Sunday, December 25, 2016

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

It was hot in the kitchen both Thursday and Friday nights as my grandkids and I had scurried around, preparing holiday goodies for the festivities that were to take place on Saturday. As I stirred this and floured that, my granddaughter asked, “Grandma, how do you know how to do this?”

Her innocent question touched a sensitive place in my heart as my thoughts traveled down roads of long ago Christmases in my own grandmother’s kitchen. My granddaughter is eight years old, about the same age as I, when I wondered at the skills of my grandparents in their kitchen. It was a sight to behold, indeed. Every available surface of their kitchen, and even some in the living room, had been covered with delicacies from the world cultures that made up our family. Sandbakkelse were my favorite, though I never really learned to make those – not well anyway. Rosettes, divinity, fudge, lefse and things I can’t even remember their true names were strewn about, filling the whole house with the scents of an old fashioned bakery.

“I learned from my mom and my grandparents,” was my response. How could I put into words the years of family gatherings that had been such an important part of my life as a child? Aunts and uncles with their children in tow would gather at the home of my grandparents for every important holiday. Cousins and second cousins would play outside in the snow at Christmas time, sometimes with a few playful aunts and uncles. It was a simpler time in life, where families didn’t live states or even countries apart.

As we worked, it occurred to me that these are the times my grandchildren will remember with me. They won’t recall the gifts I had carefully chosen for each of them. They won’t remember the wrapping paper, ribbons or bows. They will remember slopping chocolate covered pretzels from the bowl to the wax paper. They will remember the time Grandma had been covered with flour from head to toe. They will remember the sounds of the laughter and the warmth of love that had filled Grandma’s kitchen, those cold winter nights before Christmas. They’ll remember driving past the ‘Second Street Angel’ in Fargo, when Grandma remarked in a breathless, whispered tone, “She’s absolutely gorgeous!” Whenever they hear God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, or I’ll Be Home for Christmas, their hearts will long for those days in the kitchen with Grandma; a simpler time when the world stopped for a moment in time to delight in the true meaning of Christmas – a time when we have love for one another and hope for the future.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Bullying is Everyone's Business

Last week, we discussed Gaslighting and how it is an entrenched part of school bullying. But, what can we realistically do about it? How do we stop it? The truth of the matter is bullying will be around as long as two human beings exist on the Earth. It will never go away entirely.

Let’s look at some things that we can do, individually and as groups, to stem the growth of bullying:

Live Authentically:  Be the person you want children to grow up to be. We have to live as examples of how people should treat each other. Behave the same way in private as you do in public. No one is perfect, but when effort is applied it can make a world of difference.

Actively Listen:  When a child/tween/teen is telling you they are being bullied, whether you are a parent or a trusted adult, actively listen to what they are saying. Many times, we listen only to respond. We need to turn off our phones, computers, or other distractions and take part in the conversation. We need to allow children the space to express their fears and their feelings.

Make Bullying Your Business:  We’ve all heard that domestic violence is everyone’s business. On the same token, so is bullying. Regardless of whether the victim is your child or just some random kid on the street, make it your business. If you see something, say something. When I say make it your business that does not include giving the bully a beat down. It means be the adult on the scene. When you take action, it allows the victim to internalize that they are not alone and people do care. Even if you only suspect a kid is being bullied, take the initiative to ask them; and then actively listen to what is being said. You could save a life, just by asking.

Put Bite in Your Policy:  How many times have we heard the policy statement, “Zero Tolerance”, only to find that it doesn’t really mean anything? How many kids have experienced bullying, and brought it to the attention of the school only to have the administration poo-poo it away, or claim their hands are tied and they can’t do anything? Or, worse yet, blame the victim? If we’re going to claim Zero Tolerance then it has to mean something. There has to be consequences for bullying that are applied continually and consistently across the board. No exceptions.

We Are Not Their Friends:  When we GenXers became parents, we made a huge mistake. You might think I’m speaking to the “helicopter parent” issue, but no. Our mistake was trying to be our kids’ friends instead of being their parents. We tossed our authority as parents out the window. If you are doing this now, stop it. Your kids have friends. They need you to be Mom or Dad, the people who are in charge. If everyone is behaving like juveniles, we have created nothing more than an environment akin to Lord of the Flies. It’s hard being a parent. Your kids are not always going to like you, but they will always love you.

