When Lines Blur between Reality and Fiction

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“With these Hands — Wonder” http://carol-allen-anfinsen.pixels.com 

Most People seek the truth. They want to believe in what is real; what is factual. But the media has long given up on gathering facts and are now focused on distortion and white lies. They’ve become promoters of their own personal ideology and political bias, and are focused on manipulating truth. Many participants take words out of context and turn conviction into lies. They prevent their audiences from getting an objective viewpoint or in hearing both sides.

Now unabashedly the FBI and the Justice Department have begun to skirt the law. Even the Supreme Court is ignoring their allegiance to the Constitution and the people dishonoring their positions and personal honor in order to promote an agenda that is underhandedly dark and holds serious repercussions for the future of this nation.

Remember when a handshake was not only respected in a contract or agreement, but engraved in stone because people considered their word sacrosanct and lawful? Now we can no longer trust our leaders who we thought were held to a higher standard. As a matter of fact, most of us don’t trust anyone. We’re afraid of a sales call, of identity theft, of scammers that assault us day and night.

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(Front yard blooms)

Those elected to power are mainly concerned with their own careers. In their personal view and thinking “the ends justify the means.” Their allegiance to the electorate whom they serve no longer matters. How did we sink so low? What has caused this fall of national character into the murky abyss of slime where right and wrong have been muddied in a grab for power?

Prior to her husband’s election as President of the United State, Michelle Obama said “I’m ashamed of my Country.”  After almost eight years of Obama leadership, I can say in return “I’m not only ashamed of my country, I fear for its future.”

We have become a Godless people more concerned with our personal pleasures than in our own honesty and integrity. The decline in American values is evident. We have turned honorable men and women into puppets of the state. Our greed for power has tainted our judgment. Our leaders have become dictators, and our loyal servants have become dishonest politicians grubbing for position and control.

The heart of America is rotting from the core. There are a few glimmers of hope. When a crisis emerges, we still stand together. When people die, we are there to give compassion and support. But even in the midst of this, we are divided. We ignore crime and the law in favor of prejudice and popular opinion. Many segments of the population have become a mob mentality. It doesn’t matter what the laws say, they break it. If they don’t like the outcome, they stand against the enforcers who have pledged to keep us safe. In turn, lawbreakers are shielded by their leaders and mob violence is often encouraged and allowed.

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(These young armadillos visited us early one morning.)

Both political correctness and designated “hate speech” are becoming a law unto themselves setting a dangerous precedent in overruling existing Constitutional law. As a result, people are becoming afraid of spontaneous speech or of expressing an opinion. Free speech is being set on its ear by self-appointed enforcers who label someone’s opinion as prejudiced or hateful. Recently some university students uttered “I hate the first amendment. We don’t want these people (those with opposing views) on our campus.”

These students are too young to remember Hitler and his brutal regime when hate speech was lauded and opposing opinions were stifled. Our Founding Fathers must be quaking in their boots in fear that all they worked so hard to achieve is being destroyed.

We have one of the most important elections in our time coming up in November. Will we disregard what history can teach us? Will we put our personal stamp, our thumb print, in support of lawlessness, dishonesty and Godlessness? Or will we uphold the principles that made America great for all people and not just the few in power?

This division we now feel in our country did not come from the ground up, but from the top down. Good leaders inspire the best in their followers. They lead by example and truth. The chaos in our country and the world has been allowed to happen. The Middle East has been blown apart by incompetence and falsehoods.

Socialism and totalitarianism are not the answer. You just have to examine their roots and results to understand their automatic downfall. Freedom isn’t lawlessness or pitting one group of people against another. Class warfare is a communist tactic. Morally it is bribery with the intent of getting what you want.

Freedom isn’t free just because you want it to be so. Freedom is the result of sacrifice, honor, and hard work. If you’re not up to it, someone else may be and the result is your neck under the boot of oppression. Please friends, vote judiciously and prayerfully.

 

Blending Two Separate Families – there’s an App for That!

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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.

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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

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

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“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.

Labor Pangs are soon forgotten Once you receive the Prize

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(Yes, here I am in all my exhausted and pregnant glory, expecting our 5th child)

Our first home had a cement floor that we covered with throw rugs to keep our feet from freezing in the winter. The kitchen was overlaid with grungy black tiles thickly coated with layers of old yellow wax. I knew it had to come off, but how?

