Monday, August 31, 2015

Your Life As A NASCAR Race

The NASCAR Busch Series field at Texas Motor S...
The NASCAR Busch Series field at Texas Motor Speedway in April 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You know your life resembles NASCAR. You race at incredible speeds, near misses, exhilarating moments, crashes, boredom, re-starts.

It's exhausting. Then the race ends and what do you have?

That's been my life lately. Family visited my new home in Jacksboro, Tennessee. We still hadn't adjusted to our new Southern home--we're transplanted from the Canadian border in NY.

English: Jacksboro, Tennessee, USA, viewed fro...
English: Jacksboro, Tennessee, USA, viewed from the Cumberland Trail atop Cumberland Mountain. Cross Mountain dominates the horizon. US-25W approaches Cove Lake on the extreme right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dodgy iPhone out-of-plane-window shot of one u...
Long Island from a plane
Days began early. Ended late. Entertainment, tourism, visiting filled each day. Then I needed to travel north for my brother Alan's memorial. He died a year ago, was cremated, and we were going to bury him in the LI Sound.

To make things cheaper, I left with my Long Island family. Because I was so near Salem, MA I got to visit with my daughter and grandbabies. Returning to Long Island I had to hang around until we could gather on our family boat and celebrate Alan's life.

Did I mention? I had a publishing deadline to meet, critiques to make, blogs to write, bills to pay--all while entertaining family.

It all failed. Not the the family--the work.

Almost completely failed. I did meet my deadline, but my editor didn't get my manuscript. In the morass of her own NASCAR life, the file got buried. So maybe you can say all my busyness failed.

And the moral? How does my life concern yours?

We all hit these moments. Life piles up like a line of NASCAR drivers. Someone's on your tail. There's a wreck, the tedium seeps in when nothing's happening, then the race begins again.

But what really matters? The chores or the family?

Every time something cried out for me to complete, my family needed something. I chose them. I worked the essentials (my deadline, my blog) into the vortex, and celebrated my family.

My mother's 86. How much longer will I have her with me? My brother died at the age of 52. A good friend's baby died at age 2. We're not promised forever.

My husband called me every night, and I ached for him. No longer did I remember the little quirks that drive me nuts--like his insatiable corn on the cob eating or, well, I think I still have forgotten the quirks. Instead, I longed for the man. The one who keeps me company, tends to my concerns, adores me and needs my adoration. Although on hold for nearly two weeks, our reunion delighted us.

Stuff will always pile up. Do what you must to keep afloat. The rest is junk

Cherish the times with your family. They are the only things that matter.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Skinny on Chocolate: It's a Health Food

English: Roasted cocoa (cacao) beans
"Forget love, I'd rather fall in chocolate." Deanna TroiStar Trek: The Next Generation

I have to agree with Deanna Troi--forget love. Let me fall in chocolate.

Actually, as a child, that was my daydream--to get a Hershey bar as big as my bedroom and not have to share.

Why am I, like so many Americans (read on to see that I don't lie), obsessed with this delectable seed?