There are those who kowtow to teaching kids how to be resilient, which although it is important, it is just as important to teach kids not be bullies in the first place. Yes, it is human nature to bully, but at the same time, there’s a fine line between bullying and criminal behavior.

Bullying has one objective: Abusing another to gain a sense of power and control. Today, we have an epidemic of violence and suicide, the direct result of bullying.

Unfortunately, we can’t stop it entirely, but together we can make a difference. We just have to want to.

If you are being bullied in school or online, please, please seek out a trusted adult in your life. Maybe a favorite teacher, or a coach, or a friend’s parent, or your own parents and tell them. Tell someone. Talk to someone. You are not alone in the world, and people do care. You matter in the world and you are loved.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Kids on Fire: How Gaslighting is Fueling Bullying

In 1940, and again in 1944, playwright Patrick Hamilton’s masterpiece Gas Light (1938) was adapted into a whirlwind film, first by British director, Thorold Dickinson (1940), and then in America by MGM (1944). The plot is filled with the psychological abuses propagated against Paul’s wife, Bella; and thus today, we have the psychological term gaslighting which means: the psychological abuse of another which causes them to doubt their own sanity.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to talk about the growing phenomenon of gaslighting in all its nefarious forms. We’re going to start today with a subject that is dear to my heart: bullying in school.

One of the first recorded cases of school violence was in Bethel, Alaska in 1997, where sixteen year old Evan Ramsey entered the school with a loaded Mossberg 500 12 gauge shotgun. But, how did that happen? What led to the tragic day of February 19, 1997?

Evan was a frequent target of bullying. That’s what all the newspapers said, but what did that even mean? Kids can be mean; right? It should have been fine. He should have grown out of it. He should have been able to handle it and move on with his life.

The key phrase is “frequent target of bullying”. Prolonged exposure to abuse leads to toxic stress, and toxic stress leads to fight or flight – otherwise known as violence or suicide.

Gaslighting itself is mostly associated with domestic abuse. However, it applies to any relationship – including friends and schoolmates. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something that grows so subtly it’s hard to pinpoint just when it began in any individual situation.

Signs (adapted from the National Domestic Abuse Hotline):

Withholding: The bully pretends not to understand or refuses to listen. For example: Holding the relationship hostage. This is a form of negative peer pressure. The bully baits the victim into believing they are their friend and wants them in their circle, but in reality is attempting to control the victim by forcing them to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do; except for a deep-seated desire to be included. The bully feeds on the victim’s desire to be cool or included. The bully pretends they don’t understand, or refuses to listen to the victim’s rational thoughts behind not wanting to do the things the bully wants them to.

Countering: The bully questions the victim’s memory of events, even when the victim remembers them accurately. For example: Countering is blaming or scapegoating. When things get hot, the bully is one step ahead of the victim. The bully will twist the words of the victim in an attempt to make the victim (and others) believe it was the victim's fault. In the bully’s telling of the events, the bully becomes the victim.

Blocking/Diverting: The bully changes the subject and/or questions the victim’s thoughts. For example: The victim questions the bully’s story of events, and the bully either changes the subject – nullifying the victim’s point of view, or engages in belittling the victim – most often in front of others. The bully oftentimes in blocking or diverting will tell the victim they are paranoid or imagining things. This is often related to the victim’s questioning of the relationship between the bully and themselves, when the victim realizes that something is wrong.

Trivializing: The bully makes the victim’s needs or feelings seem unimportant. For example: When the victim questions the bully, the bully retaliates with name calling and shaming – again, usually in front of others. When trivializing starts, this is where it becomes dangerous for the victim in respect to toxic stress. They are already questioning what is happening, and second-guessing their thoughts and feelings.

Forgetting/Denial: The bully pretends to have forgotten what actually occurred or denies things like promises made to the victim. For example: The bully promised to hang-out with the victim at a specified place and time, and then pretends to have forgotten, or denies ever making the promise.

In gaslighting, the narratives above are not isolated incidents. They go on every day, sometimes for months or years. The prolonged exposure to them causes the victim to become confused, anxious, isolated and depressed. At the point of no-return, the victim will lose all sense of what is really happening to them.

Contrary to adult victims of gaslighting, kids generally won’t reach out for help until the ambulance shows up – either at the school after an act of violence, or to take them to the hospital after a failed suicide attempt.

