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My birthday is coming up next month, so I’m hoping to encounter some German Chocolate Cake and a new pair of sneakers (if my son is reading, hint-hint!) While I’m all for presents and cake, I don’t like surprises. I agree with Angie Dickinson, who told friends she’d never appear on the show, “This is Your Life,” and when they conspired to surprise her anyway and got her to the set, she walked out!

Now, I do love a surprise ending in a movie. A good play on words. A clever juxtaposition. I was tickled by this observation in an article about hidden writing that was recently found in ancient manuscripts in a desert monastery: “For a monk who lives in the Sinai desert in Egypt, in the world’s oldest working monastery, Father Justin replies to emails very speedily.” Researchers who visited had to “follow the monastic spirit of the place and Father Justin’s schedule, breaking for lunch and Vespers.” He didn’t put his faith on hold, despite the fact that this was an important scientific find.

I also like this unexpected revelation about Lauren Ridloff, a deaf actress who stars in the Broadway play, Children of a Lesser God. When she went to a deaf camp as a teen, the kids spoke exclusively in sign language. Not having to focus on what her words sounded like to others meant she could put all of her energy into signing to express herself. She never spoke again, changing her life for the better as a result.  

All of this to say, it’s okay to show up in life as yourself. Some may drift away if you do, but the ones who just “get you” will stick around. After all, this is your life. You might as well live it your way.

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Scrolling through one of my favorite sites, Katzenworld, I found an interesting article about feeding cats raw food. There was a picture of the recommended brand, along with the words, “Made with Human Meat.”

What the heck?

Nearly fell off the chair. Had to scroll back up quickly.

“Made with Human Grade Meat.”

Oh. That’s a relief!

For a minute I thought I’d taken a turn into the Twilight Zone, and stumbled into the Little Shop of Horrors!

One word can make all the difference sometimes.

In today’s political climate, you don’t have to agree with everybody you meet. Online, you don’t have to dignify mean-spirited comments about what you believe, or where you come from, or how you live. But sometimes, one word of kindness can change the conversation.

And if it doesn’t, you may come to the conclusion that this isn’t a conversation anyway, but a monologue. You can always – respectfully – unfollow people who bring drama into your feed. This is true in real life as well. There comes a time when you realize that people who were once your friends bring nothing but negatives into your world. It’s okay to let them go.

In many cases, this will happen by attrition as you refuse to get sucked into the vortex of either/or online. You’re one of us, or you’re one of them. Someday, the zeitgeist will change, and we’ll see each other as people again. Until that time, unplugging from the constant barrage of angst and anger will do your soul good. Here’s one word that will hold your heart together: peace.

One day last month, a man and a woman showed up at my door trying to get past my defenses. Later that same day, two older women showed up at my door trying to get past my defenses.

Even though they were selling vastly different products, each team tried to gain my trust. The first team talked about how important it is to save a dollar when you can, the value of promises being kept, and that a product should do what it says it will do.

The second team spoke of how everyone has been on edge lately, what with all the negative things in the news and that, in times like these, it’s great to know there is always something in the world you can count on.

The first team was selling FIOS. The second were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In both cases, the one who stood by and did no talking was unwittingly speaking volumes. Each of them looked me right in the eye, almost glowering. I thought, what an odd sales tactic. It may just be that they’ve had a door or two slammed on them as they’ve peddled their wares.

As I closed the door after declining their “offers,”  it occurred to me that they could actually have been reflecting what they saw on my face. I have yet to find a balance between my belief that everyone should be treated respectfully and the annoyance I feel when solicitors come to my door.

People are doing more than ringing doorbells lately. Just look at the news and you’ll see: we’re getting under each other’s skin. If the best we can do is answer the door, decline with a bit of a scowl and go back to cooking dinner, maybe that will just have to do for now.

Being trolled by a fan seems an oxymoron, but reading SueBE’s post about opposite day, I was reminded of author George RR Martin. Game of Thrones fans have been trolling him to stop living the high life and finish the last book already.

My theory is that Martin has no intention of finishing the series, because once he does, fans may forget about him. Even if they seem to be holding him in contempt, they’re still holding onto him. I guess it’s better to hear invective than to be invisible. Also, there’s the very real possibility that he’s got “you’re-not-the-boss-of-me” syndrome. Fans yell at him to finish the book? He’ll show them. Not gonna do it.