    A cacao tree with fruit pods in various stages...
  1. The very smell of chocolate increases theta waves in your brain. That makes you relax. Can you imagine me without my chocolate?
  2. It's a great, natural anti-depressant. (Imagine what I would be like without chocolate!) It contains tryptophan which helps create serotonin. Forget the turkey. I want chocolate for Thanksgiving.
  3. The inventor of the chocolate chip cookie was a brilliant individual. The recipe was sold to Nestle in return for a lifetime supply of chocolate. Who got the better end of the deal? Uh duh. It's obvious.
  4.  A single chocolate chip can provide enough energy for an adult human to walk 150 feet. Thirty-five chips enables the adult to walk one mile. For 875,000 you can walk around the world.
  5. It takes about 400 cacao beans to make one pound of chocolate.(See the illustration of the beans above).
  6. And every second, Americans (collectively) eat 100 pounds of chocolate. That's a lot of beans.
  7. Each person consumes 12 pounds of chocolate a year. (I personally make-up for the few who eat no chocolate.) 
  8. Americans spend $7 billion dollars a year on chocolate. (I thought my budget was bad.)
  9. Hershey produces 20-25 million kisses a day. Pucker up. It's like love.
  10. Eating dark chocolate every day reduces your risk of heart disease by one-third. However, I don't think that extends to the quantities I consume them.
  11. Chocolate has an anti-bacterial element that protects your teeth from decay.
  12. Be careful. Good things need to be used in small doses. A lethal dose of chocolate (heavens, how could there be such a thing) is 22 pounds--about 40 Hershey bars.
  13. The average chocolate bar has about 8 insect parts.
  14. There's a pill that makes your fart smell like chocolate.
  15. The original name for hot chocolate was cacahuatl. Translated it was cocoa water. The Europeans did not like drinking anything named caca water. Would you? 
Which is your favorite chocolate fact? Currently #14 is my favorite. What can you expect from caca water?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Garrison Keillor: Success from Disability

English: Mr. Garrison Keillor
Have you ever been to Lake Wobegone--just a little north of St. Cloud? You probably know exactly where it is--after all--it's where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children above average." It's middle America. It's us.

And sadly, after more than forty years, Garrison Keillor will retire. After all, he is 73. He's handed the reigns to Chris Thile, so Prairie Home Companion will continue.

Neil and I were fortunate to catch one of Keillor's shows on his farewell tour. He performed at the restored Tennessee Theater.

I knew Keillor was aging. Knew he wasn't a Robert Downey, Jr. I didn't expect the mellow storyteller to have Asperger's. He joked about it--said teachers, when he went to school, simply expected him to be a genius. Kids just knew he was weird.

The show was hysterical. The jokes Keillor-sharp. And he found this niche by accident.

He wanted to be a novelist. Took a "temporary" job in radio. Having been raised by fundamentalists, he knew the world was ending soon, so he didn't have to worry about a long career in radio.

Thank heavens he was wrong.

And bless God for directing steps.

I've worked with students with Asperger's. They are odd, often bright, but have difficulty in social situations. Radio is a perfect media. Keillor didn't have to make eye contact with audiences. He could ramble on in his stream of consciousness and define middle America. Audiences got to know him for who he really was, grew to love him and he succeeded.

I know you struggle with your deficiencies, too. They may not be as severe as Keillor's, they may be worse. However, God is able to work wonders with us just the way we are.

Look at the disciples. Peter was a brash rube. Thomas--dramatic and doubtful. Paul a murderous Pharisee. Still, Jesus took their weaknesses and made them their strengths. Peter became a church leader. Thomas gave us the definitive proclamation of Christ's deity. Paul unified the Roman kingdom for Christ.

What about you? Are you homely? Do you have to be a cover girl? Lily Tomlin isn't beautiful, still she became a fine and funny actress.

Are you slow-witted? I know many women who serve others with love and dedication, who make lives worth living even if they hadn't graduated high school.

Are you odd?

No. Definitely not. You are unique. Beautiful. Made with love and care and divinity.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well" Ps.139:14.


Your weakness is a gift. After all, God's power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

Monday, August 10, 2015

Were the HIroshima and Nagasaki Bombings Good News?

so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 1 Peter 1:7

Seventy-years-ago, the world blew up--almost literally.

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ...
The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed tens of thousands of Japanese civilians. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On August 6, 1945 Hiroshima exploded when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the unsuspecting city. However, "Little Boy" couldn't convince the emperor to surrender, so on August 9, 1945, the United States sent a plutonium bombed nicknamed the "Fat Man" to finish the job. After the bombing of Nagasaki, World War II ended.

Was this a happy day?

Without the bombs, the war would drag on. Service men would die. Civilians would be cut down. The war could well advance onto American soil as the bombing of Pearl Harbor proved. Yet, the bomb in Hiroshima killed more than 150,000 innocent civilians. In Nagasaki, more than 80,000 lost their lives in the first few months.

