Sharing the Words and Art

Sharing the Words and Art


Pentecost 2018


All month we have been discussing women who have or are making a difference in the world.  Today’s featured woman makes a difference through her writing, music, and love of faith and family.  However, today she is being featured for her future endeavor which begins tomorrow. 


Kayleigh McLeod is an author with seven books on Goodreads.  Her bio, in her own words is this:  “Confession time, I’m a fantasy addict! For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the concept of magical worlds.  I was the kid with dragons doodled around the edge of her school work, the one with her head constantly buried in a book. As a teen, I shunned partying to play Magic the Gathering and DM Dungeons and Dragons games.  Through the years, I’ve always made up stories and took characters on amazing adventures, in the privacy of my own mind. Now I want to share them with other people.  I live with my husband and cat in Nottinghamshire in England. When I’m not writing (or planning something I’m writing) I’m usually working, reading, playing bass for my church’s worship team, playing computer games (World of Warcraft, Dragon Age, Pokemon, Minecraft) or drinking tea.  Mmm, time to put the kettle on…”.


She has two series already out with three books each and has just released the first of her third series, “Heir of Power”.  That is quite a feat but it is what she is planning for August that has put her on our post for today.  Like most positions in the arts, writing can be quite the competitive sport.  Everywhere we turn, in every field and venue of life, we have choices.  That means that the entrepreneur needs to stay focused in order to reach and secure their customer.  Most do not do this by giving their competitors free advertising but that is exactly what Kayleigh McLeod is going to do in August.  Why?  Because Kayleigh is not just thinking of herself; she values her readers and respects her fellow writers.  That definitely makes her a woman of distinction.


On her website, during the month of August 2018, McLeod is featuring a blog a day written by thirty others in addition to her.  I’ll let her explain:  “We’re all going on a Summer Blog-a-day!  Throughout August we’re going to be holding a new event packed with summer reading fun. Each day we’ll be visiting a different blog that has a free short story or excerpt for you to read to get a taste of a new author’s work or see more from an author you already love. We also have bloggers revealing their all-time favourite summer books! This is the ultimate way to find your next poolside read. We also have giveaways and other surprises too!”


Generosity in this competitive world is sometimes hard to find.  However, during the month of August it will be a great supply at and you can access it whenever.  Now perhaps you are thinking this is self-promotion but really, it is about getting people to read and that has health benefits for all of us.  Reading is a proven stress reliever and the person who is not stressed out will never pick up a gun and start killing innocent victims.  Reading also has other health benefits and finding new books to read is therefore a healthy step forward towards better living – one of the purposes of this blog.


A study released in Neurology Magazine found that reading and similar activities reduced the rate of cognitive decline in dementia patients. Researchers examined the brains of 294 patients after death and found a slower rate of decline in patients who reported more early-life and late-life cognitive activity, such as reading, writing and playing games.  “The study showed that mentally active patients — ones who read and wrote regularly — declined at a significantly slower rate than those who had an average amount of activity,” notes NPR’s Annalisa Quinn. 


Other studies have found that the more immediate benefits of reading include an increased tolerance for uncertainty. Psychologists at the University of Toronto, for example, had participants read either a short story or a non-fiction article, and then tested their tolerance for uncertainty. Participants who read the short stories were less likely to need cognitive closure, a need to reach a quick conclusion in decision-making and an aversion to ambiguity and confusion.  The fiction readers, especially those who claimed to be avid readers, were better able to think creatively and not get tied down to one specific idea.  Supplementary studies have proven that reading exercises underworked parts of the brain.


Kayleigh McLeod has a love affair with dragons so let me end with this quote by George R. R. Martin, author of “A Dance with Dragons”:  “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”  I hope you will check out Kayleigh’s summer blog-a-day and pick up some new titles to read.  Reading reminds us not only of our world past and present but of the possibilities of the future.  It does this by improving our health and better living for today and tomorrow.  It not only is time to put the kettle on (or in my case, get some more ice for my iced tea since living in the southern USA means it’s hot in August!), it’s time to go open a good book, relax, and improve my life.  Check out and make a difference in your life!

The Making of a Super Hero

The Making of a Super Hero


Pentecost 2018


During the month of July we have discussed women who made a difference.  We also discovered that they overcame a tragedy in their lives in their making a difference.  In my book, this makes each of these women a super hero.  In one way or another, most of us dream about being something larger than life.  Perhaps it is to be a warrior, a princess/queen, a leader/king, or maybe it is simply to be better today than you were yesterday.  All too often, though, there are voices that silence our aspirations.  These voices can be external and internal and they seemingly out shout the hopes we have in becoming our own super hero.


Yesterday our woman of the day was Marion Wright Edelman.  Admonished by her dying father as a child to make education her venue for making a difference, she offers us solutions for our own living.  Her words are not only great motivation for the children she has helped and continues to help, they afford us answers to all those naysayers who tell us we cannot be better than we are.


