A Toss of Fate or a Game of Choice?

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a-joyful-heart-carol-allen-anfinsen

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

I bragged the other day to a friend “I haven’t had a cold in years.” Then out of the blue, I got that scratchy throat that turned into a cough that turned into full-blown flu. And I had a flu shot!

In addition to tempting fate, I seem to be famous for making statements of denial that turn into fact. “I’ll never marry a German.” An opinion voiced after living next door to a German neighbor who was not only in-your-face opinionated, but overpowering. Then out of my best judgement, I ended up marrying one. What on earth was God or reason trying to tell me?

After that marriage, I became acquainted with a florist who was Norwegian. His lack of customer relation skills and his know-it-all attitude made me comment to a friend “I’ll never marry a Norwegian.” But guess what? I did. And this marriage has been great!

I think the lessons amount to this. Ethnicity doesn’t have as much to do with relationships as a person’s attitude, personality, and upbringing. An honest person with a sense of humor can overcome almost anything.

Reggae Night

“Reggae Night” mixed media on canvas

Forgiveness, give and take, and patience can do a lot more to smooth a marriage’s rough patches than the place of our parent’s birth or culture. Outside influences are far less important than internal ones. The basic principles that make up who we are cast a longer shadow of importance than where we come from.

Of course, I’m looking back with wisdom from hindsight. In the middle of my forest of choices, I couldn’t see the obvious right in front of my nose. I missed the red flags waving in the wind and had to learn from my own mistakes.

When I was interviewing for a job, I always told the interviewer I was a “quick study.” I learned quickly on the job and was never afraid to tackle tough stuff. Would that I could say the same thing about life.

Most of us learn from our mistakes. We can’t see the future and we can’t read the tea leaves that later become clear. We plod along and do the best we can. If we’re lucky, we have a good friend or a mentor we admire. Some of us have our faith in God to guide us in our walk of darkness where we “see through a glass darkly.”

I think back to the sage advice I received from my parents but rebelled against in my youth. Had I hearkened to some of it, I could have saved myself a “X?/X!! load” of grief.  But here’s the rub. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’ll keep repeating them over and over again.

When you reach the end of your life, do you want to leave with a list of regrets? Knowing that you did the best you could will provide a peaceful exit. And let’s face it. You were born with a time-dated stamp that eventually expires. Join the club!

Belly Dancer

“Belly Dancer” 11 x 14 acrylic on canvas

Fact or Fiction — are most Historical Accounts True?

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"Americana" acrylic on canvas

“Americana” acrylic on canvas

I was sitting at my PC waiting for inspiration when my eyes caught sight of a binder on the lower shelf of our book case: “Covering America’s Past.” This brought a chuckle and I leaned down further in order to read the full title: “Discovering America’s Past.”

See what happens when you leave out only three letters. Do you wonder, as I do, how much of history is true. What has been altered, covered up or changed ever so slightly? It seems that each time a new party comes into power, the media and the administration tweak their achievements and failures here and there; and before you know it, major parts have been redacted or omitted.

Dating sites and Facebook accounts are replete with sins of omission. Calendar age may be lowered. Photos of the past are used instead of present ones. A bright and sunny profile as seen through rose-colored glasses replaces a more truthful record of past history. A fudge here, a twist there until the facts become fiction.

"Through her eyes" original drawing; live sitting

“Through her eyes” original drawing; live sitting

I had a dear aunt who simply could not tell the truth. She tried to outdo everyone. She wanted others to see her as she wanted to be seen, not as she really was. Everyone knew it and kindly listened to her stories, allowing her the satisfaction of completion. She was really a dear when it came to helping others and cheering them up. I suspect a low self-esteem kept her from being herself.

Love and tolerance sometimes demand that we accept people as they are. A positive attitude can change the way we see people and their human weaknesses. Unfortunately, we live in a society that not only expects perfection, but gloats over exposing human error.

My favorite saying has always been “There, but for the grace of God go I.” This simply implies that if I or anyone else had walked in the guilty person’s footsteps, we may have committed the same crime. In other words, we are all sinners and in need of forgiveness.

"Kindred Spirits II" acrylic on canvas

“Kindred Spirits II” acrylic on 30 x 24 canvas

The quote is attributed to John Bradford, but was also given credit to someone else even before his time. Winston Churchill repeated the phrase during his lifetime. Whoever said it first does not really matter since it is actually a paraphrase from Biblical scripture. The point is that we should be compassionate and empathetic with our fellow human beings and not so quick to condemn or criticize.

Of course, there are consequences for mistakes and sins. Some of them satisfied by a resolution of forgiveness, and others punishable by law. Thinking before you act and weighing the consequences can save you pain, anguish and punishment.

In Our Absence—Behind the Scenes

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Mount Rainier at a distance.

Mount Rainier at a distance.

A rock is thrown into a lake and creates rings that continue outward until you can no longer see them or the ripple effect that follows.

As human beings, we cast our words, our talents, our actions outward and they continue on, affecting everyone who comes in direct contact with us or indirectly through hearsay and  influence whether for good or for evil. Cause and affect; time marches on, even when we’re gone, and things change.

Mount Rainier "up close and personal."

Mount Rainier “up close and personal.”

When we returned, the weeds had grown; the Bougainvillea had sprouted sucker branches that shot three feet beyond the original plant. Palm trees and Southern pine had been removed at the West Gate and the ground was being scraped and carved for new Condos.

In place of the shrubs and greenery we expected, metallic diggers and large-treaded tractors stood in defiance. The scarred earth lay bruised and exposed in place of the grass we had left behind. I mourned quietly for the raccoons, squirrels, possums, armadillos and birds left homeless and perhaps dead in their wake.

At the base of the mountain:  Still a long way off. (the base is usually covered with snow).

At the base of the mountain: Still a long way off. (the base is usually covered with snow).

At home, we replenished the empty refrigerator and pantry. A clerk where we shop was obviously pregnant. I had not noticed her condition before we left. Now she was burgeoning with ripe expectation. Could this ballooning have happened in only three weeks time?

All around, there were new things happening. The entrance to our complex had been re-tarred. The roadway greeted us with a black sheen and a smooth ride. Our mail was in the box just as we had requested, and surprise, surprise – while we were gone, the world kept turning and operating without our help.

Me and my sweetheart chatting while resting. My daughter caught us unawares.

Me and my sweetheart chatting while resting. My daughter caught us unawares.

Somewhere in this state of insignificance and unimportance that all of us feel from time to time, a young man, thinking only of himself and operating from hatred, decided to change the equation. He would have his moment in the flashing lights of fame and recognition. But instead of the light from above, he was surrounded by darkness and inspired by evil.

Today he remains in a dark cell as a caged animal because he acted in rage and from base animal instincts rather than from reason and love. Yet as he shot the living and ended their mortality, he also freed them to a higher calling.

A beautiful glacier lake on the way to Mount Rainier.

A beautiful glacier lake on the way to Mount Rainier; a female caribou stands in the water.

To his surprise, instead of meeting hate for hate, he was surrounded by love. His so-called enemies were his friends. They chose to forgive him in spite of his egregious actions. They sought to live as they believed and to honor their Lord and Savior.

Instead of the “Christian hypocrites” that many in society were expecting, these humble followers made a commitment to each other and to their God that this heinous crime would not influence their faith or fulfill the hatred that had walked among them.

In the absence of their loved ones and with the indictment of the murderer, these valiant men, women and children walked with their heads held high; their aching hearts filled with the peace of God.

May the blessings of Heaven surround these faithful souls in South Carolina.