Monday, November 18, 2013

DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS

From 24/7 Wall St, 9-13-2013:


24. Texas
- Median household income: $50,740
- Population: 26,059,203 (2nd highest)
- Unemployment rate: 6.8% (tied-17th lowest)
- Pct. below poverty line: 17.9% (tied-11th lowest)
"While Texas’ median income is actually very close to the national level, the state has one of the worst poverty rates in the country. Last year, 17.9% of Texans lived below the poverty line*, higher than the majority of states, and well above the U.S. rate of 15.9% for all Americans. By some measures, the state’s economy is improving. The unemployment rate of 6.8% in 2012 was lower than the year before. Additionally, a large number of the major metro areas across the country that had the strongest economic growth last year were located in Texas. Despite all the improvements, the state still has by far the worst rate of health insurance coverage in the country, with 22.5% of residents uninsured *."
Read more: America’s Richest (and Poorest) States

* (over four and a half million people)
* (nearly six million people)

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Sex ed graph
2010-2011 - Texas Freedom Network

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Texas ranks Number 3 in the nation with the highest teen pregnancy birth rates: 
3. Texas – 61/1,000
"Star state high teen pregnancy birth rate. According to the Pregnancy Resource Center, 30 pregnant teens come in per month." 
Read more at American Live Wire

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Texas gained national attention - again - in June when State Senator Wendy Davis conducted an 11-hour filibuster in the Texas legislature against one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, temporarily blocking the bill. Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood, after failing to get relief in the lower courts, petitioned the Supreme Court to place the new restrictions, which went into effect October 29th, on hold. As currently allowed, the bill will cause nearly a third of the clinics in Texas to close down. Many have already closed, affecting mostly poor and rural women. 

As I wrote in my blog post October 4th, the mandates in the Texas bill are so strict it has forced the closures. These clinics not only perform constitutionally allowed abortions (Roe v Wade), but they provide many other forms of reproductive health care to women, teens, and even men. When one looks at the statistics for poverty, uninsured residents, teen pregnancies, and the lack of sufficient sex education in Texas schools, it makes you wonder what is going on "Deep in the Heart of Texas". 

Not only is our Republican-dominated state legislature made up of 80% men, many of whom are extremely misogynistic, treating the women who work in the state Capitol in a demeaning and harassing manner, but we have been "blessed" with a Republican Governor who continues to play to the extreme right. He refused to participate in the Medicaid expansion program, which is part of the Affordable Care Act. Turning down an estimated $100 billion dollars, he has denied one and a half million Texans health care coverage. The poor, elderly, and disabled are among those affected. Texas hospitals stand to lose $7 billion, after already having $700 million a year cut from Medicaid payments due to a budget shortfall. NPR


Governor Perry professes to be a staunch Christian, but he continues to back legislation that hurts the poor and needy in Texas. He has yet to come up with alternatives for dealing with the problems of the four and a half million people living in poverty in our once great state, nor for those uninsured who would be helped with the additional Medicaid funds. He has callously suggested that Texas should secede from the Union. What would happen to these poor folks then?

Mark 10:21-22 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Love, peace, and sadness for our once great state,
Marilyn

Sunday, October 27, 2013

THE HIGHEST AND BEST


I was thinking of the severe drought and the tremendous amount of rain we here in the Hill country have received recently. My thoughts were that so many of us have been praying for it that we got a deluge in response. And that led me to the following email a dear friend, Carin Horn, PhD, wrote to our Dreamshack ladies a while back. I saved it, hoping a time would come that she would allow me to post it on my blog. When I wrote and asked her permission, this was her response:

"Thank you, Marilyn, for the reminder. That particular event changed my life in many ways and on many levels. You are welcome to use my comments in your blog. I thought about this last night while I was affirming the divine intention of gentle rain. Knowing how the law of attraction works, the more folks that can express gratitude BEFORE the rain event, the more likely it will occur. That concept is one of the most powerful that The Master Jesus taught -- give praise before it manifests in the physical. Or, as Jack Garner says, 'Act it and you are it.' There's a very deep lesson for each of us in his words."

"When I was in my early 20s, we were attending The Shrine of the Master (metaphysical) Church in Sarasota, Florida. I went to numerous spiritual development classes, which focused on prayer, visualization, affirmation, and intuition. One class met at 7:00 in the evening while a very strong hurricane was approaching the east coast of Florida. The directed visualization involved 'seeing' a wedge of energy placed against the vulnerable coast with the angled side of the wedge positioned to reflect/bounce the storm's energy back into the Atlantic Ocean. The class prayed and focused our light to serve the greatest good until about 8:00.  Shortly afterwards, we all went home.


In the morning, the radio announced that for unknown reasons, the hurricane turned east and moved out to sea at 8:15 the night before! I was astounded and amazed beyond words! Had 'we' really helped move that storm away from the people along the east coast? I couldn't wait to speak with one of the older women who also attended the class the night before. When I commented about the radio newscast she said, 'Oh, Carin, we have been doing that for years!' Boy, did I feel like a neophyte...but what a wonderful way to be consciously initiated into The Oneness that we are.  All things are possible when we work together for the highest and best."

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"The highest and best." I love that phrase and its implications. Sometimes, I find it difficult to word my prayers or longings in that light. I find myself more often praying that an outcome is what I want, not necessarily what is in the highest and best for all concerned. 

Especially when it comes to my politics! And when I think about it, I'll bet that is what most of our politicians are doing also. Holding out, asking, or demanding what they think is "best". Not necessarily what is best for the country. 

