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

Is Truth Uncertain and Precarious or is it an Absolute Certainty?

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Sea Swirls

“Sea Swirls” 24 x 18 acrylic on wrapped canvas

Like me, you may still be in shock at the mass shooting in Orlando. Another terrorist decided who should live and who would die. He played judge and jury using a twisted ideology that believes in a God who commands his followers to maim and murder in order to prove their devotion to him.

Faith is a precious thing when it’s focused on truth and goodness. Whether you’re a non-believer or a doubter, just because you have an opinion or a belief in something doesn’t make it true. Truth is based on evidence, the testimony of others, and recorded history. Faith is a personal witness that confirms the truth in one’s heart. The evidence of faith is a changed life. Yes, I know. It’s complicated.

One young man who wanted to help in the chaos of Sunday’s massacre said it best. “I saw this guy who had just come out of the Club. He was in shock and injured. I told him I wanted to help. Although, I’m not a religious person, I felt like praying for him. I asked God to bless him that he would be all right.”

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“Sea Nymph” 24 x 18 acrylic on wrapped canvas

It is natural to turn to our creator, father and God in times of need. How sad that we wait for an emergency or death to talk to Him in prayer. Imagine the tragedies that could be averted if we would stay connected to our source of strength. What a difference this could make in our chaotic and dangerous world.

Like those people who were shot and killed, their lives snuffed out in an instant, you never know when your time will come. Whether you believe in God or not has nothing to do with the actual facts. You will meet God face to face when your life ends. Will you be ashamed, afraid, or filled with joy?

We each have only one life to live. We don’t get a “do-over” or a second chance. This is it!  If you knew for certain that there is a God and that He loves you completely and unconditionally, would that change the way you live and behave toward others? Would you rather believe in a God of forgiveness and love than a God who is pleased when you murder anyone who doesn’t think or act the way you do?

The mass shooting was horrific and senseless. Perhaps it will jar the rest of us from our complacency. Life is precious. We should not waste a moment of it or allow arrogance or pride to convince us that we have all the answers.

You can believe in a purple hippopotamus if you want to, or behave in unspeakable and hateful ways, but that doesn’t make your way of life or your faith true. If you choose, you can follow the majority to your death. You can follow a way of life because “everybody else is doing it;” but that doesn’t make it right or true.

Like the young man outside the club who felt compelled to pray for the injured gay bartender, even though he’d probably never done it before and wasn’t sure to whom he was praying. The “God of heaven and earth and all things that in them are” called out to him and would gather all of us “under His wings” if we but  believed on his name and hungered for his truth and righteousness.

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“Sea Breeze” 30 x 24 on wrapped canvas

Truth is not relative as some would have you believe. Truth is absolute and certain, and only comes from the God of truth and love when you are prepared to receive him. You must seek truth and listen in earnest for the whisperings of God’s Holy Spirit.

You and I are not called to judge or to bring condemnation to others. It is for us to heal the brokenhearted, bring comfort to those who are hurting, and leave the rest in God’s hands.

Who will keep your Children Safe in America’s Gun-free Zones?

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Fuchsia Fantastic

“Fuchsia Fantastic” 14 x 18 acrylic on canvas

I’ve always considered gardening to be as close to God as you can get. The miracle of planting a seed, caring for it, and then watching it grow is just short of creation. So many things can go wrong. If you forget to water, the seed will wither and die. A hungry caterpillar or rabbit may come along and chop off the blossoms or chew the plant into the ground. Lots of TLC is required in order to get your seedling to reach its full potential and produce.

Children are a lot like seeds. Sometimes their lives are snuffed out before they even begin. Genetic problems may hasten their demise or create a problem long after they’re born. The mother’s health can affect the baby’s well-being. The environment the infant is born into may be physically risky. The child may not receive the nourishment or love that it needs to grow. So much depends on circumstances as to whether the child will thrive and survive.

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“Hibiscus Glory” 16 x 20 Oil on acrylic canvas

Life is a precious gift and should be cherished and protected. Sometimes our priorities are topsy-turvy. We “worship and serve the creature more than the creator.” (Rom 1:21-25 KJV) A gorilla’s life may become more valuable to us than a small child’s; a human being who may one day discover a cure for cancer, or create a solution to eliminate genetic imperfections. The gorilla on the other hand has reached the full extent of its potential.

