Friday, November 17, 2017

A Time of Sorrow and a Time of Forgiveness

My bike ride this morning started in the dark.  As the days are getting shorter, early morning and early evening have less sunlight and it's strange riding my bike in the dark but it clears my head of the cobwebs of sleep.  My brain took me to a place that surprised me. I thought about my widowed and widower friends and our conversations over the years. We meet monthly and sometimes more often for activities.

In the last eleven years, I have learned more about death than I ever care to admit. As we grow older we know more who pass on to the next life but the most difficult for many is losing their spouse. (Losing a child is just about as tragic in difficulty and maybe this is a message for parents as well)

The one person we are tied to in such close intimacy is gone from earth until we can meet again on the other side. It is so very painful emotionally and physically and is considered the most stressful experience a human can have. So how do we cope with others trying to help?  How do we react when others tell us ridiculous things like "It was his time to go, anyway." Or "Lucky you, single and unattached." I have heard so many more unknowing, crazy words from others.

Those were my thoughts this dark morning riding around Mesa. There are so many who want to help, so many who care and want to take the pain away and make it all better.  They can't but they try and we, as the recipient of this love and compassion become hurt and bitter at times because no one understands what we are going through. No one except those who experience it themselves really know. We have such great sorrows.

The inspiration which came to me this  morning was that along with these great sorrows, we must find some compassion and forgive those who mean well but say hurtful words. Most of the time (I would say 95% of the time as I had someone purposely be hurtful to me after my husband passed away) people are caring and want to help. They want to know what they can do to make life easier and then do it.

This is where forgiveness on our part bridge the gap between bitterness and hope. Widows and widowers need to forgive those who mean well. We need to be compassionate towards all those who try to do their best in understanding our sorrows but miss the mark.

The big question is, how can I say we need to be forgiving when all those other people throw those well  meaning words at us and expect us to feel better? It's a touchy subject among widows and widowers but I feel strongly that I need to write about it.

After the initial, raw pain is lessened by time (and it's different for everyone) we can take a step back and think about those well meaning people with their words and know that they were talking from the heart. They wanted the best for us.

One of my husband's favorite songs is Don Henley's Heart of the Matter. It's on a CD he made along with a whole selection of favorite songs which I play from time to time when I drive to work. Yesterday was one of those times and as I listened to the words of this song, it reminded me that I had to forgive others.  I had to remember the intent from where they were coming and know that they were trying to be kind. It can be difficult to forgive but for our own well being, it is necessary.
These words really speak to me:

Heart of the Matter
by Don Henley
(Starting with the Chorus)

I'm learning to live without you now
But I miss you sometimes
The more I know, the less I understand,
All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning again
I've been tryin' to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it's about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore

Ah, these times are so uncertain
There's a yearning undefined
And People filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age?
Ah, the trust and self-assurance that lead to happiness
They're the very things we kill, I guess
Ohh, pride and competition
Cannot fill these empty arms
And the work I put between us, you know it doesn't keep me warm

I'm learning to live with out you now
But I miss you, baby
And the more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I'd figured out
I have to learn again
I've been trying to get down
To the heart of the matter
But everything changes
And my friends seem to scatter
But I think it's about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore

There are people in your life
Who've come and gone
They let you down
You know they hurt your pride
You better put it all behind you baby
'Cause life goes on
You keep carryin' that anger
It'll eat you up inside baby
I've been trying to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it's about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me

So, after the sorrows have subsided and after the pain loses its rawness, we can forgive those well meaning people who love us and want the best for us. We can forgive their silly words and be strengthened by the fact that there are many who care about us. That is at the heart of the matter.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Perlocutionary for Mental Health

Perlocutionary is not even in the regular online dictionary!! Wow. I found this really cool word looking for another cool word to talk about mental health.

Perlocutionary is:
adjectivePhilosophy, Linguistics.1.(of a speech act) producing an effect  upon the listener, as in persuading, frightening, amusing, or causing the listener to act.

