Universal Translator

Showing posts with label life event. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life event. Show all posts

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Mrs. Cameron's Rules

Many people have that one teacher who made a lasting impact on them. For me, it was my seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Cameron. She died last week at age 88. I’ll always remember two things she taught me. When I first heard them, they were revolutionary and they forever changed me. They were: 1) Until you have tried something (or experienced or read, etc), you can’t criticize something or say you don’t like it. On this, opera was her go-to example. She mentioned opera and everyone in the class would groan or mutter how they hated it; she then asked how many had actually listened to opera, nobody answered. We then listened to and analyzed Bizet’s Carmen. She was adamant that if you made the statement “I don’t like [blank]", you had better have an explanation as to why you didn’t like it and had had a first-hand experience. “Just because” didn’t cut it with Mrs. Cameron. 2)You must read at least five books (or equivalent) in a subject in order to talk expertly about it. She stressed to her students that if you want to criticize something (like opera or anything), you needed to really understand it. You couldn’t read just one book, or listen to just one opera, then give an opinion. You had to read several books, or listen to several operas, before you could really discuss it properly with anyone – a valuable lesson in today’s Wikipedia world.
She opened the eyes and minds of many country kids - many of which would have never been exposed to the arts and humanities without her help. She always wanted you to rise higher, to realize your potential. She was a wonderful teacher. Thanks, Mrs. Cameron!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The Eight Jesus Rules.

When I was in high school, our Baptist church had a speaker, Pastor Waltrop I believe his name was, came to speak to us during a revival.  In the South, we’d every once in awhile have what is called a revival –a week of services to help revive and renew our faith.  I will never forget that night because that was when I began to question my faith –my faith had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and it was on the critical list.  Pastor Waltrop preached to us about how Proctor& Gamble, the soap company, was run by the Devil’s minions.  He explained to us that the music group Queen (and others) recorded secret messages on LP records praising Satan (this was before digital CDs and you had to play the records backwards).  He preached against Rock and Roll and everything in the world that he thought had an agenda to turn you away from Jesus.  The church was packed.  I sat there thinking what does this really have to do with Jesus.  I looked around and saw folks that hadn’t been to church in ages and thought that they weren’t getting the real story about what Jesus wants us to do.  Even in high school, I thought Pastor Waltrop had his own agenda, and that agenda involved following Pastor Waltrop and not Jesus.  It wasn’t long after that I un-Baptisted myself and began to follow Jesus differently.

Every day I see another social media post by someone professing to be a Christian telling others what God or Jesus wants. Many advocate things I just can’t see relating to anything Jesus ever wanted. As Susan B. Anthony said, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires”. It started me thinking again about what being a Christian really meant and ultimately what we were supposed to do in our relationships with other people.

The simplest answer is that a Christian follows the teachings of Christ –we aren’t Old Testamentarians or New Testamentarians or Paulians or Augustinians or any other variation of document or early Christian father. Our ultimate allegiance is with Christ, everything else is a supporting or bit player and whenever they travel beyond the teachings of Jesus, in my opinion, they become null and void.

Most of my adult life has been asking this question: “What was the essence of what Jesus was teaching us?”.  What did Jesus focus on in his teachings? Huston Smith, author of The World’s Religions, said most succinctly that “everything that came from [Jesus’] lips…focus[ed] human awareness on the two most important facts about life: God’s overwhelming love for humanity, and the need for people to accept that love and let it flow through them to others.” That quote summed it up for me.  I later came across eight points in the book entitled The World’s Wisdom.  I call them The Eight Jesus Rules.  I hate to call them “rules”.  It sounds like draconian demands when I use that word. I always hear my mind saying “Rules are meant to be broken.” –that’s from my arts education in college.  The rebel in me hates rules.  I had thought about calling them “commandments”, but there are already ten of those people don’t follow.  The rebel in me hates rules and commands, but I think I could follow these rules pretty easily.

Jesus Christ’s teachings can be summarized into eight points (The Eight Jesus Rules):

1) Love one another.
2) Turn the other cheek.
3) Love your enemies.
4) The Golden Rule (In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.)
5) I was hungry and you gave me food.
6) Before all else, be reconciled (be at peace with others i.e. settle your quarrels with people).
7) Forgive seventy-seven times.
8) Let the sinless cast the first stone.

