Labor Pangs are soon forgotten Once you receive the Prize

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(Yes, here I am in all my exhausted and pregnant glory, expecting our 5th child)

Our first home had a cement floor that we covered with throw rugs to keep our feet from freezing in the winter. The kitchen was overlaid with grungy black tiles thickly coated with layers of old yellow wax. I knew it had to come off, but how?

Finally I tackled it! Not with a scrubbing-brush or gallons of product that our budget couldn’t afford, but with a razor blade. I knew I had to be gentle or scratch the tiles. I figured if I could scrape five or more squares a day while my two toddlers were napping, I could get it done in a few months. Speed was not the objective. A shiny black floor was.

By sticking to my guns, I beat my goal and had it done in a month. I reasoned that if I could do this with every dream and every challenge, just think what I could accomplish! Every time I walked into that room and saw the deep sheen on the floor, cooking for my family and taking care of my babes did not seem so daunting. I needed this kind of optimism because we ended up with six kids.

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After going three weeks over my due date, the first one brought 24 hours of excruciating labor. The doctor debated a cesarean section, but kept saying “let’s wait a little longer;” until finally her little head crowned and she was born.

The second child, a boy, was born 14 months later. My water broke at home and we rushed to the hospital. My husband was still registering me when he was born. “Wow, this birth thingie is going to be a snap from here on,” I thought.

It wasn’t. Four years later, during fireworks on July 5th , I went into labor with my third child, a boy. I was also three weeks overdue with this one. After another long labor, he weighed in at 10 pounds.

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Sidney, child #3

The fourth child introduced me to stress diabetes followed by two more ten pound babies and difficult deliveries. But once the births were over, and I held those precious humans-in-miniature and nursed them joyfully, the pain and suffering was quickly forgotten.

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(Chris #2, Holly #4, Paula #5, Sidney #3, Pamela #1

“Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort.” Most of us have heard that Teddy Roosevelt quote many times. We’ve experienced it when we finally get that perfect job, or find the right mate after we’ve gone through several “duds.”

There are struggles and growing pains in every new thing we try. We think we will never find satisfaction or success. But if we’re patient, we may get to see completion. Then we realize we were watching the unfolding miracle happen before our very eyes.

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The first time you must  punish your child for disobeying the rules or for going against your family values, you probably experienced pain; perhaps even guilt or shame. Not that the punishment didn’t fit the crime, but that you had to do it at all.

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Paula, my 5th child (Aunt Jean’s paintings behind; and a baby quilt I made.

One of my daughter’s was forever breaking the rules. The frightful thing was that she accepted the “grounding” or the scolding willingly knowing that she deserved it. But that consequence didn’t stop her from disobeying the next time. Even as a teenager, if she were grounded for a week or even a month, it didn’t seem to make any difference. She just went out when she was free and again disobeyed the curfew. I didn’t know how to deal with her effectively.

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Here’s that cute little nubbins at age three.

Her father was absent most of the time. When I’d explain the situation to him, he seemed not to hear. His response was nothing as he left for work. My daughter had to experience the results of her actions again and again. Later in life, long after there was no one there to reprimand her except herself, she went through some hard times before the “light came on” and she altered her choices and behavior because it was healthier and safer.

We sometimes see ourselves in our children. We try to hold them back through warnings or discipline so they won’t have to experience the pain that we did. They could listen to us if they would. They could be obedient and save themselves a truckload of you-know-what, but they don’t. They go blindly forward in spite of our words and our anguish.

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Here’s all five of them on  the mountain with Mom, ready to throw rocks over the cliff. (# 6 wasn’t here yet.)

I always believed that if my children knew how deeply I loved them everything would turn out all right, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Accepting your child as he or she is with all their flaws and imperfections is the key to their own self-acceptance and outlook as adults. You need to continue loving them even though their life choices may not have been your own.

It may be difficult. You may not necessarily approve of their actions or behavior. You love them anyway. God does this for us as parents and we’re far from perfect. He loves His children unconditionally. Can we do any less for our own?

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#6, getting a bath in the sink.

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Learning to stand.

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#6 now a toddler, dressed up for church.

Behavior in the End is a Choice

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All-that-Jazz

I’m reading “The Midwife’s Revolt” by Nancy Daynard a story placed during the Revolutionary War. It took me awhile to get into the book as the language and behavior are so formal and Victorian. Men and women treat each other as strangers or alien beings. Although emotion and anger are camouflaged in subtlety and innuendo, their tension and ensuing body language speak volumes.

A quote expressed in the thoughts of Lizzie, the midwife, clearly describes her impressions of her former in-laws after the death of her husband in the war:

“God has seen fit to place two kinds of people on this earth: those who, though they had nothing, would give you half of that nothing; and those who give nothing, though they had all the riches in the world. And while it is blasphemy to say, I believe that no amount of piety or churchgoing changed one kind of human being into the other.”

