Thursday, April 28, 2011

Good vs. Evil

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul-
And sings the tune without words
And never stops - at all."   —Emily Dickinson

This week in my town, unfortunately like too many other towns across the globe, we had a teen suicide.

||According to Teen Suicide Statistics website:
One of the leading causes of death amongst teenagers is suicide. The Centers for Disease control report that it is the third leading cause of death, behind accidents and homicide, of people aged 15 to 24. Even more disturbing is the fact that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 14.||

This event is always tragic but for some reason this one made me wonder what drove them to that point. This kid by all appearances was fairly happy and well adjusted. So what pushes a kid that far? No one will ever know but it also made me think about an author I loved reading, Frank Peretti. Many of his books (This Present Darkness, Piercing The Darkness, Prophet, the Visitation and The Oath) were on the conflict between good and evil, and in the end good prevails.......I like that....thinking that the white hat wins. I wrote a poem (which is amazingly scary to share) demonstrating the triumph of good. I realize that this totally over-simplifies the inner struggle and pain which is obviously being dealt with by that person, but my biggest wish is that teenagers have enough hope, —or strength to search for the source of hope— to perhaps overcome their inner demons.


Sitting in the sand, knees pulled to my chest, staring at the waves
watching as unrelentlessly, the water pounds the shore
Looking out to sea, feeling as empty as the distant horizon.
The moon laughs as it illuminates the blank canvas.

I stand as the bleak abyss beckons me come,
feeling the sand beneath my feet,
sharp shells piercing my flesh,
walking into the dark water
my body enveloped in the cold blackness
shivering, then going numb.

Letting my body succomb to the watery grave
Letting the demons consume me
Letting my mind be free of the torture.

Suddenly overcome with a blanket of warmth
an unseen force propelling toward the surface
A hand from the heavens throwing me hope like a life ring.

Spitting and sputtering, spewing out the rancid water
wishing to fill my lungs
A knowing smile crossing my lips,
realizing that what was meant to be my end and death
has instead baptized me into a beginning, a new life.
Giving me renewed strength to emerge a conqueror
Vanquishing the evil that sought to overwhelm me.

Feeling sorrow no more, only joy,
Pushing darkness away, seeing light.
Loosing the shackles, sprouting wings
Denying despondency, emitting confidence.

As the sun rises displacing the darkness,
The waves push me to shore,
Assisting in my rescue,
My feet steadying me as the sand shifts beneath me
I walk to the dry sand turning and facing the water once again.
This time seeing the sun as it shines upon a blank slate,
ready for me to start anew and begin again.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

10 Things I Learned From A Child

Learning is all around us. As we get older we tend to look to "experts" to advise us, people with vast experience, degrees or just plain smarts to tell us what to do, how to act, where to visit and sometimes even what to think. But if we get honest some of the best lessons come from children, raw and unrehearsed tidbits that can make our lives richer.

I love taking pictures and was amazed at the lessons being displayed in the photos.

10 Things I Learned From A Child
 1. Express Yourself- Children have a way of displaying what they feel. Their little filters are not yet fully formed and if they want to act silly, they do. If they feel like crying, they let it go, if something is funny, they giggle. They wear their emotions on their sleeves, although being an adult, one does need to practice a bit of restraint, maybe the world would be a happier place if we all just let go once in a while.

2. Have someone to look up to -  we all have mentors and teachers but sometimes it's the plain 'ole people in our lives that have the greatest influence. We need to remember that some of the best memories and lessons come from those closest to us.

3. Ask to drive - We become so accustomed at being told what to do, we fail to ask for what we want. We timidly accept what we are handed assuming someone else has more experience, more clout or just more than we do. We need to learn more often to step up and just ask to take the helm.

4.  Be proud of your accomplishments - So often we downplay something we done. We brush it off like it's no big deal when sometimes it is a very BIG deal to us. We have the right to peacock around occasionally, celebrate the victories, no matter how "small".

