Sunday, 12 July 2020

Nature of Adversity

I doubt anyone appreciates how extensively human life has been thrown in turmoil, uncertainty and a sense of loss the past few months. I've certainly spent my share of days in a sort of numb awareness that has left me with little incentive, or even desire, to push forward with the zeal of the past. Energy has been at an all-time low and anxiety has been hard to suppress. My heart goes out to anyone who is feeling the same emotional stressors. I especially feel compassion and sorrow for all the children who have not been able to attend school where they can grow mentally, psychologically, socially or perhaps even physically during these days when most everyone is just waiting for the next shoe to drop. While I understand that no home life is perfect, many children are in more danger there than anyplace else. What happens to them will not even magnify itself until life gets back to a normalcy they can relate to. My biggest fear is that not all of them will be able to readjust because they were in such a fragile place when the chaos started.

My granddaughter, who will be 12 in September, spent the weekend with me. She's no longer interested in playing simple board games or watching Barbie or Strawberry Shortcake movies. She's also moved passed being able to spend hours playing with the dolls I've so painstaking created entire wardrobes for, or even the Shopkins' village and dolls that used to get me through hours of delightful time spent doing the things she loved. She no longer feels the need to snuggle up by my side while we read stories or watch movies designed for teens. She's even grown past the need to sleep with me at night. All that's perfectly normal and healthy for a preteen who is now more into friends, a cell phone, (And yes, I think she is way too young for internet access given what can be found on it.) writing stories, fixing her hair, playing games like Mindcraft, listening to her kind of music, spending time with her puppy and generally being a little moody.

But she still loves to talk, and I love to listen because I know she will tell me what is really bothering her if I don't shut her down too soon. She's very confused because she doesn't understand what happened to her usual life with school, church, specialized activities and the freedom to come and go as she wants without being afraid. In many ways, she's not like other children. She has social anxiety, along with several other disorders, that makes it hard for her to relate to other people, keep friends for an extended period of time, wear certain types of clothing, eat various kinds of foods, keep her emotions in check or even feel success at school because she can't sit still. Nonetheless, she wants to return to the classroom but knows she can't study and be around other people if she has to wear a mask. And  her parents can't homeschool, even if they felt they had the skills, because they both have to work to provide the necessities of life. It's quite a dilemma for a child to face.

That said, she's stuck in a place she doesn't want to be and is afraid Covid-19 and all the protesting, looting, destruction and murders of innocent people in the name of justice will never end. She's afraid of dying and not being able to accomplish the things she'd like to do. I can't say that I blame her. The effects of what has been happening the past few months will take years to mend and bring to the forefront issues we haven't even considered yet. I've gotten to a point where I can no longer listen to, or watch, mainline media news programming. It is completely slanted and takes away the spirit of peace, love for others and hope that makes my life worth living. While I doubt we will lose everything we value, so many of our freedoms have already been erased. I stand for God, country, family, peace, liberty and all the virtues and principles the Savior taught. I want to do my part in furthering his work. His second coming will be a glorious experience for those who survive the final destruction of a world that had chosen to forget who created it, and us, in the first place.

Along with general anxiety and not knowing what to do to help improve the situation because each word or action can be taken wrong, I have been going through a few minor difficulties of my own. I gave myself a mild concussion while gardening a few weeks ago. Talk about a massive headache that wouldn't go away! I had been working outside for over 4 hours and had just finished mowing the lawn. As I often do, I was spreading the cut clippings around my plants in the garden. It helps fertilize and keep the weeds down. Well, I had my arms filled and wasn't watching where I was going. My toe caught on something, and I reached for the closest object to keep from falling - a wire tomato cage. I'm sure I don't need to tell you what happened next because those cages cannot support a human's weight. With my arms flailing in the air and the grass clippings flying, I went down, and it wasn't a soft fall. I broke off part of the tomato plant and bent the round cage into almost parallel lines. But it didn't stop there. The side of my face struck the upright boards that separated the strawberries from the rest of my garden. The crack was hard, the pain dizzying, but I didn't lose consciousness. Fortunately, I didn't mess up my eye or break my jaw as could so easily have happened.

When I finally got to my feet, there wasn't a part of my head that didn't hurt and the goose egg on my cheekbone quadrupled during the next few hours. It took several days for all the bruises to appear and several weeks before I could think straight again. I was just starting to feel like myself when I got up on Thursday morning of this past week and couldn't stand up without pain. I don't know what I did to my left knee, but I still can't lift my foot over two inches off the floor without incredible agony. But I'm determined to get through this latest setback, like I did with my head, without seeing a doctor. Unfortunately, the fun just keeps coming. When I woke up this morning, both of my eyes were nearly swollen shut. I was having a sever allergic reaction to something. They look like two, tiny slits in my face. On the bright side, my garden is flourishing.  I've been given summer squash and cucumbers away, and it looks like I'll have a bumper crop of pumpkins this year. I'll be picking beans and peas in the next couple of weeks.

But even with the minor adversities I've had to endure recently, I know I've been blessed. I have a dear friend in Branson, Missouri who couldn't go back to work because of the virus, and then her boss decided to shut down his entire theater. The place where she was living was part of her salary, so she lost both her home and her job in one day. She has no family, no reserve income, no insurance and no prospects for work. She finally found a friend who would let her live in a room in the motel she ran. So my friend boxed up what she most treasured and put it in storage. She left everything else for whomever decided to take it. The week she moved into the motel room, she ended up in the hospital hardly able to breathe. It wasn't Covid-19, but she had fluid in her lungs among other things.

Once the doctor got enough fluid out, he found a huge, inoperable lump in her chest - not breast cancer - but cancer nonetheless. When she called me from the hospital, where she was still trying to recover from the first illness, to tell me what she'd just learned she was rightfully distressed. She felt she had nothing left to live for. I gave her what encouragement I could from a distance and she started chemo therapy. (I haven't been through that, but I have family members and friends who have.) When I talked to her a couple of day ago, her hair was falling out and the doctor wanted to add something more to the cocktail she was getting. She's back in her motel room now with a few friends around who are willing to bring her food. The manager took out one of the beds and put in a couch so it would feel more like home, and one of her friends took her to church last Sunday. She said it was where she needed to be. She has an uphill battle ahead, but for now, she's still fighting.

