Cyber-Rattling – the Skeletal Remains of Abandoned Blogs

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“Flash Dance” Oil on 20 x 16 canvas; framed

We’re all eager to start them. We want our own public space in the sun to share our personal trivia or our hopes and dreams. Millions of blogs attest to that fact. But what happens when the enthusiasm fades and a blogger moves to another space? What if a blogger leaves his or her audience hanging on as weeks turn into months and months into years?

Admit it, we’ve all clogged search engines with the skeletal remains of our blogs which end up littering the pathways of cyberspace. I was amazed as I searched for viable art blogs how many of them have not been updated in months; some for more than three to five years! Many don’t even have a follow button so they probably won’t have readers or customers returning any time soon.

Amongst the casualties were new mother blogs, created by first time mothers who wanted to share the miracle of birth and their amazing adventure into motherhood. Others wanted to share a wonderful vacation with humorous stories and full-color photos. But when the vacation excitement fizzled, the dazzle of motherhood wore off, so did the blog.

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(My first great grandchild)

Many blogs are started with good intentions, but they fail miserably when the blogger realizes there is no substance. There are no long-term goals. There was a beginning, but no ending. The blogger had no vision for the purpose of his or her blog or the discipline to finish it.

Clanking around in this gigantic wasteland, I still found some good information, an interesting fact or two; but it required an investment of time to find that juicy low-hanging fruit, that bright star among the scattered bones of defeat. Some bloggers move frequently from space to space, leaving their old blogs behind like breadcrumbs that lead their followers back home. Some links failed, leading me on a wild goose chase.

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“With these Hands Hope” Oil on 16 x 20 canvas

With all the apps and gizmos out there, I sometimes have difficulty uploading my own updates, especially in the evening hours. The large sites like Facebook and Twitter become unpredictable and double tweets or failed tweets happen on occasion.

Abandoned bytes and cyber debris join other waste materials in the heavens. Our Satellite Station over the years has dropped scraps and junk that still circles the globe endlessly polluting the atmosphere.

Our oceans are filled with garbage and the ghostly remains of plastic bags. Japan’s Tsunami debris still floats around the globe, butting up against foreign shores and introducing the local flora and fauna to alien species.

Our “throw away” society continues to add to our mountain of debt and our growing landfills. Wouldn’t it be great if someone would find a way to clean up this wasted space or manufacture things that would last? If our economy is so bad, why do so many people throw thousands of pounds of food in the trash each year? Solutions not rhetoric is what we need. Suggestions anyone?

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“Sandhill Crane dreams” (They all wish they were Indians)

Have you Discovered your Purpose in Life?

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Do you just follow along to get along or do you forge your own path?

Do you just follow along to get along or do you forge your own path?

Do you feel like you’re aimlessly walking through life not knowing where you’re going or even where you’ve been? Are you being pushed and pulled in different directions by other people or situations that leave you empty and confused?

Rivers meander like this weaving through obstacles, passing things by, and going wherever gravity and the shift of ground takes them. You’re better than that! It’s time to put your concerns and hopes on paper.

Companies, churches, and large corporations usually have a “Mission Statement” to keep them on track and to guide them through difficult transitions. Why not you?

'Hut two three four" Take that first step and keep going until it becomes a habit.

‘Hut two three four” Take that first step and keep going until it becomes a habit.

A mission statement is an overall view of what you want your life to be about and why. It is greater than a goal that details individual projects and desires. What do you want to accomplish? Where do you want to end up when you’re 65+ years of age?

Clarify your position in terms of your faith, your family, and your dreams. Goals will come later as to how to get there. For now just set the tone of your life and what kind of person you want to become.

Once you have that list prepared, create highlights from the most important to the least. Now work on your statement. Here’s an example of a work-related mission statement:

“My mission is to use my talents and skills to assist, direct and manage the scope of my responsibilities in such a way as to make those I serve more productive and successful; in doing so, I will also grow and prosper.”

Emma's Birthday -- Looking back brings her joy!

Emma’s Birthday — Looking back brings her joy!

