Blending Two Separate Families – there’s an App for That!

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There's no Business like Show Business

Wedding rehearsal begins with “There’s no Business like Show Business” my kid’s favorite song from childhood.

Just kidding! There isn’t an app.; but my son, a science teacher, used a chemical experiment to show the children that it is possible.

Blending Family

Blending Family “practice run”

Chris was lucky enough to have his older sister Pam, a “Celebrant” officiate at his wedding. The input from the couple and the expertise of Pam made for a lovely ceremony. I have photos of the rehearsal on Friday, and the official wedding on Saturday, June 25.

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Pam Torres Officiater

The weather cooperated and we had clear skies both days. The backyard was in full bloom and the sunshine bathed us in glorious light. After the rehearsal, we binged on ham, macaroni and cheese, bread and green beans. Later we had croissant sandwiches and yummy desserts.

To avoid the heat, the wedding took place at 10 a.m. the next morning. Attendees each took a rose and placed it in a circle around the couple, symbolizing the love of family that surrounded them. Music was also performed by the groom’s younger sister, Holly; a duet with her daughter Amelia. Holly’s husband Mark played the trumpet after the couple were pronounced man and wife.

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Encircled in love and roses.

Friends and relatives congratulated the two families and then went inside for coffee, wedding cake, and conversation. Funny stories and experiences were shared and remembered. The photos speak for themselves.

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Holly & Amelia sing duet; Griffin wearing hat, and Pam on the right.

Hope and faith made the experience joyful. The future is unknown to all of us. We usually walk confidently into our lives knowing that much of what happens is in the hands of fate. For believers, trusting in God to walk with us gives us an additional edge over those who are skeptics.

Below, Tamara’s mom discovers she has cake on her shoe from cutting the wedding cake.

I hope time and shared experience will blossom in the lives of my son and his new family.

I now pronounce you man & wife

I now pronounce you man & wife

The State of the Nation is only as Good as the Hearts of its People

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“Cafe’ Costa Rica” acrylic on 20 x 20 canvas (SOLD), prints available (close-up of coffee beans)

When I was raising my family, multi-tasking was encouraged for everyone who wanted to succeed. Instead of lighting the home fires, women were encouraged to engage in career acceleration, pushing many out of the home and into the marketplace. That’s when the songs “I am Woman” and “Nine to Five” were the beat we marched to in our efforts to accomplish more in less time and to be more productive.

I once bragged to a friend that I could bathe my two youngest while cleaning my bathroom fixtures and scrubbing the floor all at the same time. I made my own cake mixes, yogurt, granola and bread to save money, and I could whip up a meal and have it on the table within 30 minutes without the benefit of microwaves or crockpots.

"Queen of Diamonds" 20 x 20 acrylic mixed media on canvas

“Queen of Diamonds” 20 x 20 acrylic mixed media on canvas

A generation later, the results were a nation of hyperactive insomniacs who didn’t know how to “chill.” Multi-tasking became the cause celebre´ for depression and nervous breakdowns; the culprit for lack of focus, and the fragmenting of a person’s time and energy.

We were accused, by the so-called experts, of short-changing our spouse and our children. Some women came back home and recommitted themselves to family life, while others were too entrenched in the upward climb to turn back. They had come close to the “glass ceiling;” and by golly, they were going to crash it if it killed them. The casualties were enormous. The ones who made it never looked back.

Once abortion was legalized, women were set free to crash the barriers that had held them back previously. The toll has only recently been felt as the Social Security Fund dries up because there are not enough workers to replace those who either have been aborted or who are on welfare. America has painted herself into a proverbial corner.

The women whose children grew up and moved on in their absence feel cheated of the experience of motherhood. They rushed here and there, watched their kid’s games and celebrated their achievements, but do they really know them? How many times have they actually had a loving conversation without telling their kids to “hurry up, we’ve got to get going?” or criticized their obnoxious antics and behavior.

Today, we look around us and see not a nation of happy and well-adjusted people, but a country full of drug addicts who participate in road rage, riots in the streets, and mayhem. Our leaders are immoral and dishonest. The people in whom we put our trust are untrustworthy. Tyrants rule in our board rooms and on our streets. We have made a mockery of that which once was sacred and blasphemed the God who gave us life.

"Blending In" 11 x 14 acrylic on canvas (How often do we "Blend in, rather than Standing Up?"

“Blending In” 11 x 14 acrylic on canvas (How often do we “Blend in, rather than Standing Up?”

Collectively, we desecrate the holy, the weak, and elevate the swindler and the swine. We worship pleasure and wealth and turn our backs on the lowly and common. Children in many cases dishonor parents and parents turn their backs on the children who need them. There is a lack of common decency and respect. “It’s all about me” rings from the rafters of homes, automobiles and businesses. “I want what I want, and I want it now.”