There are sycophants, and then there are psycho-phants. Star Wars fans? Trolling actors to the point that they leave social media? What is wrong with this picture?

In the same way, when you bully someone for being a bully, you’re now part of the problem. We’ve got deep divisions in this country right now, extending all the way to the dining table. There are Washington DC restaurants in the news for refusing to serve political operatives with whom they disagree. I suppose they have the right not to serve any patron. And anyway, wouldn’t you rather know someone hates your guts before they’re alone in a back room with your food?

Still, there must be a better way to make a point that to heckle each other in this way. Fighting fire with fire just leads to a big conflagration. Sooner or later, someone’s going to get burned.

I’ve got an out-there theory about that 80s pop song that won’t get out of my head. I think it’s an alien radio wave, cleverly disguised as the Eurythmics. After all, what are light years to aliens? They call it, yesterday. My guess is that they experience everything all at once: past, present, future, and have only one tense in their language – “init,” meaning you’re in it – all time, at all times. 

I’m fascinated by news related to science, if only because it allows me to use my imagination. It also takes my mind off the rest of the news. Why is it that the only time an event makes its way into the headlines – and into our collective psyche – is when it’s something terrible? You almost need a red button of sorts to warn you. This is bad for you. It will add nothing good to your life.

I’m not saying that journalists shouldn’t cover actual news stories that impact our lives, but I haven’t read anything in the news today that improved my life for my having read it. Not one blessed thing.

Maybe that’s the real issue here. Not one blessed thing was in the news today. Only the cursed things. The things that make us cry and curse and shake a fist in anger. Maybe no news really is good news. Or at least fewer negative news stories. Finding positive news online and in life is possible. You just have to adjust your antenna.

In a new story I’m writing, one of the characters is an older Chinese woman. I searched “older women in Chinese culture 2018,” but couldn’t find anything relevant.

Ten pages of results yielded articles about a teenager’s prom dress causing controversy and the fact that educated, professional women in China aren’t marrying these days, but nothing about what life is like today for a women of 65. On page 13 of the search results, I did find an interesting article about how a three-digit “social score” can change the course of a person’s life in China, but still, nothing about the experience of older women.

It shouldn’t take miles of search pages to find out the most basic facts about older women in China. Should it? It’s disheartening that the algorithm we all rely on to bring us the world is leaving out large chunks of humanity. At least older people and women as a group can exist online. Can’t they?

But then again, do we ever really see each other?

Last year during a MOOC about poetry, I watched a terrific video lecture from poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Despite viewing it many times, I didn’t realize that she had on a bow tie, even though it’s obviously a bow tie. My mind assumed it was a scarf. Why? Because I like scarves. I wear scarves. I knit scarves. I was wearing a scarf as I was watching the video. Later, I realized that this poet identifies as gender non-conforming. All I saw was my own worldview.

No matter how open-minded we may think we are, we always see the picture through our own frame. Like a reverse selfie of sorts. Maybe we all need to be double-exposed to new ideas to view the world as a group-photo waiting to happen.

When I read about missionaries overseas, I’m of two minds. Appreciative of anyone lending a hand to those in need, but ambivalent about the fact that it comes with a price tag. Listen to a sermon. Follow this religion. Do things our way.

To me, the essence of the gospel is outreach that makes a positive impact for someone in a negative circumstance and expects nothing in return. This church initiative in England that asks congregants to use an app to report slavery at car washes is a good example.

The phrase, “of two minds,” came to me again as I read about the cancellation of Roseanne Barr’s sitcom re-boot in the wake of her racist tweet. Several years ago, I wrote an article about the Secret, a new-age philosophy and film. I contacted celebrities who’d commented about it, one of whom was Roseanne.

“The Secret is based on Abrahamic meditations, and should be used only to bring peace and blessings to the mind, and NOT for material gain, which will make it backfire,” she said in an email. It wasn’t her agent or assistant, but Roseanne, responding to me directly. I noticed two things: she doesn’t have a handler and she has strong opinions. She’s of two minds. Seeker of spiritual truth. Spewer of hate speech.