As parents, grandparents, teachers and other trusted adults in the world, it is our responsibility to understand what gaslighting is and how it plays a role in school bullying; to recognize the signs and then to do something constructive about it. Our kids are involved in a game of psychological warfare that they have no idea how high the stakes really are – until it’s too late.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Soldiers in Petticoats

Since days of old, women have had to grovel and beg for every bit of freedom that we in America enjoy today. I wonder as I look around the country if our young women have any idea of the pain and suffering it took for them to have the right to vote; for them to have a voice in the ways of the world.

From 1908 to 1917, women in both the United States and Britain suffered unconscionable brutality at the hands of those in power. It was an ugly, beautiful poetic time in history.  These women were known as suffragettes.

Suffrage Definition:

“A vote given in deciding a controverted question or electing a person for an office or trust.” ~ Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Lucy Burns and Alice Paul, the founders of the Silent Sentinels and National Women’s Party were key players in our right to vote, and they stand in the hallowed halls of history as Giants Among Women. They earned that title without reproach. While protesting their rights outside the gates of the White House (Woodrow Wilson), they were subsequently arrested on charges of:

Obstructing traffic

Inciting unlawful assemblage

It’s estimated 1,000 women were thrown into jails in America and Great Britain, from 1900 to the beginning of World War I (1917). While in the jails, old women were beaten and put into rat-infested cells. One was shackled with her arms above her head all night long. They demanded to be held as political prisoners. When their demands were not met, they staged hunger strikes, where Lucy Burns was force fed through a tube in her nose; many others were force fed raw eggs and milk. And still, they fought on with courage and perseverance.

In 1918, a federal judge overturned the convictions of the Silent Sentinels, ruling that their peaceful picketing outside the White House was political speech protected under the First Amendment.

One woman changed the course of history in America:

Phoebe Ensminger Burn, Miss Febb, as she was known to her family, was the mother of Representative Harry Burn of Tennessee. He was a young man of 24 years. The vote for ratification of the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution was in his hands. His mother, simply wrote him a note:

“Hurrah, and vote for suffrage! Don’t keep them in doubt. I notice some of the speeches against. They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet. Be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification.”

It is important that we understand that women once had the respect and admiration of men, especially sons to their mothers, and husbands to their wives. Many times in the course of American history, women whispered in the ears of their sons or husbands and changed everything:  Eleonore Roosevelt, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, and Phoebe Ensminger Burn.  The power of women goes far beyond the picket line. It is held in the household, the places of worship, the home and even in politics. However, it takes a very strong woman to wield this type of power.

The election of 2016 in the United States is an important one. It doesn’t matter which side you take, however you must not let the Giants Among Women’s fight be in vain. We as the Women of America, the Birthers of a Nation, must stand up and cast our vote this election. To do anything less would be a travesty against humanity.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Finding Myself as Grandma

I never anticipated being a grandmother at 38 years old. It’s been nine years since my grandson was born, followed by his sister and my newest granddaughter, who’s one.

I don’t feel like a grandma. I’m footloose and fancy free these days. I can come and go as I please, without having to concern myself with finding a babysitter. I can be gone for days at a time if the whim hits me.

Although I am only 48 years old, all my children are adults, making their way in life - the same as children of other older grandparents. However, many of the people who are my age are still raising their kids, some of them with toddlers. I think to myself they have a long haul ahead of them, which brings me to the conundrum of being a young grandparent.

To put this into perspective, it’s like being in your twenties again, when people are falling in love and getting married, and suddenly you find yourself to be the last one to get married, and /or to have children. Your friends’ lives become filled with all the things that involve their little family – and not you.

With divorce rates hovering at 50% for the last decade, there are a lot of single-grandparents out there, both men and women. But, most of them are in their late 50s or early 60s. This societal shift is due to married couple’s staying together for the sake of the children, and divorcing when the last kid moves out. I suspect this trend will continue far into the future with a decline in the age of single-grandparents, because of the belief staying together only hurts the kids, and not helps them.

Instead of resolving myself to sensible shoes and dresses, I choose to redefine myself. I am the author of my life, and this but a new chapter in it. I delight in the moments when people seem shocked that indeed I am a grandma. “But, you don’t look old enough to be a grandma.” I concede that I don’t look the part.

