The Hand the Rocks the Cradle Rules the World

Yesterday while buying groceries, I overheard a family trying to prep for Mother’s Day and complaining because they couldn’t find the “perfect” gift.  Sometimes the “perfect” gift is so simply we overlook it. Moms don’t  need expensive perfume or jewelry–they just  need to know their work and efforts are appreciated. I wanted to tell that family, “why don’t you make HER favorite meal or take her out to eat at HER favorite restaurant?”  I’m afraid, though, they wouldn’t know the answer, although she would have known their favorites.

Still looking for that perfect way to honor Mom?  How about doing the laundry this week? Or offering to make the grocery list and do the grocery shopping?  How about cooking a meal or two or vacuuming /cleaning the house?  Anything to give her a break from the daily routine of ordinary that we take for granted.

So here’s a thank you to all the mothers out there; thank you for:

*getting up in the middle of the night when we are sick

*thousands of loads of clean clothes

*thousands of meals

*a clean house

*gas in our car when we were running low

*a little something “extra” during those college  years when dorm food just didn’t cut it

*band-aids on our physical and emotional hurts

*giving up your time to come watch our extracurricular events

*saying no and meaning it

*setting standards even when it made us feel “different”

*loving us even when we aren’t very loveable

 

There are some other “mothers” out there–those mentors who encouraged us, guided us, nurtured us above and beyond our families. Some of these are older ladies in the community, aunts and grandmothers, teachers.  Thank you for “standing in the gap” for us, for being there with a kind word or a hug. Thank you for believing in us when no one else would. Thank you for taking time to see us as a person of value and worth.

Motherhood is something precious and special that is becoming more and more despised as feminism attempts to force a cookie cutter mold on everyone–the one-size-fits-all mentality that only finds respect and worth outside of the home. But the home is the center of society and when the home breaks down, so does society.

 

No, I don’t want to return to the 50s when women could only be mothers, but I also don’t want a society where woman cannot be mothers.   So thank you, moms, for your courage, fortitude, perseverance and guts to continue day in and day out to make the world a better place, whether you are a stay at home mom or a mom who balances a career and a home. What you do matters!

God bless you!

 

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Once Upon a Time

No, this isn’t about a fairy tale, although I suppose it might feel like one — one without a happy ending that is.  You see, once upon a time in the land of Golden Opportunity, inventors actually made products that worked, that made clients happy and met those clients’ real, not perceived, needs.

Take the ’57 Chevy for instance. Pure perfection in a car.  If you don’t believe me, ask Tom Paris of  Voyager, who designed the Delta Flyer to recapture those classic lines.

As a writer, I’ve gone through dozens of programs from the initial concept to the most current “improved” version and the improvements always tend to take the worst parts of the program and lose the best features which are what made us buy the thing in the first place.

One such program is Print Shop. When it first came out, it was designed to make personalized printing jobs affordable, easy and do-it-yourself from home. Now it is geared toward companies and the average individual spends frustrating hours trying to print a simple label. In past years, I could simply import the border I wanted, add text in various fonts and colours, flip it vertically or horizontally or even catty-cornered.  Now, it takes an act of Congress, a letter from my  mother, and a pint of blood to print something that is nowhere near what I wanted simply because it doesn’t fit the professional, corporate mindset.

Even my beloved Word Perfect has strayed from the 6.0 version that was ideal for novelists.  Publishing companies (who make it easy on themselves and not the writer) tend to opt for Word, which is designed for formulated, preset business memos and short letters–NOT 80,000 word novels (or legal documents, which is why Word Perfect will still be around 1,000 years from now). In spite of its flaws, WP has features Word chose not to incorporate: easily opened and viewed coding to rid manuscripts of pesky fonts, grammar code, etc that mess with formatting, a consistent grammar and spell check (still can’t get Word to operate properly), and WP doesn’t insist on reformatting my text or paragraphs or capitals like Word does. Which is why all my manuscripts are typed in WP and then saved to a Word file so it can be uploaded to Createspace.  For sheer ease and usability, WP wins hands down. Another useful aspect of WP is that no matter how old the file, WP will still open it, unlike Word that insists we upgrade, replace computers and programs every couple of years, so their CEOS can take expensive vacations and drive expensive cars.

I dread the day when Word will no longer allow the old .doc files to be opened in Word.