The above are just three examples of adversity that may, or may not, relate to what you are going through right now. The challenges we'll have put in our paths will be different, but with God's help we'll make it through, regardless of the outcome. I trust my Heavenly Father. I always have, even during times when I thought I couldn't go on. But I have to believe that no matter the difficulty, there is a way to survive and even thrive. There is definitely something to learn. My heart is filled with gratitude for people who do so many unselfish things for me and who allow me to do what I can in return. We are all God's children. There should be no division between us. When we meet our maker again, whether or not we believe we have one, there will be an accountability. I want to be standing where I should be when that time comes.


Thursday, 11 June 2020

Still Struggling

Like most everyone I know, I'm still trying to come to terms with all that's been happening throughout the world the past few months. I may not be very outgoing, but I'm generally an upbeat and positive person who feels peaceful inside because I know who I am, why I am here, and where I will be going when this mortal experience is over. I feel calm and basically in charge of my own destiny because I know how to make difficult decisions, stand by myself if necessary and move on after debilitating experiences. I like to look for the good in others, praise accomplishments and mourn with those who are in pain.

But I'm beginning to see life through a different color of lens and that frightens me. I listen to a few minutes of local news, but I'm tired of letting the national media, that is owned and operated by powerful entities with their own agendas, tell me what to think about and how I should react to what is being covered. I taught journalism and radio and television production for twenty years and know the power of the media when it comes to influencing the daily lives of the people it's supposed to represent. While I believe that most of the newscasters are trying to do their jobs in an honorable way, I also know that they are being told which stories to air and which ones to avid. That gives the public a very slanted view of what is really going on in our world. As consumers of information, we shouldn't be afraid to look at alternate sources of enlightenment. Violence, unrest, injustice and everything reprehensible will always propel the news, but that's only because society has become so desensitized that only something truly awful will capture our interest.

That said, I feel genuine sorrow for all people have lost through illness, death, livelihoods, injustice and the downright diabolical intents of people who believe they can get away with anything. But mostly, I remain silent because far too many individuals are blasting out, protesting, and rioting against people and situations before the entire story is known. We do have a right to be heard, but we also have the responsibility to do so lawfully and with all the facts. Too much damage is being done to the masses who have yet to make their wishes and desires known.  My belief is that a hatred, violence and demands made in moments of heated arousal will not solve anything. Only linking arms and moving forward in unity and love for everyone will bring about the the kind of change that will help our planet survive for a few more years. That takes time, the ability to listen and sort through information and the resolve to stay the course of liberty and justice for ALL when things get tough.

I finally got to attend church for the first time in almost three months on Sunday. In some ways, it was a very different experience because things were done differently to help protect others. It was hard wearing a mask and not being able to sit by, or converse more openly with, people I've known and loved for a number of years. But I needed the strength that came from worshiping with others and renewing covenants I had made with my Savior. What a tragedy it would be if we allowed any more of the freedoms our founding fathers worked so hard to protect to be lost. That's so important during an election year when the public will decided which of the men and women running for local, state and federal offices will best represent personal beliefs, wants and desires.

America has always been the land of the free, but I have no doubt that forces are at work to destroy what most of us have always taken for granted. I've been watching the latest developments of the DayBell and Vallow case that has unfolded the past few days just two houses away from where I raised my children in Salem, Idaho. How two people could be responsible for the deaths of a brother, a former husband, a wife and two innocent children is beyond my ability to comprehend, but it is just another proof that evil is rampant everywhere and we need to remember that our country was founded under God's direction. Without his guidance and protection, we will lose what others have given their all to protect. My message right now is for each of us to decide where we stand, how much of what we're being told we're willing accept, and what we're willing to do to preserve the freedoms we love. Someday, each of us will account for the part we played in what was going on around us.


Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Down Days

I was having one of those days yesterday when introspection became too much. I've been having a lot of those lately. I suppose many of you have been feeling the same way. Listening to the news and feeling so helpless and out-of-control can have a negative effect on most anyone. So I decided to try a technique I have not used for a long time to see if I could get the root of my troubles. They include no energy, inability to focus, lack of interest in much of anything besides chocolate, the need to berate myself for everything I do and the desire to take a nap most every day. That's not like me, but times are different right now, and as members of a global society we've been forced to think about things that have never been part of our lives before. I decided to share what I learned because I don't have what it takes to do anything more useful than that right now.

I went to the dentist this morning with a toothache. After an hour in the chair trying to do a root canal, the dentist figured out that the tooth had cracked close to the roots and would have to be removed. After close to thirty shots in my very sensitive mouth because my tooth refused to deaden, he finally got it out two hours later. Since I can't afford implants it's another partial bridge for me. Maybe this will help with the diet I've been considering for the past five years because now I will have one bridge on each side and they make eating many foods impossible. I just took my first pain pill and will start taking the antibiotic when I can drink something more than water.

We all have fun experiences like that make us glad we have dentists who can help, even if it's one of the last places we ever want to be. Anyway, back to why I decided to write something today. I think I've mentioned a type of therapy where a person writes what the problem is with the dominant hand and then answers it with the non-dominant one. Any part of the inner self can be addressed: spiritual self, inner child, childhood friend. You just need to figure out who might have the answer because everything we need to now about ourselves is there. We just have to learn how to access the information. If you think it all sounds silly, that's okay. I'm only sharing because it works for me. It's a little tricky to read what I've written with my left hand, but it's manageable and has taught me a lot.

Here's how I began. Sometime I have to be a little blunt to get the process going: Dear Inner Self, I don't know where all the anger, self-loathing and lack of focus is coming from. I've tried so hard to stay closer to God, but I seem to have hit a roadblock that is dragging all the life and energy out of me. I can't write. I'm tired all the time. I have nothing to look forward to, and I have no idea what value I am to anyone. I need clarity to move forward. What is driving me to hate myself so much and not be able to see any good? I can't even rejoice over other's success or open my heart to anyone in pain. I seem to have forgotten who I am, and I'm scared of never feeling peace again. What is wrong with me and what can I do to change?