I dress for my age, or what I feel comfortable in for my age. I never tried to be my daughters’ best friend. I never shopped in the same stores where they shopped, trying to fit a body that has birthed three children into clothes that are designed for, well, bodies that haven’t. I have middle-age wrinkles for which I refuse to indulge in Botox for the sake of clinging to youth, a ship that sailed twenty years ago.

It didn’t really occur to me until a couple of years ago that I am free to do whatever pleases me. Now, that in itself was a bombshell. I have never lived to please me. I was flustered by the very idea of it. I was asked, “What do you need,” and “What do you like?” I had no clue what the answers were to those questions.

My entire adult life has been about living for everyone else. I lived for my boyfriend and what he needed and liked. I lived for my daughters and what they needed and liked. I lived for my bosses and my friends, for what they needed and liked, and found that in the end, I had somehow become lost in the mix. In fact, I no longer existed at all. I was a shell of a person that only existed before the age of eighteen. I was a ghost haunting my own life.

I like canary yellow, burnt orange, sea foam green, coral and violet, because they are not black, gray or sad.
I like the smell of the ocean on a spring morning, and the sound of the waves as they tumble with playfulness on the shore, laughing their way back out to sea. I prefer the Atlantic in the morning as the sun casts a river of orange in the midst of the waters, creating new hope for a journey less troubled; and the Pacific at the close of day as the sun sinks into the water at twilight, beaming accomplishment at the river’s end.
I like the sound of thunder on a summer’s afternoon as it rumbles across the prairie. It shakes the very core of me, letting me know that I am alive. When the rain ceases to drench the earth all around, the sun never fails to break the clouds. Its rays wrap a blanket of warmth around me and I know all is well in the world.
I like the feel of the horse beneath me, while it bolts across the grasslands, carrying me far and away. The hooves collide with the earth beneath them, the dust exploding into the air. At the canyons edge there is all the world that lies below and all the heavens cast above.
I like the taste of Turkish coffee intermingled with the laughter of friends on a cold winter’s afternoon. It is rich, warm and robust; full of life.
I like the sound of the violin as it mourns the notes it casts into the world, the vibrations of all that was, is and ever will be; or, when it sings joyously the songs of the universe as they race to the stars and moon from the amphitheater that once was.

Today, I still enjoy these things. Sometimes, in spite of ourselves, we must reach back to the person we were, to find the person that we are. I enjoy the laughter of my grandchildren as they cling to me with arms wrapping me in love. I like to rock my infant granddaughter in the still of the evening, when she drifts off to sleep into a world of peace.

Today, I like who I am, recognizing that the only thing that I need is love.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Age of Women

Women are the first environment. We are privileged to be the doorway to life. At the breast of women, the generations are nourished and sustained. From the bodies of women flow the relationship of those generations to both society and to the natural world. In this way is the Earth our mother, the old people said. In this way, we as women are Earth.” ~ Katsi Cook

I came across this very profound statement by midwife, Katsi Cook, and it started the wheels of thought turning in my head. There’s a lot of wisdom held in those sixty-four words, however, I’m only going to focus on a very small part of it.

Katsi Cook’s statement speaks volumes about self-care, when it comes to women. From the day we come into this world as female children, we are born with a great amount of power and responsibility. You see, we have been tasked with ushering in the future generations, and teaching them the ways of the spiritual and natural world.

As women, we have a duty and responsibility to all the women who will come after us. This is especially important for new mothers, or even those who hope to become mothers one day. The world as we know it no longer recognizes the power and authority of women. Regaining power and control begins with the following mindset (popular word for internal belief):


Over my lifetime, I learned something that I am going to share with you now: women are the heart and soul of every family, community, nation, and indeed the world. Upon our creation, we were emblazoned with the ability to empathize and express compassion, even unto ourselves.  Think about that for a moment.

I follow the Nicole Phillips’ Kindness is Contagious blog, Dr. Susan Mathison’s Positively Beautiful blog, and Cris Linnares like a puppy dog follows a child. Why? Because, these women got it going on, and even inspirers need a little inspiration sometimes. Each of them has traveled seemingly very different paths in life, yet has met in the Age of Women.