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In this particular scene, she had discovered a beautiful portrait of her husband in their home, and on the back was a lock of his hair taped there after his funeral. The photo had been in her in-law’s possession for four years and not once had they spoken of it. How comforting it would have been to gaze on his likeness during her intense loneliness.

Rather than express her own grief, anger, and shock, she made a choice: “It is more honorable to be kind even if one is not repaid with kindness.” And so she held her tongue and continued to nurse her husband’s father in sickness even though he had tried to take everything dear to her away. During the war, even wealthy families were in desperate straits.

Behavior is a choice. Intimacy of a physical and emotional nature is the lifeblood of marriage and families, but there are several things that can discourage or destroy it:

  • Resentment. Begrudging your partners social interactions with others, times of aloneness, solitude, or other independent activities turns joy into sadness, and freedom into bondage. Unequal partnerships where one spouse is allowed to come and go as he or she pleases and the other must account for every moment are stifling.
  • Authoritarianism. When one spouse rules with an iron hand and the other must tremble at every command, intimacy and friendship cannot exist. Adults should have freedom of choice. They’ve earned it! Cooperation is vital, but only if both partners are willing to meet each other half-way. If one partner does all the giving, eventually the imbalance will create a boiling over of anger.
  • Jealousy. There is no room in marriage for suspicion, pettiness, or possessiveness. Controlling your partner’s time and friendships is unacceptable. Trust is a critical component of a relationship. If it is broken, or disregarded the ties that bind are weakened. Sometimes a relationship is destroyed because of a former partner’s misbehavior. If trust is betrayed, it may be difficult to trust again. The wronged party bears the brunt and the current partnership suffers.
  • Possessiveness. A partner or spouse wants you all to him or herself. They don’t allow their partner to go anywhere without them. They resent phone calls. They fear other associations such as clubs, classes, church activities that do not include the other partner. If their spouse is 30 minutes late, they assume the worst. The possessed partner begins to go out less and staying home more because it is too much hassle to exert independence.
  • Uninvolvement. Another barrier to intimacy is uninvolvement. A spouse or partner may be absent in mind or heart and fail to listen talking over the other partner or ignoring them altogether. Some people even though married are unbearably lonely. The dominant spouse may withhold attention. Ignore the other partner’s questions or suggestions. Communication comes to a standstill. If your partner, whom you love, is not interested in how you feel or how you think, the ignored spouse begins to feel invisible, unimportant and worthless.

    Uninvolvement or ignoring your partner is a slow and empty death to the relationship. There is sometimes more pain in a lack of intimacy than in a physically abusive marriage. An abusive partner may shout, but at least he or she is noticing you. An abusive partner’s love-making may not provide tenderness, but it does provide touch without which we perish.

  • Abusiveness. There are many forms of abuse: physical, emotional, verbal, and absenteeism. Sometimes all of these are involved during the relationship. It is critical to find help when abuse escalates, as it always does. If you fear for your life either through physical violence or suicide, don’t hang on hoping things will get better. It never does. Get help. Leave if you must. Don’t wait.

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Unfortunately negative personality traits do not always show up during the romantic phase of a relationship. One party may or may not admit that they have these flaws and purposely hide them. Oftentimes, a bully may be attracted to a dependent and needy person knowing that they will likely be able to control and manipulate them later.

Even character traits like uncontrolled anger or impulsiveness may seem cute at first, but under a continual barrage they can wear you down. Impulse buying can put your family in debt. Uncontrolled anger may escalate into a shouting match or worse. Poise and self-control may last for awhile, but when disagreements flare up a temper tantrum may ensue and escalate into abuse.

A talkative and controlling partner may appear quiet and shy in the beginning, treading lightly until they feel more secure. Allow enough time at the start of a relationship before making a commitment. Hold off long enough for negative quirks to manifest themselves. A bad relationship is not only heartbreaking; it’s bad for your health. Behavior may be a red flag. Grace and integrity under fire is everything.

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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)

Integrity and Respect are Two Sides of the Same Coin

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"Twitters and Twigs" 11x14 oil on canvas

“Twitters and Twigs” 11×14 oil on canvas

On NBC Nightly News they reported on a Neurologist who was treating five different women for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Each had had expensive tests, including an MRI and had been prescribed meds that were costing upwards of several hundred to thousands of dollars per month. In their efforts to get financial relief, the women obtained second opinions that revealed they did not have MS.

The reporter said “The doctor was nothing more than a ‘con’ man. “He got away with it because he was a well-known and respected doctor. He was charming. He had charisma and a friendly persona.”

