Advice or Meddling? Guidance or Interference? A Parent’s Dilemma!

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Oldster’s love to share their wisdom with others; especially their own children, and experience does provide new insight. If you don’t learn from history, you or your posterity are bound to repeat the same mistakes.

I recall writing a letter to my oldest daughter before computers came on the scene. I admit I sometimes waxed poetic and a bit philosophical. Her response sizzled with anger and sarcasm. “Is this some more of your good advice?”

I was stung and surprised. What had I said that offended her so much? Did my efforts to help come across as meddling or had I actually “hit the nail on the head” and brought her up short?

I will never know. Her rocky start into a difficult marriage finally ended in divorce, but not after bearing five beautiful children.  We never know how our words will impact others because we cannot see into their minds or know what they’re going through at the time. That’s what makes relationships so doggone difficult.

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Sometimes our children actually ask for our advice. I always tell them “You’re the only one that can make that decision, but I can tell you what helps me when I have tough choices to make;” then I bloviate about taking a sheet of paper and writing PRO on one side and CON on the other, followed by a list of the positives and negatives about each choice and an evaluation.

To tell you the truth, I’ve used this process most of my life and it seems to work quite well. Whether my children actually follow this method is another matter. I remember the wisdom my mother shared when I married at age 17.

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“You’re on your own now. I don’t want you to come running home whenever you have a problem. You and your husband should work out your differences together;” sage advice that served me well.

Did I resent her “meddling?” Not in the least. I knew that she was right. She had married at 16 herself and knew the obstacles. I accepted the fact that there was no turning back. The only thing that hurt was that she had closed the door on my youth.

Our job as parents isn’t to coddle our children forever; it’s to send them off into life prepared for the difficult decisions and dangers that lie ahead. It is to help them learn how to be independent. Children who must talk to their parents every day in order to make hard decisions are not equipped to survive the rigors of adulthood.

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Teaching your children to be independent and to accept adult responsibilities is a lonely job. You may not hear from them as often as you would like. Their preferences and life styles may be far different from the ones you would have chosen for them. Their political and religious persuasions may contrast sharply with your own. The only thing that keeps you together is blood, shared memories, and if you’re lucky love.

I take pride in my children’s accomplishments. They have used their talents and interests to provide fulfilling and interesting lives. They are helpful, kind, and hardworking. What more could a mother want?

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“The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” – God Bless Her; Please Vote!

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At our small lake this morning, we saw two limpkins. They are often solitary. Two suggests that they may be mating. Unfortunately, I had no camera. Darn! I always miss the good stuff. When I ‘m prepared, nothing unusual seems to happen.

The usual limpkin habitat is in swamps and freshwater marshes. The fact that we saw them at all is because they’re building new homes in our area digging up trees and marshy places as well. Builders keep squeezing out the wildlife, and I’m afraid they may be destroying the future for these birds and animals.

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(See how its knee joint bends backwards)

This year an abnormally large number of panthers were killed on the surrounding highways. People either drive too fast or are distracted. The light tawny coat of the panthers blends in with the dry grasses and roadways. They appear to go by in a flash. I think those limpkins must have been displaced by the construction, too. I wish they would incorporate wildlife areas in our communities and save more habitat.

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Their favorite food — Apple snails. (See sound YouTube below)

People also are being displaced across the country. Tornadoes and floods have cost some their homes. Lack of employment others. Workers are being displaced by illegal aliens and companies are shipping out manufacturing to other countries to save the cost of ever-burdening regulations and high union labor costs.

That explains why Donald Trump is leading in the polls. You may not like him, but he has the knowledge and skill to bring back both jobs and companies.

And just as other countries build walls and have strict immigration laws, so must we. The world is a more dangerous place today than it was in the past. We must never lose sight of that or be complacent in thinking that everything is just fine. The danger and destruction that is going on in the Middle East may soon be on our shores. It is already causing fear and death throughout Europe. We must recognize our enemies or be overtaken by them.

I grew up in a good democrat home. My dad was a welder and a union man. He and my mother revered President Franklin Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor (1933-1945). They thought Harry S. Truman was one of the best Presidents in history.

