Wars are Won and Lost but the Greatest Battles are Fought Within the Heart

Standard

“Americana” 16×20 acrylic on canvas

When I was a child, I’d sneak a flashlight into bed and read under the covers. Somehow my mother always knew what I was up to; but before she did, I had many an adventure.

I’ve always loved to read. I worry that today people are so plugged into their smart phones, games, and movies that they miss out on the thrill of imagination and the deep emotional connection only a good book can bring.

Of course, people once said that eventually libraries would be obsolete and that children would forget how to read. Then along came Kindle, and now probably more people read than ever before because they have a lightweight device they can slip into a backpack or purse, take to the beach, or read on a plane. And what of the libraries? They adapted.

“An Open Book” mixed media on canvas (SOLD) Prints available

Libraries today are centered on the new technology to make research and information gathering even better. They’ve transferred the old video movies onto DVDs or online experiences. And fortunately, the patrons are there in throngs.

The regional library I go to is always busy from morning until night. The library also sponsors early voting and other community events from art shows to guest speakers continuing their reputation as the prime learning and information center in the area.

Books can take us out of our comfort zone. They may jar us, rattle our cage, and challenge our perceptions. Books may actually change us. Good literature can enlarge our souls and make us better people. In the same vein, negative or poorly written books not only waste our time, but may make us less than what we can be because they appeal to our baser nature.

“Victims of war” — Innocent children.

I just finished reading a beautifully written book on my Kindle called “All the Light we cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. It falls into my favorite genre, historical fiction; but it is far different from any war story I have ever read. The exquisite character revelations and subtleties are sublime. I could hardly put the book down and I hated coming to end. I became so close to the lead characters that I laughed and cried with them. I felt their fear and their pain.

images (2)

In my lifetime, World War II slashed an ugly gash across the world, although, I was too young to remember it. My father worked at the shipyards in Bremerton, Washington, repairing ships that had been damaged. He was a welder. He was a giant. I rode astride his shoulders and felt that he could conquer the earth.

My mother washed our bedding and clothes in the bath tub by hand because they couldn’t afford a wash machine. She hung our clothes on a wooden rack in our living room around a hot oil stove.

After a bath, my older sister and I would crowd around the stove in the middle of winter to warm ourselves. More than once, I dropped my towel and burned my bottom bending over to pick it up.

A fox hole and a gun, his only protection.

A fox hole and a gun, his only protection.

We shopped in a warehouse that had sawdust on its floors. We used our ration book to decide what we could buy and then tried to make our purchases last through the month. Remembering how it was and what we experienced could still not compare to the people and countries that were occupied during World War II.

You think you know what poverty is try boiling potato peelings in a pot without meat and squeezing the last bit of nutrition from them as your meal for the day. And when fresh water is not available, try drinking from the saved water in your bath tub or a few pails set aside for that purpose.

Survivors of German Prison Camps after World War II ended.

Survivors of German Prison Camps after World War II ended.

When a sweet orange or a loaf of bread comes your way, you are filled with tears of gratitude. Most of us never experience real hunger. There is always someone somewhere who will provide for our needs. Not so during war when imprisonment, danger and scarcity makes it almost impossible to conduct business or to plant or harvest.

images

Even in war times we have a choice to act with integrity and gratitude. There are always those who use the chaos to their advantage. They take from those who have and they hurt the weak and vulnerable. May that never be said of you. If your character and who you are sink to the lowest levels of human behavior, then the real war has already been lost.

Find your Anchor, believe in yourself and Go!

Standard

family-2

Do you long for a constant; something that stays the same and never falters or waivers? Forget about it. Unless you’re talking about God who is omnipotent and eternal, everything else in life is in a state of flux and is ever changing. Without an anchor for your soul, it is easy to flounder.

Other people or circumstances may sabotage your efforts, but most of the time; you are your own worst enemy. And it is fear that goads you. Where does this deep-seated fear come from? Look to your own insecurities. A low self-esteem diminishes trust in yourself and others. Feeling insecure increases your sense of aloneness.

puppy-mill-discovered-carol-allen-anfinsen

When you face your demons and doubts head on, that puts you back in the driver’s seat and in control of your present and your future. Live life on your terms not on someone else’s.

If the talents and skills of others intimidate you, compete with yourself instead. Do something better or differently than you did yesterday. Surpass yourself in stamina or creativity. Accomplish a difficult task at long last. Take a different course and see what happens. Surprise yourself in a good way. Stick to a plan and see it through. It’s not a race against the unknown it’s a race against you yourself. What others do doesn’t matter. Beating your own record, now that’s something to smile about.

lillie-by-the-door-carol-allen-anfinsen

I speak from experience. I’ve taught myself many new and unusual skills. My goal has always been to see if I could. Was I capable of learning how to sew, to crochet, to knit, to quilt, to write, to paint, to get paid for what I do? Then I took it a step further. Was I able to interview people, research unknown places and topics and overcome my own fears and insecurity? The answer was yes!

I didn’t do it all at once. I battled one new skill at a time. I discovered what was, for me, lasting, and what was merely a whim. Once I mastered one craft or art, I moved onto the next. Each time I succeeded, I added another notch to my self-esteem belt. I did my homework. I was sometimes still working at my computer until two or three in the morning. I wasn’t competing with anyone else, only me.

oopsi-daisy-carol-allen-anfinsen

I put myself out there. I dared to think that if someone else could brave the turf, so to speak, why not me? I networked. I made connections. I found myself working as a consultant and being paid to write training and education materials. I used my imagination to craft children’s stories, articles, and educational film scripts. I ventured into illustration and never looked back.

