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.

 

The Bare Bones of Courage, Compassion and Hope Define Us

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"Queen of Diamonds" mixed-media 20x20

“Queen of Diamonds” mixed-media 20×20

I’m finishing another book “The girl from Krakow” about hatred and war. These dire circumstances often bring out the depraved character of desperate people.

When basic needs are not met, there is little else to occupy the mind. The gnawing in your stomach. The loneliness and fear. The lack of creature comforts. Separation from family and friends. The loss of loved ones.

In that scenario, the brutal, the corrupt and the vicious crawl out from their slimy hiding places along with the courageous, the stalwart and the survivors. The skeletal structure of a country is laid bare. The degeneration of basic values such as honesty, morality, and tolerance are exposed. Some acquiesce to get along or because of fear. Others become enmeshed in their own greed for power and succumb to evil.

As the English poet, Alexander Pope (1688-1744) penned:

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien As to be hated needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

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Will you be one of those people who get lost in the evil around you and wallow in depravity? Will you become a survivor willing to do anything to stay alive? How will you carve out a life for yourself that will stand you in good stead when the crisis is over?

Character is formed in the heated fire of decision. There are those who manage to summon courage not only for themselves, but for others. When the battle rages, there are those who lift spirits, shelter strangers and comfort the lost.

Those who prey on the needy are the neediest of all. They bully and threaten their way to the top, scrambling over the arms and legs of their victims. When the battle is over, they slink back to their dark corners waiting for the next opportunity to take what isn’t theirs, even if it’s only a man or woman’s dignity.

Evil is cowardly. Evil attacks us from behind. Prowess disguised as strength uses criticism and character assassination to bring others down to their puny size. Unrelenting in their pursuit of domination, the attacker wields authority, power, and rage to destroy and denigrate. Some are able to withstand the assault and pressure others are not.

I read about these horrible times in history with a great deal of empathy and understanding. Will I be able to endure should the fight be brought to our shores?

My grandson serving in the Navy and then working with the Coast Guard.

My grandson serving in the Navy and then working with the Coast Guard.

We all wonder “What is my mettle? Will I end up a hero, a coward, or a chameleon blending in with evil and doing nothing to change it? In preparing for disaster, we must calculate our strengths and build a reserve of courage, compassion and faith. It is only in the present that we may work to change the future.

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

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“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.

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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.

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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.

End the Power Struggle — Save your Fragile Marriage by Partnering

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Bride and Groom

Bride and Groom

I heard someone say on the news yesterday regarding the chaos in the Middle East: “It’s a constant battle – an unwinnable war.”

I chuckled to myself; that sounds like “the battle of the sexes.” Most of us go into marriage having only a vague notion of what our partner is really like or any idea about marriage. How do you live day in and day out with one person for the rest of your life? Of course, that’s the ideal. In the real world there are disputes, separations, divorces, and sometimes reconciliations.

Many marriages fail because of the constant struggle for control. Businesses fail for the same reasons. People forget that a business or marriage is a partnership between two people who should have the same goals and the same values. Many people jump in with both feet knowing none of these things about the other.

Exhausted after the bit day!

Exhausted after the big day!

Biblically speaking, Eve was created as a “help meet” for Adam to stand beside him and to help him weather the storms of life. Today we call it teamwork. Their relationship was not meant to be dictatorial or competitive. They were to be “as one,” sharing the same dreams and working together to make them come true.

Too often in marriage there is a tug-o-war. One partner sees the other as adversarial; on someone else’s team, their own team because of stubbornness, or anything but on their side. The divide widens with constant bickering and fighting as each tries to get their way. Instead of partners working on the success of their marriage or family, they become competitors in a war of wills.

"The family that plays together (and prays) stays together.

“The family that plays together (and prays) stays together.

In a power struggle for dominance, the stronger person may use strength, anger, withholding of money, love or moral support while the weaker more congenial partner tries to keep the peace. The silent one acquiesces rather than voicing an opinion. They remain quiet until there is a “last straw moment” when long held passion is released in a fury.

In a marriage, emotion clouds dialogue and decision making. In business we strive for objectivity. If marriage were viewed more as a business partnership, cooler heads would prevail. When we invest our love, our emotions into the partnership we may get hurt. If we give too much, we may lose control. Fear, fear, fear mixed with doubts, insecurities and what ifs?

Lack of maturity hurts many marriages. One person may grow and let go of childish behavior while the other may continue in a juvenile stage for many years to come. One partner may squirrel away money for a rainy day and the other may spend as soon as the dough comes in the door.

