Monday, April 30, 2012

United We Stand

As Americans we have a powerful, beautiful and poignant legacy of religious freedom.  We have so many reasons to respect and admire each other for the sacrifices the religions in America have made to better our lives.  The very Constitution is an inspired document resting primarily on the backs of Protestants for which we rightly owe them great thanks.  The Jews, by their pain and through their innocent blood, gave not only Americans but the entire world in the Second World War a blood chilling reminder that we need religious tolerance and interdenominational respect. We cannot do without it.  The Muslims have taught us to be careful in judging an entire culture by the evil behavior of a few.  I myself have a great passion for the virtues embodied in the Native American and Oriental religions which I believe offer us an added dimension to spirituality and all things divine.  In this fast paced society we desperately need the calmness and oneness with nature that such religions inspire. 

Today we are witnessing a brutal attack on relgious freedom.  The brunt of that attack has been falling on our purest of Catholics but a restriction of the upstanding conscience of one is a direct attack on us all.  We know this.  We are all brethren and sisters and we cannot watch one of our own under such horrid treatment as this and do nothing.  Let us therefore take the first step.  Let us unite together in a fellowship of love, regardless of religious faith, and strengthen each other in decency and compassion.  As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I can speak for the Mormons when I tell you that one of the fundamental articles of faith in my religion is that "We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, when or what they may." 

The Book of Mormon contains an account of an oncoming army seeking to destroy the religious rights of a nation.  A young captain named Moroni rent his coat and wrote upon it "In memory of our God, our religion, our peace, our wives and our children" and made it the national banner of liberty.  Let us resist religious tyranny in like manner.  Let us unite in love, mutual respect, honor and compassion, for if we are united we cannot fall.  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

An App for Happiness

I am sure none of my gentle readers have ever done this, but I have found myself in moments of stress booting up my laptop and hitting my favorite websites in search of something.  Heaven only knows what it is I want - an end to the issues in my life, perhaps.  Perhaps it is that I feel empty inside and am looking for something to give me answers.  Or I think often I am looking for happiness in general.

Whatever the case, I think I may safely announce that such fulfillment is not to be found in any of my four email inboxes, CNN, facebook, blogger, or 750words.com.  So if you are in the same predicament, I assure you, you can skip those sites.  It isn't there.  I haven't tried to google "answers" or "happiness" yet but I am pretty sure I know the result already.  Wikipedia will give me the definition and I'm on my own from there.

Here's a wild idea for you and for me.  Turn off the computer.  Put away the smart phone.  Walk away from your blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry or wildberry for a little while.  Go plant a garden of vegetables instead.  Go lift weights or take a walk.  If you really want to live on the edge, sit down and have a one on one chat with someone you love.  Pray.  If you are of an artistic turn, rekindle your passion for such talents and practice.  Kiss someone (and if you really want an interesting experience, do it to a perfect stranger).  Go do something human and then please drop me a comment or email me at etherealliving@yahoo.com and tell me about it.  Then I really will have an answer to a searching question in my inbox!

A Change of Heart

Some may recall a blog post I published in the last few days which criticized those who promote pornography and who sexually abuse their wives.  I have since deleted that post, not because it was unjust but because I confess I spoke too harshly and forgot for a moment that those who injure us are still precious children unto God. 

Pornography has long been my arch enemy.  I have seen it destroy lives, marriages, families, and in one case ravaged the mind of one to whom I am very close until she could no longer stand to be in the same room with any man save her father.  Years after the fact she still suffers a great deal and her life in many ways has been shattered by the abusive treatment of her husband to the point that no one who knows her situation much expects her to fully recover in this lifetime.  It is not expected that she will ever have a love life again for the trauma she underwent was too severe.

Nevertheless, she and I agree that no matter what a person does to us, no matter how hardened and cruel they are, we are all children of God.  As one of my great role models, Mahatma Gandhi taught, we can and must win victories through love instead of anger and retribution.  The woman I described not only forgave the man who injured her but put her own life on hold and at her own great expense and even physical peril, for his abuse knew no bounds even unto murder, became his therapist and taught him to turn his life around.  She is still holding him on her battered shoulders, picking him up when he falls and strengthening him when his resolve fails.  His progress has baffled every expert in the field of psychology; he is a fit role model now to many and counts her as his savior.  That is the power of mercy and patience.  That is the power of love unfeigned.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cover Up

I am a creature of habit.  I tend to attend the same activities at the same time each week.  Consequently, people tend to get to know my mannerisms quite well.  Some time ago, I was wearing a new shirt to a function which I generally attend when in reach upward to do something I usually do this shirt lifted up to expose a large portion of my midriff.  I quickly pulled the shirt down. A man who I know well and who knows my constant habit of dressing modestly immediately took an expression which caused me a great deal of thought.  It was at once a look of shock, panic, protection, and just a slight touch of...ahem.  He's a guy.  Sue him.  But the main emotion was one of protection of me and the understanding that this was something unsuitable. 

