Thursday, October 24, 2013

Poor Man's Raman

Yes, I know it is spelled "Ramen". It's a play on words. Today is my sister's birthday and though she passed on in 2004, I talk to her often still. I also talk about her a lot, especially to her children. We both enjoy reminiscing, whether it is about the good times or the bad. It helps us forget about our own worries for a little while.

Today I am quite aware of my own isolation, with no children, my parents, sister, and partner gone, I spend a lot of time thinking about the past.

My nephew, Almon, recently called me and we talked for a long time, always feeling better afterwards. Both of us. He's the only one that calls me and it means so very much when it happens. It's like he knows. I know he's calling to lift his own spirits or ask for computer help or some other such advice but I find my own spirits lifted tremendously.

And then of course, there are the stories. We both tell tales that the other didn't know about his mom, Arlene, my sister.

A recent story centered around money, a subject we often talk about. We somehow got on the subject of food (a favorite of mine!) and Almon mentioned that his mom use to get him to sell ramen noodle soup packs at school for 50 cents. That was probably a quarter profit on each and I don't recall how many he sold each day but it did emphasize how tight money was for them.

My parents were the same way. My mom actually lived for a time without electricity and got water from a stream. I don't recall where or when this was but it made a lasting impression on her. My dad was more fortunate but he too wanted my life to be better than his had been.

They always encouraged me to do well in school in the hopes of getting a good job. My mother often told stories of how poor they were and gave what she could to those in need. She hardly ever TOLD me I should do this, she just did it and by example, I did too.

Since my sister was 16 years older than I, she wasn't around long and we soon moved to Saudi Arabia and left my sister on her own. Her boyfriend (and future husband) was a hard worker and they did well early on. Eventually they split and my sister struggled to care for the kids on her own.

There were times when I've had to struggle too and that's where so many things came together. I had always liked Ramen noodle soup and in those times when I've had to watch my pennies, I've learned to make even the simplest meal, like Ramen soup, tasty and cheap.

Someone had commented on a big container of mushrooms I had purchased and it made me think of a meme I had seen.

Did that person think that box of mushrooms was a meal or did they realize how many ramen soups it would be spread across? We often see others on a limited budget and begrudge them the enjoyments we may take for granted.

I realize that if you're on a limited budget you need to be careful with your money. It may take you years to save for something another buys in the blink of an eye. But we all are entitled to as much happiness as we can squeeze out of life and I remind myself of that when I find myself judging others.

Instead of harsh words, I try to find more words of kindness and encouragement. It isn't easy in a world where the successful have NO IDEA of the struggles of the poor. People make mistakes and once on the bottom, it is so terribly hard to get back up. I see some of my friends post the cruelest things while they are up on top. It would definitely change if they had to walk in someone else's shoes for a day.

So, here's to all the poor folks that kept going. I am not sure if I could have had the same strength!

This is a picture of my sister on the last visit I had with her at her daughter, Elia's house.

Since I didn't see her often, I brought all kinds of gifts for her to enjoy. She was in a wheelchair and didn't get out of her house much so I tried to find things that were very personal. She liked electronic gadgets and that's one of those electronic pets you carried around on a keychain. You can see how interested in it she was! The box of chocolate covered cherries is already opened, something I use to get her almost every Christmas we lived near each other.

In the background is a jar of pennies. She loved doing things like rolling money and cashing it in. I never carried pennies so I put them in a jar for charity. What better charity than my sister? After she passed, I started saving my change for the Ronald McDonald House and dropped it off at McDonalds.

This became one of my charities because my sister had had a daughter that was in the hospital a lot and she did not get to see much of her before her daughter, Elisia passed on. It was my way of giving to folks who might be in that same predicament.

I understand now Sister. I wish I had done more. I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Charity, The Other side of suffering

As I listen to one of the "Conversations With God" music CD's, the voices begin to clamor for attention. The signs inundate my senses and I often find myself talking back, getting annoyed at their urgency, so afraid a thought or action that is so important will be forgotten.

Disc 1:

My mom is up there with them now and I often think of the "Calvin and Hobbes" cartoon she loved so dearly because she said I was SO like him and Hobbes with my own teddy bear (and yes, at age 50, Teddy still is at my bedside). One of her favorites was posted at her work place. You know the one, where Calvin looks frazzled and quite annoyed and says “God put me on earth to accomplish certain things. Right now, I’m so far behind, I’ll never die.”

