The Secret to Becoming a Good Conversationalist – “It’s all about them!”

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india-rising--prince-of-thieves-carol-allen-anfinsen

“India Rising — Prince of Thieves”

When the internet first came out, kids and teachers discovered that they “hadn’t even scratched the surface” of the information out there. They also learned the hard way that some of it was erroneous.

Today’s students know better. They live on the fast track where what they want is only an “app” away. The internet is so easy that many people rely solely on the information they get without knowing the source. Where does truth lie? If you want to know something, do you go to the experts or do you take the word of friends, relatives or some nobody online?

When you find a nugget of truth are you willing to accept it or do you argue with the evidence? Do you trust yourself to make judgments or do you know that you’re wishy-washy, at best, and lack confidence?

How deep do you go inside yourself? Do you really know how you feel about sex, about God, about Socialism, Capitalism, Communism, and Buddhism? What hidden secrets are you afraid to confront? But don’t spend too much time “navel gazing.” There’s a fine line between knowing yourself and becoming narcissistic or arrogant. In fact, the more insecure people are, the more time they spend internalizing.

Reggae Night

“Reggae Night”

Many years ago, I was self-conscious at parties and around groups of people. I didn’t know what to say. I was so shy and introverted. I stood on the sidelines and observed before I even dared enter the conversation.

When I started working as a writing consultant, I had to interview people. I was terrified. Then I discovered that if I could get the other person or persons to talk about themselves, I didn’t have to talk about me at all! I soon became very popular and known as a “good listener.” I made a point of keeping other people’s information private, and soon gained their trust. It was a winning combination.

Pulling others out of themselves is a skill that can be learned. It doesn’t matter if you’re shy. All you need is a question to ask the other person, either about their job or where they are from? A compliment about what they’re wearing is also a good starting point or perhaps finding something you have in common like interests, co-workers or friends. Planning a few icebreakers or interview prep questions can get you off on a positive note. The more they talk, the less you’ll have to unless they start asking questions, too. It isn’t as hard as you think to respond back.

Information is all around us. We may get confused looking for answers. There are certain things we must learn to trust in or we’re bound to get lost. History that has not been altered can teach us a lot about human nature and the course of human events. Our own experiences may teach us about whom to trust and how to make better choices.

"India Rising -- the Lost"

“India Rising — the Lost”

Knowing your enemy is important. There may be certain people in your life who always discourage you or intentionally “put you down.” Honesty is important. You want friends who level with you; but if their motives stem from jealousy or envy, their so-called truthful answers may actually harm you.

Poisonous people are not your friends. If you feel less confident and authentic around someone, change course and find others who are uplifting to be around and inspire you to be a better person. Then watch your self-confidence soar!

Where do you go for spiritual knowledge? Do you find a card reader or a fortune teller in the yellow pages, or do you read the Word of God? Do you check your daily horoscope, or do you ask the God you believe in for guidance?

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“Prayer Circles”

Authority, history, books, newspapers, can provide additional data that may make the difference in the accuracy you’re looking for. Just remember, that most information is written by other people and may have shreds of personal opinion and untruths. Use discretion and compare notes. Don’t rely on one source. Trust your “gut.” Listen to your heart.

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“India Rising — The Found”

My Love-Hate Relationship with Cats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FUNNY CAT DANCING VIDEO:

http://youtu.be/kKzfUusizv4

Enter the Time Warp, a Feeling of Disconnect and Disorientation

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Prints available

“Twigs and Twitters” 11 x 14 oil on canvas

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“Hut, Two, Three, Four” 8 x 10 drawing

We’ve all experienced dejavu, that weird sensation that you’ve “been here before” or that a face looks familiar in a crowd. Then there’s that out of body experience, when you suddenly feel like you’re living somebody else’s life. Your memories seem disjointed and you can’t figure out exactly where you are/were or when?

I’ll be out shopping and want to go to a favorite shop; a consignment store that has exactly what I want. When I try to remember its location, I realize the picture in my mind is located in a different city.

I’ve moved around a lot and lived in and traveled to many places. I’ve also had two divorces and three marriages. My children often seem far away and distant. In reality, they are because of miles and location. But the chasm widened when divorce shattered family ties.

My past experiences are all mixed up in a hodgepodge of disjointed memories. Hunger or lack of sleep can trigger these sensations and exaggerate the feelings of being disconnected and disoriented.

I call it “time warp,” when suddenly you feel like you’re living in another dimension, in someone else’s body, separate and apart. Thank goodness these ambiguous moments are short-lived. A good night’s sleep and adequate nutrition usually takes the edge off.

Living in the here and now keeps this fleeting freakiness from staying. Reality has a way of grounding us. Enjoying the present moment and making the most of each situation is a way to plant our feet on solid ground.

Discovering how to do this may happen quite by accident or by following your interests and passions. I found my perfect diversion in painting. A friend invited me to take an oil painting class with her long before I knew I could paint. It was like coming home. This wise friend knew that I needed to get away from the agony of an unhappy marriage, the circus that sometimes occurs while raising a family, and the chaos of hiding emotional pain.

As I explored and experimented on an empty canvas, I lost myself in the total absorption that it required. I forgot my troubles. I began to heal, and in the process equipped myself with a tool for getting away from my anguish, if only for a few hours.