Wednesday, April 9, 2014

DO UNTO OTHERS..


I received the following from a dear friend, Carin Horn, PhD:

Good morning, Marilyn,

"I just finished reading your latest blog and wanted to share some of my most challenging opportunities to not be judgmental and still serve the greater good.  I have been a volunteer board member and food buyer at the Denton Community Food Center for 4 years.  We serve about 200 families a week by providing emergency food 4-5 times a year and no more than twice in a calendar month.  Some of the folks that know where I volunteer have commented about the people that "take advantage of the system. You know. The ones that work it."

We really never know one another's story:

- A woman pulls up in a high dollar Mercedes needing food; she was living in her car.
- A disabled veteran is living on the streets and has no refrigeration or way to heat/cook food.
- The young widow of a veteran killed in Iraq needs food for her very young children.
- A multigenerational family can't feed everyone because the grandparents are living on social security but their adult child and family moved in after a job-related injury and subsequent loss of employment.  This happens frequently.
- A single mother with four children is pregnant and unemployed.  I think that she had been raped.
- A young man has no transportation, is living in a tent in some woods around Denton and cooking on an open fire -- not enough money to buy ice for the cooler he has.
- A man smelling like death had just been released from the hospital and has nothing to eat.  He was still wearing his hospital ID band.

I could go on and on....  The opportunity to accept and help others as they are may be our greatest challenge as brothers and sisters of the human race."

Love,
Carin
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2013 statistics show that one out of five children or 16 million children in America struggle with hunger on a daily basis. Your generous donations to your local food banks are needed to ensure these children and their parents get enough to eat. Contact organizations such as No Kid Hungry or a food bank in your area - Feeding America (for a list of food banks across the nation) to see how you can help. 

Sadly, many of our vets and their families also need food. One organization you can contact is Food for Veterans.
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After posting Carin's original email, I had a few questions, which she answered:

"“...the Food Center has been an all-volunteer community charity for 38 years.  No one has ever been paid to work there!  Our oldest volunteer is 94; the youngest without adult supervision are 16.  That being said, most of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of our volunteers have helped from time to time, including Chloe, Kaitlyn, and Coleson! (These are Carin’s own grandchildren.)

We have wonderful community support with funding and/or food coming from private individuals, co-op gardens/farms, group donations of purchased food, the Denton Benefit League, CoServ utilities, both universities, local grocery stores, academic intern programs, Empty Bowls of Denton, memorial funds, numerous churches, neighborhoods, and school food drives among many others.  We do not receive any direct government funding but we are able to purchase USDA commodities at substantial savings through the Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) in Ft. Worth. Because of that association, we are required to participate in civil rights training annually.

Some of our volunteers are accumulating community service hours at the recommendation of the courts -- essentially a fine-of-time for everything from running a stop sign to being caught having more fun than the law allows!  It is surprising how many community service workers become long-term volunteers after they have met their mandated obligations.  Helping others is very addictive behavior....

This morning I placed an order with TAFB for 5,115 pounds of food (frozen, fresh, and dry or canned) that will be gone before the end of next week.  We typically give out at least a ton of food a day, five days a week from 1:00 to 3:00 throughout the year.  BTW we do not require proof of citizenship -- a hungry child is a hungry child.

Love back to you and, Marilyn, keep speaking your mind.  You give us opportunities to reflect upon what really matters."  C
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Pointing out the sometimes miserable and negative aspects of our society may seem contrary to what I have described as my "Pollyanna" personality. Really, though, it's not. There is a positive angle to what I write about. I do not present these things as a condemnation (although it sounds like it when I talk politics!), but rather a beautiful opportunity for each of us to contribute lovingly to those less fortunate. A Christian, "golden-rule" type response to needs of so many. Unless we shine a light on those needs, how can we know what to fix? And much in our world today needs fixing. In doing so, I wish to pay tribute to those known and unknown angels who go about doing this work so unselfishly. Not only are they feeding the hungry of body, but they give much love to the soul.

I think Gandhi would approve of them.

Peace, love, and food for your soul,
Marilyn

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."


Am I the only one who finds it ironical that so many of our representatives in Congress seem to ignore The Golden Rule in all its many forms? Especially those who claim to be Christian? At the swearing in of Congress in January, 2013, the overwhelming majority of members of both the House and the Senate professed to be Christian of one denomination or another. 33 members were Jewish, and the balance answered as "no affiliation, other, or refuse to answer". 