It’s really that simple.

NOTE: These eight points could serve as a litmus test for any post or person telling you what Jesus would or would not approve. A senator saying that cutting food benefits for the poor is a Christian thing (NO, see numbers 1, 4, and 5). A pastor calling for intolerance and hate (NO, numbers 1, 4, 6, and 9) A Christian demanding violence for something he doesn’t like (NO, numbers 1,2,3,4…you get the picture). Use that list, hang it near your computer, and, as Jesus also said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.”

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

"Parents: Too Much Halloween Candy? Call On The Sugar Fairy"

Children receive a ton of candy at Halloween.  Natural, organic versions of candy would be better, but still a lot of sugar is a lot of sugar.  We all know that sugar is not healthy and can be addictive.  Many candy manufacturers use GMO-derived ingredients from GMO corn and soy, as well as artificial flavours and colours.  They also use a ton of un-natural chemicals - BOO!  But it’s hard to refuse children when their friends are having fun trick-or-treating.  Here’s a good way to keep your children from gorging themselves on a bag full of unhealthy, refined sugar, bad (and GMO-laced) candy.  Some parents already call upon a Sugar Sprite or Switch Witch at Halloween to exchange candy for toys, books, or movies, here’s my version:

Among all the supernatural beings of the North Pole, there exists a Sugar Fairy (or Sugar Plum Fairy, or Treats Fairy, or Candy Fairy).  It is the Sugar Fairy’s job to create the sweetest Christmas treats, the candy cane.  She also creates a lot of the other sweet treats of the holidays, such as Christmas cookies.  But she is mainly known for her power to transform, or ‘recycle’, sugar into anything a child wants. But how does she do this?

The Sugar Fairy decided that children get so much candy at Halloween and that having that much sugar was not good for them, even once a year.  So she decided that she could recycle all that candy into Christmas treats, like a candy cane or Christmas cookie, as well as magically into toys and other gifts.  She could also transform it into food and help for other children around the globe.

So the Sugar Fairy sends out a letter to all the parents of the world:  After Halloween is over, they should place any candy into a special bowl before they go to bed.  The next morning the Sugar Fairy will leave a note, money, gift card, etc in exchange for the candy that had been in the bowl. Sometimes the Sugar Fairy might leave "Goodie Points" to go toward a special item or trip. (A note would instruct the parent to purchase a specific toy, movie, or book; or indicate the number of "Goodie Points" earned) 

When Christmas comes, the Sugar Fairy will ride with Santa to distribute candy canes and other Christmas treats.  But sometimes, she is so thankful she will leave goodies and little gifts for days before Christmas. When Christmas arrives, an occasional organic candy cane or cookie might be okay.  Christmas cookies can be made with organic, unrefined ingredients.  They can also contain dried fruit and nuts.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

“Family Comes Back to Family”

