Wednesday, January 14, 2015

GOOD STUFF THAT HAPPENED IN 2014

As we move into 2015, the TV news shows as well as the Internet are full of the "10 Biggest News Stories of 2014". Unfortunately, most of the ones they speak of happen to be bad news stories. So many times we have to hunt for the good news stories. We might get one a week, or if we're lucky, some newscasters show a heartwarming story at the end of their broadcast. Some of those we remember; some we don't. I decided to find some of what to me mean "good stuff" that happened in 2014. If you have one or more to add to my list, feel free to put them in Comments.

I'll start off with my favorite song of the year. (Next is probably "Let It Go", but more for the message than the overall feel-good experience.) Turn it on and watch:
I defy anyone to remain in a gloomy, negative, pessimistic state while listening to Pharrell sing "Happy". You may even find yourself tapping your feet or wanting to get up and dance a little. Watching folks from all walks of life dance to it is also a lot of fun. I really got a kick out of the Park Ranger.

While stories of Ebola deaths continue to dismay us, there were some good news about it as well. We must not forget the stricken people of Africa nor the aid workers who so generously assist in their recovery. This little boy shows his happiness at being healed.


Mothers of toddlers out there: there is good news for you if your little ones like to play in the dirt and make mud pies. They may get a dose of antibiotics that will cure them of whatever might be ailing them at the time!  New Antibiotic From Dirt

Some lucky students overburdened with college loan debt were happy to hear what a nonprofit organization accomplished with donations. "Strike Debt", a group of anti-debt activists born out of the Occupy Wall Street movement, said it purchased $3.9 million in delinquent private student debt and immediately canceled it". Strike Debt

I fell in love with Pope Francis this past year! He is such a humble, saintly person who seems to follow the teachings of Jesus closer than any Pope of the past. I am particularly impressed with his statement on gays: "If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?"  That's just one of many reasons he is such a remarkable breath of fresh air to the Roman Catholic church.

Everyone knows what generous gifts given to charity that Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, and other recognizable names make each year. The young do so as well.
(Photo from boredpanda)
There is a young man that I saw interviewed on one of the news programs recently who invented the GoPro camera, which is small enough to track the flight of a bird. His name is Nick Woodman. He and his wife Jill gave the third largest gift in the U.S. last year of $500 million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. They set up a charitable foundation in their own name, the money to be distributed to causes they support -- as yet to be decided. Mark Zuckerberg (of Facebook fame) and his wife Priscilla Chan donated nearly $1 billion to the same foundation in 2013. It is good to know that the younger generation of technical geniuses realizes the need to help those less fortunate or to invest in causes that help the world. The silicon valley foundation supports local as well as global nonprofits in the areas of education, affordable housing, transportation, and environmental issues.

There were many little animal stories for the animal lovers among us. Look at Leon Trotsky the pig in his wheelchair:
Read his story and others like his here: Amazing Animals Show Us How

Speaking of animals, In March of 2014 the United Nations International Court ordered Japan to cease the hunting of hundreds of whales in the Antarctic each year under the guise of "biological research". Have you ever listened to recordings of the sounds whales make when communicating? Beautiful, haunting melodies. Elephants, dolphins, and whales more and more appear to have human characteristics and even methods of communication. They deserve our protection.

Although we can always do better in protecting the environment and the creatures of our planet, there were many positive strides made in these areas in 2014. The Great News Network will keep you informed of the advances being made.

Here are some items of uplifting news you may not have heard yet. (These can be read about in depth at Cracked. Warning: this site has language some might find offensive.)

  • The first ten years of this century had the lowest number of annual battle deaths in history, even with the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Does this mean we are closing in on World Peace?
  • Fewer teens are drinking, smoking, and doing drugs than ever before. (Except for marijuana.)
  • The United States and even the world, contrary to the ongoing fighting by jihadists, is becoming more tolerant and less hate-filled than ever before in history. This is especially true of racism and the acceptance of the LGBT community.
  • The world's literacy rate is at an all-time high. In the U.S., 99% of adults can read and write, and the higher percentages in other countries is remarkable as well.
  • The Number One surprising good news listed in this article is that the world's poverty rate is dropping. From 1991 to 2012 the number of the world's extreme poor was cut in half.
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On a closing note, I want to quote from a little booklet I read from each day published by Silent Unity called Daily Word. World peace was first in everyone's prayers for the new year. Unity said it beautifully:

"World peace begins with people who are peaceful within themselves. It starts with those who find nonviolent ways to settle disputes. They respect others, honor differences, and realize God is in everyone. With every person who finds tranquility, the collective energy of peace grows, like a gentle breeze stirring love within all it touches."

