Run Your Laps Every Day – Reach for the Stars not the Dazzle of Fool’s Gold

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Namesake

“Namesake” 24×18 acrylic on canvas

My oldest daughter ran track as did her younger brother. I remember the grueling contests, the aching muscles, and the near collapse after a race, the throwing up afterward, the dark side of competition all for the ribbons, the glory, the win.

Running gets in your blood. It drives you. My daughter could run miles on the steam of anger leaving from our house and traveling for sympathy to see her friend in another county; a different city.

I watched them both compete and admired their persistence. Peer pressure helped, but the adrenaline rush after a track meet was addictive.

I tried it a few times at the YMCA. The track was the diameter of the building. I ran around and around, and around. 15 laps equaled one mile. I did a lot of counting (and forgetting), and counting again. My “round” trip was tedious and boring. My goal wasn’t to win. I was competing against myself. The end game was to lose 10 pounds. I didn’t last long enough.

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“With These Hands — Hope” Oil on acrylic under painting; 16×20 canvas

I discovered that the difference between success and failure, for me, was being outdoors. I knew where to walk and just how long I needed to go. I used my car to gauge the distance. I started with five miles, then ten. After a few weeks, the pounds started to melt away. Exercise is much easier than counting calories, and more fun.

Every athlete, every runner knows you have to put in the time. It’s no different with any other skill or profession. Time equals distance, equals gain. “No pain, no gain;” you’ve heard it a million times.

The difference between success and failure is often as simple as this. One person spends his or her time vegging out in front of the “Boob Tube” while the other one does the laps, the practice, and the work to improve his or her skills or business.

One person reads books related to their interests and dreams, and another would rather spend his time making things with his hands. If either develops a skill and a driving interest, they have a shot at success.

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Open Book” 20×16 Oil on acrylic under painting; Original SOLD, but prints are available.

What is success? Does it mean money? Does it mean having all the toys and whistles? Or does it simply mean doing something that rewards you with fulfillment, satisfaction and a decent living? Of course, the answers are unique to each individual. But I guarantee that if you were in a devastating tornado or a destructive hurricane, you’d probably say what most people on T.V. say in the aftermath:

“These are just things. We can replace things. But my family – thank God they’re all alive!”

If you haven’t yet discovered what you’re willing to live or to die for, you haven’t really lived. If there is nothing on this earth for which you are willing to sacrifice your time, effort, and devotion to besides yourself, you haven’t really loved.

Many people can’t understand faith or a belief in something greater than themselves. Without a guiding force it is easy to get caught up in the moment and waste your time on quick gratification or cheap thrills. A guiding force or higher power can help you resist that which hinders your growth and success. A deep inner peace can empower you to run your laps, every day, until you reach the heights of your potential. It costs nothing, but it will change your life forever.

What if the Moon really is made of Green Cheese? Let’s Pretend!

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"The Neptunes -- Octoband" acrylic on 11 x 14 panel

“The Neptunes — Octoband” acrylic on 11 x 14 panel

Magical things happen when someone says: “Let’s pretend.” The expectation hangs in the air like droplets of nectar from an enchanted forest. The adult version of this quip is “What if?” We call it “Thinking outside the box.” We’re expert at hiding the real reason our internal child takes the bait. The game takes us out of our constrained conformity and plunges us into the realms of make believe.

What if pigs could fly? Why do salmon remember where to spawn each year and how can we harness that drive? If the Argyroneta aquatica or diving bell spider can live under water, why can’t we?

Children are experts at what ifs and why not’s! They can improvise and make-believe their way out of bad alcoholic parenting, stranger abduction, bondage and hunger. They are not only resilient they are hopeful. There is always a rainbow after every storm. Their hope is eternal.

"The Neptunes -- Trumpeteers" 11 x 14 acrylic on panel

“The Neptunes — Trumpeteers” 11 x 14 acrylic on panel

A looking glass may mirror the ugliness of reality or it can reflect a window that is open wide to the imagination. I spent many hours as a child looking into a mirror that was placed under my nose. In this way, I walked the steep dormer ceiling of my girlhood home creating a make-believe terrain that only I could see.

My own children pumped our player piano and sang at the top of their lungs pretending their way to fame and fortune. Later they discovered that imagining they were playing was much easier than practicing those monotonous scales, memorizing notes, or phrasing properly for a parent or teacher.

“Let’s pretend” gives us a break from the harsh realities of life. We can stand on the fearful brink of decision while imagining several different outcomes or scenarios. By expanding our mind we can contemplate the possibilities that may evolve from any given choice.

