Great Grandson, Marcus, arrived before our Flight to Washington

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Marcus

Marcus

Sorry for the delay. It really takes time to pack, unpack, fly across country, and get settled in a new place. There were many complications!

I must first share with you the photos of my husband’s new great-grandson. He came in weighing 7#15oz. and is an absolute doll. His father is Hispanic, hence the dark hair.

Grandpa with his first Great-Grandson

Grandpa with his first Great-Grandson

At Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle, we were picked up by our limo driver, Stan, and driven to my daughter’s house. We no sooner got there than all hell broke loose. My daughter’s granddaughter (my great) was taken by ambulance to the ER and eventually the ICU. She had had some long dental procedures the day before, and during it, her pulse rate went down to 20. The next day she passed out again at home and an ambulance was called. They did CPR to get her heart and respiration going again.

During this time, I had a problem of my own at home. My daughter’s living room is sunken, and the wood floor there blended in with the wood in the hallway. I momentarily forgot the step, hit it with both feet, and fell flat on my face. Luckily, I got only a bloody mess, a fat bruised lip, and a bruised swollen elbow. That floor was hard! So glad it was wood.

Carol's "big lip" from fall

Carol’s “big lip” from fall

When you think that things will go smoothly and normally that’s just when they don’t. To make a long story short, the grand-daughter is doing well; but needs to be watched for a few days.

Her diagnosis was pericardial effusion. Their final decision was that the CPR had brought on this “heart” condition, and that it was a heart event not an epileptic one as they had previously suspected.

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In all of this we still managed to have some great fun. One day, we visited Paulsbo, WA, a small Norwegian village and the next day Northern Trek, a wildlife preserve where my grandson Christopher works. He recently graduated with a major in zoology and is eager to gain more knowledge and skills. He’s working at the preserve for the summer.

Chris and his dad.

Chris and his dad.

Chris hand-feeding some beavers.

Chris hand-feeding some beavers.

Today, we went to another small town, Sumner Washington, and enjoyed lunch and browsing in a few antique stores. I hope you enjoy the photos of some of our trip. I’ll write some more when we get back home! TBC.

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Why Do You Do What You Do Each Day?

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Kindred Spirits II

“Kindred Spirits” acrylic on canvas

What makes you get up in the morning? Is it a loved one? Is it your children or a mad desire to plan and organize? Is it a purposeful job that gets your creative juices going?

Why do you do what you do? Are your efforts passion driven for the sake of enjoyment and fulfillment or do you dread every moment and wish you were doing something else?

A paycheck drives most of us. Without it none of our dreams can come true. But in spite of that, if you’re born to create, nothing, not money, road blocks, handicaps or problems can keep you from doing what you were born to do.

Some people keep plodding along for the “fringe benefits:” a company car, health care supplements and bonuses.  Entrepreneurs build businesses so they may have more freedom to pursue their personal vision of success. Fringe benefits come through tax breaks, incentives and the “cost of doing business.”

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“Moonlight Magic” 11×14 acrylic on canvas

Human behavior is usually based on “what’s in it for me.” In negotiations, the buyer and seller must agree on what’s mutually beneficial to both. When someone does something nice for us, we feel like reciprocating; it’s a two-way street.

On a more personal level, when someone is kind to us, we are more likely to be kind to someone else. Every action has a reaction. Give a negative remark or a physical rebuff in a moment of impatience and watch the domino affect disperse outward to everyone else; cause and effect.

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“Broken Hearted” 11×14 pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Don’t confuse loud, obnoxious behavior with strength. There is great power in self-containment. A person who can face the world unafraid without having to dominate every situation is strong and in control. Self-confidence is built on clear, concise choices that build bridges not walls.

Tickles from God

“Tickles from God” acrylic on canvas

There is a Biblical phrase that says: “Cast your bread upon the water and it will come back to you.” We get what we give. If you are always out to “get people” before they get you that’s what you will receive in the end. Life has a way of dealing honestly with us. Even our faces at the end of life can betray what kind of a life we have lived and how much love we have given away.

Note that I didn’t say “how much love we have received.” I made a point of saying “how much love we have given away.” Like the bread (action) that is scattered on the water, our deeds will come back to us in greater measure. The more we shed light and love upon others, the greater the portion that comes back to us.

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel

“A Joyful Heart,” 11 x 14 pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Some people wallow in self pity thinking that they never get enough of life’s goodness and pleasure. They hold on so tightly to what they have that they smother any chances for expansion or growth. In order to receive, we must first be an influence for good. If you don’t believe it, see what happens when you smile at someone in a long line of people.