Finally I tackled it! Not with a scrubbing-brush or gallons of product that our budget couldn’t afford, but with a razor blade. I knew I had to be gentle or scratch the tiles. I figured if I could scrape five or more squares a day while my two toddlers were napping, I could get it done in a few months. Speed was not the objective. A shiny black floor was.

By sticking to my guns, I beat my goal and had it done in a month. I reasoned that if I could do this with every dream and every challenge, just think what I could accomplish! Every time I walked into that room and saw the deep sheen on the floor, cooking for my family and taking care of my babes did not seem so daunting. I needed this kind of optimism because we ended up with six kids.

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After going three weeks over my due date, the first one brought 24 hours of excruciating labor. The doctor debated a cesarean section, but kept saying “let’s wait a little longer;” until finally her little head crowned and she was born.

The second child, a boy, was born 14 months later. My water broke at home and we rushed to the hospital. My husband was still registering me when he was born. “Wow, this birth thingie is going to be a snap from here on,” I thought.

It wasn’t. Four years later, during fireworks on July 5th , I went into labor with my third child, a boy. I was also three weeks overdue with this one. After another long labor, he weighed in at 10 pounds.

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Sidney, child #3

The fourth child introduced me to stress diabetes followed by two more ten pound babies and difficult deliveries. But once the births were over, and I held those precious humans-in-miniature and nursed them joyfully, the pain and suffering was quickly forgotten.

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(Chris #2, Holly #4, Paula #5, Sidney #3, Pamela #1

“Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort.” Most of us have heard that Teddy Roosevelt quote many times. We’ve experienced it when we finally get that perfect job, or find the right mate after we’ve gone through several “duds.”

There are struggles and growing pains in every new thing we try. We think we will never find satisfaction or success. But if we’re patient, we may get to see completion. Then we realize we were watching the unfolding miracle happen before our very eyes.

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The first time you must  punish your child for disobeying the rules or for going against your family values, you probably experienced pain; perhaps even guilt or shame. Not that the punishment didn’t fit the crime, but that you had to do it at all.

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Paula, my 5th child (Aunt Jean’s paintings behind; and a baby quilt I made.

One of my daughter’s was forever breaking the rules. The frightful thing was that she accepted the “grounding” or the scolding willingly knowing that she deserved it. But that consequence didn’t stop her from disobeying the next time. Even as a teenager, if she were grounded for a week or even a month, it didn’t seem to make any difference. She just went out when she was free and again disobeyed the curfew. I didn’t know how to deal with her effectively.

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Here’s that cute little nubbins at age three.

Her father was absent most of the time. When I’d explain the situation to him, he seemed not to hear. His response was nothing as he left for work. My daughter had to experience the results of her actions again and again. Later in life, long after there was no one there to reprimand her except herself, she went through some hard times before the “light came on” and she altered her choices and behavior because it was healthier and safer.

We sometimes see ourselves in our children. We try to hold them back through warnings or discipline so they won’t have to experience the pain that we did. They could listen to us if they would. They could be obedient and save themselves a truckload of you-know-what, but they don’t. They go blindly forward in spite of our words and our anguish.

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Here’s all five of them on  the mountain with Mom, ready to throw rocks over the cliff. (# 6 wasn’t here yet.)

I always believed that if my children knew how deeply I loved them everything would turn out all right, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Accepting your child as he or she is with all their flaws and imperfections is the key to their own self-acceptance and outlook as adults. You need to continue loving them even though their life choices may not have been your own.

It may be difficult. You may not necessarily approve of their actions or behavior. You love them anyway. God does this for us as parents and we’re far from perfect. He loves His children unconditionally. Can we do any less for our own?

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#6, getting a bath in the sink.

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Learning to stand.

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#6 now a toddler, dressed up for church.

Get Involved and Wipe Away that Generational Gap

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(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)

What’s not to Love – or Hate?

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“Beach Buddies” 20 x 16 oil on canvas

Yes, I’m one of those sappy people who watched Sound of Music to hear once again the familiar and wonderful songs of long ago and to watch Carrie Underwood’s take on a timeless classic.

What I was not prepared for was the avalanche of hatred aimed not only at her, but at her faith after the show concluded. Was the criticism aimed at her performance? No. It was simply a barrage of anger leveled at her Christian faith and her belief in the Bible; cheap shots in my opinion.

Are these the same hate mongers who demand free speech for themselves, but wish to deny it to others? Are they the ones who yell racism and discrimination whenever it suits their political agenda with little evidence to back it up simply to stir up trouble?

