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)

How to Tap In to those Lost Moments

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#hopeful in India, 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

#hopeful in India, 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

If you’re a worry wart like me, you’ve heard the advice: “Learn to live in the Moment.” Do most of us even know what that means?

I recall a very fragile time in my life when every movement seemed like an uphill struggle. I told a friend that I felt I was swimming in a gigantic pool of water and I just couldn’t get to the other side. Have you ever felt like this? Perhaps you still do.

I did manage to get my head above water for a while. In looking back, I was able to recognize brief periods of peace. Small glimmers of joy. A tiny interlude of laughter. How could I capture that feeling and keep it with me throughout the day, even in frustrating, terrifying moments of pain and unhappiness?

Henna prints; India

Henna prints; India

  • The first step is to actually recognize the good things that happen. To savor them. To be grateful for the small miracles such as holding an infant in your arms and rocking them to sleep. Bliss! Singing a favorite song to a child at bedtime. And reliving those precious moments over and over again until your heart is too full for self-pity or sadness.
  • Make “awareness” a habit. A batch of cookies are a lot of work, but the smiles on the faces of your children when they come home from school is payoff. Focus on the details of life instead of bemoaning them. Shine them up and make them sparkle even when you feel there is nothing to be happy about. Slow your life down so you can “smell the roses” and begin to notice the minutia that usually passes you by. A random giggle, a tribute of dandelions from a preschooler. A call from a dear friend.
  • Do something! When you’re at your lowest, make yourself get up and do something. Even small accomplishments can boost your spirits. Get out of the house instead of moping. Take the kids or the dog for a walk. Even if you’re single, there’s something about nature that can draw you out. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Pray. Memorize and say a poem out loud.
  • Try a change of scene. Taking a drive, seeing a new neighborhood or a new shopping area can perk up your spirits. Take a mini-vacation with the help of someone you trust. Get away for a few days and soak up some sun and sand. Water has a calming influence. Hearing it lap against the side of a pool or washing up on the shore is soothing and can bring you to a higher plane. Feeling a higher power in the sound of water may bring you comfort and peace.
  • Never give up hope. If you can’t fight the doldrums alone, get help. Don’t let depression beat you down. Give yourself the gift of time and space. Link up with a supportive friend. Look back on any progress you have made and have a celebration. Buy yourself something new. Make a determined effort to appreciate even small steps of progress.

These steps helped me reach a point where I could make some changes in my life and get the help I needed. Perhaps they may help you as well.

"Namesake" acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18

“Namesake” acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18

THE LIEBSTER AWARD – DISCOVERING NEW BLOGS

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1. What made you start your blog?  For many years, I worked as a free-lance writer and also as an artist so I decided to combine these skill sets into a blog. I’m also the mother of six children and was active in my community and church; and participated in my children’s schools as they were growing up. The name of my blog is: “The Art of Living — artwork and musings from my dancing heart.”

 2. What is your greatest achievement?  Overcoming many trials and tribulations, and like Job in the Bible, I’m still standing strong. I have a solid faith in God and in the basic goodness of people. The wisdom I’ve gained in “overcoming” may help someone else hang on just a little longer!

 3. Your favorite animal?  I’m a dog lover and have owned many over the years. I’ve also had a few cats, but dogs remain my favorite animal. Coming in second would be birds. I love to hear them, watch them, and paint them.

 4. Any specific goals for the rest of this year?  I’m doing some Bodoir paintings and a few belly dancers, too. I’m trying to keep them inexpensive and fun. I’ll be adding a few jewels to enhance their costumes, and give them a sparkly flair.

 5. Your favorite quote?  I’ve forgotten the photographer, but I loved his work and his quote: “Find beauty in imperfection.” Sometimes the plain, the broken, the ordinary can become magnificent if photographed or painted with the right emphasis and lighting. You don’t have to wait for something wonderful to come along. Paint passionately what’s right in front of you.

 6. What is your favorite style of cooking?  I’m the soup maker in our household. I love a good bowl of soup and a slice of homemade bread. I could live on this. You can be very creative and it can’t go wrong. Other than that the Mediterranean style of cooking is my favorite.

 7. Your favorite TV series?  “Downton Abby”  I was sad that Season V is over. I love Masterpiece Theater on PBS and the BBC. Excellent programming! I love to watch Shark Tank on CNBC and the new detective series on Fox 4 “Beckstrom.” He’s a pitiful character, but because of it we cheer him on. He embodies human weakness and that is why he’s a good detective.

 8. What’s in your bag (purse or briefcase)?  Make-up for quick repairs! breath enhancers, hand lotion, eye drops, pill box, pens, notebook, credit cards, little cash, sunglasses; nothing unusual, really! I have natural curly hair so I use my fingers rather than a comb.

 9. What do you prefer to use for social media? I spend time where it pays off: Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Facebook, Pinterest, Fine Art America, Red Bubble, Blog Catalog, and a few others.

10. Your favorite short joke?  I’m hooked on anything “Maxine.” I think she resonates what we all feel. I also like”Ole and Lena” jokes because my husband is Norwegian. I love to hear jokes, but I rarely tell them. I always screw-up the punch line so I won’t tell one here.

 11. What did you want to be when you were a child?  I wanted to be a ballet dancer, hence the title of my WordPress blog: “Musings from my Dancing Heart!” The movie “The Red Shoes” had a great impact on my life. I discovered early on that I had a talent for creative writing and so I pursued this as my parents couldn’t afford dance lessons.