Never in the history of the world has there been more need of a Savior to bring us back to our Heavenly roots. Jesus said: 7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love, does not know God because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is God: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for sin.”
(I John 4:7-10 NIV)

“If this is true,” you say, “then why isn’t there peace on earth? Why is there so much violence?”

First off, God is not the author of confusion, nor violence, nor evil. Mankind does that very well without him. Before Christ was crucified, he did clarify this point for us: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you.” (In other words, His peace is within) “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Our world could use a little more peace, especially in the hearts of its people.

"Lady in Waiting" oil on canvas (prints available)

“Lady in Waiting” oil on canvas (prints available)

In-laws, Outlaws, Cousins and Fam make Life a tad Richer and Fuller

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Scene from “Call the Midwife” PBS

The birth of a new baby always draws people together; the anticipation, the anxiety, the hope and excitement for the future are mirrored on each face.

Time inches forward. The waiting is stressful. We traveled from Fort Myers to Minnesota to welcome a new great grandson into the family.

Dick's granddaughter

Dick’s granddaughter

Yesterday I walked back and forth with the mother-to-be and her mother hoping to shake this stubborn little fruit from the tree. Overripe and bulging, Katie hoped that the bouncing and jostling in the crowd would encourage her son’s birth. And she was right. At 2:30 a.m. that morning, the contractions began. But the long labor and final delivery went on for another 24 hours.

This ordeal brings back many memories, not only of my first daughter’s birth after 24 hours of hard labor, but of five more who came into the world on their own terms. Their personalities were imprinted on their souls from the beginning. We saw glimmers of their uniqueness even before they were born and forever after. No two babies are ever the same. Each is a priceless jewel that opens like a bud in witness to a miracle.

Characters from "Call the Midwife"

Characters from “Call the Midwife”

“The PBS Show “Call the Midwife” will begin its Fifth Season next March through May 2016. Based on the best-selling memoirs of the late Jennifer Worth, “Call the Midwife” tells colorful stories of midwifery and families in London’s East End. Inspired by the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife follows the nurses, midwives and nuns from Nonnatus House, who visit the expectant mothers of Poplar, providing the poorest women with the best possible care.”

The show’s timeline is sometime after the Blitz in London and moves into the 1950s. Midwife is tender, revealing, and oftentimes traumatic as seemingly live births occur in the seamiest side of London’s East End. The characters warm your heart as you watch their personal struggles. The Midwives become the only strength and power many of these women and their families will ever know.

Nurses

Nurses

Wondering how my husband felt about watching this show, I turned to him and saw tears glistening in his eyes. “Isn’t that a beautiful sight?” I commented. New life really is beautiful and most parents will cherish the birthing moment forever even as the pain and anxiety fade.

We are heading out to Seattle, Washington, to see my oldest daughter and her children, and grandchildren. I haven’t been out there in a long time, and our reunion is past due. I’ll keep you posted with photos of the new baby and stories of our trip.

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First Impressions are not always Accurate

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I planted my “potted” Peace Plant in the yard. Doing Well!

I have a friend who is very persnickety about what she eats and how it is presented and served. She keeps waiters and waitresses on the run. Friends and fellow diners are sometimes embarrassed or offended.

I was dining with one of the latter who mentioned our friend’s behavior with disdain until she was served a dish that wasn’t quite to her liking. She called the waiter over and asked for extra sauce complaining about the dry noodles.  After the waiter left, she looked at me and we both laughed realizing the tables had been turned. “Now who do I sound like?” she said, feeling apologetic.

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One exquisite bloom!

Have you ever changed your mind about someone after you got to know them? When I first met my fuss-budget friend, I was put off. I was wearing a suit jacket that belonged to my mother; it was one of the few things I had left from her. The coat was tweed with a black velvet collar. As far as I knew, it was still in fashion.  Long before we really knew each other my friend said “I had a jacket like that years ago (with the emphasis on years.)” I took it as an insult.

From then on I would look the other direction when she walked my way. She had done the same thing to me when I tried to get to know her. This went on between us for some time, until she went out of her way to change things.

I soon learned that she wasn’t the stand-offish rude person I thought she was. In fact, to those who took the time to get to know her, they discovered that she was a true friend; one who would bend over backwards for you and delight in spending time with you.

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First impressions are rarely correct. We often assume things about others that are simply not true. We scratch the surface, make our judgment calls and then go about our merry way missing out on what could have been.

There are simple people who are easy to know and love, but also easily forgotten. And then there are complex people who have many sides to their personality. They usually require patience and some digging to get to know them well, but it’s worth it.

