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Relativity-ly Speaking

Blog Post #37

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Einstein had his Theory of Relativity, and I have *mine.

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity: E=mc2

(Energy = mass multiplied by the speed of light squared)

My Theory of Relativity: A=pt2

(Age = perception multiplied by the speed of time squared)

*Disclaimer: There is nothing scientific about my theory of relativity. Any similarities to science, math, or physics is completely coincidental. The ideas and philosophies represented in this post are those of the author and are not to be confused or mistaken with anything legitimate.

My First Blog Post EVER!

I began developing my Theory of Relativity when I was in 2nd grade. During the course of my second grade year, I underwent eye surgery as well as contracting an infectious virus, causing me to miss quite a bit of school. It was during that school year, at the tender age of seven, that I began to perceive a change in Time.

Up until second grade, Time moved at a snail’s pace; to my mind, there was no Time to be reckoned with. Life was an endless stream of fun, family and investigation—everything was new. I was young, carefree, and full of energy. I had loving, caring parents who provided a safe and happy environment and life, and school hadn’t yet become a stressor for me (that came later). Worries were essentially non-existent.

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Then I got sick. I remember how miserable I felt even though it was well over half a century ago. I couldn’t go to school, or play outside. I didn’t feel like eating, and was so tired—the kind of tired where your head feels like a balloon full of lead. After running its course, the illness passed, but not without making an indelible mark on my perception about life. I had come to understand that being sick meant that during the Time in which I was ill I couldn’t do the fun things that I normally liked to do.

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The eye operation meant an overnight hospital stay. I remember my parents giving me a beautiful, light blue, quilted robe with lacy ruffles as a gift. They said good-night (good-bye) just before bedtime, and went home. (In those days, anxious parents couldn’t stay all night in the hospital with their frightened children.) There I was, almost alone in a dark room, standing in a cage (perhaps it was a large crib) where they must have hoped to keep me from wandering about, looking across what appeared to be a vast, dark wasteland of a hospital room to where a toddler was crying uncontrollably in his cage. I don’t remember shedding a tear myself. It was all so surreal. I do remember lying down in that cage and having a hard time falling asleep with the incessant bawling—not that I could blame the poor little guy. I must have eventually drifted off, because the next thing I remembered was waking up and not being able to see. Once the surgery was completed, the doctor had covered my eyes with patches to protect them while they healed. These I wore for a week.  I was too young to be frightened by blindness, and trusted my parents implicitly, so in many ways, the experience of surgery was an extension of childhood investigation, and I might add, fun. In a way, it was sort of an adventure to have patches—to experience the world without sight. As usual, all my needs were met by my attentive mother, and I found I could still draw on my Etch-a-Sketch and “watch” “Car 54, Where Are You?” and “The Mickey Mouse Club” on T.V. even though I couldn’t actually “see” them. The process of healing lasted two or three weeks, and then I was back to life as usual–school, playing, and just being a seven-year-old kid with a story to tell about what it was like to be sightless for a week.

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Besides improved vision, one monumental thing had changed from this experience: my sense of Time. My second grade year dragged by. It was the longest year of my life, and I recognized it as such even at that tender age. I began to mark Time from that year on, and noticed that each subsequent year began to speed up a little bit more than the last.

In my theory, I propose that Age is equal to perception multiplied by the speed of time squared. (Please see disclaimer at the beginning of this post.) I confess that while my theory is not scientific, it is the opposite—a whim. Still, it rings true for me, even though it follows no logical thread. According to my theory of relativity, aging depends on my perception of things relative to the speed of time. In other words, the older I get, the faster time speeds by, and/or the speed of time shapes my perceptions about my age.

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Interestingly enough, perceptions (including memories) of my childhood have remained intact and vivid during each passing year of my life. However, perceptions during the years following second grade, have shifted like tectonic plates with the passage of Time. The more distance between 2nd grade and the current year, the more the shift, sometimes causing quaking and trembling in my perceptions—especially regarding details, such as what I believe I said to my husband, and what I’m sure he said to me.

The following is an example of how age (A) is equal to (=) perception (p) multiplied by time squared (t2). At a young age, maybe around three years old (A), I became (=) acutely desirous (p) of being two years older (t2) than the age I currently was. (*For your own sanity, please do not try to force my variables into a true equation.) This was probably due to my sister being two years my senior, giving her privileges, which I, as the younger sister, had to wait for. I remember crying at the bus stop as Karen boarded the school bus bound for kindergarten. I desperately wanted to go with her, and I couldn’t understand why I had to wait. No amount of sobbing swayed my mother, who simply scolded me for my tantrum and marched me back home. Wishing to be two years older became more intense as the years passed, which accounts for *time squared. (*Mathematicians and physicists out there, I know this is all sheer folly—please humor me.)

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The inverse was also true. As the younger sister by two years, I had the opportunity of observing my older sister, and those behaviors and consequences I wished to avoid. A very valuable asset and one I exploited to my gain.

There is yet another interesting corollary to perception as it relates to Age and Time, that is, how I perceived those who were older than I was. If I was thirteen, a fifteen-year-old was strictly out of my league in every aspect of life. (I now attribute this incorrect perception to the public school system, which unwittingly forces most children into an unrealistic environment—boxing them into a classroom with thirty other students of the same approximate age and developmental issues for about twelve years of their lives. This short-sighted and preposterous arrangement prepares children for an environment they will rarely, if ever, experience later in life. During adulthood, you would be hard-pressed to find yourself (it would seem unnatural to find yourself) among peers of your exact age group on a daily basis. In fact, most people spend the majority of their lives in family units composed of a variety of ages and temperaments,—the ultimate seedbed for learning—not in a setting as unnatural as that of a public school classroom.)

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When I attended my first year of college, I was eighteen, but my roommate (who was seventeen—having graduated high school a year early) soon after became friends with a girl of twenty-one! Imagine it!—she was friends with a co-ed four years her senior! (This is where my theory of relativity really became obvious to me.) I was in awe of this twenty-one-year-old. To my mind, she was light years beyond me in wisdom, experience, and dignity just by virtue of her three extra years of advanced age—I assumed this without really knowing her.

By my second semester of college, a shift in perspective had already begun to occur. I had become used to sharing the classroom, the campus, the dormitory, and the dining hall with a multiplicity of ages, but it wasn’t until this particular girl—my roommate’s friend—shared a class with me, that I realized the fallacy of my perception about age creating such a huge superiority gulf. On the first day of class during the second semester, we students looked around the room sizing each other up, and because this girl and I had a common friend, we recognized and gravitated to one another, sitting next to each other the remainder of that course. This was when I discovered that she was every bit as childish as I was! We doodled little frogs and cartoon-y characters with text bubbles full of nonsense all over each other’s and our own notepaper, quietly giggling at our silliness. We had so much fun! It was a great class to begin with, but it was all the more enjoyable for me when I realized that “twenty-one” was not the sage old age I thought it was, and that I could have fun and be silly even when I, too, reached the landmark maturity of twenty-one.

Even though challenged with every passing year and season of life, my flawed perception has remained with me; I still view age as a relative thing. When I was a young mother in my twenties, the thirties seemed ancient. Indeed, thirty-nine (or for some twenty-nine) has been the place where many people stop the “aging” clock, refusing to admit to any age above that. Year after year, when asked their age, these people refuse to acknowledge themselves as any more than 39. (Jack Benny comes to mind—he was forever 39. If you are my age, you will know who Jack Benny was. If you are from a younger generation—sorry. It’s one of those advantages of advanced age, to know about and gloat over things those younger than you were unfortunate enough to miss out on—things such as The Great Depression, roller skates with keys, garter belts, corded telephones, and 45s.)