The way we become super heroes is to take that first step towards making a difference.  This is often the hardest step we will ever take and yet, it may also be the most important.  So how do we do it?  “We must not, in trying to think how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee,” Marion Wright Edelman advises.


We often let fear stop us as well.  It is not the fear of doing something difficult, though.  It is the fear of not being liked.  The lawyer turned advocate has an answer for that one as well.  “You just need to be a flea against injustice.  Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable and transform even the biggest nation.”  Most likely you never dreamed of being a flea but sometimes, it is worth being annoying to effect great change and make a big difference, a very positive difference, in the life of someone.


We seldom see super heroes sweat but trust me, it cannot be easy leaping tall buildings, chasing down criminals, flying across the planet, defying the basic laws of physics, etc.  Surely, in their service to others, they exert energy.  So why do they do it?  Why should we step out of our safe cocoon of existence to try to make a difference for another?  “Service is the rent we pay for being.  It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”  No living breathing human being became alive without someone putting in some effort and sweat to give them birth.  The very purpose of someone giving you life is so you can grow and learn and then later, do the same for another – not particularly by literally giving birth but by giving birth to positive change.


This month is over but the need for super heroes is never over.  “It’s time for greatness – not for greed.  It’s time for idealism – not ideology.  It is a time not just for compassionate words, but compassionate action.”  It is not easy.  Very few things really worth having are ever truly easy.  “It is so important not to let ourselves off the hook or to become apathetic or cynical by telling ourselves that nothing works or makes a difference.  Every day, light your small candle…. The inaction and actions of many human beings over a long time contributed to the crises our children [and adults] face, and it is the action and struggle of many human beings over time that will solve them – with God’s help.”


Marion Wright Edelman admonishes and reassures us all to “Be a good ancestor.  Stand for something bigger than yourself.  Add value to the earth during your sojourn.”  Tomorrow we will discuss, in our final post about women making a difference, how one woman is using social media to build a community and make a positive change – all with one post from the comfort of her office.  We don’t have to leap tall building with a single bound.  We just have to defeat the voices within our own heads and then be of service to another.  It can be as easy as a single keystroke.  Then truly, as Wright Edelman encourages us to do, we can “add value to the Earth during [our] sojourn.”

  Continue reading “The Making of a Super Hero”

For the Children

For the Kids
Pentecost 2018

“Don’t let anything get it the way of your education.” Those were the last words the Baptist minister said to his daughter, born in South Carolina two years before the United States entered into World War II. She took his words to heart. She attended Marlboro Training High School in Bennettsville, where she graduated in 1956 and went on to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Due to her academic achievement she was awarded a Merrill scholarship which allowed her to travel and study abroad. She studied French civilization at the Sorbonne University and at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. For two months during her second semester abroad she studied in the Soviet Union as a Lisle Fellow. In 1959 she returned to Spelman for her senior year, and became involved in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1960 she was arrested along with 14 other students at one of the largest sit-ins at the Atlanta City Hall. She graduated from Spelman as valedictorian. She went on to study law and enrolled at Yale Law School where she was a John Hay Whitney Fellow, and earned a Juris Doctor in 1963.

Marion Wright was the first African American woman admitted to The Mississippi Bar. She began practicing law with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s Mississippi office, working on racial justice issues connected with the civil rights movement and representing activists during the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. She also helped establish the Head Start program., the Mississippi program being one of the largest head Start programs in the nation. During a tour by Robert Kennedy and Joseph Clark of Mississippi’s poverty-ridden Delta slums in 1967, Marion Wright met Peter Edelman, an assistant to Senator Kennedy. They married on July 14, 1968. Edelman and her husband, now a Georgetown law professor, have three children: Joshua, Jonah, and Ezra. Joshua is an educational administrator; Jonah works in education advocacy and founded Stand for Children; Ezra is a television producer and director who won an Academy Award for his documentary “O.J.: Made in America”.

Having been reminded in her father’s last words about her own education, Marion Wright Edelman firmly believes education is a tool for bettering the world and making a difference. “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.” She has lived this throughout her life. She moved in 1968 to Washington, D.C., where she continued her work and contributed to the organizing of the Poor People’s Campaign of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm, and also became interested in issues related to childhood development and children.

In 1973, she founded the Children’s Defense Fund as a voice for poor children, children of color, and children with disabilities. The work of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) primarily revolves around its teen pregnancy prevention program. The organization has served as an advocacy and research center for children’s issues, documenting the problems and possible solutions to children in need. Edelman considers that “Children must have at least one person who believes in them. It could be a counselor, a teacher, a preacher, a friend. It could be you. You never know when a little love, a little support will plant a small seed of hope.” She has been a vocal advocate for children in her discussions with Congress, her support of non-profits dealing with children, and in the education of children from pre-school to college. “The question is not whether we can afford to invest in every child; it is whether we can afford not to.” Throughout the years, Marion Wright Edelman has encountered her non-supporters. To them she responds: “A nation that does not stand for its children does not stand for anything and will not stand tall in the future.” I agree with Ms. Edelman. After all, children are our greatest natural resource.

