Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Good News

In spite of any "bad" news from around the world, and the negativity being produced here in the U.S. by the presidential candidates, one can always find something to smile about. 

The story about the Siberian huskies who rescued a lost kitten, who became a member of their pack, brought me lots of smiles. Here is Rosie and her pack; Lilo (on the right) even became the surrogate mother and nursed the tiny kitten. This story is on the Good News Network.
Huskies save cat Facebook Lilo the Husky

In the midst of all the nasty rhetoric about "Mexicans" spewed out by Donald Trump, this video resurfaced on a site called Sunny Skyz. The Mariachi band performed at a Chicago White Sox game in July, 2015. A wonderful rendition of our national anthem. "This is what America is all about."



In spite of the gloom and doom, and fearmongers among us regarding terrorism, this article will probably shock most of you. From 2015: The Best Year in History for the Average Human Being in the online Atlantic website:



"..terrorism, war, and murder together remain a minor cause of death worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that 119,463 people died in incidents of “collective violence and legal intervention,” such as civil war, and 504,587 died from episodes of “interpersonal violence,” such as homicide, in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available. In the same year, according to the Global Terrorism Index, 11,133 people died in terrorist attacks—suggesting terrorism accounted for about 1.8 percent of violent deaths worldwide." 

So if terrorism is not killing as many people as we are led to believe, what is? (From the same article.) "Rabies was responsible for three times as many deaths as terrorism that year. (2012) Stomach cancer killed more people than murder, manslaughter, and wars combined."

The article contains many interesting statistics such as worldwide famine and undernourishment, childhood mortality, the success of vaccines, and the (stuttering) spread of civil and political rights. It's a good read for GOOD NEWS. 

Although instances of police brutality and even what appeared to be killings of innocent people abounded in the news last year, there also have been good news stories like the one below, that was documented only recently. Positive Images of Police After this video hit the news, it was followed by the report that Shaq O'Neal later joined Officer White and some of his fellow officers for a pickup game. One can only imagine how thrilled these kids were.. and what a positive role model Shaq provided as well.

Sadly, racism is still a problem in much of American society. The uproar over the Confederate flag this past year is an example. GOOD NEWS: Thankfully, many states have taken the flag down, and moved them into museums or in less prominent places. The so-called "heroes" of the Confederacy have statues commemorating them all over the south. Texas has more than their share. GOOD NEWS: Public outcry has come a long way in having many of the memorials moved, as well as having names of schools changed that honor those same men. The notion that by doing this we are somehow denigrating important events and people in history is ridiculous. Slavery as well as the Holocaust are part of history as well. We do not have statues, memorials, and schools named after any of the participants in those horrific events. Maybe many folks need to be reminded - or taught better - that the Confederacy was formed to resist the termination of slavery in the United States, and protect the southern white slave owners.

GOOD NEWS: I salute the city of  Whitesboro, NY for listening to the Native Americans who said the logo for the city was offensive to their heritage. They have redesigned the sign (above), removing the offending picture. Sign of the Times 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




At first, this may not sound like "good news", as a small creature (let's call it like it is, rodent) became too possessive of my outdoor belongings. This one was active throughout the daylight hours, destroying cushions on my porch and deck, planting pecans in all my pot plants and subsequently, digging them up -- leaving dirt, broken leaves, and pecan shells all over the porch and deck. When I moved in, I thought the squirrels were cute, even when begging for nuts at my front door. My son also discovered a baby rock squirrel, pictured below. The rock squirrels like to forage at night, and I believe a grown-up version of this cute little baby was the guilty culprit in what proved to be a very expensive habit by one of these little creatures. A few months back, son Matthew looked under the hood of my car. He discovered pecan shells scattered over the battery. (I had heard a noise when driving, and was fearful one of the squirrels was under there when I drove off). A couple of weeks ago the car refused to start. After having it towed to a nearby garage, they gave me the news. It seems the "cute" little creatures had chewed up the electronic wiring, and to repair it cost over $800. So much for cuteness. I declared war.

GOOD NEWS: Having dealt with squirrels in my attic years ago, I recalled the name of a repellent to keep them from hanging around. It's called Fox Urine. Yep, it really is that -- only we bought it in dried, granule form. In reading articles regarding keeping these little creatures away, I found one funny suggestion.. I don't know if it's true, but this one man said not only would fox urine keep them away, but human urine would do the same. However, I couldn't talk my son Matthew into doing that. 