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Hint: The perpetual 39 year-old

As I approached forty, and recognized that I was old enough to be mother to the youngsters of twenty whom I often hosted in my home, turning forty sounded like putting one foot in the grave. To my mind—to my eternal spirit—I was always looking out of eighteen-year-old eyes (that is, from the inside out), and each numerical age I reached was someone else’s bad idea of flimflam (for clearly, I was perpetually “in spirit” the eternal age of eighteen inside—that was my perception). Note: My outward appearance does not necessarily agree with my eternal “inside” age.

Then, fifty came, and most recently, sixty (by the way, I missed The Great Depression, the Revolutionary War, and the age of dinosaurs, though my grandchildren might challenge that). I have friends in every age bracket—age is immaterial when it comes to finding worth in others—and is very instructive as to differences in perception about time and age. With a ninety-three-year-old father, here’s what I’ve discovered: seventy-five is the new “thirty.” It’s all relative.

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For a 93-year-old like my father, age is a badge of distinction—of longevity few live to reach. A 93-year-old perceives the speed of time as being akin to the time spent on a merry-go-round that goes faster with each rotation. You get on, orbit the circumference a few times enduring the usual ups and downs, and then anticipate jumping off your horse, which might throw you at any time. Life is a blink when you’re 90, and often a blur—but things do tend to appear blurry when traveling at great speeds.

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As I mentioned earlier, time began to speed up for me in second grade. During each subsequent year, time has picked up momentum. Although reason tells me this is due to my flawed perception, I think it must also be due to age. With every passing year, I become a year older. (Yes, I know,—brilliant deduction—nothing profound here, folks.) The more years gathered into the garner of time, the faster time passes. Age is the fireman stoking the steam locomotive’s boiler with more and more coal, making Time’s train move on at an ever and ever increasing rate. (Or maybe it’s the other way around.) At any rate, Perception stands on the ground next to the tracks and watches the train fly by, saying “Whoa! Did you see how fast that train blew by?”

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Where once there were long, lazy days of summer, summer days now run into fall, fall into winter, winter into years, and years into lifetimes. Deadlines, responsibilities, calendar events, reminders, commitments, activities, and endless checklists of to dos tip one side of the scale, while the other holds the inevitability of time running out. The scale is rarely balanced. It is all relative. Relative to one’s own age, and time, and maybe even one’s own perceptions.

 

“Time is too slow for those who wait,

 too swift for those who fear,

too long for those who grieve,

too short for those who rejoice,

but for those who love, time is eternity.”

 – Henry Van Dyke

 In light of the relativity of age, time and perception, I would like to repeat the last line in the Van Dyke quotation above:

“For those who love, time is eternity.”

Amen to that.

End Piece

© April 21, 2016

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear Friends, for reading.

 

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In Search of a More Normal “Normal”

Blog Post #36

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nor·mal

ˈnôrməl/

adjective

1.conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

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What do you consider to be “normal?”

People talk of leading a “normal life,” or wanting someone they know to behave in a more “normal way.” Who hasn’t heard someone say, “I’m just a normal person,” or “I just want (or like) to do normal things?”

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I think it’s possible to explain normalcy to a point, but I think there’s a fine line separating what one person thinks is normal from what another person thinks. Maybe not even a fine line—maybe a giant firebreak sort of line, that won’t allow one person’s normal to leap over and infringe on, or burn, someone else’s normal.

This question of normalcy often arises early in a marriage. When Brad and I were first married over forty years ago, it was clear that what was normal to Brad was certainly not normal to me!

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Example:

Since I was five years old, it was normal for me to get up and pull the covers up over the pillow, making the bed first thing in the morning. At a young age, I so liked the feeling I got tidying my room that by the time I was a teenager, I often made the bed for my mother, and sometimes my siblings. This practice spilled over into married life. As soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning, I made the bed—provided, of course, that Brad wasn’t it in. Observing this routine for a week or so, Brad told me that it was normal in the home in which he was raised to pull back the covers to air the bed each morning, and he wanted to know why I didn’t do that. Feeling slightly defensive about my family’s normal, I told him that our mother expected us to make our beds first thing, and our sheets always smelled perfectly fine.

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In this case, as in many others, my normal and his normal did not match. It was many months—possibly years—before we came to the realization that even though our ways of doing things were different, this didn’t make one more right than another. We just had different normals. Once we pulled back and aired out these kinds of issues (and there were many), a more normal atmosphere settled in our home.

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A Normal Life

I’ve heard a lot of people say that they wish they could lead a “normal life.” Now, what exactly does that mean? The same principle that applies to the normal practices of making a bed or airing it out applies to normal lifestyles. There is a broad spectrum of what many would consider to be “leading a normal life.” For some people it is getting up and working a nine-to-five job every day. For others, it may mean putting in a couple of hours at work and the rest on a boat, or on the golf course. For many, it may mean caring full-time for a home and family. And for still others, it may mean jetting around the world taking pictures for NatGeo.

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So when you say you want to lead a “more normal life” what do you mean? Do you mean you’re so famous, you can’t go anywhere or do anything without being recognized, mauled, and paparazzied, and you’d like to go back to pre-fame life and anonymity? (For most of us “normal” people, this isn’t the case.)

Does it mean you don’t want to be accountable to others anymore, and only do what you want to do? (If so, maybe you are an entrepreneurial sort of person and it’s time for a career change.)

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Does it mean you’re tired of a certain type of drudgery? Or you feel trapped in a rut? (A lot of people fall into this category, making it a very normal place to be.)

It seems to me that the desire to lead “a more normal life” means you may desire some kind of a change, and in my estimation, change is never normal in the sense that change, by very definition, is a move away from what has been normal, or typical, or usual—even if that normal may have been undesirable. In this case, leading a more normal life may not be what someone would want. (If you followed this line of reasoning, give yourself a gold star.)

More Normal Behavior

And what of wanting others to behave in a more “normal way?” What does that mean? I’ve observed that it is normal for certain people to pursue a quiet, reserved lifestyle—staying under the radar, and liking it that way. It is also normal for certain other people to seek after the limelight—having a constant need to be noticed, applauded, or even censured—just so long as they are getting attention. And there are many who live a normal existence somewhere in between.

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People who want others to behave in a more normal way are often parents. The people they usually want to behave more normally are often their children. Here are some samples of possible uses of the word “normal” that may set a parent up for trouble:

“Why can’t you wear your hair (or your clothes) like normal people?”

“That is NOT normal thinking!”

“If we could just have a normal conversation….”

“If you would just use a normal tone of voice….”

Normal people don’t do that kind of thing….”

Inherent in each of these phrases is the large and looming misconception about how each individual defines the word “normal.”

Some people use the word “normal” and the phrase “classic example” from time to time to make a point. (I throw the phrase “classic example” in with the word “normal” because they are very much alike. A classic example is another way of saying something is not only “normal,” but “super normal.”  These are go-to words when making comparisons between normal and the way-out notions, behaviors, and characteristics espoused by others.

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The pendulum always seems to swing toward our own ideals when we are considering what is normal and what isn’t. And rightly so. Who out there wants to believe, or possibly admit, that their ideas about things are off-the-wall cuckoo? Or at the very least, abnormal?

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“Serious Business” by Charles Dana Gibson

I have learned that when people talk about things that are normal, not normal, or classic examples, they are frustrated with the changing world around them, and how those changes defy what is near and dear to them. This is a time for compassionate and empathetic listening, not censure—unless, of course, it is one’s own normal that has been challenged. Even then, it is wise to listen and try to understand, because we don’t always see ourselves through normal eyes. Sometimes, we view ourselves through tainted rosy glasses, or the sludge of insecurity or failure—making what we think is normal for us, really something that is not normal at all.

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A Normal Person

I think when people say they’re just a “normal person” they are doing their best to fit their square peg of normalcy into the round hole of what they think others consider normal is. Each individual is just that—individual. Unique. Each has a slightly different way of looking at things than even those closest to them.