What has any of that to do with the Katsi Cook statement? We are the birthers of the nations. If we ourselves are sick, what will we birth, but more sickness and dysfunction? As the birthers, we need to care for ourselves and ensure that we are strong and healthy, starting from the inside.

This is the Age of Women where:

  • No longer will we stand by and watch as our daughters are over-sexualized in the media to the point of eating disorders and self-hatred.
  • No longer will we accept verbal or physical beat-downs of our daughters by other girls, to the point of suicide.
  • No longer will we accept or condone the verbal and physical abuse propagated and condoned by weak men, to the point of demoralization.
  • No longer will we self-talk ourselves into doubt and fear, to the point of subjugation.

We are the women of the world. We are the birthers of nations and the mother of men. We are the future of the world; and in that there is much power and authority.

Welcome to the Age of Women.

Monday, July 4, 2016

My Fellow Americans

My Fellow Americans,

Today, I wish us a happy 240th birthday. We’ve been beaten and worn for some time now, but never forget that through the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air, our flag, Old Glory still waves.

In spite of all our faults and flaws, we the people of the United States of America have much to be grateful for today. We have traveled a long journey together, and face an unknown future together. Over the centuries, we have come from lands all around the world to meet here, together on this day in history – our 240th birthday.

Choose to celebrate! Choose to celebrate America the Beautiful! Choose to celebrate the Grand Old Flag! Choose to celebrate; because This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land! Choose to celebrate Stars and Stripes Forever!

Choose to celebrate you and me and us! It is the people who comprise a nation. Each of us should not forget from where it is we have come. We should be grateful for the independence we share from tyranny, dictatorships, monarchies and all the likes of that.

Happy birthday to us!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Redneck Weekend

This weekend, I had a blast at the Grafton Ruff Riderz ATV Mud Races. Grafton is approximately a 2 hour drive north of Fargo on I-29. For metro-dwellers around the world, that is 144 miles/231 km one way. I haven’t been up Grafton way for several years, so when my friends asked if I wanted to go, I said sure.

Out there in the middle of what most would call “nowhere,” I remembered something I had long forgotten – nobody gives a damn what you look like, what you do for a living, or what you have in the bank. The only thing that matters is your integrity as a human being. How do you treat other people? That is the only question you have to take away at the end of any given day.

There was an electricity in the air that came straight from the rumble of the ATVs crawling around the grounds, checking out the competition.  As a person who has listened to country music since I was old enough to breath, I recognized that none of the women who were racing on Saturday were anywhere near the “Sweet Adalida” or the “Vidalia” variety.  Oh hell no! These women were all business - tenacious and determined!  I don’t know where they go, who they live with, or what they might do for a living. What I do know is out there in the mud pits, the bogs and the back trails; they are straight-up redneck women and proud of it.

Rednecks get a bad rap from the city folks, and I’m going to tell the difference between the two:

Most city folks focus on one thing and one thing only – how much money do I have? Every day is filled with clinging to the rungs of the corporate ladder or struggling to just live from one day to the next.

Rednecks focus on three things: God, Country and Family – in that order. These folks are hard living/hard playing people. They can run the mud pits all day and party all night, but come Sunday morning, their butts are in the seats of the pews, or giving thanks from the river banks while fishing. Rednecks never forget the God who gave them the life that they have – and they make the best use of it.

They don’t forget the importance of the Stars and Stripes, as evidenced by the singing of the national anthem in the middle of God’s green earth (the Greenbelt) on a June Saturday afternoon. Interestingly enough, the Stars and Bars were in the mix and nobody cared. If there’s a difference in opinion you settle it in the pits and leave it there.

They include everyone in the family from Grandma and Grandpa to the newest of the new. And, if you think that they care if you don’t like breast-feeding in public, you should ask the new mother who fed her baby with no blanket covering her, and nobody noticed. I dare say if you approached her, you may not come out of it looking the same way you did going in. You see, redneck men are very protective of the women they love and more so of their children.

The cops were there and nobody got beaten, broken or arrested, regardless of the color of their skin. Yep, there were black people, Native Americans, Hispanics and White folks.  The police were cordial and enjoyed the run just as much as anyone else – because they are human beings too. They visited with folks they knew and folks they didn’t know. They visited with people from Western North Dakota all the way to Wisconsin. They laughed and talked about the 4-wheelers, side-by sides, and the few Harleys that were there.

