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

Standard
cafe-costa-rica-carol-allen-anfinsen

“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)

Interludes of Happiness are the Underpinnings that Strengthen the Soul

Standard
1-americana-carol-allen-anfinsen

“Americana” acrylic on canvas

Just when you think your life is on an even keel, something or someone wipes the gloat off your face and you’re down. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s this: Change is inevitable. Unpredictability is the norm.

The in between times when love seems never ending, when peace pervades your universe and you think nothing can go wrong that’s just when it does. Those prime times are short and fleeting. They come and go like breathing in and out. They arrive just before or shortly after a crisis.

Make the most of these tender moments because they never last. They are what memories are made of when we have nothing else to live for. These heavenly highs help relationships weather the uneven tides of emotion and anger. They give life zest and nourish a heavy heart.

"Kindred Spirits" 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

“Kindred Spirits” 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

Think of these pleasant pauses, these cherished nanoseconds as seeds. They can’t be saved or stored except in memory; but they can reside within us and provide a web of interconnecting fiber that can give our life structure and continuity. These interludes of happiness “relieve the darkness of the past and the gloom of the present.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

Like a flickering light in the gloom of darkness, these seeds of joy gives us hope, sustain us, and keep our feet planted on solid ground even when all of life is crumbling around us. This kind of strength is what makes heroes out of common men. When a tragedy happens, they respond. They just do it, never thinking about the risks to their own mind or body nor their inhibitions and weaknesses.

Human capacity is never fully tested on this earth. Knowing that somewhere within us is the action needed to meet our convictions is reassuring. Manufacturers and engineers know all about tensile strength when it comes to machinery and materials. Tensile strength is all about the ability to be stretched or pulled out of shape before breaking. Even though human beings are not machines, they are still resilient and capable of super human fetes when necessary.

"With These Hands -- Wonder" oil on canvas

“With These Hands — Wonder” oil on canvas

These seeds of hope, faith, happiness and joy that grow to fruition within us make us stronger, more teachable, and more bendable. This ethereal structure helps us to endure sorrow, pain, anger, hatred, envy or the loss of a loved one, the failure of business or marriage. This foundation is what helps you get up when you fall, and why you take one step after another even though you don’t feel like walking or going anywhere.

Savor the good times. Remember them in the bad times. Make more of these moments every chance you get. This is the web or safety net that will give you courage when you need it the most and the resiliency to hold on a little longer when your heart is breaking.

Sea Swirls

“Sea Swirls” 24×18 acrylic on canvas

Change comes to all of us. Nothing stays the same. Ride the waves, my friend. Your life’s journey will sometimes lift you up and at other times slap you down in the grit of despair. Don’t give up in the heat of the moment. Coast and surf until you gain some traction. You will survive.

(This blog was delayed by the unforeseen, but it also gave me my subject matter.)

There are Times when Nothing Else Will Do But a Good and True Friend

Standard
beach-buddies-ii-carol-allen-anfinsen2

“Beach Buddies” mixed media on canvas

As long as men are stronger than women, there will never be true equality between the sexes. Strength and muscle alone dictate that it cannot be so. Since time began, power has always gone to the “leader of the pack with his prowess as hunter and conqueror” while women bore the children and handled domestic chores at home. Of course, you can also find the opposite within different ethnic and tribal groups; but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Even today there are cultures and religions in the world who subjugate the weakest members in favor of the loud, the strong, and the violent. Ruling by fear and brute force, they overpower rather than lead. They dominate rather than seduce. They withhold affection and communication in their efforts to control. This can be done by both men and women; but in the majority of instances, it is done by the male of the species.

"Broken" mixed media on canvas; SOLD, but prints available.

“Broken” mixed media on canvas; SOLD, but prints available.

You may argue that times have changed. Today women can rise above the so-called “glass ceiling;” and with divorce as an option, they can always leave threatening circumstances. True, but not without many, many hurdles children being only one of them.

When it comes to “division of property” and closing bank accounts, it is easier said than done. Did you know that a man may close a “joint” checking account, but a woman must have her husband’s consent and signature, even though she may have been the only contributor? If there is wealth involved, a costly battle may ensue.

My first husband thought I should receive a pittance since I was a stay at home wife. He told my attorney that I had not contributed to the purchase of the house nor its maintenance nor to family expenses. My attorney pointed out that I’d given him six children, took care of them, cleaned the house, shopped for groceries and school clothes, and prepared all of their meals for 30 years. Was it not reasonable to be paid for my efforts?