The Golden Rule - or "do unto others" - is present in every world religion as well as ethical philosophies. One version or another has been around for centuries before the birth of Christ. The Christian version is present in different forms throughout the Bible, most notably when Jesus the Christ admonished, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, for this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31)

In Judaism, from the Talmud, "What is hurtful to yourself do not to your fellow man. That is the whole of The Torah and the remainder is but commentary."

It may surprise many to know that (Sunni) Islam teaches the same, "Do unto all men as you would they should unto you, and reject for others what you would reject for yourself." (Mishkat-el-Masabih)

There is also one described as "Commonsenseism" - put in modern, secular terms as "Treat people the way you'd like to be treated."
How do our Representatives reconcile their religious faith with some - not all - of the actions they take in Congress? It is tiresome to hear so many of our politicians (not only in Congress, but also in the Texas political arena) lump together the scores of unemployed, homeless, the hungry, the sick, and the poor with the few in our country who take advantage of assistance programs, by labeling them "dependents" (as if it is a dirty word) in an effort which cuts the assistance to those who are really in need. Paul Ryan's budget proposal is a shameful example of this trend. Congress's refusal to extend unemployment benefits; Ryan's proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and cut Food Stamps, Medicaid and Medicare, even privatize Social Security, would have devastating effects on our country.

The Reproductive Rights issues in many states have already hurt the poor, especially in Texas. Using Christianity as a reason to limit accessibility to family planning and yes, even abortion, has already deprived many of the poor of necessary healthcare in Texas. By making stringent
demands on Planned Parenthood centers, Texas has effectively shut down several of these centers in the most-needed parts of the state. Who will care for the unplanned (and often unwanted) children, born into poverty or even abuse and neglect? Who is going to provide their healthcare, nutrition, education? (Texas ranks 46th in the country in per student spending on education, and ranks 34th in overall quality of education.)

What will happen to the explosion of the elderly as the baby boomers reach their "golden years", and they find their Social Security payments and Medicare reduced or eliminated? Texas Governor Perry refused the additional federal Medicaid funds, which may mean many hospitals and nursing homes will not be able to remain open in the future. One nursing home administrator told me if their Medicare funding is cut they will have to close their doors.

The Congressional Christians speak out most about repealing the Healthcare Act, reproductive rights, abortion, and homosexuality. The one area that they seem to be losing ground on is same-sex marriage, as more and more states are passing laws to allow these marriages, or to at least recognize those from states which do. Pope Francis speaking out against judgement of homosexuals may have played a part in this by shaming the anti-gay establishment. 

Which reminds me that I, too, am becoming too judgmental in my appraisals of the conservatives and the wealthy who are running the country. I don't believe they will burn in Hell!  However, I may be creating a "hell" of my own with my words. When I start in on these subjects I have been quickly brought to task by my younger son. My own judgmentalism is seen as hypocrisy, and he's right. There's an old Indian saying that goes like this:
I can only hope that if I were in the shoes of the politicians and the wealthy 1% of this country that I would care more for the poor and disenfranchised than is shown by them. For now, I can only pray that enough feel the way I do that we can vote for positive change in America. In the meantime,  I ask them, what would you do in my shoes?

Peace and love,
Marilyn

~My thanks to the Christian Left website for wonderful images that inspire me.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

"FULL-ON PLUTOCRACY"

"It seems to me that the rulers of the 
Cherokees have sufficient intelligence
to see the utter imbecility of placing
any further reliance upon the
Supreme Court..."
Governor Wilson Lumpkin
Georgia, 1831

The above statement made in 1831 can also be said of today's reliance upon the rulings of the United States Supreme Court. "Utter imbecility..." I like that phrase. After its 2010 Citizens United vs FEC decision, it was hard to believe the Supreme Court could do more damage to the American people's right to decide by vote, the representatives to Congress that they personally wished to represent them. Now with the McCutcheon vs FEC they have effectively guaranteed that Corporations and the extremely wealthy of our country will rule our nation. A PLUTOCRACY.

"plutocracy" as defined by the World English Dictionary:
  1. the rule or control of a society by the wealthy
  2. a state or government characterized by the rule of the wealthy
  3. a class that exercises power by virtue of its wealth
Of course, one might say that this has been true for many years. However, for the first time in history, more than half of the members of Congress are millionaires. And eight of the nine Supreme Court justices were reportedly millionaires as of 2012.