5.  Snuggle - When a child wants a hug they come boldly and get it. They don't fear rejection, and most often they get their hug or snuggle and quickly off to the next thing. Adults need to learn to give (and receive) hugs without expectation.

6. Hold on to your innocence - Children are innocent, they don't second-guess the words coming out of their mouths, they don't have hidden agendas, and they don't worry about outcomes. They act out of impulse. As adults we could take a lesson on letting go of the jaded thinking that makes us cynical and suspecting of everything around us.

7. Be brave and adventurous - The bane of every parents existence is the lack of fear factor in their child. They bravely walk to the top of the hill and hop on that sled and down they go- what about falling off? What about a broken bone? How are they gonna stop when they get to the bottom? Who knows.....they certainly do not, but to them it's all about the fun and adventure. As adults maybe we should just close our eyes and jump occasionally, take a chance. Scary? maybe, Exciting? most definitely.

8. Express your individuality - It amuses me to see a child all dressed up. In the fashion world she'd be slammed for her mismatched outfit. A feather boa with a plastic grass skirt, doesn't she read Vogue or Seventeen? no, matter of fact she can't even read at all. And the little boy that turns a cardboard box into a fort or airplane.....creativity at it's best. Before someone tells them they can't pretend, they let their imaginations take them to worlds they will soon put behind them for the strict perimeters of reality. Perhaps as adults we should occasionally take out the coloring pages and color the people purple and give them green hair - for old times sake.

9. Enjoy what you do - Children enjoy what they do, jump in with both feet and let it go. Maybe that is why we enjoy watching a child dig into that birthday cake. Because who wouldn't like to throw etiquette out the window occasionally and eat with our hands?

10. Don't be afraid to get dirty -  Dirt. What kid doesn't love dirt and water.......which let's face it, is mud. As a child you spend your time trying to figure out to get dirty and somewhere along the line that switch flips and you spend the rest of your life trying to figure out how to avoid the mud. Strange how that happens. Go ahead get dirty, and then you can participate in one of the adult world's pleasures.....a good, long hot shower.

Monday, April 18, 2011

All Aboard! - Riding the Rails on the Ark Valley Eagle

Ark Valley Eagle

OK, I have to admit, riding the train composed of 2 engines (one on front and one on back) and 3- 1950's passenger cars int he middle, was NOT on my bucket list. I could've died contentedly without the hour long railroad tour. But when my husband ended up with an extra ticket (this particular opportunity happens in our area once a year), I did the good wife thing and accompanied him, all the while looking at it from a blogger point of view and having no real expectations. After all, this was not the first time I had been on a train, I remember a few years back when I was just a youngster (alright, MORE than a few years) my elementary school took the train to the zoo. Of course at that time, well the same as it would be today, I was way more excited about going to the zoo than riding on the train.

 As much as I was unimpressed, I couldn't help but notice all the children- no doubt having been raised on the adventures of Thomas the Tank Engine - giddy with excitement as the train rolled into town. The whistle blowing and the conductors in period costume waving as the train comes to a stop.

The train coming from Wichita, detrained those passengers in downtown Hutchinson for them to go eat and browse the antique district and then loaded up with a new group of families, railroad enthusiasts and just plain folk, out to experience a dying breed of transportation. We boarded the train and prepared for our short journey. The conductor came by and punched our ticket and we were off.

One thing that struck me was how the train seems to go behind the scenes, not the best part of town, and seeing the underbelly of the infrastructure, the maintenance departments and the drainage ditches. The gentle swaying was relaxing but not enough that it made a wimp like me sick to my stomach. Then we reached the destination and the train simply stopped, we switched our seat backs to the other position, the other engine took over  and proceeded back from whence we came.  This was definitely not a thrill-seeker kind of adventure and not one I'd like to do every weekend but was a nice way to spend a couple of hours on a sunny, spring Saturday.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