May 2015 find all of us filled with peace and love,
Marilyn

Thursday, December 25, 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS

I neglected to get Christmas cards out this year, so I thought I would share a few memories from my family Christmases. These are just a few that I have on my computer. I hope to get around to scanning many more photos in the future. In the meantime, I wish all of you - my readers from around the world - a blessed Christmas. And may our New Year see Peace and Love settle upon our planet earth.


Love,
Marilyn


Sunday, December 7, 2014

CHRISTMAS TREATS

My good friend Jack keeps doing more and more, while most folks his age are doing less and less. This video is a presentation that those of you who were in Unity of Denton during the 90s will recognize. Jack performed this in church for us every Christmas.


I have posted some of his pastel art work in the past, but these have to be my favorites. He did them recently.




I am not certain, but I'll bet Jack would be willing to sell these. What a nice Christmas present. If you wish more information, let me know via the Comments, and I will contact Jack. Also, at the end of the video there is a list of Jack's e-books which are for sale on Amazon. He has been very prolific with his creative endeavors.

I hope all of your Christmas preparations are going well, and that you are looking forward to a very Merry Christmas!

Peace,
Marilyn

Friday, November 21, 2014

THE BRIGHTEST AND BEST

Audrey, my environmentalist/violinist granddaughter, made 3rd chair, 2nd violin, in the Duke Medicine Orchestra. She is at Duke University finishing her Master's Degree in Environmental Management. The picture above was taken when she and her mother Carajean went on an adventure to Devil's River this past September. They joined Audrey's former ballet teacher and his wife, and stayed at a beautiful place on the river itself. I thought they would be "camping out", and couldn't feature my daughter Carajean roughing it! 

Carajean wrote the following about her son, who, by the way is consistently on the Honor Roll at school. According to Mom, he and his dad enjoy their time together at the monthly tennis tournaments and on bicycle rides, weather permitting. The photo below was on Tanner's 16th birthday in August. Note sister Ashlyn's gerbil Chips hanging out in his pocket. The hat must be for learning to captain their boat on Lake Austin next summer. He certainly looks the part!

"Tanner is playing in what is called a 'Champs' tournament. There are three levels of tournaments (outside of the local tournaments here in Amarillo), ZAT, Champs, and Super Champs. These tennis tournaments take place every month all over the state of Texas. You play within your age group, I think Tanner's is 16-18. Everyone in the Champs tournament has already won the ZAT tournament. If he wins a Champs tournament then he can only play in the Super Champs tournaments thereafter, where everyone else has won as well. So the skill level increases every time he wins a tournament. Private High School tournaments are called TAPPS tournaments. They occur once a year in the spring. He won second place last year, a freshman against a senior. And this past August he won the TriState Area Tennis Tournament with a tie-breaker against an 18-year old. He is good and improving but will never be a professional. The competition is crazy!" (This proud grandmomma said if he kept it up, he might be a professional some day.) 
                                                                               My older son Craig sent me an update on granddaughter Hannah, who auditioned for and was accepted by the Booker T. Washington Performing Arts High School in Dallas. 

"Booker T. scores out very well on academics. They have to be able to keep their grades up, even with the emphasis on their particular 'major' (Hannah's being theater). Hannah is taking several advanced placement courses - some where she's the only freshman, I think."

My youngest granddaughter, Kelly, has also made the A Honor Roll, and was recently given the Math Assessment test. She scored 100% - the only 100 in her third grade class. Mom Amy sent me the following on her cheer team.

"Her cheer team recently won Showcase at Concordia University. They now go to Regionals the day after Thanksgiving in San Antonio."