       Most of us have a connection to the past that only goes as far as our grandparents.  For many, it is usually just an odd snapshot from a past reunion, a remembered story about a long-lost relative, or names in an old family Bible.  Some of us only get to experience our ancestors from genealogical information we discover in books and online.  But what if an artifact from a distant ancestor seemed to travel through time to find you.  What would you think?  Divine intervention?  Coincidence?  How would you feel if it happened to you twice?  Well just ask Allison Houston Olson, because she’s experienced it.
       “I received a phone call from my good friend, Julie Baggett Burroughs.  She called to tell me about a sale occurring at an antiques store near my house,” recounts Allison.  Some old student desks that were being sold in this particular store had interested Allison; however, after arriving and inspecting the desks, she decided that they weren’t what she wanted.  This is where the story could have ended, but it took an incredible twist.  She turned to her mother-in-law who was accompanying her, and asked her if she wanted to have a look around.  They entered the first antique booth and found several interesting items on display.
Portrait of Sarah Luvenia Malone Falls 1852-1899
       “An antique photo resting on a lower shelf caught my attention.  While looking at the photo, I commented to my mother-in-law that I could not understand why on earth people would sell old photos of their family members.  As I stood up, my eyes immediately rose to the items on the wall above my head.  What I then saw produced a lump in my throat and caused my heart and emotions to race.  Directly above me was the 18”x20” original framed photograph of my great-great grandmother!” she recalls.  “I couldn't catch my breath.” 
       "That is my great-great grandmother, that is my great-great grandmother,” she remembers telling her mother-in-law excitedly.
       “Are you sure?” her mother-in-law repeatedly asked her.
       “I am positive!” Allison replied.
       She had just found an antique photograph portrait of her great-great grandmother, Sarah Luvenia Malone Falls!  She knew that was who it was because several family members had copies of the original photograph portrait, but the whereabouts of the original were never known.  Allison goes on to say that her grandmother, who has passed away just a year before, had wondered about what had happened to that original photograph of her maternal grandmother.  
       “Almost exactly one year later, I locate it in an antiques store, “ Allison says, “ With hands shaking, I took the photo off the wall, walked to the cash register, and told the owners that the photo was of my great-great grandmother.  The owners questioned me, so I gave them her name.  They turned the photo over and there on the back was her name.  I was still shaking and on the verge off tears.  I called my mother and told her what I had found, and then the tears began welling up again.”
       The original photograph now resides in the home of Allison’s mother, Bobbie Wyatt Houston.
       "I felt like she had found a priceless treasure. I was very excited when she gave it to me. I felt like my mom, who had just passed away only a year before, was sending us a sweet message of endearment. The picture now holds a place of honor in my home,” says Mrs. Houston.
       How does Allison herself now look back on the event?
       “Initially I was dumbfounded. My emotions were all over the place. I then realized she was home. Sarah Luvenia, that is. I had brought her home, so to speak. Why had it been me? I don’t know. Was it God? Could be. Coincidence? Doubtful. Luck of the draw? I don’t think so. For some reason, I was supposed to be there that day. For some reason, I needed to be there that day and my friend, Julie, was the instigator, for lack of a better word, in getting me there. Sarah Luvenia's portrait had been hanging there since February of that year, no one had purchased it, thank goodness, but in October, she needed to come home. I truly have no answers, other than, she needed to come home.”
       Now that’s an incredible story all by itself, but what if a very similar event happens just a bit further down the road? 
The actual antique cotton basket

       Allison describes herself “a collector of all things vintage”.  She has recently started to sell some of her finds on a Facebook page.  She recalls a recent event.
       “I received a message from someone, unknown to me, asking if I bought antiques. For those that know me well, this is one of my weaknesses, that and genealogy. After much conversing on Facebook, we agreed to meet. This gentleman lived in an area where many of my maternal grandmother’s family members lived.  There is even a road with the family name. My family and I arrived at his barn one afternoon.  The man was very welcoming. He had several things set out for me to peruse. I noticed a large hand-woven cotton basket near the front.”
       She says she asked him about the antique basket and he said he had gotten it from a man named Mayfield who lived just up the road from him. Allison says that that the name sounded familiar, but “it didn't initially click”.
       She says she continued to look around his barn at his wonderful collection of antiques; all the while in the back of her mind, she was thinking about the name “Mayfield”. She picked out a few items, one being the basket; then questioned him further about the gentleman that had made the basket.
       “He told me the man’s name was "Robert Mayfield".  BING!  Lights and sirens went off in my head! My great-great-great grandfather was Robert "Robin" Jasper Mayfield. What were the odds, I thought at the time. After much discussion, I discovered that a past relative of mine had made the basket. A conversation with my mom later confirmed it. This gentleman was gracious enough to take us to the old home site of my relative where I took photos and heard stories about how life used to be when my relative was living. The old cotton basket is now in my home, where it shall remain.  I reconnected with a part of my history that I would not have known about had this gentleman not contacted me. He welcomed us into his home and barn; but most importantly led me into a part of my history, and for that I am eternally grateful.”  She adds, “Someone once told me ‘family comes back to family’. I don’t know where they saw that or read that, but I believe it to be true.”

Tom Clardy also claims Sarah Luvenia Malone Falls as a great-great grandmother and can't be more happy that the portrait now has a safe home with family.  He may be contacted at tfclardy@aol.com

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

"Lessons from Lola"

(This is a story I wrote years ago after an encounter with a stray dog.  I reread it and it made me smile.)