"The Neptunes -- Golden Girls" 11 x 14 acrylic on panel

“The Neptunes — Golden Girls” 11 x 14 acrylic on panel

Once when our family T.V. had given up the ghost, we decided to hold off getting it fixed or buying another. What was it like “long ago” before people had television to entertain them? We decided to find out.

We read together more. We got through Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Jack London’s Call of the Wild. We engaged in conversation. The children learned how to make jello, bread, and cream puffs. We went to the library more often.

They discovered “the play!”  We performed several short ones, each family member taking a part; the older ones helping the younger. And, of course, at Christmas time we performed the “Nativity” reading from Luke 2:1-19. We donned our bathrobes and put towels on our heads. The youngest played baby Jesus.

As an extension to their learning, we took them to plays so they could witness first-hand how professionals made a performance real. In the process, we found something treasured that we had lost: our family. Sadly, once the T.V. was back and their young minds became hypnotized and mesmerized, we lost some of the closeness we once had. But the memories lingered.

Today they still remember when we were all bold enough to say “Let’s pretend,” or to ask “What if?”

"The Perfect Ending" acrylic on canvas

“The Perfect Ending” acrylic on canvas

A Person’s Life should be a Living Song

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"Tickles from God" 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

“Tickles from God” 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

My mother’s joyful heart was evident in our home, in her well cared for garden, and in her twinkling blue eyes. She whistled bird song while she worked, and she sang to us from morning to night. I in turn sang to my children as I cradled them in my arms and rocked them to sleep. When they were older I tucked them into bed with a song. Sometimes I made up my own words and music using silly rhymes that made them laugh.

We are born to music. Our lives follow the rhythms of nature. Our blood flows through our veins like a silent river keeping us alive with every heartbeat. Our attitudes and choices build a bridge to the powers of the universe. Eternal wisdom passes between heaven and earth and whispers in our ears if we stay in tune with its melodic harmony. It is within our grasp to be happy. Sadly, some of us leave this earth without ever having sung the songs we were meant to sing.

"Mother and Child" 11 x 14 brush drawing

“Mother and Child” 11 x 14 brush drawing

Joan Baez was a gifted singer and writer of amazing songs during the 60s. Some found her words too truthful and abrasive, but I wasn’t one of them. Her velvet voice allowed her to say things that others couldn’t say. She cut to the core of truth and wrapped it in savory chords of melody that we sang for days and weeks after we heard them for the first time. Her ballad “Honest Lullaby” came to me as I remembered my own lullabies to my children.

HONEST LULLABY
(Words and Music by Joan Baez)

Early early in the game
I taught myself to sing and play
And use a little trickery
On kids who never favored me
Those were years of crinoline slips
And cotton skirts and swinging hips
And dangerously painted lips
And stars of stage and screen
Pedal pushers, ankle socks
Padded bras and campus jocks
Who hid their vernal equinox
In pairs of faded jeans
And slept at home resentfully
Coveting their dreams

And often have I wondered
How the years and I survived
I had a mother who sang to me
An honest lullaby

Yellow, brown, and black and white
Our Father bless us all tonight
I bowed my head at the football games
And closed the prayer in Jesus’ name
Lusting after football heroes
tough Pachuco, little Neroes
Forfeiting my A’s for zeroes
Futures unforeseen

Spending all my energy
In keeping my virginity
And living in a fantasy
In love with Jimmy Dean
If you will be my king, Jimmy, Jimmy,
I will be your queen

And often have I wondered
How the years and I survived
I had a mother who sang to me
An honest lullaby

I travelled all around the world
And knew more than the other girls
Of foreign languages and schools
Paris, Rome and Istanbul
But those things never worked for me
The town was much too small you see
And people have a way of being
Even smaller yet

But all the same though life is hard
And no one promised me a garden
Of roses, so I did okay
I took what I could get
And did the things that I might do
For those less fortunate

And often have I wondered
How the years and I survived
I had a mother who sang to me
An honest lullaby

Now look at you, you must be growing
A quarter of an inch a day
You’ve already lived near half the years
You’ll be when you go away
With your teddy bears and alligators
Enterprise communicators
All the tiny aviators head into the sky

And while the others play with you
I hope to find a way with you
And sometimes spend a day with you
I’ll catch you as you fly
Or if I’m worth a mother’s salt
I’ll wave as you go by

And if you should ever wonder
How the years and you’ll survive
Honey, you’ve got a mother who sings to you
Dances on the strings for you
Opens her heart and brings to you
An honest lullaby
© 1977, 1979 Gabriel Earl Music (ASCAP)

Creating Family Ties that Last

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An Open Book

I recently enjoyed a visit with my oldest son and his family who traveled to Florida. We crammed in as much as we could with the short time allotted to us. We took in the beach and the wonderful Gulf waters, still clean and pristine on the southwestern shores. We enjoyed the parks and wildlife as much as weather would allow. But the most memorable fun came in the evenings when we watched a movie or played games around the kitchen table.

