Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

My Mentor

Well over thirty years ago, I sat in my high school music class pondering the meaning of why I was there. I had my whole life ahead of me and didn’t know better. I didn’t know better because prior to that, I’d gotten into heaps of trouble with the schools I had attended but not enough to constitute a criminal record. Thank goodness. Had I not smartened up, I’m sure I would have ended up on the street somewhere doing who knows what.

Definition of a mentor.
Definition of a mentor.

I had help. My high school music teacher was one of my mentors throughout the length of my stay there at the insane asylum. He was a bulk of a man, tree stumps for arms and a thick neck. He also was Romanian. Not that it mattered to other students, but it mattered to me, considering I had a huge crush on gymnast Nadia Comaneci at the time, and he came from the same area of Romania she did. So naturally, I gravitated toward his instruction and put him on a pedestal.

His name doesn’t matter either. Suffice it to know he influenced me in ways that even today bewilders me. “Hey, so-and-so used to say that,” I would say to myself whenever I’d do something he would have approved.

His approach to life was a simple one—be the best you can be without being a goof about it. His words. If you expected something dramatic, that’s as dramatic as it got. His intention was to instill courage into every student, and never to be afraid of making a difference in the world.

Before becoming a teacher, he escaped communism from which he experienced firsthand the persecution of his family by those less intelligent than he. When he immigrated to Canada, his goal was to live a peaceable life. Eventually, his reputation as a perfectionist in the field of music preceded him and my future high school offered him a position as a teacher.

Students like me flocked to his classes simply from word of mouth. They were not easy classes to get into, and they were not what anyone expected. His philosophy of marrying music with life lessons made him the most popular teacher in the school. The courses were worth an extra half credit for those lucky enough to have him accept their entrance application.

From the onset of taking one of his classes, he made it plain that students who did not give one hundred percent of their attitude toward the class would not pass. To him, skill wasn’t what mattered. It was attitude. He used to say

“You can teach an ape to do anything, but it is very difficult to teach attitude to a human.”

Many kids came and went through his doors. Those with problems, he personally helped with encouraging words. I landed on the student council believing I was capable of more than what I had shown him.

After graduating high school, I visited my music teacher several times to see how he was doing. He was his cranky old self, teasing his students to sit up straight, and pay attention while I distracted him with simple stories of my effort with living a peaceable life.

Eventually though, we lost touch. However, by that time, I didn’t consider him a mentor anymore but a friend.

I miss my friend.


Have you had a mentor in life? What ever became of them? What do you think of the mentoring others for their betterment?

Posted in Freedom Friday


I love the sport of gymnastics. It’s one of the most difficult sports to master. And as such, since this is my Freedom Friday post, I thought I’d write about my favorite sport.

Nadia Comaneci
Nadia Comaneci

Growing up, I had such an intense crush on 14-year-old Nadia Comaneci. For those who don’t know her, as a Romanian gymnast she won three gold medals in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, and two golds in the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.

Let me tell you something about those wins in Montreal.

She had just finished her routine on the uneven bars and the crowd waited for her score. The judges didn’t know how to rate her performance, so the board lit up with the number 1.00. Back then, the judges could score a routine between 0.00 and 10.00. The crowd’s natural reaction was shock. A flawless performance and she only gets a 1.00? That is, until a great outburst of applause rushed through the venue. The judges did not score her a 1.00 but a perfect 10.00!

Omega SA, the official scoreboard manufacturer for the Games, had only supplied scoreboards capable of displaying 9.99 and nothing more because they’d understood no one could achieve a perfect score.

Nadia went on to score six additional perfect tens at those Games. I remember seeing her perform and she captured my heart. How could such a diminutive girl twirl so much, jump so far and fly so high?

Nadia on the Beam
Nadia on the Beam

I followed her career throughout the late Seventies, early Eighties. Between 1975-1981, she went on to win twenty-one gold, seven silver and two bronze medals in two Olympic Games, two World Championships, three European Championships, and the 1981 Summer University Games.

What an incredible feat for a girl at such a young age!

Once she retired, I found my love for the sport had not diminished. I followed all the up-and-coming gymnasts—this time as a true fan of the sport. I tuned into all the meets, got to know which countries had the strongest gymnasts and followed them. I familiarized myself with all the terms: Hand guard, apparatus, deduction, high bar, mat, junior, senior, element group requirements, chalk, balance, all-around, elite, clubs, somersault, roll, straddle, vault, kip, pike, layout, front tuck, dismount, cartwheel, etc. All of it.

Mary Lou Retton
Mary Lou Retton

I’ll never forget watching Mary Lou Retton score her perfect tens in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. That night, my parents had gone out leaving me home alone to watch TV. All I could do was sit at the edge of my seat. Retton had to beat Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo, who led the all-around by fifteen-hundredths of a point. With two events to go, she hit the mat. She twirled, somersaulted, smiled and danced her way into the hearts of Americans. The judges were sure: A perfect ten. Next, came the vault. She nailed it, grabbing another perfect ten. Retton won against her rival by 0.05 points.

Another incredible feat for a girl at such a young age!

Mary Lou Retton, 1984 Olympic All-Around Champion
Mary Lou Retton, 1984 Olympic All-Around Champion

As the years pass, gymnasts come and go. I make it a point to watch the Olympics every time. Although my first love may have faded some for the sport, I’ve kept the tradition alive. Not an Olympics has passed that I do not know who the gymnasts are. And every four years there’s a surprise. A twisted ankle. A daunting fall. And every four years there’s a gymnast who overcomes every obstacle to become a new hero to the ordinary folk.

I love gymnastics. It’s my favorite sport.

Have you seen gymnasts rise to the occasion and win a gold at the Olympics? Are there heroes in gymnastics you admire for their sheer willpower of never giving in to defeat?