So my thoughts over these past few weeks have been on the state of the mind.  How is my mental state you ask?  I've been reading and writing about this and wanted to share what I have found. It's not pretty.  It takes some self-discipline and thought, some change of lifestyle but it is worth it!

Image result for mental healthOur bodies need nutrition and emotional stability.  We eat garbage, we drink garbage, we don't get enough sleep and our lifestyle is way too stressful. You have heard it before. We don't take care of ourselves as we should and our mental health and physical strength are suffering.

So as I try to persuade, amuse, or even frighten you into listening as perlocutuionary says; I'm hoping some good will come from this rant.
Our mental health as in what our brains need to be healthy, are drastically on overload.  We don't eat many whole foods and we eat too much process food. We weigh too much, drink sugar all day long and don't exercise.  (I'm sure you are thinking, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I've heard all this before.) We allow garbage into our heads with all the unwholesome entertainment that glares at us from movies, books, magazines, television screens and any and all electronic devices that have not been mentioned. It really is amazing how far down the tube we have flushed ourselves. Sometimes I'm amazed how resilient we really are, but just sometimes.

Image result for mental healthNot only that, we don't give ourselves enough boundaries to live by as adults. How in the world are our children going to know how to live if we do not set the example of a healthy, wholesome life?

We are unhappy with our marriages, our parents, and our children and many times try to put on a happy face when we really need to take care of what is inside us. I include myself in this as well.

We are bi-polar, schizophrenic, depressed, over drugged or lost in a world of whether we should make good choices.  We know what to do.  We know how to take care of our bodies. We just need to do it.  Just a shout out for those who have taken on this challenge of keeping our bodies fit and our minds clean. We watch what we do and care deeply for others first. I'm glad you are the example for the rest of us.  Rant over.

For some learned thought, see below:

Boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and, really, a healthy life. Setting and sustaining boundaries is a skill. Unfortunately, it’s a skill that many of us don’t learn, according to psychologist and coach Dana Gionta, Ph.D. We might pick up pointers here and there from experience or through watching others. But for many of us, boundary-building is a relatively new concept and a challenging one.
Having healthy boundaries means “knowing and understanding what your limits are,” Dr. Gionta said.