When it gets that way, I tell them all to shut up and go away! I laugh or cry afterwards and apologize and tell them I'm sorry and welcome them back. It's quite a scene really. Most folks believe in the afterlife but attribute such conversations to simply "talking to themselves", the mind's inner musings. I don't. I DO believe, truly BELIEVE, in the afterlife AND our ability to continue to use our senses to communicate with it in more powerful ways than science would have us do ONLY with what they have yet verified.

Call me "Crazy Ivan" and I'll usually smile nowadays and direct you here:

But I digress (I get lost in that blissful music!).

Disc 2:

Lately, I have shared their urgency as never before. I know where the future is pointing and I'm not sure I am up to the task appointed to me (and agreed upon) previously (a bit of light reading for the open-minded:

There are still the small day-to-day things I can do in the meantime, like this blog.

When I got up this morning, I went into the kitchen and my thoughts lead me back to a visit as a young child to the house of a friend of my parents. I don't recall who the family member was but we went into a bedroom to also see a bedridden family member who had polio. He was wasting away and I hurt inside to see him. The room smelled and I wanted to get away so very bad.

I am not sure why my parents took me in there, perhaps knowing how terrible it was and how important it was to show that man he was still loved and important and not forgotten but it was imprinted upon my mind very strongly. I wanted so bad for him to just BE BETTER.

So when I began searching all the many causes that were important to me, I realized how very small I was, how very poor I was, and how very great the needs of this world I love so much are. Where to start? Everywhere! What to give? Everything! When to do it? Always!

Of course, if you listen to those voices, you may find you've left the house with a pocket full of money and come back a pauper. Each and every day, until it is all gone. I have had days like that and those that depended on me in the past were not happy when I got that way, but how could I deny the power of THAT voice?

Disc 3:

It is not always easy but I do try to find a balance nowadays. So when I questioned the Source for something dear to me and it fell in my lap, I was quite astounded I hadn't thought of it myself.

I smiled, thinking fondly of the money I spent last night. It was for a friend's birthday as well as for the work of the Sister's of Perpetual Indulgence ( or on the net: but how fun is it when both the birthday boy and myself win prizes simply playing bingo to raise money for those affected by HIV and AIDS and other such charities?

Give until it hurts y'all!!!

Blessed be and Namaste.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Convergence and the Second Sight

If you have ever read "The Foundation Series" by Isaac Asimov, then you are already familiar with the ability to see into the future. For the right computer, this is an easy task. Just look at the programs used to do this in the stock market and you will see a real world example where we are doing better but still have many variables to model before this becomes obsolete.

I read an article in a magazine (Popular Science, Time, or something like that) about the sophistication of the software used in some banks and places with a high possibility of terrorist activity that could now analyze people to determine if there appearance or activity indicated the possibility that they intended some harm to the bank or other area.

From the simple ability of facebook to recognize a face pretty well in the jumble of a picture, AI (Artificial Intelligence) software is becoming much more human-like in its abilities! As a programmer, this is a most amazing ability still (AI was never a strong-point of my studies) and the mathematics of time (Calculus) was also a struggle. These are two of the most powerful abilities of our own brain that we can also use to model the future.

This is what the weather man does when he shows you what the weather is going to be like, sometimes with impressive accuracy, a week or more into the future! There is of course, only a certain amount of computing power and variables that we are currently able to understand and model.

When a hurricane begins to form, even the best minds (human or other) have difficulty modeling such a convergence of possibilities to see into the future clearly. And yet, using many of these "other" modeling computers, even these complex events are often predicted correctly by these simple machines.

So with our sophisticated, organic systems, whom we claim we only utilize about 10% of the brains processing power, could we not be trained to produce some pretty impressive results?

Have you ever planned out a trip to the grocery store? What percentage of the time do you get pretty close to the results? Some might dismiss this ability but I can tell you from my own training, it is something you can improve and use to your advantage.

For me, it is something that fails if I attempt to over-think it. I do well to allow it to work in the realm of intuition, a sub-process of the mind that works best when not directed, pulling from all senses and data to come to the most logical conclusion. Left alone, it can work miracles.

Occasionally though, I become so alarmed at a piece of data that I attempt to direct the process. To force the answer, calling upon some of the very esoteric systems to KNOW with as much certainty as possible, that things will be okay. In essence, to go beyond simple prediction and use what ever abilities I had to CHANGE the future.

