Help One Another

My earliest memories are of traveling…junkets to the lake or beach with my family to collect sea shells or go fishing. We never stayed overnight anywhere because we couldn’t afford to do so, yet those short trips within an hour’s drive of home ignited a sense of adventure and broadened my horizons to see there was more to the world than the four blocks around my house.

Fast forward to college and a kid from the wrong side of the tracks scraps together every spare dime to make sure she could travel: Belize, Panama, New York City. $400 may not seem like much, but to a poor kid it was a king’s ransom. Scholarships and grants helped finance those long ago trips as part of my college curriculum and the lessons I learned have helped me develop as an individual and as a successful teacher in a small rural school.  The music and art and cultures I experienced helped me understand myself and others in ways that merely reading a textbook never would.

But not every student gets those rare opportunities. Sometimes it’s a location problem and there are no beaches or lakes within driving distance. Sometimes family finances have to focus more on food and shelter and clothing than expanding a child’s  mind and thirst for knowledge. Sometimes it’s a cultural issue and families fear to let their child make a long trip faraway.   But for a few kids, getting an opportunity to travel to somewhere exotic is a once in a lifetime possibility, and it’s a opportunity that creates a thirst for learning and college.

I’m taking a group of yearbook students to Japan during spring break 2020 and they could use your help. Be a sponsor or make a donation. Give them a chance to see the world.  Most of these students are first generation college students. By that, I mean they are going to be the first in their family to attend college and the obstacles to make that happen are huge. Travel is a good way to help them experience and understand there is more to life than what they see at home.

Why Japan?  It’s a STEM and photography culture and we are striving in Roscoe to encourage young people to train in STEM fields.  As yearbook, I want them to develop a photography mindset—that everywhere you go is a story to photograph. Seeing is believing and helping them see is half the battle to get them to college. They are working hard to raise the funds, but small rural communities are limited in what they can provide and do.  That’s why we need to help one another.

I’m not a socialist. I don’t believe the wealthy should pay for everything, but I do believe in neighbors helping neighbors. That’s the way the West was settled and that’s the way the West thrived. So if over the next few months you have a few extra dollars, why not make a donation to these eight kids and help them raise the $4,000 each they need to make a dream come true.  (One hundred percent of the funds raised goes to the trip for the student)

Just click on a link.

http://personal.eftours.com/secure/make-donation.aspx?poid=DDB56E99&utm_medium=web&utm_source=paxsecure&utm_campaign=fundraising Chase

http://personal.eftours.com/secure/make-donation.aspx?poid=DDB9BA63&utm_medium=web&utm_source=paxsecure&utm_campaign=fundraising Ashleigh

http://personal.eftours.com/secure/make-donation.aspx?poid=DDB19279&utm_medium=web&utm_source=paxsecure&utm_campaign=fundraising Alfonso

http://personal.eftours.com/secure/make-donation.aspx?poid=DDB9B277&utm_medium=web&utm_source=paxsecure&utm_campaign=fundraising Karen

http://personal.eftours.com/secure/make-donation.aspx?poid=DDB56A19&utm_medium=web&utm_source=paxsecure&utm_campaign=fundraising Giselle

http://personal.eftours.com/secure/make-donation.aspx?poid=DDB9B239&utm_medium=web&utm_source=paxsecure&utm_campaign=fundraising Analicia

http://personal.eftours.com/secure/make-donation.aspx?poid=DDB5EAE6&utm_medium=web&utm_source=paxsecure&utm_campaign=fundraising Cera

http://personal.eftours.com/secure/make-donation.aspx?poid=DDB9B2B7&utm_medium=web&utm_source=paxsecure&utm_campaign=fundraising Max

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Good is Not Safe

I’m a huge fan of classic literature with its clear-cut boundaries between good and evil, where heroes are true heroes with an uncompromising moral code, even if they make poor choices. The current brand of literature with its villains as heroes isn’t something I’m going to pick up and read or watch.

But we have to ask the question: why has literature devolved into the idea that good is weak, safe, soft and definitely less powerful than evil?

I think it has its roots in a core belief that God Himself is weak and powerless. Not because He is, but because we desire Him to be.

A namby-pamby God isn’t someone we need to be afraid of or someone we need to obey. A “Santa Claus” kind of God gives us what we want without asking anything in return and thus, we can despise and belittle Him because He’s good and will “turn the other cheek.”

The turning the other cheek applies to humans – not God.

