Inspirational People and how they Effect your Life

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American Express publishes an online newsletter. The last issue was titled “Strategies of Highly Inspirational People.” As an artist and writer that grabbed my attention. Creative’s are always looking for inspiration.

The article made me think of all the people in my past who inspired not only my artistic endeavors, but made me want to become a better person. My sister Jean was one of those people.

She struggled with multiple sclerosis (M.S.) for over 30 years, yet she remained positive, bubbly and happy. Even when she could no longer speak or move without help, her bright eyes spoke for her. She chose how she would face her adversity. Every new day, she donned her internal attitude like a cloak that was visible to all who knew her.

When Jean finally passed away, she defied age. Her pristine complexion glowed. There were no wrinkles or frown lines to mar her beauty. Her hair was still thick and glossy. There were no telltale signs of gray.

Some people thought her appearance came from the cortisone shots she received throughout her ordeal. I believe her lifelong loveliness came from within. Her internal compass was focused on eternal things; an inner strength, which gave her an aura of joy and peace. Even before she contracted M.S., Jean’s outgoing personality attracted many friends. She built a successful business. She won golf trophies and art awards. She participated in life fully.

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Here is the American Express list of the 10 “Strategies of Highly Inspirational People.” Note how many of these traits the people you admire share.

Inspirational people:

  1. Make permanent connections “I care and thought about you today.”
  2. Bring people together – introduces to others
  3. Believe people are good
  4. Welcome people who disagree – authentic, comfortable in their beliefs
  5. Act fearlessly, even when afraid
  6. Give back to the community
  7. Show gratitude
  8. Tell a good story and share personal ones that turn into motivational experiences
  9. Are responsive and dependable

People who make you feel good about yourself are the ones you’ll remember. Like skipping stones on water, they cast a ripple effect on others that extends outward. Their influence continues long after their gone.

My grandfather Allen had that kind of impact on my life. He was loving, but firm. His granddaughters, me included, wanted to please him and make him proud of us. He taught us how to dance. He put books on our heads and showed us how to walk straight with our heads held high.

He encouraged us to be unafraid. As a biologist and science teacher, he explained how things worked in nature and demonstrated there was no need to fear. He allowed a green garden snake to wind up his arm and a huge garden spider to creep softly over his skin. He kept a pet tarantula that seemed like a fuzzy friend after he handled it so adroitly.

Because of him, my love for nature grew. I gained respect for conservation and preservation of all living things, including human life. How can you reverence life and at the same time destroy it?

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(Great Grand Baby) Dexter learning how to feed himself.

We are the caretakers of the earth; the stewards, if you will. The balance of nature must be respected and ensured if we are to be healthy and happy. What my grandpa taught me changed my life forever and formed my interests and personality.

Every life we touch has an influence on us either for good or evil. Cherish the people and friends who make lasting imprints on your deepest self and those who positively change the course of your life’s direction.

Integrity and Respect are Two Sides of the Same Coin

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"Twitters and Twigs" 11x14 oil on canvas

“Twitters and Twigs” 11×14 oil on canvas

On NBC Nightly News they reported on a Neurologist who was treating five different women for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Each had had expensive tests, including an MRI and had been prescribed meds that were costing upwards of several hundred to thousands of dollars per month. In their efforts to get financial relief, the women obtained second opinions that revealed they did not have MS.

The reporter said “The doctor was nothing more than a ‘con’ man. “He got away with it because he was a well-known and respected doctor. He was charming. He had charisma and a friendly persona.”

The downfall of a once successful man can usually be blamed not only on dishonesty, but lack of integrity. The doctor knew what he was doing was wrong, but he thought he could get away with it. He didn’t really care that his actions were criminal or that it would cause others pain. He only thought of himself and the money that would end up in his own pocket. Now he has been revealed for what he really is on the inside: a thief, a liar, and a selfish greedy scum bag. The man is an “empty suit.”

Turkey Buzzards circling for a feast

Turkey Buzzards circling for a feast

They are around us everywhere, even on the elevated floors of congress and in the highest halls of academia. The rules that others play by, they simply ignore: “Put your money where your mouth is; you talk a good game, can you play a good game?” Actions always speak louder than words.

If you “live by the sword,” you will usually die by the sword. “What goes around comes around.” If your poison tongue spews venom outward to deceive others, eventually your words and acts will come back to haunt you or destroy you. In the past, people shook hands in agreement; their word was as good as a signed contract. When did words come to mean so little?

Speaking of words, do people trust that you will do what you say?” Are you reliable? When your name comes up in private conversations will the discussion be positive? Is your character praiseworthy?

Reputations are built one step at a time through the accumulation of successful interactions with others. Integrity strengthens those negotiations. Integrity once earned, cannot be taken from you. It is a priceless quality that is valued and appreciated by many, but cannot be purchased, stolen or copied.