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Karen and me—a long time ago

My sister, Karen, and I could finish one another’s sentences. We loved and understood each other: our hopes and dreams, our upbringing, our way of approaching things, and the many tiny little idiosyncrasies we had. BUT we were not one another’s “normal” at all. Normal for Karen was quite different from normal for me. The way she thought about certain aspects of life, the way she planned and lived her days, the clothes she wore, the food she ate, and many other things that were normal for her would have been very uncomfortable for me, and vice versa.

I suppose I’m just being knit-picky, but it seems to me that everybody’s normal depends upon them. And if that’s true, then there is no “true normal”—only a bazillion normals that suit the bazillion different personalities out there, or in other words, everybody’s normal is really something uncommon or rare.

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Still, to be fair, when someone says they want to have a “normal life,” I understand what they’re saying. (I think.) When things have been anything but normal, when life has gone askew, when the world seems topsy-turvy, when every day is different, or the demands of life have become overwhelming, then what some of us long for is to go back to whatever it was we used to do, before we stepped from normal into abnormal. It may also mean that we long to be like everyone else, or what we think everyone else is like, since—as has already been established—everyone else has their own normal, and is therefore not “normal” as Google’s dictionary would have you believe.Over-the-cliff

Normal Things

Normal” things give backbone to daily life. Routine is “normal.” Routine is a gift to someone who’s predictable life went suddenly awry.  Some people thrive on the kind of adventure that involves Indiana Jones situations around every corner—where being on the edge of your seat (or the edge of your last nerve) every single moment of every single day is, well…normal. That’s not for me! I prefer a healthy portion of predictability, sprinkled with spontaneity, and a dash of surprise.

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After recent upheaval, I ached to do normal (for me) things, such as wash a load of clothes, bake cookies, walk around the block, and sleep in my own bed. I dragged a bag of notepaper, books to read, food I liked to nibble on, and a script I was trying to memorize with me to the hospital and then the nursing home where my father was recuperating. I read to my father when he’d let me, and while he dozed or was distracted, I wrote dozens of notes, listened to the script via headphones, and read till my eyes grew tired. If you carry a little bit of normal with you, it helps, but there’s nothing like your own normal in your own space, in your own home, in your own daily routine.

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While he was in the hospital and nursing home, my poor father was in a constant state of abnormal, and it took its toll, causing a bit of disorientation. I could understand this, which is why I spent so much time with him—to bring a little bit of “normal” to his bedside while he was in a state of terrible transition. Now that he’s home, things are definitely more normal, but not quite. We are learning a new normal, and it’s sometimes painful, but a necessary part of life. We are adjusting and adapting until the inevitable time when things will be jostled around again.

What I have concluded by all of this is that once one leaves their traditional normal for any length of time, one can never fully go back. Change is the byword of life. Some little thing will always be different…or perhaps some big thing.

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Bathsheba Smith

The early Mormon pioneers knew much of upheaval and of frequent hankie waves bidding farewell to normalcy in their lives. Constantly forced to move from place to place, frequently driven from their homes and loved ones, they, at last, made their exodus across the plains to create a normal life according to their beliefs in the deserts of Utah. The story is told of one such Mormon pioneer woman, Bathsheba Smith. Her history tells that her husband…*“widened and heightened Bathsheba’s [covered] wagon substantially.” After he did this for her, she then…“carpeted the floor, put four chairs in the center in which to ride, and hung a looking glass, candlestick, and pincushion. Once, while fording a stream, Bathsheba’s awkward wagon threatened to wash downstream. Unruffled, she yelled, “Behold, Noah’s Ark!” 

 

Why would she do this? I think she was doing her best to bring a feeling of permanence and normalcy to their ever-shifting lives by taking a portion of her home—her normal life—with them.

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” Crossing the Mississippi on the Ice” by C.C.A.Christensen (c1865)

I heard the story of Bathsheba Smith forty years ago, and have never forgotten it. Her story is a reminder that you may choose to “bloom where you’re planted,” no matter how abnormal, or stressful, or difficult that may be.

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I think that maybe there is no normal “normal.” Not really. And I’m pretty sure I will continue to make reference to things that are normal, and hope for normal times to come. In spite of the ambiguity of normalcy, I am determined to “bloom where I’m planted” –creating my own sense of “normal” no matter where I am, how difficult it may be, or how abnormal others may think I am.

Is this normal?

You be the judge.

End Piece

© February 24, 2016

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear Friends, for reading.

 

 

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“Dwell in Possibility”

 (It has been months since I’ve posted, and I find I must write—something…anything! So here goes…)

Blog Post #35

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I dwell in possibility.” – Emily Dickinson

pos·si·bil·i·ty

ˌpäsəˈbilədē/

noun

  1. a thing that may happen or be the case.
  • ” the state or fact of being likely or possible; likelihood.
  • “a thing that may be chosen or done out of several possible alternatives.

My First Blog Post EVER!

I have always associated Possibility with positive things—with the hope for better things waiting just around the corner. However, it occurs to me that Possibility also has a negative or dark side to it. A prophet of old once said, *“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” It makes sense, then, that Possibility, like “The Force,” has both a good side and a dark side.

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Darth Possibility sometimes sneaks up from behind, or lies hidden around a corner, waiting to startle or take you by surprise (e.g. a loved one discovers he or she has cancer). Sometimes, Darth Possibility lurks in the shadows of time, and surreptitiously tosses a banana peel in your path causing you to slip and fall (e.g. an unexpected job loss). Sometimes, Darth Possibility stealthily eases through the backstage door, and waits in the wings. Then, disregarding any cues, descends on center stage, villain-like, upstaging all other bewildered actors, playing a loudly dramatic role, then swiftly exits, flourishing its black cape for effect (e.g. the untimely death of a loved one). Darth Possibility likes to throw around its weight, employing other often ill-mannered cohorts from The Dark Side: Probability, Risk, and Consequence, to deal their hands into the game called Life.

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When things seem their blackest, Darth Possibility’s kin, Possibility Skywalker, appears and opens a portal to hope. I have noticed that Possibility Skywalker is so powerful that even the tiniest pinprick of the light he carries within him can obliterate the fear of the Dark Side. But one must carry the light saber of faith to ward off Darth Possibility’s depressing influence. Possibility Skywalker is like a bright shoulder angel reminding you that you can get through whatever comes. He whispers that there are always opportunities for learning and growth buried within each trial, and urges you on a quest to seek out the beauty and joy amidst the difficult. He fans the flame of courage in the face of affliction, and shows you that you may rise up and conquer fear and despair. He spreads a feast on your table, encouraging you to taste a variety of flavors, rather than remain in a rut of mediocrity and melancholy.

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When you step out your door and encounter the unknown faces of Possibility, pay attention—you may be surprised to hear birds singing,  to see white puffy clouds floating by, and flowers blooming abundantly around you—as if the whole world is oblivious to the hard things that are happening in your world. How many battles have taken place on a meadow where birds sang, and the sun shone brightly–where men fought, lost in a mindset of war, while carefree birds dipped and soared around the melee?

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When death is at the door, both Darth Possibility and Possibility Skywalker rest comfortably on a porch swing nearby, waiting. Good can come from even the very throes of death itself. In a very real sense, that which we embrace–the dark side or the light side of Possibility–depends very largely on our own choices, and what we decide to do when that moment of reckoning comes.