As one of my favorite songs goes, "Let peace begin with me", may I start watching the things I am praying for and the wording I use. Maybe what I wish to happen is not in the best interests of all concerned. Granted, deflecting a hurricane is not the same as wanting my favorite piece of legislation to pass both houses of Congress. However, if enough of us in the country ask/pray that the highest and best for everyone in the country is in the hearts of those representing us, I believe that we can influence the turn of events and become even more what we've always proposed to be -- the greatest country on earth -- not one of ridicule in the eyes of the world.

Love and peace,
Marilyn

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Smile a Little Smile

Don't we wish our politicians sounded like this now? They are actually smiling in these video clips. Maybe they ought to start singing in Congress. Music soothes the soul. It's good to remember that these guys are human after all.



After the outbursts of angry constituents in recent weeks, I don't think a representative will be singing what retired General Colin Powell is singing in this one:


If Congress keeps up with the squabbling and gridlock, someone needs to tell them "Ain't nobody got time for that!"


All of the above brought lots of smiles to my face, and I hope it does to yours, too.

Love, peace, and laughter,
Marilyn

Thursday, October 24, 2013

GAMIFICATION

Gamification – A Tool to Get Kids Outside


My oldest granddaughter, Audrey, who is studying for her Master's degree at Duke University, wrote the following for one of her class assignments. She generously gave me permission to publish it on my blog. You can see why I am so proud of her. She's a young woman after my own heart. A lover of nature and little children.

Peace,
Marilyn
"My dad is one of those intellects with accolades that just don’t stop. To paint a picture, he’s a radiologist M.D., with a PhD in physics and Masters in computer programming…you get the idea. Today, what really gets him excited is the “gamification” he is infusing in his lectures – oh did I forget to mention he is also a professor?


At first I thought he made up the term “gamification,” but apparently it’s a real thing with an actual definition. It is the application of game thinking and game elements to nongame problems, with the hopes of engaging users. This, well-seasoned with his dry sense of humor (I vaguely remember seeing a Batmobile photo somewhere on his website…), makes for a very student-satisfied and entertained class.

It’s not all that surprising that gamifying scenarios to younger generations is a successful technique. After all, most children today know how to unlock their parent’s iPad and navigate to the Angry Birds app. Speaking of birds--

I think that gamification, in the context of bird watching, would be a very useful tool in kindling children’s excitement and passion for nature. But before I get into my reasoning for this, I should provide some insight to what bird watching is all about.

While I have always enjoyed being outdoors, it wasn’t until about a year ago that I started developing an interest in bird watching. Over this course of time, my interest has grown to a full-blown passion, and now I proudly consider myself a total bird nerd. I’ve come across many people that seem skeptical of how birding can be as exciting as I make it out to be. These reactions got me thinking: “just what is it about birding that is so appealing to me?”

I’ve realized that the best way to put it is to explain birding as a special treasure hunt crafted by Mother Nature. In an abstract sort of way, this “gamifies” the whole concept of birding. The goal is to spot as many birds as possible, identify them, and if you’re lucky take a photo to add to your collection! This offers a tangible purpose for your outdoor excursions – a hike through the woods is no longer just a matter of getting from one end of the trail to the other. Instead, it is the potential for seeing something entirely novel – and not just birds! By nature, bird watching forces you to walk slowly and quietly, and really heighten your senses (especially hearing). If you do this, you will inevitably witness some fascinating details that you will otherwise surely miss. The picture to the right is of a whitetail deer fawn napping
quietly that I would have completely overlooked, if I weren’t keeping my eyes peeled for a scarlet tanager. As you can see, the treasure hunt for birds functions as a gateway for enriching your overall experience and interaction with nature – how great is that?!



Another common misconception about birding is that it’s something that mainly interests older people and certainly not children. Well this just isn’t the case. Last summer, I had the pleasure of taking my two younger cousins (photographed on the left) on a nature walk. I pointed out all the birds I could see, had them look at the birds through my binoculars, and mentioned many fun facts. I was thrilled when they started asking me questions about all sorts of things they thought were curiosities of nature. They sensed and reciprocated my excitement when we spotted a new bird and were very impressed that I could identify a bird just by hearing its call. Imagine their thrill when they realized they could do it too, with just a few tips! By the end of the trip, I knew there were two new birders in the world. This was confirmed when their mother called me a few days later to tell me that my cousin had been pointing out chickadees, cardinals, and mockingbirds outside their window ever since our little adventure. Apparently my little cousin also wanted to know if we would be going on a nature hike again soon.

I’ve gone on several other successful hikes like this one with children of all ages. After this nature walk, I received about a dozen blurry photos of a robin in a text message. I’ve realized what a great tool birding is for getting kids to step away from the TV and head outdoors, especially when you introduce it as an adventure."









Thursday, October 17, 2013

TRICK OR TREAT




Spooks, goblins, witches, princesses, jack-o-lanterns, and candy -- lots of candy! These are just a few of my favorite Halloween pictures. Mostly family, but a few friends, too. I wish I had scanned the one of my oldest, Craig, and his little sister, Carajean, when they went as Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. Craig was six years old, and was put out with me for making his costume. It was a little short for his liking, and he had to wear green tights as well. Maybe next year I will find it and post it!
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Congress has played a lot of "tricks" on us this season. The government shutdown was a disaster for the GOP. Those youngsters, i.e., the new members of the Tea Party ushered in in the last election, must think they are still in school. Their actions were so immature -- downright childish say some commentators. They want what they want or they will pick up their toys and go home! I don't think any of them is old enough to be on any pension, Medicare, Social Security, or in need of Veteran Benefits. Thus, their inability to empathize with the general public. They scared the bejeezus out of lots of folks, especially seniors and the poor. They want to cut spending on much that many of us are dependent upon, and ended up hurting their own Tea Party members by holding out so long on a compromise! I thought it apt when Senator John McCain referred to them as "Hobbits" from "Middle Earth". Let's hope that when they are up for reelection they will all return to Middle Earth!