I wish I could say that somewhere out there in the space-time continuum is a bright young person with the will and desire to create a printing program that works across computers/programs and has options for both the individual and corporate.  Unfortunately, if said young person does develop such a ground breaking product it wouldn’t be long before Corporate America buys it out and tries to “improve” it to make it fit the stereotype corporate mindset.

I can already see curled lips and condescending sneers — “oh, you’re just old and not able to keep up in the competing market.”  Yes, I am old.  My college class was the first that had VDT (video display terminals, the many times great-grandfather of your laptops and iPads). But I’ve kept up with the tech because I love technology and what it can do. In fact, I daresay, I look ahead to things you haven’t even envisioned yet. After all, I grew up on science fiction where possibility becomes fact. I just see no need for tech to be complicated and take twice as long to do a simple task as what it did in the past. Tech should make things easier and faster, not harder and more complicated.

So I will keep searching for printing software that equals the original Print Shop in terms of versatility (fancy graphics are pointless if they can’t create the product one envisions), and I will stay with Word Perfect and Jerry-rig ways to make it compatible with Word.

And maybe one day, when I am really old and grey and my fingers are too gnarled to use a keyboard and my voice to soft to use speech to text, you’ll shoot me an email and say, “hey, I’ve got this great product….”

 

Yearly Rant

If you need one more reason to believe that Congress doesn’t have our best interests at heart, just look out the window.

Oh, wait. That’s just for us producers who had to get up at dark thirty this morning because Congress decided they know better than God what time it is.  Daylight Savings time. A waste of perfectly good morning daylight just so some people can play late into the night.

I’m reminded of the time Ecuador’s president decided to emulate the United States and introduce Daylight Saving Time. After a disastrous six months of people asking “Sixto’s time” or “God’s time” when they needed to make appointments, DST was repealed.  Changing the clocks didn’t change the fact that in Ecuador the sun came up at 6 and set at 6 everyday all year long.

If you do a Google search of DST to try to find the “real” reason why DST was established (or why we still have it), you find a variety of theories, but no real reason. City folk blame it on country folk; county folk blame it on city folk.  But it is one more example of how a very few control the majority of American lives.

Congress recently had the opportunity to change and repeal this antiquated law; however, Congress bowed to pressure of the monied, pampered few, the pleasure seeking crowd and condemned us to more years of getting up in the dark and going to bed in the light.

There is one benefit of DST. It contradicts the doomsayers who think living on Mars would detrimentally affect our internal clocks.

Intelligent Design

To say my husband and I are a little bit nerdy is an understatement. After all, who but nerds would buy a book of old black and white photographs of snowflakes? The photos were taken in the late 1800s. Only some of the thousands upon thousands of photos taken were included in the book, but it is a breathtakingly stunning depiction of the uniqueness and individuality of these tiny bits of beauty.

It is fact, not theory, that each snowflake is unique and there are no duplicates (same as fingerprints and stars, which are also unique and no two alike). It blows my mind when I think of how much snow falls each year all over the earth and for how many centuries, yet no two snowflakes are ever alike.

This alone is enough to convince me of intelligent design in the universe.  A Creator who can continually and consistently fashion such beauty with such diversity is beyond human comprehension. The problem with our concept of God comes not in accepting that He is, but in when we judge Him by human standards and human morality.

Even the fact that humans have morality is an indication of a creator, since man cannot in and of himself be moral. Left to his own devices, man quickly falls into the morass of depravity and wrongdoing. Morality comes from outside the human sphere. Judging God by our standards is futility.

The sheer beauty of a snowflake also convinces me that the designer of such artistry can only have the best intentions for me. There is nothing of darkness or ugliness in the form of a snowflake, only purity and exquisiteness. Again, judging God’s intentions toward humanity by human standards is sheer nonsense.

Take a moment to marvel at the complexity and wonder of a snowflake and let it guide you this year on a journey of discovery of the One who made the cosmos and cares for you.

Journey versus Destiny

The debate over which is more important, the journey or the destination, is one of the ways I teach persuasive writing to my students. It is also a debate that doesn’t seem to have a right or wrong answer because a good writer can take either side. Also, depending on what stage of life we are at or what is going on in our lives, either side can take preeminence.

So why am I bringing this up as a blog post? I recently heard a radio personality who completely missed the author’s point on a related quote. The quote, “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving,” isn’t evidence for the journey, rather it reveals the flexible attitude of the traveler toward the journey.