Here’s an example of a life mission statement:

“My mission in life is to use and expand my God-given talents and abilities in such a way that I remain true to myself, true to my family and to my God. I will do my part to enrich and strengthen the lives of those around me leaving the world a somewhat better place just because I was here.”

If you want to leave a positive footprint on the earth while you’re here, create a personal mission statement that will guide your efforts in being a better parent, a more productive employee, a supportive friend and neighbor in your community. Once you have developed your purpose, then go back and see what things in your life you need to change to get there.

Here is where goals come into play. Work on one goal at a time so you don’t become overwhelmed and give up. Life is not an event but a process. Taking one step at a time and overcoming one difficulty at a time solidifies your efforts into long-term habits. Once a habit is developed, you don’t have to think about that part of your list. You can go onto the next project, define your goal, and begin again.

Stay with it while you build a chain of positive habits that will assist you in fulfilling your purpose or mission in life. Good luck!

Less is Sometimes More, and More is sometimes Letting Go

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“Blending In” 11 x 14 acrylic in barn wood frame (see how the feathers replicate the petals?)

I’ve always been a recluse. Even when forced into the outside world by opportunity and obligation, I always returned quickly to the comforts and safety of home.

Of course, in order to write and paint adequate space and uninterrupted quiet are required, and that’s not always easy to find.  Most of us deal with what we have, whether it’s a house full of kids, a noisy or talkative husband, or the constant ringing of the telephone. Today, robocalls burst our imaginative bubbles with irritating pauses, eager politicians, scammers or thick-headed salesmen.

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“First Daffodil” acrylic on canvas

There’s never going to be a perfect time or place. Deal with it! You either ignore the phone, unplug it, insist on solitude, at least some of the time, and get off your rear end and create that novel or masterpiece.

I’ve spent my whole life catering to other people’s needs; and yet I still feel selfish, even now, when I do the things I love or want to do. I shame myself into believing:

  • I’m too old
  • It’s a waste of time
  • I’m not Van Gogh or Renoir
  • I should be cleaning my house
  • I should cook more often
  • Why can’t I be like “other women?”
  • Why do I always have to create something?
  • I’m getting a hump from sitting at my computer
  • My fingers are starting to cramp
  • I can barely hold a paint brush
  • By the time I finish my chores, I’m too tired to create

And on and on we go, making excuses, putting ourselves down, and blaming others for not being able to fulfill our own needs. Whine, whine, and whine! We all do it. Every day!

"With These Hands -- Wonder" oil on canvas

“With These Hands — Wonder” oil on canvas

Recently I heard a T.V. commentator repeat what Dr. Phil had once said: “Why do you always settle for less?”

Indeed! Why do you think you’re not worth success? Why do you either marry or choose friends who are ill suited for you and who don’t live up to your expectations? Some may even go so far as to say: “friends who are beneath you, at least in compatibility.”

Don’t get me wrong, all people are of value, at least in God’s eyes. But that doesn’t mean you have to date them or marry them. How many times in the past have you “settled for less” when you could have had more?

Prisons and mental institutions are filled with people who have low self-esteems. Sad people who believe that this is all they deserve. And, of course, that’s all that they get.

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“Beach Buddies” acrylic on canvas

Perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board. The adage: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question that can be asked over and over again. As long as we have breath to ask the question, we should keep adjusting our goals and our dreams for as long as we live.

Too often we end up focusing on the end of our life and see time running out. Wake up, my friend! “Life is eternal.” You do not close your eyes in death and “go out” like a burnt out flame. You do not cease to exist. Once you realize this, the possibilities are endless.

The essence of what you are is inside of you. Everything you need to live fully and richly resides within your mind and heart. Your job is to find it and hold onto it with every fiber of your being. You are magnificent. Once you discover your divine potential nothing can stop you!

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!

Find Your Passion — Make Your Mark, and Succeed!

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“With These Hands — Wonder”

We all need a purpose in life that stirs our passions. We need to feel useful. Personal fulfillment comes when we feel we’re making a contribution to our family, to society, and to the greater good. Our creator has given us gifts and talents to use in the service of our fellow men. Why? Because he loves us and wants us to be happy! He wants us to be joyful.