I have watched this same man walk past women dressed in next to nothing without batting an eye.  I think we have all gotten used to seeing women wear next to nothing in magazines, on the street, and on television.  We are desensitized to it.  What is the difference?  He wasn't accustomed to that from specifically me.  He knew from experience and also my plain speech that I would never consider wearing so much as a tank top for the love of modesty.  For the years I've known him, I have proven it. 

Take the same concept a step further.  When we dress immodestly we are essentially proclaiming that we do not value our own bodies, that we are open to all the prying eyes of the world and we cheapen ourselves in our own estimation and theirs.  But what of a modestly dressed person?  How much more of an honor is it to that significant other who has the opportunity to see them without the external covering?  How much more of an expression of ultimate love is it when it has not been given away wantonly to the masses?  How much more respect and deep, empowering love will we receive in a honestly matched relationship?  Just a thought.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fighting Depression

I was born with a melancholy outlook on life.  Negativity seemed drawn to me and try as I might I couldn't learn to be happy.  I first began contemplating suicide when I was eight.  In truth, I think it was in some manner due to the knowledge I instinctively had that we are eternal, immortal beings and the fact that I found myself stuck in a temporal mortality proved a powerful burden on my heart.  I also believe that it may have something to do with my body's chemistry.  Depression is just something I carry.

I realize that many may be surprised to hear me speak thusly since most of my posts are optimistic.  No, I do not take medication or attend therapy.  God has given us the answer in the fight against depression already.  When I begin to emotionally crumble I serve other people and keep serving selflessly until the bout of depression passes.  I expect nothing back.  Yes, sometimes it has been very painful even to the exhausting of my body.  But it has become one of the defining lessons of my life.  Depression is in essence a very selfish feeling.  Everything is about "me."  We can counter it by acting selflessly.  Eventually the depression all but left me.  My experiences with it now are all but non existent. 

If someone you know battles this ailment, here are a couple of things you might want to consider.  The worst thing one can do is to tell a clinically depressed person to "cheer up."  It feels like venomous mockery.  It is the same as asking a man with no legs to run; they cannot do it.  And to those who are battling the condition themselves, I have another word for you.  Choose happiness.  We tend to cling to depression because we understand it.  It may be a nightmare but it is a nightmare we have always known and understood.  We wonder if we should choose happiness because it is something foreign and it frightens us.  Perhaps we are safer choosing depression.  I have taken that plunge.  Trust me.  It's worth it.  You won't lose who you are.  You will intensify your soul.

Get Away From the Wolves

As a junior high school kid I found myself often the butt of jokes and was treated exceedingly harshly by classmates.  Indeed, it often seemed that the entire school delighted in making my life miserable.  I was hit, punched, kicked, slammed into lockers, insulted, degraded and spat upon, to mention only a few items.

I recall a few people coming to me alone and individually saying things like "Why are you rude to me?  I haven't done anything to you.  It was everyone else."  I have to ask you - what kind of company do you think they kept? 

If you or I are alone in a forest and are attacked by a pack of ravenous wolves seeking blood, what are you or I going to do?  Likely, we will pick up the biggest stick we can find and start swinging at anything with fur.  One in such a situation finds oneself under an enormous amount of pressure and doesn't always have time to sit back thinking "well that particular wolf doesn't seem all too dangerous."  A wolf in the midst of a pack who is not trying to stop its peers is still a threat. 

When we see someone injured at the hands of our fellows, we would do best to stop the aggressors, but if not, to distance ourselves from them.  If we fail to do at least that, what else what are we but one of the blood thirsty pack? 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cat Fight? Declaw!

I recently had a friend come to me with a distressing situation.  She had attempted to publicly do something kind for someone else about whom she cared deeply.  The person she tried toward which she attempted to be kind had publicly snubbed her.  I was friends with both these ladies and knew the other to sometimes be given to a difficult personality. 

I counseled my friend as best I could and reminded her that another's actions didn't abase her own good behavior in any way.  I turned back to my own life and began working at the office, but the sadness of my friend's situation kept coming back to me and upon much prayer I felt prompted to do something about it.  I wrote on my friend's facebook wall, where it was certain the other woman would see it, that I appreciated the public display she had crafted and reminded her how beautiful and amazing she was and how all who knew her would do well to appreciate her in like manner.  Very soon afterward, this lady who had hitherto been quite rude in her pointed silence, contacted my friend expressing her kindness and appreciation.  By the time she answered my friend had already dried her proverbial tears and realized that she didn't have to be hurt by the offensive behavior. My friend walked away fully empowered.

Notice that I didn't fight back directly.  I felt prompted to say nothing degrading about this lady.  I merely complimented someone else.   Sometimes positive energy is the most effective way of making a point and it certainly is the cleanest method.  When someone berates us we don't have to take a swipe right back.  Just be an uplifting, kind hearted person and things most easily and cleanly fall into place.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

True Beauty and the Danger of Glamour


Anyone who knows me knows I dress and act rather simply.  I have had people taunt and insult me for being less than fashionable but it is something I simply have not in me to manage.  I am often surrounded by women who are masters at striking poses and know every makeup trick in the book.  They are very lovely women. 