Good isn’t safe.  Good does what’s right and best regardless of circumstances, abilities, beliefs, or what other people think or want. Good is the most powerful force in the universe because it can’t be bought, corrupted or diverted. And that scares us. It’s why we need flawed heroes – the worse the better because then we don’t have to change; we don’t have to be accountable.

People have a problem with God because of their need to defend their individual rights. We don’t want anyone to interfere with our right to do evil. We want to justify our actions, attitudes, and beliefs without having a universal standard of right and wrong simply because we’re the weak, corruptible ones.

I tell my writing students all the time that if a hero isn’t morally good, he isn’t a hero—just another guy who can occasionally do heroic things.  A true hero has self-control. A true hero protects and cherishes everyone, all the time, and puts his needs and wants in a secondary position.

But this post isn’t about heroes.  It’s about God and how He is the source of good and therefore He is not safe. He will do whatever it takes to conform us to the image of His Son and that may not conform to our ideas of what is acceptable. Like little children we want cotton candy all the time and refuse to eat our veggies.

God is good, but He is not safe, nor is He powerless, weak or limited. He will transform you. He will change you. He will conform you to the image of Christ.  Good is not a pushover.

Fake News is All Around

Be advised…this is a rant, but not the kind you think.  The leading headline on Yahoo today is about obesity, but like so many news magazines and networks (whose only goal is how many viewers they can grab rather than reporting truth), they miss the real point.

It begins with a photo deliberately designed to make people angry at a particular restaurant. (This has been going on for a while.) So why Mcdonald’s and not Wendy’s? Or Burger King? Or even Chili’s or Outback?  All of the afore mentioned restaurants serve fried and fatty foods.  And all of them have super-sized, whopper-sized or all-you-can-eat type of servings.

The real issue with obesity isn’t the restaurants—it is and always has been US.

Just recently (within the last six months) I’ve lost 40 lbs dropping from a size 18 to a size 10;  not from any real desire on my part to change my shape or weight, but because my insurance company is charging me $80 a month over my premium as  fat tax. I decided the privilege of drinking all the Dr. Pepper I want wasn’t worth $80 a month, so I’ve lost weight.  Obesity come from overindulgence—getting the super-size, barrel size, upgrades because it’s more of what we want and the cost factor allows us to rationalize our lack of self-control.

Obesity isn’t a poverty issue, either as anyone who’s actually been in a third world country with true poverty can attest.  America is the only nation whose poor people are overweight. True poverty keeps one thin (not that I’m recommending poverty as a weight loss program).  Oh, I know the liberal agenda touts cheap fast food as the reason, but “fast food” isn’t cheap. I know.  My family of six seldom hit the McDonalds (or Wendy’s or Burger Kings) because we couldn’t afford it.  It was always cheaper to make the food at home than buy it. Trust me: I can stretch a can of mixing chicken and a box of Stove Top dressing to feed a family for less than a meal at a fast food restaurant.

So why are the media so set on destroying one particular company?

Control.  The news has always been about control from the days of the Spanish American War and yellow journalism.  Only today, the media uses more polite terms and calls everything it doesn’t authorize “fake news.” If you control the news, you control what people believe and Americans tend to be more gullible than most people because we’ve been free for so long. We take things at face value and don’t bother to check sources, facts, or think things through.

Another example is how my saving two gallons of water when I flush will provide water from someone in a third world country, but that’s a rant for another day. (If you want to provide clean water overseas, donate money to build a well).

We don’t need the news media to tell us how to think or what to eat or even where to eat.  We don’t need the government doing so either. Busy bodies are just that—meddlers who don’t have a real job so spend their time bothering other people.  If the busy bodies really want to cut down on obesity how about teaching self-control instead of teaching people to blame others? How about teaching self-responsibility instead of needing a nanny to wipe our noses? Only when we can take responsibility for our own actions and choices, will we begin to see change in the way Americans eat.

Gender Bias

“Come on, girls. We need more girls in engineering!’

Those words, spoken by a well-meaning person on a college campus to my group of 8th graders, set off warning klaxons in my mind.

Why?

Because as a girl-child in the 70s I’ve seen first hand how gender bias and double standards can ruin a culture. At first it was the double standard of ‘boys can, girls can’t’ mentality that caused the pendulum to swing back to the opposite side. Now the bias is ‘girls have to, boys can’t’.