My answer, and it was very difficult to read: Stop punishing yourself for things beyond your control. Most everyone is feeling the same right now. Satan's forces are moving around at lightening speed, and they want you to feel helpless, alone and afraid. They know all your thoughts are turned inward and you won't have the energy to oppose their subtle suggestions. Nor will you have the strength to do any good. Few people produce real change or become truly extraordinary. They only live and let live and do all the positive they can. They feel content with the small beauties God has provided - sun, flowers, family and a few loyal friends. They feel all the raw emotions that come with being human, and most of them aren't noble or endearing to the masses. Pain is real and so is self-doubt. The adventure is to work through it and regroup when you get to the other side. Triggers to negative thoughts can't always be determined, but the pain can be eased if acknowledged and accepted. It doesn't mean a person is bad, just human. 

Accept God's love, mercy and compassion. Know he is real. Let him help shoulder your burdens when  you no longer have the strength left. In another week, month or year you will be on track again and perhaps even understand. But don't beat yourself up if you don't. Just try to do one thing each day that helps you serve or connect to others. Love yourself, and even if you are feeling really down make yourself smile and then listen to or do something that makes you happy. Count your blessings and not your flaws. Understand that this experience isn't the real you. It is just something that is happening to you and will go away if you allow yourself to grieve, scream, cry or even throw something invaluable if you have to. But never give up. Brighter days will come. Anger will recede. You'll start moving around with more purpose, peace will fill your soul and you will feel happy and worthwhile again.

That's it. Some of the thoughts are disjoined but they make sense to me, and the exercise helped. I feel much more positive today. That said, I'm no therapist. I'm simply a suffering member of the human race and know that everyone needs a little help at times. That's why I try to stay connected to all the parts of me. I especially enjoy getting to know the little girl inside. She's quite delightful with a witty edge who isn't afraid to tell me what she really thinks. I wish she would come out to play more often. I miss her and want to be more like she is again.

But it's time to start another disagreeable project. I have a leak in the water facet inside the wall in my basement and have to find a plumber who won't try to overcharge me. I may be a woman alone who isn't supposed to know anything, but I have learned a few things over the years. Hope you've had a tranquil and productive day. The pain killer I took for my tooth a couple of hours ago is really doing its job. I'm not feeling much of anything. Maybe I'll close my eyes for a few minutes before finding something nutritious to drink. No solids for the next day or two.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

My way to say Thank You

Need a break from your new reality? Three FREE books from family, adventure and romance author JS Ririe available Thursday, Friday and Saturday - May 21, 22 and 23 at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv.

     I know these past few months have been hard for all of us. I've certainly gone through my own share of feeling unable to move forward, but it's nice to know that life is staring to feel more normal again, and I wanted to do something to celebrate. That's why I'm hosting my biggest giveaway yet. Join Brylee Hawkins in Indecision’s FlameLost and Exposed (Kindle version) as she returns to her childhood home in the wild Australian Outback to confront her estranged father about the part he played in destroying her life. Standing face to face, she soon discovers that the painful truth she has clung to was not an actual depiction of events as they transpired. Her story will provide hours of relaxation, rejuvenation and a little soulful insight.
     And don’t forget that the conclusion to the Reagan Sinclair, FBI saga - Welcome Redemption - is now available. It was quite a challenge to write, but I'm happy with the results and the beautiful cover. You'll have to check it out on my website and let me know what you think. I'd also love to hear any stories you may have about true heroism during this strange time. I know I've seen some awe inspiring examples.
     All my books are suitable for teens and available for free to members of Kindle Unlimited. Happy reading everyone and may the joy return to your hearts!

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

New Beginnings

I've been leaving my home the past couple of weeks. I haven't gone far - but it's been enough to see how much the world I've become accustomed to has changed the past few months. I planned carefully for my first excursion into what seemed like a great abyss beyond the four walls of my home and the yard I have been so carefully tending. I've been watching the news like everyone else, trying to weigh what I was being told, and promising myself that I would do whatever the people in charge thought was prudent so I wouldn't become part of the problem. I counted down the days until my prescriptions ran out, sewed a number of masks from heavy flannel left over from baby quilts and doll clothes I had been making for my granddaughter, and then got up before dawn the last Tuesday morning in April so I could make it to Walmart during the time specified for seniors. The sun was just starting to rise beyond the horizon when I pulled into the parking lot and put on the uncomfortable and unaccustomed mask we had been told to wear.  I wanted to be brave enough to enter the building without it, but after seven weeks of staying at home because of age and underlying health conditions, I decided to remain cautious.

I was met at the entrance to the building by a young man in a similar mask who asked if I was over sixty. When I told him I was, he stepped aside and let me enter. Few people were in the store, but I still hurried to the pharmacy and picked up what I had come for. Then I walked up and down a few of the aisles, often missing the arrows that told me which way I was supposed to be going, and began filling my cart with some of the things I had run out of during the weeks I had refrained from shopping. I felt moments of alarm when some of the items I needed were already gone and felt as if I was part of some horror movie when others looked away or ducked their heads instead of saying something welcoming and friendly like they usually did. I kept asking myself why something we were supposed to be in together was pulling us so far apart. By the time I left, I was nearly in tears. This wasn't the world I had known before, and I didn't want to live like this.

I know many of you have felt the same way as you've struggled to make sense of an almost unbelievable situation that has brought so much sorrow, concern and near terror and has plunged the economy of numerous countries into a downward spiral that won't be easy to stop or restore. It isn't fun to step from the known and acceptable into the turmoil we now face as members of the human race, but it can be done once step at a time. I discovered that for myself as I went to Walmart for a second time last week and then branched out by going to a local market. I spoke to everyone who would look at me, even though I could scarcely breathe through the cumbersome mask and my glasses were a little foggy. I knew I couldn't do anything to stop what was happening, but I couldn't let fear, doubt and uncertainty control me any longer. I could still brighten someone's day by being kind and cheerful and letting them know that I appreciated the service they were willing to give.