10 Things I Learned From My Dog

I have two dogs, both female and both greyhounds. Austi is coal black and is retired racer - I suppose when you only run in a handful of races you can still be considered retired. According to the owner, she was really fast, just took issue running in a group, a definite deterrent to successful racing. We adopted her when she was a little over a year old and she has been a part of our family for about 10 years now. Murphy is fawn colored and was bred to hunt coyotes, she is greyhound and we guess part wolfhound. Murphy is wild and I am convinced somewhat retarded. Her exploits and adventures have cost us time and again, and I'm thinking she could possibly be the world's most expensive free dog ever. But what these dogs have cost in a monetary sense they have more than reimbursed in the gift of companionship and although the early days were much angst and bits of anger, none of us could now imagine life without them.

When a person gets a dog, or any pet for that matter, they THINK they are doing some huge favor for the animal, when in reality the animal teaches us humans so much. So this morning as I sat drinking my coffee and Murphy just gently laid her head on my lap and looked at me with pleading eyes, I pondered just what types of things I have learned from her.

1.  Wagging Your Tail. When we are happy, we should show it. If we are pleased to see someone, it doesn't hurt to let them know as long as it doesn't involve jumping up on them and leaving muddy paw prints on their shirt........I'm just sayin'......
Murphy (and Aaron)

2.  When You Want Something, Ask For It.- If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it. Dogs are relentless, they bark, they chase, they search until they get what they want, we as humans tend to give up before putting out full effort into getting what we desire.
John's dog- Dewey

3.  It's Good To Chase Things. A rabbit, a ball, , a dream, we need to see the fun and potential in play.
Julie's dog- Teddy
Brenda's dog- Roxie

4.  Sometimes A Friend Just Needs You Close- When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close and nuzzle them gently. Words sometimes are not necessary, a hug, a pat, a knowing glance can express what we could never find the words to say.
John's dog Dewey - and Michele


5.  Tolerance Is Important. Sometimes we need to put aside our fears, our doubts, our inhibitions and just let life happen. Even if the experience isn't necessarily for us, we can play along.
Brenda's dog- Bailey

6.  Get Comfortable. Put on the old jeans and the ratty sweatshirt. Curl up in the comfy chair. Roll up in blanket in from on the tv.
Ron's dog- Mia


7.  Protect The Ones You Love. Never bite when a growl will do. Protection comes in many forms, and although many of us would fight to the death over a close loved one, we fail our friends when we do not defend them as others slander them in front of us.
Murphy ...well, and Aaron

8.  Play. Take time to play, leave the stress behind and just have spontaneous fun.
John's dogs- Leila and Dewey

9.  Patience.  Whether it is for a walk, a treat or a pat on the head, sit quietly and wait for your turn.

Jaime's Dog- Fonzie

Jodi's dog- Newman

10. Be Loyal. Shake It Off. Whether it's a smack on the nose from a newspaper, or being left behind when everyone goes on vacation, don't hold a grudge, pick up where you left off.
Jake's dog- Arnold

Kevin's dogs, Tia and Starbuck

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bean-apalooza - Top 10 Jelly Bean Types

Seriously? Do we NEED this many kinds of jelly beans? Last week I was shopping for Easter candy in my local discount store when I was confronted with a complex and confusing dilemma. I wanted jelly beans for the easter baskets but the barrage of so many different types was overwhelming. I personally do not like jelly beans (it's a combination of the flavor and consistency) but have basket recipients at home that do like them. So what's a mom, er....bunny to do? I decided, like many of my projects, to test it out on my co-workers. So I bought the six different kinds, then went to another store and bought 3 more and wanting to have at least 10 went to yet another store and bought 2 more. OK, so I ended up with 11 not 10 but who's counting?

I put out the little dishes of each flavor and did not tell label the brand and left a paper in which to comment on each type. I sent the email and miraculously the people I work with are so compliant they rushed to my desk in droves.