I woke up one Sunday with a splitting headache and a bad attitude.  No job and struggling with finances, I felt the heaviness of life making my headache ten times worse.  Add to that the fact that I was mad at my brother over a dog.
                My brother Mike’s dog had had a litter of puppies a few weeks before and I had fallen in love with the runt of the litter.  I would go home to my mom’s house where the puppies were, and I’d spend the day feeding and loving on that little runt puppy I had named Rosie.  I’d sit outside in the sun with her asleep on my lap. 
My brother, sister, and mother all said that it would be impossible for me to have a dog due to my current financial situation and small living space.  But I knew they were wrong, I loved this puppy!  I knew it would make me feel so good and happy to have a dog.  I definitely knew I was totally right, and they were plotting against me.  Was I being selfish?  After all, I was the miserable, depressed one…I knew what was best for me.  How dare they tell me what I could and couldn’t do!  My brother made it clear I wasn’t going to get a puppy.   That little 30-something year old cuss – he was always against me with his “I- know- best- attitude”.   I was pissed at everybody. 
Well, the Saturday before I was going back to my mom’s place, I went and bought a can of dogfood for Rosie. I also grabbed a small bag of catfood to keep the cats at my mom’s house busy so they’d leave Rosie and me alone.  
                So I was prepared – a can of food for Rosie, some nibbles for the cats…. a whole day of loving on my little Rosie.
                OK, so I woke up with another headache and feeling a bit bad.   I took some medicine and called my Mom to tell her I would be running late.   Eventually, I got on the road and started the 40-mile trip.
                I remember listening to the radio and thinking about a story on which I was working.  I happened to look to my right and saw a little rat terrier rooting through some garbage on the side of the highway.  My first thought was why did animals have to suffer from idiot owners.  I just continued to drive when I heard a voice in my head.
                “What makes you think you’re better than the owner that tossed that dog on the side of the highway? You see suffering and you drive on?  Can you live with that thought?”
                 Well, I don’t know what possessed me but I turned the truck around and headed back toward the dog.   I parked off to the side of the road and got out.  In my mind, I thought what are these people driving by thinking about me, but it quickly left my mind when I stood looking at the emancipated, dirty little dog. 
                She ran into the woods looking back at me with a cringing fear.  I walked briskly toward her, clucking my tongue and whistling softly.    She stood there shaking and I moved my hand toward her.   You moron, I thought to myself, never put your hand out to a strange dog.  I pulled back just as she nipped at me.
                I figured that she was just hungry so I ran back to the truck and just grabbed a handful from the bag of catfood.   I carried it back and threw it on the ground in front of her.   She devoured it as well as any dried leaves and such near it.  I headed to the truck and grabbed the can of dogfood I had, opened it, and blew on the can in her direction.  She looked toward me and ran toward me.   Then she stopped.   I clucked and whistled and spoke as if I was in church.  She moved toward me and I poured out the contents of the can.    She devoured the food with gusto.  I looked over her bug-ridden, emaciated body.  I wanted to touch her but didn’t want to scare her.   She ate the contents of the can and looked at me, then she started to look for the can that I had tossed aside.   I grabbed the bag of catfood from the truck and poured some onto the ground.  After I did that I looked up, a state trooper was flashing his lights and was moving onto the shoulder of the road. 
                “OH, shoot,” I said to myself, “I’m going to get a ticket or going to jail over some darn dog.”
                “Is there a problem?” announced the voice over the loudspeaker.
                I stood there thinking nothing.  So I just walked toward the car.  The officer lowered his window.
                “I hope I’m not breaking the law, Sir, but I saw this poor dog on the side of the road.  She’s starving and all, and I just couldn’t pass her by without checking her out.”
                “I was worried you had broken down or something then I saw you feeding the dog.”
“Yes, Sir looks like someone threw her out.  Looks like she hasn’t eaten in days.  I don’t rightly know what to do with her.”
                “If I could I’d take her but my complex doesn’t allow pets. My little boy would love her though.”
                “Well, my mom lives in Reform, I guess I’ll do what I can…. that is if I can catch her and not get bit.”
                “Well, looks to me like you got a friend,” he said, motioning past me.
                There sat the little dog on her best behavior.   Sitting there behind me, her ears flexing in excitement.
                “I don’t understand how people can just abandon animals like that and let them just starve.  People see it and just pass on by; you did a good thing.   Who says that that’s not an angel testing us?  Testing us to see how kind our spirit is.”