The GOP took most of the blame for the debacle they made of Congress. And Ted Cruz added more reasons -- in my opinion -- for not sending him back to Congress in the next election. He is an embarrassment to our state, as Michelle Bachmann is  -- or should be -- to Minnesota. He was transparent as someone running for President in the next election. He cared more about the public attention he garnered than working with his fellow Republicans to reach some agreement.

A sigh of relief that the last round of partisanship politics seems to be over. Let's hope and pray that we do not see a repeat of this in January or February. Surely they learned their lessons. Maybe over the holidays each of them -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- will take time to actually read what their constituents have been telling them about the madness we all had to witness. And may they all realize how lucky they are to still have a job. In any other line of work with a job approval rating like theirs, they would be fired!
(CBS News)
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Until next time, get your treats ready for all the little Halloween visitors. They will be here before you know it.

Love and peace,
Marilyn

Friday, October 4, 2013

THERE'S HOPE FOR TEXAS YET

Wendy Davis, Texas State Senator, is not one of the elite, favored few, born into privilege. She has struggled to become what she is today. From a small "trailer house" as a young single mother, often unable to pay her bills, she worked two jobs in order to pay for her schooling, eventually landing a full scholarship to TCU in Fort Worth. After graduating with honors, Wendy went on to graduate  - also with honors - from Harvard Law School in 1993. She has spent most of the time since then in public service.

Her 11-hour filibuster to block Texas Senate House Bill 5 earlier this summer gained national attention. I personally sent her an email saying she would have my vote if she ran for Governor. Now that she has announced her candidacy, I will support her to the best of my ability. She is a strong, brave, progressive woman who will stand up for women's rights, as well as helping the poor in Texas.

HB5, which "...would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortion clinics to meet the same standards that hospital-style surgical centers do, and mandate that a doctor who performs abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital" (Wikipedia), was passed and signed by Governor Rick Perry. I agree that abortions after 20 weeks are abhorrent, and shouldn't be carried out unless the mother's life is in danger. However, the strict mandates contained in this bill, along with Texas' already existing abortion laws will cause more than a third of the state's licensed health centers to stop providing the service and many will close their doors. In some cases, it will be a distance of 100 miles or more for access to any of the health care available.   (photo by Andrea Grimes)   
                                                           
I found it interesting that in an interview, Governor Perry's wife Ann, when asked about her stance on abortion, said she believes -- although it is "wrong" for her personally -- that it is a woman's right to choose. 

Abortion is not the only thing provided at the Planned Parenthood centers, many of their services are not only available to women, but also to men and teenagers. Most of these services are free or based on a sliding scale fee. I went to their official site for the following information on services they do provide:

       ~Planned Parenthood health centers focus on prevention: 71 percent of our clients receive services to prevent unintended pregnancy.
~Planned Parenthood services help prevent more than 684,000 unintended pregnancies each year.
~Planned Parenthood provides 585,000 Pap tests and nearly 640,000 breast exams each year, critical services in detecting cancer.
~Planned Parenthood provides nearly 4.5 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
~(Only) Three percent of all Planned Parenthood health services are abortion services.
~Planned Parenthood affiliates provide educational programs to more than one million young people and adults each year.
~Planned Parenthood has more than seven million activists, supporters, and donors working for women's health and safety and our fundamental reproductive rights.
~Join us in the fight for commonsense policies that foster the sexual and reproductive health and rights of individuals, families, and communities.

Planned Parenthood has filed a suit against the State of Texas over part of the new law. You can read about it in detail here: Planned Parenthood Sues Texas

I think Texas is way overdue for changes in our leadership. If left to the current State (Washington isn't the only one with Tea Partiers) legislature and the type of conservative governors we have had in recent years, we women might as well quit our jobs, don our aprons, and stay home like good little women of the 1950s. Barefoot and pregnant to boot! And the back alley, dangerous practitioners of illegal abortions -- or the pitiful attempts at do-it-yourself coat hanger abortionists will flourish again as they did prior to Roe v Wade.

I hear that the Republican supporters in Texas are launching a smear campaign against Senator Davis, picturing her as a "baby killer". I hope there are enough sane, reasonable people left in this state to stand up against them, and concentrate on the difference someone with Wendy Davis's qualifications and vision will make in our state. 

With hope for our future,
Marilyn

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

12 Guidelines to Help Congress Do a Better Job

The following was written and posted on a blog by one of my favorite bloggers. Beth happens to be a Presbyterian minister, formerly an attorney. She writes with a foot in each camp, and is always on target in my book. She gave permission to share this portion of her blog post October 1st. I urge you to go to her blog site and read more. The address is at the end of this piece.

“..with suitable humility, do I offer a short list of rules (more guidelines, really) that might help Congress get past gridlock and actually have a budget every year as they’re required to do (except when they don’t):

1. Remember nothing is forever: if you will simply remember this obvious fact, maybe it’ll be easier for you to vote on a budget that contains provisions with which you disagree.  You can always vote to eliminate the program next time.  But so long as a program is a program, please stop voting not to fund it simply because you wish the vote had gone the other way.  Which leads to rule #2:

2. Live with it.  Things will not always go your way.  This is how things work when we work in groups.  And maybe, just maybe, ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is, is not as bad as you fear.