Peace, love, and smiles,
Marilyn

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

ON "SHELFIES"


"Selfies show the body. 'Shelfies' show the soul." ..Maggie Galehouse

I recently read a wonderful article Shelfies - I'll Show You Mine.. by dewtx on Daily Kos that reinforced my intention to keep all of my books. Having moved five times in the past 15 years, I had to leave a lot of books behind. Most of those were fiction.. (I really love crime fiction.) A lot were books from a book club that I discovered were not worth what I paid for most of them when I tried to sell them to a used book dealer. In recent years, when I wish to read fiction, I usually visit my local library. Recently, I sometimes turn to e-books. My older son has generously gifted me with gift cards to Barnes & Noble, so I will be adding to my cache of nonfiction.

The bookcase above is in my office/guest room, and the one to the right is in my bedroom. All of the books in my home are accompanied by many "little treasures" on the same shelves -- photos of my loved ones and often small gifts from family and friends. Like a lot of people, the little table beside my bed has more than a few books that I have not yet finished reading or that I am reading again.

In the article I mentioned at the beginning of this post, was the following quote by J. Frank Dobie that was published in a column in the Houston Post, Sunday, November 1, 1959:

"For me, no mere design in paint is as beautiful as a wall of books, some old, some new, some with paper jackets still on, some without jackets. The colors in a whole wall of books are multitudinous: the arrangements, infinite. A house without books is as undecorated as a Hollywood decorator could make it. ... It doesn't matter to me that I can't read all the books. I can only read an infinitely small fraction of them: indeed, only a small fraction of them do I want to read. But it is wonderful to have hosts of good books around, and it's wonderful to look at walls solid with shelves of books, books, books."

I have to agree with Mr. Dobie with an exception. I have read most of my books. The big coffee table books in my living room, shown at the right, are some I probably have not read completely, however, I obtained them mostly for reference. That I have done, especially when creating Indian art work.

The invention of the Internet has sadly put an end to reading by the younger generations. All three of my children are extremely well-spoken, and talented writers (when I can coax them to write!). I read to each of them when they were very young. Consequently, my oldest, Craig, taught himself to read at age 5. I started when the youngest, Matthew, was a babe in arms. At nap time, as soon as he could walk, he brought me a stack of his books he wanted read to him while I rocked him. My mother bought sets of books that he received once a month for years. By the time he was eight years old, I was told he had the vocabulary of a sixteen-year-old. He was winning spelling bees consistently as well. 
When his son Travis was about a year and a half, I visited frequently. He did the same thing with his books -- bringing them to me to read to him. I have to admit the reading had to be interspersed with watching DVDs of Nemo and Monster, Inc.  An eighth grader now, he and his little sister are both good students and read very well.. especially on their computers.
As the old saying goes, "Children will not always do what you say, but they will always do what you do." I hope the children of my grandchildren learn to read something other than the emojis on their smart phones, or posts on their Facebook page!

You can tell a lot about a person by the books or lack thereof in their homes. It can be fun to sneak a peek at the titles.

Love and good reading,
Marilyn

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year


And to all my family!




So many New Year toasts, wishes, and resolutions seem so commonplace and trite. I tried to think of something I haven't said or heard before. I found a site on the internet called Living Life Fully that contains much wisdom. I found this quote particularly meaningful and a challenge to me:

"Every new year people make resolutions to change aspects of themselves
they believe are negative. A majority of people revert back to how they were before, and feel like failures. This year I challenge you to a new 
resolution. I challenge you to just be yourself."

Sounds easy, doesn't it? However, how many of us know who our "real" self is? We wear so many faces and labels, depending upon different situations or people with which we find ourself or stories we might be telling, that sometimes it's difficult to define who we really are. Maybe that should be our New Year's resolution this year -- to find out who our "real" self is in all its intricacies, and love them all. 

Personally, I plan to get back to journaling on a regular basis. That and meditation. Both reveal aspects of yourself you may not know exist -- or have forgotten. While I'm at it, I think I'll drag out the box in my closet that's labeled "Journals" that go back to the 80s and 90s. They should contain some insight into the person I have become. I remember reading a book during the 1980s called "I Love The Person You Were Meant To Be". I don't remember the content, but the title alone is intriguing. I wonder if my old journals might show me how far I've come. Or how far I have to go to discover who I was meant to be. 

Or maybe I will discover that the "real" me wears those many faces and labels -- and it's okay.