"Fish Market" 24x18 acrylic on canvas

“Fish Market” 24×18 acrylic on canvas

Integrity is that part of your being that is deeply enmeshed with fiber, tissue, heart and soul. It is intrinsic to a person’s character and reputation. You can only increase its value through practice and consistent behavior that builds trust.

Without integrity there is no respect in the true sense. This kind of standing enhances love and diminishes fear. Integrity is eternal. It will cover your nakedness when you pass from mortal to eternal life and become your crown of righteousness when you stand before Almighty God.

To Touch or Not to Touch That is the Question

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I’m a hugger and a toucher. It goes way back to my Danish/Swedish heritage. In our family we called them “love pats.” As a child, I’d try to dodge those slap-on-the-back taps whenever possible; some could even sting.

Now I’m doing the same thing: thumping my spouse and my friends on the back followed by a big squeeze of adoration. It’s like a bear hug with suffocating pressure. I tell myself to taper back, but when emotion swells my chest, I get carried away.

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How we approach others tells them a lot about us. Sometimes my exuberance puts people off. My welcoming embrace can be overpowering. My enthusiasm may offend the non-touchers and the formal greeters from other countries and cultures. But once people get to know me, they hug me right back, so I guess that’s a plus.

Some people are more touchy-feely than others. Many families are more affectionate. It’s wise to check out the customs of other people before you offend them inadvertently. Manners and acceptable behavior varies around the world.

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When I was in Korea, it is their custom to dine sitting on a floor cushion around a low table. They never use a toothpick or try to dislodge a piece of food from their mouth in public without first covering their mouth with the other hand. Yet, they consider it an affirmation of downright deliciousness to burp after a meal, not just once, but several times in declaration.

An American who was sitting at our table put on lipstick and combed her hair after the meal. The shocked and embarrassed glares told me that this behavior was totally unacceptable in Korea, especially in polite company.

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Never one to give up on people, I look into their eyes while I shake their hand with both of mine. That’s my way of saying “I respect you. I really like you. I’m interested in what you have to say.”

My husband, on the other hand, is Norwegian. As he likes to say, “Norvegian’s look at your shoes and never give eye contact until they get to know ya’.” Actually it’s true. It was more than a few years of marriage before he could talk to me and look me in the eye for more than a few seconds at a time. I cherish looking into his eyes now for lengthy discussions or sharing the day’s trivialities.

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In business there’s a whole “other” set of rules and behavior. People like me who are outgoing and friendly need to be careful that their actions don’t betray them or cause co-workers to misinterpret their actions. Too much eye contact may seem flirtatious. Touching may seem forward or seen as a signal for more provocative behavior.

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You’re usually more at ease in being yourself, but you need to respect the space that others may need and want. Understand that you can’t please everyone. Be genuine and others will feel at ease, too.

Rescue Dogs are a Hot Item on People’s Heart List

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Madison discovers a “puppy mill”

We rescued several dogs over the years. They brought us both joy and frustration. Our friends and neighbors love to show-off theirs. I’ve seen bearded collies, Italian miniature greyhounds, Scottie dogs, and a Bichon_frise named Max that has turned from a cuddly white pup to an aged 16 year old.  His owner’s can’t bear to put him to sleep as long as he seems happy.

They soften his food with water so he can gum it. His teeth are almost gone and his tongue hangs out side-ways for lack of support. Max is almost blind and he chews on his paws and toenails until his white fur is stained with blood. He has arthritis in his back and is not long for this world. They care for him ignoring his diminished strength and beauty. My dear friends that is love!

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Amelia with rescue dog “Bella”

Would that we had so much love for the human babies that are conceived in today’s world. In Los Angeles recently, a newspaper photo showed an abandoned infant that the Sargent had placed in a desk drawer using it as a bed. The innocent child slept peacefully unaware of neither his negligent mother and father nor the uncertain future he faced.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had parents out there who would joyfully accept these unwanted children as readily as they do rescue animals that need our care and concern? Instead we throw them away as easily as we do our recycling discards. We ignore their pain, their slaughter because the current law has made it acceptable. They’re suctioned out, chemically burned or torn out; their precious gifts and talents lost to mankind.

"Broken" mixed media on canvas; SOLD, but prints available.

“Broken” mixed media on canvas; SOLD, but prints available

I’m hoping the next generation will realize its loss. Many more single mothers are now raising children so acceptance is gaining. “The worth of souls is great in the eyes of God.” Thank goodness we no longer shun these mothers or their children. In the past they would have become “outcasts of society.” I would hope that life could be cherished once again and given its proper distinction as the hope of the world. I wish society would open their arms and welcome these infants into the world.

Children are precious and should be treated as such. If they were treated with the respect and dignity they deserved, they would never become the victims of sexual predators or callous parents.