Note: The list of who to highlight this month was endless. There are a great many women who have made a difference in the world and continue to do so today. To those in this struggle, Marion Wright Edelman offers these words: “We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big difference that we often cannot foresee.”

So why do we not do more to make a difference? Are you one of my women making a difference in the world today? I think and hope you are. More on that in Monday’s post…and how you can, if you are not already, become a super hero. Get your cape ready and prepare to soar. We all can do it!


Fourteen Amazing Women

Fourteen Amazing Women
Pentecost 2018

A common misconception is that having a diagnosis means something is wrong. What if we considered it to mean something’s unique? Autism is a great example of this. Autism spectrum disorder is a condition related to brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socializes with others, causing problems in social interaction and communication. The disorder also includes limited and repetitive patterns of behavior. The term “spectrum” in autism spectrum disorder refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity. Autism spectrum disorder includes conditions that were previously considered separate — autism, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and an unspecified form of pervasive developmental disorder. Some people still use the term “Asperger’s syndrome,” which is generally thought to be at the mild end of autism spectrum disorder.

Autism spectrum disorder has no single known cause. Given the complexity of the disorder, and the fact that symptoms and severity vary, there are probably many causes. Both genetics and environment may play a role. Genetically, there are several different genes that appear to be involved in autism spectrum disorder. For some children, autism spectrum disorder can be associated with a genetic disorder, such as Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome. For other children, genetic changes (mutations) may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder. Still other genes may affect brain development or the way that brain cells communicate, or they may determine the severity of symptoms. Some genetic mutations seem to be inherited, while others occur spontaneously.

Environmental factors may be playing a large role in the rise of autistic children. A great read on the effects life today has on our environment is the encyclical paper written by Pope Francis entitled “Laudato Si”. Researchers are currently exploring whether factors such as viral infections, medications or complications during pregnancy, or air pollutants play a role in triggering autism spectrum disorder. One of the greatest controversies in autism spectrum disorder centers on whether a link exists between the disorder and childhood vaccines. Despite extensive research, no reliable study has shown a link between autism spectrum disorder and any vaccines. In fact, the original study that ignited the debate years ago has been retracted due to poor design and questionable research methods.

As mentioned before, having a diagnosis of being autistic does not mean one is handicapped. It often means one is Handicapable. I tried to select just one or two women with such a diagnosis to write about during this month of featuring women who have made a difference and/or overcome struggles. It was too great a task. So instead here is a link to a wonderful article about fourteen such outstanding women.


Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Putting Your Best Foot Forward
Pentecost 2018

If you google female shoe fashion designers expecting to find a list of females who design shoes, you are going to be very disappointed. Out of the top twenty, there are only two listed – Llynda More and Kate Spade. Both are females with very involved male partners but Kate Spade designed accessories and then branched out into other items, including shoes. Llynda More is another story entirely.

Llynda More did not start out as a designer, though. The daughter of a very prominent bass and guitar player in Nashville for such recording artists as Elvis Presley, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison, and a host of others, Bob More passed along to his daughter a love of performing music and a wealth of talent. Part of a girls’ band known as Calamity Jane that recorded for Columbia Records between 1981 and 1982, Llynda More and her bandmates charted four times on the Billboard Hot Country Singles charts, including the No. 44 “I’ve Just Seen a Face” from 1982.

Llynda met a guitar player in another band known as RPM by the name of Mark Gendel. Gendel was a Toronto native who worked as an audio engineer before deciding to try his luck in the United States. Both became songwriters and recording artists in their own right during their early days in Nashville, Llynda recording for CBS Records and Mark recording for Capitol/EMI. Later on, they collaborated on their first song together in Music City and soon after teamed up in New York City where they wrote, performed on and co-produced many recordings, some of which have been used in movies and television. Their songs can be heard in cult favorite movies, such as, Back to the Beach and I was a Teenage Vampire and the television series, Spenser for Hire.

Their professional bios list that they “have been wowing audiences in Las Vegas for over ten years, but performing on the world famous Las Vegas strip is only a fraction of the excitement and journey of this exceptionally talented musical duo. Their exhilarating and moving live shows are why they have been invited all over the world to perform for prestigious guests in exciting cities such as Hong Kong and Macau in China, and Dubai/United Arab Emirates in the Middle East. Their travels as entertainers in the United States have taken them everywhere from the coast of California to the heart of blues’ birthplace on the Mississippi River to New York City and many destinations in between. Their exceptional live performances in Las Vegas won them the highly acclaimed title of ‘Best Lounge Act in Las Vegas’ by Tradeshow Lifestyles magazine.”