I walked away from that marriage feeling worthless, empty, unloved and abandoned; even though it was I who had filed for divorce. Sadly, three words were all it would have taken for me to come back: “I love you.” Words I had heard only a few times during our lifetime together.

AntelopeIsland-2013 006

If you doubt what I’m saying, gather together a few women who have experienced physical abuse, emotional and verbal abuse, financial deprivation or divorce, and they will drown you out with their truth: equality is something they never knew, only fear; but I’ll save that for another time.

Now that I have your attention, this article is not about male versus female. It is about the importance of having friends to share your frustrations and your dreams (women friends for women, and male friends for men, or a mix of both). True friends can give your life meaning. They can provide the hugs, the support and the encouragement that somehow went missing in your marriage.

Friends can bring laughter into your life and a safe place to just be yourself. Even when you’ve lost the very notion of who you are, friends can provide a safe haven to “let your hair down.” Friends may give you an outlet to express how you really feel. Fear and feelings of failure can oppress you to the point of suicide if it is not allowed to surface.

Kindred Spirits II

“Kindred Spirits” Lge. acrylic on canvas

Friends can hold you together when you feel that you’re falling apart from the inside out. They provide tangible evidence that you really exist and that you have value. It is difficult to get in touch with a “higher power” or to have any spiritual connection when you’re battling in the trenches for survival.

I remember a time in my life when I thought: “God is a man (or so the Bible says).” If I can’t put my trust in my husband, who is a man, how will I ever be able to trust God? If a woman has also been abused by her father or a spiritual leader, this makes it even more impossible that she will ever trust in God.

Think about that men? How you treat your young daughters, and their mothers — your wives, is in direct relationship to the way they will eventually feel about God; not only today, but forever. That is a great burden on you to treat them as God would, with love and patience.

Lead instead of pushing from behind. Let your good example do the teaching. If that doesn’t seem to work, pray together. Tell your children and your spouse that you love them. This advice can be reversed if the woman is the nagger and abuser.

Life is too short to beat on or threaten the people you hold dear. Cherish them. Tell them often that you love them. Live your life with hope for the future not with regrets.

SaltLakcity13 061

Helping another Person, an Animal or a Worthy “Cause” Lifts us in the Process

Standard

koala010814-600x450

For the most part human beings are a compassionate lot. We hate to see suffering of any kind, especially that of our four-footed friends.

When wildfires began to tear through the states of Victoria and South Australia, koala bears were the first victims. Arboreal by nature (tree living), these marsupials were literally “up a tree” when the blaze trapped them; a eucalyptus tree, specifically, where they breed and feed. Koalas spend most of their time high above the ground clinging to the trees with their claws. On the ground they are slow moving and cumbersome.

According to news sources, the “first fire victim was Jeremy the koala taken in by the Australian Marine Wildlife Research and Rescue Organization. Jeremy has become the poster bear for the koalas’ plight.”

koalatwo-600x450

Now four other organizations have teamed up to treat him and the other koalas they know are out there. Special mittens sewn from clean 100% cotton material have been made for Jeremy. They work like burn dressings and must be changed often.

“The International Fund for Animal Welfare is requesting koala mitten donations from around the world. If you’d like to help, here is a link for the Koala mitten pattern  which should be made from clean 100 percent cotton material, like old sheets or tea towels. Follow the directions carefully.

According to Josey Sharrad, “Just like any burn victim, koalas’ dressings need changing daily, meaning a constant supply of mittens is needed by wildlife care takers.  Some burned koalas can take up to a year to fully recover. It also doesn’t hurt that they look damn cute in their mittens!”

Donations can be sent to IFAW, 6 Belmore Street, Surry Hills 2010. From there, the IFAW will allocate the mittens wherever they’re needed most.

I was so touched by this tragedy and the sweet photos of these adorable marsupials that I had to do my part by spreading the word!  There is nothing in the world more satisfying than helping others and that includes these helpless animals.

As I was raising my children, I nursed baby birds, turtles, dogs and kittens back to health. Sometimes I succeeded, and sometimes not. We lost a wonderful black dog named Buttons because he ran into the street chasing after my son. When he was hit by a car it broke all of our hearts. We buried him in our back yard.

Wild creatures have special needs and sometimes do not respond to our efforts to heal them. Gladly, professional teams of experts have the required knowledge to know and understand the specific needs of each species.

