Thursday, February 27, 2014

Do You Need a Visual?

I did not need glasses.  My vision was clear.  Then one day I noticed that the print in books, magazines, and especially the small print at the bottom of the page, was more and more difficult to read. 

My brother who is 10 years older than I am has worn reading glasses since his late 40's.  I used to tease him about how silly he looked with glasses worn at the end of his nose so that he could look over them. is not tasty in the least when you have to eat the words that you have indiscriminately used!

So I bought a pair of slide to the end of your nose reading glasses.  I think they look better on my brother than they do on my face!'s one of our senses which also include, taste, touch, and hearing.  I believe there is one sense that I'm forgetting, maybe it's memory? 

I read a story about a man who was born blind.  He had a job that he enjoyed, a happy social life, and was considered very successful.

Then he went to the eye doctor.  He heard about an amazing miraculous surgery that could possibly restore vision to the blind.  He had mixed emotions about the idea.  Who needs vision when they have NEVER had it and they are happy as they are?  His well meaning friends, and family encouraged him to have the surgery.

He did, it was successful, and he retreated to his home and nothing could get him to leave it.  He had constant headaches.  His brain that had never had the stimulus of vision was violently overwhelmed.  Depression followed on the heels of this huge change in his life.

Finally he was referred to a good counselor.  The therapist was able to help him work through the psychological minefield of learning to live with a sense that he had not had for around 3 decades.  Everyone had told him how wonderful it would be to see.  Imagine his disappointment, and frustration when vision almost ruined his life!

This story did have a happy ever after.  Slowly he was able to teach his brain how to respond positively to such a new skill set. 

Vision is a sense that we often take for granted.  Most of us will need some sort of visual assistance at some point in our lives.  Glasses, or contacts make life easier when we need them. 

Other types of visual assistance include microscopes, to help us see things at a cellular level, telescopes, to help us observe the Heavens over our heads, and magnifying glasses, to extend our ability to read things too small for our natural eye to witness.

It is very common for us to believe that our senses do NOT lie.  We believe that if we can taste it, touch it, see it, or hear it, then it is real!  Sometimes we extend this dynamic to our emotions.  If you don't feel like washing the dishes, or going for a walk our emotions tell us that we shouldn't do that activity.

This idea can also be related to death.  We can't see a spirit, or soul, or life force, whatever you wish to call the essence that leaves our bodies when we die.  Not one of our earthly senses can quantify that the person that used to inhabit their body still exists without their body.  The idea that follows says if using our senses can't quantify something it simply does not, CAN NOT exist. 

Let's return for a moment to the realization that our regular vision also can't see a cell that we place under a microscope.  Our regular vision can't see stars that are light years away from us so we use a most useful tool, the telescope.  Before these devices were invented there was a wealth of information that we simply could not learn.

When my beloved husband died I could see with my mortal eyes the exact moment when his spirit left his body.  Oh I couldn't SEE his spirit.  I personally believe that spirit matter is so refined, so delicate that our all too human eyes can't behold that dimension, that type of energy.

I could SEE the difference in his body when his essence left.  There was no expression on his face.  Yet I could FEEL him still there with us.  I could FEEL that fine, spiritual essence still present with us, his family. 

Do not make the mistake of assuming that our senses do not lie.  As Ebenezer Scrooge says in "Christmas Carol," when he is confronted by the tortured spirit of his dead business partner, "A little thing can make the senses cheat.  A bit of underdone potato, a piece of bread.  There is more of gravy than grave about you..."

We all agree that there are methods to sharpen our senses.  Yet you are cheated from much of the intangible wonders of life if you believe ONLY what your senses quantify.  Think about this idea.  When we are born, do we come from nothing?  When we die, do we return to nothing?  We have technological wonders that are being discovered each and every day.  Maybe some day we WILL have a measure that opens our view to the spiritual realities.  Just think of having a good visit with your expired Grandma and finding out why she seemed so distant and cold, or why she was so loving, and warm.   

Put on your spiritual glasses today and envision those you love that have died.  Imagine that they are healthy, happy, and busy ministering to those that they loved on this earth.  If we can see cells, and stars, and print with assistance, then maybe we will one day have a type of visual assistance that helps us to see our beloved friends and family that have died. 

Until that remarkable discovery is made remember, just because you can't use your physical senses to experience something does not negate the experience.  When you cross from the realm of evidentiary experience, to something your senses can't explain that is faith.  We have faith that scientists can SEE cells (even though we may never have had the experience).  We have faith that scientists can SEE those planetary bodies so very far away (even though we may never have had the experience).  When we can't prove or experience something through our mortal senses, put on your spiritual glasses. 