3. Resist the temptation to play hide and seek: this is not the playground, this world you inhabit.  Obscuring what you’re doing by calling it something else or using thousands of words you pray no one will ever read is dishonest.  We deserve better of you and so do you.

4. Act as if we matter: Even if we the people do not matter to you, act as if we do.  Who knows, maybe over time, we’ll actually come to matter to you – and that will be a good thing.

5. “They” love America as much as you do: if you believe, really believe, this, you’ll be surprised at how agreeable you can be with your political enemies.

6. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it can’t be done: yours is a hard job.  Anyone who says or thinks otherwise is foolish.  Pay them no mind.  That said, never forget that the job being hard is no excuse not to do the job.

7. No one did this to you: nobody made you be a Senator or Congressperson.  This was something you chose.  So please stop resenting the job you worked so hard to get and simply do the job.

8. Remember what your job is: your job is not to get re-elected.  Your job is not to poll all of us to see what we think.  It’s your job to do the heavy lifting of thinking and listening to others among your colleagues and being informed and making rational, thoughtful, and if you are so inclined, prayerful, decisions.  Stop pawning your job off on the American people, hiding behind our opinions as if they’re determinative of what you should do at any given moment.  We hired you to represent us, not reflect us.  We want you to be better than us, not mirror images of us.  And if you need further reminder, go back and reread the Constitution and remind yourselves that we are not a democracy: we’re a representative republic.

9. You are not indispensable.  Nobody is.  Thus you are not.  The Republic will continue without you.  A little humility goes a long way in doing a job, any job, and especially your job, well.

10. This too shall pass.  When the Civil Rights Act was passed in the 1960's, certain Senators predicted the end of the world.  It was the end of a world, but not the end of the world.  And that’s (according to many of us) as it should have been.

11. Compromise.  Said another way, Idealogues are ill-suited to representative republics.  If we the people those many years ago had wanted to always have things go a certain way, we would have kept to kings and queens.  Only when one person is in charge does everything always go the way that person wants.  When all of us are ‘in charge’, it’s messy and complicated and hard work and it requires compromise.  Compromise is not the nasty cost of doing business in the United States; it’s actually the bedrock of our governmental institutions, this idea that the other guy or gal may actually have something of benefit to offer to our common good and our common understanding of ourselves and that our best understandings, not our worst,  come out of the wrestling.

12. When you’re beaten, shake hands.  Every child on every sports field across America understands the ritual of shaking hands, declaring the contest at an end with an acknowledged victor.  When you lose, simply admit you lost and move on.  Don’t keep refighting the fight.  It’s exhausting of resources and wastes time.  You can keep protesting when you’re outside the decision-making circle.  But when you’re inside that circle, you actually serve the working of the institution at least as much as you serve your own particular agenda.  To lead, one cannot act as an outside agitator.  That’s actually the job of folks like me."


- See more at: http://ifbethhadablog.blogspot.com/2013/10/october-is-for-budgets-12-guidelines-to.html#sthash.UXipdYug.dpuf

Now maybe I will forward this to my Congressmen..

Peace and Love,
Marilyn

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"I CHANGED MY MIND"

Mother took a deep breath, frowned at me and said, "I'm never setting foot in your home again." Then she left in a huff. It wasn't two weeks later that she called and asked me about an upcoming holiday. Was I having everyone over, and what could she bring? I smiled to myself, "I thought you were never setting your foot in my home again." There was a pause, clearly she had forgotten the statement she made in anger. Then she said, "Well - I changed my mind!"

How many times do we say or do things that go against our better judgment? Indeed, that go against our very beliefs, when something or someone hurts our feelings or shocks or angers us - or even scares us? 

Such were the outcries of so many peace-loving people in the world at the images of dead and dying people of Syria. Children gasping for air, being doused with water. Men foaming at the mouth. And rows upon rows of precious little children wrapped in shrouds, obviously dead. Victims of a horrible chemical weapons attack.

I suspect most of us had an initial reaction of wanting to avenge these innocents. Fight or flight? Primal instincts when threatened with harm. This evil dictator Assad must not be allowed to carry his fight to the world by releasing weapons that had been condemned and outlawed by most civilized countries. Where was the outrage of those 189 countries? Does that mean they have chosen to "flee"? Few made it known they would not stand for the use of chemical weapons by Assad.

Our beleaguered, peace-loving President.. awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, agonized over his decision as to what the United States would or should do, while the world looked on. When he announced he would take limited military action against the Syrian regime, shock waves circled the globe. He surprised the world again when shortly afterwards (and after a 45-minute walk that must have been a time of listening to God as well as a trusted adviser) President Obama told the world he was sending this to our Congress to allow them to debate the issue. Some have viewed this as a sign of weakness. I think it is an act of courage.

So much has happened the past two weeks. Most notable to me was the number of religious leaders, Pope Francis in particular, calling for prayers over the situation. Prayers for a peaceful resolution...a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Syria. The numbers of people protesting taking any military action for fear of another Viet Nam or Iraq or Afghanistan reminded me of earlier times. I recall co-writing protest songs with a young soldier during the Viet Nam era.

I recall all of the New Year's Eve prayers and meditations, joining in with people around the world to give positive energy to our requests for peace... of the heartsick pleadings not to go to war during the Bush era. The throngs of peace lovers around the world seem to have grown so much since those times. The prayers for peace may finally be working some good.

