park Pedicab. He was fantastic, a walking encyclopedia of facts about the park and NYC. Great fun to see movie stars’ homes and where movies were filmed. We also respectfully admired Ground Zero and the museum. Somber, stunning, and a humbling, grateful reminder of freedom and service.
We came to MX early this year, OCT 27th. Have boot will travel! And did it ever get a workout mid Nov. I enjoyed my first vacation in fourteen months, a trip to Merida and other cities in the Yucatan. It was a thrill to climb majestic Mayan ruins. And to be in awe of cenotes, deep holes colorfully reflecting two underground rivers. Their stunning turquoise blue waters ripple many mystery stories of divers lost in the menacing submerged caves.
These days, besides appreciating my terrific professional community, I enjoy photography (often posted on my Facebook page, Judy Burgess Krings) gardening, traveling, researching positive psychology, blogging and appreciating art. In Puerto Vallarta winters, Ken and I pinch ourselves, as Mom would say, treasuring many social activities, great friends, picturesque views, warm weather, and delectable food.
What stands out the most regarding Harrington High School? You classmates! The unique fun we had. The joys and sorrows we shared, too, all these years. Perhaps a poem my grandfather, J. Harvey Burgess, published in 1942, expresses my feelings of love and gratitude to you all:
The Folks That I Have Knowed
What makes a man a sinner
And another man a saint?
It ain’t the places that they’ve been –
The places that they ain’t;
Or the schools that they’ve attended,
Though that may help a lot;
It ain’t the honors that they’ve won,
Or money that they’ve got:
You’ll realize when you look back
Along the windin’ road,
That all of life’s summed up in this;
The folks that I have knowed!
I’ve known some interesting folks
And creatures in my time;
Some millionaires – and other folks
Who didn’t have a dime;
I’ve knowed the lowly and the high,
The shackled and the free;
I’ve known some folks with lots of brains,
And others – ’bout like me;
I’ve knowed the thoughtless and the ones
Who had ambition’s goad –
And all of them are part of me –
The folks that I have knowed.
A self-made man – he never lived –
There ain’t no self-made man.
The feller maybe thinks he is,
But back along the span
Of dusty years, the folks he’s seen
And met along the way
Have helped to make of him the man
He thinks he is today.
The world’s great standard bearers and
The world’s most tragic jokes –
They ain’t themselves – they’re just a part
Of lots of other folks.
You meet a man, say “howdy do” –
You think you’ll never see
Or meet that man again, which shows
How foolish you can be.
You can forget, the years can pass,
But back upon the tide,
He’ll come again in other years
And walk there by your side.
So you ain’t you who live today;
That is, not you alone –
Without a million men to serve
There’d never be a throne.
You know your grain, you know your tares,
Your sunshine and your dew –
A lot of folks may pass you by –
But leave themselves with you!
You’ll realize when you look back
Along the winding road
That all of life’s summed up in this
The folks that you have knowed.
Thanks for all our happy memories. The photo of our 40th reunion is blurred, but for most of us, our memories of great fun are retained with joyful clarity.
Judy Burgess Krings, Ph.D., PCC
Harrington High School Class of 1967 Historian