"Faith is the evidence of things NOT seen."  Let's all use our faith glasses today to experience the wonder of things NOT seen.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Hey Good Lookin' What You Got Cookin'?

Humming a cheerful tune Grandma Howard tied her self-made ruffled apron around her waist.  She couldn't decide which she enjoyed more, the preparing of a meal, or the eating of the meal.  She tried to be careful about the things that she ate.  Sugar was an enemy to her body.  She did love dessert so she learned to make desserts that had more fruit and less sugar.

Grandma gave thanks to God for the lovely sunshine yellow of her kitchen.  A remodeling had just been finished and everything looked new, shiny, and happy.  Even on gloomy weather days her kitchen was bright and inviting.

Paging slowly Grandma looked through her recipe book.  Three of her granddaughters would join her for lunch.  Two of them were staying with her for a week.  Her other granddaughter only lived a mile away.  The girls were all about the same age. 

Grandma was excited when she found an old classic recipe for sandwiches.  Grandma no longer made many loaves of bread each week.  Now she drove up the road to Gregory Clinton's Health Food Store and purchased their delicious bread.  It had multiple types of grains, nuts, and it only had the tiniest hint of sugar. 

Grandma Howard was excited when she found the recipe she'd been searching for.  It was a sandwich filling recipe that her Mother had taught her to make.  She could still hear her Mother's beloved voice, even though she had passed away many years before, teaching her how to make the recipe, and getting sidetracked with life stories as she taught.  Her Mother had been a wonderful story teller.  Grandma believed that she enjoyed the stories almost as much as cooking together with her Mother.


1 tsp mustard         yolks of 2 eggs
1 tsp salt                2 TBL water
1 pinch sugar         2 TBL vinegar
1 tsp flour               1/2 c cream

Mix the dry ingredients.  Work into a paste with a little water.  Beat yolks of egg slightly.  Add vinegar and rest of water.  Cook in a double boiler until mixture thickens.  When cool add cream.

For a variation you can chop pitted green olives into small pieces and add it to the sandwich filling above.

Grandma was excited.  She loved this recipe.  It was simple, yet absolutely delicious.  Grandma sometimes added a bit of finely chopped dill weed to the recipe.

Grandma called the three girls in from the field where they had been playing.  There were two old, old, wagons in that field.  The girls loved to dress up like pioneers and play as though they were crossing the plains.

She felt that it was essential that the young ladies learn how to properly set a table, and how to follow a recipe.  Excitement sparkled in her heart and soul as she walked back to the house with the three, tiny, stalwart, pioneers.. 

Caroljoy and Dalea set the table.  Cathy helped Grandma slice and dice.  Grandma was assiduous in watching the three young girls to make certain that they put the fork on the proper side of the plate.

They sat down to eat. There was always a prayer of thanks at Grandma's house before food was eaten.  She called on Cathy to bless the food and the day.  Cathy was shy but always gave heartfelt prayers.

Grandma took a slow, careful, bite.  Then she sat back with her eyes closed, her heart, and stomach rejoicing.  She added a silent prayer along with Cathy's.  Her prayer was, "Thank Thee oh God above for family to love, food to enjoy and eat, and the chance to pray to Thee...AMEN

Saturday, February 22, 2014


The screen fades to the bold letters THE END.  Still caught in the emotional grasp of the movie I slowly start to stir and recognize that my reality is NOT up on the screen.  It always takes me awhile to shake the mood of a movie off.

My husband worked in film and theater for years.  Early in our marriage he explained to me that it was disrespectful to walk out of a newly lit theater without staying to watch the credits.  He said, "Even if you don't read the names, you honor their work by simply being there."  (Maybe he didn't say the words exactly as I did, but the idea is the same).

Of course, I don't think that it showed further respect when the theater was empty and we went up to the section in front of the screen and danced, then he said loudly, "We own this theater!"  (It was even more fun as we added first one daughter, then another, and then our neighborhood daughter joined in the fun).    I loved Nyle's theater dancing tradition.  It seemed as though our silliness bridged that sometimes painful gap between fantasy and reality.  Armed with our own shenanigans we were better able to move back into life that sometimes contained very negative, harsh elements. 

Now I come to you, those that read my blog.  The movie has printed those words up on the screen, the theater lights come up, and what do you do?  Do you feel blasted by the realities of your life?  Do you feel like the end of a movie, or book, or any other page or act of your life, brings with it the ultimate realization, "Oh CRAP, THIS IS my reality?"