Now, add the corporations and wealthy (read Koch brothers) who are funding Super PACs and their lobbyists who work the Congress behind the scenes to ensure that their particular interests are met. Who can honestly say that the American people are in charge of governing our country?

The straw that will "break the camel's back" will be the decision in favor of Hobby Lobby in the case now pending before the Court: i.e., the religious views of the owner of a corporation being a First Amendment right to deny portions of the new Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) to its employees. In effect this would give the corporation "people status"! Give me a break! One can only imagine the nightmare of discrimination this would reinstate in our country. Not to mention, what about the religions whose followers do not believe in blood transfusions - or any medical care at all? Any corporation could use the religious beliefs of its owner(s) as reason to refuse compliance with the ACA or any of our anti-discriminatory, civil rights statutes as well. 
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It's all about the money. Since the majority of those in Washington who are making the rules, passing the laws, and deciding which should be changed or repealed are now in the ranks of the 1% of Americans - the wealthiest, it comes as no surprise when we see the likes of the proposed budget recently presented by Paul Ryan - who is one of the millionaire Congressmen - and worth over $4 million. It's hard to picture him sympathetic in regards to any of the proposed cuts in his budget. He certainly won't need his Social Security or Medicare benefits in his old age. Nor will he suffer as the cost of living continues to rise. He probably never had to live on a $10 an hour salary, much less a lower minimum wage. If his budget passes, the results to Americans would resemble the "Menu" below. Many of the items on this menu are already in place. Republicans are dead set against any Tax Reform that might raise the taxes of the very wealthy 1% (but the Dems aren't completely free of blame on this - they, too, number among the Millionaire Club in Congress), the GOP is still set on repealing the Affordable Health Care Act; they vote for big business - particularly the oil and gas industry, when it comes to regulating or cleaning up the environment of the toxicities these businesses impose upon it; they are against raising the minimum wage; and if Ryan gets his way, this budget proposes to cut $732 million to Medicaid and other health care programs, as well as $1 trillion in cuts to Food Stamps, Pell grants, and farm subsidies. (All of these cuts, while adding $500 billion to the defense budget.) The proposed changes to Medicare and cuts to refundable income and child care tax credits for the working poor, as well as cuts to Supplemental Security Income for the elderly, disabled, and very poor, would leave millions of Americans at the mercy of the individual states.

In a state like Texas, many items on this "menu" are already in place, as like most Red States, we are ruled by a Republican majority, and women, immigrants, and the poor are low priority here. As of September 2013, Texas continued to have the highest rate in the country of people without any health insurance (I hope most of these were able to sign up for the ACA), and ranked among the Top 10 highest in poverty. Last year the Texas Legislature, despite having the 3rd highest teen age pregnancy rate in the nation, passed one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country, thus denying many of the state's poor women, men, and teenagers access to Planned Parenthood which provides much more in the way of health care and pregnancy prevention for the poor than they do abortions. Texas Governor Rick Perry also refused the additional Medicaid funding that the Affordable Care Act would have provided to aid many of these disenfranchised folks.

The wealthy in Texas tend to rule Texas politics as well. Recently, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, David Alameel beat my favorite to win the nomination in the primary, Maxey Scherr. Alameel is a millionaire dentist from the Dallas/Ft Worth area, who will be in a run-off election with Keesha Rogers on May 27th. Alameel has run for office four times in the past as a Republican! Another case of big money winning at least a nomination? Of course, the Republican candidate up for reelection, John Cornyn, is pretty entrenched, and no pauper himself. He was nearly a millionaire in 2012, so he may very well be one now.
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I like the sign I saw online being held in front of the Supreme Court that said:
"DEMOCRACY CANNOT BE BOUGHT". A "Plutocracy" arises on its own.

Peace and love,
Marilyn

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A LITTLE MYSTICISM, PLEASE..