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I had no reason to question their wisdom. Although I was young, I thought John F. Kennedy was not only handsome, but gallant. At that time I didn’t worry much about politics. I was a young mother and witnessed Kennedy’s death watching that infamous parade on T.V. I wept as if he’d been my own father. At the time he was our country’s hero.

But somewhere along the way, I rebelled against my parents and decided to form my own opinions. I became a staunch Republican for many years.

Then I went back to being a democrat.  I voted for Bill Clinton twice. I adored his sense of humor and his charisma. He seemed believable at the time. The political pendulum swung back and forth with each new election as someone more knowledgeable or influential came on the scene. And no wonder. Most politicians are scoundrels once they get in office and lose the confidence of the public. Clinton’s lack of integrity let me down.

So I became an independent. Ross Perot and Ralph Nader seemed wise and smart as did many others representing a wide political spectrum. I always prided myself on not voting for a party, but for the best person. Sadly, an honest politician is hard to find.

I don’t like everything about Donald Trump, I’m strongly pro-choice, but we need someone in the Whitehouse who can stop the flood of illegal immigrants from pouring across our borders, reduce our national debt, and bring jobs and companies back to America. I don’t just want a lot of talk. I want action.

We all vote from our past experience, which changes over time depending on the stage we are currently at in life, or our knowledge and opinion of who can win. Choosing someone based on one or two issues is not necessarily going to help our country. We are a nation of diverse people. A President must govern all the people and bring these diverse minds and hearts together not divide them. I feel this has been missing over the past eight years.

Please vote not only from your heart, but your mind. If you’re a believer, pray that you will make the right decision. Discernment helps you see past the unimportant issues of party affiliation, single issues, and looks. Vote for authenticity.

Don’t let your personal judgment or your hang-ups interfere. We’ve already had a president with a silver tongue. A good-sounding speech does not a President make; neither does good looks or immaculate hair (John Edwards taught us that).  If we get it wrong at this crucial time, our country may never get another chance to make things right.

Easy Come, Easy Go or is there a Better Way?

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How much money do you spend each year on entertainment? This includes concert tickets, movies, theater, alcohol, restaurants and vacations. If you have children, how much of your budget goes to music or dance lessons? Athletic activities and events? Day care? Summer camps, smart phones and computers?

The funny thing is that while most people are willing to spend enormous sums on technology and fun, they spend very little on the basic necessities of life. People fork over money for life’s luxuries and pleasures, but they are less likely to spend money on simple things like a new toothbrush. I’ve known people to use one toothbrush for a whole year! The brushes are splayed, and just think of the bacteria that live there? And you can get a toothbrush on sale for .99 cents.

Some forego purchasing paper towels, napkins or toothpaste thinking they are saving money by using soda to brush their teeth, and substituting paper for cloth napkins and towels forgetting the cost of water, electricity and detergents to wash them.

I’m a three napkin a meal kind of girl. I never was neat, even as a child. And Bounty paper towels that tear in half save me time and money when I need to mop up a spill or spot-wash my white kitchen tiles. We all have to decide how we spend our money and what is worth the cost.

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When I think of people with addictions and how much they spend (or steal) for drugs it blows my mind. Not to mention cigarettes and booze; which may lead to expensive medical bills later.

Food alone consumes a huge chunk of change. Add to that housing and rental costs and you’ve got an oversized budget. Does everyone max out their credit cards these days?

My parents suffered through the “great depression.” My mother recalls that one week they had only one can of soup to get by on, and she was also pregnant. They were so grateful for the Salvation Army’s Soup Kitchen without which they would not have survived.

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Because of their struggles, they were ever grateful for the blessings that later came into their lives. I was 14 before they owned their first home. For years, we lived in an upstairs apartment over my Scandinavian grandparent’s house. My father didn’t have a car until I was 12. That first home was their pride and joy. They gave it plenty of spit and polish and lots of love. My father never allowed his daughters to drive his car because it was his only means of transportation to work.

In the backyard, they planted a garden for vegetables and filled the rest of the yard with flowers. Their rose bushes were tended to like children. Raspberry bushes grew along the fence line. I remember them saying that they enjoyed making their home and yard beautiful in thanksgiving to their God who sustained them in hard times and then blessed them with plenty.