The cities were wiped out. Only one building remained standing (of sorts) in Hiroshima, a memorial still in existence today.

Good news. No more war.
Bad news. So much grief.

Think of the World Trade Centers. Three thousand souls perished on that day. We still mourn.

Today we battle the advancement of nuclear weapons in unscrupulous governments. But Neil and I recently had the opportunity to visit Oak Ridge National Labs (ORNL), K-12 and the rest of the "Secret City" in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Here they enriched uranium and made possible the creation of the atomic bomb.

Today we're down-sizing our bombs. But what did the nuclear age do besides end a war?

  1. It keeps us safe. Russia or North Korea or fill-in-the-blanks, don't attack us because we can destroy them.
  2. Nuclear medicine finds diseases we used to miss and allow us fuller and healthier lives.
  3. We can heat and cool our homes more efficiently.
  4. We improve the safety of food
  5. It helps in archaeology--think of our carbon dating
  6. Improves our mining abilities
  7. These sites in Oak Ridge have now turned to nano-technology and 3-D printing. Pull out your phone or check something on your FitBit. These came about because of the atomic age.
You may be asking  why I bring this up. After all, this is a personal, not a scientific blog. What does this have to do with you?

Of course I can answer. We've all face misery. Many of us have minor catastrophes, perhaps comparable to a fire that destroys our homes. On the way home from Oak Ridge, we had a minor car accident when Neil backed into a cart-gathering machine in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Then some face extreme tragedy such as the World Trade Center episodes--devastating and debilitating. Others suffer on the scale of a Hiroshima.

The question we need to consider is not the devastation, but the growth that can come from it. Hiroshima thrives today. The city restored itself. The population exceeds three million. 

And we like Japan. No one considers her our enemy.

God restores. From the ashes of tragedy can rise greatness.
How can you grow from adversity? 





Monday, August 3, 2015

Does Someone Drive You Nuts?

English: "Judith Showing the Head of Holo...
This is what we'd like to do
to our Sophias.
Have you ever had to deal with a self-righteous, know-it-all, hypochondriac? In short, do people sometimes drive you nuts?

Why can't people be more like us?

I know this will come as a shock to those who know me in real time--but sometimes people drive me bonkers. Having read Scripture once or twice, I know this isn't a trait I should brag about on a public blog visible to all the world--but you've never met "Sophia."
     

Sophia quotes Scripture all the time--you make a statement, she gives a relevant chapter and verse. You do something not up to her standard--along comes chapter and verse. Someone doesn't see things the way she does--perhaps you like Corvettes when she prefers Mustangs, disdain curdles her voice, it becomes whiny, then supercilious (of course--I, the erstwhile English teacher, would have to define that word for Sophia). No one would dare dispute her assertions because she'd have the chapter and verse to prove how much better Mustangs are--the Bible does talk about horses--never autos.
     
Insert face of the offending woman
How are we to love someone like that?
     
This morning I discovered a key. Romans 12:17b says, "Have regard for good things in the sight of all men." My footnote from the Nelson Study Bible says, "A Christian should not concentrate on the evil in others, but instead should focus on what is good. By doing so, we encourage others around us to aspire to the good" (1903).


If I applied this to Sophia I would discover a woman who has raised wonderful children whom she loves dearly--her love is evident in her words and her actions and her children's sweetness. She's been married only once and still loves and respects her husband. She volunteers in church, is reliable and dedicated to both her job and her ministry. As a faithful, loving woman she demonstrates her Christian character.


How can I not like her?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

How to be Blessed

Matt 6:34
"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes”( Matt 6:34, THE MESSAGE).

early morning mist
I goofed. I know, no small surprise. And you ask, “What did you do now, Carol?” And I answer.  

 Remember, you asked, so it’s your problem when I unwind a long tale of writing woes: a mistyped title in a query, a header that’s wrong, spelling comma as coma, forgetting my pitch, getting rejected because no one’s seen my genius.

Have I told you? I’m the next great Hemingway. Of the female persuasion. I know it, but I haven’t been able to convince anyone else.