Below, she offers insight into building better boundaries and maintaining them.
1. Name your limits.
You can’t set good boundaries if you’re unsure of where you stand. So identify your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits, Gionta said. Consider what you can tolerate and accept and what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed. “Those feelings help us identify what our limits are.”
2. Tune into your feelings.
Gionta has observed two key feelings in others that are red flags or cues that we’re letting go of our boundaries: discomfort and resentment. She suggested thinking of these feelings on a continuum from one to 10. Six to 10 is in the higher zone, she said.
If you’re at the higher end of this continuum, during an interaction or in a situation, Gionta suggested asking yourself, what is causing that? What is it about this interaction, or the person’s expectation that is bothering me?
Resentment usually “comes from being taken advantage of or not appreciated.” It’s often a sign that we’re pushing ourselves either beyond our own limits because we feel guilty (and want to be a good daughter or wife, for instance), or someone else is imposing their expectations, views or values on us, she said.
“When someone acts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s a cue to us they may be violating or crossing a boundary,” Gionta said.
3. Be direct.
With some people, maintaining healthy boundaries doesn’t require a direct and clear-cut dialogue. Usually, this is the case if people are similar in their communication styles, views, personalities and general approach to life, Gionta said. They’ll “approach each other similarly.”
With others, such as those who have a different personality or cultural background, you’ll need to be more direct about your boundaries. Consider the following example: “one person feels [that] challenging someone’s opinions is a healthy way of communicating,” but to another person this feels disrespectful and tense.
There are other times you might need to be direct. For instance, in a romantic relationship, time can become a boundary issue, Gionta said. Partners might need to talk about how much time they need to maintain their sense of self and how much time to spend together.
4. Give yourself permission.
Fear, guilt and self-doubt are big potential pitfalls, Gionta said. We might fear the other person’s response if we set and enforce our boundaries. We might feel guilty by speaking up or saying no to a family member. Many believe that they should be able to cope with a situation or say yes because they’re a good daughter or son, even though they “feel drained or taken advantage of.” We might wonder if we even deserve to have boundaries in the first place.
Boundaries aren’t just a sign of a healthy relationship; they’re a sign of self-respect. So give yourself the permission to set boundaries and work to preserve them.
5. Practice self-awareness.
Again, boundaries are all about honing in on your feelings and honoring them. If you notice yourself slipping and not sustaining your boundaries, Gionta suggested asking yourself: What’s changed? Consider “What I am doing or [what is] the other person doing?” or “What is the situation eliciting that’s making me resentful or stressed?” Then, mull over your options: “What am I going to do about the situation? What do I have control over?”
6. Consider your past and present.
How you were raised along with your role in your family can become additional obstacles in setting and preserving boundaries. If you held the role of caretaker, you learned to focus on others, letting yourself be drained emotionally or physically, Gionta said. Ignoring your own needs might have become the norm for you.
Also, think about the people you surround yourself with, she said. “Are the relationships reciprocal?” Is there a healthy give and take?
Beyond relationships, your environment might be unhealthy, too. For instance, if your workday is eight hours a day, but your co-workers stay at least 10 to 11, “there’s an implicit expectation to go above and beyond” at work, Gionta said. It can be challenging being the only one or one of a few trying to maintain healthy boundaries, she said. Again, this is where tuning into your feelings and needs and honoring them becomes critical.
7. Make self-care a priority.
Gionta helps her clients make self-care a priority, which also involves giving yourself permission to put yourself first. When we do this, “our need and motivation to set boundaries become stronger,” she said. Self-care also means recognizing the importance of your feelings and honoring them. These feelings serve as “important cues about our wellbeing and about what makes us happy and unhappy.”
Putting yourself first also gives you the “energy, peace of mind and positive outlook to be more present with others and be there” for them.” And “When we’re in a better place, we can be a better wife, mother, husband, co-worker or friend.”
8. Seek support.
If you’re having a hard time with boundaries, “seek some support, whether [that’s a] support group, church, counseling, coaching or good friends.” With friends or family, you can even make “it a priority with each other to practice setting boundaries together [and] hold each other accountable.”
Consider seeking support through resources, too. Gionta likes the following books: The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Timeand Boundaries in Marriage (along with several books on boundaries by the same authors).
9. Be assertive.
Of course, we know that it’s not enough to create boundaries; we actually have to follow through. Even though we know intellectually that people aren’t mind readers, we still expect others to know what hurts us, Gionta said. Since they don’t, it’s important to assertively communicate with the other person when they’ve crossed a boundary.
In a respectful way, let the other person know what in particular is bothersome to you and that you can work together to address it, Gionta said.
10. Start small.
Like any new skill, assertively communicating your boundaries takes practice. Gionta suggested starting with a small boundary that isn’t threatening to you, and then incrementally increasing to more challenging boundaries. “Build upon your success, and [at first] try not to take on something that feels overwhelming.”
“Setting boundaries takes courage, practice and support,” Gionta said. And remember that it’s a skill you can master.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Couch

I have not considered myself a very worldly person over the last 58 years.  All I owned I could fit in my house back in Alabama.  I probably held on to things a little longer than I should have but nonetheless, I personally feel that people are more important than things.

Once in a while, though,  I have had to deal with a material possession that I could not let go. Just recently it was with a piece of furniture I will call "the couch".  This was not any ordinary couch.  It was the couch my grandparents had in their home back in Brooklyn over 75 years ago. I remember where it sat in my grandmother's apartment. I remember playing on it with my "Colorforms" set.

My mother took possession of this couch after both grandparents passed away and had it reupholstered which looked beautiful in her home. Then, when she passed away, my father took it along with him to Kansas City to live with my brother and his family.
After a few years, my brother's family moved to Kaysville, Utah for a job promotion and they took the couch with them all the while not really using it as it was stuck in the basement or garage.

So when I had the chance to take the couch home to Alabama on a trip to Utah, I did.  I knew that I would eventually reupholster the thing to fit into my house's decor so I covered it with several tarps and left it in the carport.  It should have never been there for as long as it was but I just never got to it.

