The Reason Things Happen: A new lease on life

VisitingMy daughter Eve arrived just before the snow storm hit. The news weather channel had warned us only a few days ahead of time but her tickets were bought, suitcase packed, and honestly, I had high hopes that they would be wrong again. We had a great time as her few days stretched into a full week. I (of course) was ecstatic; she grew concerned. And after several trips to the airport only to be told to “come back later…”, she arrived safely home with warm southern California embracing her as she debarked.

Eve didn’t, however, take everything home with her. She left me three surprises in the hallway closet for me to find: a thank you note; a hardcover book by Mira Kirshenbaum—Everything Happens For a Reason; and, a tin of drawing pencils. We gabbed on the phone a bit after she got home and she let me know that she wanted to talk about Mira’s book on her next visit round.

So, in anticipation of that visit, I picked up the book and took it with me to one of my favorite places that offers a special Thursday menu of fresh baked Ziti, salad, warm toasted garlic bread, and a drink. I placed the book down on my table alongside of my Ziti and began to read.

I knew right away that Mira’s writing was going to be an interesting challenge because she starts off with asking the most impossible question of all: How do we make meaning of our lives? And, in particular, of the things that happen to us?  It’s a gutsy question because world-renown philosophers throughout the ages have asked the same question, phrased a little differently but with the same quizzical musings—what is life all about?

In chapter one, Mira lays her foundation assumptions about life. First and foremost, she believes that meaning can be found; we are not out here like seaweed in the ocean to be washed in and out with the tides. Rather, she offers the insight that “The good that comes out of the bad things that happen to you is to help you become your best, most authentic self” (p.22). She places emphasis on being a most authentic self. I agree with Mira. Being the best that we can be is important. Being an “authentic” best enlarges us beyond duplication or Xerox copies of each other.

Mira invites us to become a true and genuine human being and put aside petty jealousies, anger, and selfishness. Or, as Peterson in The Message observes about a shammed or faked life:  “It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness…paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming but never satisfied wants; a brutal temper…small-minded and lopsided pursuits…uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions…” (p. 1609). Peterson says he can go on writing about a wasted and meaningless life. And, I believe him as my own experiences prove both his and Mira’s words true enough.

There is however, one thing that I would add to Mira’s ten meanings she gives to life events and Peterson’s perspectives on the search of an authentic living and that is we can neither do it alone nor can we achieve it simply through reading the books sitting on the shelves of libraries around the world or those stuffed into the bookcases in our homes. We must first open our ears and begin to listen to the inner man of our hearts closely—knowing that it speaks a language different than what we’ve been taught by our culture of material desires. For many of us that is a foreign dialect. And, perhaps more importantly,  it comes only in relationship with each other and that by the grace of God.

…next post–chapter two.

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Stolen Courage

By Mary L. Buck, PhD

This is first in a series of children stories focusing in on the value of courage written for The Children’s Storytelling & Family Literacy Corporation (www.storytimeusa.org).

swordThis is a story about how a terrible and fearsome warlord stole courage and a fearful dark cloud filled a land.

Once upon a time in a faraway land there lived a kind and fearless king. His people were God-fearing people who loved to fly kites, kites of all colors. And on days of celebration, all the people would fly their kites so that the sky looked like an ocean of jewels. And when their king saw all the kites and colors in the sky, he would smile a simple and courageous smile and the people cheered and shouted with joy.

One day a terrible and ferocious warlord came over the hillside. He killed the kind and fearless ruler. The people were very sad and mourned for their king.

Then one day after having mourned their king, the people flew their kites again, everyone–every man, every woman and every child in honor of their simple and fearless king.

But when the warlord saw all the people—men, women and their children, flying their kites in the sky, he asked his counselors:
“What are these people doing? And, why are those colorful kites flying in the sky?” For the king wore only one color all of his life—a dreary dark black. He did not like the kites of different hues, sparkling like stars in the sky.

His counselors replied, “Before you took their kingdom, my lord, and killed their king, the people of this land would celebrate by flying their kites of many colors. And, when their simple and fearless king saw all the kites and colors in the sky, he would smile and then the people would cheer and shout freely with joy.”

When the warlord heard that the peoples rejoiced and saw that they flew their kites proudly with joy because of their kind and fearless king, he became very angry and jealous. He told his counselors: “Today I make a new decree; no one anywhere at any time in this land shall ever fly a kite of any color again. Anyone who causes a kite to soar freely in the sky will be imprisoned and put to death!”

“And that is the day,” the people of the kingdom whispered, “that goodness, hope, and courage died and a fearful dark cloud filled our land.”

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Final On Feedback

ThumbsUpA BIG THANK YOU to all the evaluators who gave me feedback on the famous fable reading test over the weekend. I’ve learned over the years that the eyes and ears of others are invaluable especially in project development.

Everyone gave it a positive response. Improvement suggestions included timing, music, and possible tag lines among many others.

So, it looks like I have my work cut out for me, which is great. I was praying that this would be a viable avenue for reaching out to an online audience with a message of family values and moral imagination.

Thanks again,

–And to family and friends, as we celebrate this season of thanksgiving, may our Good Lord bless us all and keep us in the safety of His arms.
Living life in 2013,

Mary Buck, PhD
Executive Director, Children’s Storytelling & Family Literacy Corp
The Sustainable American Family Program
–Stories which shape the heart for life-

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A Good Report

GoodReportWe all have our days; some better than others. And from a productivity perspective, mine tipped the scale just to the positive right side.