How often have you been around someone on vacation complaining about messed up schedules, delays, or that their hotel room wasn’t ready exactly when they desired it? A good traveler knows to expect such delays and takes it in stride, gaining purpose, meaning, and joy from the journey, but he still has the destination in mind and is still walking towards that destination.

When our intent is to get there at all costs, we miss a lot of good stuff. If we don’t care about the destination, what’s the point of the journey?

Life is no different. If we don’t have a destination in mind, the journey itself won’t satisfy. If we are so focused on the destination, we will miss all the wonderful experiences along the way simply because we won’t value them.

Throughout history, mankind has tended to focus on the journey rather than the destination. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Yet the statistics of the rich and powerful and pleasure seeking who find no satisfaction in life tell us a different story. We can’t truly be happy without a destination, without something that extends beyond the day-to-day grind, the number of years we have, even the “American dream.” There is a hole in our core, a spiritual vacuum that seeks to be filled, and everything we do along the journey is designed to prepare us for that destination.

The reason life itself isn’t enough is because we were created eternal beings, designed to walk with God. By our own willful desires we broke that relationship and have been miserable ever since. Everyone is destined to spend eternity either with God or without God and only through Jesus Christ can that broken relationship be restored. Mankind can argue about it or even deny it, but it doesn’t change the truth of who we are. Without Christ, we are destined for eternal suffering and all the partying and wealth or fame won’t make that worthwhile. With Christ, we are destined for eternal joy, which makes the rough times worthwhile.

In reality, the debate over journey versus destination is merely two sides of the same coin and serves as a metaphor for life. The real question should be where are you going?

The Power of Story

I’ve touched on this topic off and on in other posts, although not exactly from this direction. I am a confirmed bookaholic–reading is as necessary as breathing for me and I get completely lost in whatever story I’m reading. The world around me dissolves and all that remains is the story. My husband says I “inhale” books. Actually, I don’t inhale or devour them as much as I absorb or assimilate stories. The story becomes part of me, part of who I am and what I believe, which is why I’m extremely picky about the types of stories I read. Story has a power influence on me and I select the stories with great care because I know the effect they have.

Story goes beyond format. I’ve always been a bit bothered by people who despise certain forms of story simply because it doesn’t seem “literate” enough. Stories passed down by mouth are sometimes seen as less “educated,” yet many of our faerie tales started as verbal legends which were later written down to become beloved tales read by millions. Others are tales told to children whose parent later set the same ideas down on paper. The story itself doesn’t change with the transformation from voice to print; it expands. Print allows the story to add details not always included in a verbal rendition, yet the story itself remains intact.

It’s the same with music. There are people who can play shaped notes, but not the regular notes on the same staff. Others can play sharps, but not flats; while others play flats but not sharps. This has always astounded me since both sharps and flats are the same keys on the piano. I cannot see the difference when playing.

In story, the format is really as unimportant as whether the note is A flat or G sharp–it’s the same note. Whether a story is told in comic book form, graphic novel, ebook, print, or even a visual medium such as movie or television, as long as it is well-told, what’s the difference? How can we limit the universe of story by confining it to a specific form? Some tales are best told visually (Hunt for Red October); others fits better in a graphic novel form (Atomic Robo). In spite of the two film versions, The Scarlet Pimpernel remains a story best told in print as the film endings seemed contrived and lacked the emotional punch of the writer’s words as she describes Marguerite’s agony in choosing between her beloved brother or her beloved husband.

The power of story transcends the shackles of form. It lingers long after the physical packaging has faded into obscurity. A wise writer (and a wise reader) will not judge a story by its cover.

What Can I Say?

The idea that a company or corporation or organization can determine or limit what an employee can say on personal accounts or outside office hours is somewhat troubling. And although I understand that employees (both on the clock and off) represent their companies and that their behavior can cause embarrassment for their companies, it seems a bit hypocritical that an employee can be fired for saying something the company doesn’t agree with (or isn’t politically correct) rather than for making a drunken spectacle of themselves.

However, this blog isn’t about the rights and wrongs of that particular debate.

What is more concerning is a prevalent attitude that “freedom of speech” safeguards destruction of public property or the use of the “F” word, while the mention of Jesus’ name (unless used as a curse word) is prohibited. It seems that 200 plus years of freedom has bred a generation of Americans that are historically ignorant, as well as thin-skinned and overly sensitive.