You can't blame a person for trying to avoid an accident. But sometimes you've seen the warning signs for a very long time, been given many opportunities to avoid disaster and still sit back, ignore the warning signs, and hope you will just be lucky and keep cruising on that luck.

If you push too hard to see or change the future too late in the game, you can find yourself in a very scary place, having gone too far, considered too many possibilities, and used tools you just don't have the training to understand the use or results of properly.

I can tell you that you have no one else to blame but yourself. You can continue to simply make excuses with your head stuck up your...stuck in the sand and the accident will still occur, with results that you didn't predict and might possibly be much worse that the original probability.

So here's a word of caution. Just because today seems easy to predict, don't take it for granted. The best systems in the world still fail at their tasks occasionally, organic and inorganic. Live life like a warrior, attacking each moment as if it were your last, for we truly never know with absolute certainty, what is around the corner. And love with that same ferocity and the same possibility, as if each moment is your last.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Love or Hate, Right or Wrong, How do you actually LIVE?

I usually do things alone because what family I have is not near and the few friends I have are busy with their own lives or not interested in what interests me. For me, this is a challenge because I am an introvert and easily stressed by crowds.

I have little patience for the lack of kindness society seems to have nowadays. So I took my meds to calm me down before I ever walked out the door (actually, in order to GET me out the door) and took a leisurely stroll through our local Whistle Stop Festival (made famous by the Whistle Stop Café from the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes".

It was a nice little stroll with many interesting stops.

The first shop that caught my eye was "The Creators Place" (Facebook: Creators Place) where I picked up bags of catnip and stevia herbs. Supposedly the catnip is good with Chamomile and Stevia is a natural sweeter. I already had the Chamomile and am looking forward to trying an herbal tea with the herbal sweetener! She was very helpful too and quite intuitive.

The next shop was "Blue Dragon Glass" (Facebook: BlueDragonGlass, with its neat flying dragon mobiles among many other stained glass crafts. She even taught classes in Trussville (near my home)! I resisted buying anything but very much enjoyed the conversation.

Next I came across a unique shop I failed to get any information on. I did buy one of their products so you can at least see it!

These planes were made out of all kinds of aluminum cans whose propellers spun in the wind! From the small $10 one above to 4 engine monsters at $45 or so. You can probably get information on the vendor from the Whistle Stop Festival (

Next, sugar skull candle holders caught my eye as they always do and made me think of my friend Teri.

They "S. P. Morgan Studio" ( are near Huntsville and are even willing to give lessons! Her mom was really sweet and helpful and her daughter, the potter, was very encouraging about trying my hand (with or without lessons) on a pottery wheel!

I soon came across the Shaklee representative whom I have spoken with before. Their line of Natural Nutrition supplements is interesting and informative. The processing that goes into many supplements is more harmful than the benefits you get from the actual substance! Check out for more information. A very knowledgable and friendly lady! While writing this blog, I noticed an error on her business card and left her a message about it. She called back to let me know she had not noticed it and would be getting new cards and thanked me for letting her know. How courteous!

Near the stage, a little boy threw his balloon-on-a-stick up in the air and it popped as it fell to the ground. He looked at his parents in frustration and began walking away. His mother immediately told him to pick up the stick the balloon had been on and put it in the trash. He looked around as if he didn't understand and was going to ignore her until his dad chimed in, pointed to the stick and repeated what his mom had said. He then marched over with shoulders slumped and obeyed them. I was again impressed.

I saw a shaved ice stand called "Avalanche Delights" (Facebook: AvalancheDelights) and decided to queue up for my favorite. Since I was already carrying my camera and YooHoo plane, I opted for a fresh squeezed Lemonade in a covered cup that was more easily handled. Yum yum yum!!!

I decided to venture over to the other side of the interstate and get a closer look at the trains parked in front of the old Wal-Mart in the Grants Mill Station shopping center (Facebook: The Station at Grants Mill) as well as the miniature golf, zip line and rope adventure.

My first stop was a tent called "Earthly Delights" ( which it turns out has had a shop in the Crestwood Festival Center for a year. They had some really nice soaps made with vegetable oil instead of animal products (like most commercial soap) if you are the vegetarian type that tries not to use animal products. I also learned that Kudzu Blossom soap exists and has a very nice scent!

After that I got close-ups of the parked trains only to learn they would soon be opening as restaurants!!!

What a novel idea for re-vitalization. Very encouraging!

I took some pictures of a few of the Fire Engines though you should pop by to see them all and the old British style phone booth.