This was as down-home of a party that ever was with folks getting together to have fun and compete in the pits. It was the celebration of life. It was the stuff that stories are made of – stories of victory and defeat. Stories of the trophy that got away and trophies taken home. Stories that will be handed down from generation to generation. It is the making of memories – the only true lasting value of such a day as this.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Reading by Example

Goodnight room. Goodnight Moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. ~ Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon.

It is the good old summertime in the upper-plains states. It is the time for packing up the car and heading to the lakes, or other destinations for summer fun after the long winter. But, the vacation from school should not mean that it is a vacation from reading.

The primary reason teachers spend the first few weeks of school in review is because children lose some of what they learned the year before over the summer. This is one of the best times to make time for your children, especially small children who cannot yet read for themselves. Plan to spend one hour a day just reading and discussing a book with your child. 

Here’s some benefits to this:

Children spend hours every day in front of a screen – tablet, smartphone, TV, video game system, etc. Through reading your child a story before bed, you help them shutdown the effects of screen time from the day. It relaxes your child’s mind, so they can sleep better, and longer.

Reading to your child creates bonding and common ground between you and your child. This is a great time to choose stories that reflect your own values and beliefs, and where you stand on issues that affect your child: Bullying, tolerance, diversity, religious beliefs, nutrition, morality, civility and so on. This is the time your child is listening 100%. You will be grateful for it in their tween and teen years, because you have set the foundation.

When you pack for the annual summer camping trip or vacation to anywhere, make sure your older children take at least one book with them. I know, I know. The struggle is real with tweens and teens. You might be surprised when boredom strikes, as it always does, and you find them reading said book – just for something to do.

Don’t forget to pack a book for yourself, maybe two. Reading by example teaches children who you are, what your likes and dislikes are, and where your interests are. Did you know that most kids today do not know their parents? You might live in the same house, but do your kids really know you, or do they know of you? There’s a difference.

Reading teaches empathy – which is severely lacking in today’s society. It teaches imagination, innovation, and sparks the dream factor. Kids who do not read have less of an imagination than those who do. There is no more bankrupt a child than the child who cannot read. Parents play an important role in this. Children who cannot read, cannot do math, because they do not comprehend the problem – especially story problems. If your child is struggling in math, you might want to check how they are doing in reading.

More children, all across the world, are suffering from illiteracy. Children are struggling with the core subjects in school, simply because they cannot read. In the United States we have a secret plague that exists in the hallowed halls of our schools and even in our places of business, the functionally illiterate. People who can read well enough to get by, but not well enough to succeed. Don't let your child grow up this way, read to them and often. 

Through literature we learn to live, to love and to conquer.

Monday, June 6, 2016

When INTJs Write

But I don't want to go among mad people,” said Alice. “Oh, you can't help that,” said the cat. “We're all mad here.” ~ Lewis Carroll

Could you imagine, would you imagine, if only for but a moment, that Charles L. Dodgson were to be alive with us this very day? A twisted chap that one was, indeed! If in fact he was with us, which he isn’t, but he could be – might be – if he were, but he isn’t, so he ain’t, and that is the logic behind our favorite prose of his: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

It’s been a great weekend for many movie-goers and Alice fans to see Through the Looking Glass in live action, with a little help from computer generated cinematography and the like. But imagine this if you will, if in fact Lewis Carroll were with us today, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland nor Through the Looking Glass may have never seen the light of day.

If Charles L. Dodgson were a boy today, he would probably be labeled somewhere on the spectrum. Charles excelled at math. He was actually a mathematical genius. He was melancholy in his disposition, but at the same time took interest in what most people considered useless aspirations. Dodgson also had a stammering problem. He got on well with children, but didn’t have much use for adults. It is theorized that a young Alice Liddle was the subject of his famous prose, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Alice Liddle ~ 1858
When you have a gentleman like Dodgson, there are things to be considered about his wacky children’s story. Is it just a story, or could there be something more? It is a well-known fact that Dodgson was an INTJ (Myers-Briggs). Interestingly enough, so was mathematician and author, C. S. Lewis (Narnia series).  The difference between the two being Dodgson was also a logician ~ one who is adept at logic (driven by logic).

One of the most reiterated quotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is: “I’ve believed six impossible things before breakfast.” What if Dodgson really did believe six impossible things before breakfast, and figured out how to make them possible, yet couldn’t express them in adult terms?