But one thing strikes me as I pen this post here in the city of Las Vegas.  The more a person attempts to assert their physical beauty, the harder they have potential to fall from the insults of a naysayer.  We have all seen or heard of a kind of a woman who piles on several inches of makeup every morning, wears exceedingly revealing clothing and seems to be completely unaware that she is terribly unattractive.  You know the type.  By simply dressing in the manner she does, in seeking the glory of glamour she holds herself up as a subject of derision by all who see her.

Now let me ask a disturbing question.  What if you personally, and I personally, are not as attractive as we think?  What if that is all in our heads?  How much of an embarrassment do you or I want to make of ourselves?  Isn’t it better to prove clean, modest, healthy, open, and unassuming?  One keeps vigor longer that way and also never runs the risk of getting caught being too old to dress the way one does.  When we dress and act with simplicity and forget all the rest, we generally don’t attract naysayers of our beauty and find ourselves pleasantly surprised when people do show appreciation.  When it comes right down to it, glamour equals stress.  And stress is terrible for the skin.

Children in the Line of Fire


There is a war raging in this world and much of it transpires here on this soil.  It is the battle of hatred and the main weapons of destruction are a lack of forgiveness and an intense desire to seek immediate justice for one’s own pained emotions.  I speak of the war between grown parents, whether divorced or married, in which children more often than not become victims dragged into the heated and relentless warfare.

My friends, I realize that marriage can be a struggle.  I realize that feelings are damaged, destroyed, frustrated and confused.  Nevertheless, the raising of children is still a sacred responsibility.  We would do well to protect them from the contention that may exist between parents rather than seek to make them players in it.  When we seek to turn children against one parent or the other, for whatever reason, we do wrongly.  When we place barriers between the child and his or her other parent for any reason save to protect them, we do wrongly.  When we speak vengefully of the other parent in the child’s presence we not only do wrongly but also open ourselves to censure in the child’s eyes.  When we turn to the child for marital guidance in any manner, we should only do so if we are willing to admit to ourselves and them that the roles have reversed and henceforth we acknowledge them as the parent and submit to their commands in all things.  And we would still be doing wrongly.

I know of a woman who was severely abused by her husband.  When she sensed he was in one of his moods she would consistently shield her toddling daughter and speak to him alone in the bedroom.  After his hysterical insults and evil behavior she would turn toward the door, wipe the tears from her eyes, and forcing a smile, reach down to her wondering infant and hugging her, remind her child of all the good things the father had done for the child and say “Your daddy loves you very much.”  Where is the justice?  I assure you, justice has been served since that day.  The father now walks in humility behind the mother and the ignorant offspring enjoys the love of a calm and peaceful atmosphere.  God brought justice.  And He will continue to do so if we will hold to the responsibilities we have to be nurturers for our kids.

Well Hey There, Sexy! Yes, You!

You are good enough.  Period.  Your physique is good enough.  Case closed.  Man, woman, makes no difference.

We tend to hear a great deal in this society that we have to meet a stereotypical image of beauty.  We have to be some perfect ideal or else society tends to berate us into thinking that we are unworthy of love, affection, respect, and admiration.  Untrue. 

Take a good look at my photo on the right.  I'm not exactly Jessica Rabbit.  One would think that because I have a comparatively microscopic waistline that this kind of social pressure doesn't apply to me.  Wrong.  One might be surprised at how many hits I've taken from the tender age of eleven for not being more curvaceous.  And the curvy women often tell me that they wished they could look like me.  Stop the madness.  We are  who we are, and that is okay.

We often think that if we could just have a significant other who would make us feel better by loving us enough everything would be solved.  Wrongly thought.  A partner may worship the ground upon which we tread but unless we turn our own perspectives, we will still wince when we glance in the mirror. 

So never mind the whole physical competition out there.  There will always be a guy with better biceps or a lady with a more beautiful and accepted form.  What matters is what is on the inside.  What matters is the person underneath.  There will ever and always be only one Michelle, and there will ever and always be only one of you.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Holocaust and The Hunger Games

I may find myself with some newfound enemies today.  So be it.  I must confess I am no true fan of The Hunger Games.  I attempted to watch it at one point and have spoken to a great many people who have read it. Call me strange but however one may argue the point I find myself at a loss in appreciating a story in which adolescents are forced to murder each other.  Now, if the story followed an assassin destroying the evil people in the capitol and eliminate the games entirely, that I could understand.  I have heard many people say that they really only read it for its other merits.  It is beautifully written and filled with soul inspiring metaphor.  Having a degree in English I can assure my gentle reader that such aspects of literature exist in works by Milton, Dickens, Austen, Melville, and the like.  And I assure them that such works are exquisitely well crafted and uplifting.