I then took pictures of the miniature golf and Zip-Line & Rope Adventure areas and headed out.

I was hungry and tired and stopped in a restaurant to get something to eat. Up until this point, it had been a wonderful day with lots of kind and friendly folks. Even the girl taking my order was overly friendly.

I sat down and two people sat down beside me. We exchanged a few pleasantries before the lady became snippy. I recognized my own smart-ass attitude in her and so avoided a smart retort and explained the situation to her though she was unsympathetic. I refrained from any more drain on my energy by keeping silent.

On the way out, I sat in my car with it in reverse but the brake on as a family walked as slow as possible past the back of the car. The last girl even started taking long stretching strides as she finally passed as she looked at me. I began to easy out and she hollered to her parents that I was trying to hit her.

The father came charging out back out of the restaurant (that's how long they had stretched the line of people in the family), threatening to harm me and telling me that they didn't have to move out of the way and I was in the wrong. I had no intention of hitting them but I should have realized that were just itching for a fight. I again stopped talking, backed the car out and left.

Since then, most of my time has been spent at home trying to de-stress. Hours of fun are so easily erased by the self-righteous indignation so many people seem to revel in nowadays.

Whether it's the person that SLOWS DOWN when blocking traffic to the person that blocks an aisle in a super market or holds up being checked out at a register while someone in their group continues to shop, these people are all aware of what they are doing and are just hoping you will say something so they can make a scene.

I think the most disappointing ones are those that display their religious jewelry or bumper stickers which imply they are loving, compassion, and kind AND will scratch your eyes out with those same icons. And they wonder why so many lose faith.

The power and energy behind HATE is often hard and loud and hurtful and thus impacts us in ways that can so easily wash away the LOVE that is soft and quiet and pleasant. So for me, I have to pull back to my home where I feel the safest and recharge my body and soul through prayer and meditation, restoring my battery of positive energy before I venture back out again.

I want to stay home, to be with myself and give up on the world but Spirit won't let. It makes me reach down into the earth and then up into the sky and feel the love and energy coursing through me to the point I am shaking and crying with the overwhelming presence that opens up within and without.

And when that happens, how can I turn my back and give up? With such return of love and energy, I have to go back out and continue to try to raise up the world, person by person, bit by bit, just as Spirit ALWAYS does for me whenever I ask.

For now, I'll stay at home with my blind cat Sheena and re-charge. It's amazing how she knows something's wrong and plops herself up in between me and my pc now that she's discovered my new workspace I set up just yesterday. Pretty smart and I am very grateful for her love.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Robot Nation

I was talking to a good friend at lunch today about technology and realized I had more to say on the subject when I got home and found it being addressed online too.

When I was in high school, we took an entrance exam called the ACT which also asked us a series of questions in an attempt to suggest careers we should consider. It was a little graph with an asterisk in the area of jobs suggested for me. My asterisk was placed in an area void of jobs. I now wonder if it was a prediction of the future!

I really enjoyed my own company and preferred not to work with others. I was the typical science geek, happy to play with my chemistry set or breed fruit flies. I didn't like directing others AND I didn't like following orders. So when I had time to reflect, it really made sense to me.

One day in college, I was going to play tennis with a friend of mine and realized I had forgotten the tennis balls. I gave her my racket and looked at my watch, estimating how long it would take me to go get them. I can remember her smiling and commenting how nerdy it was to time everything I did. I had never realized how silly it was and began trying to stop doing it.

Over the years, I used my watch to begin avoiding people. If I approached someone I didn't want to speak to, I'd glance down at my watch to see what time it was. It went from being rude to avoiding ANY eye contact and socialization. It got so bad that I finally stopped wearing a watch in order to force myself back into the REAL world.

So now I go through life without a watch on my arm, my cell phone is turned off in the car for emergencies, and so far I have resisted even getting a tablet. If I know want to read something, I get a book. It eliminates the temptation to become engrossed in useless stuff and instead, engage with the world and people around me.

In The Robot Novels, we see humans crowded under domes after sucking the planet dry, eventually overcrowding causes us to move to the stars where land is plentiful and people few, some served by thousands of robots, rarely meeting another human face-to-face. From the disposable use of the planet to the gradual decrease in human interaction, it seems to be a very accurate forecast of where we are going.

I try to fight it by interacting more with the world around me and doing my bits to be more aware of the landfill I personally create but it doesn't seem to be something that the general public really cares about.