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Recently, my father was staying in a rehab center after breaking his femur, and I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by Darth Possibility. I walked out of the door to head home for lunch, and was stunned at the brightness and beauty of that winter day! Surely, those twittering birds didn’t understand that my father was feeling despondent about his situation inside that building I had just exited. Those happy children and adults laughing and playing at the park nearby, whose voices wafted to me on the winds of hope, had to be unaware of my mental, physical, and emotional fatigue, or else they wouldn’t have had the nerve to engage in such activity! Or were they really the many faces of Possibility Skywalker coming to save the day? The looming question was: Would I allow myself to be rescued, or would I choose to wallow in the oppressive grip of Darth Possibility? The tall Palms lining the drive of the nursing home stood stately and firm; their rustling fronds professed that nothing had changed. Not really. “Life goes on. Joy continues all around. Stand firm, and wait on the Lord,” they whispered. “In His time, all will be resolved. Look up and be of good cheer.” I could choose to partake of that joy, no matter what other turmoil may be churning within or around me, or I could choose to ignore that joy—relegating it to a shelf marked “someday” or “never.” That the joy was always there, I have no doubt. That I had but to embrace it, and allow it to soothe my aching heart was entirely up to me.

I chose Joy.

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I have discovered that Possibility Skywalker may at any moment rush in and save the day. Just when you may think all is lost, new and transcendent light obliterates the darkness and wonderful new Possibilities appear, if we’ll let them! We always have the freedom to choose which side we will indulge, or with whom we will ally ourselves.

We all “dwell in Possibility.” Which side do you choose ?

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Note – During November and December 2015, our family experienced all of the previously mentioned events: my beloved sister discovered she had cancer which took her life in a mere two weeks from the diagnosis, my son-in-law lost his job, and my 92-year-old father fell and broke his femur. Through divine inspiration, I was told to find joy during these difficulties, and I took that counsel to heart. It has made all the difference. I’m happy to report that joy is everywhere, and “everywhen.” Whenever something hard and heartbreaking happens, joy and hope are as probable and possible as depression and despair, if we will choose them. Worry and fear never accomplish anything–they are disabling. Joy and faith, however, are enabling. Since these events took place, we still mourn the loss of my wonderful sister, Karen—we miss her greatly—but we move forward in faith and hope in the atonement of Jesus Christ and in the knowledge that we will be together again. My son-in-law started a new job that promises a fresh start for their whole family, and my father has completed rehab and is home again. He is improving a little each day, and we are finding new manifestations of joy along the way as we walk in the Light of Possibility.

*2 Nephi 2:11

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Copyright February 9, 2016 

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear Friends, for reading.

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Feet You Meet

Blog Post #34

InStep-S

“Front feet, Back feet,

Red feet, Black feet,

Left foot, Right foot,

Feet, Feet, Feet,

How many, many

Feet you meet.”

(Dr. Seuss, The Foot Book)

I found myself meeting all kinds of interesting feet while sitting on a bench at a Southern California amusement park. It began with simple people-watching. Then, a man stopped about twenty feet away. My eyes zeroed right in on his feet, or rather, his man-sized ruby slippers. (Not the Dorothy from Kansas variety, but resembling something akin to the Nike or Adidas type.) I’m sorry to admit that, as far as I was concerned, the guy wearing the shoes was completely incidental to his feet—he might have been a Wookie, for all I knew. I never got a good look at anything but the brilliant, fiery, shiny, red boats carrying him adrift in a sea of paved walkways filled with other colorful foot-supporting spectacles. Those red shoes shouted like a diva, “LOOK AT ME!” and I did, until they became lost in the mass of “Red feet, Black feet, Left foot, Right foot, Feet, Feet, Feet” parading up and down in front of me.

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LOOK AT ME!

The rest of that day, my eyes were riveted on the phenomenal number and variety of shoe-shod feet crammed into a relatively small area, as well as the excessive diversity in design, texture, shape and size, and the equally excessive diversity of the people wearing them. Especially impressive was the enormous quantity of feet in motion—all busily going this way and that, while mostly avoiding collision with other feet in such close proximity. The numbers were staggering, really. There were shoes of every kind—sneakers, pumps, flats, boots, even stilettos! (I have never understood women who wear stilettos to an amusement park—some strange obsession or vanity must consume them to self-inflict such torture! Just spike my shoes with nails, why don’t you?)

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I realize that the prescription for comfort varies from person to person. Some opt to get as close to the mercilessly hard asphalt as possible, choosing flat, barely there sandals—a thin piece of leather separating foot from scorching heat, and a spaghetti noodle strap to insure one’s foot doesn’t slide off. (As a teen, I wore a pair precisely like this to the same amusement park; I perfectly recall the heat radiating up through the sparsely protective sole, and the pain and soreness my feet suffered in the name of fashion by mid-afternoon.)

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Probably most popular among amusement park goers, are those who cushion their feet in the sweaty comfort of rubbery padded vinyl. (I’ve also experienced this type of sweltering, stink-enhancing foot environment. Great for cooler days, but a virtual sweatshop in 104 degree temperatures.)

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With crowds as thick as peanut butter, still others find comfort in making sure they can see parades and shows from any location by wearing platforms that give them eye shot five or six inches above the heads of their low-heeled counterparts. (I have not experienced this, and doubtless never will,—even if I had platform shoes. Five-inch heels would barely place me on an even keel with those of average height. Most of the time, I’m too short to see above heads belonging to persons over six years of age.)

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While in the attitude of foot-watching, my mind wandered into one of those “what if…” imaginings that have no real merit, and do no real good.  I conjured in my mind’s eye some futuristic shoe connoisseur doing the equivalent of a Google search for “shoe fashions of the early 21st century,” and pictured results showing a pathetic sampling of sneakers, flats and pumps reminiscent of 19th and 20th century fashion plates. After seeing such an enormous variety of shoes in one place, at one time, I felt certain our generation’s multiplicity of shoe styles would be lost to history. No one in the future would ever really comprehend a hundredth part of the varieties of shoes available to our generation from, literally, all “walks of life”.

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Once home, I did a Google search myself. I was flabbergasted at my findings! My imaginary shoe connoisseur would not be disappointed if cyber files remain intact eons into the future. Indeed, our era has produced the most enormous, and I might add, ridiculous, array of footwear ever conceived of. Surely, comfort is not a primary motivation! Nor is the proper alignment of one’s skeleton while in motion. Beauty does not seem to be an all-encompassing rationale, either.

The inspiration for many of today’s shoes is a mystery to me. I present to you a small sampling from my own search results. I have to ask, are these for real? You be the judge.

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Most of what I saw while foot watching was not as extreme as my Google search would have you believe. Furthermore, I recognize that each pair of shoes represents a uniquely individual personality who chooses them. I suspect that if I were to interview a cross-section of shoe wearers, I would find distinctive personality traits tied directly to the shoes they chose to wear. Just as surely as “Stiletto Gal” chose her shoes for looks over comfort, “Ruby Slippers Boat Shoes Guy” chose his shoes as an outward expression of some inward desire to have his feet noticed. Of course, these are very shallow, soulless, (or perhaps, sole-less) observations which don’t begin to comprehend the special, priceless souls that occupy those shoes. I’m no expert—no well-versed student of human behavior—but I do wonder why someone of a sound mind would, by choice, wear a pair of furry shoes with a cloven-footed toe and gold pistol heels….

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Really?!

Our seven year-old twin granddaughters were with us during part of that day at the amusement park, each wearing a pair of boots.  A couple of weeks earlier, they had desperately wanted to go on a particular ride, and had been straining for months to reach the mark, but hadn’t quite grown tall enough to prevent the ride attendant from forcing a finger between the top of their curly heads and the wooden bar indicating how tall you had to be. Far from dense, these girls conspired a way to measure-up. They chose to wear their boots in place of their usual flip-flops or tennis shoes. Why? Their boots have significantly higher heels than any of their other shoes. Just to be sure, they wadded up tissue paper and stuffed it in their shoes to lift their feet even more. Off they went—on one of the hottest, most humid days Southern California had to offer—in their shorts and high top, laced-up boots. Their efforts didn’t go unrewarded—they were thrilled to find they had made the height requirement, and were able to go on the ride—being re-measured at every checkpoint right up to the last one just before stepping into their seats. Later that day, one of the girls began complaining that her feet hurt. On closer inspection, her mother discovered the wadded-up tissue had formed into tiny balled-up clumps, like small marbles, under the arches of her daughter’s feet, adding absolutely no height to her stature, but causing a great deal of discomfort (a small price to pay for achieving the desired goal). A stranger may have questioned boots with shorts and lightweight T-shirts on such a hot day. Had they know the serious business these girls were about they would have understood the combination.