I have also heard the idea that The Hunger Games is a warning to never forget the past for fear of repeating such atrocities.  It is a marvelous teaching method.  How else do you teach people such an important lesson?  I'll tell you.  When I was 16 my brother, mother and I toured Western Europe and Israel.  My brother and I bickered day after endless day.  My mother could not calm us and had quite given up trying to reach us.  And then we toured the Children's Holocaust Museum in Israel.  We entered the door bickering.  I hardly remember leaving but my mother describes it thusly.  My brother and I were silent, somber and all but trembling.  Without seeing what was before us we exited side by side and silently sat down next to each other on a concrete bench staring with blank eyes at the ground.  You might have heard a pin drop.  My mother was required to do something to shake us out of the horror we had just experienced and even consent to speak.  The bickering had stopped. 

Teach children and adults the atrocities of history, educate them about the world in which they live which still includes slavery, give them a dose of hard, solid reality and they will not forget it.  These things are not entertainment.  They are real and they are all around us, beckoning our attention and sympathy, not for some fictitious character but for our own brethren and sisters of human flesh. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

George of the Jungle and Romance

Not long ago I had a friend remind me that if a man is in any way complimentary it is only because he has underhanded sensual motives.  This, she warned me, is the law of the jungle and that was that.  She was probably right.  But not being a monkey myself, I see no reason to adhere to jungle rules.

There are higher laws in human emotion than the vine swinging variety.  There are the laws of decency, human kindness and selflessness.  There is a law of love that outweighs lust, self restraint that crushes adultery and spiritual power that overwhelms the littleness of impatient physical demands.  When we allow ourselves to recognize and follow this law and forsake the so called jungle rules we find that we live not in a jungle but in a brilliant and beautiful castle like the children of God we are.  I have mentioned my favorite orator, John Taylor, before.  Here is another of my favorite quotes from the man.  "You may say 'but that is not natural'.  Then we ought to be changed from nature to grace." 

This kind of powerful romantic love is not a mere idea saved for a purer life somewhere out in the distant universe.  It is here.  It is now.  It is before us if we will see it and value it for what it is.  I realize that it may take a great leap of faith to recognize that there is a higher way of life.  Trust that it exists.  We may remember Luke Skywalker attempting to raise his ship out of the Dagobah swamp.  It sinks lower.  Then Yoda stretches out his hand and saves the sunken vessel.  Luke says breathlessly "I don't believe it."  Answers Yoda, "That is why you failed."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Perfect Skin No Matter the Genetics

Those who have known me from my infancy know that I was blessed with horrible skin as an adolescent.  It's true.  Medicine only served to make me ill and nothing I did seemed to help.  After years of maturity and some assistance from the Dead Sea, you see my picture to the right with nearly no make up at all.  

But that really isn't the point of this post.  There is a way to have classy, beautiful, and perfect skin no matter your genetics.  How?  Simple.  Avoid tattoos.  

Gotcha, didn't I?  I have many beloved people in my life who carry tattoos and therefore I am not at all condemning the person but discouraging the action.  Why?  Because you are better and more beautiful than that.  Because you deserve to blossom into something truly exquisite and so powerful that this sorry, confused world will not be able to hold you.  And tattoos keep us from progressing.  My personal goal is to better today than I was yesterday and once we label ourselves in a permanent manner, we slow our progression and have to face greater challenges in order to move forward.  Leave it alone.  You are perfect as you are.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Validity of Mental Illness

I know there are many people who think that those who suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders et cetera are merely weak minded and need to simply try a little harder so as to avoid making life difficult for others around them.  I must admit that to some extent I used to believe that mind over matter was the answer to all the mental issues we face.  I always believed that we had all the strength needed to overcome our mental weaknesses.  God decided to render me experience and give me a wider perspective.

As some know, I have compound post traumatic stress reaction.  It sounds like I just need to get over whatever happened to me, right?  I have heard many people boast that they are strong enough that nothing affects them and that this is all in my head.  Let me explain what it was like when I contracted this condition and we might open a door to better understanding.

I have always had an excessively strong mind.  I was the most quick witted in many college classes and frequently stood up in heated debates, quickly and thoroughly crumbling my opponents' foundations.  But then the trauma came and life turned upside down.

The effects began with nightmares and flashbacks.  I shook them off thinking that I could ignore them.  Dizziness and mental exhaustion set in.  I scoffed, cast it aside, and continued the very heavy responsibilities in my life.  Then one day everything snapped.  I was alone in my home when suddenly flashbacks and head splitting hallucinations broke upon me in one mighty crash.  I fell backward onto the couch, head in my hands and involuntarily cried out to heaven "What is happening to me?"  Black and white images started flipping wildly around in my head and I could literally feel my mind being squeezed into a vice.  A calming answer from heaven came "Calm down.  You are going to be okay.  You have post traumatic stress." 

Today I don't speak much in public unless I have to do so.  There are many things that I cannot do that would seem natural and easy to others.   But I think most anyone reading my blog can judge for themselves whether or not mental illness equates a weak mind and needy spirit.  I think not.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Crayon Therapy

As you might have guess, though heaven only knows how, I tend to be on the intellectual, serious side of the aisle.  True it is that I believe in duty before pleasure, responsibility before desire and education before vacation.  I particularly believe that about being a parent and many are the sacrifices we all make in parenthood.  I try to read to my children about an hour per day and tutor them in math, geography, science, classical music and all that jazz.