Setting up Housekeeping

Setting up Housekeeping

If it’s not too late for you and your partner, discuss what a partnership should be and what you would like from it. Measure your current relationship against that model. What can you both give and take to make that a reality.

It is through giving that we learn how to love. Competition over “who’s the boss” only drives two people further apart. Make a commitment to partner with each other. Raise the bar. Instead of “a constant battle, an unwinnable war,” make your marriage an ongoing struggle an attainable goal.

The nest is ready; waiting for the stork.

The nest is ready; waiting for the stork.

My dancing heart; ravings from a ballet wanna’ be

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Dainty Diva, mixed media on canvas

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to become a dancer. My friends took dancing lessons. Why not me?  After begging and pleading with my mother, she finally consented.

I was ecstatic until I climbed the steps of Ms. Movita’s back porch, opened the door and descended down the steep wooden steps into her basement studio. Fear and insecurity welled up inside and turned me into a speechless vegetable.

I’d been here before. I’d watched my friends do pas de bourrees’ and plies’. I knew the names of all their moves from First to Fifth Position, Sautes’ and everything else in between.

I watched the first class dance to the beat of Ms. Movita’s piano which she playfully pounded while tapping her gigantic pink ballet slipper up and down in time with the music. If a student had a problem, she’d leap from her seat and demonstrate the proper foot position all while banging on the piano. Her fingers flew over the keys, her head nodding in cadence. She’d repeat this exercise until the student got it right. In her class, no child was left behind.

Ms. Movita’s hair was carrot red and tied in a lump of curls on top. When she sang out commands to her troupe every vibrant part of her was fully engaged. Students whispered behind her back, but on the floor she expected complete obedience. There was no-nonsense or sloughing off in her presence. You either did your best or she asked you to leave.

I waited in the parent seats until it was my turn to join the class. Since I was a beginner, she added me to a group that had been dancing only a few short months. The first 30 minutes were spent on ballet and the next 30 minutes on tap dancing. She had agreed that I could dance in my stocking feet until my mother could purchase the needed shoes. How long was this arrangement to last? I had no idea, but my heart was prepared to dance forever.

When it was my turn to perform, I felt like an over-baked pretzel; stiff and unbending. It had looked so easy for the other girls. They smoothly folded into fifth position and fourth. Would I be able to imitate their perfection?

Every night in our living room, I practiced pointing my toes, doing my plies’ and stretches. My parents applauded while straining their necks over and around me to watch their favorite T.V. programs.

After school, I walked to Ms. Movita’s house so I could watch the other student’s lessons. Her door was always open. If I could hear the piano, I knew a class was in session. I let myself in and quietly took my place on the sidelines. Then I’d go home and practice what I’d seen.

And then tragedy struck. My youngest and dearest uncle Vern was killed in an automobile accident. He had served in World War II and survived Hitler’s rampage only to come home and get killed in an auto accident when someone ran a red light. The irony was overwhelming.

Vern was my father’s brother and the baby of the family. The sorrow and agony suffocated everyone. I cried for days, remembering how he walked into our house singing: “It’s only me from over the sea, I’m Barnacle Bill the Sailor.” He’d lift me up on his shoulders and I thought he was strong and invincible.

After the funeral, things went from bad to worse. A wave of darkness and negativity crept over our household and into the neighborhood. This gloom invaded every aspect of our lives. All of a sudden, my mother had no money for dancing lessons let alone ballet and tap shoes. There was no time for frivolity and play. We wept on the inside even when we weren’t crying outwardly. Part of all of us died that year.

After school, I still visited Ms. Movita’s classes. The twanging piano and the lively students picked up my spirits, but they also saddened me. I realized I would never become a dancer.

One day, Ms. Movita asked me to leave. She said the open back door was only for dancers, and that the chairs were for parents and new students. I was crushed and disappointed. In defiance I danced even more at home. Ms. Movita, my mother couldn’t stop me! No one would stop me from dancing.

Later when I had a family of my own, I was still dancing in the living room. In our culture, dancing was considered frivolous and money for lessons was out of the question. I danced to the music, anyway. I told people it was good exercise and that it helped me stay in shape. When the children were young, they danced in wild abandonment with me. As they grew older, they thought it was silly. They teased me whenever I’d try to dance the latest craze. I’d become “old hat.”

Finally, my dancing shoes were put aside. I vented my creative energies into writing and painting. But I still have a dancing heart.