Love and peace to you all in the coming New Year 2016,
Marilyn

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

For The Sake of Peace

Those of you who are, like I am, a fan of the TV series "Homeland", are also familiar with the actor Mandy Patinkin. A while back he was on my favorite morning "news" show, CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose. His views on the condition of what he calls the "world on fire" today were mesmerizing. One of his suggestions for a solution to the violence and many problems humanity faces was "what if we bomb these people with hope and opportunity" captured my attention... I believe you will be as moved as I was. His comments at about 5 minutes to the end will make you cry. I did.



Back in October I wrote on the blog The Impact of the Pope a list of religions represented in both houses of Congress. The majority were Christians, followed by Jews. Only a total of 18 called themselves as "other", "unaffiliated", or refused to answer. All religions of the world contain prayers for peace. Why is it we hear more politicians, and would-be politicians crying out for war..?

Our Christmas prayers nearly always contain prayers for "peace on earth". Here are a couple more beautiful such prayers.




Oh God, lead us from the unreal to the Real.
Oh God, lead us from darkness to light.
Oh God, lead us from death to immortality.
Shanti, Shanti, Shanti unto all.
Oh Lord God almighty, may there be peace in celestial regions.
May there be peace on earth.
May the waters be appeasing.
May herbs be wholesome, and may trees and
plants bring peace to all. May all beneficent
beings bring peace to us.
May thy Vedic Law propagate peace all
through the world.
May all things be a source of peace to us.
And may that peace come to me also.



Zoroastrian Prayer for Peace

We pray to God to eradicate all the
misery in the world:
that understanding triumph
over ignorance,
that generosity triumph over indifference,
that trust triumph over contempt, and
that truth triumph over falsehood.

(FB.com)
Maybe all of us know one or more atheist. Like me, maybe you even pray for them. Many are kind and good-hearted -- more so than a lot of religious people. Even if they don't believe in prayer, many send out "good thoughts" when hearing of pain or sorrow in the world, and for the individuals who are caught up in such suffering. They volunteer and donate out of the goodness of their hearts. I like to believe that their kind, loving thoughts are just another form of prayer, which add to the positive energy of all the prayers we are sending to our Creator. I also like to believe that if enough of us do so, we will someday reach critical mass in the consciousness of all people in the world. Then there will be "peace on earth".
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Mystery Flowers

Last week I had a delightful surprise. The flowers pictured below were delivered to me with a sweet, sentimental note saying this person would be thinking of me and my family during the Christmas holidays. However, there was no sender's name. A call to the florist was of no help to me. They not only did not have the sender's name, but they also could not say if the order came from another city or state.
I just said "thank you" to the Universe, and enjoyed my colorful arrangement. Sadly, two days later one of the two lovely hydrangea blooms was drooping, and soon to die. I sent an email to the florist explaining that I thought it should have lived longer than two days. Shortly thereafter I received a call from their customer service department. The friendly young woman offered her apologies and asked if I would be home the following Monday so that they might bring a replacement. I was delighted, and never expected this result. I assumed they would be bringing me another hydrangea. Lo and behold (I must have been a very, very good girl this past year!), Monday morning I answered a knock on my door, and to my amazement, there was another beautiful little floral arrangement! (Freytag's Florist is the company.)
What a surprise! I now had two containers of gorgeous flowers to grace my dining table! I wish my next-door neighbor were at home. One of these might be perfect to share. As she lost a son a couple of months back, they would be a little bit of cheer.
Amidst all the tinsel, lights, and brightly wrapped packages, I hope you all have a bit of nature in your home this Christmas -- a live tree, poinsettias, or beautiful floral arrangements sent to you with love. And if you happen to be the generous person who sent these flowers to me, please let me know so I may thank you personally.

May your Christmas be merry, and full of

Love and Peace,
Marilyn

Monday, December 7, 2015

When Will We Ever Learn?

(Kevork Djansezian/Reuters)

Once again, we watch the TV images in horror at the lives at risk -- not in some foreign country, but in our own United States. This time in California, which has some of the strictest gun laws in America. More lives lost or injured forever. While our Congress squabbles over how many troops to send into Iraq and Syria, in order to assist in obtaining peace, the citizens of our country are suffering acts of terror with guns obtained legally in their home states. When will Congress do something about the existing gun laws throughout the land? The NRA must share the responsibility for these mass shootings with assault weapons that they pressure our Congressional leaders to continue to allow to be sold to the general public. Many without background checks at all, such as at Gun Shows. I say ban the assault weapons, period. Ban the high capacity magazines as well.