The Neptunes -- Octoband

The Neptunes — Octoband

People who are deep, interesting and multifaceted often turn into lasting friends that stay connected. All types of people can bring laughter and fun into your life. They can also teach us about ourselves and help us to become better for having known them.

The most successful television sitcoms are about ordinary people like you and me and the funny things we say and do just being ourselves. Authentic down to earth people we can relate to. They become endearing to us because they are us.

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The Neptunes — Trumpeteers

Remember that the next time you pass someone over because they’re not “your type.” How can you possibly know at first glance?

A broad range of friends can enlarge your heart, enrich your life, and change your perspective to a more positive point of view.

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The Neptunes — “Golden Girls”

Why Do You Do What You Do Each Day?

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Kindred Spirits II

“Kindred Spirits” acrylic on canvas

What makes you get up in the morning? Is it a loved one? Is it your children or a mad desire to plan and organize? Is it a purposeful job that gets your creative juices going?

Why do you do what you do? Are your efforts passion driven for the sake of enjoyment and fulfillment or do you dread every moment and wish you were doing something else?

A paycheck drives most of us. Without it none of our dreams can come true. But in spite of that, if you’re born to create, nothing, not money, road blocks, handicaps or problems can keep you from doing what you were born to do.

Some people keep plodding along for the “fringe benefits:” a company car, health care supplements and bonuses.  Entrepreneurs build businesses so they may have more freedom to pursue their personal vision of success. Fringe benefits come through tax breaks, incentives and the “cost of doing business.”

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“Moonlight Magic” 11×14 acrylic on canvas

Human behavior is usually based on “what’s in it for me.” In negotiations, the buyer and seller must agree on what’s mutually beneficial to both. When someone does something nice for us, we feel like reciprocating; it’s a two-way street.

On a more personal level, when someone is kind to us, we are more likely to be kind to someone else. Every action has a reaction. Give a negative remark or a physical rebuff in a moment of impatience and watch the domino affect disperse outward to everyone else; cause and effect.

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“Broken Hearted” 11×14 pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Don’t confuse loud, obnoxious behavior with strength. There is great power in self-containment. A person who can face the world unafraid without having to dominate every situation is strong and in control. Self-confidence is built on clear, concise choices that build bridges not walls.

Tickles from God

“Tickles from God” acrylic on canvas

There is a Biblical phrase that says: “Cast your bread upon the water and it will come back to you.” We get what we give. If you are always out to “get people” before they get you that’s what you will receive in the end. Life has a way of dealing honestly with us. Even our faces at the end of life can betray what kind of a life we have lived and how much love we have given away.

Note that I didn’t say “how much love we have received.” I made a point of saying “how much love we have given away.” Like the bread (action) that is scattered on the water, our deeds will come back to us in greater measure. The more we shed light and love upon others, the greater the portion that comes back to us.

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel

“A Joyful Heart,” 11 x 14 pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Some people wallow in self pity thinking that they never get enough of life’s goodness and pleasure. They hold on so tightly to what they have that they smother any chances for expansion or growth. In order to receive, we must first be an influence for good. If you don’t believe it, see what happens when you smile at someone in a long line of people.

Some will shy or turn away, after all, you’re a stranger. But don’t give up. Keep a positive attitude. Continue to smile. If someone bumps into you and apologizes, accept their apology. Don’t always be on the defensive. Not everyone is out to get you. Do some apologizing of your own. Thank people for their courtesy.

Now imagine every smile, every positive action radiating outward and repeated by others who pass your goodwill on to someone else. Like waves on the ocean, the tide shifts outward and inward. The ripple effect comes back to you with more positive vibes than you sent out in the first place.

To Touch or Not to Touch That is the Question

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I’m a hugger and a toucher. It goes way back to my Danish/Swedish heritage. In our family we called them “love pats.” As a child, I’d try to dodge those slap-on-the-back taps whenever possible; some could even sting.

Now I’m doing the same thing: thumping my spouse and my friends on the back followed by a big squeeze of adoration. It’s like a bear hug with suffocating pressure. I tell myself to taper back, but when emotion swells my chest, I get carried away.

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How we approach others tells them a lot about us. Sometimes my exuberance puts people off. My welcoming embrace can be overpowering. My enthusiasm may offend the non-touchers and the formal greeters from other countries and cultures. But once people get to know me, they hug me right back, so I guess that’s a plus.

Some people are more touchy-feely than others. Many families are more affectionate. It’s wise to check out the customs of other people before you offend them inadvertently. Manners and acceptable behavior varies around the world.

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When I was in Korea, it is their custom to dine sitting on a floor cushion around a low table. They never use a toothpick or try to dislodge a piece of food from their mouth in public without first covering their mouth with the other hand. Yet, they consider it an affirmation of downright deliciousness to burp after a meal, not just once, but several times in declaration.