I watched Charlie Rose interview Bashar Assad on PBS last night.. excerpts of which had been shown on CBS prior to its debut. I was amazed at Assad's willingness to discuss the possibility of turning over Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, with their eventual destruction. This morning we heard Syria's ally, Russia's proposal to do this very thing. It appears that prayers and images of peace are working. Why does it take something as horrendous as seeing little children killed to cause peacemakers to rise up in such force?

The wise words from my Mother's mouth have stayed with me all these years. Now I see that I mistakenly changed my mind when I at first thought we should launch a limited military attack on Syria. Now I have changed my mind again.

Obama changed his mind when he at first opted for a military strike being the only option the U.S. had. Then he changed his mind and sent his proposal to Congress. There, many former "hawks" appear to have changed their minds and positions as well. 

Now.. Maybe, just maybe, Bashar Assad appears to have changed his mind about the chemical weapons. 

And just maybe... someday we will have peace on earth. September 12th is the Unity World Day
of Prayer. Let's all join in the prayers for peace on earth, especially for the Syrian people. If you are not a praying person, please take a moment out of your day to send thoughts of peace into the noosphere.

We may be approaching a critical mass in consciousness. May we one day awaken to a new race consciousness, where peace is the only option.

Let peace begin with me - and you - and you - and you,
Marilyn


Saturday, August 31, 2013

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE STAND BY AND DO NOTHING?

“Evil that arises out of ordinary thinking and is committed by ordinary people is the norm, not the exception.”
--Ervin Staub

Holocaust Survivor

Today Dr. Staub is a noted psychologist who is devoted to the study of bystander behavior both during the Holocaust and in everyday life. His work shows that bystanders who do nothing not only embolden the perpetrators, but also points out that the perpetrators will become more violent. 

What about the nations of the world who have become "bystanders" to some of the worst atrocities since Hitler's Nazi Germany? 

The United States, due to an environment during the 1930s and 1940s of anti-Semitism, isolationism, and xenophobia, was late in committing to help the plight of the Jews. They joined with the Allies in December 1942 in issuing a Proclamation condemning the extermination of the European Jews, and declaring that they would punish the perpetrators. It was not until the end of the war that the United States moved in to free the victims in the Nazi concentration camps, even though they knew of the gassings at Auschwitz-Berkenau since the spring of 1944.
The Nazis exterminated an estimated 11 million people, including 6 million of whom were Jews. The remaining 5 million consisted of Romanis, Slavs, homosexuals, various minorities and disabled people, as well as those considered Nazi political enemies. (Wikipedia)

We think of the United Nations as protecting the world from such criminal exterminations today. However, the U.N. failed to prevent:

-  genocide in Cambodia in the 1970s
-  a chemical attack on the Kurds by Saddam Hussein in the 1980s
-  the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims in 1992 by the Serbians

- the 2003 attack on hundreds of Darfur villages and civilians by Sudanese and Janjaweed militia that resulted in 400,000 lives lost and over two and a half million people displaced. 

Who can forget the movie, "Hotel Rwanda"? It documented the 1994 Hutu slaughter in 100 days of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis, after the United Nations was warned of the impending genocide by a U.N. peace-keeping team. The U.N. withdrew resources and warned the team not to intervene.
Yes, I agree, the United States should not be "police" of the world. But how much more has to happen to the innocents in Syria before we, along with our Allies, agree that we must do something to put a stop to it? Is there something akin to anti-Semitism going on here? Maybe anti-Islam? Surely enough nations can come together and put pressure on this evil regime, so reminiscent of the worst dictatorships throughout history. If we do nothing, what will come next? The above-mentioned Ervin Staub has spelled out what happens to us as individuals when as bystanders we do nothing. Please read his study:
http://www.southerninstitute.info/holocaust_education/ds9.html

It will take brilliant minds to come up with a solution to the situation in Syria. It will take more than TWO nations to put a stop to the slaughter of innocents taking place there. So what if Russia, China, and Great Britain don't want to intervene? What about the rest of the world? If we all came together and were serious about intervention of some kind -- stricter sanctions.. blockades of arms for the Syrian government.. or even limited air strikes.. Maybe if it's strong enough, other countries who think of using weapons of mass destruction may realize they will have the wrath of the world upon them. We cannot wait until the chemical stockpiles in Syria fall into the hands of terrorists. And we can no longer wait for the United Nations Security Council members Russia and China  to block the taking of any action.

I cannot believe that our Congressional representatives who were hawking and blaming Obama for not taking a stand against the Syrian regime are now the same ones putting the brakes on and demanding that they have a say in the matter.  Poor President Obama. He's damned if he doesn't, now damned if he does!

Oh, Lord, let there be peace on earth.

Marilyn

P.S.
As I finished writing this, I got an email from the government that said President Obama has announced his decision to take targeted military action against Syrian regime targets. He has agreed that Congress should debate the actions he wishes to take. This will be done as soon as Congress reconvenes. I listened to his speech, and felt great emotions for this man who has such strong feelings about war, and wants to end the wars going on when he came into office. One can see him aging as the stress of this decision making wears on.

May God bless America through these difficult times, and help us to make wise decisions.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

HOW IS IT IN YOUR WORLD?




Listening to and watching the news in recent months makes it difficult at times to concentrate on all the "good stuff" happening. Seeing these beautiful children and hearing their happy voices sing about the wonderful world we live in cannot help but lift one's spirit. Thoughts of blue skies, rainbows, friends, and loved ones resonate throughout the different cultures. The smiling faces on the children in this video remind us that even though we are also seeing the horrific massacres of children taking place in Syria on our television sets, there is hope for the children of the world.