As a commercial once quipped: “I’ve come a long way baby” from the shy backward girl of my youth. I did it by proving to myself first that I could. When rejection came (and still does), I keep on going. If I feel good about what I’ve done and what I’ve created, I figure someone else will, too.

friendship-carol-allen-anfinsen

Some of the very things that were rejected by so-called experts have been the very projects that have sold and appealed to others. What that taught me is to trust my gut and “stick to my guns.” And I’m telling you now, if I can do it, you can, too.

Interludes of Happiness are the Underpinnings that Strengthen the Soul

Standard
1-americana-carol-allen-anfinsen

“Americana” acrylic on canvas

Just when you think your life is on an even keel, something or someone wipes the gloat off your face and you’re down. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s this: Change is inevitable. Unpredictability is the norm.

The in between times when love seems never ending, when peace pervades your universe and you think nothing can go wrong that’s just when it does. Those prime times are short and fleeting. They come and go like breathing in and out. They arrive just before or shortly after a crisis.

Make the most of these tender moments because they never last. They are what memories are made of when we have nothing else to live for. These heavenly highs help relationships weather the uneven tides of emotion and anger. They give life zest and nourish a heavy heart.

"Kindred Spirits" 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

“Kindred Spirits” 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

Think of these pleasant pauses, these cherished nanoseconds as seeds. They can’t be saved or stored except in memory; but they can reside within us and provide a web of interconnecting fiber that can give our life structure and continuity. These interludes of happiness “relieve the darkness of the past and the gloom of the present.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

Like a flickering light in the gloom of darkness, these seeds of joy gives us hope, sustain us, and keep our feet planted on solid ground even when all of life is crumbling around us. This kind of strength is what makes heroes out of common men. When a tragedy happens, they respond. They just do it, never thinking about the risks to their own mind or body nor their inhibitions and weaknesses.

Human capacity is never fully tested on this earth. Knowing that somewhere within us is the action needed to meet our convictions is reassuring. Manufacturers and engineers know all about tensile strength when it comes to machinery and materials. Tensile strength is all about the ability to be stretched or pulled out of shape before breaking. Even though human beings are not machines, they are still resilient and capable of super human fetes when necessary.

"With These Hands -- Wonder" oil on canvas

“With These Hands — Wonder” oil on canvas

These seeds of hope, faith, happiness and joy that grow to fruition within us make us stronger, more teachable, and more bendable. This ethereal structure helps us to endure sorrow, pain, anger, hatred, envy or the loss of a loved one, the failure of business or marriage. This foundation is what helps you get up when you fall, and why you take one step after another even though you don’t feel like walking or going anywhere.

Savor the good times. Remember them in the bad times. Make more of these moments every chance you get. This is the web or safety net that will give you courage when you need it the most and the resiliency to hold on a little longer when your heart is breaking.

Sea Swirls

“Sea Swirls” 24×18 acrylic on canvas

Change comes to all of us. Nothing stays the same. Ride the waves, my friend. Your life’s journey will sometimes lift you up and at other times slap you down in the grit of despair. Don’t give up in the heat of the moment. Coast and surf until you gain some traction. You will survive.

(This blog was delayed by the unforeseen, but it also gave me my subject matter.)

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

Standard
puppy-mill-discovered-carol-allen-anfinsen

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!

580279_10201484195776125_1457159049_n

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.

weddin-AZ2013 075

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!

When all you have left is a “Wing and a Prayer”

Standard
vikeholmen-lighthouse-carol-allen-anfinsen

“Vikeholmen Lighthouse” Norway, acrylic on canvas

Most of us have been there. We’ve gotten by on little or nothing and all we have is hope and a prayer to pull us through.  Life is never a straight line. It’s more like a roller coaster. We don’t suddenly “arrive.” We struggle to find our footing, and we reach for the strongholds that will pull us upward.

Sometimes our fingernails scrape against dirt and grime. Our hearts get broken. We become battered and bruised within and without. This is the turning point where many fall by the wayside. It’s the crucial “trial by fire” that determines what we’re made of; either we keep going in spite of all, or we become simply a lost player in the game of life.

Those who keep putting one foot in front of the other and slog along do so because they must. To give up is not in their vocabulary or their souls. They never allow quitting or giving up to enter their minds. Experience has taught them that nothing is permanent. Change is inevitable. They accept what they have no control over. They know that at the end of a storm there’s a rainbow. They believe in the cliché “there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

beach-buddies-ii-carol-allen-anfinsen2

“Beach Buddies” mixed media on canvas

Those who don’t make it either haven’t experienced this transient state or they’ve not only lost confidence in themselves, but in life itself. Without hope we die, and yet all around us there is reason for optimism if we but open our eyes. After every harsh winter there is spring. It has been so since the beginning of time. Following a bitter dark night of the soul, there is always morning in all its glorious splendor and promise.

People eschew the Bible, but the Word of God is resplendent with truth and wisdom. When fear grips us with terror, these words can give us hope: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

When we’re sailing over unknown terrain and in uncharted waters (at least for us), we must not give up! Who’s to say that in the next hour or twenty-four things will change. A need will be met. The answer to our pain will be whispered softly in a forgotten refrain or in an answer to prayer to give us courage.

There are dark evil forces in the world and there are those of goodness and light. The former pulls us downward and instills fear in our hearts; the other renders peace and comfort. Why would we look anywhere else when we’re in need of solace and calm?

Music can call us out of ourselves and lift us to higher ground. It can keep dark thoughts at bay and help us overcome our weaknesses.

The beautiful Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

The psalmist said in Psalm 121:1-2 “I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence comes my help; my help comes from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

Why do we scoff or turn our backs on the very thing which could give us strength? Reach out my friends. His love is real!

The Museum “Love will Find You”