A long time ago I started a piece about the number seven (7). I didn't get very far into it before becoming busy with my two youngest grandchildren. I said it was "to be continued". I decided I'd make another attempt at this. Upon observation, if you are like most people, you might find that seven has a way of turning up in your own life. I know it has in mine. In doing a little research, as well as looking back over my life, I've come up with a few interesting facts. If you have anything to add to these, I would welcome your additions. Particularly, your own life experiences with what some call "lucky seven". I'm not so certain that "lucky" is always the case. At least it doesn't always appear to be lucky -- at first.
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SEVEN: THE SACRED NUMBER
From: The Most Amazing Prophecies by Doug Batchelor
"Seven (7) – represents perfection, and is the sign of God, divine worship, completions, obedience, and rest. The 'prince' of Bible numbers, it is used 562 times, including its derivatives (e.g., seventh, sevens). (See Genesis 2:1–4, Psalm 119:164, and Exodus 20:8–11 for just a few of the examples.)

The number seven is also the most common in biblical prophecy, occurring 42 times in Daniel and Revelation alone. In Revelation there are seven churches, seven spirits, seven golden candlesticks, seven stars, seven lamps, seven seals, seven horns, seven eyes, seven angels, seven trumpets, seven thunders, seven thousand slain in a great earthquake, seven heads, seven crowns, seven last plagues, seven golden vials, seven mountains, and seven kings."
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IN NATURE:
-the eggs of the potato bug hatch in 7 days;
-those of the canary in 14 days;
-those of the barnyard hen in 21 days;
-The eggs of ducks and geese hatch in 28 days;
-those of the mallard in 35 days;
-The eggs of the parrot and the ostrich hatch in 42 days.

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"THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH"
Nothing "sacred" about this! The movie of the same name came out in 1955. Even though the theme was supposedly about marital infidelity, the movie was a comedy in which the only infidelity was in the Tom Ewell character's imagination. As I was a young teenager at the time, the message of the movie went over my head. I did, however, remember the saying in later years. A brief synopsis of the movie goes like this:

"After sending his wife and son to Maine to escape the sweltering summer heat of New York City, 38-year old Richard Sherman meets a 22-year-old blonde television commercial spokesmodel, who is renting the apartment directly above him. Despite recent paranoia about becoming unfaithful (he is reading a book his company is going to publish about a '7-Year Itch'; which claims a significant proportion of men have extra-marital affairs after seven years of marriage) Richard invites the girl for a drink after she accidentally knocks over a tomato plant from the balcony above and almost hits him." 

A little trivia: the famous subway scene frock worn by Marilyn (seen above) sold at a Profiles in History auction for a record $4.6 million, around $5.5 million with fees!
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PASSAGES
In 1974, after having gone through another divorce, I began to seek counseling and perusing the self-help books for answers as to why I kept failing at relationships. That year Gail Sheehy published the book "PASSAGES" Predictable  Crises of Adult Life. The word "predictable" is what grabbed my attention! Is there a way to understand, indeed, predict a crisis? 

One exercise that will surprise you is to write down every seventh year of your life, and note any significant changes -- or crises that occur during that seventh year. A move, a death of a loved one, a marriage, a birth, a divorce, or the loss of a job.. any of these can upset the balance of your life. (Medically speaking, they can also be precursors to a heart attack or mental breakdown!) Recognizing the events that occurred in each seventh year period of my own life was eye-opening, but I cannot say that reading the book stopped me from having other seventh year crises! Breaking or predicting patterns of behavior is not simple or found in books. However, seeing that you are not the only one subjected to a 7-year crisis helps. You can then be on guard for what can possibly take place in your seventh or seventieth year, and make changes to avoid what you might not wish to happen. Of course, there are some things one cannot predict or change, but many you will be able to steer clear of.
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Rosy Cross
I think the most interesting thing I discovered about seven-year-cycles is in a little book I picked up years ago at a garage sale titled "Wisdom of the Mystic Masters". It contains a brief explanation of the cycles we experience in our daily lives as taught by the ancient order of Rosicrucians. Rosicrucianism is a movement which incorporates the ancient Hermetic philosophy.. another interesting topic of mysticism.

"The title of the Brotherhood is derived from "Rosa-Crux", a red rose affixed to a cross, presumably of gold.  To the Rosicrucians of the age of Elizabeth, it hardly seems questionable that the rose was the symbol of silence, as among the ancients it was originally derived from the pagan tradition that the God of Love made the first rose, which he presented to the God of Silence. ... under it, whatever was spoken or done was not to be divulged; hence our term sub rosa used to indicate secrecy. The Cross, of course, signified salvation, to which the Society of the Rose-Cross devoted itself by teaching mankind the love of God and the beauty of brotherhood, with all that they implied." ..from Quest of the Ages - Sir Francis Bacon