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After they were gone, I went back to my hometown to see our old homestead. I was shocked with what I saw. The once pruned hedges and green lawns were weedy and brown. There was no longer a garden. The flowers were gone. The house was unpainted. The yard unkempt. My heart wept.

What causes people to turn beauty into decay? Where are the pride and gratitude for owning a home and property? Some people hold gold dust in their hands and then quickly let it slip through their fingers. It’s all about setting priorities and giving back.

Thanksgiving is not just a once a year acknowledgement of blessings received. Every day the words “thank you” should find their way into our hearts and pass from our lips. “Through small and simple means, great things come to pass.”

Building Memories and Constructing a Future – What do you Leave Behind?

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“Kindred Spirits” 30×24 acrylic on canvas

Thanksgiving always conjures up the past: My large family of six children, each sneaking alternately into the kitchen to satisfy a craving before dinner; sweet mini-marshmallows awaiting their place on a pan of sweet potatoes; a slice of American “peel” cheese to satisfy a hungry stomach; a triangle of sugar and cinnamon pie crust leftover from an apple pie; a swipe of frosting from the annual birthday cake that became a part of our festivities.

I not only cooked Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends, but we had a birthday party in the late afternoon. There was a turkey cake, a train or animal cake, depending on what Chris, the birthday-boy, had requested. One year there were even pilgrim hats and collars for both adults and children.

The lively celebration helped to fill the empty spaces caused by our parents, brothers, sisters and cousins left back home when we moved to the east coast. In their absence, friends became family. We treasured the associations and the memories.

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Kayla in the pumpkin patch.

Building a past is just as important as constructing a future. What you leave behind in the wake of life may, over time, turn into regrets or a blessing. The people you touch, the actions you take and the choices you make become the warp and the woof of your muscular and emotional fiber.

We shouldn’t just let life happen to us. If we’re being buffeted and battered by the winds of change or allowing others to manipulate or prod our “ship of sail,” we become victims of other people’s wants and desires instead of our own.

Building and constructing are positive activities that require planning and initiative. Similar to business endeavors, we build memories by consciously thinking of outcomes. How will this action or activity affect me and my family tomorrow, next month, a year from now?

Enjoying the finished product!

Amelia baking cookies.

Don’t kid yourself, words can kill, or at least wound. Once out of your mouth, they cannot be taken back and are seldom forgotten. They continue to hurt long after they’ve been said. Ugly or negative actions toward or against someone else, especially a family member, leaves scars that may last forever.

When you encourage and support independent behavior, you increase self confidence.  I tried to provide my children opportunities to choose for themselves whenever possible.

When selecting clothes, they were given two or three options, all of which were pre-approved by me. In being given a voice in what they wore, and in what we could afford as a family, they at least felt they had some say in the matter.

They chose their own pumpkins and Halloween costumes. They could choose to make their beds and go and play, or stay in until it was done. They could choose to clean their rooms or miss out on the fun later. Learning to choose and suffering the consequences of their actions provided opportunities for discipline and self-control.

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Kayla hiding beneath a coffee table.

Mom and dad always had the last word, but at least the children felt respected in their ability to contribute to family decisions. Harmony isn’t something that just happens. It must be planned. If one parent or the other is “scrappy” and negative, then the children will be, too. Happiness is catching. Giggles are contagious. Once the ripple starts it is hard to stop.

Negativity and complaining are also easily “caught.” They can spread like a wildfire and infect surrounding attitudes and feelings. These black moods are combustible and highly volatile. People fall under their power like dominoes.

A negative person’s aura can be felt the minute they walk in the door. Keep those enemies of calm at bay. Sometimes it’s as simple as filling a growling stomach or allowing someone a chance to be alone and unwind at the end of the day.

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Katy fixing her bridal sash with help from a friend.

Keep your home as a sanctuary where people feel safe and loved. When you desecrate that hallowed space, there is only one place to turn – the streets. Build yours and your children’s tomorrows by creating a peaceful environment at home. In that way, there will be no regrets later to tear your family or your loved one’s apart.