But sometimes it is necessary and uplifting to sharpen the saw and one of my favorite activities which includes my children, and sometimes without them, is to pick up their half broken Crayolas and dig into a coloring book.  We have some scriptural coloring books for church meetings on Sunday but truth be told, my favorite is my daughter's Care Bear coloring library.  There is something absolutely soul stirring about scribbing out a picture in one of those pages.

Delving into the beauty of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen is wonderful - don't get me wrong.  But even a true bred bookworm needs a juvenile break sometimes. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gimme Some Love

This can be a dark world.  Humanity itself is on the decline in the face of moral indecency, abuse, and an increasing lack of self respect.  Women are expected to be everything that they naturally are not including harlots and tough masculine career girls.  Men are often generally expected to be players and abusive adulterers. 

Give the world some love.  If you have a feeling of goodwill toward others, show it!  Smile more, have some courage and tell someone you care about them.  Engage in community service and seek to break the present status quo.  Women, dress modestly, speak tenderly and remember that a guy doesn't deserve your physical person unless he can walk the line.  In other words, show respect for yourself and others.

Men, I personally implore you to stand a little taller.  I know that there are decent, honest, mushy feelings in that heart of yours.  I have had the privilege to sometimes be surprised at how tender guys can be in reference to a person, a beautiful sunset, or the like.  Help to slay our dragons, boys.  Openly praise women who show self respect and decency.  If a woman acts like a harlot, ignore them.  Seriously.  It isn't impossible.  There is a whole slew of quiet, strong, and utterly beautiful damsels in distress out there.  Don your manly armor and get to work. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Strip Down

Oh, get your mind out of the gutter! Don't you know me by now?  Those who know me best know that I have never been attached to money or material possessions.  I am a financial executive precisely because my superior knows she can (and does) hand me the key to millions of dollars and I will all but yawn.  Theft isn't in my vocabulary.

We all probably know this, but materialism doesn't lead to happiness.  One of the most cherished places on this earth to me is a tiny Mexican town called Turicachi.  It is my mother's hometown.  I recall from my infancy the adobe houses with dirt floors, holes in the walls, and not only a lack of toilets but also of outhouses.  Turicachi is more precious to me than gold laced terraces and polished marble floors.  There exists in this speck of a town some of the most powerful emotions in the range of human feeling.  The people may be starving but will offer you their last crumb out of hospitality.  They will give you the last shirt off their backs and enjoy the warmth of a good deed.  Not only do they lack internet connections but telephones in their homes.  And it is a joy to visit there.  I always feel something of a pang of regret in returning to the States afterward.  We may think "Poor people.  They have nothing."  They say of us "Poor people.  All they have is fat and debt." 

Real answers aren't usually found on the internet.  True beauty isn't found in glamour and dramatic clothing.  And all the McDonald french fries in the world isn't going to feed the soul.  Let go of the chaotic world that surrounds us.  Turn off your computer and sit in the dirt, staring up into the sky for a while. You will have all you need.

Lighten Up!



Life is filled with joy!  Enjoy the blessings that beckon to you today!  Never mind the future or the past.  Just enjoy this one God given moment and recognize the good things in your life today. Forgive someone, greet a stranger, do a good deed and exercise gratitude that God gave you strength enough to do so.  Make this one day count and scatter sunshine all along your way!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Breakin' Up is Hard to Do

You know the drill.  Someone amazing enters your life, whether in a romantic sense or otherwise, you give your trust and share your feelings with that person, something goes wrong and you find yourself outside of speaking terms wondering how this happened. 

I have had my heart broken a great many times by a great many people in a great many kinds of relationships.  I have found myself so disappointed in people that I honestly wondered how I could survive the agony of each moment, forcing myself even to breathe and only succeeding with a great deal of pain.  But God taught me something about human relationships.  Let me explain.

I honestly believe that we are all spiritually vast and our existences didn't merely begin with birth and it won't end in death.  I believe that we are spiritual giants and we hardly understand our own value and potential.  When we fall away from a beloved's society perhaps sometimes it is because the relationship we can have with that person is so profound and powerful that it cannot be contained here in this lifetime.  Perhaps heaven alone proves stable enough to hold the mutual joy we will have together someday.  Don't give up.  Do the best you can and have peace that God will work out all things as they ultimately should be.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Different, Not Less

Dr. Temple Grandin describes autistic people as "different, not less."  She might be rather gratified with my household and find herself somewhat snickering into her sleeve while she's at it. 

The Burger household is often dominated by a grand and glorious little spirit by the name of Julia.  She just turned six and was diagnosed with autism over a year ago.  The other three inmates of this house have some trouble keeping up with her creativity, energy, imagination, and self willed personality.  She makes snow angels in the Arizona dirt in mid July.  We own a large pack of invisible animals, each with its own name.  Among our invisible pets are two dogs named Daisy and Geronimo, and my own personal cat named Vivaldi (if you can't beat 'em, join 'em). 