The three main cycles covered by this book relate to Life Cycles, Business Cycles, and Health Cycles. Starting on one's birthdate, each cycle consists of 52 days - seven cycles in a year. Not surprisingly, the last cycle before your birthday is one of de-volution.. an ending, a completion. Strangely enough, I had two divorces finalized during this cycle - both on the same day - seven years apart. Those who follow the Rosicrucian philosophy plan their activities according to the descriptions of each cycle. In fact, there are many more cycles not covered in this book.. cycles of the week, day, and I presume even the hour. Pretty complicated if you ask me. I must admit though, as my birthday approaches each year, I do a thorough examination of what's going on in my life that might be coming to an end! Hmmm.. I wonder if my life itself might end on a seven-year cycle? Just kidding.
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Love, peace, and new beginnings,
Marilyn

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN...

(syrianews)
After three years of conflict and turmoil, Syria is now one of the most dangerous places on Earth to be a child,” concludes the report by UNICEF. (Feb. 11, 2014) "..at least 10,000 children have been killed. The real number is likely to be even higher.

According to an article this week in Newsweek Frontiers Without Medicine, 60% of the hospitals or clinics in Syria have been damaged or destroyed, and 50% of the doctors have fled the country. Children are dying at an alarming rate due to curable diseases. No medical care, vaccines or drugs are available in so many of these war-torn areas. Newborns in incubators are dying as power is cut by bombing. Sadly, many more are dying of starvation in areas that are blocked from receiving any humanitarian aid by both the Syrian army and the rebels. It is estimated that at least one million children live in areas under siege.

Doctors Without Borders or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) "stands for an impartial humanitarian action, independent from all political, economic and religious powers." (Wikipedia) The Nobel Prize-winning nonprofit organization of volunteer doctors and medical personnel is one of the groups currently working in Northern Syria at great personal risk. Four of their personnel were kidnapped in January, and 34 members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (Red Cross) have been killed since the war started. Doctors Without Borders needs our financial support (even though the doctors are volunteers money is needed for equipment and supplies), as does Save The Children, UNICEF, and Oxfam, who are all contributing to the desperate needs of these children. I'm sure there are more humanitarian groups who would welcome our donations.


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This past weekend I had four of my grandchildren visiting. As I observed their health and well-being, I realized how blessed our family is. Not only do these children have more than enough of the basic needs like food, shelter, and medical care, but they also are fortunate to be born in the United States to families with the ability to give them many if not all of the luxuries in life. Most of them have televisions in their rooms, smart phones, electronic tablets, computers, the latest fads in clothing.. and all get their own vehicles when they come of age. Glasses, braces, musical instruments, as well as music and dance lessons, which are luxuries for many children, are available to my grandchildren.

Which reminds me. My youngest grandchild, Kelly, who is in the second grade, has shown an unusual interest in playing music. Her mother inherited a lovely piano from a grandmother. Since Kelly was a toddler, she has been fascinated with this piano, and even started playing her own little "tunes" - some of which were quite melodious. During a recent visit by her older cousin Cameron, he started to teach her music. He went so far as to put the musical notes on the piano keys for her, and she has been teaching herself to play. Mom and Dad have now lined up piano lessons for her to begin in the near future.

This grandmommy doesn't have a piano, but I have quite an assortment of rattles, a tambourine, Indian drums, an African tongue drum, and even a couple of "Indian" flutes - small wooden flutes. Kelly has always loved the sound of these flutes, and pulls them out at every opportunity to make a little music. When she found out her school teacher plays the flute, she began to pester her dad for a "real" flute. After searching the internet, Matthew finally found an affordable one for a beginner. Since that time, Kelly has been watching videos online to learn to play the flute! She has not yet mastered the lip placement to get a lovely sound, but she's close. Then she can work on her hand placements! She won't go to a school that offers music lessons until she reaches Middle School, however, as determined as this smart little miss is, I believe she
will make "real" music long before then. She will make the fifth of my seven grandchildren to play a musical instrument.

Kelly is amazing in her understanding of adult ideas, and her ability to give her opinion on subjects that many adults fail to recognize never ceases to surprise me. Recently she and brother Travis spent the night, and at dinner she was excitedly telling me about a trip to Dallas they made. They spent the night next door to a family who had chickens in their back yard. I explained to her that those were what we call "free range" chickens, and that in the past all of our eggs and chickens came from that source. I told her and her brother that now most of our eggs come from chickens who spend their entire lives in little cages. Kelly immediately jumped in and told me in no uncertain terms, "Well, they need to change that rule!" We may have a future vegetarian in our family. At the very least, another animal rights activist.