Perplexing questions still fill my mind, but I feel more confident about getting on with my life now. The valves underneath the sink in my guest bathroom began to leak - saturating every towel and roll of toilet paper I had stored underneath the cabinet - before I realized what was happening. I took pictures of the the problem and went to Lowe's to get what I needed so my son could fix the problem last Friday. I even went back the next day to get a cap so the pipe in the basement wall would quit dripping, and today I went to see the doctor for my semi-annual checkup. Those may sound like simple things, but sometimes baby steps are all we can take when trying to move into a new reality.  It isn't easy to be interrogated upon entering a building, have your temperature taken, or be given a mask to wear if you don't already have one, but most of the people making the rules are simply doing the best they can to help protect others. I believe everyone has the right to make his or her own decisions, but I choose to look out for the people around me. I know I'm not contagious, but the severity of my allergies can raise a few eyebrows when I cough, sneeze or blow my nose. I don't want anyone feeling unsafe around me.

But through all of this, the greatest changes for me have come from within as I've spent additional time reflecting on what is most important in my life: family, faith, friends, a work to do that has value, discovering more about my posterity and listening with real intent to others. I've learned to rely on God and my Savior to give clarity to unanswerable questions.  I've experienced the solace and peace of mind that comes with additional prayer, scripture study and filling my home with uplifting music. I've spent more time working in my yard, putting scrapbook pages together and taking care of mending that never gets done. I've looked for ways I can reach out to others who might need someone to lean on. I've baked treats for others, made it a point to speak to every neighbor when I see them and try to reflect on what Christ would do if he was walking in my shoes.

I don't know what the future is going to bring. It might be different from anything we have known before, but that shouldn't stop us from loving and caring for each other. Even if it is awkward and uncomfortable since we're supposed to be practicing social distancing, we still need to be friendly, kind, patient and accommodating when we can. The part I play in this world may be small, but I intend to do what I can to make it a better place. I can hardly wait until congregations can worship together again, children can return to school and so many people no longer have to worry about going hungry, losing their homes or their lives or being afraid. I know God is with those of us who turn to him. His arms are ever open to help and guide us, and he will bring peace of mind and daily protection from things that will bring us harm. A little soulful reflection can be a very good thing.


Thursday, 23 April 2020

Welcome Redemption

WELCOME REDEMPTION!!! After months of intense work, I am more than thrilled to announce the conclusion of Reagan Sinclair’s story in both print and digital format at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv It’s probably been the hardest book I’ve ever written but also the most insightful. I’m sure part of that has to do with the struggles we’ve all been having the past few weeks worrying about things that have never been considered before. I hope this story helps you feel less alone and more hopeful as you read about one woman’s struggle to overcome hardships she never anticipated. I feel rather odd releasing it during such a troubling time but can only say that it's been my lifeline the past few weeks spending hours each day rewriting, modifying and editing the story so it would be a fitting conclusion to her story about life, loss, joy, decisions and moving forward during times of trials and overwhelming feelings of helplessness. 

I’ve felt that way so often the past few weeks as I've been homebound with too much time to think. I finally had to limit my watching the news to an hour or less a day. It's too easy to get caught up in things that only God can control right now, and it's made me value my trust and faith in his goodness, protection and love more than ever. Despite being physically separated from the people I love, it's made me think more about them and how I can reach out with words of encouragement and support. I was cleaning a closet yesterday - something I really have to be down to do - and came across a box of photos and other assorted things that caused me to reflect on people who have been gone for many years. I searched my mind for everything I could remember about them, even something so silly as the color of the house they lived in, what they liked to eat or the fact that one of them drove down a busy San Francisco street on Sunday on her way to a card game with two of her grand-nieces in the back seat. I was young and one of them.

I decided I would take a little time to put together a sort of scrapbook with pictures and what I could remember about the people in them written  down. I'm not artistic that way, but I know that once I'm gone no one in my family will know anything about them. What I remember is limited, but it's the only thing I have left to offer them. I'm so grateful for the gifts they gave to me about being strong in the face of adversity and committing with all they had to what they valued most. My great grandparent's on my mother's, mother's side were sent to eastern Idaho to help colonize the area. They lived in a dugout in the side of the mountain with only a heavy tarp hung in front of the entrance to keep the cold, wind, rain and snow out for many months until they were able to construct a log home with no electricity or plumbing. I'm not sure I could have done it.

Perhaps part of the sadness I feel comes from losing a very dear friend to Covid-19 last month. We might all be in this together, but we have very different parts to play. Mine might only be to stay at home so I won't become part of the problem, but I can use that time more wisely. I'm so glad the weather has finally warmed up. I've spent over 4 hours each of the past 4 days working in my yard edging flowerbeds, pulling weeds, mowing lawn and all the other things that have to do with helping the world reawaken in the spring. There's tons more to do, but I love to see new growth as I greet each day. It helps me remember that we are not alone. Our lives are meant to be filled with purpose, joy and hope. I want mine to reflect something more than being upset over things I cannot change. I pray for everyone throughout the world who is struggling right now and give daily thanks for those who are sacrificing so much in keeping commitments they have made to careers that put them in a place of danger. May God bless each of you and your precious families as you meet each new day with the courage, faith and determination to make it count. And if you'd like to read something that will help you forget about your struggles for a few minutes, I'd love to read your comments about any of the books I've written. They may not be perfect, but they are from my heart. Those with Kindle Unlimited can read anything I've written for free. Stay safe today and know you are loved.

Friday, 27 March 2020

A New Nomal

I haven’t written anything the past few weeks. Like so many of you with age and health-related conditions that plunge me right into the highest risk group, I’ve felt completely inadequate, and even a little selfish, just staying in my home so I won’t become part of the problem. I listen to the news and pray for others who have medical knowledge and are putting their lives on the line to help those who have become infected. I marvel at the bravery and selflessness of first responders, truck drivers, government officials, church leaders and people still working in stores, restaurants, pharmacies and industry so our lives can go on in what has been termed a new kind of normal. They are providing the necessities of life to those who are trying to follow the rules and guidelines so this terrible virus can reach its peak and subside. I look in awe at others who are finding creative ways to help and keep in contact with family, neighbors and friends and wish I was more of an extrovert who had invited additional people into my life before this whole thing began. I feel sorrow and concern for those who are unemployed or have lost loved ones.