I often have people meet Julia and tell me that they wished their children had autism.  I have found myself and others attempting to excuse ourselves for not bieng quite like her.  Indeed, it is the neurotypicals in this home that have to remind themselves that they are different from Julia, but not less. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Positive Intelligence

Having always carried a passion for study and learning I have often found myself among what I would term as intellectual amateurs.  I can always tell who they are by their attitude regarding any given topic on the table.  They are those who speak very distinctly and, employing every minute shred of evidence whether fact or fiction, seek to play devils advocate and prove conclusively that whatever someone says is not the absolute fact.  They seek to elevate themselves above others by diminishing positive aspects of humanity.  Most notably in their attacks are religion, moral decency, and honest emotions.  They treat with scorn goodness and descend to questionable argumentative tactics to prove their intellectual superiority.

My friends, this is not intelligence.  Descending to negativism in order to sound intelligent proves not a person's intelligence but only their commitment to negativity and their own personal insecurity.  It illustrates that they are not happy with their own conclusions unless they can triumph over someone else's.  Allow me to explain what I believe true intelligence demonstrates.

True intelligence and true education is positive.  It studies foreign ideas with respect and strives to see the good in not only them but also the traditional ideas from home.  It is calculated to uplift and inspire all those around them for a selfless purpose.  It rejoices in humility, seeks the silver lining, and finds goodness in human feelings.  It analyzes the world around it in order to appreciate it better and to make it a happier place.  It does all things in love and with pure intentions.  It reaches upward.  Let us seek to do something with honest and pure intelligence today.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Smell the Roses

I used to believe that life was something of a race.  The more I read, the more there was to read.  The more talents I found I had, the more I felt a need to culminate them into something profound.  The more I progressed at work, the further I felt I could go.

Then my life changed and I have found the honest power of calming the ongoing frenzy in which many of us live our lives.  I found that it is not only wise but necessary to stop and examine the beauty in life.  God taught me to notice and appreciate more fully the smell of flowers, the texture of petals, and the exquisite power in a quiet moment of natural grace.  We spend much of our time on the computer, driving in the car, and planning out our ever crowded lives.  Perhaps some of us have forgotten that we are eternal spirits whose potential extends forever before us and that God placed beauty in our pathways for us to notice and enjoy.  I used to feel selfish and wrong in enjoying soft quiet moments like this.  I always felt that I should be serving someone else or being so called "productive" in some manner or other.  When we stop and enjoy the beauty around us, we are indeed being productive.  We are gaining wisdom, calming and soothing our spirits and cultivating a stronger relationship with those things that really matter most. 

I hope that you know that you can stop here to find one of those quiet moments of thought. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Voice that Speaks Inside

I often hear people say "oh, I can't do that!" in astonishment about something that morally and logically make perfect sense but socially proves impossible.  My answer is "why not?"  If something is right, decent, kind, virtuous and good, what other consideration should hold sway? 

Tolstoy talks in Anna Karenina about a girl named Kitty being initially disallowed social intercourse with certain other women because of their relative poverty or moral baseness.  All the social world of her time would have lectured her as to the impropriety of being even in the same room with a fallen woman and considered her low to even think of such a thing.  I love how Charles Dickens answers this kind of social reprimand in Oliver Twist.  A good, decent, beautiful woman finds a broken, common, fallen woman named Nancy at her door seeking to speak with her.  The servants try to dismiss the low and base specimen of humanity.  The lovely lady not only allows an interview but seeks to uplift and aid her.  Nancy answers her beautifully "if there were more women like you, there would be less like me."  Sometimes we need to stand against the status quo and listen only to what really matters.  Eventually Nancy becomes a humble martyr to the causes of goodness and right.

Shel Silverstein expresses this with perfect resonance and power in one of his many exquisite poems. "No teacher, preacher, parent, friend or wise man can decide what's right for you.  Just listen to the voice that speaks inside."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Baptism after Death

The Mormon practice of baptism for the dead has been a rather controversial one of late.  I would like to bring something up that might clear the air a bit.

Firstly, the Church recognizes that the Jewish people do not want their ancestors baptized.  Fine.  We support that.  We love the Jews profoundly. And in fact, a posthumous baptism cannot happen without the consent of the next of kin.  It's against Church policy.

That aside, I have a question to ask those outside the Mormon faith.  What does it matter if a person gets baptized for the dead if one doesn't believe in the validity of the baptismal authority?  If Mormonism is wrong, then what they do has no binding authority in heaven and therefore the dead person has not been affected in any manner.  If Mormonism is right, and has God given authority to baptize for the dead, why fight it?  If God authorized it and it pleases Him, then isn't that the path to follow?  If not, if God does not authorize Mormon baptism, then the dead person is no worse off.

Let me put it another way.  I have several close relatives who have died.  If perchance a native of some obscure Pacific island were to come to me very seriously and sincerely and say "I love you and those of your family.  I want to perform a sacred rite in which I balance on my head, scream to the elements, jump up and down, and whisper your relative's name and this will protect him from the everlasting ghosts of Christmas past.  May I do so?"  I would probably grin and say "Sure.  Thanks so much for caring" because I would attribute no authority to his religious rites.  But I would be appreciative that he cared.