Mark has his own line of guitars, not surprising for a professional musician who plays guitars. Llynda, however, became a shoe designer purely by accident… and after a very long career of standing on stage in uncomfortable shoes. Here is her story in her own words: “Although my needs have been magnified as a stage performer, they are the same needs all women have who want to look and feel their best. I came up with a problem-solving footwear idea that has now been developed into a brand and company that is growing. During the downturn of the economy when I needed to find an economical solution to my need for multiple footwear styles on stage, I came up with the answer to a problem millions of women have who can’t afford as many footwear styles as they want. I invented and patented a revolutionary two-piece women’s fashion boot that transforms into 30 different styles. That’s right, it is now possible for a woman to have 30 styles for the price of only ONE pair of boots! Llynda More Boots also solve another major problem many of us ladies have… finding a one-piece boot that fits both our foot and our calf. I designed our separate BootTops™ to come in six different calf sizes so that, finally, women of all shapes and sizes can custom fit their calves when buying a fashion boot.”

Llynda More patented her boot design and, instead, of selling it in stores and being to only one to profit monetarily, she created a business that would allow other women to profit and own their own business selling Llynda More boots. The goals of Llynda More Boots Company are quite simple: To reduce stress in women’s lives by providing footwear of extraordinary comfort, easier travel and storage, customized fitting, creative expression, and an economical solution that helps them meet their changing fashion needs on demand; to provide jobs and business opportunities for others; to support the humane treatment of animals by not using their skins in the manufacturing of our products and contributing to organizations that protect and rescue animals in need. To that end, a portion of every sale at Llynda More Boots is donated to The Humane Society of the United States.

There’s an old Yiddish proverb…“Man plans and God laughs” that Llynda More quotes from time to time. She feels that her plans to be a musician were not the only thing God had in mind for her and her team of sales representatives and happy customers agree. Llynda More still performs on weekends and still finds time to make a difference for other women. That is certainly sweet music to everyone’s ears.

Grace Lived and Experienced

Grace Lived and Experienced
Pentecost 2018

Sometimes, not always, a person’s name reflects their character. You may not think the name Grace Hopper is a household name but chances are she had a huge impact on your daily living. Born in 1906, Grace Brewster Murray grew up in New York City. She was a curious child and had the habit of disassembling things to learn how they worked. She died in her sleep on New Year’s Day in1992, a fitting end for a women who helped usher in a new dawn of technology.

Grace Murray Hopper was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer. Additionally, she was a pioneer of computer programming who invented one of the first compiler related tools. She popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, an early high-level programming language still in use today. COBOL is an acronym for Common Business-Oriented Language. Throughout much of her later career, Hopper was much in demand as a speaker at various computer-related events. She was well known for her lively and irreverent speaking style, as well as a rich treasury of early war stories since she served in the Naval Reserves, retiring at the rank of Rear Admiral. She also received the nickname “Grandma COBOL”. She was once described as “‘all Navy’, but when you reach inside, you find a ‘Pirate’ dying to be released”.

While she was working on a Mark II Computer at Harvard University in 1947, her associates discovered a moth that was stuck in a relay; the moth impeded the operation of the relay. While neither Hopper nor her crew mentioned the phrase “debugging” in their logs, the case was held as an instance of literal “debugging.” For many years, the term bug had been in use in engineering but Grace Hopper is credited with its use for computers. The remains of the moth can be found in the group’s log book at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Following a career that spanned more than 42 years, Admiral Hopper took mandatory retirement from the Navy on August 14, 1986. At a celebration held in Boston on the USS Constitution to commemorate her retirement, Hopper was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded by the Department of Defense. At the time of her retirement, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the United States Navy (79 years, eight months and five days), and had her retirement ceremony aboard the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy (188 years, nine months and 23 days.
In 1996 a guided missile destroyer was named for Grace Hopper. USS Hopper (DDG-70) was launched and nicknamed “Amazing Grace”. Her career included over forty honorary degrees, over twenty awards including being the first American and the first woman of any nationality to be made a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society and recipient posthumously of the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her accomplishments in the field of computer science. Of her own legacy, grace Hopper said: “The most important thing I’ve accomplished, other than building the compiler, is training young people. They come to me, you know, and say, ‘Do you think we can do this?’ I say, “Try it.” And I back ’em up. They need that. I keep track of them as they get older and I stir ’em up at intervals so they don’t forget to take chances.”

The empirical approach to anything means to collect data through observation. Empirical research is that research which has been obtained using empirical evidence. If it sounds like I am repeating myself, it is because I am. I want to make this way of defending and supporting a concept very clear. The empirical approach is a way of gaining knowledge by means of direct and indirect observation or experience and it can be analyzed quantitatively or qualitatively.

The concept of grace is not something one can definitively identify. Much like probability, the concept from which we have borrowed an approach to discuss grace, one’s perspective bears a great deal of weight in our discussions. Empiricism values research more than other methodologies. Empirical evidence, the record of one’s direct observations or experiences, has four basic goals: go beyond simply reporting observations; promote environment for improved understanding; combine extensive research with detailed case study; prove relevancy of theory by working in a real world environment. In other words, we need to not just observe but really think about what we observe and provide a clear and objective perspective that includes some fact checking. Then we need to pay attention and try out our resulting conclusions in reality.