In Florida, professional teams have rescued and healed pelicans, sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and whales. Even with expert knowledge, a few fail to thrive. It is encouraging to see the interested people who crowd the beaches when a healed survivor is released. The earth belongs to all of us, and we should do our part to protect these defenseless creatures.

Cruelty in any shape or form should never be accepted. Intentionally starving, neglecting, or torturing an animal in anyway should not be tolerated. How we treat the innocent and unprotected says a lot about us as individuals. All life should be respected and cherished.

bella-bellissimo-carol-allen-anfinsen

“Bella Bellissimo” 16×20 acrylic on canvas (SOLD) Commission a dog portrait in oil, acrylic, pastel

Tags for Living

Standard
All-that-Jazz

“And all that Jazz,” 11 x 14 acrylic on panel

My daughter, Holly, mailed me her favorite book. Inside was a colorful gift tag splattered with flowers; and on the reverse side, a handwritten note telling me how much she loved me, and that she hoped I would enjoy reading the book. The tag became my bookmark as I turned page after page, thinking of her.

As much as I enjoyed reading the book, it was the tag that intrigued me. Time and again, I returned to her note and the shiny painted flowers on the back. My mind churned. What was there about this tag that called out to me? Thoughts bubbled to the surface.

Our lives are controlled by tags, or at least influenced by them. Tags are everywhere:

  • Tags for luggage, tags for identification, price tags, tags for washing instructions, tags for sizes, tags on foodstuffs, gift tags, sales tags, dog tags, gurney tags, toe tags, healthcare tags, tags for gardening, tags for equipment, fertilizer tags, warning tags and status tags for every substance, action, and product in the world.

Wouldn’t it be great, if there were tags for how to live your life? Tags for newborns might read:

  • “Fragile — handle with care,” or “feisty when wet, change often.” Or how about “stubborn and willful — requires coaxing,” or “prone to temper tantrums — distract if possible.”

Tags for teenagers might suggest:

  • “Prickles when angry — hug anyway,” or “count to ten and listen, really listen,” or “sasses back when cornered — don’t argue, just walk away.”

Newlywed tags might stave off marital grief:

  • “Requires lots of attention — likes to be pampered” or “sleeps soundly — wake up gently” or “thinks taking out the garbage is a man’s job — just do it,” or  “listen closely —  it might be a test.”

As I pursued this line of thinking, I realized we already have tags for living, and they cover every facet of human life. Of course, I’m referring to the Bible, but most particularly to the book of Proverbs.

There are mini-instructions for raising children, being a good spouse, a good neighbor, a hard worker, a faithful follower. Here are some familiar ones:

  • “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Prov. 22:6 NIV)
  • “He who spares the rod (correction) hates his son (or daughter), but she who loves her children is careful to discipline them.” (Prov. 13:24 NIV)
  • “Discipline your child, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” (Prov. 19:18 NIV)

Remember the newlywed tags I proposed? Try this proverbial advice:

  • “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a hard word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1 NIV) Good advice for an argument over how to squeeze the toothpaste or hang the toilet paper.

How about this marital gem:

  • “A patient man (or woman) has great understanding, but a quick-tempered person displays folly.” (Prov. 14:29 NIV)

Quarrels over sex and money are the main reasons many couples get divorced. The antidote?

  • “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from a calamity.” (Prov. 21:23 NIV)

Add the turmoil of alcoholism to the mix, and you triple the trouble.

  • “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” (Prov. 20:1 NIV)

Proverbs has countless tags for being a good neighbor:

  • “A person who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.
  • “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” (Prov. 11:13 NIV)
  • “Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house; too much of you, and he will hate you.” (Prov, 25:17 NIV)

Last but by no means least, there are instructions about government leaders; those politicians who hold our lives in their hands:

  • “A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.” (Prov. 26:24-26 NIV)

We can only hope that the “assembly,” the press and the people will do their job and expose the hypocrisy of each and every politician.

Some people say: “God doesn’t talk to us today. He turns a blind eye to disaster and allows good men and women to suffer.  If there really were a God, wouldn’t he protect us and keep us safe? Why is he so silent?  Why doesn’t he tell us what to do?”

Hello?  All you have to do is pick up the book — “The Book!” Read the words of God. Turn the pages. Follow the tags or mini-instructions God has already given. Apply the information. As Sherlock Holmes once quipped: “It’s elementary, my dear Watson.”