I left the challenge out for the entire week, some of the dishes needing refilling and some - not so much. The opinions were as varied as could be, what some people thought was wonderful others thought were icky. So, bottom line, which had the most votes? Well first let me list which ones I included and a few random comments from my crack team of testers. The list is by no means conclusive, I have yet another 2 types that were not even included!
1. Starburst Crazy Beans - good amount of sweet and sour, don't like and Yuck.
2. Lifesavers - just ok, a little bland, good, and not my favorite
3. Jolly Rancher Smoothies- Super sour, good, love the sour, yuck, and turns to yogurt.
4. Jolly Rancher Original - good and sour, chewier, more crunchy coating that jelly part, nice burst of flavor
5. Starburst Original- lots of flavor, don't like 'em, yum!,  yum yum, crunchy, and good
6. Sour Patch- reminds me of sweet and sour babies, very sour from the start, pretty good, and intense
7. Sweetarts - sour, makes me wink, just ok, wonderful and sour, just sour- no flavor, tastes soaked in cheap perfume (I don't know either, it's just what was on the paper)
8. Jelly belly Citrus blend- lots of flavor, not too sweet or sour, chewy orange isn't very flavorful, clean finish, tastes like pinesol
9. Brachs Classic - meh, old ones that I never liked, brings back childhood memories, totally gross, like grandma used to have, like the licorice, big chunky memories
10. Starburst Sour - full of flavor, lots of flavor, like the watermelon
And yes, there were actually 11, not 10
11. Hawaiian Punch- excellent, full of flavor and very fruity.

And the winner was Starburst sour but a close second was the Jelly Belly Citrus.

Also with decent showing were the Jolly Rancher Smoothie and Starburst Original.

Now someone in the office (actually 3 different people) said that the best jelly bean ever is the jelly belly buttered popcorn flavor. We did go get a bag of jelly belly's and picked that particular flavor out and tested it in a small group.......(there were only 10 of that flavor in the bag), the flavor was ok but was split on whether it was the "greatest" or not.

So as you stand in the easter candy aisle at the supermarket and marvel at the amount of different types, and find yourself wondering do we really need this many different kinds of jelly beans, I suppose the answer would be, yes we do. The problem may very well be in deciding which ones to spend your money on.

The History of Jelly Beans

Jelly beans are a popular candy; the beans come in a variety of flavors. Jelly beans are sold throughout the year, but two of the most popular times for jelly bean sales include Easter and Halloween. Jelly beans come in traditional flavors such as licorice and cherry, as well as newer flavors such as buttered popcorn and cotton candy.

  1. Manufacturing Process

    • The jelly bean is created using a process called panning. This is the same process that is used to make Jordan Almonds. Panning involves placing a soft sugar based center in a tumbler and giving it several layers of sugar coating using sugar, syrup and food coloring. The sugar coating hardens slowly, giving jelly beans their hard outer shell and soft center.


    • While it is not clear exactly when the jelly bean was first created, it is believed it occurred during the Civil War. A gentleman named William Schraft manufactured them and encouraged the Union soldiers to use them as snacks during the war.


    • The jelly bean's popularity started to increase significantly in the early 1900's. At this time, the jelly bean become known as a bulk candy. This is because, instead of being sold by the number of jelly beans in a container, jelly beans were sold to customers based on the weight of the jelly beans. Jelly beans were one of the first bulk candies.

    Easter and Jelly Beans

    • Jelly beans are commonly associated with the holiday of Easter. This association of the candy and the holiday became popular in the 1930's. This is because of the egg shape of the jelly bean. The shape is believed to represent fertility and birth. The Easter Bunny's delivery of candy is symbolic of both spiritual rebirth based on religious beliefs and the upcoming season of spring.

    Jelly Bean Facts

    • The largest jar ever of jelly beans weighed 6,050 pounds and was created in the fall of 1999. National Jelly Bean Day is held shortly after the Easter holiday season each year on April 22. For Easter alone, in the United States, there are 16 billion jelly beans manufactured. This could fill a nine story office building that was 60 feet wide.