Where does this kind of hatred come from? Envy? Self-loathing? An empty soul? Christianity is a religion of love: “Love thy neighbor as yourself,” “Love your enemies,” “Do good to those who despitefully use you,” and on and on.

Christians are sinners who are striving to do better. They are given ugly labels they do not deserve. They are only human. Why is it that when they stumble or reveal their vulnerability they are laughed at or worse called a “hypocrite” for making a mistake? The mockers defile them with crude language while their own behavior would make a sailor blush.

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“Broken Hearted” 11 x 14 pastel in matt & ready to frame

I’ve always cheered for the underdog, but when did we start putting vulgar language and crude behavior on a pedestal? Since when was innocence a negative and raunchiness applauded? Our “ship of state” is sinking into the mud, and I for one am saddened by our descent into degradation.

I think that’s why I paint portraits of children and enjoy painting scenes that kids will find funny or inspiring. I like their fresh perspective, their trusting and simple belief in goodness and their frank and open dialogue. If someone is unpleasant or mean, they’re not afraid to tell it like it is. They see through the outward trappings of poverty and pigment and head straight for the heart. They can sense evil almost immediately and try to avoid people who give off negative vibes.

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“With these Hands — Wonder” 1st the a “hands” series. Original available + prints

We should encourage this goodness before it becomes tainted by peer pressure and adult provocation and perversion. These are our children. They are our future. Do we want a world where hate rules and crude behavior becomes the norm? Where will we find inspiration or beauty in such a world? How will we survive if the passion to deface and destroy becomes the norm as it was in Rome or worse yet in Sodom and Gomorrah?

In our efforts to accept people as they are and welcome them into our “big tent,” let us not expose our innocent children to danger either ignorantly or willfully. They are our only hope.

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“First Daffodil” Acrylic on canvas

 

When Hope is Gone we Cease to Dream; we Stop Living

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"Ibis on a Perch" original drawing

“Ibis on a Perch” original drawing

Our church is a praying church. People in the community and friends of members often ask for us to pray for them. A school teacher requested prayer for her daughter who was a drug addict. When she went missing, there was general panic in their circle of family and friends.

Sadly, the prayers were too late. She was found dead in her car at a shopping mall. The car had been sitting in the same place for seven days and no one even noticed. She died from an overdose of heroin. Oh, the risks people take. The dangers they ignore. The willingness to dip their toe into deep waters until they sink in so far it’s too late to turn back.

They’re caught in a vice. They lose control in a downward spiral that ends badly. Their names are found on missing person’s reports, in obituaries and on tombstones. Others try to help, but cannot supply the will to live nor the decision that plunges their loved one into a gut-wrenching tragedy. Warnings have no effect. Peer pressure drives their actions. The end game is sometimes final.

"I Stand on the Brink" original drawing.

“I Stand on the Brink” original drawing.

Like most teens, I walked that narrow ledge. What kept me from crossing over? I didn’t want to hurt my parents. I knew that a failure on my part would crush them. Their love kept me close and harnessed my wild flights of fancy.

The state of the family in 2015 is a sad one. Children are disobedient and disrespectful to parents and they disdain authority. Gangs are taking the place of family in some communities. Parents, for the most part, are working to keep the family financially afloat. They are absent and uninvolved in their children’s activities. Rampant divorce has created homes without fathers and mothers who try to be both.

Love is not always enough. Parents often lack time and desire to give their children more of themselves. Unsupervised kids roam the streets and get into trouble. Children not only need to hear the words “I love you,” on a regular basis. They need to have it affirmed in action. When you spend more time with them, they see that you mean what you say.

Children today need hope in the future. Their lives need to be grounded in something larger than themselves. Secular parents prize what money can buy more than they do the lives of their children. Prayer is something they may participate in once or twice a year on Easter and Christmas or never. Faith is a word many have never heard of, let alone practice; some willingly and others from ignorance.

Parents need to get back to their roots. In addition to the love that should bind families, traditions and culture provide the arms that encircle us and link us to our ancestors. Foundations of faith, service and promise were once strong and sound. Today they are crumbling around us and we wonder what has happened?

History does repeat itself. If we want to survive in this dangerous world, we must learn its lessons and build our own dreams on the building blocks that those who have gone before have built for us.

Forward March "Hut, Two, Three, Four" . . .

Forward March “Hut, Two, Three, Four” . . .