Kelly's big brother Travis has been sharing quality time with his dad Matthew (my youngest child), as Tanner does with his dad Branch. Travis has been taking golfing lessons, and playing in frequent PGA Junior Golf tournaments. Last month he won his second one, shooting a 41 on 9-holes. I don't know who was the proudest - Dad or Travis!

He's also on the A and B Honor Roll.. His dad mentioned to me that one of the two Bs was an advanced placement class.

The last I heard from my oldest grandchild Cameron, he had moved into his own apartment in Fort Worth, and his new job at the Unitarian Church was going really well. I just found out why I haven't heard more frequently - he's been a busy, busy guy! Last year he and some friends formed a group of singers who are available for hire during the Christmas season. They have their own website now. Uptown Christmas Carolers  Cameron is the handsome dude on the far right!
Besides his church position as Director of Education and planning the upcoming caroling season, Cameron has also recently recorded backup vocals for a Motown revival album sung by Leon Bridges. The new album hasn't come out yet, but he says he will let me know! Here is a sample of Leon Bridges singing: Leon Bridges. From opera to hymns to Simon and Garfunkel, and now some low-down, Motown blues. Cameron, your range is fantastic! 

Last, but far from "least" is Carajean's daughter Ashlyn. I haven't heard much out of Ashlyn since she started her first year of college at OSU in September. I know she was very busy at first getting acclimated to her new surroundings, and rushing the sorority she wanted to join. (She made it.) A while back, the whole family got flu shots. I'm not certain if they've had them before, but Carrie said this time everyone except Tanner came down with the flu! (I think they must have been exposed before their shots!) Ashlyn ended up with a bad infection and cough requiring antibiotics, much to her chagrin, and was coming home weekends to be medicated. Her mom said she was extremely upset that the cough medicine contained codeine, causing her to oversleep one morning and miss an important biology exam. I hope to hear more when she comes with her mother and big sister for a visit in December. 

This has been so uplifting for me to write about, and to realize how blessed our family is to have such great kids! All healthy, smart, talented, and of course, I think they are all beautiful! 

Love and peace,
Marilyn

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gettin' It Off Our Chests!


If any of you are as dismayed as I am at the results of this past election.. and are wondering what on earth has happened to the people of the United States to cause them to elect such, in some cases, ungodly candidates, you will understand it better when you read former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower's article The Rise of the Stealth Ogliarchy. In this article, he spells out what many of us have suspected for quite some time.. at least since the Citizens United verdict issued by the SCOTUS. That being, the elections are more and more frequently being bought with "dark money" donated by special interest groups. Big oil, big Pharma, Koch brothers, etc.

I personally shudder at the election results in the state of Texas. I'm not happy with our newly elected Governor Greg Abbott, but God forbid anything happens to him and we have the likes of the clown Dan Patrick running our state! (Who appears to be gettin' it ON his chest here!)
Read what some of the recently elected or re-elected politicians have said in the past: One politician states Obama "is possessed by demons"; one states that gays "are out to recruit your children" and "gay people don't deserve civil rights"; another says Hillary Clinton is "the anti-Christ"; another said "Let's go to war with Mexico". Yes, these people were actually elected to represent the "people". You can read about them and other nightmare electees here: Look Who's In Office Now

Congressional Lottery? A suggestion by Michael Schulson in the Daily Beast shortly after the election isn't such a bad idea when you consider the ones we recently elected to office. He starts off  with "If you’re looking for an unrepresentative group of Americans, the House of Representatives isn’t a bad place to start. Its members are disproportionately old and white. More than 80 percent of them are men. They spend around four hours per day on the phone, asking people for money. Unlike most other telemarketers, they have a median net worth of almost $900,000. More than a third of them hold law degrees." He goes on to state that "not much changed" in this past election.
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In the past, I have published things written by my old friend Jack Garner. He gets particularly riled up at Letters to the Editor in his hometown paper. They always publish his response. Here is the latest letter that raised his hackles.

Letters to the Editor, Nov. 14 
Denton Record-Chronicle 
Senior Spending

"America’s senior citizens are in an enviable position. They have an ever-increasing percentage of the country’s wealth.

The federal government spends nearly seven times as much per capita on programs for people 65 and older than it does on programs for children.