Grace is the giving back to others, often strangers, out of gratitude for what we ourselves have. Perhaps the greatest evidence of our own true worth is when we are able to help another while going through our own personal storms. Grace is not only for those times where we feel we have too much. Grace is for every day, an expression that gives our own life purpose and meaning. I think Grace Hopper would agree.

Starting Right

Starting Right


Pentecost 2018


Do one good deed every day.  Sounds like one of those New Year resolutions, doesn’t it?  It is actually the first step to improving your health.  Who knew?   Performing charitable acts, even very small ones is one of the surest steps a person can make towards having a healthy and happy life.  This series is going to focus on the spirit of our living and practicing philanthropic acts is one of the simplest yet most rewarding things we can do.  Giving works both for the giver and the recipient.


In 2013 over forty international studies were examined and the evidence compiled indicated that volunteering and doing good deeds can lead to over a twenty percent reduction in mortality rates.  In other words, living, even just a little bit, for someone else means you yourself can live longer.  Pentecost is often call the “Ordinary Time”.  This Pentecost, Pentecost 2016, we will explore how to improve our own living by giving.  I hope to give you one way each day to improve another’s living as well as your own, and it will not require a great deal of money or time.  We will, in summary, each day make this ordinary time extraordinary living.


Many people think only millionaires can be philanthropic but the truth is we all have something to give.  For example, we each have twenty=four hours each day.  Seven to eight of those hours need to be allocated for work while another eight are usually set aside for work.  A healthy travel time to and from work is no greater than one hour each way and eating meals should take between forty-five and sixty minutes.  That still leaves three hours:  8 + 8 + 2 + 3 = 21.  Of course personal hygiene and getting dressed should factor into the day as well as some light entertainment.  Still you could probably find time to volunteer one or two hours a week.


One study yielded the results that senior citizens who donated at least one hundred hours a year were twenty-eight percent less likely to die than their peers.  That is one hour every three days, give or take.  It translates into two hours a week or 104 hours.  “But that’s not a magic number—it could be 75 hours or 125,” says study coauthor Elizabeth Lightfoot, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. “The important thing is that you’re doing it regularly.”  Doing good is not just good for older people, either.  Another study revealed children saw a drop in their cholesterol when volunteering.
Not everything needs to be done for someone else.  Starting the day off with doing something good will help us be fit.  Take for instance the seven minute exercises that are so popular right now.  You can google them or search for an app on your smart phone but here are seven that take seven minutes to do.  I know what you are thinking – I have not any extra time; my schedule is packed.  Well, there are one thousand, four hundred and forty minutes in each day – yep, 1440.  If you do not think your body is worth 1/205.714286, then you have some serious mixed-up priorities.  Seriously, mixed up priorities.


Earlier this year AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons, began using Denise Austin as their spokesperson for better health for their membership.  I was surprised to realize she qualified for membership herself and had for about five years.  A graduate of Cal State Long beach in Physical Education and Exercise Physiology, Austin is known for her emphasis on staying fit naturally, emphasizing that she herself exercises only about 30 minutes a day and does not skip meals.  She also prefers the use of sugar and butter over artificial sweeteners and margarine, though she does emphasize portion control, proper nutrient balance, and exercise.  Through her television programs and website, Denise Austin encourages people to stay fit at all ages, and conducts research with experts in nutrition, to emphasize realistic, real-life solutions to weight control and fitness.


We would all start our day much healthier if we took Austin’s advice.  After all, how hard can it be?  First let’s start with every school-aged child’s favorite exercise – the jumping jacks.  One jumps into a position with arms stretched upward and out towards the sky and feet also outward.  The body resembles an “X” when this is done properly.  Some of us, however, have passed the age of jumping.  You can still put your body in this position.  Do this rapidly for one minute (or longer.  There are no penalties if you managed to spend fifteen minutes a day doing these instead of just seven!).  Starting with your feet together and your arms at your side and then jumping or hurriedly moving into position with your arms above your head and your legs wide apart is great for your cardiovascular system.  This is a great exercise to improve one’s stamina and endurance and life does require that.  It will also, over time, increase your flexibility and circulation.  The human is not a vase.  It was not created to sit still.


Exercise number two is a wall sit.  Stand with your back flat against a wall and slowly lower yourself to a sitting position or halfway down the wall.  In other words, pretend there is an imaginary chair and you are slowly sitting in it.  If you are really stiff or have knee problems, take this exercise very slowly.  None of these should be done without considering your own personal condition and health status.  Feel free to print this off and take it to consult with your doctor before trying.  Remember each of these exercises is done for one minute so don’t try to win a world record doing wall sits on the first day.  Doing it has benefits, even if you only manage two or three at first.  Going slow is fine.