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I suppose the same might be true of “Stiletto Gal” and “Ruby Slippers Guy.”  If I knew the motivation, or the inner workings and desires of the heart, I might better understand the choice of shoes. Doesn’t this apply across the board? People make all kinds of choices about things…things I, standing in my own hand-picked variety of shoes, simply don’t understand.

A well-known adage says we shouldn’t judge a person until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes. After seeing some of the bazillions of shoes out there, and some of the bazillions of people filling them, I’m certain I don’t understand what makes people choose what they choose—whether it be shoes, or food, or other choices of more consequence. But one thing I did notice, and do understand, is that most of those people belonging to the feet I saw were kind enough to say excuse me, or I’m sorry, or pardon me, when they accidentally bumped into, or stepped on my shoes—a frequent occurrence in a crowded amusement park.

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Contemplating the vast amount of shoes out there, and the equally vast amount of shoe wearers, I can’t help but think that there’s no way I could ever comprehend the minds and motivations of such a variety of people. I’ve been married to my husband, Brad, for over forty years and I still don’t get how his mind works a good portion of the time. How could I possibly understand what motivates complete strangers in their choices? When one considers the mileage each individual has trod through life—much of which may have been traveled alone on painful, wadded-up-marble-sized-balls-of-tissue-stumbling-blocks, over quiet, lonely, desolate, and difficult pathways, one is certainly not in a position to judge!glass-slipper-coloring-page-2047

Indeed, the opposite is true. One must pick up the glass slipper (that was left in a rush before the magic ended), and seek out those who need the magical quality of kindness and charity restored to their life. Among the throngs of feet, we must search out those who have been hurt, or lost, or forgotten, and find the shoeless ones who have had a dream or a hope burning in their hearts, but don’t know how or where to find the lost slipper. We each carry a glass slipper in the pockets of our hearts. We each have within us the ability to restore to those in need the proverbial glass slipper of kindness, hope and truth.  We can start by nurturing patience and tolerance towards those whose “choice of shoe” we don’t understand, and forego unkind, shallow, and false judgements that do injustice to those like “Stiletto Gal” and “Ruby Slippers Guy,” or more importantly, those whose feet are bare, or shod with nondescript, tired, worn-through uppers, insoles, and treads.

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A good place to begin is by lifting one’s eyes from the ground, and looking into the eyes and hearts of others. This naturally occurs when one accidentally bumps into, or steps on someone else’s toes. That’s when most of the thundering crowds at places like amusement parks actually stop a second, look up, and look into, and really see the eyes and faces of others, and simply, and sincerely say, “I’m sorry.”

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Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp Shoes

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

You’re on your own,

and you know what you know.

And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

Dr. Seuss (Oh, the Places You’ll Go!)

© July 15, 2015

© October 23, 2015

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear friends, for reading.

Summer Evening – Childe Hassam


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Crickets …or Defending–or Fending Off–White Noise

Blog Post #33

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Is there anything more indicative of a summer’s night than the constant, rhythmic creaking of crickets? Their wearisome song repeats until my brain flatlines in monotony…Then, suddenly, my ears perk up. The chirping stopped! I hold my breath…waiting. Just when I think the crickets are quite through for the night, the creaking begins anew, picking up the whirring drone exactly where it left off.

The crickets’ song is like many other “white noises” of life,—things one is conscious of, but registers mostly in the inner folds of the mind,—out of sight, and mostly out of mind.

Hush Little BabyLike so many summers’ nights, I have often found myself lying awake in a state of cricket-droning stupor, where my mind repeats nondescript patterns of thought in a rhythmic, almost locomotive manner—ever chugging onward, but without reaching a destination. When I was in school, mathematical equations and answers to history test questions boarded this train of thought. Later, items related to marriage and children climbed aboard. Recently, my mind dredged up from its long-forgotten annals the words and melody of the lullaby *“Hush, Little Baby.” I found myself repeating the lyrics and tune up to the part that goes, “And if that diamond ring…”—which is as far as I ever memorized that song.  Over and over I reviewed the lyrics, and like the crickets, abruptly halted at the words “diamond ring,” after which my mind picked up the pattern again, re-playing the lyrics from the beginning with precisely the same result every time.

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To make things worse, my poor brain was troubled by the unfinished poetic stanza, and began to search for words that might correctly finish the lyric—but to no avail. After three quarters of an hour of this kind of frustration, my jaded head cried out for relief. I attempted to change the tune, to knock the phonograph needle off its groove and replay it nearer to the end of the record, but it was no use. Like a scratched LP, the needle of my weary brain was stuck in a groove of thought–too tired to resist the white noise patterns of my mind.

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This is only one such white noise event that has been replayed in epic proportions for a good many years of my life. Just as the crickets don’t chirp every night, thankfully, neither do these repetitious episodes return every night, but when they do, they lull my poor, tired soul away from rest, and into a holding pattern of unproductive, undesirable, and relentless thought.

White Noise
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White noise is a curious thing, and somewhat fickle in its effects. Sometimes I welcome it, like a soothing friend, and other times, I want to block it out completely. As a rule, it is the kind of sound that I automatically tune out, but other times, it feeds monotonous thoughts. Several of our children have taken to setting up fans in their bedrooms to lull them and their little ones to sleep via white noise frequencies. I have never preferred this practice, but it works for them.

By definition, white noise is “noise containing many frequencies with equal intensities” (Google Dictionary). I might redefine white noise as “noise containing many distractions with equal intensities.”

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Revere 8mm Projector like the one my father has.

When I was a little girl, the family sometimes gathered to watch home movies. Daddy had (still has) an old 8mm projector that made a clickety-clack sound—the only sound emanating from that projector, since neither his movie camera nor his projector were “talkies.” We filled in for the audio by remarking about what we thought and felt as the action took place on screen: “Can you believe I wore my hair like that? I look like a poodle! And look at that rag of a ribbon pasted to the back of my head.” “Did you have to film from that angle? I look like the side of a barn in those pants!” “Ha ha! Look at those clothes! So 70s!” “Why are you filming that? It’s just a view of a boat on the water way off in the distance…(ten minutes later)…How long does this go on?…What’s so great about that tiny boat?…When are we going to be in the movie again?” “Aw, look how cute he was.” “I remember that day as if it were yesterday.” No matter how interesting and fun the movies were, in all my days, I could never keep from eventually succumbing to the clickety-clack of the projector. Its ability to knock me out was as potent and as certain as a drug-induced sleep, or a boxer’s jab in the face.

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The car has a similar effect. My poor husband, Brad, is a lonely long-distance driver much of the time. The hum and rumble of the motor puts me down for the count in the first round of the trip. Only when the bell rings as the car pulls to a stop at the bathroom (gas station) do I find myself arousing from the sleep of the dead, and walking, zombie-like, into the ladies room. Somewhat refreshed from the stop, I pull my seat into the upright position, and chatter like a squirrel for the next half hour until the persistent rumble begins tugging at my leaden eyelids, causing them to droop over my pupils, which disappear like tiny, hazel suns sinking on the horizon.

Voices

There are other forms of white noise that really don’t belong in that classification, but have such similar effects as to wind up tossed, like soiled laundry, into that same categorical bin. One of these has to do with voices. Not all voices, mind you, but certain voices, and only at certain times.