Scientists and mathematicians around the world should take a long look at the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, Hunting the Snark, Sylvie and Bruno, and in fact, all of Dodgson’s work as He wrote them. However, to make the scientific adventure worthy of the endeavor, one should read it as though one were a child with all preconceived notions thrown out the proverbial window, and at the same time, keeping all one’s own scientific knowledge at the forefront of one’s mind.

As an INTJ and author myself, I often use metaphor and symbolism in my writing to make sense of some of the complex thoughts that go on in my inner world, as did Dodgson and C. S. Lewis.

Both Dodgson and Lewis focused on quantum theory in their writing – traveling between dimensions and even through time. Lewis (to my knowledge) did not publish books on mathematical theory, however, Dodgson did. What if…just what if…Dodgson used his writing as a means to sort out his thoughts on quantum theory? What if, buried in the midst of all his works is the key to unlocking quantum theory? What if it has been plain as the noses on our faces this past century and we didn’t even know it? Perhaps the answer isn’t in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass, but these are only his thought boards to something even greater.

It sounds silly, but as Jane Austen, another prolific INTJ, once said, “Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.

Monday, May 30, 2016

House of the Americans

And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. ~ Mark 3:25 ~ King James Bible

I have to tip my imaginary hat to G. R. R. Martin, and his epic tale of Westeros, the Seven Kingdoms, and the Lands Across the Narrow Sea, also known as Game of Thrones. The story is wildly popular among the masses from across the seven continents of our world.

I don’t know Mr. Martin, but the story he tells is a conglomeration of all the stories that have ever been told, and ever will be told. The oldest of these stories is “A House Divided Cannot Stand.”

Have we nothing to learn from Game of Thrones? Is it truly just an imaginary tale of lies, deceit and betrayal; of conquering and being conquered; of war and wars that are yet to come; and ultimately the war to end all wars? No, I say it is not. It is as relevant to reality as it is to fantasy.

The one thing we know of authors is that all the tales they tell are all the things they have experienced, learned, and all that has become what it is to be them (us). Game of Thrones, although not 100% historically accurate and not intended to be so, is the story of us – who we have been, who we are, and who we may yet become.

Today is Memorial Day 2016, in the House of the Americans. Our sigil is the Stars and Stripes. Our words are the Constitution of the United States, and the Declaration of Independence. Our small council is the Congress of the United States. Our leader, yet not Lord or King/Queen, is the President of the United States. Our leaders Hand is the Vice-President.

We the people have stood by watching all the royalty we have built in Hollywood. We honor them more than we honor those who have built this country through meaningful contributions. We fight amongst ourselves, slaying our own knights (police) in acts of violence unprecedented in our history. We lay claim that this life or that life matters, and stomp upon our own sigil until is crushed, tattered and torn, lying in the mud.

And worse than this, so much worse than this, we do not honor those who have fallen in the defense of our House. We say words of platitude without knowing the true meanings of those words. The elders of our House are slowly fading away into the hereafter, taking with them the living history that was theirs. All of WW I are already gone, many of WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Operation Freedom, and into the here and now. Their stories are falling upon deaf ears. They laid down their lives for our House and for what?

We cannot act like spoiled children anymore. We need to stand up and come together as one nation. Stop squabbling over the pettiness of life. I know, I know, pettiness is in the eye of the beholder, but in the grand scheme of things, while we fight amongst ourselves over who is more important, the Mother of Dragons is approaching with her Unsullied, her Second Sons, and ships by the number. Perhaps she is all she claims to be. Perhaps she is the savior of the Kingdoms, or perhaps she is not. Perhaps she is one to destroy us all. We do not know. But she is coming, and she will not take prisoners when she does. Either we are with her or against her. Either we are the House of the Americans or we are not. In the end, we will know. We will either stand and remain steadfast on the blood of those who gave all, or we will taint their lives to nothing more than vanity in a Game of Thrones in which they were nothing more than dispensable pawns in a much greater theatre of war.

On this day, this Memorial Day, let us not forget that all have contributed to the freedoms we enjoy. From every land and every nation and those from the first nation here on American soil, all have sacrificed much, for what we have now. Was it worth it? Are we a teenage nation having an identity crisis? Does our Sigil stand for nothing, or everything that we were, we are and we will be? Do our words mean nothing more than some ancient old men’s scrawling in acts of desperation to be free? Do our words:

 “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

have no meaning left in them?