Have we come so far that we place animal life above that of humans? Has mankind become our next endangered species?

There’s much talk and angst between proponents of gun control and those who believe strongly in the 2nd amendment and the right of Americans to own a gun if they are of sound mind. I placed those words in italics because most of the school shootings have not only occurred in supposed “gun free” zones where there is no one equipped to protect the innocent, but the violence was imposed by those who were mentally disturbed and were still able to obtain a gun.

Until we make our schools and our environments safe, our children will continue to be exposed to unnecessary risk. Our laws must be enforced. There must never be gun-free areas where only criminals and predators are safe. The sale of illegal guns to criminals and the infirm must stop if the majority of our citizenry are to be kept safe.

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“Peaches ‘n Cream” 12 x 16 acrylic on wood panel

Although our pets and other animals bring joy into our lives, we must never place them above human life. They were created, after all, for our benefit. Even though I abhor animal cruelty, human life must not be relegated to a lower position of importance.

Taking care of our environment and being good stewards is commendable; so is having compassion on all living things, but not at the expense of human life. When we place human life secondary to “the planet, to “the world,” or to other forms of life, we make a mockery of God’s plan for human existence.

Before you become a champion for some other cause make sure that you’re not endangering your own life in the process. Study the issues on both sides. What are the long-term consequences? What does history reveal about this path? Have others made this same mistake before?

Don’t vote until you research the issues that face you. No matter what you decide, you will (along with others) face the consequences of your decision for many years to come.

Get Involved and Wipe Away that Generational Gap

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Andy-violin

(My grandson, Andy, has a Korean mother who is musical. He also inherited his Danish great grandfather’s gift for the violin from his father)

My Danish grandfather made a habit of reading the dictionary every day. He wanted to improve his broken English and add new words to his vocabulary. Because of his example, I used the dictionary early on in my education, and I taught my own children to do the same. Through grandpa’s example, I always knew that if I didn’t know the answer, there was always a book or other information where I could find it.

When I discovered the Public Library, I had a fountain of information at my fingertips. I wanted my children to experience my thirst for knowledge, so we trucked home a new round of books each week.

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“An Open Book” 20 x 16 mixed media on canvas (SOLD, prints available) (My granddaughter Amelia was my model)

It’s too bad that more people don’t have positive role models in their lives to help them recognize possibilities rather than roadblocks, and opportunities instead of closed doors. That’s what parents should do for their children.

I don’t think any of us intentionally set out to be bad parents. Most of us don’t want our children to grow up to become drug addicts, thieves and lawbreakers or worse. We would like to see them grow into contributing members of their community and church. Even though our goals and family values may not be the same, we can all agree that we’d like to see our children grow into happy healthy adults.

The adage “like father like son” often comes true. You can’t discount the importance of example and how it plays out in your child’s life.

I have fond memories of watching my Danish grandfather “slop” the hogs. I remember the distinct smell of the “mash” mixed in with scraps of leftover food. I can still recall the sound of them grunting in satisfaction as they slurped up what I considered a gross concoction of leftovers.

I remember still the satisfaction on grandpa’s face as he mimicked the pigs and watched the look on my face. I didn’t always understand what he said, but his voice and singsong words tumbled from his mouth like music.

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“Americana” 20 x 16 mixed media on canvas

After dinner one day, he was sitting quietly on the couch reading to rest his full stomach which he patted playfully. When he saw me he said “come give papa a smack.” I’d heard him use this term before, but wasn’t exactly sure what it meant. He kept up this silly banter insisting that I give him a smack so I took a book, climbed up beside him and smacked him over the head.

The look of surprise on his face stunned us both into silence. The he laughed and mumbled some more Danish words before he taught me that a “smack” was another way of saying “give me a kiss.” He patted his cheek to emphasize where the smack was intended to land.

There were many things that “Pa” taught me that came more from just being who he was than from any intentional purpose. My sisters and I felt privileged to call my mother’s parents Ma and Pa, as she did, because we lived above them in an old two story house for many years.