Yes. Billl Mahr, there is sa God

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“Raccoons at Sunrise” 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

From my bedroom window, I watched three raccoons shimmy head first down a live oak tree. Since it was barely dusk, I figured they were foraging early. At first glance, I thought they were large house cats; but three together? When their ringed tails and bandit eyes appeared in the ebbing twilight, I was blown away!

I often walk or sit under that tree. The squirrels amuse me as they chase each other’s tails. Blue jays screech from time to time, and playful goldfinches proffer a twinkling counterpoint in the bright sunlight. I’ve seen brown thrashers, loggerhead shrikes, and pileated woodpeckers in those gnarled branches. I’ve watched red-tailed hawks perch and search for prey within a hairs breadth from where I’m standing. But I never imagined there were wild raccoons sleeping in furry balls right over my head. How could I have missed them?

The world is full of hidden treasures all around us, and miracles and wonders from God. Just because we can’t see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there. Bill Maher, a comedian and avowed atheist doesn’t believe in either religion or God. He holds tightly to his beliefs. Perhaps he’s afraid that if he lets go of his skepticism, he might find out he’s wrong?

For believers, God is real. He has answered their prayers and spoken to their hearts. To deny this reality would be to disavow their personal and private experience. This personal witness becomes a sure foundation of knowledge that cannot be denied.

Maher is like a child who sits before a plate of Brussels sprouts and declares he doesn’t like them, even though he’s never tasted them. Then he hides the evidence of their existence under his plate or under a nearby lettuce leaf and tells his mother (and everyone else) that the Brussels sprouts don’t exist because he (and you) can’t see them.

To a Christian, Maher’s position is both immature and foolish; like my story of the raccoons: “Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not up there.” This is where that invisible component called “faith” comes in. Why is it so hard to believe that God exists when evidence of his creations are all around us?  Is Evolution really a substantial explanation for our existence or is it still, after many decades, only a theory, an excuse, a crutch, for non-believers?

Technology has advanced in quantum leaps over the past 30 years. Today transmitters communicate around the globe and into outer space, yet they are so small you can hold them in the palm of your hand or on a fingertip; some are even microscopic. These electronic devices may look naive and primitive fifty years from now as newer, smaller, faster, and smarter gadgets replace them. It’s simply a matter of time, degree and intelligence.

During the day, you can’t see the stars, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Conversely, on a stormy day the sun’s light is blotted out, but its radiance still exists and glows continually in spite of the weather. God’s radiance and reality are constant and eternal, in spite of our darkened imperfect minds and man-made barriers.

How foolish we are as humans to deny the existence of God because we cannot see him, because we don’t understand his ways, or because we can’t find physical evidence or proof that he is real; even though countless miracles happen every day in the realms of nature, science, medicine and personal encounter.

“But there’s a logical, scientific explanation for everything,” some may counter. And when there isn’t, science is all too eager to supply one, or at least a theory of rhetorical possibilities. We’ve lost that childlike quality of trusting divine truth and promise. The young child who leaps off a ledge into the waiting arms of its father exercises this trust through love, knowledge, and personal experience. He has learned that his earthly father can be trusted.

We need this kind of faith again in our world to bring back God into our hearts. It’s a “letting go” of pride, bitterness, and stubbornness; character attributes that harden our hearts and close our minds to truth.

In “Our Daily Bread,” a Christian pamphlet produced monthly by RBC Ministries, the following story was included in the October 9 reading:

“If we’re not careful, we may become like the man who prided himself on being an expert archer. The secret to his success was that after he shot his arrow at the side of a barn, he painted a bull’s-eye around the arrow.”

Many people are so eager to be right, or so hungry for success and notoriety that they paint a ring around their own favorite causes, special interests or personal agendas and then proclaim that they’ve hit the bull’s-eye of truth.

Proverbs 14:12 tells us: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

God doesn’t need to prove his existence to us; it is we who need to conform to his will. He is the bull’s-eye we should aim for, not some delusional man-made target created by people who think they are smarter than God.

Enter the Time Warp, a Feeling of Disconnect and Disorientation

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“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.