Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Service with a Smile

Seems like these photos are perfect for Leigh's Happiness Project this week. Why? Because working together for a common goal is the very best kind of happiness!

Each year, the LDS Church in California asks all of its 156 stakes to participate in a massive service effort to accomplish something great for their individual communities. This time around, my husband's young single adult ward, in cooperation with the rest of the members in our area, dedicated their energies to helping the local community college work on several tasks that its full-time groundskeepers haven't had time to accomplish. This is a large campus with an abundance of natural vegetation, so there was plenty to do. Seeing over 250 great people coming together to serve their community made me smile...Does it have the same effect on you?

 Just step right up... And sign in, please.

You just might get to prune some trees.

 This lovely guy will lead the way,

and tell you what to do today.

Just grab those rakes and trowels, my friends;

the joy of service never ends.

(It's even better, done with friends!)

This cool guy came, chainsaw in hand,

and this one joined our merry band.

My hubby, pictured on the right,

was bolstered by the happy sight

of willing helpers, tall and small,

who volunteered to give their all.

These lovely ladies donned their gloves

and this guy pushed his broom, because

they want our close community

to be the best that it can be.

So grab your spade, your axe, your hoe...

or maybe just your wheelbarrow...

and find a "service op" near you.

(Hey, you might score a hot dog, too!)

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Warm, Wise, and Wonderful Willett

If you haven't read a Marcia Willett novel, let me do you a favor and recommend that you pick up one (or several) and wander across the rose-covered lanes and rocky shores of her oh-so-charming English mind. The ambience of her books is so irresistible that I've been on a reading binge of sorts, inhaling her novels one after another on my Kindle. Now that I've exhausted that source, I am seriously considering buying hard copies of the rest and finishing the feast!

In the past couple of weeks, I have read the following: The Children's Hour, Christmas in Cornwall, The Courtyard, Echoes of the Dance, First Friends, A Friend of the Family, Second Time Around, A Summer in the Country, The Way We Were, and A Week in Winter. All are steeped in family and scented in English countryside, leaving this reader as calm and content as a cozy fireside sit-down with the likes of Rosamunde Pilcher.

So grab a fuzzy blanket, settle yourself in your favorite chair, and enter the world of unique characters, intriguing family relationships, and peaceful page-turning that is part and parcel of the Marcia Willett experience. But don't be surprised when she plants a garden of past and present secrets along the way...


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Friday, April 19, 2013

Violence and Virtue

As I watch developing news about the likely perpetrators of our nation's most recent tragedy in Boston, my mind is flooded with unsettling questions. How does 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, described by an employee of his high school as "a lovely kid" and by a neighbor as having a "heart of gold," decide to kill and injure innocent people at random? His Facebook page proclaims that "Allah loves those who do good," and it's more than disturbing to consider that young Mr. Tsarnaev may have believed he was "doing good" by indiscriminately destroying other human beings.

CNN interviewed one employee of his former high school, a man who took extensive photos of the young wrestler and had come to know him well. The photographer was clearly astonished by these allegations and deeply saddened to think that the athlete he had liked and respected so much could intentionally hurt anyone. In his view, expressed in a voice trembling with emotion, such a thing was not compatible with the exemplary person he had befriended.

Peers admired and respected this classmate, fellow wrestlers praised his work ethic, teachers described him as a good student and a good example. He was never in trouble himself and never made trouble for others. In every way, he appeared to be no different from any other nice kid in any other friendly community.

The questions haunting me today are these: (1) How does the degree of violence allegedly manifested by Dzhokhar at the Boston Marathon co-exist with the degree of virtue others perceived in him? (2) How prevalent is this dichotomy of character in our society? and (3) What, if anything, can we do about it?

I don't pretend to have the answers, but a thread keeps running through my thoughts as I begin to search for some. Our culture is one that increasingly condones violence by the very act of not eschewing it, and every child born today is exposed to culture and media that permeate the consciousness with sights and sounds that previously would not have been countenanced in this country. Desensitization does occur, and it should come as no surprise that aggression is on the rise. Couple that growing aggression with an increasing lack of respect for the religious and political beliefs of others and a decreasing tolerance for their right to differ from our own, and you have a powder keg waiting to explode.

At this point, it is unclear whether this act of terror was inspired by Islamic extremism or not. Time will tell, but one thing is certain. Religion that parts ways with a love for all men ceases to be religion and becomes fanaticism. I repudiate the notion that religion can ever be righteously wielded as a club or brandished as a sword in behalf of God, Allah, or any other entity. My personal example is Christ, who taught what He knew to be truth yet allowed and still allows each person to accept or reject it. His exercise of religion was and is based on service and sacrifice, freedom and forgiveness, respect and redemption.