What I Learned as a Kid Playing Jump Rope

Standard
moody-blues-carol-allen-anfinsen

“Moody Blues” 14 x 18 oil on canvas

Yes, it’s true. Many of the things I needed to know in life, I learned while playing jump rope. Let me explain.

I learned how to merge. Do you notice how many people simply don’t know how to do this with discretion? There are the bullies who drive into traffic like a bat out of you-know- where, always expecting that an opening is waiting just for them. Sometimes they make it, causing people like you and me to stomp on our brakes and swerve into dangerous congestion, or they slam on their own brakes and wait. By the time an opening appears, their car is at a standstill.

Then there are the turtles; the terrified ones who creep up onto the ramp, afraid of whizzing cars and trucks. They don’t have enough speed to merge in, and so they sit with a trail of cars behind them. These are the people who, when they were kids, either never played jump rope, or were never good at it.

They were the ones who stood and watched the rope go around and around, and when the time was right, they stood there as immobile as slugs. If they finally found courage to jump in, they were so out of sync that they tripped on the rope – game over.

It’s all about rhythm. There are signs that alert a jumper when the time is right: the tapping of the rope on pavement, the height of the rope when it’s time to jump in. It’s all about gut feel and the rhythms of life; moving when the time is right and taking turns.

I call it tact. Some people naturally have it. They must have been jump rope pros! They seem to know when to talk and when to keep their mouths shut. They sense when another person is tense or angry. They are in tune with other people’s feelings and the rhythms and patterns of human speech and emotion. Unlike their opposing counterparts who blurt out insulting remarks without thinking. Tacky!

They are the ones who swerve in and out of traffic without regard for anyone else’s safety. They are the shoppers who push past others waiting in line, crashing into them like bumper cars. They are impatient. They think having to wait is for wimps. Anger propels them. They don’t have time for games unless they can win. “What’s in it for me?” is the question that prefaces every action. They are bulldozers in human form.

Cooperation is another skill I learned while relieving a “turner.” Holding a rope in one hand and a second rope in the other, I learned to cooperate with the person on the other side. We turned each rope inward in perfect harmony; first one, and then the other. Turning the rope also gave me a chance to serve my fellow jumpers.

And when it was my turn to jump and everyone sang:
“Teddy bear, Teddy bear, turn around,
Teddy bear, Teddy bear touch the ground,
Teddy bear, Teddy bear, stick out your tongue,” etc.
My Coordination was enhanced as I exercised.

Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing any obese kids in my classroom. The games we played at recess kept us agile and active. Kick ball, volley ball, hop scotch, jump rope, etc. provided movement, exercise, and friendships as we formed teams and worked together for a common purpose.

Patience was another virtue we at least tasted while we waited with 35 other classmates for our turn to jump. When we all sang together: “I love coffee, I love tea, I love sugar and it loves me. I love salt and pepper!” We cheered on the jumper as the rope tapped faster and faster; a surge of anxiety in our bellies as we waited for our own turn to jump. What did we learn? How about adjusting to changing tempos, new faces and rhythms? We learned about endurance. The kids who outlasted other jumpers were the winners.

As everyone sang: “Carol and Lee sitting in a tree: k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Carol with a baby carriage;” I never dreamed, as I jumped and blushed, that one day I’d have six children. Our chants were always about life, and they paved the way for future expectations of romance, family and careers.

When we tripped on the rope or failed to match the turners speed, we picked ourselves up and tried again. We learned to adjust to added pressures and new environments that helped us as adults. For example: my first day, on a new job, in a new city, I had to pack up for a move to a new office across town. At the time, I wondered what I’d gotten myself in for. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

As I packed up the old files, I studied and reviewed them. When they were unpacked, I knew how I would file them and where. I knew which ones were active, and which ones could probably be archived. I learned how to cooperate with my co-workers. There’s nothing like the strain of a move to highlight personality and temperament. You find out a lot about people when they’re working under pressure.

You find out a lot about people by waiting in lines and driving down the highway. You find out who knows when to merge and who doesn’t. And you discover discourteous people who refuse to move left, even when they can, to allow someone else to enter the highway. I swear these people never jumped rope.

If I had my way, jump rope would be a part of every Drivers Ed. Class; maybe even part of college prep, or on-the-job training. Who knows, there might be fewer accidents on the road and more teamwork on the job. But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?