According to UN officials, the war in Syria has created one million children refugees, three-fourths of which are under the age of 11. Only a year ago, this figure was 70,000 children. This does not account for the millions of children trapped in Syrian villages and cities. More than 3,000 of these children have crossed borders into neighboring countries unaccompanied by or separated from their families. And the latest atrocity of chemical warfare has now killed many of the children left behind.


Our visions and prayers for a peaceful world must also include immediate help for these poor little members of our earth family. When a child is in pain or suffering of any kind, we all suffer. And our future will suffer if something doesn't happen to stop the slaughter of so many innocent lives.

None of us -- well, almost none of us, wishes to have our military be involved in another war. The American people are war-weary. Too many of our troops are fighting in/for other countries. And the cost of war is astronomical. What can be done to help the Syrian people? The children? Are arming the rebels and sending them supplies enough?

Then there is Egypt. And another attempted school massacre in the United States. And multiple shootings of innocent people by juveniles in our midst. Kidnappings, rapes. It's hard to turn on the news or view it online without hearing of another horrendous happening. I long to hear more good news than bad. But that doesn't make for ratings, and ratings make for money, and money keeps societies going. I must look for more of the Good News websites I used to read.               (I found one I think you'll like.)

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Which reminds me that there was some "good stuff" happening this summer. I was cheering on our Democratic Texas State Senator Wendy Davis when she filibustered for 11-hours in June. She effectively (although only temporarily) blocked the passage of anti-abortion legislation, which would result in closing down all but a handful of the Planned Parenthood facilities in the state, denying many women much-needed care - not only abortion. Wearing a back brace and sneakers, this single mother from Fort Worth made women proud. I immediately sent her an email stating that if she ran for a higher office, she definitely has my vote! She hasn't decided whether or not to run for Governor, but I think she would be an improvement over the misogynistic, conservative governor we now have. Sadly, the front-runner Abbott has many big dollar donors backing him. There's that "money" thing again.

I like to think my son Craig is right when he said that Texas may not be a blue state yet, but it is definitely turning "purple". We need more progressive candidates like Wendy Davis to guarantee women's rights are protected in Texas.

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Grandson Tanner, who turned 14 this summer, stayed busy playing tournament tennis, winning a few matches and placing in others. He is quite the tennis player, taking after his Papaw Bob, who played on the tennis team in high school and later in the National Guard. His dad, Branch, entered into several competition swimming events in recent months. He won a few medals himself, and beat his own time over and over. In April I enjoyed watching him swim at one meet at the University of Texas. Branch is a "youngster" compared to some of the swimmers who were competing. Some were in their 70s and even 80s. Talk about being fit!

Youngest grandson Travis, age 11, is taking after his late grandfather Win, and has become a good golfer this summer. He entered a few tournaments, the largest one when they were on vacation at South Padre. It was held in McAllen, and Travis won second place. His dad loves to tell how many "birdies" this kid gets. The photo at right was taken when Matthew and Travis went to Pennsylvania in June to attend the U.S. Open. The trip of a lifetime for these two avid golfers. (I think Dad might have visions of another young Tiger Woods.)

(You may click on any of the photos in the blog to see a larger version.)

Granddaughter Audrey and her mother Carajean spent a week this month playing violin at a music camp in California, before Audrey moved to North Carolina to begin work at Duke University on her Master's degree in Environmental Science with a concentration on Ecosystem Science Conservation. Whew! That's a mouthful. Audrey also is really "into" birds, and participated in bird banding in May. 


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There are four more grandchildren to cover for the summer. After reading just this much, you know what? There may not be a lot of "good stuff" making headlines in the world at large, but in my little world it's all good!

May your world be full of love, peace, and lots of good stuff,
Marilyn

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dooh dooh dooh dooh, Dooh dooh dooh dooh...or...THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT


It has been a long time since I have written anything here. However, I do have an excuse - or excuses.  I moved to this little cottage in December. Since that time, I have been subject to ever-darkening mood swings and consequently, my health has been on a downward spiral as well. As some of you are aware, I have spent over a year dealing with the welfare of my nearly 95-year-old father. He is (unhappily) ensconced in a nursing home in his hometown, which is a three-hour drive from me. Going back and forth, getting all of his financial affairs in order and disposing of his house and belongings he no longer needed were demanding enough, but then four months into that pursuit I found out that I had to make a move myself. By the beginning of summer I was having more health challenges than he was! I was beginning to think I might wind up in the same health care facility.. and I did have a two-day stint in the hospital at the end of July. Luckily, all tests seemed to be normal other than a worsening of my breathing.

I have been believing all along that the physical and emotional stress of the past year was at fault. Of course, I'm sure it contributed to some of what I have been experiencing. My immune system has probably been at its lowest ebb in years. 

I have been privy to some information in the past week that leads me to believe there is more to my weakened condition than just accumulated stress. From time to time since I've lived here, I have had a sensation of a "presence" just out of my line of vision.. like something at the corner of my eye. When I would turn to look, of course, there was nothing there. This was not threatening at all, and I was not afraid. Now I believe that there really was (or is) something here. When a new friend and neighbor indicated that something dreadful had happened here, I pressured son Matthew to spill the beans! He had been keeping this from me. A previous female tenant committed suicide here. I cannot get more details other than it was some kind of overdose of pills after losing her elderly father, whom she was caring for.