Next comes the squat and this is simply doing the same thing as the wall sit without the wall.  Hold your arms out front and slowly lower your body to a squatting position, going as low as you can.  If you need to, start holding onto a chair.  Again, we are aiming for flexibility and mobility, not a gold medal.


The next two exercises also involve the entire body and can be done holding onto a chair if you need.  The lunge is everybody’s favorite silly walk.  Move down a hallway, taking a bit longer steps than normal and lower your body as you go.  Ideally, the knee-bend results with your leg at a ninety-degree angle but any angle is fine for the beginner.  Most of us do not sleep in our kitchen/bathroom/closet.  Even someone in an efficiency apartment has to move around their living space.  Doing lunges while you go to the closet or the bathroom to shower combines the act of getting ready for work or school with exercising.


Another great exercise to do while getting ready to leave for your busy day is high knee running.  The high knee exercise involves lifting your knees to your waist and yes, holding onto a chair to do this is fine.  Please lift as fast as you safely can – emphasis on safety, especially when you first begin this.  Like the lunge, this exercise helps improve your core or central body’s strength.  Our torso supports us so we should support it, after all.  Both the lunge and high knee running also improve flexibility and balance as well as tone your abs, thighs, and derriere muscles.


The next exercise is one you can do in the shower or immediately after toweling dry.  If you are into exercising daily, then you probably are already giving your body seven minutes and push-ups are a regular part of your daily regimen.  If they are not, then please add them.  However, for the rest of us, doing a push-up, even the thought of one, stops us.  You can do a standing push-up, though, against a wall; hence, the shower.  Standing facing a wall, place your hand at should height.  Position yourself about eight inches from the wall and with your palms flat against the wall, lean in.  Then push yourself back into standing up straight.  The hardest part about this exercise is to keep from laughing when you cat thinks you are a new post to rub against.  Moving on to regular push-ups is permitted but this form of push-ups will also provide you benefits.


My last suggested exercise is really the first one you should do because you can do it in bed.  Of course, doing it on the floor is also permitted and again, don’t be surprised is your small pet think you are a new couch.  This exercise is called the plank and wins the prize for all-round benefits.  In fact, because it seems so simple you might just skip it but please don’t.  In exercise, as in life, sometimes the simplest things yield the best results.


To do a plank, one simply holds one’s body off the bed or ground in a straight line.  This is done by bending elbows and resting the arms on the bed or floor and then pushing up with toes remaining on the bed or floor.  Your body will have the appearance of an incline or plank.  This may sound really simple but trust me, it is not.  Getting into position is easy; holding it is difficult and requires great overall strength.  Most of us do this in bed at some point when turning over.  Start out small and hold for ten seconds and work your way up to one minute.  The plank is wonderful for core conditioning and also for good posture, balance, and other muscles we need to go about our busy lives.


Give yourself seven minutes a day.   Maya Angelou once said “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”  You will burn more calories, build muscles, improve your blood circulation and have more energy.  You cannot be good for anyone else if you are not good to yourself.  As Denise Austin herself advises, “Happiness and a positive attitude are gifts you can pass along.  So get out there and start giving.”  First, though, give yourself seven minutes a day and exercise.  You are more than worth it!

Beauty Within and Outside

Beauty Within and Outside


Pentecost 2018


Two years ago we delved into mythology during Pentecost and this is a reposting of one of those posts.  The ancient world used mythology to explain both their world and their curiosity.  Generally there were the villainous gods and goddesses but there were more those of goodness and beauty.  In all the mythologies there was a relatable aspect to each and every deity.  They served as a point of reference for understanding ourselves and our fellow man.  Perhaps when looking within our own beings to find that which is good and beautiful, we should reflect back on the mythologies of the past.


In Norse mythology we found ourselves almost in a comic book with their gods and goddesses reminiscent of action heroes.  With Celtic mythology, it was as if we had walked through a tome of literature with their wood nymphs and magical spirits reflecting the basis for the stories and movies of the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit”.  Greek and Roman mythology proudly proclaimed with great statues their mythologies, some of which still stand today as do columns from their great temples.


In the mythologies of the Far and Near East, you will be excused if you sometimes forget we are not walking through a lovely botanical garden.  I think these emphasized more than any others all of creation in explaining how nature played a most important role in their legends and admonitions for better living.  As we will learn, it is not unusual for one object such as a flower to have multiple meanings, depending of the myth or spirituality being discussed. 


The lotus flower is one such example.  Known officially as the “sacred lotus”, this aquatic plant holds a major place in the mythology of India.  Before we discuss its spiritual aspects, though, let’s discuss its physical ones for they also are something a bit magical.  The delicate white and pink flower grows on top of thick stems that look almost like stalks.  The roots of the lotus plant are firmly planted in the soil at the bottom of a fresh water pond or river.  Lotus plants usually grow to an average height of five feet, or about 150 centimeters, spreading horizontally to a little over three feet or one hundred and eighteen inches.  The leaves of the plant themselves can reach a span of over twenty-three inches or 60 centimeters while the blossoms can be up to almost eight inches in diameter or 20 centimeters.