Some will shy or turn away, after all, you’re a stranger. But don’t give up. Keep a positive attitude. Continue to smile. If someone bumps into you and apologizes, accept their apology. Don’t always be on the defensive. Not everyone is out to get you. Do some apologizing of your own. Thank people for their courtesy.

Now imagine every smile, every positive action radiating outward and repeated by others who pass your goodwill on to someone else. Like waves on the ocean, the tide shifts outward and inward. The ripple effect comes back to you with more positive vibes than you sent out in the first place.

Let the Healing Begin; Ways to Beat the Odds

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Looking Outward (16 x 20) acrylic; frame: Old Window

Looking Outward (16 x 20) acrylic; frame: Old Window

The body is a miraculous organ that under normal circumstances functions to heal itself if injured. When attacked either by accident, bacteria or virus, through our own carelessness or that of someone else’s the body’s defenses (the immune system) kick in. Even if they don’t, modern medicine is there to take over the job and provide much needed support.

An emotional injury is quite another matter. Our very heart and soul are under siege. The mind is fooled into thinking it’s our fault either through manipulation, abuse, or false accusations. Confusion sets in. We can’t process the pain. Did we cause it? Did we say or do something wrong? Are we unlovable? Are the things the other person said about us true?

The internal pain goes deeper than we ever thought possible. So deep that some people who experience an emotional injury feel actual physical pain like a knife piercing their heart or a feeling that  life and breath are being squeezed out of them in a spasm of muscular pressure. There have been occurrences of people dying from a broken heart or who have had a nervous breakdown as a result of suffering emotional trauma similar to the PTS syndrome veterans experience in war time.

Tickles from God

“Tickles from God” acrylic on canvas

Such tragedies happen because we are human. How do you deal with reality when your whole being is swirling around in a surreal world of physical and emotional pain? How do you get off the Merry-Go-Round that keeps replaying the past? You look for answers, but there are none. If you replay the memory again, perhaps you’ll find a reason to make this nightmare stop or go away? Like an old-fashioned record, you’re stuck reliving the pain again and again.

This is the time to reach out for help. Friends may offer sympathy; but they have none of the skills needed to help you, or to ensure that you make a safe transition to wellness. A psychologist or psychiatrist may help you understand what has happened and guide you to a better place, but the work of healing is still yours.

Falling on your knees in prayer can help you feel the power and love of God. This action alone will give you strength to do the hard work. Trying to heal without God is like covering an open wound with a dirty rag. It’s like burying your sorrows in a dark room, curled up in a ball, and hoping that you’ll recover. The saving, healing grace of Jesus Christ must be received in openness and light.

"With These Hands -- Wonder" oil on canvas

“With These Hands — Wonder” oil on canvas

Doctor’s may heal your mind and your body, but only God can heal the jagged wounds of the heart. Spiritual pain needs a Savior. Sins of all kinds need a Redeemer to give you hope and remind you that you’re not alone. He is “worthy to be praised,” and he can heal you of your broken heart just as he did mine.

I have seen people flounder in unbelief. God throws them a life line, and they ignore it because they do not recognize his voice. They have turned away from him so often that he has become a stranger. They do not trust what they have not seen. They do not listen to one in whom they do not believe.

Instead they trust in people, humans like themselves with weaknesses, lusts and desires. They read what so-called experts have written or said as if it were gospel. They trust in the arm of flesh because it is all they know. God’s Word is mocked and treated like myth or legend. In their heart of hearts they are devoid of truth and without a light in a dark world.

Healing is a process; one that takes time and effort. There are no easy fixes or magic solutions. Some people try to find comfort in a bottle, or a needle or other physical gratification. But they are never satisfied, never filled. Their hunger creates a vacuum that sucks the life out of everything and everyone they touch.

The “Bread of Life” satisfies that deep hunger and begins the healing. The new life that follows brings peace and contentment. There is no other way. Jesus is the “well-spring” of life and his healing is permanent and eternal.

Why have I used this message in my “The Art of Living” blog?” Because in my own personal life my faith is as basic to my survival as food, water and shelter. My faith is vital to my overall satisfaction and happiness; A life void of faith is a life not worth living. (See my other blog: “Witness Spoken Here”)

Link  http://www.witness-spokenhere.com

To All the Friends I’ve Known and Loved

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“The Neptunes — Golden Girls” acrylic on panel

Do you believe there is only one right relationship, one perfect painting, one right way to live your life, one opportunity that when lost is gone forever? If you do, you’d better change your perspective. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it is this: life is a struggle, and it can be downright grungy and gritty in the trenches. But if you hold on to your faith and your identity, it will get better.