The tipping actually started with posting my last blog “Creating Space” and establishing my work area. Getting my stuff in order always gives me a sense of accomplishment. Honestly, though, this doesn’t work for everyone. A very close artist friend once told me that my clean work area scared him. My new work space would probably have him shivering in his boots!

Fortunately, my orderly space and rough paper cutout of Mamanoes was followed by a spark of oomph this morning. I decided to move ahead one big step and do a trial soundtrack at the recording studio. It went well and I just sent off a sample to some tried and true reviewers. I look forward to their remarks on how to improve future Mamanoes Famous Fables recordings in both technically and insightful ways.

It’s been a week, so here’s an up-to-minute report on the Mamanoes Famous Fables project:
1. The hardware/software snags have been ironed out. I just received and installed the Serif DrawPlus x5. The price was right ($20) and it more than satisfies the need for any vector drawing requirements both for this and future projects. It also has animation capability (possibly animating Mamanoes eyes and brows for MP4?…but that’s another project altogether).

2. A fresh icon was created to act as the logo for StorytimeUSA blog talk radio broadcast. It communicates the new emphasis of the show—fables for family values. Installation should happen early next week.

On a side note, I created the (free) BlogTalk account some time ago on the encouragement of a friend—Althea Williams. She’s probably forgotten all about it but she felt so strongly at the time that I went ahead and followed through on her suggestion. Oddly, the blog radio site didn’t dump me despite the lack of activity of over three years!

3. A two minute sample recording was completed today and sent out for review. I should get the responses back in about a week and will keep you posted.

In the meantime, I’ll finish up on the corresponding online course: Stories of Value. The class provides insights into the how’s, what’s, and why’s stories read to us as children shape the values we carry with us through life. It’s a must have for all parents and anyone with charge over young children. Here’s to a good day!

Living life in 2013,
Mary Buck, PhD
Executive Director, Children’s Storytelling & Family Literacy Corp
The Sustainable American Family Program
–Stories which shape the heart for life-

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Creating Space

Today, I set up a working space. My fresh-installed laptop and small drawing tablet sits snugly in the center of an old wooden dinner table. I bought the table for $25 from a woman who babysat her 3 grandchildren. There are paint splotches and pencil marks across the top. I’m hoping some of that creative energy it absorbed over the years will galvanize me.

To my right, is a Klic-N-Kut Zing digital die cutter. It’s tethered to my laptop and controlled by KNK design software. (For those of us who suffer from upper body muscle loss, like me—this tool was answered prayer!) I purchased the Zing a little while back to act as my “virtual paper cutting scissors.” A special thanks to Chad Youngblut, Vice President for Products and Support at KNK. His quick response to my deleted software problem and my Zing-less state was gratefully appreciated!

To my left is a small tower of stacked boxes containing pens, pencils, erasures, glue, rulers…all the things that bring the final assemblage of my cut paper pieces together. If there is any school year I’d love to do over, it would be First Grade; that’s where we learned to make simple paper templates of circles, squares, and rectangles. We combined the shapes to create larger more complex images.

Lighting is the final element of my work space. The morning sun comes through the three dining room windows and I do my best work in the early morning to early afternoon sun. As my metamorphosing continues, the brighter light seems to encourage new thoughts, new ideas, as well as the growth of my plant sitting on the table’s corner.

Overall, it is a pretty simple setup. The working space feels good. It gives me enough room to create; is well lit; and focuses my thoughts on the project in front of me.

As a closing note, I’m hoping to get Mamanoes to her famous fables recording state by the end of next week. Today, I worked more on her image. Here’s how she as developed in my mind’s eye so far:
Mamanoes

Living life in 2013,

Mary Buck, PhD
Executive Director, Children’s Storytelling & Family Literacy Corp
The Sustainable American Family Program
–Stories which shape the heart for life–

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One Pixel At A Time

sickcomputer
In our day and age, we cannot not help but struggle with digitized media whether at home, work, or just for fun. And my last 10 hours were spent doing exactly that–at home, contending resolutely against the dismal black screen state into which my laptop had fallen.

The end result? After many, many conversations with online help desks, I think my metamorphosing can now take a small pixelated step forward; laptop in hand; hope arisen… But first a needed break and then back to the drawing board tomorrow. Breathing slowly…

Living life in 2013,

Mary Buck, PhD
Executive Director, Children’s Storytelling & Family Literacy Corp
The Sustainable American Family Program
–Stories which shape the heart for life–

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The Making of Mamanoes

First, I want to thank my big sis for her great comments about Mamanoes’ character developnment:

“I think Mamanoes has the world’s most comfortable rocker … a sweet lilting laugh (and) … is everyone’s gramma who can quote book, chapter and verse for the appropriate life crisis…”

Just to let you know, I’ll do my best to weave these recommendations into her character. But for Day 3, the only think I can report is: If it’s not one thing, it’s another!

It started with a systems crash, frozen Internet, and lost software. But since my mid-30’s and college training, I’ve become the kind of person that doesn’t give up easily! So, here it is 5:30pm EST and I’m thinking–count it all good; live to fight another day; turn on the tv!

Living life in 2013,

Mary Buck, PhD
Executive Director, Children’s Storytelling & Family Literacy Corp
The Sustainable American Family Program
–Stories which shape the heart for life–

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