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.