                “I agree,” I said, “ and like the saying goes the way you treat animals shows how you treat your fellow man.”
                He laughed and said, “I do agree with you.”
                ‘Well, be careful, I think she’d be good with you.  You seem to have charmed her.” He said winking toward the little excited dog behind me.
                I finally got her, after many attempts, into the truck.  She sat on the seat beside me. She quickly lay down and fell quickly to sleep.
                In my mind was the matter of how I was going to explain this little dog.  I figured Mom would fuss, as would my sister.   I would hear them going on how I couldn’t keep a dog and that it wasn’t going to stay at either of their houses.  I figured it would be a very short visit.
                I tried to put it out of mind, and decide on a name for her. Rosie? No. For some reason, I heard that song “Copacabana" in my head.  You know the first line about Lola being a showgirl kept repeating in my head.  OK, I thought, I will call you Lola.
                I drove up to my Mom’s, and took a deep breath.   Here came my nephew running up to me.  He was going on about the dogs there.  I heard my sister yell something to him. Oh, great, I thought to myself, she’s in a mood.
                I walked to the backyard with Lola at my heels.  My sister saw the little dog and smiled.  Asked me about her and I told her the story.  Then my Mom came outside.  She smiled too and asked about the dog.  I kept thinking it seemed totally opposite from the reaction I expected.
                Lola stayed in the truck asleep the whole visit.   I would check on her from time to time, and she would look up at me with happy eyes and go back to sleep.  In my head I kept telling myself that having a dog is a piece of cake, no problem at all.
                Mom was made dinner for us.  I was sitting at the table, when she stopped looked at me and said, ”So God sent you a dog anyway?  Well, I’ll get her fixed and she can stay here or whatever.”  I don’t know if it did, but I think my jaw dropped.  Or maybe it was more like a punch in the stomach.  It was said so matter-of-factly, no speech, no sermon.  Everything was cool.  I had sort of won, I thought.
                I made my way back to my apartment that night.  Lola stayed in her spot beside me the whole trip.  I thought I had better make a detour on the way and pick up some food for her.  I stopped at a grocery store and figured I could let Lola stretch her legs for a minute and she’d go to the bathroom before I went inside.  She quickly jumped out of the truck and we both walked to a small grassy spot.  That was the spot I learned my first lesson.
                Lola sniffed around and around.  Then suddenly like a little rocket she proceeded to run all over the parking lot.   I ran after her and finally grabbed her and decided to try it again.  I put her on the grass and she looked at me before running off toward the store entrance.
                “Lola! Lola!” I yelled, not realizing I could have been yelling the word “chicken” and got more of a response from her.  People turned to watch me chase a little black and white dog down the sidewalk, with me hoping to catch her before she ran inside the store’s now-open sliding doors.  I finally grabbed her and walked back to the truck breathing a little hard.
                So we finally got back to the apartment.  I left her in the truck and went to find a makeshift collar and leash.  We then went into the apartment and as soon as she walked in she unceremoniously peed in the living room then ran to the kitchen and pooped.  My cat walked into the area, the cat I raised from a kitten.  There and then I learned that rat terriers are bred to attack anything cat-sized or smaller.  The cat flew out the door and I didn’t see him the rest of the night.    Lola walked to the bedroom, jumped on the bed, and passed out for the night.   I myself had a moment of truth as I sat back into my chair thinking about the events of the night.
                I felt at first like I was the victim of some big cosmic practical joke.  Then I had a moment of intense clarity – what we desire and want aren’t always the best things for us.  Sometimes we get so hardheaded about things that we can’t see the reality of things.  If we only listened to the voice inside us and put away our own selfishness, we could understand that the world doesn’t revolve on what we want.
                 The next day, my sister helped me find a home for Lola, a home where she is constantly showered with love and affection.  I now for sure that sometimes the happiness of others does hang on our own actions.  I have also discovered that Lola is actually a very well trained dog, readily obeying most simple commands.  It was if her actions the night before weren’t typical of her.  As my sister and I prepared for Lola to leave me, I caught my sister humming the first line of “Copacabana”.  “Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl.” In my head, I thought, yes, she was.
As my mother says, “Nothing happens by accident.”  There is a purpose for everything under the Sun.  I am glad I met Lola.  She showed me that life extends beyond our own wants and desires.  I’m glad God sent Lola to me.  He used her to teach me a lot.