The downfall of a once successful man can usually be blamed not only on dishonesty, but lack of integrity. The doctor knew what he was doing was wrong, but he thought he could get away with it. He didn’t really care that his actions were criminal or that it would cause others pain. He only thought of himself and the money that would end up in his own pocket. Now he has been revealed for what he really is on the inside: a thief, a liar, and a selfish greedy scum bag. The man is an “empty suit.”

Turkey Buzzards circling for a feast

Turkey Buzzards circling for a feast

They are around us everywhere, even on the elevated floors of congress and in the highest halls of academia. The rules that others play by, they simply ignore: “Put your money where your mouth is; you talk a good game, can you play a good game?” Actions always speak louder than words.

If you “live by the sword,” you will usually die by the sword. “What goes around comes around.” If your poison tongue spews venom outward to deceive others, eventually your words and acts will come back to haunt you or destroy you. In the past, people shook hands in agreement; their word was as good as a signed contract. When did words come to mean so little?

Speaking of words, do people trust that you will do what you say?” Are you reliable? When your name comes up in private conversations will the discussion be positive? Is your character praiseworthy?

Reputations are built one step at a time through the accumulation of successful interactions with others. Integrity strengthens those negotiations. Integrity once earned, cannot be taken from you. It is a priceless quality that is valued and appreciated by many, but cannot be purchased, stolen or copied.

"Fish Market" 24x18 acrylic on canvas

“Fish Market” 24×18 acrylic on canvas

Integrity is that part of your being that is deeply enmeshed with fiber, tissue, heart and soul. It is intrinsic to a person’s character and reputation. You can only increase its value through practice and consistent behavior that builds trust.

Without integrity there is no respect in the true sense. This kind of standing enhances love and diminishes fear. Integrity is eternal. It will cover your nakedness when you pass from mortal to eternal life and become your crown of righteousness when you stand before Almighty God.

The Handshake – when it’s Appropriate, and when it’s not!

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"Does this hat make me look fat?"

“Does this hat make me look fat?”

One of my grandson’s has moderate Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s syndrome was named for the Austrian doctor, Hans Asperger, who first described the disorder in 1944. However, Asperger’s was not recognized as a unique disorder until much later.

This condition is believed to be hereditary in families and has to do with the development of social skills. It is believed to be related to Autism, but not directly. I’m amazed at how well my grandson has been able to function while suffering from this neurological and behavioral condition.

"Ibis on a Perch" Sometimes we must go out on a limb to meet people!

“Ibis on a Perch” Sometimes we must go out on a limb to meet people!

Most of us would probably consider ourselves inept in certain social situations especially as we go through the stages of growth and development. Social skills don’t come naturally to many people. The lucky few learn these skills from their parents and teachers, but most will learn from experience and from their own personal failures.

Entering someone’s “space” or touching them before you know them well is often considered inappropriate or “too much too soon.” For “touchy feely” people like me restraint is difficult. I must pull in the reins even though it feels perfectly natural for me to reach out a hand or put an arm around someone when there is shared laughter or humor.

In certain circumstances, even a handshake seems too forward. For instance, you wouldn’t go around shaking people’s hands in a crowded airport. It may be absolutely normal to engage someone in conversation if you need directions or help, but going beyond that may raise a few eyebrows. Appearing too snoopy or friendly may cast suspicions on your motives and your character.

"Ibis Only Peeking" Are you being overly intimate?

“Ibis Only Peeking”
Are you being overly intimate?

As a writer, it is necessary for me to interview different kinds of people in varying professions. I’m expert at prying into other people’s business. In a personal setting, I have to back off or risk being too aggressive and hurting someone’s feelings.  Playing the role of investigative reporter can really put people off unless they know that’s why you’re there in the first place.

Here’s a tip for my grandson and for all those who feel awkward in social settings and want to make brownie points,. “Get the other person to talk about themselves. If you do this, you may never have to speak again.” I say this in jest, but have you ever noticed how much people like to talk on and on about themselves?

'Hut two three four" Take the first step: Ask a question?

‘Hut two three four” Take the first step: Ask a question?

To put yourself at ease, have a few interested but non-personal questions prepared beforehand. “Are you new to Florida?”  “Are you a friend of the hostess?” “Did your profession bring you here?” Once you get the other person talking, you may want to contribute some information about yourself. Once the give and take starts, you have a real conversation going.

In a more intimate setting where most people are known to you, the handshake can bring an added feeling of warmth and friendliness. Be aware of how the other person reacts. If they seem uncomfortable, perhaps a handshake is too much at this point in time or there may be an underlying problem.