I was at a wedding celebration this weekend. Curly topped toddlers and gangly children danced with the grownups on the granite floor. The Norwegian bride had married a Hispanic immigrant. Her aunts and uncles had adopted other immigrant children. A close friend had come from Nepal. He had married a Japanese girl and their two children reflected the beauty of both cultures.

All were related in some way and yet visually different. The love was strong, The shared happiness was obvious as everyone there and their friends and relatives mixed together and laughed, sang, and “jived” to the music. My own grandchildren are part Korean, my second son having married a Korean girl.

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People hope and pray for world peace. They want to embrace other races and nationalities (in theory); and yet, they sometimes crucify their own in the name of convenience or lack of money.

This weekend I saw a glimpse of what could be. As we celebrate the “Prince of Peace” during this upcoming holiday season, let us reach out and embrace a neighbor, a friend, a parent, a stranger. Let us cherish and celebrate life. Let hope reign in every heart!

Relevance – Who Matters Most and Who Matters Least?

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Four generations

Four generations

Society deems some people relevant and necessary while others are irrelevant and of lesser importance. The uneducated, the downtrodden, and the so-called dregs of society found in prisons or sleeping on our city streets are in the latter category. Labeled as un-useful, a burden to others, and a drain on public resources, they are often ignored, uncared for and unloved.

For many years, motherhood was frowned upon. While I was raising a family of six children, I often received scathing glances from those who thought I was nothing more than a “baby machine,” even though each child was wanted and adored.

Today being pregnant is “fashionable” and “trendy,” especially for the jet set and the famous. If the mother-to-be is unwed or impregnated by a boyfriend or from artificial insemination, that’s even better. The starlets sport their growing bellies with pride; such compassionate women, these, burgeoning goddesses ripe with fruit, about to replenish the earth.

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My grandson, Andy, the day before his wedding.

In the sixties, the world was on the edge of disaster from “over population.” Fear fed the rumors that food and commodities would become scarce. There was no room at anyone’s “inn” for more children. Abortion was the answer. Millions of Einstein’s, Beethoven’s, and potential writers, artists, and scientists were crucified on the altar of convenience, ideology, and false premises in the name of freedom and women’s rights.

Although the tables have turned once again, the abortion mills are still running at fever pitch. Motherhood is having resurgence, but it is promoted by single mothers in diverse circumstances and applauded by gender blended families. Traditional family’s where a mother and father are actually married and celebrate the birth of each child is going by way of the dinosaurs.

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“Mother and Child” Brush Drawing available at http://carol-allen-Anfinsen.artistwebsites.com

The role of wife and mother has also changed and frequently disrespected and unappreciated. A woman’s role of wage earner is valued at the expense of motherhood. If too much of a woman’s time is devoted to family, her career may be in jeopardy. After taking time off it is difficult to retain her before-maternity-leave status.

I remember well feeling like a slug – a non-contributing member of society. The Equal Rights Amendment battle was in full sway. Like other young mothers, I was torn and confused. Even in marriage my writing ventures and the time spent were belittled and viewed as a waste of time until I started earning money. Then the hours I spent at typewriter and eventually keyboard were given respect.

Stay-at-home moms were taken advantage of in so many ways. I remember thinking that my husband, my kids looked right through me. I was invisible – unnoticed until someone else’s needs were ignored or neglected. Then a wave of whining and complaining woke me out of my doldrums.

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“Lady in Waiting” oil on canvas; Prints available

This became distinct and clear at a school Halloween Carnival. We had three children and one in the hopper. We waited in line for sloppy joe’s and drinks. I helped the younger children and made sure they had napkins and utensils. By the time we sat down, I discovered I had forgotten my own. “Heavy with child” and reluctant to get up again, I turned to my husband and said. “Would you mind getting me a fork and napkin?” He looked at me with cold eyes and said: “Get it yourself,” which I did.

Later, watching them play games through the classroom window, father and children, I said, trying to buoy myself up, “See you’re not invisible. I can see your reflection in the glass.” I looked down at my arm and pinched it between thumb and forefinger. “See, you’re not invisible, I can feel that pain.”

I’ve never felt so low and unimportant in my life. Talk about irrelevant! Sadly this was the beginning of the end. A downward spiral that eventually led to divorce; but not before two more children were born and I realized that things were never going to change.

"Does this hat make me look fat?"

“Does this hat make me look fat?” Pencil drawing

What a sad commentary on motherhood; the sacred creation of life. Instead of floundering at the bottom of the food chain, motherhood should be at the top. Without it society would become non-existent. The foundation that held families together in the past is now missing in action. Mothers are not there when their children come home from school. Lessons of the past are considered obsolete or old-fashioned. The values and virtues once revered are mocked.

Many people view pregnancy as simply a biological result of sexual relations; an unfortunate accident. The fact that parenthood might be part of a joyful plan is considered immaterial. Where will it end?