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Sleeping Beauty by Henry Meynell Rheam

Brad and I,—in an attempt to find the best time to read scriptures aloud together—at one point, settled on just before bedtime. Sadly, this was anything but ideal. I was fine as long as it was my turn to read, but Brad’s low, quiet voice in combination with patterns of writing and speech found in scriptural text had such a soothing, sedating effect, it wasn’t long before I was bagging Zs. If this had only happened once, I would dismiss it, but since it happened, pretty much, every time, I am forced to shelf it right next to the spindle on the spinning wheel that put Sleeping Beauty to sleep.

(Hmm….I think I’ve just had an epiphany! On nights when I lie awake with monotonous, cricket-whirring thoughts, I should wake Brad up and have him read the scriptures to me! Think that’ll go over well?)

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Our sweet twin granddaughters

We have adorable, precocious, 7-year-old, twin granddaughters who have a lot to say—all the time! Unfortunately, they choose to tell me what they have on their minds at precisely the same time, in precisely the same mode and timbre of speech. Not only do I hear two distinctly different topics at the same time, I hear them in stereophonic sound, at the same shrill pitch, and with the same unrelenting, feverish enthusiasm making it absolutely impossible to understand a word either of them is saying.  My mind is thrust into Never Never Land where I never, never hear a word they have to say. This is disconcerting, to be sure. I love these precious little girls, and I want to listen attentively to their thoughts and feelings, but even though I try mightily to focus, and have talked to them about taking turns, they persist in speaking at once, as though it is inconceivably beyond their ability, as twins, to do otherwise.

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As a seasoned mother of five, and a home schooler as well, I learned—for the sake of sanity—to tune out the many frequencies of voices that played in full pitch around me. Not all darts of speech were aimed directly at me, but there was always an abundance of them firing off in every direction, containing many varieties of tone, intention, and intensity. There were many occasions when Brad would arrive home from work, and call my attention to what was taking place in the next room. “Cynthia, the kids need your attention. Don’t you hear that?!” he’d say, incredulously. “Hear what?” I’d respond, in oblivious innocence. Honestly, to me, the house was as quiet as a tomb. I had learned to tune-out much of the white noise produced by multitudes of children in active pursuit of learning and fun. (Unfortunately, I had also learned to tune-out children in active pursuit of mischief and disciplinary action.)

Media

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Perhaps the most devious of white noises is that which enters the brain via the media—all kinds of media. On a recent shopping excursion, I found myself becoming increasingly anxious and antsy. My fidgetiness escalated until I found myself wanting to run out of the store before finishing the necessary shopping. As I focused my reasoning powers on my growing restlessness, I was able to pinpoint the cause with exactness. It was the piped-in music—loud, confusing, and irreverent—a winning combination for driving away shoppers like me who prefer quieter, upbeat, positive, white noise type of input from a generic source. Most stores, in fact, choose white noise kinds of music—the kind that filters out any negative feelings, (such as fleeing the store!), and encourages positive, money-spending behaviors.

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Traveling on a long road trip with our children many years ago as built-in, DVD-player-wannabees, Brad rigged up a small TV set and video player in between the front seats, duct taping the contraption together, as well as to our arm rests to secure it in place. (The TV faced towards the back, of course, placing the speaker next to my head at precisely the level of my ear.) To my chagrin, from my spot in the front passenger seat, the much loved movie, Star Wars, A New Hope turned out to be nothing more than horrendously loud, ear-splitting sound effects blasting their way through the speakers via The Force directly into my left ear. (If you don’t believe me, you are welcome to try a similar experiment next time you make a long road trip. I was surprised at how little dialog there was in this film. Some movies are not to be confused with audio books.)

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Han Solo’s Blaster from Star Wars

As far as I’m concerned, most TV noise falls into the white noise category. (It’s actually quite entertaining to turn the sound off and see how silly the actors and action appear without it.) This is not to say that I never find something worth listening to and watching on the TV, but it has become increasingly rare. Frankly, dialog, commentaries, speculation, and sound effects delivered with mind-jarring insincerity, sensationalism, and noise have driven me to tune out all noise originating from the TV as white noise. Whether whispered, or shouted, TV sounds and voice-overs are mostly exaggerated and artificial, while sound effects, as has already been mentioned, have reached brutal decibel levels.

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Television White Noise, also called “snow”

You may be thinking, “Why don’t you just turn off the TV if it bothers you so much?” A legitimate question. I have a legitimate answer. My father, (whom we live with and care for), at 92 and nearly deaf, spends a good deal of his day in front of the TV. His wireless headset is an ear-saver for all of us. However, in order to hear, he must listen at maximum volume, and I can hear every word and sound from virtually every room in the house via the sound leaking out of his headset. It is often hard to tune-out when I sit with him attempting to read.  I’d be perfectly content to hear the white noise “snow” in lieu of some of the other more obnoxious and nerve-splitting sounds emanating from the TV. Once you’ve heard white-noise-via-headset-sounds for years, you develop practices for lessening them—such as listening to white noise music via your own headset. Interestingly, as I sit here typing away, with earbuds inserted, and beautiful music serenading, I can still intelligibly hear the TV through Daddy’s headset. Alas, some white noise cannot be completely eliminated.

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Summer Evening – Childe Hassam

There is much to be said for white noise. Crickets are often a welcome sound on a summer’s eve. They suggest lazy, long summer days, warm nights, and flinging one’s cares into daydreams. Engine rumblings, clickety-clack projectors and any sound that calms and quiets may be just the prescription for a frenzied mind and weary brain.

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Family gathered on the red couch, also known as….

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…the sleeping couch (as ably demonstrated by one of our grandsons)

Some of my most restful, white noise moments have been enjoyed in the family room on “the red couch” (which all family members refer to as the “sleeping couch”). On a quiet, rainy afternoon, while a passel of grandchildren play with toys that make lovely white noise kinds of sounds,—the clicking of wooden blocks, the rustle of drawing paper, and the scratching of pencils,—and while engaged in happy chatter, the sounds in the room gradually distill into a blend of cozy, comforting bliss, as I slip into a half-awake, half-asleep state of euphoria. This is the best kind of white noise—the kind that cradles you in a subtle, mindless, safe, pleasant trance of peace. The spell can only be broken by an abrupt, non-white-noise sound, such as the slamming of a door, or the blatant ringing of the phone. Or maybe even the unexpected chirp of a cricket.

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I wonder….perhaps those crickets repeat their song because they’re trying to remember the words….

© July 15, 2015

© October 10, 2015

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear friends, for reading.

My First Blog Post EVER!

*I realize that in writing this, I may cause a stupor of thought as to the words of this lullaby in my poor, unsuspecting readers. So as not to keep you in suspense, or lying awake tonight, I am including for you the lyrics to “Hush, Little Baby.”

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Hush, Little Baby

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.
Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird

And if that mockingbird won’t sing,
Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring

And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Papa’s gonna buy you a looking glass

And if that looking glass gets broke,
Papa’s gonna buy you a billy goat

And if that billy goat won’t pull,
Papa’s gonna buy you a cart and bull

And if that cart and bull turn over,
Papa’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover

And if that dog named Rover won’t bark
Papa’s gonna buy you a horse and cart

And if that horse and cart fall down,
You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.


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Recipe for Life

Blog Post #32

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As an infant, I was like the ingredients for a recipe—scattered at random on the table…waiting….just waiting. Although I was only an incongruous assortment of parts and pieces, all the parts and pieces were there, present—watching, waiting, trying to make sense of all The Maker was busily preparing. A work surface and bowl, measuring spoons, measuring cups, a mixer, preheated oven—all necessary tools were gathered together in preparation and anticipation of the recipe and warmth of environment that would contribute to the future me.11970903451034121896johnny_automatic_baking_ingredients.svg.med

Meanwhile, the ingredients that were me were collected into a grocery bag of infancy. I sensed my individual parts all gathered together, but they were still in a state of disconnect. All properties of mind and body, all inclinations, talents, ideals and feelings coexisted, but didn’t have an understanding of the unity and inclusion they might one day enjoy.