Kelly gave me a sticker made from a self-portrait she did in art recently. She told me that she got the background from the movie "Tangled". (I'm afraid I haven't heard of that one.) When I complimented her on her drawing, she unabashedly told me that she and another girl were the best artists in her class. I love the self-confidence this beloved child has gained from her loving family. 

Love all the children.. and may we help end the suffering of those who aren't so blessed.


Peace,
Marilyn

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

TELL YOUR STORIES

Nearly all of my life I have been called an optimist, with the exception of a few short years when I suffered from clinical depression. With treatment, understanding, and the grace of God I pulled through those years – mostly by removing myself from an unhealthy relationship. Some years it has been a struggle to maintain an optimistic attitude. I was often called Pollyanna for doing so when others did not feel my situation or the conditions of the world warranted it.

In recent years, as I no longer struggle to “make a living” (thank God for Medicare and generous children) I have had more time to witness in greater detail the events going on in the world. If one is not careful, this can lead to a depression in the most optimistic of persons. For some time I devoured my newspapers with broadcast news for backup. With the acquisition of my first computer – thanks again to my generous children – I discovered the “miracle” of the Internet and more news than I could ever read. My Favorites and Documents files have to be reviewed often to delete items I thought were absolutely important for me to re-read. For a few years I had cable TV - which was almost my downfall. One can listen to just so many pundits and their mostly negative rhetoric without absorbing that negativity. I no longer have cable (I'm thankful), and have discovered the absolute pleasure of watching PBS and what I consider their balanced view (makes me sound like FOX News, doesn't it?) on current events. Although I notice a few corporate sponsors creeping in, for the most part the lack of big spenders that they must appease with their news broadcasts leads me to believe they are more accurate than other news outlets. I still surf the web, reading different online newspapers - that's an oxymoron today, isn't it? I guess the proper term is news sites. And I still watch broadcast news, alternating different networks to see if they are reporting the same things.

I have to take a break now and then, and do a lot of soul-searching and I must admit, a lot of praying. An article I read online listed "10 Habits of Optimists". As this was more interesting than the article "6 Things You Don't Know About Ear Wax", I looked at it and I discovered one of the habits is to "Tell Your Stories". This is something I feel I've done a lot of through the years, however, there may be a few of my stories you haven't heard yet. Two of these were brought to mind recently because of the Russian military takeover of the Crimea region of the Ukraine. 


Many of you reading this were not even born when the old Soviet Union invaded Hungary in 1956. I was in high school, and I have to admit that I don't remember much about it. If anything, I might have felt the anxiety my father was having at the possibility of another war - this time an even more dreadful war as the Soviets also had atomic bombs. After all, Dad had already served three tours of duty in the Army - in both WWII and the Korean Conflict. Thank goodness, President Eisenhower was a prudent Republican politician, even though he was a former 5-Star General in the U.S. Army. ("I Like Ike" was a motto in our house.) Knowing military intervention might trigger another war with a catastrophic release of atomic weapons upon the world, the U.S., under his leadership, did nothing. The far-distant location of Hungary may have influenced the decision not to intervene, as closer to home, Ike was dealing with the Suez Canal crisis. Economic sanctions would be pointless, as the Russians took what they wanted from the countries they occupied after WWII. No one called Eisenhower "weak" for not wanting to involve the United States in another war, this time in Hungary. And we still remained one of the world Superpowers. Therein lies the memories of the following stories I wish to share.

(AP)

In 1968, living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, my then-husband and I made a trip to the area of Taos to look at property that was to be developed on the outskirts of this resort area. The man who was developing it, and trying to raise money (he wasn't going to get any from us, as we didn't have any) to put in roads, utilities, etc. was a grey-haired, Hungarian immigrant, perhaps in his late 60s or early 70s. He was delightful, and charmed us with not only his accent and upbeat personality, but also the food he brought along for our visit to the site.. warm ale, green chilis (my first taste of them), cheese, sausage, and a delicious round loaf of home-baked bread. When we stopped for our lunch, we were ravenous from the high altitude. As we ate, we listened to our host tell his horrific story of when the Soviet Union took over his home country of Hungary. 30,000 lives were lost in that invasion.