The family had brought a game called “Apples to Apples;” a vocabulary builder that makes you think. We spent two hours playing this fun game and laughed so hard we cried at the comments from the kids and their wonderful imaginations.

I often worry about today’s families and wonder if they have enough memory building activities in their lives? They are so absorbed with work and separated by technology, phones and computers. Playing games with my children and grandchildren gave me hope, and it brought back a whole lot of memories.

My grandfather, a school teacher, loved entertaining his grandchildren. When my cousins and I got out of hand, he’d set us to work in his garden or distract us with games. Not any old games; homemade games that were totally unfamiliar to us. My favorite used a classic Coke bottle and a box of toothpicks. Each person received twenty picks to start.

The objective was to lay a toothpick across the lip of the bottle, in turns. The first person to topple the stack kept them. Anytime you caused a pick or picks to drop, you added them to your pile. The first person to get rid of all their picks was the winner. We played the game until the loser, usually the youngest child, got tired of being “the fall guy.”

When the floor game “Pickup Sticks” came out, it was never as much fun as grandpa’s toothpick game.

"Beach Buddies"

“Beach Buddies”

My sons liked to play “uncle” when they were young. They wrestled on the floor until one of them had the other in a painful twist. Relief came only by yelling “uncle.” Enduring pain and refusing to say the magic word somehow enhanced their manhood. Horsing around took the pressure off, and gave them an excuse for male bonding. The rough and tumble helped them avoid that personal hug or embarrassing show of affection.

Horsing around or playing games is good for coordination, skill building, and brain power. It provides a means for fellowship and promotes conversation. The laughter and talk that takes place during the game is a natural outcome.

When my children were all still at home, our TV went out. We waited to get a replacement just to see what would happen without our hypnotizing, addicting companion. Here are some of the things we did that my kids still talk about today.

We read several classic books together. Sprawled on the floor or with legs dangling over chair arms, the children’s imaginations soared as we read Rudyard Kipling’s jungle stories; their favorite “The Elephant Child.” Other books on our list: “Mary Poppins,” “Treasure Island,” “Tom Sawyer,” and short stories by Charles Dickens.

"With These Hands Wonder" available by clicking image.

“With These Hands Wonder” available by clicking image.

This was before Harry Potter and Shrek. Trips to the library replaced other after school activities. We broadened our reading to include children’s plays. Each child took a part; the older children helping the younger. Simple costumes helped us stay in character. Giggles were the order of the day, but we did manage to put on several plays, including “The Nativity” and the reading of Luke on Christmas Eve.

Once a week, we had a cooking session in the kitchen. The children learned how to make simple things like no-bake cookies, candies, Jello, fancy sandwiches and French toast. One evening the older children learned how to sew on a button. I introduced them to skills I thought they should know before they left home.

Adding more ingredients.

Adding more ingredients.

It was a fun time while it lasted. Besides making memories and learning new things, we learned a lot about each other. When we finally purchased a new TV, it engulfed our lives once again. We went back to our old routines, but the change of pace had made a difference.

During a power outage when my seventeen year old daughter was left in charge of her younger brothers and sisters, they survived. She didn’t want us to worry, so she didn’t tell us. They slept in their sleeping bags and ate cold food for three days until we returned. They had a great time telling stories, putting on plays, and singing songs just as we had done before on our nights-without-TV.

I sometimes feel sad for the young people of today who miss out on good old-fashioned fun, or do they? My husband and I visited with our older children in Minnesota. We were invited to be part of an interactive musical game called: “Guitar Hero.” I was given the drum sticks and waited for the signal lights that told me when to play. The rhythm increased in increments, and soon I was giggling and missing a beat here and there.

Next I played a guitar and had to strum to the tune of a green beeping light. My husband and his grandson played other instruments; his granddaughter sang solo, and everyone else clapped and sang along. By the time we were done, everyone was laughing. The whole family joined in and had a great time singing, clapping and laughing at the players onstage.

Times have changed, and the methods may be different, but families still know how to have fun together. The age-old problem is making the time. Is it worth it? You’d better believe it. The adage: “the family who prays together stays together” also works well with this phrase: “the family who plays together stays together.” So pray and play your hearts out. Make memories that last!

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