Ideas about life, about political, social and worldly philosophy, about rearing children, faith, and charitable feelings (as well as ‘non’) were uncertain—vague in a clueless void of infant ignorance and bliss. I simply “was,” somewhat recklessly advancing day by day without a strong rudder for direction, except that which I daily encountered in the hearthstone of family.

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Then The Maker took of my individual ingredients and began combining them in the bowl of youth and accountability—stirring them together, measuring and blending the various parts. This stirring caused changes to take place—sometimes extreme discomfort and awkwardness, sometimes elation and wonder—but always testing to see if the parts would blend and coalesce, or if they were spoiled and rotten, and in need of discarding.

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I remember this part of my development. I remember that most of what I think, and feel, and am today was present at that genesis time of combining the ingredients and stirring them together. Those thoughts and feelings, those impressions and tendencies, were vague and blurry in those early times—much as the difficulty one has in identifying separate ingredients when stirred together. Though the salt was still salt, and the egg, still egg, the process of combining and mixing them together created some ambiguity. Questions about who and what I was arose, as did distress, embarrassment and a little confusion. (All these—perfectly natural and useful in influencing and blending the ingredients—caused some consternation due to their changing forms and functions.) Still, I must admit, there was a measureable certainty about some things,—e.g. 4 tablespoons of devotion to family, 1 cup of faith in God, 3 teaspoons of honesty—the immutable values inherent to my soul.

Power of expression developed incrementally during this period of change—raw and unrefined as it was—adding to the discomfort and blurriness of the early times.

As new challenges, trials, and experiences helped define, refine and mobilize all the separate ingredients that were “Cynthy” by stirring, they began to swirl, glob together, and turn into something more substantial. Though not hardened or solid by any means, the reception of new truths and experiences, inspired by the process of stirring, caused the proper blending of the ingredients, becoming decidedly firmer—taking on mass, shape and resolve.

The Maker continued the process by thoroughly kneading the ball of dough– working it over to reshape and refine it. When at last the dough was soft and pliable, blended and glutinous, The Maker gently laid it in a baking pan and put it in the oven. The oven had been pre-heated to just the right temperature to bake the loaf without overcooking or burning it. It was hot in the oven, and I felt the intensity of the heat as trials and tests did their work of melding, further refining, and shaping my loaf.

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Exposed to heat, my individual parts blended into a unified whole. Whether they became good, or whether they became distasteful was entirely up to me—to the choices I made. Did I discard the rotten, spoiled parts? Did I keep only the fresh and sweet ingredients? Did I allow The Maker adequate time to knead and let me rise, to allow the gluten to provide elasticity, shape and texture that would strengthen me? Or did I stiffen and rebel, deflating the leaven, creating a tough, dense consistency?

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As I baked in the oven of adversity, all former choices came to a head. All thoughts, ideas, philosophies, values, and qualities formed and bonded into a solid loaf, a united whole—for good or for evil. (One or the other—it couldn’t be both. Either the loaf would be good, or it would be bad. It was that simple.)

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Now, out of the oven, I have been allowed time to set and cool, merging all the ingredients and heightening their flavor—the further refinement of The Golden Years. When others taste of the warmth and wholesome loaf that is me, will they find me delicious or bitter? They may add sweet honey, or slather on peach preserves, savory melted cheese, or other things to bring out and enhance the plain and wholesome goodness that is, hopefully, there. (Or perhaps to cover salt that has lost its savor. They may discard the whole loaf, declaring it bad.) The Maker may decide I need reheating—another warming through—to further soften and make delectable.bread_and_butter_clip_art_thumb

If I have chosen well, the recipe of life will have created a loaf, the sum of its parts being greater than each individual ingredient—a delicious, healthy, pleasing whole that others may enjoy, while partaking of the aroma, and the sweetness and goodness thereof.  And I will enjoy the satisfaction of having filled and blessed the needs and wants of others, while fulfilling my mission and eternal destiny as a follower of the true Bread of Life.

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© September 18, 2015

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear friends, for reading.


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Back Door Blessings

Blog Post #31

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Psyche Opening the Door into Cupid’s Garden, by John W Waterhouse

There are things we all dread: different things for different people, but dreaded things nonetheless. Many of us take preventative measures in an attempt to avoid some of these dreaded things, such as parking the car in a remote part of the shopping center parking lot, installing locks and security devices, making sure there’s plenty of food, water and emergency supplies on hand, and going to great lengths to teach children safety practices. But what about those things we can’t plan for and don’t anticipate? What about those things that sneak in through the back door?Key in Lock

When we were young, my mother left the back door to our house unlocked for our use before and after school. My sister, brother and I were to enter and exit through the back door for everything. For all we knew, the house had a faux front door—just painted on for looks—because we rarely, if ever used it. Neighbor friends were instructed to use the back door for their comings and goings, as well. It was a given: the back door was THE door, the ONLY door we should use.

The kids were not the only ones relegated to the back door—others, also, had the good sense to use it. The milkman always came to the back door. (During the late 50s and early 60s, we had one of those fabled milkmen—wearing a white shirt, cap and slacks, and carrying a wire tote holding glass bottles—who delivered milk once or twice a week.) He always made his deliveries at the back door. I know people, now, who get milk delivered to their doors, but the milkmen of today have the audacity to drop their deliveries in wooden boxes on the front porches of their customers. Bold by yesterday’s standards.

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I don’t want to mislead you about the front door. We did have one— right there in plain sight, smack dab in the middle of our house where you couldn’t miss it. People were known to use it, but ideally, it was reserved for “company.”  Fortunately, we had a large window in the living room to the west of the front door, and two bedroom windows facing the front yard to the east. These were necessary lookout posts, in case some of that “company” made a sneaky appearance at our front door. On more than one occasion, we scrambled about the house like pinballs bouncing off furnishings and each other as we hurriedly picked up and swept the house before an unexpected guest arrived. If “company” entered the “faux” front door, they had to be greeted by the “faux” tidy house. It would have been shocking if they had encountered the mass of creative energy splayed everywhere in true open-air-market/swap-meet fashion. My mother kept a very clean house—right into the obscure corners—but she was hard-pressed to keep up with the three Tasmanian Devils that whirled through every room in expressive, chaotic disorder. Imagine the havoc we might have caused had we been allowed to use the front door on a regular basis? Instead, we tracked our dirt, milk carton moth cages, lizard pets, roller skates (complete with keys), skateboards, skip tapes, jump ropes, club paraphernalia, flies, and an abundance of “stuff” in and out the back door where all was welcome. (Our mother was not just a good sport, she encouraged our creative energy—often winking at the untidiness we left in our wake).

taz-the-tazmanian-devil-spinning-tattooBusinesses and restaurants continue to adhere to the old philosophy of back door users, and they’re wise to do so. They tend to reserve back doors for deliveries, employees and discarding garbage. A restaurant’s clientele would drop-off considerably if patrons had to squeeze by bussers sporting stained and splattered aprons, carrying stinky garbage cans in and out the front door.

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You mustn’t be fooled by the front door paradox! Just because special people—indeed, company—were received at, or entered through the front door, doesn’t mean that all were among those who most benefitted, or blessed, our family, or that they were always those who were most welcome. Salesmen, such as the legendary Fuller Brush Man, solicitors, and other such persons, tracked the neighborhoods of my youth to peddle their wares. They always came to the front door.

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Special “back door people”—whom we never referred to as “company”—had a better title: “friend.” In reality, being a “back door user” means you have earned the reputation of “comfortable”—it means we’re comfortable enough with you to let our guard down, to let you see us as we are in our untidiness, to trust you with our true lives. It means real, not faux. Those who came through the back door in my youth were friends and neighbors who shared our toys, our time, and our lives. They were often my mother’s friends, women who sat and chatted at the kitchen table while my mother folded clothes. These people were back door blessings, and remain so today.