I hear gun rights' advocates and Congressmen -- especially the GOP -- keep saying stricter gun laws won't help, that most mass killings are carried out by mentally incompetent citizens. That we should be screening purchasers of weapons for such illnesses and refuse to sell to them. There is no way to tell if someone buying a gun is a "sociopath", which is how an analyst described the gunman in California. Many more types of "mental illness" that might cause someone to conduct such a raid are not easily detectable either. What are we to do? Will there be a list of anyone who sees a mental health provider available to anyone selling weapons? Will a seller be required to discriminate when it comes to a purchaser's race or religion? After all, if he appears mid-eastern, could he be a terrorist? 

All of this needs to be addressed. America leads the world in mass killings. We only hear of the public ones that hit the national news. "Data compiled by the crowd-sourced website ShootingTracker.com reveals a shocking human toll: there is a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident – nearly every day (in the United States). (Updated on 3 Dec 2015)" "1,052 mass shootings in 1,066 days.." (The Guardian.com)

Not only have we not strengthened gun laws in the United States, but many states have passed Open Carry laws. The backlash from the recent act of terror in California may result in even more such laws. What will we eventually see? Wild West shoot-outs on our streets? When will our country do what so many countries have done, and strengthen our gun laws to reduce the amount of homicides we suffer every year? Doing away with assault weapons and high-capacity magazines would be a good start.

Peace,
Marilyn


Saturday, November 14, 2015

"AN ACT OF WAR"


One cannot escape the news of the horrendous terrorist attacks that took place in Paris yesterday. Frightening images are all over the news and the internet. At this time, the total dead is 129, with one American exchange student being identified. The number of wounded, many in critical condition, is 350+. These attacks were carried out by ISIS in six locations around the city. The popular tourist places such as the Eiffel Tower and Disneyland have been under guard by French security forces since the terrorist attack on the newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January. Imagine going to a concert or having dinner at a favorite restaurant. Who would fear for their lives on such an outing? Typical unguarded venues were targeted.

As a sixth generation Moragne, the first Pierre having immigrated to America in the 1700s, I know there are some Moragnes still residing in France. Although I may not know them, they are still family, and I pray that they were spared any of the horrific attacks.

What will it take to put an end to the slaughtering of innocent people in many parts of the world by ones who say they are acting in the name of Allah? Can the leaders of the radical Islam faith not see the atrocities being committed by their followers? Surely they can see the folly of thinking they will control the world and force conversion to their religion. Are there not enough rational Muslim leaders to take a stand, join forces, and condemn these actions?

Many years back I was living in Denton, Texas. This was before computers were readily accessible. I made frequent use of our public library. At one point in time I checked out a book containing several chapters on "Prayers for Peace". Unfortunately, I did not write down the name of the book. However, I photocopied the prayers and the following statement:

"In 1986, a historic conference took place in Assisi, Italy -- the home of Saint Francis. For the first time in history, the leaders of the twelve major religions of the world had been called together to pray for peace."

A member of the conference brought back the prayers, which I feel are relevant -- and necessary in light of today's world events. I'd like to share them here a few at a time in no special order of significance other than the Prayer of St. Francis, which I will post first. Many of you will be familiar with a lot of these prayers. 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred...let me sow love.
Where there is injury...pardon.
Where there is doubt...faith.
Where there is despair...hope.
Where there is darkness...light.
Where there is sadness...joy.
O Divine Master
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled...as to console,
To be understood...as to understand,
To be loved...as to love.
For it is in giving...that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying...that we are born to eternal life.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Jewish Prayer for Peace

Come, let us go up to the mountain of
the Lord, that we may walk the
paths of the Most High.
And we shall beat our swords into plowshares,
and our spears into pruning hooks.
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation--
neither shall they learn war any more.
And none shall be afraid, for the mouth of the
Lord of Hosts has spoken.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Native American Prayer for Peace

O Great Spirit of our
Ancestors, I raise my pipe to you.
To your messengers the four winds, and to
Mother Earth who provides for your children.
Give us the wisdom to teach our children
to love, to respect, and to be kind
to each other so that they may grow 
with peace in mind.
Let us learn to share all good things that
you provide for us on this earth.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Muslim Prayer for Peace

In the name of Allah,
the beneficent, the merciful,
Praise be to the Lord of the 
Universe who has created us and
made us into tribes and nations.
That we may know each other, not that
we may despise each other.
If the enemy incline towards peace, do
thou also incline towards peace, and
trust God, for the Lord is the one that 
heareth and knoweth all things.
And the servants of God,
Most Gracious are those who walk on
the Earth in humility, and when we
address them, we say 'PEACE.'
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And some will say, "I behold the Christ in you."