The smart device revolution is changing the world in very strange ways. From losing social skills to grammar and simple decency, many things once considered valuable are supplanted by gadgets. I wonder though, when we run out of plastic (think O-I-L), how will this new "ME" society handle it?

The Hunger Games:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Borrowing trouble from the future

My environment growing up caused me to be quite pessimistic. I also have the tendency to play out future possibilities in my head. This combination often leads me to expect a bad conclusion to something before it ever happens which I wind up stressing over until the event actually occurs.

Yesterday was a good example. I had purchased a set of tires for my car which included free rotation and balancing for the life of the tires. When I brought my car in, they took my initial paperwork and receipt and put it with the work order.

I wandered around the store for quite some time, never hearing my name called. The second time I checked, I found my car had been completed and they had not called me. This, of course, lowered my expectations of their performance. They checked me out and I began driving home when I realized my original paperwork and receipt were missing.

So I turned around and headed back to the store. I was told the service department was closed and was directed to customer service. The clerk there went looking for someone from automotive and it turned out they were not closed and someone was still there. Expectations were again lowered.

The person I spoke with was not the initial person that checked me in and no one was around that knew anything about my missing paperwork. No one was interested in pursuing the matter so I asked when they opened the next day.

That morning, I called only to find out the person that had processed me would not be in for another 2 or 2 1/2 hours. I decided at that time that a face-to-face would be better and drove over to the shop.

I found the person that had served me and was told they did not know where the original paperwork was. Luckily, the other clerk overheard the conversation and told my clerk that the papers had been found and put with last nights papers.

My clerk went looking for the original paperwork and did finally find it. Although the process was stressful and annoying, I let it preoccupy my thoughts and affect my attitude for much more time than it needed.

I recall a management class that used this problem of not being "present" in the moment to teach us a simple technique very useful when you notice such thoughts distracting you, especially at critical times like driving. When you notice you've wandered into a subject from the future or past, say out loud, "Stay!". Refocus on the present and stop thinking about the distraction.

It may take a few times when the issue is particularly strong in your mind so let's hope the windows are rolled up as you drive down the road hollering "stay, Stay, STAY!!!"

Saturday, August 10, 2013

When is part of me no longer me?

I once read a book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" ( It was not something I would have chosen but the salesperson was cute, so I bought it. Having bought it, I read it before passing it on to my neice Melinda who was going into Pharmacy.

It brought to light some things I really hadn't considered a lot. I remember talking about one issue with my niece Ethel. She made me aware of the process that a body goes through after death unless the family intervenes. The draining of the life blood and mixing it with chemicals to make it a non-biohazard and then dumping that part of my body in the sewer, in particular.

I had told her that if she was ever involved (being the oldest) in making decisions on the disposal of my body when I die that I wanted it cremated immediately and then spread with my mother's ashes. That's when she explained that if you didn't say so, your life's blood had a different, less dignified journey. I was surprised and appalled.

I believe that once a Spirit moves on, you can do what you want with the remains according to the person or family's request and in a dignified manner. For many, I believe this is also an opportunity to show respect and grieve, however you need to.

I don't see the necessity of pumping the carcass with chemicals, preserving it, or spending vast amounts of money on the burial chamber, markers, or plots. That's just my way. I have lost enough people in my life to understand the need and desire for others to do so. I just look at the graves we constantly dig up from the far past and do not desire for that to be me in the far future. So burn me, grind up the bits, and toss me to the wind! Say a prayer and come back to that beautiful place in the woods to visit whenever you want, remember me, and enjoy the Creator's beauty with joy, happiness, and anything else that comes upon you.

So this book I read about HeLa cells made me aware that once a bit of me leaves me, it is no longer mine even if it is labeled as me. Did you know that? If blood or urine or saliva is taken from you, it can be used in many ways you probably didn't know about or even want. You might even be appalled by some of its uses.

So when I came across this ( article today about forcibly taking a person's life blood from someone, ANYONE, while they are still alive hit me in my Spiritual gut. Yup, right through the Sacred Heart. Perhaps it's my Catholic roots. Or the Lutheran ones. Or the Methodist ones. I may be a religious mutt but any way you cut it, it is MY blood and it is SACRED to me.

I feel like we are losing every freedom we have, one by one. There's always a law upholding the reason but that does NOT make it right! Some day soon, we are going to all begin to wonder where our freedoms went as they quietly chip away at them by justifying each time they do so. Even a criminal has rights. Their blood is my blood and it is the right of ANYONE to keep every single drop of it!