When we lived in Portland, I missed my family that lived two states away.  Now that I live closer to my family I miss the beloved friends who became family in Portland.  We ALL face THE END, over and over, and over in our lives.  Think of the transitions in life, school, summer, grade school, middle school, high school, college, marriage, children, illness, financial ruin (I hope NONE of those reading this have faced the last two transitions that I have mentioned).  Transitions in life are definitely similar to those last two words in the movie or book.

The next time that life hands you a transition.  As an all too personal example, I did NOT expect my beloved husband of 27 years to pass away at 54.  THE END was simply not a reality that I could imagine.  I had longed all of my life for one man, and one love to last a lifetime.  He WAS my one man, and my one love.

I have come to realize that whether I believe in eternal life, or the gift of memory this man that I loved more than my own life will live on.  He lives on in the faces of our daughters.  He lives on in the joy in my heart in remembering him.  There will be no THE END in our love.

Whatever THE END that you are facing PLEASE take hope from my words that there IS hope, life, joy, friendship, love beyond what may seem like THE END.  Especially if you are facing mental health challenges, please understand YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  There is NO problem facing you that is worthy of ending your life.  That is one THE END, that is NEVER a solution.  Even if life does end beyond the grave, (and I know that it doesn't), can you imagine never kissing your spouse again, never hearing your children's laughter?  Never hearing the rain tapping on your roof as you snuggle closer to your sweetheart cozy and safe? 

I will end with one of my favorite quotes of all times from the play "Spoonriver Anthology."  In it the people in a tiny cemetery come to life.  They share their stories, and some share the lessons they learned.  One woman speaks of having a heart condition all of her life.  She marries her childhood sweetheart and the two struggle with a harsh environment on a tiny farm to keep body and soul together.  They have 8 children and she tells that when things get too much for her weak heart she lies on the earth to feel the strength of it's rhythm below her until she feels strong enough to keep living.  Her words seared my adolescent brain and still are just as powerful today, "Degenerate sons and daughters, life is too strong for you..."  Life is can help us to become strong.

One thing I know with no doubt is that all of us, each and every human being on the planet is stronger TOGETHER.  We can work together to make our homes better, our communities, better, and by doing this, make our WORLD better!  There never needs to be an THE END for compassion, for empathy, or for simple caring.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dead End Days

Dead End Days come to everyone on the planet once in awhile.  I'm referring to the days that it feels like every goal you work towards will dead end.  Meaning that you reach a point where you can NOT proceed for whatever reason.

In my case I face Dead End Days as I try my best to finish readying my two newest books for publication.  For example, I have had the file for my book, "Celeste, Women of the Drifting Anchor Ranch," ready for awhile.  Every time I try to finalize the file and publish the computer won't work, or I find some glitch in the program, or I have some kind of crisis that comes up that stops me from finishing...go away Dead End Days!

What do YOU do on a Dead End Day?  On this type of day you have tried to work on every single item on your priority list and you have come into that end where you can't proceed any further, for whatever reason.  Do you, fly into a rage, and put your fist through a wall? (A choice that I foolishly made one time.  Trust me, NOT EFFECTIVE)!  Didn't get through the wall, but did dent my fist!  Then I was frustrated AND had a swollen hurting fist!  Colossal fail!

Do you vent, rant, and rave to anyone who has ears about the frustrations of life, until none of your friends or family wish to be around you?  This is also extremely counter productive.  Think of the people who always vent their frustration towards you?  Is that pleasant?  Do you seek out the company of people who are ALWAYS venting, and frustrated?  (It's OK, sometimes essential once in a rare while with a really good friend, or close family member, just not all the time).

What action brings you back to calm?  I was blessed with a brilliant Mama.  She could tell at ten paces if I had a Dead End Day.  She sent me downstairs to play records, sing and dance.  This was long before science told us the obvious, that physical action helps your body to create the chemicals that your brain needs to feel at peace.  So I would dance off those Dead End Days. 

Does meditation work for you?  How about prayer?  Do you read poetry?  How about the Bible?  Can you find peace in the words there?  Or perhaps The Koran or The Talmud?  Does exercise bring you centeredness? Where do YOU turn to find peace in the face of challenge?

The next time you find one of these types of experiences facing you, how will you respond?  Will you allow your temper free rein?  Or are you more than the emotions that would drive you towards temper?  My Mama (Again, terrific lady) would say that sometimes she was "Tempermental.  More temper than mental."  Can you learn to overcome a "Gut reaction," (when did our guts...does that refer to our intestines?  Somehow our intestines, which do perform a very essential process now guide us with wisdom?  lol) to negative experiences? 