(Peace image by Jean Jullien)

Hear our prayers.
Love and peace,
Marilyn

Thursday, October 22, 2015

More good stuff...

A few days ago I had a pleasant surprise when I answered a knock on my door. A sweet woman who lives down the road from me stood there with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers!

I knew who she was, although we had met only once before. Her son is my "landlord" and also a friend of my younger son. It seems my son Matthew ran into her (not literally) at a neighborhood gas station, and he noticed she was having some sort of car trouble. (I think it had something to do with her tires.) Being the kind-hearted soul he is, he helped her out. The flowers were her way of "paying it forward" for his assistance. An added bonus - she stayed and visited with me for a while and we discovered we had something in common. We both love arts and crafts. I took her on a tour of some of my and my mother's artwork. She was generously complimentary. I hope to be able to visit her as she suggested in the near future and view her art. I've heard that she is very talented.
************************************
More good things have happened in our world lately. Some may not appear to be good in the beginning. One such is the recent scandalous price gouging done by Martin Shkreli, the young hedge fund manager and CEO of a startup pharmaceutical company. In September he hit the headlines when he upped the price of a lifesaving drug used in treatment of a deadly parasitic infection as well as for some AIDs and cancer patients, from $13.50 a tablet to $750 a tablet! That is a hike of 5,000%. 

As shocking as this was, he was doing what most pharmaceutical companies have been doing for years - price gouging and manipulation of a drug's stock -- with the excuse of needing the high revenue to fund "research". There have been several good articles pointing out the way drug companies have been creating massive cost increases in their products, most frequently claiming the drug is a "specialty" drug, and there is not enough demand for it to continue producing it without significant increases. If we pay attention, it is obvious that most companies are paying more for advertising and marketing than they do on research and development! The U.S. and only one other country allow the blatant advertising for the pharmaceuticals to be public... New Zealand.

By putting the spotlight on the greed inherent in these practices that hurt so many who are unable to pay for the higher costs, perhaps we will finally get our government to do something about it.

Bill Moyers presented a good article about this on his site:  Big Pharma Rips Us Off

UPDATE Oct. 23rd, 2015: In USA Today's online report: San Diego-based Imprimis Pharmaceuticals said it would offer customized versions of its drugs for less than $1 a pill as an alternative to Daraprim. Read the report here: USA Today.

***********************************
This is a totally subjective observation, one that many Democrats share with me, but the former GOP candidate for House Speaker did Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign a big favor when he let it slip that the House Select Committee on Benghazi's work had hurt Hillary in the polls. It was obvious to most that this panel was a deliberate design to defeat Hillary Clinton. "McCarthy bragged to Fox News’ Sean Hannity that “everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi Special Committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”  Hillary is holding her own before the Benghazi Committee today. I suspect her performance will not only cinch her nomination in the primaries as the Democratic candidate, but will also assure her being our next President. Thank you, Kevin McCarthy.
**************************************
Good news for parts of Texas that have been suffering severe to extreme drought conditions. The recent wildfire in Bastrop County made us fearful that more were in the works unless we got rain soon. That wish has been granted, and we are experiencing rain. The thirsty ground will soak it up, and the area lakes will be replenished. Now if we don't get too much, causing flooding! There's that Goldilocks Syndrome again. We have already been warned of flash flooding here in Austin in the next few days. When that happens, the only road into my neighborhood often looks like this:
Low Water Crossing

One more good thing before I close. Jade Helm is Over and Texas Still Exists!
“Oh dear Lord,” (Jon) Stewart said. “Yet another waste of Texas funds that could have been spent on actual threats, like your infamous chainsaw massacres. Texas, it’s not that I don’t find it adorable that your governor thinks your State Guard could take on the United States military. It’s like a little dog growling at a big dog, or an 8-year-old picking a fight with the Predator.” So much for the conspiracy theories surrounding the military operations of Jade Helm.

Stay dry everyone, and notice the good things happening all around you.

Peace and Love,
Marilyn