These are my strongly held beliefs: We are all children of God, no matter what religion we espouse or choose not to espouse. Each and every life matters...to Him and to us. We are brothers and sisters, taking this journey together according to His plan. We will not walk in lock step, nor were we meant to. All are granted the ability and agency to find our way back to the loving Father who created us, and ours is to love and support each other as best we can along the way.

What can we do to brighten the world while we are here? We can endure in faith, believing that goodness is stronger than evil, holding up whatever light we have against the darkness and asking for more. If we are willing, Christ's words in His Sermon on the Mount can be revealed in us, as individuals and as a nation:

"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).

Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Jew or "other," you don't have to be a follower of Christ to live like one. Goodness is goodness. Light is light. Darkness is darkness. Which will we choose for ourselves, and how are we willing to live to support that choice?

Shining a light is not and never can be a passive thing. It requires energy, effort and no small amount of valor, especially when shadows loom large and threaten. But there are more light-bearers out there than we might think. And they are far easier to recognize when we are standing among them.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Get It Right and Sleep Tight!

How well do YOU sleep at night? If your answer is "not as well as I'd like," and your weariness has nothing to do with the parenting of nocturnal children, then read on––because your friend Sue is about to hand out one heck of a good tip!

You see, I have stumbled across a sleep solution that is kicking the behind of some menopause-related insomnia that's been plaguing me for more years than I care to mention. Not one to take Ambien, valerian, or even melatonin (I know, I'm a bit conservative in this area), I have finally settled on something that I AM comfortable using––essential oils.

The brand I like is DoTerra: specifically, the lavender essential oil and the Serenity essential oil blend. I simply rub two drops of each on my tootsies (yep, that's right...my feet) at night, et voila! I am off to greet the Sandman, who is keeping company with me at least an hour longer than he used to...and sometimes, two hours! I have gone from being a 5:00 am riser to a 6 or even 7:00 am riser. Instead of a meager five hours per night, I sometimes get six or seven! What could be better?? (Well, maybe being able to eat whatever I wanted to without gaining weight...) *sigh* I wonder if they have an essential oil for that?!

All kidding aside, while I'm not sure exactly how these oils work, I am convinced they do. And not just for sleep, either. The other day I had an infected bug bite that would normally have taken two weeks to stop itching. Instead, I looked up the complaint in my trusty essential oils book; was advised to layer lemon, lemongrass, and lavender on the site; and could barely even see the bump two days later. Miracle cure, if you ask me. I've also staved off a couple of colds sucking on DoTerra's On Guard throat drops, which consist of nothing more than orange, clove, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus, and rosemary. Best of all, I am now rubbing frankincense on the back of my neck every night to benefit my aging brain, among other things. (This a pretty versatile oil, and who wouldn't want to use a gift of the magi to improve her health, right?) You'll be pleased to know that myrrh is available, too, which was used in ancient days to combat leprosy and is still known for combatting skin ulcers, stretch marks, and weeping wounds.

Having been disappointed by many a doctor in my life, including but not limited to unnecessary surgeries and toxic-to-me medications, I like the idea of using something natural to gently move my body in the direction of healing. Essential oils are filling that bill for me, and I am a big fan!


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hope On, Hope Ever. Give In? Never!

If this story doesn't make your day, I don't know what will! It's a good reminder that many things are possible in our lives...and that love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. And, if you are fortunate enough to find the right person to share your life with, Love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:7-8).

(Youtube is going to make you click over to it, but it's well worth your time.)

As Winston Churchill said, "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never –– in nothing, great or small, large or petty –– never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." And remember, sometimes the enemy isn't an individual or a country or an evil entity. Sometimes, it is a condition...or a state of mind.

We can change things. And if we can't change things, we can change ourselves. Of course, not every wounded person will be able to literally stand on his or her feet as this man has, not yet anyway, but every single one of us...no matter what the wound...can always stand tall. That is the blessing of free agency, and it is available to all who choose to exercise it.

And that's why I'm smiling this Saturday morning. (Along with the fact that I happen to be surrounded by my kids and grandkids! Don't you love an impulsive road trip??)


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Unraveling My Blog and Me

It's all about the dialogue.

I've gotten so fond of writing poems from prompts in the past few months that I realize I probably don't write enough about myself to either let new readers get to know me or maintain close ties with old ones. My blog used to (quite literally) be "Sue's News, Views and Muse," but lately it's pretty much Muse.  While nary a one of my followers has complained, I suspect most have noticed...and my readership and comments are down, which is probably not a coincidence. After all, the perusal of poetry isn't everyone's favorite pastime.