It is a scary and depressing situation. People are going through an unprecedented range of emotions, but there is no one person to blame. I keep praying for insight and the ability to know what I can do to help as I paint walls, polish floors and clean out cupboards as a way to keep my mind from wandering or spending too much time glued to one of our many forms of technology. Nothing happened until a few minutes ago when I was working on the last few chapters of my next book. As I was trying to set my main characters up for the grand finale of the entire series, I began to see that what I was writing had direct relevance for me. Maybe right now isn’t my time to shine or become anyone’s hero. Maybe I’m supposed to be taking these days and weeks to discover who I am at present and what it will take for me to become the woman God intended for me to be all along. I’ve always resisted moving out of my comfort zone unless something forced me to do so.

We are just seeing the first wave of the destruction this pandemic is going to bring. But becoming overly discouraged, fearing the future or shouting out our beliefs about injustice and who is making what mistakes isn’t going to help. It’s time to face both our strengths and our weaknesses and decide what we’re able and willing to do once all the bans have been lifted. Who will require our help then, and what can we be doing now to prepare to meet those needs? It will be an individual decision for each of us. But regardless of what others may be lacking, and our inability to help others - even then - we can always offer hope, love and friendship.

And when we are feeling weak, we can look into the faultless, blue sky when it isn’t raining and know that we are not alone. God will bring us through this a stronger and more compassionate people if we put our trust in Him. Quiet acts of kindness, and the willingness to put our own needs aside as we look into someone else’s heart, will get us through the difficult days that still lay ahead. I hope I will be ready when the time for the kind of service I can give comes again. What about you? 

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Precious Children




I got up this morning with every intention of adding to my last blog. The news lately has been overrun with the disappearance or death of God's precious children by the hands of their parents, foster parents, care givers and total strangers. One of these stories was on Dateline a couple of Friday's ago, and it really struck home because much of it took place in the town closest to where I raised my own children in Southeastern Idaho. The bizarre happenings have become so sensationalized that people around the globe now know the names of everyone involved and are just waiting to see what will happen next.

As a former teacher of high school journalism and television production, I know how the media works. Their job is to sell the news by slanting it in whatever direction will get the most readers and viewers. And like it or not, we have become a society that literally devours tragedy, ruthlessness, anti-heroism, the inhumane, the bad and the disgusting. I suppose that's the reason I went into overload this morning after reading an article my sister sent about new legislation in Washington state. The headline read: Sex ed bill requires R-rated material taught to children."

I won't go into details because it was much too graphic and disturbing for my gentle spirit. I believe children should be allowed to play, grow and learn without being bombarded by things they are too young to understand. There is a time and a place for everything, and not all children are ready to learn about certain things at the same age. But after shutting down my computer and getting ready for church, I suddenly realized that I didn't want to write about the atrocities perpetuated against children again like I had planned on doing. They hurt too much for the survivor and will never be fully understood. 

Satan wants us to become so discouraged, depressed, and even fascinated with his evil designs, and the people who choose to follow him, that we can no longer see the good in the world and express gratitude for the millions of wonderful parents who are trying to safeguard their children and instill healthy values. So I decided to comment on some of the amazing people I've viewed over the past few weeks who have set such a tremendous example for me. I've seen numerous parents who have children with disabilities like Down's Syndrome, Autism, anxiety, missing limbs, loss of hearing or sight and the inability to communicate who show tremendous compassion, acceptance, tolerance and love. 

I suppose that's why I love being part of a religious community so much and having the privilege of teaching little children each week at church. I love their innocence, beauty, self-acceptance, inquisitiveness and ability to learn. I love watching fathers help their sons do difficult tasks and mothers taking their daughters to activities where they can be included, even if they don't understand. 

But I suppose the most life-altering experience I've had recently is watching a family at church as they rose to the challenge of accepting what God had in mind for their son. He was born at less than 27 weeks and weighed only little over a pound. His chance of survival was minimal. His esophagus hadn't even attached to his stomach, and there was nothing he could do on his own. His sweet parents were given the choice of allowing him to die in as much comfort as the nurses and doctors could provide, or have him life-flighted to a neonatal facility at the University of Utah hospital. They chose to take a risk.

I watched and listened in a state of almost suspended animation as these faithful and brave parents spent time with him each day, cherishing each moment because they knew it could be his last. Prayers were sent heavenward, medical personnel kept constant watch and God sent miracles. Today McKay reached five pounds. He is two and a half months old and has been through more in his short time on earth than most people go through in a long and productive lifetime. When I see his beautiful face, and eyes so bright and alert, I know I am seeing God's tender mercy in action. No one knows what the future might bring for him, but for me, and all who are aware of him, he has taught us so much about our reason for being here.

We came to earth to gain a body, follow God's commandments, do good as our Savior did, gain experience and prove our willingness to put aside the natural man so we can return to our heavenly home again. If I choose to fill my mind with all the evil and negativity in the world, I'm missing the entire point for being here. That's not to say I shouldn't be aware of, and do, what I can to make bad situations better. We can't be fence sitters and expect to foster the right kind of change. But if I want to spread personal light, it has to come from within. 

That's why I choose to focus on the positive today. It makes my heart soar when I see others who share the same desire. Life will be filled with hard knocks for all of us, and we need to be there for others who feel they may be losing their way. Especially our children. They are the future of the world and all that is in it. When I leave this earth, I hope the babies I tried to carry in this life will be there to meet me. I dedicate the following poem to them, and to all parents who have lost children before they were able to hold them in their arms. They may not be with us in body, but they are always part of our soul. Perhaps we love and cherish others more because of all we have lost.


My tiny, precious baby,
just a few short moments ago 
your physical body left mine.
Only heaven can know the pain
and sorrow I am now experiencing.

It is so real, so intense, so consuming.
Yet somewhere deep inside 
is a calmness, a loving certainty
that you are back home where you belong
with our Heavenly Father and Mother.

I wanted to give you a physical body,
a home for your spirit, and a family 
who would always love and support you.
I wanted to feel your tiny arms around my neck
and hear you call me “mommy.”

Oh, I know God must love you very much
and He must need you with Him a little longer.
But that does not stop the anguish
or the sorrow that comes from losing you.
For leaving your remains where I can never visit them.