A few days ago, I was sorting through the books on my shelves and discovered a forgotten book called: “Discovering Your Purpose,” by Ivy Haley. It brought back memories as I thumbed through its pages. Part of the “SkillPath Publications” used in training seminars; I had purchased the book while attending another class on customer service and office management.

Haley points out there are “Certain key principles that have guided countless generations and remain relevant for us today; such values as honesty, integrity, respect, equality, excellence, kindness, faith, fair-play, accountability, quality, and unconditional love. These are universal values or truths.” The golden rule adapted from Christ’s teachings, which urges us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, falls into this category…”When you’re principle-centered, driven by and operating out of your values, you experience far greater life fulfillment.”

I read my personal scribbles in the blanks provided. Sadly, life conflicts and personal turbulence ended my completion of the book, but my notes are revealing. In the section: “Inventory of Values and Principles,” I answered the questions. Please answer them for yourself, along with me:

  1. What four things are most important to you? (My answers follow 🙂
    God, Family, Church, Friends.
  2. What are some things you’ve really wanted to do, but never dared go for? Professional Writer (although I did free-lance for awhile, guilt made me      hold back). Develop my artistic skills – illustrate my own children’s book.
  3. What, specifically, are you willing to give your life to? My God and Savior, My family, My talents: writing and painting
  4. In what areas of your life do you spend the most time and in what activities? Taking care of my family, Computers (a necessity in my work at the time.), developing web sites with an eye on developing my own.
  5. In what areas do you desire to spend more time than you’re spending?
    For me, it was writing and painting
  6. If you were to defend or support something you believe in, what would it be? My answer: The Gospel of Jesus Christ
  7. What character qualities do you find admirable in others?
    My answer: Goodness, helping others, a positive attitude
  8. What could you do that would be of most value to others?
    I try to write helpful, uplifting articles, stories; I like to help others; to cheer them, assist them, I like to get involved in causes I feel strongly about.

I can’t say I fulfilled these promises to the letter, but I gave it a good try. According to Haley, we usually feel passionate whenever our values are involved. In her book she uses the following exercise. A “values” grid is arranged like a checker-board. In each square is a “universal” value: those things you are willing to give your time and attention to; your life and your “passion” to.

Here are the universal values: (circle five that are important to you): accomplishment, adventure, affection, approval, challenge, competition, family, freedom, health, financial security, independence, integrity, loyalty, order, relationships, recognition, prestige, power, security, self-acceptance, spiritual, wealth, wisdom, pleasure, self-development.

These were my five choices: 1. Family, 2. health, 3. integrity, 4. spiritual, and 5. wisdom. The author then gives a scenario: “You’ve been diagnosed with an incurable disease and told you have six months to live. You spend the next several weeks searching for a cure. Each challenge presented, gives you a choice and asks you to place a value you are willing to give up in order to achieve that goal (either to be cured or remain healthy).

By the end of the exercise, the last value you are willing to give up becomes the first value of importance to you on the next list. Here are my values listed by importance, and why that value was and still is important to me:

  1. Integrity: If I am true to myself, I will be true to my God. If I am honest with myself, I will be open and honest with my God.
  2. Spiritual: God lends me breath. He is my reason for living. He sustains me. He is “my joy, and my song.”
  3. Family: My prayer every day (and still is) is that my children will recognize the “light which shines in darkness,” and that they will “hunger and thirst after righteousness” and put their trust in the Lord.
  4. Wisdom: All learning is not good unless eternal perspective and knowledge is applied. We become wise when we obey God’s commandments.
  5. Health: Health is of no value if the other four values are missing. Health is important if it keeps you vibrant and alive in standing for truth and honor.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: “The biggest tragedy in America is not the waste of natural resources, though this is tragic. The biggest tragedy is the waste of human resources.” And how do we waste those resources? We spend our lives doing the things we think we should do or the things that are “popular” or “smart” or “worldly” and “we go to our graves with our music (our passion) still in us.”