Once there were people in my life who chastised and criticized every word, every action until I didn’t know what to do to please them or to make them happy. These were the spear throwers, the backstabber’s, the poison arrows of envy, and hatred.

It’s impossible to feel loved when you’re constantly under attack, when the eyes that look at you are filled with disgust, loathing, or anger and soon you begin to hate yourself. I’ve also learned that love doesn’t always last even though you want it to. Why? Because there are no perfect people. But just as you can love another child even though your “quiver” or your house may be full, you can always find room in your heart for another child or for someone else.

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

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

I’m grateful for the people who have come in and out of my life. Even though the relationships were not perfect or even healthy, I learned something treasured from each of them. I not only learned things I didn’t know about myself, I learned fresh ideas and discovered new things that made me who I am today. I’m thankful for each friend and for each person who has ever touched my life, even in a small way.

Barbara Streisand sang: “People, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” For the first time in my life I know exactly what she means. We not only need each other and depend on each other; we add something unique and special to everyone we meet and they to us.

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

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

I treasure the friend who taught me about fire stations, and fire engines, and instilled in me a love for antique cars. I will never see another auto show or ride in a classic car without thinking of him. I treasure the friends who loved me for who I am. With them, I didn’t have to be self-conscious. I didn’t have to walk on eggs, or be afraid of offending them anymore than they could offend me.

Acceptance not approval is what makes us truly happy. To hear someone laugh at my fractured jokes, or tolerate my irritating habits and still love me is a blessing. Feeling that you’re attractive and beautiful even without makeup – now that’s something!

It isn’t so much what is said, it’s the smile on the face of the other and the glow of love in their eyes that speak so much louder than words ever can. When you are loved, you know it deep down inside. You can tell when someone is genuinely pleased with you or not.

The friends and lovers who take us back when we’ve been quick-tempered or sad remind us of our frail humanity. Friends keep us humble, and bring us joy. Today, I’m thankful for all the friends I have known, and for those who will yet come into my life.

I wish you, my online friends, who may yet become better friends, a joyous and Happy New Year. May life be kind to you.

Solving World Hunger God’s Way

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"Fuchsia Fantastic" 18 x 14 acrylic on canvas

“Fuchsia Fantastic” 18 x 14 acrylic on canvas

Like many people in this slumping economy we’re staying close to home. We remind ourselves that people come here to enjoy our beaches, our tropical weather, and our wildlife. So we check out the tourist brochures, enjoy the side trips, and try to see things with fresh eyes.

That’s how we stumbled upon a national treasure; take that back–a global treasure. If you’ve heard about ECHO (Educational Concerns (for) Hunger Organization), you know what I mean. “Wow!” was all I could manage the first time I visited this incredible place.

On my second visit, I was so excited I felt like shouting “Wake up America–here lies the answer to world hunger!”

I longed to tell ECHO’s amazing story, but how could I do it in 1200 words or less? How do you eat an elephant? You keep it simple. So come with me on the most remarkable journey of my life.

Egyptian symbols

Egyptian symbols

Twenty-five minutes north of Fort Myers on I-75, and then a right turn on exit 143 to Bayshore Road (route 78), we are greeted by a sign welcoming us to ECHO Global Farm and Nursery. A short left down Durrance Road, and we arrive at the white frame visitor center an unpretentious building with a gravel parking lot. We enter from a country porch that serves as a “sample-and-taste” area for the tropical fruits and vegetables grown on ECHO’s 52 acres.

Inside, a seed shop and book store peaks our curiosity. Saving the shopping for last, we pay our admission fee: adults $8, children under 12 free. Each year, over 9,000 tourists enjoy ECHO’s guided tours; moneys from these ventures amount to less than 25% of ECHO’s income and goes back into the ministry to serve the poor and for the Glory of God.

ECHO receives NO government funding and depends solely on hundreds of volunteers and generous donations. A volunteer greets us and directs us to a small auditorium where another volunteer presents an overview. Afterward, a ten minute film explains ECHO’s history and mission. From that point on, we are hooked.

In 1981 Co-Founder Dr. Martin Price traveled to Haiti to learn about a “miracle tree” called the maringa. Indigenous to the Philippines, the maringa tree has unique restorative and nutritional powers. “Mothers who were malnourished,” Price noted, “began lactating again after eating the maringa leaves. Children with distended stomachs were running and playing after only three months on a maringa diet.”