Because of an aging population and rising health care costs, government spending on senior citizens will increase greatly during the coming years.

By contrast, young adults and their children are by far the poorest age cohort of Americans. They are suffering from the effects of automation, globalization and soaring student debt.

They will spend their lives paying interest on the government debt that their elders have racked up.

Government spending that will promote their future prosperity (such as infrastructure, education and basic scientific research) continues to fall as a percentage of federal spending.

Unfortunately, a substantial majority of older Americans show by their votes that they support these trends. They want to reduce government spending, including in the three critical areas mentioned, except when it comes to their own benefits.

Let’s hope that they eventually develop an increased concern for the future of those who come after them." ..... B** M*********

And here is Jack's acerbic response:

"Lo the tin woodsman still searches for a heart, and there is no suggestion of such an organ in the letter of B** M********* as he berates American seniors for their slice of the American pie. What do you advocate, Mr. M*********, for the elderly and infirm? Perhaps abandon them with no food on an ice floe as the Eskimos once did?

Personally, I don’t believe young adults and children that you cry crocodile tears for are the real reason for your tirade. I propose it is you and your class that would like to take away benefits from the old in hopes of lowering your taxes.

Your missive brings to mind Scrooge’s admonition to those trying to gather money for food for the poor on Christmas. Does Ebenezer nest some place in your family tree, Sir?

Senior citizens you rebuke are those that have worked their fingers to the bone, and paid tax burdens of a past generation. They include veterans of Korea, Vietnam, and Operation Desert Storm Would you toss the men and women that served into the trash heap now that they are past the age of serving? You, Sir, and your ilk are responsible for the Republican Party being branded as mean-spirited.

In closing, as I suggested in my opening, you are heartless and selfish. May the Grinch leave a chunk of coal in you stocking this Christmas, and may the New Year bring you a sense of generosity that you are now sadly lacking." ...John Nance Garner   (Ornament by Ann Lihl)

That's telling him, Jack!

However, what Jack has failed to note is that it is the corporate welfare in the way of subsidies, and the unfair tax code with all its loopholes that allow corporations to move their headquarters to other countries to avoid paying taxes, as well as the wealthiest 1% of the U.S. citizens not only taking advantage of the loopholes in the code, but also hiding their assets in foreign countries, that have helped to create such disparity in government spending. If they all would carry their share of the tax burden, the things such as "infrastructure, education, and basic scientific research" would have ample funds. And one must remember that the largest creditor of the U.S. government is Social Security! The seniors -- those 65 and older -- have contributed as much or more to the Social Security fund than any of the younger generations have had an opportunity to do.

No more tears for now. We are approaching the best holiday seasons of the year. And it is imperative to focus on the things we are thankful for. Stay tuned.

Peace and love,
Marilyn

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

GOOD NEWS


Even though the tragedy of Ebola magnifies daily there are some good things happening, and we should throw up our hands in praise. Microsoft's Bill Gates has donated $50 million dollars, and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg $25 million towards fighting Ebola.

Stories abound regarding the selfless work being done by volunteers in Africa, and now in the United States, to assist the vulnerable victims of the dread disease. Here is one story of the healthcare workers such as Doctors Without Borders, who have lost at least 7 of their doctors treating Ebola in Africa, the International Medical Corp, and the difficulties they face daily. These and members of other volunteer organizations lay their lives on the line daily to help their fellow man.

How much better a legacy to die like this than on a foreign battlefield -- saving lives rather than killing people?
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(Save the Children)
The Nobel Peace prize was recently awarded to Malala Yousafzai, the young teenager who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban for publicly supporting girls' education in Pakistan. The prize was shared with Indian children's rights activist, Kailash Satyarthi. The plight of children all over the world deserves the attention and benefits brought through the words and works of these two courageous human beings.

Too many of us take for granted the government-funded educational opportunities available in the U.S. Now we need to implement a system for the college-bound students that doesn't leave them or their families burdened with debt.
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Some politicians go too far to protect their own interests by appeasing their corporate contributors and playing to the uneducated beliefs held by many citizens where climate change is concerned. As the above cartoon points out, they are not scientists. Thankfully, there are many scientists in the world -- both young and old -- who don't pay attention to the politics that deny the earth is getting warmer at a faster pace than ever before, and it is we humans and our technology who are causing it. A few continue to research and invent items that will, or in some cases already are doing so, assist in helping delete the pollution of industry as well as to explore new energy sources and the ways to use them.