Of greater interest to botanists is how the lotus plant seems to regulate its flower in spite of its environment. Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia discovered lotus flowers blooming in the Adelaide Botanic Garden maintained a constant temperature of 30-35 degrees Centigrade or 86-95 degrees Fahrenheit in spite of the ambient temperature of the surrounding environment dropping to 10 degrees Centigrade or 50 degrees Fahrenheit.


Nelumbo nucifera, the scientific name for the sacred lotus is also called the Indian lotus, or the Bean of India.  It plays, as mentioned before, an important role in the mythologies of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.  Hindus worship the lotus in connection to the gods Vishnu, Brahma, and Kubera as well as the goddesses Lakshmi, and Saraswati.  Vishnu is often called the “Lotus-Eyed One” and used as an example of beauty and purity.  It is said that the lotus flower booms from the navel of Vishnu and uncovers the creator god Brahma in the lotus position of yoga.  The unfolding petals of the flower are symbolic of the expansion of one’s soul and the promise of potential.  The Hindu interpret the blossoming of such a pure white flower from the mud of its roots as a spiritual promise.  Brahma and Lakshmi are the spirits associated with potency and wealth and also have the lotus as their symbol. 


In Buddhism, the lotus flower is symbolic of creation and renewal as well as original purity.  It is mentioned in one of the sacred texts of the Bhagavad Gita:  “One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus is untouched by water.  Not surprisingly, the lotus is also connected with other Eastern spiritualities.  The Chinese scholar and student of Confucius Zhou Dunyi said: “I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.”


The petals of a lotus blossom are said to have once numbered over a thousand and the thousand-petal lotus is a symbol of unending spiritual enlightenment.  It is more common to find an eight-petal lotus, although only five are original petals, the other three a modification from the stamen.  Considered one of the “eight auspicious signs” of Buddhism and Hinduism, the eight-petal lotus is also used in Buddhist mandalas.  [Mandalas were discussed in our Advent 2014 series and I hope you have been able to find some to view.  There are now coloring books for adults that feature mandalas and it is a most relaxing way to leave the real world and connect spiritually while relaxing and meditating.]


The eight petals of the lotus also relate to the Nobel Eightfold path of the Good Law of Hari Krishna and the eight petals of the white lotus correspond to the Noble Eightfold Path of the Good Law. This lotus is found at the heart of the Garbhadhatu Mandala, regarded as the womb or embryo of the world.  Many Deities of Asian Mythology are illustrated on a lotus flower.  According to some myths, everywhere the Gautama Buddha walked, lotus flowers appeared and blossomed. 


Hopefully today wherever we walk we will also leave a trail of beauty.  First, though, we must open our eyes to all that is around us and see the beauty within as well as portrayed by the outer appearance.  Each of us had the muddiness of a past but with faith and good deeds, we can blossom and leave the world a better place.  We all are a thing of great beauty in our being.

A World of Laughter, a World of Tears

A World of Laughter, a World of Tears


Pentecost 134


“There is just one moon and one golden sun and a smile means friendship to everyone.  Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide, it’s a small world after all.”  This second verse of one of Disney’s most recognizable songs worldwide really hit home to me yesterday.  The world of laughter and a somber world of tears came together as two friends and I realized just how small a world it really is.


A friend posted that a much loved spouse had returned home from a business trip to a small country halfway around the world.  After my first “Wow!”, I realized I knew someone in that small country so different from my own.  The population of this planet is growing.  At the turn of the century the population stood at 1.65 billion.  Today we are seven billion, seven hundred and forty-five million and growing.  Agriculture came into being around 8000 BCE and the world census was an estimated five million strong.  By the first year of the new common era (1 AD or ACE), the growth rate of people on earth was .05% per year.  Today it is 1.13% with over one million births expected during 2016.  In spite of all this, it is still a small world.  Insignificant me realized that I knew someone halfway around the world living in a small nation where another friend’s husband just spent a week – a connection between four people, four out of seven billion.  It is a small world.


Two years ago I wrote about the New York City Fire Department helping police investigate a suspected drug laboratory at a house in Yonkers.  Battalion Chief Michael Fahy led his men into the structure which exploded.  Michael Fahy was born and raised in New York City and became an attorney.  He had one brother and two sisters, one of whom was his twin.  They were not surprised when Michael left his law practice to answer what he described as a “higher calling” and became a NYC firefighter. This past week the world became aware of this heroic man who lived every day in an extraordinary way when he died in that explosion.  I became aware of Michael Fahy when a friend realized she had purchased her home last year from his parents. This friend lost her own mother two years ago due to a distracted driver who took his eyes off the road and stared at his mobile phone for just five seconds.  In that five seconds he took a life almost as quickly as the explosion from the illegal drug activity ended the life of Michael Fahy.  My friend is a college professor and native of Colorado but she knows too well the grief of losing a family member in an instant.  “A world of laughter, a world of tears’…It’s a small world after all.