When I finally did bring it into my living room, this couch had sat through 3 hurricanes and countless tropical storms.  It took on a musty smell that I tried to get rid of but it never really left. (and believe me I tired everything possible)  Not having enough money for a professional to transform this marvelous piece of furniture, I would put covers over it in the living room and sit on it; but it was no use.  It needed a whole knew start and I couldn't do it.

So now I'm in a 2 bedroom apartment in Mesa, Arizona with a much smaller living room and I just had to face reality: I could not keep this couch. Especially when the legs were now different sizes so it waddled when we sat it in which made marks on the new linoleum floor AND it was somewhat uncomfortable to sit on it, to boot.  I just had to get rid of it and get something else.

I advertised this beauty on many different websites but no takers. It's really an upholsterers delight but I didn't know any; upholsters, that is.  So last night, my friend and I picked it up and placed it in the back of my truck and drove to the local thrift store for them to sell it.  I almost waved good-bye as the man at the thrift store wheeled it through the drop off area in the back of the store. It was like an old friend was leaving for good. Sigh...

Maybe an antique expert will spy it there and do it justice by reupholstering it into the beautiful piece of furniture it should be. Maybe someone will appreciate it's woodwork beauty on the top and arms and find a place in their home for others to lounge as I did in my grandmother's apartment.  One could only hope.

For now, I just think about having that couch for as long as I did and hoping my grandmother isn't too upset with me for giving it away.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Going Back to School Late

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When I attended Brigham Young University back in '79, I was on my way to a bachelor's degree.  I just graduated with an Associates Degree from a junior college and wanted to finish what I had started.  But by the next year (my senior year) I was so burned out, I lost the vision I had when I started. Add to my burn-out my engagement to be married and I did pretty lousy my last semester. I didn't finish but always thought that some day I would. Well, that day has arrived. I started my first class this semester to finish my degree but changed my focus.  Before my focus was Childhood Education with Special Education classes along with Speech Pathology.  I was learning a lot about teaching and counseling which was really fascinating. I actually used all that I learned to home school my own children and teach classes in private education cooperatives so that education did not go to waste but I needed to focus on something else.

In my present day, I thought about all that I had accomplished and what degree would best help serve me right now and I came to the conclusion that if I finished in English, I can then improve my writing and possibly acquire a writing/editing job which I love doing. I feel that I have been called to write about the strength of the family but need to expand my skills.  I have come a long way since I first started writing but I didn't have the command of the English language as I should have from attending college.  It just lacked polish. So now I am doing something that I should have finished a long time ago.

I'm not the only one who has finished education pursuits later in life.. There are many adults who want to improve their lives by finishing or even starting something after the age of 40. This next list of statistics was shown on Facebook written by Joy Raskie and it is very inspiring.

Joy Raskie
May 16, 2016
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Julia Child released her first cookbook at age 39, and got her own cooking show at age 51.
Vera Wang failed to make the Olympic figure skating team, didn’t get the Editor-in-Chief position at Vogue, and designed her first dress at age 40.
Stan Lee didn’t release his first big comic book until he was 40.
Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career to pursue acting at age 42.
Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get his first movie role until he was 46.
Morgan Freeman landed his first MAJOR movie role at age 52.
Kathryn Bigelow only reached international success when she made 
The Hurt Locker at age 57.
Grandma Moses didn’t begin her painting career until age 76.
Louise Bourgeois didn’t become a famous artist until she was 78.
Whatever your dream is, it is not too late to achieve it. You aren’t a failure because you haven’t found fame and fortune by the age of 21. Hell, it’s okay if you don’t even know what your dream is yet. Even if you’re flipping burgers, waiting tables or answering phones today, you never know where you’ll end up tomorrow.
Never tell yourself you’re too old to make it.
Never tell yourself you missed your chance.
Never tell yourself that you aren’t good enough.
You can do it. Whatever it is."

Whatever it is that we want to do, we can do. It takes patience, determination and some hard work but we can do it. I have 9 more classes to get through before I finish but I will finish.Then the sky is the limit....for all of us.