"The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities,
But to know someone who thinks and feels with us,
And who, though distant, is close to us in spirit,
This makes the earth for us, an inhabited garden." Goethe

The numbers are growing -- those "who think and feel with us" -- that it is our duty to make certain the earth will be "an inhabited garden" for the generations to come. We must not give up hope that it can and will be done. Here are some innovative ideas that caught my eye recently...

How about flexible, printable solar panels? They can easily be mounted on the sides of buildings as well as many other uses. The video is only three minutes long. 


The 2013 Science in Action winner for 2013, sponsored by Scientific American as part of the Google Science Fair, was Elif Bilgin, a 16-year old girl from Istanbul, Turkey, who developed a bioplastic from discarded banana peels. Scientific American had this to say about her project: "The ingredients to make Bilgin’s plastic are relatively benign. As she wrote in her entry materials, 'it is possible to say that one could do it at home.' In her research, she learned that starch and cellulose are used elsewhere in the bioplastic industry (such as from the skin of mangoes) and made the leap that banana peels might be suitable feedstock sources as well. She hopes that the use of the bioplastic could replace some of the petroleum-based plastics in use today for such applications as insulation for electric cables and for cosmetic prostheses."

Think of all the banana peels that are going to waste (maybe they are composted?) at our nation's zoos! Read more about Elif Bilgin here: Banana Peels to Plastic
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What drives people more than anything to take risks such as fighting Ebola -- either by hands-on or in the laboratory -- to protest against a repressive government (such as the Hong Kong students have been doing), or to make dramatic lifestyle changes that result in better health? Dr. Dean Ornish has written an excellent article about the recent U.N. Climate Summit where he explores the reasons behind people's actions, and what motivates them. His answer is "Love is more powerful than fear as a sustainable motivator."  (Please read it here: Love Not Fear) He aptly concludes that in order to "fix" climate change it will take love to carry us over the long haul.
It will take many innovators, inventors, and lots of love for our planet and the future of our children to make the strides that are necessary. And every good thing starts with an idea! 

"Ideas are scary..."
(“Green is green,” captures the spirit of GE's aggressive push into clean technology, alternative energy and eco-friendly infrastructure. Daily Reckoning.com)




It goes without saying, we need to support and encourage the innovators in our society. The children of the world should receive the finest of educations and their ideas cultivated. And we need to insist that our politicians pay more attention to the people, the planet, and our future rather than the demands for profits by the large corporations who are guilty of continually despoiling our planet.

Peace and love,
Marilyn

Friday, October 10, 2014

TIMELY GUEST COLUMN

I have reposted one of Beth's columns before. (Guidelines to Help Congress) Beth is a country pastor in the mountains of Virginia who happens to have been an attorney before going into the ministry. I love the richness of her poetry and folksy articles. From time to time she touches on items that have been of real concern to me as well. She always helps me get myself back in touch with personal integrity, and what it means to be a believer. She's very astute when she expresses her feelings on the political scene, both nationally and worldwide. This one hit me hard.

I told Beth that I had just mailed my voter's ballot for the November elections and was feeling pretty smug with myself. Then, this morning I read the following on her blog. The statement "...getting busy is not limited to electing our favorites" pretty much knocked the smugness out of me! I've got to work on "humility", and stop myself when I feel I am becoming a "front porch whiner, complainer, or kvetcher. (Her words.) And you know what, Beth? Not one poll has asked for my opinion!

I Agreed with Rush (and the sun did not fall from the sky)

"The opinion poll as news, Rush Limbaugh pronounced yesterday on his radio program, is nonsensical. I happen to agree.

Of course, that’s probably the point at which Mr. Limbaugh and I part company, being poles apart on most things political.

But his point is an important one, I think: the news media does no one a service by soliciting our opinions and then reporting them back to us as if it were news to tell me what I think.

Of course, this tendency is not limited to media outlets. The, in my view, by-far worse example is governance by opinion poll.