"Broken" mixed media on canvas (SOLD) Prints available

“Broken” mixed media on canvas (SOLD) Prints available

Thanks to Price, the maringa is recognized as one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world, and has become the most respected and requested seed and plant species at ECHO. The starvation and poverty that Price witnessed in Haiti became the impetus for the founding of ECHO and its vision for the future.

ECHO’s mission is lofty: “a ministry to bring glory to God and a blessing to mankind by using science and technology to help the poor.” For 28 years ECHO has worked to bring this mission to fruition. Why have corporations and governments failed to solve the canker of world hunger: because they simply throw money at the problem and then walk away.

ECHO is people driven not power and profit driven. They are an inter-denominational Christian organization that serves over 180 developing countries worldwide, and 3400 mission organizations. They don’t just feed the poor. They teach them the skills they need to grow their own food; foods that will thrive and survive in their own unique part of the world.

"Victims of War" 24 x 18 mixed media on canvas

“Victims of War” 24 x 18 mixed media on canvas

These global growing areas are represented on our tour. As we walk from one miniature setting to another, our guide explains the soil type, elevation, and rainfall of each specific climate. These global areas become a “living classroom” giving us a chance to see vegetation and typical growing conditions in each climate. For a few moments, we are able to see, sniff, taste, and experience the conditions that exist around the world.

The ECHO farm provides education and training for “community development workers, missionaries, volunteers, and interns who take their hands-on agricultural experience on overseas assignments. This process of ‘training the trainer’ has proven to effectively empower the poor with solutions of HOPE.” Past ECHO interns are now helping earthquake victims in Haiti, and I suspect Chile, to get back on their feet.

The newest addition to ECHO is the Technical area. Here interns and employees devise systems for smokeless cooking and power. Solar panels made from foil, plastics, and wood frames are used to support cell phones and computers.

Alternative fuel sources are being developed that help poor families save money and improve their health and standard of living. A simple bio-gas fuel system uses cow manure and water in a recycled 55-gallon drum to produce methane gas; “enough to cook two meals a day for an entire family for up to four months!”

As we move into the Tropical rain forest area, a watering pump is demonstrated. The pump was designed from materials that a developing country might have on hand. A young boy in our group jumps on board and begins pumping with his feet. The water moves from an overhead tank, through a hose, and into an adjoining garden row.

"India Rising -- Prince ofd Thieves" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

“India Rising — Prince ofd Thieves” 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

The urban gardens are next. What do you do when you don’t have land space? You grow food on the roof. Small gardens are made from kiddy wading pools and rubber tires. These mini-gardens require very little soil. Carpet on the bottom keeps the soil moist. Empty pop cans on the top keep the plants upright. A drip system waters the plants with minimal water. Good things to know should a food shortage ever occur in our own country.

ECHO takes pride in their seed bank. Many of the seeds are grown on the ECHO farm. There are over 350 varieties of vegetables, multi-purpose trees, fruits, and other crops that have the potential for producing under extreme conditions. Each year, ECHO “sends free trial packets to overseas leaders who report back on their performance and community acceptance of the plants. In some cases, a pack of ten seeds has multiplied into thousands of plants,” and have, in some cases, introduced a new crop.

On tour, we see live maringa trees. The trees are kept short so families can easily harvest the leaves. In a dry powdered state, the leaves contain 27% protein, 38% carbohydrate and 19% fiber. We sample the fine green leaves which taste like water cress, having a light peppery taste. Fresh maringa leaves can be cooked or used in salads. The roots and the seeds have vital uses. The entire tree is edible.

We learn that every 16 seconds a child in a third world country dies from drinking polluted or contaminated water. The maringa tree has the cure. One crushed maringa seed can purify a bottle of water in about 90 minutes. The remaining 10% can be purified by leaving the bottle in the hot sun for another 30 minutes. One seed per bottle multiplied many times over can save a lot of lives.

"India Rising -- the Lost" 24 x 18 mixed media on canvas

“India Rising — the Lost” 24 x 18 mixed media on canvas

Neam is another tree that Dr. Price discovered in his travels. The leaves contain an anti–bacterial oil that can be used for psoriasis or other skin ailments besides keeping mosquitoes and bugs away. The locals use neam twigs as a toothbrush and make toothpaste from the leaves. Their white teeth and lack of cavities indicated to Price that this was a tree ECHO should grow and share with other poor countries.

There is so much more to learn. We’ve only brushed the surface. Because of what ECHO does, lives around the world are made better, richer, and healthier.

Check out their web site: http://www.echonet.org/

Better yet, plan a trip to ECHO and take the tour yourself. You won’t be disappointed.