Soviet Union Invades Budapest, Hungary

Along with many intellectuals and professional people of Hungary, he was taken to the Soviet Union as a "political prisoner". He spent nine years as a prisoner who was forced to work at his profession as an architect, for the benefit of the Russians, under armed guard during the day. At night he was returned to a prison cell. I have forgotten most of what he told us about his escape from Russia, although once, he hid in a farmer's barnyard. The farmer dug a hole for him to climb into, then he covered him with cow manure from the yard. He made the hair on my neck stand up as he told of Russian soldiers searching for him, and even walking over the site where he was buried. 

Eventually making his way to the United States, the gentleman told us that he was working to make money so he could continue to travel the United States telling his story about the Communist Russians to schools and any other venue who would have him. He could not stress strongly enough the brutality he and others suffered at the hands of the Russians as they pushed their way across eastern Europe, hungry for power and domination. It was during this time (1968) that the Soviet Union was invading Czechoslovakia, and the United States, again, was not intervening. After all, we were heavily involved in Vietnam. I don't recall anyone calling President Lyndon Johnson "weak" for not helping the Czech people at the time. Nor was the U.S. no longer considered a Superpower.

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Let's go back in time to the year 1962. I was living with my husband and children in Roswell, NM, surrounded by 12 Atlas lift-silo missile sites. These were underground missiles. Walker AFB was located there as well. We had two neighbors during the year we lived there who were engineers at the sites. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, our next-door neighbors were a young couple with two children, both in diapers. Barb and Luis were their names. They were fun to be with, and we became close friends. I will never forget that October day when Barb came over, babe in arms, her face flushed as she rushed to tell me Luis had just called her... something he had been warned not to do! He told her to load the car with clothing, diapers, baby formula, water, and food, and to be ready to leave at a moment's notice. He didn't have time to - or couldn't - tell her more. She was frightened and therefore, it scared me as well. We did not have 24-hour news coverage in those days, but I turned on the television in case we got some kind of emergency signal. I called my husband at work, and he told me not to worry, I didn't need to get the kids ready for evacuation. The evening news told a different story. The missile sites around Roswell guaranteed that we would be a target if Khrushchev decided to ignore President Kennedy's warning and the U.S. blockade he had set up. The United States came the closest it has ever come to being in a nuclear war. The rest is history.

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Two stories, two different presidents, two political parties and different outcomes. We intervened by blockading any more arms or missiles reaching Cuba from Russia, but would we have actually fired nuclear weapons if Khrushchev had not backed down and removed their missiles? Cuba is only 90 miles from the United States. Obviously, we could not allow the Soviet Union to aim their nuclear missiles at us from that near country. They could have destroyed a large portion of the U.S. before we could respond and return fire on Russia. We later learned that despite all of the overt threats, Kennedy and Khrushchev were spending lots of time on the telephone behind the scenes, hashing over details of the crisis and what the options were for a solution.

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President Obama faces some of the same decisions in regards to Crimea. The distance of the Ukraine from the United States, and the fact that the taking back of Crimea (which had originally been a part of the old Soviet Union) by Russia will not immediately affect us is similar to the situation in Eastern Europe those many years ago. So far, Putin's military has not brought any violence upon the region. So far, he hasn't pushed further into the Ukraine. This time, economic sanctions may prove to be the best solution to the attempted takeover. Diplomatic isolation, asset freezes and travel bans against oligarchs have been suggested. Europe's diversifying its energy supply and developing pipelines that do not run through Russia, along with assistance from North America's oil and gas, will put added pressure on Russia, as its economy cannot tolerate lower oil prices.

Politicians who are pushing for military intervention in order to enhance their own political stance in an election year, should be working together with Obama's administration and our European allies to stop this bully Putin in his tracks. Publicly accusing Obama as being "weak", and suggesting his policies have reduced the United States' standing as a world Superpower only do more to encourage Putin, who is seen as a power-hungry narcissist, anxious to regain the status of the old Soviet Union. 


As President Obama and Putin are also talking by telephone behind the scenes, let us all send prayers for a peaceful resolution that will benefit not only the citizens of Crimea and the Ukraine, but the rest of Europe as well. My optimistic nature believes this is possible. Our Congress should come together and stop undermining the current administration. "United" is what makes our nation strong - not the ability to go to war. 