The next time you come to visit me, if you hear music playing and you see a rather large lady doing her best to will know why. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Hugs, Humor and Hope

I was frightened, sick, and just generally miserable.  I had been having radiation treatments for two weeks.   Coming out of the radiation room I met an elderly man.  He was very obviously being treated for terminal cancer.  He was Ethopian starvation victim skinny.  The bones in his face pressed hard against the skin. 

As sick as he was he still noticed me, and my obvious distress.  He smiled at me (and I recognized the effort that the smile cost him). We exchanged shallow pleasantries.

Then he stopped the world for a minute by making a comment I'll never forget.  "You know, everyday above ground is a cause for celebration!"  Then he was gone, whisked off to his own personal radiation torture.

I mentally shifted my load of self-pity and fear off my shoulders and dropped them into a hole.  Then I slid into the place of those negatives joy and rejoicing for the wonderful husband that I had, and our two dear, beautiful, adorable daughters.  I drove home grateful for life, and determined to "celebrate," be grateful, and live life to its fullest.

Humor has given me courage, pushed out fear, and made me feel renewal for each new day and the possible challenges that I will face.  Humor is quite literally a type of therapy.  Scientists have made a study of the positive values of humor.  Fifteen minutes a day provides our body with 1/4 of the Serotonin (neurotransmitters that our brain needs to help us feel content) that we need for one day.

I had never felt so alone in my entire life.  I was in an enormous train station with two small daughters, aged 18 months, and 4 years.  My husband had to stay home to take some tests in Law School.  (In Law School the only reason that you can be absent from a test is if YOU have died).  I had traveled from Portland, OR to Salt Lake City, UT to see my dying Father again.  He had been battling cancer of the colon for 5 long years.  The battle was about to end for him. 

My brother was supposed to meet me at the Railroad Station.  He wasn't there.  I called my Mom, and she tearfully told me that Papa had died the night before.  The reality, that I would NOT see my beloved Father any more in this life overwhelmed me.  I pulled our girls along with me.  I took us all into a bathroom stall where I could have some semblance of privacy as I sobbed my sorrow.

When I finally came out about 10 minutes later with a tiny bit of control over my emotions a woman was waiting for me.  She said, "I hope that you don't mind my eavesdropping.  I overheard that your Father has passed away.  My Father passed away years ago, but I still miss him everyday.  I'm so sorry dear."  She pulled me into her arms and gave me the warm, comforting hug of a sister.  I had never met this woman before, and probably will never meet her again in this life.  She was to me an angel coming to my rescue at one of the hardest junctures of my life.  Her gift of listening, and loving, was surpassed by her amazing hug. 

That hug kept me warm as I finally found my brother by phone at the wrong train station.  The hug helped me through the long days of caring for our girls and then crying myself to sleep.  It followed me back to Portland, OR and gave me courage to face the continued reality of my Papa's death.

Sobbing, sobbing, sobbing, my head was throbbing, throbbing, throbbing.  I was so very ill, each and every day.  I had been working a part-time job but the sheer quantity of medical conditions that I battled made the job impossible. 

Our family Primary Care Practitioner had also been a family friend.  Our children were the same age, and had been in the same class together at school. 

I told her about all of my struggles, the migraines three or four times a week, the chronic bronchitis at least once a month, the pain from Fibromyalgia, and I also asked for an MRI of my back.  She told me, "If I felt that you needed to be disabled, I would feel it necessary to contact Child Protective Services.  Nyle (my husband) is already fully disabled.  I just don't think that you ARE sick enough for disability."

I went to the car confused, disconsolate, and despairing.  I looked ahead to the future and it was so bleak that I simply did not want to live.  I knew that I COULD not and WOULD  not kill myself.  What would Nyle and the girls do without me?  Sick as I was I was still the wife, and Mom (my favorite roles in my whole life). 

I had not yet learned the beauty of being sufficient within yourself so that others opinions did not have power to stop your progression.  I still was blown about by the opinions of others.  I would feel positive and able to cope with my struggles after the affirming of a dear friend.  Then when another friend (who had NEVER faced my level of challenges) wrote me a letter telling me that I was NOT raising my children well.  I would be devastated for days.

Back to the sobbing, desperate woman in her car in the parking lot of an enormous medical facility.  (I did NOT want to go home and sob, the girls, and my very ill husband were depending on ME).

There was a soft rap on my window.  I looked up and saw a pleasant looking older man.  I thought, "I shouldn't roll down my window, he might try to kidnap me."  Then I thought, "Let him kidnap me.  The situation couldn't be much worse than the one that I'm in."  (I am SO foolish when discouraged and despondent).

The man said, "Forgive me for