Now I believe her saddened energy has permeated this little house. As I am something of an "empath", and very sensitive to emotional energy fields, this explains to me the disturbed dreams and the nearly depressed state I have had to struggle with in recent months. Which to me explains my lowered immune system, thus additional health challenges. But what to do? Of course, I am seeking medical assistance and doing everything my doctor advises. I am listening to healing Hz frequencies daily (thanks to another friend, Jack), and have some items from the health food store on my list of things to purchase. But I feel more needs to be done. Therefore, I turned to my friend, Mary, who is a shamanic healer/herbalist. Mary has given me instructions on how to carry out a "cleansing" of the energy here until she can make a trip down to help me.



Until I started doing a little online research, I was one who believed that some so-called spirits become earthbound, especially if there was a suicide or other guilt-producing emotion surrounding their death. I also believe that as humans we are bundles of energy, and that energy cannot be destroyed -- only transformed. If that is the case, it seems logical that the transformed energy (spirit?) could be located anywhere. I once read a little of something on a "parallel universe".. which I think I remember that Einstein subscribed to. If there is any truth to that, we are surrounded by other "entities" all the time, but we usually don't see them and they don't see us. But I digress. Whether there is the spirit of the suicidal woman or just the leftover energy of her depression that led to suicide, I want to change the atmosphere in here. If that means burning sage, making spirit bags of herbs, chanting or whatever it takes, I will do it! I am sending her love and prayers in my meditations until then. In the meantime, here is the website that I found most helpful in understanding what we think of as "ghosts". Mr. Bridges discusses our so-called ghosts in terms of quantum physics, as well as classifying them. I'm not certain what kind mine is -- maybe just a "residual ghost". Interesting reading:
                                              

He had the following quote on his site. Thank goodness, my "presence" doesn't make a sound!!

I heard that kind of a sound that a ghost makes when it wants to tell about something that's on its mind and can't make itself understood, and so can't rest easy in its grave, and has to go about that way every night grieving.
 -- Mark Twain

Now that I have done away with my writer's block, I promise not to have such an esoteric subject in my next post! Unless something really, really spooky happens before we finish the "cleansing"!

Peace and sweet dreams,
Marilyn

P.S.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Middle Child

The "middle child" often gets a bad rap. Some say that these children are overlooked by their parents and, therefore, do their best to gain attention by any means. They may have to compete with an older sibling by doing more and doing it better. Many follow in the footsteps of this sibling, and are hurt in the process of trying to live up to an image that is not true to their own talents and abilities. Wise parents, like my daughter and son-in-law, help their middle child to develop into the unique person he or she was meant to be. My granddaughter Ashlyn is a good example of what loving guidance can bring out in a child.

Ashlyn was her own person from a tender age. She decided early on that she did not like to dance like big sis Audrey. Ditto on piano lessons. However, she has continued to please Mom by playing violin, and does that very well indeed.

Ashlyn's mother showed an athletic ability at a young age when she won a race against the boys and became "the fastest kid in first grade" in Bandera, Texas. Ashlyn didn't start that early, but she has been an avid sports participant throughout her school years. Soccer, volleyball, and basketball are her favorites.
Here she is playing for the Lady Cardinals of Ascension Academy which she attends. (Note: looking good! Pretty glam for an athlete..)

She is something of a daredevil as well:


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Don't be fooled by the tomboyish activities. Ashlyn is truly a feminine young lady. She recently surprised us with her talent for writing poetry. She wrote a beautiful tribute to a fallen friend, and I have asked her to consider writing something for the blog. She has maintained a place on the A and B honor roll at the Academy she attends. As the curriculum there is made up of advanced placement courses, that is no easy feat. And, oh yes, Ashlyn has a best friend who goes to the same school,

Ross and Ashlyn

likes the same activities (he plays basketball and golf), takes long bicycle rides with her, and they recently attended their first prom together. As you can see by these photos, Ashlyn is not only smart and talented, but she is becoming a beautiful young woman as well.

Ashlyn, you make this grandmother proud.. It has been a joy watching you grow up, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for you.

Love and peace,
Marilyn

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"No more hurting people..."


©Associated Press, Ken McGagh
"The week from Hell". This is how some newscasters are describing the events of this past week. First the bombing in Boston; then the horrific explosion in West, Texas. One deliberate and one allegedly accidental. The results were the same -- indelible images on our television screens of horror, pain, and anxiety, as the search for the bombers in Boston and the search for more victims in West kept us glued to our television sets. Lives lost. Bodies maimed. Life would never be the same for the victims nor those of us who witnessed the devastation.

As I shed tears, I prayed over and over for the victims, the first responders and volunteers, and the witnesses - especially the tiny ones who must have been terrified. As the days wore on and we discovered the identities of the two young men who perpetrated this attack on the innocent, I found myself sending up prayers for them as well. Especially the younger one. As he was being tracked like an animal, and believed to be wounded, I thought of his youth. He was still only a boy, had to be in pain, and scared out of his mind. His classmates, friends, and teachers all spoke so highly of him. What could anyone, even his older brother do to change him so dramatically?

What happened to what appeared to be happy, well-liked, and seemingly well adjusted young immigrants to our country, that turned them into monsters willing to take the lives of so many? I feel one answer to this for the older one must lie in the trip he took to Russia last year. The months he might have been involved with a radical Islamic group of some kind, being brainwashed and trained to be a killer -- for Allah. How does a religion so twist the minds of followers to condone such massacres as occur much too frequently in our world? How did life become so unbearable for the younger of the two, who seemed to have so much good in his life -- many friends and even a scholarship -- that he could throw that all away by the influence of his older brother?