Tell me your stories that impacted your life.

and love,
Marilyn

Monday, March 10, 2014

MORE FAMILY NEWS

Number One Son Craig's children have been very busy. Here is an update on what's going on in their lives.

This summer Cameron will be head youth counselor at the Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch in Colorado, where he will provide music and entertainment as well. Needing a change of pace from the 9-5 job he's been working at in Dallas, and having a chance to travel both before and after the position in Colorado, Cameron is excited about the change. He will be able to save money (free lodging and food), and to eat what the guests eat - "prime rib on a weekly basis"! Gotta love young men's appetites! The photos of the ranch are beautiful - cabins that all face the Colorado River and views of the mountains.

I asked Cameron (who sings opera) if he knows any country/western songs. He replied, "I will be bringing my guitar, and I know a few country/western tunes. I need to brush up on Willie, Waylon, and Johnny, and get good on the classics. Opera doesn't fit into this at all..." I told him to shop Goodwill and buy western shirts for the summer.


As I looked at the Guest Ranch's website, it dawned on me that Cameron may not have been on a horse. This will be interesting, as some of the photos show the kids riding horses. As Youth Counselor, he might be expected to ride with them. Well, he told me he's determined to become a full-time adventurer. This will be a good start. Cameron, the kids staying at the ranch will be very lucky to have you as their counselor - even if you don't know how to ride a horse.
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Cameron's younger sister Hannah told me that February and March are the busiest, most stressful times for her. For an eighth grader, that is most unusual (I think). When she sent me her schedule, I had to agree with her. Recently she participated in the Irma P. Hall Theatre Arts Festival in Dallas. Their website describes this event as follows:

"Talented Dallas ISD students from 9 high schools, 10 middle schools, and 23 theatre programs ..compete for awards in playwriting, directing, and acting.. 

..The festival is believed to be the only theatre festival in the state that addresses crucial skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation. The goal is for students to learn 21st century skills, while also celebrating student creativity."

Hannah competed in improvisation, interpretive mask, costume design, and performed an original monologue. She got blue ribbons in each, except for costume design, so she earned a gold medal. She wrote me the following:

"This Saturday I am participating in Academic UIL, which is a competition where you enter events to show your intelligence. (I haven't yet heard how she did in this. As she's a straight A student, I'm sure she excelled.

A week from tomorrow I am getting my braces off, so I'm really very excited about that, and that afternoon I have auditions for the big spring play. Two days after that, I go to a major choir competition, and two weeks after that, I have an even bigger choir competition."

Whew! To top all of that off, Hannah was accepted into Booker T. Washington Performing Arts High School, after auditioning with a monologue from "Oz" . Way to go, Hannah. You make us all proud.

               

Looking at the above photo, wouldn't you think the boy in the black pants kicking up his heels is having a good time? That's Matthew's son Travis at one of his Cotillion rehearsals. When I asked him if he liked dancing, he made a face and said, "No! I hate it!" Could'a fooled me.. By the way, notice how the girls look so much more mature than the boys. Here's how he looked the night of the Cotillion Ball. He doesn't look like someone dreading the evening, does he? Maybe he's just looking forward to the good meal. The boy's got a big appetite!

His mom just sent me a photo from the local paper about the 6th graders at his school making up their own line dance and performing for their parents. Travis is in shorts, looking cool with his sunglasses on. He neglected to tell this Grandmommy about doing this - perhaps because I might not believe him when he tells me he doesn't like to dance?

Travis much prefers sports to dancing. Good exercise either way. He just finished basketball season, and his team lost only one game. Unfortunately, that was a tournament game. Next year, Travis. Before he was finished with basketball, baseball season started. And little sister Kelly was playing soccer. It kept Dad and Mom, Amy, jumping for about a week.

Travis and Kelly spent the night with me this past weekend, giving Amy and Matt a chance to go out and sleep in the next morning. When they woke up, Amy called the kids on a video chat. Here they are watching her and telling her about their time here. Isn't technology wonderful?

Miss Kelly is fast becoming one of our stars in the family as well. I will tell you about her accomplishments - and personality - in a future blog.
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Being around family helps keep one's mind off the terrible events happening in the world. Sadly, the news of those events is waiting for me. I try hard not to let them anger me, or focus too much attention on any particular event. "What you focus on, increases." Better to focus on the love of family. And send prayers for peace, comfort, and resolution to the world.

Peace and love to you and yours,
Marilyn