And it does not take away the emptiness
I will feel inside when I leave this hospital 
without you inside of me, next to my heart, 
where I can cherish the feeling of your little spirit 
growing, changing, becoming someone wonderful.

Yesterday, a one-time miracle happened.
The doctor did an ultra sound.
I saw your tiny body, every finger and toe, 
clinging desperately and heroically to mine,
and your strong heart beating with clarity.

I knew you were a fighter,
and that someday you would 
bless the lives of so many others 
with your strength, your caring,
your tenancy and indomitable spirit.

I can see the temple through my window.
Its brilliant light seems to be guiding my way.
The clock says it is nearly three in the morning.
The physical danger for me has not yet passed, 
but when it does, life will go on. 

Still, I doubt my emotional longing for you 
will ever subside into anything less
than profound heartache and a gnawing
question about God's timing and design; 
His reason for taking you from me.

But know this, my darling baby,
I wanted you, and you will always be
part of my life, my soul and my heart.
Every time I look up into the blue of the sky,
I will pray that someday we will meet.

That I can look into your angle face
and give you all that was denied to both of us
in this mortal lifetime of hard discovery.
Believing that will someday happen gives me 
the courage to move forward on my own. 

Be brave my precious baby of great promise.
Know that God is real, His purpose kind,
His reasoning fair, and our joy complete
when we are finally allowed to meet.
Eternity will be truly glorious if you are there.



Saturday, 22 February 2020

The Hands

I was reading an article a few days ago in a Brazilian publication, dated Wednesday, January 29, 2020, that forced me to think about a topic I haven't reflected on for quite some time. The title was "Brazilian gov't promotes chastity to teens with 'I choose to wait' program." The subtitle read. "Abortion proponents not surprisingly object to sex education that doesn't promote artificial contraception."

Keeping children safe from experiences that could damage the rest of their lives is an issue close to my heart, so I was anxious to read what it said. Damares Alves, Brazil's Minister for Women, Family and Human Rights was asking parents to simply consider telling their teenagers to wait until adulthood before having sex. That idea unleashed a rampage of negative comments from many factions who believe that contraceptives and abortions are the only way to to stop the epidemic of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. But that isn't what stunned me into almost disbelief. The statement that brought tears to my eyes, and a great deal of pain and renewed suffering said that there was a bill before Brazil's congress that would lower the age of consensual sex to twelve. She believes that would only legalize pedophilia, and I completely agree.

Engaging in, or being forced into, acts that are not understood destroys not only the moral fabric of a victim's life but tarnishes every relationship that might be entered into later on. While I know not everyone will agree with my sentiments, I speak from personal experience as to what being sexually molested did to me. I was ten and eleven when my violin teacher began touching me inappropriately. I knew something wasn't right. The nausea in my stomach and the sickness in my heart were telling me that. But when I finally got the courage to tell my mother what was happening, her reply was not something a child is likely to hear today. This was before children had any rights, and  parents ruled with what seemed like an iron fist. She told me that he had never done that to her, so he couldn't possibly be doing it to me. I was just using it as an excuse so I wouldn't have to practice.

I was forced to continue with my lessons until I was so torn up inside that every time I picked up my bow I began pulling out my eye lashes and eye brows. I don't know what finally made my mother reconsider. Maybe it was the haunted look in my eyes. I see pictures that were taken of me around that time and find it hard to believe they're even real. I was just glad to have the horror stop. Eventually, I was able to keep it from invading my every waking thought, but it was still corroding my spirit. I started to cry and became physically ill the first time a boy asked me out on a date. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't let any boy get close to me - not even ones I really liked.

I wanted to date and have fun like all the other girls, but there was something inside holding me back. Even when I was in college and dating dozens of different guys, I never felt like I could really connect with any of them. I just drifted from guy to guy hoping that someday I would meet someone who could make me feel alive. I even fell in love a couple of times, but the relationships never went anywhere. And if a guy's hands looked a certain way, I couldn't bear to have him touch me. I eventually married  a man I wasn't really attracted to because I was twenty-three, and he kept insisting that he needed me. It was a disastrous mistake, and one I have paid for ever since making it. I was a vulnerable virgin with no one to guide or protect me.

Being a dutiful, submissive wife was easy because that's the way I had been raised, but whatever was going on inside of me continued to fester until my body started to shut down.  The doctor finally told me that I would be dead in six months if I didn't do something to stop it. After a great deal of soul-searching I walked out the door and never looked back. I wish I could say there was a miraculous flood of light that let me know what had been going on inside of me all those years, but that's not what happened. It was another decade before I almost had a complete nervous breakdown, and the therapist asked if I was aware of all the abuse I had suffered throughout most of my life.

I really had no idea what she was talking about. I had always considered myself just a weak person who hadn't earned the right to be loved. (Maybe I'll talk more about that in another post.) But right now, I want to share with you something I learned in the few weeks of therapy I had with her before she succumbed to breast cancer. It's all about self-reflection and being strong enough to reach inside to the damaged child that will always be a part of who I am. That little girl told me about the hands and what they had done to wreck havoc with both of our lives. Perhaps reading what I wrote will give someone the chance to better understand his or her own experience. I still cry whenever I read it, but the realization I gained has made me a better person and a more dedicated defender of children. Childhood and youth should be cherished and protected, not ruled by laws that are created by adults with agendas of their own.


Old man with puffy face, puffy body, puffy hands

and fine, thinning hair, brushed neatly back.
You took my childhood! My youth!
My life! My reason for being!

Your hands played soothing melodies on the violin,
touched my knees, my arms, and traveled slowly up and down.
They made the bile rise to my throat, my skin crawl. 
Your hands have never been forgotten.

I am left with an obsession about men’s hands.
Soft, fleshy, pale, girlie hands can never touch me.
Hands in general cannot touch me.
I don’t trust their motives.

They arouse feelings of fear, isolation and disgust.
They move where they should not go.
They invade my privacy, my inner parts,
make me numb with terror I do not understand.

My mother knows about the hands.
She is the one who should have protected me.
But she thinks I’m making up stories.
You were her teacher once and never touched her.

I’m ashamed. I’m silenced.
I bear my burden by pretending nothing happened.
I half-believe I am crazy, pulling out eyelashes 
and eyebrows each time I pick up my bow. 