We may never know the true answers to these questions. The world is filled with violence that is so much more visible than in years past. Remember, these young men were exposed to war and violence on a daily basis as children in their homeland. They sought and found refuge in our United States. They, as all of our young people, have been exposed to more and more frequent violence via the social media, violent video games, television, movies, and the headlines from around the world where man's inhumanity to man is constantly vying for their attention. The often gory images are imprinted on young minds.

Too many people are quick to lay the blame upon Islam. Islam is not the first religion to kill "for the sake of God or Allah". Christianity has a dark past as well. The Crusades, the Inquisition, even the Salem witch trials come to mind. Blaming this horrendous happening upon lax immigration laws is equally fruitless. These young men had been here for a decade, and the younger one was a naturalized citizen. They were not illegal.. or newly arrived. I am by no means condoning the slaughter that took place in Boston. I do believe that punishment should be meted out. If the young man survives, he will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, filled with regret that he wasted the beautiful promises his life in America held. That is the least that he deserves.

One glaring item that caught my attention was the fact that the older brother was tagged by a foreign government as someone the FBI should investigate. They did so, which means they have a file on him. If we had had stricter background checks in place, perhaps when he purchased a gun or at least the gunpowder used in the making of the bombs a flag would have been raised and the tragedy might have been prevented.



The Newtown shootings and the Aurora theater massacre each inflicted more fatalities than Boston. We must not let the Boston bombings deter our resolve to do something about gun control in this country. We have our own homegrown terrorists, produced in part by the availability of assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and ineffective or unenforced background checks. The recent action of the Senate in refusing to pass legislation that would be a start towards reducing the number of guns, and on the path to reducing violence in our country, is absolutely disgusting. They lack the courage to stand up to the gun lobbyists in the form of gun manufacturers and the NRA, which is now controlled by the manufacturers. Polls show that the majority of Americans want this legislation NOW! When are we going to insist our representatives do the will of the people or be voted out??

Martin Richard (R.I.P.)

And when are we going to do as the youngest victim in Boston said, "No more hurting people"?

God bless the wounded, dead, and hurting victims of Boston and West, Texas.

"Peace", Martin,
Marilyn

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

There was a little girl...

who grew up to be the beautiful woman at the left. My daughter Carajean is a remarkable woman in many ways. She has always had an extraordinary amount of determination, and when she set a goal for herself, she obtained it no matter what obstacles stood in the way. She underwent surgeries that kept her jaws wired shut for two months at a time, and continued to work a full-time job, a part-time job, and go to college part-time at night. In more recent times, she has become a triumphant breast cancer survivor for over ten years.

As a very petite eleven-year-old in Albuquerque, Carrie came home one day and informed me she wished to play the cello (her friend played cello). I was taken aback because I couldn't picture tiny Carrie lugging a big cello to school, so I convinced her she would be better off playing the viola. From the beginning, her music teachers told me Carrie had a natural ability. She soon played in a performance with the Albuquerque Junior Symphony Orchestra. Upon moving to Dallas, she continued her music lessons, and was invited to play in the Dallas Junior Symphony Orchestra. For some reason, she quickly became bored with that. When she was in the 8th grade, Carajean played her viola alongside her music teacher with two professional orchestras at Easter performances. To maintain her amateur status for state level competition, we had to have her return the money she was paid, which did not sit well with our 13-year-old.

In high school, Carajean moved with her father and stepmother to a city where orchestra was not offered. I was so sad to see her put her viola aside. She played again briefly after graduation while living and studying in Pennsylvania, but again gave it up when she decided to go to college.   She laid down her viola again, not to pick it up for many years. She went on to get her degree in biology, and then attended medical school for a Physician's Assistant degree.


(Carajean practices while helping Mom move.)

After college, a brief career as a Physician's Assistant, marriage, and three children, Carajean decided to make music again -- much to this mother's delight. She played viola, enrolled her girls in the Suzuki method of playing violin; and when her son came along he learned the cello by the same method at a very young age. I don't believe any of the children have the passion for music that Carrie did as a child, but they each continue to play (and play very well indeed) 'til this day. Carajean eventually switched instruments, and now plays violin. She has played with the Amarillo College Chamber Orchestra for the past 17 years. This past weekend her daughter Audrey joined her when the orchestra performed in concert. Carajean is in the front row middle, and daughter Audrey (with bangs) is behind her:

Amarillo College Chamber Orchestra

Next week, Carajean will perform in her first "professional" concert -- at least one when she will be able to keep whatever remuneration she receives! She will play with the West Texas A and M University Choir and Symphony Orchestra, accompanied by the East New Mexico State Choir. They will perform Mozart's Requiem - the piece Mozart was hired to write at the age of 36, and did not live to finish. She is bubbling over with excitement, as she loves this piece. 
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Carrie may not be very happy that I used this venue to brag on her, but I feel that she has a God-given talent. Each of us came to this earth with a purpose -- in some cases, many purposes. Something as precious as a gift of musical talent will not be ignored, even if one waits as many years as my daughter did! Although to play professionally was not a "goal" of Carajean's, she dreamed of playing music at a very young age. It goes to show that it is never too late to realize a dream. One of my daughter's purposes is surely to make beautiful music - and she plays for the sheer joy of it.

Of course, I am also happy she laid aside her musical instrument when she did. Otherwise, she might not have met my wonderful son-in-law Branch in Medical School! And I might not have had the three beautiful grandchildren they gave me...                                                                                                                   
Peace, love, and beautiful music to you all,
Marilyn