Friday, August 25, 2017

My Night at the Trump Rally

We had heard he was coming on Tuesday night! (August 22,2017)  President Trump was actually coming to Phoenix to speak to the people at the Phoenix Convention center. My friend and I decided to attend after getting tickets around 3:00 pm that day. I have always wanted to attend a political rally and this was my chance.

Phoenix Convention Center with Light Rail Train
From the news reports, people were camped out from early morning so it didn't look good for our chance to actually get in. From other news reports, traffic was bumper to bumper on the I-10, which was closed down after a while. Many of the downtown streets were closed too. My daughter and her husband tried to drive in but didn't get very far on the I-10.

I got home from work as soon as I could and we set out to the Valley Light Rail Station in Mesa at about 6:00 pm hoping to arrive before 7:00 pm which was the start of the rally.

 As we got closer to Phoenix, the train got more crowded. We pulled into the Convention Center Station and the sight was unbelievable.  People and policemen were everywhere. The train had to stop at the station after the convention center to let us off. We walked back towards the convention center and it looked like the streets of New York: wall to wall people. There were recycling garbage trucks lined up on one side of the convention center which we were told held anti-riot equipment.  We followed the crowd to get to the back of the line going into the building which was so long. It went around the whole convention center and across the street.
Sun just setting in line to the Convention Center

There were Trump haters and Trump supporters. The group of haters were across the street holding Trump hate signs, chanting things together set up like a choir and some of the supporters were yelling back at them. Obscenities abounded on both sides but no one was fighting....yet. There was a group in line singing patriotic songs and we smelled alcohol and cigarettes every where. It was now after 7:00 pm so I started listening to Trump's speech on my phone. At least I could hear what he had to say. Many others were doing the same thing.

It took us a whole hour to get to the door of the convention center at which point we were turned away because the building had been filled to capacity (15,000 according to the reports).

There were 5,000 of us outside roaming around.  All walks of life, colors, creeds and ages.  It was really amazing. My friend and I wanted to walk around to the other side of the building to the door which was designated as the entrance to see if we could get in somehow, but we were stopped where we were and could not get there.  The police blocked off the whole area. We were thinking that maybe where we were standing was where Trump would come out when he was done, but we didn't know. Police on bikes kept pushing the crowd away from that area.  Then we saw a whole line of police with those riot shields and helmets walking together. It was peaceful outside for the most part but with the look of those police in shields, I was getting a little worried.

As we walked away from the convention center, the atmosphere started heating up with younger men in their 20's beginning to fight in different areas. It was interesting to watch as some of the older men broke up the fights before it got out of hand.

After a stop in a downtown restroom, my friend and I walked back to the closest light rail station to get back to Mesa and I was still listening to Trump's talk. The train pulled up and it was already full. We barely got on the train and the doors closed. We were packed in like sardines.

       This was the scene of the light rail train on the way home.  Both ways on the last car were filled to the brim. It reminded me of the subways in New York when my grandmother used to take us on trips around Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Although it doesn't look like it from the people's faces, there was a lot of excitement.

My friend, Tom and I on the way home.
People were talking and laughing and also holding their signs. It was really quite peaceful even with both Trump haters and supporters squished together.

I turned off my phone and had an interesting talk with a guy from New Jersey who lived not far from where I lived when I was a teenager.  That made the time go by faster and as we got closer to Mesa, the train became more empty.

When we finally got home at 9:30, we turned on the news and it was live in downtown Phoenix. We recognized where we were and saw all the tear gas and pepper spray used to get the crowds to go home. I couldn't believe it.  Everyone was relatively peaceful when we were there but apparently it didn't stay that way.

I was really glad we left when we did.  Even though we never got into the convention center, I felt that at least we showed our support to Trump and his speech on the outside. For the most part, my experience downtown was really encouraging. People were still good and wanted to unify for their cause, peaceably. Whether you were a supporter or a hater, everyone wanted to hear what Trump had to say.   It was a most memorable day.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Wisdom of Dr. Seuss and Other Such Writings

I love Dr. Seuss. I have read his books to all nine of my children countless times and I never got tired of it.  His wisdom and encouraging words are amazing. Here are a few:

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One thing I learned in my children's literature class a long time ago is that children love rhyming words and this helps them to be better readers when they are young...