Papa was a blacksmith by trade, and a musician from his internal joy and passion for life. He played the violin and he composed music. Through his playing of both piano and violin, I gained a love for the music of stringed instruments; especially the cello.

My mother had a musical family and one of my aunts would play the piano while the sisters sang together. Her brother and his family played the fiddle, the banjo and guitar and the whole family played and sang, entertaining throughout our whole community.

Family traditions can form a strong network of love that may help keep young people on track. The thought of disappointing my parents or grandparents in any way kept me from doing some of the wild and crazy things my friends did. Often called “the ties that bind” this network reminds us of family values and those we love. Some may look upon this support as restrictive, but I view it as a safety net that certainly kept me from trying many of the things that entice youth.

I’m grateful for my parents and both sets of grandparents. Their lives are still cherished long after they’re gone. The influence of my Danish grandpa’s music and his playful spirit still resonates through succeeding generations and will probably continue to do so.

I’m always surprised when my own children retell something I said when they were younger or recall an action that I’ve long since forgotten. You never know the affects of your love, your example or influence on the lives that go after you. Don’t diminish those moments. Make the most of them!

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(A memorable walk in a cave formed by Mt. St. Helen’s eruption) (I wasn’t cross-eyed, just blinded by the flash bulb. My oldest daughter and her boys)

Run Your Laps Every Day – Reach for the Stars not the Dazzle of Fool’s Gold

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Namesake

“Namesake” 24×18 acrylic on canvas

My oldest daughter ran track as did her younger brother. I remember the grueling contests, the aching muscles, and the near collapse after a race, the throwing up afterward, the dark side of competition all for the ribbons, the glory, the win.

Running gets in your blood. It drives you. My daughter could run miles on the steam of anger leaving from our house and traveling for sympathy to see her friend in another county; a different city.

I watched them both compete and admired their persistence. Peer pressure helped, but the adrenaline rush after a track meet was addictive.

I tried it a few times at the YMCA. The track was the diameter of the building. I ran around and around, and around. 15 laps equaled one mile. I did a lot of counting (and forgetting), and counting again. My “round” trip was tedious and boring. My goal wasn’t to win. I was competing against myself. The end game was to lose 10 pounds. I didn’t last long enough.

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“With These Hands — Hope” Oil on acrylic under painting; 16×20 canvas

I discovered that the difference between success and failure, for me, was being outdoors. I knew where to walk and just how long I needed to go. I used my car to gauge the distance. I started with five miles, then ten. After a few weeks, the pounds started to melt away. Exercise is much easier than counting calories, and more fun.

Every athlete, every runner knows you have to put in the time. It’s no different with any other skill or profession. Time equals distance, equals gain. “No pain, no gain;” you’ve heard it a million times.

The difference between success and failure is often as simple as this. One person spends his or her time vegging out in front of the “Boob Tube” while the other one does the laps, the practice, and the work to improve his or her skills or business.

One person reads books related to their interests and dreams, and another would rather spend his time making things with his hands. If either develops a skill and a driving interest, they have a shot at success.

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Open Book” 20×16 Oil on acrylic under painting; Original SOLD, but prints are available.

What is success? Does it mean money? Does it mean having all the toys and whistles? Or does it simply mean doing something that rewards you with fulfillment, satisfaction and a decent living? Of course, the answers are unique to each individual. But I guarantee that if you were in a devastating tornado or a destructive hurricane, you’d probably say what most people on T.V. say in the aftermath:

“These are just things. We can replace things. But my family – thank God they’re all alive!”

If you haven’t yet discovered what you’re willing to live or to die for, you haven’t really lived. If there is nothing on this earth for which you are willing to sacrifice your time, effort, and devotion to besides yourself, you haven’t really loved.

Many people can’t understand faith or a belief in something greater than themselves. Without a guiding force it is easy to get caught up in the moment and waste your time on quick gratification or cheap thrills. A guiding force or higher power can help you resist that which hinders your growth and success. A deep inner peace can empower you to run your laps, every day, until you reach the heights of your potential. It costs nothing, but it will change your life forever.

Interludes of Happiness are the Underpinnings that Strengthen the Soul

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“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.

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“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

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“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.

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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.

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“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.

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