Your eyes stare at my breasts,
daring me to move or say something.
I look down at the carpet lying neatly on the floor.
If I do not make contact with them you cannot see me.

I will never make eye contact with men,
then they will not be able to see me or 
my curving breasts and try to touch them.
I am invisible even though my heart is racing.

What are you doing to me? I don’t understand.
My stomach lurches as my hands move
spasmodically back and forth around each other 
trying to make sense of what is happening.

Why won’t anyone listen to me?
Where is the name for what I am feeling?
I am not telling lies; it hurts too badly for that.
I want the feelings, the shame to go away.

I hate you standing behind me where 
I cannot see what you are going to do.
I abhor the feeling of your fingers closing over mine,
the softness of your body brushing against me.

I want to be sick, to scream and push you away,
to stay safe in my room with my dolls and my books.
where windows to the outside world do not exist,
and no one can approach me unnoticed.

You touched me in ways a man should never touch a child.
You looked at me with eyes that stripped away my innocence.
I didn’t know what you were doing, but you did?
Arousing sick passions by looking at and touching me.

You justified your behavior because you never penetrated,
but my spirit understood the evil even if I could not define it.
You took my trust, my ability to know intimacy, 
my self-respect, that special, woman part of me.

I am still a frightened little girl in a woman’s body,
a woman who has never felt safe with a man.
One who has never believed anyone could love her,
anyone, except a disgusting old man.

Yes, you stole my life, all I had to give,
leaving me nothing but a nightmare too horrid to consider
until the darkness crowded out the light, and I was left
with nothing but anger I could not express, even at you.

But you are a monster, the worst kind of criminal.
You deserve castration, public hanging,
branding with the physical mark of child molester.
How can you face the eyes looking back in the mirror?

How many people suspected what you but said nothing?

                                            ~ Jan Hill (aka: JS Ririe)

 


Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Promptings and Valentine's Day Gift for You

A few years ago I was sitting in my beautiful new home next to a private pond in a small forest area in central Missouri where turtles the size of dinner plates walked fearlessly up to my front door and bull frogs sang to each other in the pond. White-tailed rabbits played tag in the grass and deer grazed just beyond the tree line. I had nearly worked myself to death the fourteen previous months clearing debris, planting grass, hauling rocks for flowerbeds and planting rosebushes and other flowers that bloomed profusely in the moderate, humid climate. 

I had also survived three brown recluse spider bites that the doctor treated with the same medication given to anthrax victims, along with falling victim to poison ivy twice since no one had cleared the woods before I tackled them, and I didn’t know what it looked like. But despite a few minor drawbacks, it was a perfect oasis after a teaching career that ended with two years of being the lead witness in a lawsuit the mother of a son with Ashbergers had filed against the school district. I sat through dozens of meetings as the faculty representative and had to testify in federal court. 

While the district won the case, it wasn’t without great sacrifices to my mental and physical health. I needed time to regroup and learn to live with a lot of changes since I had decided to take an early retirement. I knew I would never survive another year in the classroom if I had to deal with another deranged and vindictive parent. So I left all I had ever known, moved halfway across the country and built a home on the acre and a quarter lot next to my sister. It was absolutely perfect. We spent a portion of each day together, and I came to know her husband much better than I had in the past.

But eighteen months after moving there, I began having the feeling that I needed to return to the mountains so I would be closer to my son and his family. His wife had been diagnosed with stage 4 Melanoma Lymphoma nine months after I retired, and I wondered why I hadn’t been prompted to move there in the first place. I missed my children and grandchildren and wanted to be where I could help out more, but I loved where I was living and the calmness around me after so many storms in trying to rebuild my life after a divorce, added schooling, buying and selling three homes, and working for three districts in different parts of my home state. I kept fighting my feelings until my son called one day to say that having me so far away just wasn't working for him any longer. While he respected my right to live where I wanted to be, he needed me where I could be more of a support and help to him and his family while they continued this very difficult journey.

I'm not sure he meant it as a quilt-trip some of our kids are so good at getting us to take, but it did add some much-needed clarity. For the first time in my life, I was being truly selfish. I had a portion of what I had always wanted: my dream house, someone I trusted to talk to each day, enough money to survive on, and an inner peace I didn't want to jeopardize. But I had also promised to be there for my children, and that pledge didn't end just because they were grown with families of their own. So after a great many tears and days spent in soul-searching, I began praying for guidance I wasn't sure I could follow. After much contemplation, and a trip to a place that held great spiritual significance to me, nine words flashed into my mind that made the floodgates open for a very different reason than self-pity. “Eve left the Garden of Eden for her posterity.” 

As a student of the scriptures, I knew Eve had made a difficult decision that many people in the Christian community call a sin. But to me, it was always more of a divine choice because, without it, the rest of God's children would never have had the opportunity to come to earth, receive bodies, learn right from wrong, feel joy and sorrow, be recipients of Christ's Atonement and have the opportunity to live with God again. I love Mother Eve, and in a very simplistic way, I felt I was being asked to make a sacrifice similar to the one she had made so many years ago. I was indeed living in my personal Garden of Eden. I had my dream home in the country near the water in perfectly peaceful and awe-inspiring surroundings. And while I wanted to do what was right, I didn’t want to leave my paradise to go back to the city where people lived nearly on top of each other and life moved so fast it was like a perpetual rollercoaster.

But I had asked God what I needed to do, and he had given me an answer. Now, I had to decide if I was strong enough to live by the faith I always professed to have. Before I had a chance to back out, I put my beautiful, custom-designed home on the market thinking I would have several months to make the transition. But as always happens when least expected, I had an offer the next day. That left me one month before closing to pack everything and make the arrangements necessary for the return trip. Since there wasn't time to return to Utah to look for a home, my son and daughter-in-law said they would find one for me.

They lived in a densely populated area where far too many transplants from California had driven the housing market to a point where I would be lucky to find something even half as spacious and nice for the amount of money I could invest. I tried to be brave as they sent me a dozen or more listings, but it was hard to make a decision because I had always gone by the feeling I got when I walked into a home before deciding to buy it. Walking by faith isn't easy, and it was a struggle to keep the tears from falling when I walked into the house they felt would be perfect me. 