When the Founding Fathers included “freedom of speech” right up there in the same place with “freedom of religion,” they certainly did not have in mind the current state of affairs in our country.

Back then, British citizens who disagreed with the crown (government) had to exercise extreme caution even whispering their discontent behind the closed doors of their own homes. Such “treason” was punishable without trial by torture and imprisonment. Our predecessors felt that one’s freedom to speak against the policies and actions of one’s government without threat or fear was a God-given right, and as such, worth fighting and dying for. At the same time, the crown (government) forced citizens to either practice the state religion (whatever faith the king happened to be) or else forbade the practice of their individual faiths. Violations of either law resulted in serious penalties. Again, the Founding Fathers felt strongly that the ability to practice one’s faith regardless of political correctness or popularity was worth defending and dying for.

It is a rather sad state of affairs that after 200 plus years of such hard-won freedoms, Americans are willing to turn their backs on these principles based solely on the “I don’t agree with it, therefore I don’t want you to do it.” What is equally sad is these very same folks fail to realize that without these two fundamental freedoms, the very act of protesting someone else’s faith and beliefs will soon be denied them as well. Freedom of speech–and freedom of faith–is protected for everyone. Not just those who believe like I do.

Yes, there are some ideas that are outside the pale of good judgement, good morals, and public sentiment. But is the way to deal with such stupidity really to fire people, destroy their property, prohibit their ability to say what they think, or ban the practice of their faith? The very folks who decry name calling are in effect name callers themselves who want harsh judgements for others, but not themselves.

What can I say? Nowadays, probably very little.

Out of Focus

Words are a powerful weapon; they can be used for either good or bad, but words burn deep into our psyche and shape and fashion society whether we like it or not. When influential people twist words or use them to focus on the wrong thing, life tends to get out of focus.

Some time ago, a senator grilled a potential government appointee on his religious preferences (even though the Constitution forbids any kind of “religious test” for government service). During the interrogation, the senator kept focusing on the fact that in this person’s faith certain people groups were condemned to Hell. If this was a one time thing, I wouldn’t be writing this article; however, the news media is also focused on this idea: the exclusion of certain people groups by Christianity to Hell if they don’t believe in Jesus.

Unfortunately, they’re focusing on the wrong thing.

The Bible says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23.” ALL. Including Americans. Christianity isn’t about excluding certain groups or religions; it’s about showing that nothing we do will meet the standards of a Holy God.

But the major focus of the Bible (and Christianity) isn’t how badly we’ve all messed up–that’s the starting point. The focus of Christianity is God’s unconditional love and that He has provided a way for ALL to be saved. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” This gift is available for ALL, regardless of color, race, ethnicity, language, religion, or location. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 ” And it isn’t about turning everyone into Americans. (Christianity is actually the counter-culture to America.) You can be a Christian and retain your ethnicity, your language, your culture, something most other religions don’t allow. Other religious services look surprisingly the same in different cultures, but Christian services are as diverse as the cultures they represent.

It is the idea of unconditional love – love that accepts everyone no matter what – that seems to frighten the media and government. Because this type of love is completely inclusive, it frightens those who want to dominate or exclude or stereotype or limit others. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. John 1:12 ” This kind of faith, that doesn’t limit believers to a specific people group, that doesn’t depend on what I do or who I am, that’s a powerful force that can’t be controlled by government. And what the government can’t control, it has a tendency to fear. It’s why religion and a free press are the first things to go in a repressive regime.

But this isn’t a blog about freedom of religion. It’s about unconditional love as the center and foundation of Christianity. The reason so many people are confused about what Christianity is truly about is because Christians are such a contradictory people. We mess up; we don’t get it right 100 percent of the time and those who judge our God based on our actions don’t always see the loving Father who cared enough for His children to die for them while they were still sinners. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8.”

Christianity isn’t about hate and exclusion. It’s about everlasting love and inclusion.

Choice

Have you ever wondered why every known application on file, whether for a loan, college, job, or survey, requires you to choose an ethnicity? Not a nationality, but an ethnic group. Why? How does one’s ethnicity affect one’s job performance or worth? It doesn’t, anymore than one’s gender does.