Unfortunately, the feminist revolution of the late 70s and early 80s left women with no where to go. We were considered ‘wasting our talents’ if we stayed home, and yet if we went out into the career field, no one else helped with the staying-at-home chores. We got stuck doing both and made to feel inferior no matter what we did. The revolution took away our pedestals and gave us involuntary servitude as now both parents have to work to put food on the table.

The problem lies not in whether males and females can do a job, but our perception that somehow personality and skills are gender related.

THEY ARE NOT!

Personality, whether it’s daring adventurers or tender nurturers, is not limited nor shaped by gender. Neither is skill. Anybody can learn; anybody can develop. Who we are and what we do can’t be determined by gender. Frankly, that’s as stupid as saying that a person has to be a carpenter because the parent is a carpenter.

Interestingly enough, this whole gender bias seems to have developed in the 1950s. Prior to that, a gentle man wasn’t seen as a wimp; rather he was a noble, strong individual who also happened be tender and considerate. It wasn’t until the 1950s that men felt compelled to be ‘macho’ and grunt and beat up people to prove their manhood.

As Americans, we have a pretty narrow focus on what should or shouldn’t be “acceptable” behavior for the sexes. But when one takes into account the vastness of historical context and the variety in culture, we see how truly limited that view is. Once I asked one of my classes “do strong men cry?” The overwhelming consensus was “no!” Yet when I pointed out that the hero in most K-dramas is very emotional and cries, it opened their minds to the idea that tenderness isn’t limited to girls.

It’s just as wrong to force girls into a career they have no interest or aptitude for as it is to deny them the opportunity to use their God-given gifts and talents. Neither should boys be denied a career because of their gender. People have vast resources and abilities, but it is not defined by their gender. Most other cultures seem to understand this, even if there is still inequity in the work force. Historically, women did what women needed to do to take care of their families and the cultures adapted. Whether in ancient Viking time where both men and women were warriors and could defend the home, to modern day where both males and females serve in the armed forces, the “job” hasn’t been about gender. Yes, I know that historically women have fought to get to where we are at today. Women were denied work in fields culturally and traditionally dominated by men. After all, I was given a B in college in photography because the male professor blatantly said, “girls shouldn’t be journalists.” It didn’t stop me; I just worked harder. Back in those days, women couldn’t be astronauts in NASA, and women writers had to use pseudonyms or initials. Now we are in a time when the job automatically goes to a woman whether she’s qualified or not. And Hollywood pretends that the world is run by women. But his post isn’t about the inequalities; it is about how peer pressure and pubic perception denies individuals the right to be whom they choose to be.

No woman should be forced to choose between family and career and no woman should be made to feel “inferior” if she chooses to stay home and raise a family over working in a STEM field. Neither should a man be called names or have his manhood doubted because he is gentle, tender, and likes beautiful and artistic things.

Personality and skills are not gender related.

Welcome to the Dark Side…We Have Cookies

I love technology…the more bells and whistles the better. I started out on an old Remington manual typewriter (the great-grandparent of modern day computers for the millennials out there), and I wouldn’t go back to those days for anything. Just trying to correct a simple mistake gives me the shudders, not to mention the problem of making multiple copies of one paper. Yes, today’s word processors beat the typewriter hands down.

But there is a dark side to technology, as well. Recently, I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to connect to the internet for work. Everyone else’s laptops connect just fine, but mine hangs up midway and refuses to cooperate. Having to do email on my phone is frustrating enough, but I do draw the line at trying to grade and correct essays on my phone. (I know, I’m just not tech savvy enough or at least haven’t learned the proper way to do it yet–I’m getting there, tho).

Yet what really bugged me was getting the alerts from Google that some other device had accessed my account twice and was I aware of it? Yes, Google, I was aware. That was me hacking my account on a friend’s computer so I could do my job because my authorized device wouldn’t talk to the internet. Beyond the fact that not only did my technology not do what I asked it to do, it had the audacity to track me and monitor my activities was a bit disconcerting to say the least. I mean, how do those dark net folks in movies get away with covering their tracks so easily? If a simple task like switching computers can raise red flags, how does anyone minimize their digital footprint?

Maybe this only bothers me, but I really don’t like the idea of some group, organization or other person knowing where I am at any given time without my permission. I’m a private individual and not fond of big groups to start with. I mean, I used to hang out in the government documents section of my college library just so I could read a book in peace. But it seems that in today’s techno world, falling off the grid isn’t so easy.

Welcome to the dark side; we have cookies and they aren’t chocolate chip.

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!

 

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?

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