It is election season in the United States and volunteers are trying to help register people to vote.  Few states automatically do this when people obtain driver’s licenses or state sponsored Identification cards and often people fail to make that extra trip to register.  A year ago another friend was helping register people and found himself volunteering to do so at a homeless shelter.  Suddenly he saw a familiar face, someone with whom he had worshipped.  This friend is a humanitarian and yet even he was surprised to realize that the theory of “Anyone can become homeless” was now a reality in this woman standing in front of him.


The world of economics is not just for a chosen few and the effects of financial woes can and do happen to anyone.  “It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears” and being unable to maintain a certain lifestyle will probably be experienced by many, especially those who are female in gender.  Until there is euity in payroll, it’s a small and unfair world after all for women.


“There’s so much that we share” the lyric goes but I wonder…Do we really share?  Are we really living with a thought making and seeing the connections we all have or do we simply go about our lives getting as much as we ourselves can personally garner?  “That it’s time we’re aware” is perhaps the most telling way to describe this past week for me.  I realized awareness that even though I myself have never traveled to some exotic locale, I know people in many such settings and we are connected.


Death, finances, and inequality are unfortunately a part of life.  “A world of laughter and a world of tears” describes one’s overall living for almost all of us.  What makes it extraordinary and even bearable is that we share both the good times and the bad.  We need to create connections in a positive way so that we make our living count for something. Whether someone is an attorney, a firefighter, or a volunteer, we all have the opportunity to make the ordinary process of living extraordinary.


Pentecost is called the “Ordinary Time” but it really is not so ordinary after all.  No single day is.  They may all blur into a sort of oneness or sameness but they shouldn’t.  We can make them count for something but showing kindness, concern, and realizing that “There’s so much that we share”.  We have the power to make these ordinary times spectacular and meaning and by doing that, we gain strength to get through the tough times.  We are in this thing called life together and we need to connect and help each other.  Community makes heroes out of all of us when we participate and honors those for whom life is a struggle they meet as best they can.



Happiness Found

Happiness Found


Pentecost 2018


She went to nursing school, having grown up in western Pennsylvania.  The acceptable careers for women at the time were teacher and nurse and our woman of distinction for today went to nursing school.  She attended at the Pittsburgh Training School for Nurses at Pittsburgh Homeopathic Hospital, where she graduated in 1896.  In her words, the hospital was “all the tragedy of the world under one roof.”  She would go on to marry a doctor and have three sons.  Their affluent lifestyle did not last the Stock Market crash of 1903 so she began writing as a means of providing a supplemental income.


Our nurse turned writer penned 45 short stories during her 27th year and was quite popular with readers of the “Saturday Evening Post”.  In 1907 she had her first novel published which sold approximately 1.25 million copies and made Mary Roberts Rinehart a household name.  The family moved to Sewickley, Pennsylvania and later to Washington, DC when her husband was appointed to the Veteran’s Administration.  After his death, Rinehart moved to New York City and with her sons established the publishing house Farrar & Rinehart, serving as its director.


Mary Roberts Rinehart served as a war correspondent for The Saturday Evening Post at the Belgian front during World War I.   During her time in Belgium, she interviewed Albert I of Belgium, Winston Churchill and Mary of Teck, wife of King George V.  Twelve years after moving to Washington, DC, she survived a murder attempt by her chef of twenty-five years at the family vacation home in Maine.  She was rescued by her other servants and the following day the chef committed suicide. 


Mary Roberts Rinehart suffered from breast cancer and in 1947 underwent a radical mastectomy.  She went public with her story at a time when such things were seldom, if ever, discussed in public.  In an interview with “Ladies Home Journal”, Rinehart strongly encouraged all women to have breast examinations. 


Rinehart is credited with inventing the “Had-I-But-Known” mystery novel.  This type of mystery novel is one where the principal character (frequently female) does things in connection with a crime that have the effect of prolonging the action of the novel.  In her novel “The Door”, the villain and murderer is the butler and although the phrase never actually appeared in the novel, made famous the saying:  “The butler did it.”


Often called the American Agatha Christie, even though she was published fourteen years before Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart wrote six travelogues, one essay, had over fifty film and television adaptations, and currently has over two hundred books listed on Goodreads.  Two of Roberts’ sons became book publishers while the third was a playwright and producer.  She was a woman both ahead of her time in many instances and a woman who lived within the confines of her gender for the times. 


Of all the many things this prolific writer penned, my favorite is this quote:  “To be kind to all, to like many and love a few, to be needed and wanted by those we love, is certainly the nearest we can come to happiness.”  Rinehart believed there was no mystery to finding happiness; it was quite simple:  Treat others as you wish to be treated.