So what’s the big deal with labeling someone by ethnicity? I have Native American blood running through my veins (Cherokee on my mother’s side, Seminole on my dad’s), but not enough according to someone’s flow chart to “claim” that heritage, as if a 64th Cherokee is some how less Indian than a 32nd. On the other hand, my daughter often claims she’s “white Asian” and my husband has been identified as “Hispanic” not because of their skin, but because of their hearts. I’ve often wondered what would happen if I checked the “other” box on those forms instead of “Caucasian”? Today, I’m feeling Japanese. Konichiwa. There are days when I do have more in common with someone from Japan than America in terms of cultural values. Or maybe, I’ll write in “Martian”; after all I’ve identified Mars as my home planet since junior high days when I formed the Misfits from Mars club for those of us who didn’t fit into rural Oklahoma junior high society.

If gender can be a choice, why not ethnicity? If we see everyone as human, then ethnicity doesn’t matter. It’s one less thing we have to fight about or use to denigrate someone else. People adopt different ethnicities all the time, from the city slicker who chooses to live in the country to the missionary who chooses to live among a different people group. We adapt to that culture, sometimes changing our manner of dress, speech, what we eat, and even our name. Some folks don’t start out that way, but are soon “adopted” by the people they are living among. If the locals see us as the same, why can’t we claim it? My daughter was born in Ecuador to American parents. She claims both ethnicities, even though she can only have an America passport (Ecuador doesn’t allow dual citizenship). She has also spent considerable time working with the Maya, and so inside she feels more Hispanic than white.

I can already hear the protests. What about driver’s licenses and passports? They have to have ethnicity on them to prevent falsification. Oh really? If I’m intent on stealing someone else’s passport, it isn’t going to be that hard to change the ethnicity part. Several years ago, while we were overseas someone “borrowed” my husband’s passport. The first we knew about it was when we were coming back into the States a year later and he was flagged at the airport for having been in Boston the previous year. He was flagged, not the person who stole his passport. You have to understand my husband is a 6′ 3″ white guy and the person who used his passport obviously wasn’t. But the immigration officials stopped him, not the perp. So ethnicity on a passport isn’t helpful at all.

I guess I will still tick the “white” box just to avoid unpleasantness when filling out paperwork, but know that in my heart I’m rebelling. The more my current ethnicity moves away from who I am, the closer I will come to checking “other.” Ciao.

 

The Perfect Game

I’ve never been a sports fan–I guess I like my comfort too much to waste time freezing at a football game sitting on uncomfortable bleachers. Or maybe I just figured it was a waste of my time to watch people shove and elbow each other until they were black and blue just to drop a ball in a basket at the opposite ends of the court.  Granted, while I’m at one of those games, I will cheer and holler for my team like everyone else, but if I have a choice of whether or not to attend, I’ll opt for not attending every time.

However, there is one game you can always take me to: baseball. Maybe it’s because I understand the rules; maybe it’s because baseball is a game anyone can play regardless of ability or aptitude; maybe it’s just because baseball is a leisurely game with no time limits.

Ah, there’s the rub. Some smart aleck in sports has decided to change the fundamental principles of baseball by insisting on time limits for pitchers and batters. Really? Are you insane? What practical purpose could time limits serve to improve the game?

Baseball isn’t about time limits. It’s about long summer days, eating hot dogs or nachos and chatting with your friends. It’s about strategy, stepping off the mound or out of the batter’s box at the precise moment to throw off the pitcher or batter. It’s about keeping the first and second base runners honest, so they don’t get too big a lead. It’s about having plenty of time to enjoy America’s favorite sport.

There’s a reason baseball is a favorite, not just in America, but around the world, and it comes back to the leisurely nature of spending time with family and friends. Unlike football and basketball, where one has to be constantly watching, baseball is more laid back. You can take your eyes off the “action” for a moment to gaze at your sweetheart or exchange a bit of conversation with your best friend.  There’s no hurry, no rush, and in today’s frenetic paced society an opportunity to slow down is welcome.

Maybe that’s why even in science fiction, baseball is still around long after all the other sports have faded into obscurity (Deep Space 9). It’s as necessary as the air we breathe. There are a lot of things MLB’s head honchos have done I’m not happy with, but this one takes the cake. To take away even a part of what makes baseball unique for the sake of a few dollars isn’t just a crime, it’s reprehensible.

Don’t mess with perfection.

 

 

 

 

courtesy StarTrek.com

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