Make your own decision.  If Mormonism isn't ordained of God, then what difference does it make that they perform some rite or other involving a dead person's name?  If it is true and authorized of God, why would it be offensive?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Eternal Romance

We live in a society that increasingly encourages casual sex, widespread adultery, and makes common the use of deranged and degrading pornography.  Let me first express that I understand wanting to be in a relationship. Many feel incomplete without one.  We as human beings are hard wired to want to date, love, marry and the like.  Believe me when I tell you I have been there.  I understand.  But let me explain something to you that might ease your frustration. 

You are precious.  You are worthy of the best.  No matter how weak or vulnerable or abased you are you are still worthy of a happiness that all the world cannot injure or impeach.  You are worth better than to be the subject of careless lust and emotional indifference.  You deserve better.  You deserve perfect happiness.  You, just by being yourself, should have the right to turn down a great many awe inspiring people if they are not your eternal Prince Charming or Lady Fair.  Don't surrender to a relationship that is not rock solid and in which you cannot feel yourself fully and completely respected. 

What if that means you will have to live your entire life without finding a lasting relationship?  I understand that this is a legitimate concern, but I am a rather passionate believer in soul mates.  And I am a passionate believer that God is at the helm and wants the best for each and every one of His children.  It will come.  Whether in this life or not, love will come if you respect it enough to wait for it.  And if it doesn't appear here in the flesh or doesn't fully come into your grasp based on situation or external forces, do not fret.  It may be that the love you and your partner will have is too powerful, too beautiful and too passionate to be held in this lifetime.  Perhaps only heaven itself is stable enough to support so exquisite a relationship as will be yours. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happiness is a Bag of Mixed Nuts

My sister Crystal works with me at my parents' construction company and together we take care of the clerical work within the office.  Recently she came in with a bag of salted mixed nuts and we chatted for a while about the frustrations going on in her life.  She offered me some and I sought to counsel her on the issues and annoyances she was facing.

Sometimes it seems that we chase after life seeking for happiness in clothes, fame, reputation, achievements and general popularity.  But these things don't really fulfill.  My sister might argue that one regarding clothes, but you understand the point.  Happiness is in the quiet moments with those about whom we care the most.  Sometimes we just need to turn off the constant race for worldly things and enjoy the moment.  It may not be flashy, glamorous, widely seen or popular.  But when all said and done, those are the moments that matter most. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

When I Went to Galilee (Seriously)

I hope you are having a beautiful and blessed Easter!  In the interest of the season I decided to step out of my normal programing and relate some of what I experienced when I toured Israel before my senior year of high school.

I saw all the major places of which we have read in the Holy Bible including Jerusalem, Jericho, the Mount of Transfiguration, the Dead Sea, Bethlehem and the like.  I walked along the path that tradition maintains Jesus trod on His way to Calvary.  I visited His tomb, touched the star of the ground where He was born and stepped into the Garden of Gethsemane.  But there was one moment that was peaceful and calm, which I particularly treasure because I hopefully was able to do some good.

We had been traveling in a tour bus for many days when the guide approached me, indicating that he had heard that I had a beautiful singing voice.  He asked me to take the microphone and entertain the company on our way to the Sea of Galilee.  I pondered what to sing and the answer came immediately.  I sang about Jesus.  I sang as we crested a beautiful green hill that overlooked the calm, glistening waters of that historic sea.  There was a feeling of peace and beauty that permeated the landscape and the quiet power of the area overwhelmed us all.  We ate fish on the banks and basked in the tranquil spirit that reigned there.  I have the humbling honor to report that many thanked me for my performance and indicated that at least in part because of it the had determined to return to their respective churches, which apparently they had ceased attending.

If you care to hear me sing about Jesus you can find me on youtube.com under the channel name TheClassicalVoice.  

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Courageous Compassion

It can be frightening when you see someone truly downtrodden and injured.  We may feel horribly inadequate to help them and so we avoid them.  We may be frightened of them or frightened of being too close to the injuries they sustain.  We might be frightened that we will injure the person further by saying the wrong thing or acting in an accidentally rough manner.  We may consider that others would be better equiped to deal with such a person and so we shy away.

But consider this. As most of us can understand such feelings, what kind of situation does create for the injured person?  When they need comfort most, they are lucky to get a quiet, subdued "hi."  Be courageous!  What if what you say is not sufficient or what if you accidentally begin a torrent of hysterical tears and hopelessness?  Likely, you won't. I know this because a few years ago I was the injured one and many even in my own family were afraid to look me in the eye.  It is never offensive to hug a person who is hurting and say "I love you.  I know I can't make it better but I wish I could."  You don't have to hand them the panacea to all their problems and pain.  But you can tell them that you wish you could.  It will mean more to them in that period of darkness than you understand because if everyone keeps away from them they are not only in pain, but alone with no friendly hand to remind them that they are loved.  Be courageous and remember that perfect love casteth out all fear.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Do it Like a Lady

My parents both served in the military before I was born.  I am the youngest in my family and my nearest sibling is a brother who studied martial arts from his early childhood.  The vast majority of cousins my age are boys.  I have been a business executive in a construction company since I was 21. 