Lately, I’ve been bemoaning the three new rejections I haven’t received yet. (Believe me,  they’re coming).

Maybe. 

Maybe not.

But Matthew 6: 34 tells me I’ve got to stop my merry-go-round worrying about tomorrow. I’ve got to see and hear and taste all the good God has done in my life today.

I've seen:

·         Starlight on a black lake
·         Mist dancing on water
·         The diamond glint of frost
·         Encouragement in a good friend's eyes

I've heard: 
·         The whirr of partridge wings
·         The call of geese
·         The bark of a happy Springer spaniel chasing rabbits
·         The cry of a healthy newborn

I've tasted 
·         Pumpkin-spice coffee
·         Farm-fresh eggs
·         Dark chocolate
·         The lips of a doting husband

To worry about tomorrow only destroys today. What blessing have you been given today?

Monday, July 20, 2015

You can beat injustice: #chattanoogastrong

Our world's run amok. Hatred dominates. Freddie Gray and Michael Brown die at the hands of the police and Baltimore and Ferguson erupt in riots. People loot and burn the property of their neighbors. They turn on their community and make it safe for no one. They create a wasteland that will only promulgate more crime.

What is gained? We learn about police brutality. Arrests are made. Investigations begun. Meanwhile, communities become devastated.

Then we have the Mother Emmanuel murders. Pure hate crime, motivated only because of the color of the victims' skin. 

And most recently--Chattanooga. Five young men who dedicated their lives for our freedom were gunned down by a crazed youth who believed he was doing Allah's will.

In these last two murders, the reactions of those connected to the communities were diametrically opposite Baltimore and Ferguson. Those in Charleston begged for no riots. Flowers, balloons, candles and messages of peace were left at the scene. People of all faiths fell to their knees and prayed for their community. People of all color and all faiths packed Emmanuel AME Church for prayer services.

So, too, in Chattanooga. No riots arose from the despicable act done out of hatred. Vigils, prayers and a community bound by their love helped one another grieve and heal. The city didn't rob from others. Instead, donations pour in for the victims' families. The end result is a community stronger and more allied than before the heinous crimes.

Four horrible acts done in the last year--and two distinct ways of handling them.

For most of us, this kind of injustice is witnessed only on TV. Yet daily, we face inequity and maltreatment, and it cuts to our core.

I am divorced. My ex-husband cheated and eventually married his girlfriend. Our marriage, from the start was fraught with difficulty. I was told by one pastor, that even though the divorce happened prior to my salvation, I could never marry again. That was it. Cut off when even Jesus recognized infidelity as a permissible reason to dissolve a marriage. How should I have reacted? Refused Christianity? Turn from God? Or as Jesus did when others maligned him throughout history?

A dear friend suffers from serious health issues. She's had consistent surgeries, and each one creates a new issue that must be addressed. How does the church treat her? Some assume she's a hypochondriac. Some avoid her. How should she react?

How to face injustice:

Forgiveness. 

This is not to excuse injustice. Jesus did not condone his crucifixion. Instead, he said "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23: 34 , NASB).


How does one forgive?


  1. Desire to forgive. If it's too hard to even desire, for many people have faced situations that are brutal, ask God for the desire to desire to forgive.
  2. Do not dwell on the injustice. Every time you recall the wrong doing, pray simply, "Father, I forgive." You may not mean it. You may repeat this 60 times an hour. However, I know from experience, it works.
  3. Eliminate the phrase, "I may forgive, but I'll never forget." That means you haven't forgiven. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the perpetrator. It has everything to do with you. Once healed, the memory of the abuse/inequity/trials will fade, and your healing will arise.

"Yet those who [wait for the Lord/ Will gain new strength;/ They will [b]mount up with [wings like eagles,/ They will run and not get tired,/ They will walk and not become weary" (Is. 40: 31, NASB).

What works for you? What do you struggle with? Leave a comment. You need not struggle alone. I will talk, and I will pray.