The thing is, after writing so many posts about family, friends, spiritual experiences, church activities, politics, music, books, television shows and the like, I began to feel as if I were just recycling the same information over and over again in slightly varying formats. Having blogged since 2008, I was ready for a new slant. It came as a relief not feeling like I had to take pictures of everything my family and I did, record every single interesting/enlightening thing that came to mind, review whatever media mattered to me, or express and defend opinions on the prevailing social and political climate. In short, I got lazy! The relative ease of simply responding to writer's memes appealed to me more and more.

That said, here's the crux of my problem: I now find myself getting bored with this steady diet of memes, too! I've even wondered if it's time to hang up my hat here and revert to doing my writing in "real life" only. After all, I haven't put out a new book since 2004. What's more, my new church assignment is to write articles for our stake public relations committee; I have recurring opportunities to create scripted programs for church; family and friends still request plenty of wedding and birthday poems, and I should get back to journaling anyway––so I would have lots of ways to exercise my writing muscles in the future, with or without blogging. What I wouldn't have, of course, is that inimitable feeling of communicating with bloggers who relate to me and I to them. I would miss all of my longstanding friends and the comments we exchange. I would crave the immediacy of sitting down to express myself and knowing there are people out there who are ready and willing to listen...and equally important, to respond.

The upshot of all this deliberation is that I've decided to go on, change things up a bit with my subject matter, and continue the dialogue. That's right, the dialogue. Hey, if I want to carry on a one-sided conversation, I can have it with myself, right? So come out, come out, wherever you are! If you read something you like, comment. When you read something you don't like, speak up. Nothin' but bored? Say so! For me, it's about the interplay...the give and take...the conversation. That's what blogging gives me that other arenas do not. That's what makes me a better and more satisfied writer. And that is what I hope will be happening more often on this blog.

Thanks for hearing me out. I'd like to return the favor.


PS. If you are a long-time reader, I would love to know your thoughts about all of this. Had you noticed I was meme-ing a lot? Are you sick of poetry, poetry, and more poetry? Was my blog beginning to look the way it has been feeling to me...like a big, blue-and-yellow, one-trick pony? 

Let's keep those lines of communication open!

PS. I'm recharging my blogging batteries.

for more T posts, click below
(More of a blog hop than a meme.)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Summer of '74

I didn't get my Saturday Centus up yesterday, but I'm hoping my friend Jenny will forgive me for being so tardy. The prompt, as always, is in red below.

Summer of '74
©2013 Susan Noyes Anderson

It was the summer of 1974,
and he had never felt before
the restless longing of his youth
for something to hold up as truth.

The war was as over as killing could be.
He made it home but not home free.
His college friends, with lives well-planned,
tried hard but did not understand
his aching need to get away,
to keep the memories at bay.

His parents pled with him to stay.

He left as if he had no choice...
explained, but no one heard his voice.

Miscast as a stranger in his own home,
he took his strangeness on the roam;
risked too much, so he could feel.
Only in nightmares was he real.
Undone, he fled his childhood street,
afraid of friends he dared not meet...
a ghost of himself and incomplete.

He beat a path through five long years
then slipped and fell into his fears.
Truth came in waves, broke into tears.

This was the story of more than one of my peers,
I hope that those afflicted have since found peace.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Thankful: How Sweet It Is!

T is for thankful, because that's what I am!
And I've got a happy birthday poem for my hubby to prove it.

How sweet it is to be loved by you.
We started back in '72.
(Oops, make that 1968,
the golden year of our first date.)

I won't recite the history.
Our hearts know well the mystery
of how we met and fell so fast
that both of us knew we would last.

But this poem has a different plan:
explaining why you are the man
who lights me up, my only one.
You are the moon and stars and sun.

Here are the reasons, in a list,
why you're the guy I can't resist:

You put me first. When I feel cursed,
you run for aid...(light lemonade).

You save my place, yet give me space.
You meet my needs with love and grace.

You give in when I need to win,
but show spine when I'm out of line.

When my shoe-pile reason defies,
you shut your eyes and organize.

If I'm unhinged by writing binge,
you rub my shoulders, hard as boulders.

You show concern at every turn,
yet tease me in a way that smolders.

I know you look at me and see
that little girl that rocked your world.

I look at you and see the same,
the boy who offered me his name

and every other thing he had.
That you were born makes me so glad

I cannot find words in my mind
to even partially define

how sweet it is to be loved by you.
No wonder that I love you, too!


Happy Birthday, Dave.

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