It isn't always easy to behave like a lady. 

But in this society that expects so much hard core masculinity, competition in the workplace, and non emotional behavior from women, behaving like a lady is one of the most daring, powerful, and intensely courageous things a girl can do.  And they should.  We might do well to encourage women to dress modestly, cleanly, employ becoming language and focus more keenly on the home.  Frankly, men would do well to follow suit. 

So the next time you feel social demands to prove yourself in ways traditionally masculine, dress like a harlot or behave in a crude manner rustle your floor length lace covered skirt and say "I think not."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Lady's Thoughts

*Written as one of several poems on the same theme, opening and widing the common plot.  There is another written primarily from the man's viewpoint and a third that encompasses all the themes together.

I ponder in my beaudoir fair
Of dark and sacred night
While heaven glimmers twinkling
A soft and hopeful light.

The gentle breeze turns southerly
And drifts from Northern seas
Where gentleman of manly strength
Of mind drops to his knees

And fills the angels’ gentle ears
With raptured songs of love
Of one who listens patiently
For echoes from above.

I find in him the mirrored match
Of soul I wish to gain
So as he drifts I try my heart
And quiet here remain.

I know not day nor hour yet
Of culmination’s joy
Nor when my heart shall bind to his
And emptiness destroy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Beneath the Surface Part II

As I expected, I have encountered some outrage in regard to my previous post on this matter.  Have I no standards?  Let me explain how I reconcile the idea of marrying outside of a personal faith. 

I know for a fact that my religion is true.  I have no shadow of a doubt that it reigns in the heavens.  There is not the smallest consideration of anything otherwise in my mind.  That is how I know that if a person is a good person, with love for God and a passionate desire toward righteousness they will eventually come into the faith to which I belong.  There is no other option because my religion is indeed the true, honest, and sure one authorized by God.  If a person has humility before God, I know therefore that they will at some point believe as I do.  Call me a bigot if you will, but I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter -Day Saints is the church of which God approves.  Period.  It may take months, years, or, as my religion teaches, they may convert after this life is over.  But if we are upstanding and have good desires toward God we will at some point come to a common ground and be perfectly reconciled in Christ. 

Beneath the Surface

Since my childhood I have been keenly aware of religous bigotry.  The first friend I made in kindergarten had a mother who found the religious opinions of my family and forbade her to play with me, claiming that my religion was non Christian.  Ironically, when my friend rebelled against her mother and told me she would play with me anyway and lie about it I was horrified that she would even think about knowingly breaking one of the Ten Commandments and dishonor her mother.  I refused to allow her to do it and played then by myself that she might not have the shame of sin on her head.

I find similar sentiments among many of my associates.  Many from my own religion would refuse to even consider dating someone outside the faith.  So be it.  The choice of who one marries is a personal matter and if it is truly that important to a person, within themselves, it is their choice.  But I would like to point out a couple of things.  Imagine a ficticious God fearing Jewish woman in the days of the New Testament determining that she could only marry someone who behaved perfectly by the letter of the law in all things.  A man catches her eye but she shuns him on these grounds.  He is somewhat rebellious against the status quo.  At long last she watches as he carries the beam of his cross up to Golgotha.  See my point?  She marries a perfectly cut member of the Jewish faith, who although he does not commit adultery, ogles every woman who passes by. 

It is better to look for friendship in people who hold honest passion for goodness and love of God though they belong to no religion at all than to seek to applaud too loudly those who meet all the so called criteria of a certain faith but beneath the surface are poisonous vipers.  From Abraham to Christ to Martin Luthor, sometimes these rebellious types are the people who most better the world. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

To Cheat or Not to Cheat?

I can honestly say I have never had an affair in my life.  I can honestly say I have never cheated on a boyfriend.  And yes, I have had scores of offers; some of them have proven very tempting. I understand that when a relationship is rocky it is particularly hard to remain morally strong.  We are all humans and a great many people I love have cheated on their significant others.  They do it for different reasons but the one I want to address is the one that provides the most power in argument.  I have considered it in detail for a very long time.  It is the argument that after they tied the knot they found they were actually in love with someone else.  Therefore they could do nothing else but to give themselves to the person they loved.
 
 
I am not convinced.  If it is honest to goodness love then love is patient, kind, decent and honest.  Love abhors the idea of injuring anyone, no matter the situation.  Love, if it is love, can wait forever until it can find an honest, upstanding, resting place.  It can wait until circumstances are right, all things are placed in order, wounds are mended and the injured are healed.  If it is love then God can and will bring it to pass without the parties involved engaging in moral indecency.  The bedroom can wait, if it is love. 

The kind of so called love that induces people to cheat is lust.  Pure and sinful - oops, I mean simple.  Lust is impatient, demanding and eventually leads to unhappiness.  It falls apart under pressure.  And the argument that we can do nothing else but give in to our feelings?  Hardly.  It is a conscious choice we make.  I understand it can be a difficult one, but walking with a clean conscience proves fully satisfying as a just and merited reward.