An American who was sitting at our table put on lipstick and combed her hair after the meal. The shocked and embarrassed glares told me that this behavior was totally unacceptable in Korea, especially in polite company.

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Never one to give up on people, I look into their eyes while I shake their hand with both of mine. That’s my way of saying “I respect you. I really like you. I’m interested in what you have to say.”

My husband, on the other hand, is Norwegian. As he likes to say, “Norvegian’s look at your shoes and never give eye contact until they get to know ya’.” Actually it’s true. It was more than a few years of marriage before he could talk to me and look me in the eye for more than a few seconds at a time. I cherish looking into his eyes now for lengthy discussions or sharing the day’s trivialities.

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In business there’s a whole “other” set of rules and behavior. People like me who are outgoing and friendly need to be careful that their actions don’t betray them or cause co-workers to misinterpret their actions. Too much eye contact may seem flirtatious. Touching may seem forward or seen as a signal for more provocative behavior.

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You’re usually more at ease in being yourself, but you need to respect the space that others may need and want. Understand that you can’t please everyone. Be genuine and others will feel at ease, too.

My Love-Hate Relationship with Cats

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"Playing Dress-Up" 20 x 16 mixed media on canvas

“Playing Dress-Up” 20 x 16 mixed media on canvas

Now before you cat lovers fly off the handle, let me say that I once loved unconditionally all cats, the ugly, the scraggly, and the mistreated. I’ve never really hated cats, I just lost my affection for them for awhile in a rebound love affair with an adorable dog.

As a child, I lived in an upstairs apartment over my grandmother and grandfather’s old Victorian mansion that sat on a visible corner lot in an older part of town. Out of respect for my grandmother, I was allowed to have a bowl of gold fish, nothing more. Suffice it to say (forgive my triteness), a fish simply did’nt cut it!

Soon, I began dragging stray cats home. They were love hungry and eager to please. My mother indulged me for awhile. She provided a cat box in a recessed corner of the kitchen where an old pot-bellied stove once stood in the days when my grandpa burned coal in the furnace.

I adored dressing my cats in doll clothes and pushing them around in a doll buggy. They were patient and indulged my every whim even tolerating a doll’s bonnet with a bow tied under the chin. They had been so deprived that nothing I could do would turn them away.

I was in cat Heaven. But no sooner had I brought one cat home than it managed to vanish before another was brought into the house. My mother feigned ignorance at their disappearance. Once she did admit she had given one away. She declared it was happier “out on the farm.” I believed her.

One cat may have disappeared in a vent hole we had on the side of the two-story brick house. I never knew for sure, but my mother insisted she had seen it go inside. I never heard a distress meow and it never came when I called. I was suspect and questioned her motives.

Finally she allowed one cat to stay, at least through the winter. I slept with the cat, kissed it goodbye before I went off to school, and smothered her with affection when I returned home. Of course, my mother was left with the cat all day, and she was less than fond of it.

One day before school while eating my breakfast, I watched the cat use its box. My stomach gave a nauseous gurgle. When I turned away, I faced the gold fish bowl on top of the big buffet. The shiny spangled fish was also doing its job, trailing a string of brown excrement.

When I went off to school, my enchantment with pets had fizzled. My queasiness grew worse on the bus. To make matters worse, while munching on an after school snack, I watched the cat leave a sizable tape worm in its sandbox. I wasn’t ready for such reality. That was the last stray cat I brought home. Eventually, the cat box permanently disappeared.

I did try owning many cats after that: a kitten won by my first son, Chris, in a Cub Scout Soap Box Derby that was a part of a friend’s litter; a found kitten that must have been part of a feral cat litter, and climbed my living room drapes with claws like a tiger; and a black cat my third daughter, Paula, named “Demetrius” that marked everything in our house with his territorial markings as a warning to our dog Pooky.

Later when we had to sell our home and move into smaller quarters, Pooky was given to a friend, and Demetrius was taken to the Humane Society; not because we didn’t want to keep him, but that we learned Paula’s younger brother, Quinn, was extremely allergic to cats!

I bawled like a baby when I left Demetrius in the care of the shelter. I knew there was a chance they would put him to sleep if he wasn’t adopted. I prayed for his well-being and asked that a loving owner would love him and want him.

Demetrius was the last cat, the last pet, I ever owned. While I couldn’t break “Demi” of walking on my kitchen counters (a spritz of water in his face didn’t do the trick), and his footprints every morning on the shiny formica where I buttered our toast turned me off, I still loved his affectionate rubbing against my legs and the way he jumped into my lap and began to purr as I caressed him.

My life is pretty hectic right now, but if I ever lived alone again, I might consider the warmth and closeness that only a cat can provide.

FUNNY CAT DANCING VIDEO:

http://youtu.be/kKzfUusizv4