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My mother may not have welcomed everything that came through her back door, however. Certainly, we brought in more than our fair share of dirt, let in a multitude of flies, and sometimes wore her out with our endless door-slamming and clamoring in and out, the messes we made, and the arsenal of creative material we carried back and forth through the back door that we needed to pretend with. Perhaps she dreaded what might come through that door, or the persistent knocking, doorbell ringing and petitions of neighbor kids wanting us to come out and play. I don’t remember her finding fault with any of these things (except the flies and door slamming), but sometimes I wonder about the other things….

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We all have things we dread—things that sneak in, like annoying flies, through the back door of opportunity or circumstance. I have experienced some of these kinds of things in my life—things I didn’t want, didn’t anticipate, and, in fact, dreaded. Things that snuck in the back door of my life while I had my hands and attention focused on dishwater. Things like a house fire, a hole in the roof, and a broken neck. They sound horrible, and in many ways are! They can be frightening, can turn one’s life upside down, and may wreak havoc all over the place!

Oddly enough, each may turn out to be a back door blessing. Yes! It’s true! I know, because I have experienced these very back door blessings in my life.

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Back Door Blessing – Example #1: Kitchen Fire

One night, I returned from an evening choir rehearsal to find the inside of our house charred. Structurally, the house was still sound, but the fire had singed much of the kitchen, and the smoke had painted the house with blackened fingers, leaving its smoldering scent behind as a souvenir. After finding family members to be safe and well, I sat on a dining room chair in stupefied amazement. How would we ever clean-up the mess that brief, but effective, fire left in its wake? At that moment, all I could envision was working from morning until night for months on end in an attempt at futility. It was daunting and I was overwhelmed. To my utter surprise, a man appeared through the back door that very night, carrying blessings in his capable hands. Before I arrived home, my husband had already made some phone calls, bringing an army of recruits to arms! Here was a man, sent by our insurance company, specializing in restoring homes after fire damage. Before long, ALL of our belongings—from cans of tomato sauce to mismatched socks—had been packed up, lock, stock and barrel, shipped off to be cleaned, and returned to us after the entire house—save the basement—had been revamped, repainted, re-carpeted, re-floored, reinstalled with new appliances and cabinetry, and essentially, re-everything-ed! I’ll never forget opening the first box of clothing returned to us: sweaters, jeans, and underwear had been cleaned, pressed, neatly folded, wrapped in fresh, white paper, and bound with a golden seal. I nearly cried. It was a beautiful thing.

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“A kitchen fire—a back door blessing?” you ask. You bet!  In fact, so many blessings resulted, I can barely count them! I came home one day to discover kind neighbors had come in through the back door and left a Crock Pot of simmering stew for us. Firemen came with special donations. Our church family offered loving assistance. Our insurance adjuster was of the most generous sort. But greatest of all was the assurance that God was mindful of us, waiting to pour out tender mercies to us in our extremity, and to remind us of what matters most. We were all alive and well, we had our home, we were safe from harm, and gratitude was the only suitable response to this would-be misfortune.

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Back Door Blessing – Example #2: Broken Neck

For much of his life, my husband Brad’s worst fear was breaking his neck, and yet, one sunny morning almost thirty years ago, it happened. Next door. On a trampoline. Witnessed by three of our, then, four children. It was surreal in so many ways. I will spare you the details of that whole ordeal. Summing up, after three months in a halo brace, having a piece of his rib fused to his neck, and adequate healing time, no one would ever know, now, that for a moment, Brad wavered between normal bodily activity and paralysis. The accident barged into the back door of our lives like an unwelcome, loud-mouthed, rudely mannered form of company. It disrupted everything that was normal, and caused untold physical suffering and pain. It caused temporary anxiety, and a looming question mark as to what the future would hold. You may be asking yourself if any back door blessings could possibly come from a broken neck. The miraculous answer? An innumerable amount.

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Again, the love and support of friends, family, church family, and virtual strangers was mind-boggling. People are good, and want to help others. I still remember with gratitude the ambulance crew that treated Brad with kit glove delicacy, insuring he suffered no further damage, delivering him to the hospital with extreme care and caution. The neurosurgeon, whose skill and expertise we trusted so implicitly, was a great back door blessing. The act of taking stock of our lives, of reevaluation: what is necessary, what is precious, and what we were blessed to have, but perhaps had not fully appreciated, and of the immense gift of health, all tiptoed in through the back door, unfolding their priceless value to our souls.  In the beauty of a clear, blue-sky morning, God opened the back door of my heart and mind, and intimately visited with me in His still and quiet way. He gave me complete and absolute assurance that He lives, that He knows us as individuals, that He loves us, and that He answers prayers—my prayers. (To be sure, He answers yours, as well.)

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Would I want to revisit Brad’s broken neck, or see it happen to anyone else? I answer an emphatic, “NO!” But each of us has a choice. In such situations, we can either slam the door of opportunity and growth, or we can leave it cracked open enough to let light, faith, hope and knowledge flow in.

One last story—a story as recent as these past few weeks….evidence that these kinds of things can happen anytime, anywhere.

Back Door Blessings – Example #3: A Hole in the Roof

gina halferty/staff, herald news, 7/11/06 A mother raccoon ( far left) and four of her youngsters take a peek out of their storm drain home in Tracy this afternoon.

Brad loves to feed the critters that frequent our yard. He has made the opossums, squirrels, lizards, hummingbirds and other neighborhood “folk” feel so welcome they just clamor to move in with us. (See Blog Post #9 “The Lizard Whisperer: A True Tale) Just a couple of weeks ago, we discovered one of these friendly critters—a member of a family of raccoons living in the drain under the sidewalk nearby—had been busily engaged in clawing away at the aging shingles on our roof in order to set-up housekeeping in our attic. He had succeeded in making a fist-sized hole through the plywood. It was just a matter of time before he would have made his own back door into our home.

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Since we live in my childhood home as caregivers for my 92-year-old father, Brad called my father’s insurance company to inform them of the meticulous work our “neighbor” had been doing for who knows how long. Amazingly enough, the insurance man looked up his records, and with surprised admiration, informed my husband that Daddy had been a member of their company for 54 years and had never made a claim! They waived his insurance deductible during that initial phone call, and set about assessing the damage. Turns out, the raccoon had torn up the entire ridge pole from one end of the house to the other, and had clawed away multiple areas of the roof, including the hole, trying to gain access to our inviting attic. Because of Daddy’s loyalty (and premiums), the insurance company decided to pay for the replacement of the entire roof! (The new roof was completed yesterday, but not without additional back door blessings, such as an errant nail mischievously seeking out a copper pipe flush with the plywood, thereby piercing the copper and causing a waterfall down the siding outside the house, and brownish-red water to leak through the ceiling light fixture in my work room. The back door blessing in this case was that I had not gone on planned errands, and was able to stop the deluge before more serious issues arose.)

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It seems to me, that raccoon deserves a gold medal for a job well done! Had it not been for his noisy antics on the roof late one night, we would not have been alerted to his activity. We might have discovered the fruits of his labors later on, after he’d begun redecorating the attic to suit the needs of his family. Because our uninvited “company” announced himself through the back door, so to speak, when the rains, at last, come to our drought-ridden state, we will sleep in dry comfort beneath a brand new, solid roof. I consider it Providential in every way. Truly a back door blessing.

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Sometimes, when you leave the back door unlocked, comfortable, friendly blessings tiptoe—or bulldoze—in and cozy up at the kitchen table with you. Do you always appreciate these back door blessings, at first? Perhaps not, but if you look a little deeper, and close your eyes to the annoying flies that slip in simultaneously, you’ll find these to be the best sorts of neighbors to keep company with. You’ll come to love and cherish the companionship of back door blessings long after they’ve gone.

I know I do.

© August 21, 2015

© July 15, 2015

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear friends, for reading.

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