Or these:

The Home of the Free. The Land of the Brave

Lest we forget.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

For Honest and True Real

In 1922, one of the most celebrated children’s books of all time became a reality; The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams.

As students from high schools and colleges across the world prepare for Pomp and Circumstance to usher them into the “adulthood” of life, it is my hope that they will take with them all the stories they treasured as children. Because, contained within all the pages of all the bedtime stories is the secret of what it is to be real.

It’s easy – far too easy – to get lost in the hustle and bustle of adulthood and lose our sense of wonder. Life circumstances can overwhelm the most adept adult-er, dragging us down into the realms of fear, pain, and despair; the place where we forget who our friends are, and all of our favorite things.

The one thing that we learn from The Velveteen Rabbit is that to be for honest and true real, we must love and be loved in return.

As Mother’s Day comes to a close, all across the world mothers are tucking in their children, turning off the lights as bedtime stories come to a close. In The Velveteen Rabbit, as the little bunny’s quest to become real culminates with the kiss of the nursery fairy, know this:  the Nursery Fairy is your mother. Whether she gave birth to you, adopted you into her loving arms, or is your mother for only a short-time as a foster mother, she is the one who knows without prejudice, without judgment, and without restraint what love is, and to love and be loved is to be real. 

You are real and you are loved.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

In the Garden

"Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow." ~  Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

 Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden was first published in its entirety in 1911, and it has been a favorite of young girls ever since. There’s a lot to be learned from this 331 page compilation of human tragedy and triumph.

The book opens in the dreary depths of winter, where the world seems gray and life at a standstill. The air is crisp and bitter, much like the tongues and hearts of the inhabitants of Misselthwaite Manor. Winter seems to have that effect on people. However, winter is the season where a choice must be made, by everyone, will we be bitter or better. Will we choose to blossom with the rising of the spring sun?

Oftentimes, people will find themselves in the depths of the despair of tragedy and unfortunately choose to stay there. They allow their hearts to solidify into a hardened stone. Some hearts never heal. The Secret Garden is filled with characters struggling with loss, grief, despair, and demoralization. The beauty that lies within the pages of this book is that no matter the darkness that enshrouds the situation, there is always hope, there is always a way to find the path to better days.

Mary, one of the most introverted child characters ever to grace the pages of a children’s novel, is contrary by definition. However, the girl has lost both of her parents, moved to a new home where she knows no one, and quite spoiled by her affluent lifestyle in India. Mary finds solace in a secret only she knows, in the forbidden garden that had been shut up by Master Craven at the death of his wife. Ironically, it was Master Craven himself who gave Mary the key to the garden when she only asked for a bit of earth.

The garden is dead to the eye, but along comes Dickon to prove otherwise. Dickon, the son of Susan Sowerby and the brother of the cheerful maid assigned to tend to Mary, cuts the bark of one of the trees in the garden and says, “It is quick.” Now back in those days, the word quick meant alive. I love this particular part of the book, because it teaches us something we don’t often practice these days: you must look deeper beneath the surface to find life and hope.

Another favorite part of the book of mine is where Mary teaches Colin, the supposed invalid son of Master Craven, that he is not a victim of circumstance. We’ve all met or been the sick person who is cranky and certain of impending death. Colin is mean-spirited and bitter. He has to make a choice, one that can only come from him. Will he try or will he lie down and die, because that is what is expected of him.

We all have our secret garden. It is the place that lives within. It is the place where the flame of hope burns eternal. No matter what it looks like on the outside, there is life and beauty, hope and love that exist inside. Some people call it the will to live, or the primal instinct of survival, I call it faith.

You see, The Secret Garden, is about finding the one thing that will save us all. It’s about finding the faith to believe in something greater than ourselves. The garden, Lilias’ garden, in the book is only a symbol of that faith. It is reflected in abundance and beauty and grace, only when the source of its life is tended; friendship also known as fellowship, believing in miracles, and knowing that there is a life source that is far beyond our own imagination.

We must all tend our garden in such a manner that it emanates the glory and steadfastness of the one who planted it. To do anything less is to give away the keys to the Kingdom.

Through literature, we learn to live, to love, and to conquer!