What does it matter, as asked yesterday, whether I think ebola or the enterovirus is the more dangerous. There actually is a way to factually ascertain which is the more dangerous. Asking me is not the way. And my opinion will not change the facts.

This is but one problem in governing by opinion poll: I, the voter, am not the best expert from whom to solicit advice for any topic with the sole exception of one: what I think.

But what I think, as a voter and a citizen, while relevant to political discussion, discourse and decision, is not determinative. It is merely one of many factors and, I would posit, perhaps the least important of all.

For the simple fact is that I might be wrong.

And we are a representative republic, N. O. T. a democracy.

It is an important distinction and we the people seem to have forgotten it.

A representative republic has built into it the recognition that majority rule is not always best.

A representative republic presupposes statesmanship as a craft that is learned, practiced and perfected.

A representative republic presupposes that our representatives will actually listen to each other.

A representative republic presupposes that our collective wisdom is actually superior to our individual wisdom.

Of course, that presupposes that wisdom is actually something desired by the nation as a whole.

So how about this.

How about WE, THE PEOPLE, who hold the truth that we don’t always or even often know best to be self-evident, IMMEDIATELY STOP – cease, desist, refrain, from answering all these confounded opinion polls.

Let’s stop worrying so much about what we think and about being heard and worry more about doing the hard work of governance – by making informed choices in our voting, by taking the time to learn what the big questions of government actually are, by listening to our opponents, who just might have something to teach us (yes, for me, that includes Rush Limbaugh, even when or perhaps especially when I do not agree with him), by rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.

Make no mistake about it. Good governance requires work. Effort. Commitment.

And the work, commitment and effort are ours.

There is no amorphous ‘they’.

There is only us.

We have the government we’ve worked to have.

So if we do not like it, it is up to us to get busy.

And getting busy is not limited to electing our favorites.

Getting busy includes getting behind those with whom we disagree in common cause for our collective good.

It presupposes that those who disagree with me love their country as much as I do.

It presupposes that the work of being a citizen matters.

It presupposes the basic and fundamental understanding that bitching about something is not doing something about it.

We cannot afford to be front porch whiners, complainers, kvetchers.

And hey, this governing thing also requires, I suspect, stepping back in appreciation for all our many blessings, recognizing them for the gifts they are.

That is the pathway of humility.

A little dose goes a long way."   If Beth had a blog

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Three important men in my life are currently suffering some health challenges. My 96-year old dad fell this morning at 4 am, and the nursing home called me. After a trip to the E.R., x-rays and C-T scan, he's back in his room. A few stitches and monitoring him for a few days was all that was necessary. (He's going to make it to 100!)

My older son, Craig, is still recovering from a ruptured appendix and surgery a few weeks back. They have been giving him large doses of antibiotics to fight off a possible infection that would require more surgery. His next checkup will decide. He's back at work, but still having discomfort and fatigue.

And then there is Matthew, my youngest child. He didn't tell me until this morning when I called to tell him about his grandfather that he was going in for a biopsy on his throat. (I assume his esophagus.) Back in the summer, Matt came down with "walking" pneumonia that required antibiotics for quite awhile. His cough stayed with him, and he developed a serious case of laryngitis which lasted too long as well. On top of that, he was having acid reflux. All must have a big hand in his doctor's decision to conduct the biopsy. His wife Amy just sent me a message that he is in recovery, all went well, and they will have the results in a week. I took that as a good sign. If the tissue looked suspicious, surely they would have done a test on it while he was still there! 

Needless to say, this has not been the best of times for this mom. I am so fortunate to have such wonderful children as these two sons, and a daughter as well. When any of them shows any sign of illness, the fear that washes over me can only be imagined by another loving parent experiencing sickness or injury of their beloved children. No matter how old, big, or distant, they are always our "babies". I can remember each of them as infants like it was yesterday. And wonder what I could have done differently in their upbringing to influence their health as adults. It's easy to feel like you've had a good influence on them when they are flourishing in their lives. It's also easy to take responsibility when things are not going so well. And, I cannot imagine a life without them.

I have lots of prayers going into the Universe for all of these family members. Sometimes, though, it's hard to "let go and let God"..

Peace, love, and good health,
Marilyn