The first thing I noticed was the lack of sunlight, followed by half-a-dozen or more houses seen from every window, hundreds of nail holes in the walls, rough slate floors in the kitchen and dining room, no jetted tub and olive green walls with dark gray trim throughout the entire basement. The only thing that made me smile was the castle that had been built into the playroom. But within two weeks I had all the walls re-painted and had met many of my neighbors. I can't say the move was easy or that I don't miss what I left behind, but I am learning that when we follow righteous promoting the blessings will follow. I've been able to share holidays and special occasions with my son and daughter-in-law - who has now fully recovered. I've spend countless weekends with my granddaughter, published 11 books, and have been able to counsel with my son more often. I've made new friends, been given the opportunity to serve others in ways I never dreamed possible, and have been able to visit my sister at least once each year. 

Is life easy? Not exactly! I still get lonely, discouraged and wonder if I will ever like the house I've been in for over four years now. But I chose to do something incredibly hard for me, and I'm learning to look for the blessings that decision has brought. I suppose that's what all of us must do if we want to find personal peace. God never promised that our lives would be easy. He only promised that they would be worth it. That's why I get up each morning armed with a list of things I want to accomplish. Most of the time, I barely make it through the first few items, but I try to live with purpose because I want to be happy and see the good in every situation.

I know I will never have what I think I want, but what I have is adequate for my needs. Maybe that's the lesson I was supposed to learn all along. I gave up something tangible that I really desired for opportunities to grow and develop in ways I never would had I stayed in my personal Garden of Eden. At least it's something to think about during the quiet moments. If nothing more, I've saved myself countless hours of feeling guilty because I let personal desires override the needs of people I dearly love. For them, no sacrifice will ever be  too great. 

As my Valentine's Day gift to all of you, February 11, 12 and 13, you can download two of my books LOST and RESILIENCE for free at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv . Feel the love and commitment of family, friends, children, husband and significant others in two heart-warming and adventure-filled stories.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

February is Finally Here!

My apologies to anyone who tries to read this post. The funky background color has made part of it almost illegible - somewhat like my handwriting. I was trying to be more creative, but after several   attempts to correct my error before sending it into cyberspace I have to admit defeat. I've accidentally embedded something I do not know how to get rid of.  I suppose we all make mistakes and do things without thinking. It's part of the human experience, but I try not to make them in such a big and dramatic way.  I would have deleted it but felt there might be someone who would appreciate the message my friend has to share. We all live with disappointment and hardships, but she has turned her very visible limitations into amazing strengths that bless so many lives. I used to start each school year by telling my students that everyone has disabilities. Some of them are just more obvious than others. I still believe that is true and try to approach my own issues in a more positive way. It's certainly more productive than crying all the time.

After nearly a month of complaining about gray, dreary skies we have beautiful sun right now. It warms my soul and makes my heart sing. It's chipping away at the loneliness and depression that seems to settle on me each winter as I contemplate a new year and try to decide what I'm going to do to become a more productive, loving and considerate person. Perhaps part of my unexpected joy comes from reading a post on Facebook this morning. I don't spend much time there because it's been my understanding of late that most of the posts my friends share never become available to me. There seems to be a disconnect somewhere in the system that limits the amount of information any subscriber receives, but I suppose that's okay since there's nothing I can do to change it. But during the few moments I spend there, I like to rejoice in my friend's accomplishments and mourn with those who feel loss.

This particular post came from a young woman I've known since her birth. For reasons unknown to the medical community, she was born without legs and a right arm. Her left arm came only the her elbow where three random fingers were attached. Everyone in the community felt sympathy for her parents and siblings and wondered how they would ever survive. But unbeknownst to all of us, this child was meant for greatness. Not that she became world-renown for any outstanding accomplishments, but she grew to womanhood with more courage and a better attitude towards life than any of the most beautiful people I've ever met. Her personality is extraordinary. Her friends  abundant, and her desire to excel nothing short of awe-inspiring. I watched her as a teacher when she was in high school. She was an honor student who went on to graduate from college, marry and began teaching school herself.


I'm not sure what her status in life is right now, but in her own words this morning, she described how she had undergone a personal metamorphous the past few months. She had lost over thirty pounds (something totally mind-boggling to me since she only has the core of her body to work with), was exercising daily, eating better and was now able to get into her wheelchair without as much effort or pain. Linsey's radiant face let me know that she had not given up on life. Instead, it made my nose tickle and a slight pain come to my chest because I don't concentrate on the little, happy things in my life nearly enough. Like yesterday when a snow storm forced me to shovel my driveway and sidewalk twice in six hours. My granddaughter had been sick during the night and came to stay with me for the day while her parents went to work. 


After she had washed the throw-up from her hair, I fixed her scrambled eggs and toast to eat while we watched three Disney, modern-day princess, movies. We laughed, talked and snuggled up together in our favorite chair. I didn't care that I wasn't getting anything on my list of work that needed to be done completed because I knew days like this were coming to an end. She's eleven and wanting to stay with grandma won't last forever. How grateful I am to have her in my life. She's the only granddaughter I will ever have, and she's truly amazing, despite some childish flaws. I hope I can remember that the next time she tells me she doesn't want to eat something I fix or complains about helping me weed the garden. 


The simple things of life are what really matter. They make the tough times easier to bear and the good times more joyful. Knowing we had the opportunity to spend a pleasant day together means more to me than sending my new book off to Amazon like I had done at four o'clock yesterday morning because I was unable to sleep. I hope you've had a moment like that to enjoy recently. If not, look for one. They come quite unexpectedly and often go by unrecognized because we're so busy doing other things.


But since I've mentioned it, I'm going to throw in the link to where my latest book can be found in case you might be interested in something else I've written under the pen name of JS Ririe. https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv 

Unsheltered - Reagan Sinclair, FBI - Book 4, continues the story of a young agent as she is forced into hiding with the baby whose life she saved in the Colombian jungle. It's mostly about making choices, finding answers and living with consequences - something we all have to do. I spend a lot of time thinking about life and how the simplest choices can make the most difference in where we end up or who we become. There is a spark of genius in everyone that can make the world better. I try to look for that in the people I meet each day.