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I love this one:

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One of my favorite things about Dr. Seuss books is his ability to include an ancient form of Hebrew writing called Chiasmus. I learned about Chiasmus in my Ancient Writings class back at BYU and have noticed Dr. Seuss's example of this throughout his writing career. 

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See Hebraicisms, Chiasmus, and Other Internal Evidence for Ancient Authorship in Green Eggs and Ham

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So refreshing to read. So amusing yet encouraging. He says we should be ourselves and we are special.

I found an old post from 2014 which helped me organize my thoughts about fictional writing which is difficult for me to actually write.
But Dr. Seuss was a pro and I so appreciate his persistence in publishing so many books. 

How Fictional Writers Can Affect Us
Valerie J. Steimle
I never liked to read as a child.  My mother did her best to find books that would interest me so I would be a better reader but I still didn’t like it.  Eventually, this push did help me to find books that could take me away to another land and I did pour over the required reading in high school and college but all of that didn’t really catch me on fire to read. It was even a struggle to read my scriptures every day. Then I got married, had children and was busy with other things so I turned to magazines.
My husband on the other hand was a voracious reader.  He read every thing from science fiction to “How It Works” encyclopedias and teased me about my magazine reading. Somewhere along the middle of having children and living life, I started writing opinion pieces for a newspaper column in San Diego because of a public school issue very close to me and my family. Then it happened: I could not stop reading.  There was not enough time in the day to read everything I wanted to read so I had to pace myself.  Now 25 years later, I have played catch up on most of the classics, teach a history/ literature class for teens and write book reviews. It’s crazy how such a weakness could be turned into a strength.

Reading to children helps them to become better readers as well and I read to my own as much as possible. All nine of mind love to read and with both parents' example in their life, they love books as much as we do.
Non-fiction was where it was at for me.  Reading biographies, how-to-books and interesting political writings filled my life when I wasn’t changing diapers or cooking dinner. I learned that the pen was mightier than the sword and for me fiction was a waste of time.  Boy, was I ever wrong.
Belonging to a writer’s group, I began to edit and review fictional stories. I have read more novels in the past 10 years than I have ever read before and they are dessert for me now.  A well written story with a great moral or tender thought can teach better principles than most Sunday School classes. Why?  Because, you are sucked up into the story so deeply that when you are hit with a true gospel principle, it stays with you for the rest of your life.
For example: I recently read a magnificent novel called The Dreamer by May Nicole Abby. It was a remarkable, adventure story of a woman who was at the end of her emotional rope. She did all she wanted through her educational pursuits, racking up degrees and studying around the world. She was a prominent professor at a high ranking university, yet something was missing and she didn’t know what.  At wits end, she throws herself off the edge of a cliff in hopes to find what she is looking for and falls through a time portal which takes her back to the 1700’s. 

At the end of her story she says this: “Sometimes I cannot help marvel at the woman I have become who gave up the pursuit of fame for love and family. At first I tried to return to my work, but it was impossible with so much to do for Mallory (husband), his career and our home and especially once our first child came and needed me so.  There was no time for it. So tenderly, I put it all away.  I thought woman like me were weak. But it takes all my strength and courage to put my children and husband before myself.  I know I won’t be read about in text books and newspapers.  I know I will live and die in general obscurity.  Mallory will be read about perhaps, but not me.  My children might become famed and acclaimed, but not me….. But without me, these, my loved ones, would be lost. Somehow I am the adhesive that binds us together as one and I have pondered in awe of my power. My words are their words. My kindness or cruelty, theirs. Their voices seem to be the echo of my own.”
Like long parables, these fictional stories can pierce the heart or strike upon exactly what the reader was looking for in life.  Fictional stories have this power for good or for evil and that is an epiphany I have thought about over and over again. Books are food for the soul: all children should learn this. So if you are like I was so long ago, find a delicious desert of a book and read, read, read. You will never regret it.

The End....