I have arthritis in my hands. Some people clamp down so hard that they cause pain. I have learned to reach out with both hands to these people; one for shaking, the other to disarm them or add an extra bit of intimacy. They are so surprised by my two-hand shake that they release their grip on my painful hand and I’m saved.

Handshakes are especially appropriate when introductions are made. A firm handshake tells you a lot about the person’s confidence and warmth. A limp handshake signifies that person is holding back and isn’t sure about this new relationship or they may be shy and unsure of themselves.

Don't get left in the dust. Ask a question?  When introduced, offer a firm handshake.

Don’t get left in the dust. Ask a question? When introduced, offer a firm handshake.

Friendly handshakes are good for greeting or welcoming other people to a group setting or fellowship. Like interests have brought them here in the first place and so attendees already share something in common.  This is true of a church or worship setting or a place where people come back more than once to share their views, interests or problems.

Social skills can be learned and acquired. It just takes practice and experience. There is a learning curve that happens until you pick up a few secrets to enhance the interchange of ideas and information. Once you conquer your fears, it gets easier each time you put yourself out there.

Friends at last -- flying together into the sunset!

Friends at last — flying together into the sunset!

If people with a disability like my grandson can do it, you can do it too!

If you’re interested in learning more about Asperger’s go to WebMd.com  @ http://www.webmd.com/mental-health-aspergers-syndrome

Wars are Won and Lost but the Greatest Battles are Fought Within the Heart

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“Americana” 16×20 acrylic on canvas

When I was a child, I’d sneak a flashlight into bed and read under the covers. Somehow my mother always knew what I was up to; but before she did, I had many an adventure.

I’ve always loved to read. I worry that today people are so plugged into their smart phones, games, and movies that they miss out on the thrill of imagination and the deep emotional connection only a good book can bring.

Of course, people once said that eventually libraries would be obsolete and that children would forget how to read. Then along came Kindle, and now probably more people read than ever before because they have a lightweight device they can slip into a backpack or purse, take to the beach, or read on a plane. And what of the libraries? They adapted.

“An Open Book” mixed media on canvas (SOLD) Prints available

Libraries today are centered on the new technology to make research and information gathering even better. They’ve transferred the old video movies onto DVDs or online experiences. And fortunately, the patrons are there in throngs.

The regional library I go to is always busy from morning until night. The library also sponsors early voting and other community events from art shows to guest speakers continuing their reputation as the prime learning and information center in the area.

Books can take us out of our comfort zone. They may jar us, rattle our cage, and challenge our perceptions. Books may actually change us. Good literature can enlarge our souls and make us better people. In the same vein, negative or poorly written books not only waste our time, but may make us less than what we can be because they appeal to our baser nature.

“Victims of war” — Innocent children.

I just finished reading a beautifully written book on my Kindle called “All the Light we cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. It falls into my favorite genre, historical fiction; but it is far different from any war story I have ever read. The exquisite character revelations and subtleties are sublime. I could hardly put the book down and I hated coming to end. I became so close to the lead characters that I laughed and cried with them. I felt their fear and their pain.

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In my lifetime, World War II slashed an ugly gash across the world, although, I was too young to remember it. My father worked at the shipyards in Bremerton, Washington, repairing ships that had been damaged. He was a welder. He was a giant. I rode astride his shoulders and felt that he could conquer the earth.

My mother washed our bedding and clothes in the bath tub by hand because they couldn’t afford a wash machine. She hung our clothes on a wooden rack in our living room around a hot oil stove.

After a bath, my older sister and I would crowd around the stove in the middle of winter to warm ourselves. More than once, I dropped my towel and burned my bottom bending over to pick it up.

A fox hole and a gun, his only protection.

A fox hole and a gun, his only protection.

We shopped in a warehouse that had sawdust on its floors. We used our ration book to decide what we could buy and then tried to make our purchases last through the month. Remembering how it was and what we experienced could still not compare to the people and countries that were occupied during World War II.

You think you know what poverty is try boiling potato peelings in a pot without meat and squeezing the last bit of nutrition from them as your meal for the day. And when fresh water is not available, try drinking from the saved water in your bath tub or a few pails set aside for that purpose.

Survivors of German Prison Camps after World War II ended.

Survivors of German Prison Camps after World War II ended.

When a sweet orange or a loaf of bread comes your way, you are filled with tears of gratitude. Most of us never experience real hunger. There is always someone somewhere who will provide for our needs. Not so during war when imprisonment, danger and scarcity makes it almost impossible to conduct business or to plant or harvest.

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Even in war times we have a choice to act with integrity and gratitude. There are always those who use the chaos to their advantage. They take from those who have and they hurt the weak and vulnerable. May that never be said of you. If your character and who you are sink to the lowest levels of human behavior, then the real war has already been lost.

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.