My favorite bloggers are:
http://teagansbooks.wordpress.com/
http://abundantlifeandhealthblog.wordpress.com/
http://monique974.wordpress.com/
http://chinesefoodproblog.wordpress.com/
http://hair68.wordpress.com/
http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/
http://doncharisma.org/
http://freeemployeenewsletter.wordpress.com/
http://www.playwithlife.org/
http://takingthemaskoff.wordpress.com/
http://kelzbelzphotography.wordpress.com/

The Questions I would like you to answer:

  1.  Where do you get ideas and inspiration for your blog?
  2.  How often do you blog? Once a week / 3 times?
  3.  What gets traffic to your blog? Is it subject matter or Tags?
  4.  What is your passion in life? What drives you?
  5.  Do you feel you have something to say to the world?
  6.  Do you blog to feel important or stroke your ego?
  7.  Do you blog to make a difference in the world?
  8.  What is your favorite subject? Does this inspire you?
  9.  Do you make time for friends and family?
  10.  Do you believe in God?  How does your faith assist you?
  11.  Will you still be blogging a year from now? Two years/ What is your long-term goal?

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

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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.”

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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.

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

Lasting Friendships are a Gift that Strengthens and Supports

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"Beach Buddies"

“Beach Buddies”

Two pods of Pilot Whales have stranded themselves in waters off of Florida’s beaches. When one whale is sick, the whole pod follows the one who is ill or injured and stays with them. In shallow waters, they cannot forage and some will die with their friend. Entire pods have been known to perish in sympathy and support. Now that’s friendship!

Alice was a neighbor. The kind that welcomes you into her home like family, or waves at you the minute you step outside. We became fast friends, talking about our children, the weather, the neighborhood school and the rising cost of food.

It wasn’t surprising then to see her on my doorstep after I’d suffered a long illness and a traumatic experience. Others had asked, “What can we do for you?” smiled and then returned to their own little worlds. Here was Alice, standing on my porch with a shovel in one hand and a plant in the other.

“You’re coming outside,” she said emphatically. “You need some sunshine and we need to plant this start I brought from my garden.” The plant was one I’d admired some weeks before.

You didn’t argue with Alice. You didn’t want to. She had a way about her that said, “I’m here for you. Let’s work on this thing together.”

We dug, we planted, and we chatted about everything but what was troubling me. She never nosed, she never snooped. She gave me the ball, and let me carry it where I wanted to go. She helped me more than she will ever know. She gave me the love and support I needed to deal with some difficult circumstances. She helped heal my heart and soul just by being Alice.

When we moved away from Phoenix, I wept like a baby as I gave her my final hug. She was one neighbor I would miss forever. We stayed in contact for over 20 years, but the distance and our lives soon became a living memory. My gratitude still remains.

Many people come in and out of our lives. The good ones stay. Other friendships are not meant to last: the brief encounters on an airplane flight, the people we chat with on vacation, the ones who share in the trauma of a tragic event. Some friendships are meant to last forever, and some of them aren’t. Who can measure what any of these people bring into our lives?

When my own life was in a downward spiral, I never regretted the people I met along the way who made me laugh, who taught me something I didn’t know, who opened my eyes to see the possibilities that were waiting there. These people became the threads that formed the warp and the woof of my character and my life. During that time, I learned that some people are just plain evil; but that most people are basically good, warts and all.

Through acquaintances and friendships, I discovered things about myself I never knew. Antique cars, for instance; I like everything about them, the hobby, the shows, the people. And jazz; I love the earthy vibes and rhythms, but I’m also enthralled at a symphony. I like to see a good play, and I’m enchanted by Shakespeare. All of the things I discovered about myself, I learned through the people around me; my likes, my tastes, my values.

People enrich our lives and help us realize we’re all human. All in need of grace and forgiveness. My favorite saying is: “There but for the grace of God go I.” Historians don’t know for certain who said this, but the wisdom remains.

Friends can make us or break us. Bad friends are those people who urge us to say and do things we wouldn’t say or do in better company or when we’re alone. They’re the people who dare: “Oh, come on, it can’t hurt. Just this once?” or “Who will ever know?”

Good friends are the ones who make you want to try harder and to live better. But they accept you where you are with all of your baggage, weaknesses and flaws.

One of my favorite books is ” The Little Prince ” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. There’s some profound wisdom in this tale. My favorite chapter is the encounter of the Little Prince and the Fox.

The prince invites the fox to come and play with him because he’s feeling sad, and the fox says he can’t, because he’s not tamed. Then the fox explains what it means to tame someone, and slowly and gradually they become fast friends.

When you tame someone, the fox tells the Little Prince, you create ties…you begin to need each other…you create rituals.

“For instance,” said the fox, “if you come each day at four…I’ll begin to be happy by three. The closer it gets to four, the happier I’ll feel. By four I’ll be all excited and worried; I’ll discover what it costs to be happy! But if you come at any old time, I’ll never know when I should prepare my heart…There must be rites.”

Lasting friendships! Who can measure their value? The bonds of friendship provide warmth and laughter in our sojourn on earth. Friends who join hands and hearts in prayer for our health or safety give us strength in time of need. Without friends, life would, indeed, be empty.

Alice, my dear friend and neighbor, if you’re out there–thank you! You were there during a ” rough patch ” in my life; a godsend and a blessing. I miss you, Alice; may God bless!