I’m of two minds in terms of what to do with notable figures who go off the rails in this way. On the one hand, what they’ve done is inexcusable. On the other, isolating them in perpetuity won’t rehabilitate them, or make the issues go away. I really wish there were an app for that.

Try as you might, you can’t be in the present and in the past at the same time. Well, not unless you dive into quantum theory. But that’s neither here nor there. Get it? It’s a pun!

Two quantum physicists won the Nobel Prize for proving “the correctness of the bizarre properties of quantum mechanics, i.e., that electrons can be two places at the same time.”

I like to read about quantum theory, although I can honestly say that I don’t quite understand it. It’s so murky that even Einstein refused to accept it, saying, “God does not play dice.” Niels Bohr responded, “Einstein, stop telling God what to do.”

I’m with Richard Feynmann, who said, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

That being said, you’re not an electron. You may have an electric wit, even flashes of brilliance, (not to mention hot flashes😉) but you’re still only human.

You can’t hold onto the past – whether it was your heyday or a Nightmare on Elm Street – and reach forward to the future at the same time. You may be in your cubicle at work, but once your psyche time-travels back to your first heartbreak, you’re not really anywhere, anymore.

Not to worry; there’s a map to mental health in Philippians, with two keys.

“…One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.”  

Forget what lies behind.

Reach forward to what lies ahead.

Forget and reach. I think it’s interesting that “forget” is used here. It’s something separate from “forgive.” Not just forgiving a slight, but forgetting it to make way for better things. To put it more simply, let go, let God, and let new blessings in.

Photo by Adam Cao on Unsplash

So this morning, I started to go downstairs and got as far as the first step. Forgot the laundry! Turned around, got the bag and went to the basement to get the wash started.

Have you ever started a diet, got fed up (!) with melba toast, and cheated by having some chips? At that point, you said to yourself, Well, I already cheated on my diet. Might as well go all in!, and ordered a pizza?

Mercy. I’ve been there! You figure that the day is already shot since you took that first bite of a Ruffle, so you give up on the diet.

But life isn’t all or nothing. You can turn around and get the laundry. You can stop over-doing it at any point in the day.

The same thing is true of faith. You don’t have to give up on God because religion has let you down. Or you thought it would change everything and you’d lead a charmed life once you found faith.

Deciding hope is better than fear is the first step. Believing in something rather than thinking life has no purpose is another. And the good news is that even if you don’t believe in God, he believes in you.

There’s no set of steps you need to take to make God a part of your life. Some religions require a laundry list of requirements, but I believe He meets you where you are. There are many ways that believers choose to honor their beliefs, including baptism and rituals, but those traditions are symbolic. Just another way to say to the world, I’m going to believe life is good, God is love, and this journey is worth it. All you’ve got to do to make that leap of faith is take that first step.

Mother’s Day started with a power outage this morning around 9 AM.

Hm. Looked at my phone. Only half charged.

Can’t use the internet.

I’ll read my books on Kindle. But… no service. My books are in the cloud.

Well. I’ll go start my coffee.

But. No water.

Hm. Oh wait! I saved my coffee from last night. It’s in the fridge! Yay.

But. No microwave.

Getting chilly in here. Let me turn up the heat.

But. No heat.

So I went back to bed to bundle up. Just then, I heard a car pulling into my neighbor’s driveway, music blaring. Man, that’s loud. What an idiot. Had to catch myself there. No need to be unkind.

It reminded me of the time my father was teaching me to drive. “Watch the idiot,” he said, as another driver encroached on my lane. I had to laugh at the memory. He was always glad to see me when I would visit the house. And my mother would greet me by saying, “You’re the greatest!”

It’s fitting that this happened on Mother’s Day, as we all have a mother (here or in Heaven) and we often take for granted how much she means to us.

In today’s climate, just reminding yourself not to be unkind is an act of kindness. Usually, people aren’t blasting their music to annoy you, but to enjoy their own life. The power goes out sometimes. It’s nothing personal.

This was a gift to me today. A reminder to appreciate the power, all the way up to the power source.

Do something today to show appreciation for all that God provides.

Or at least, don’t be an idiot.🙂You’re lucky, and you know it. This is a good day to remind yourself of the blessings you take for granted.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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