Open Door

Open door meme

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10 Best Blogs for Beauty and Inspiration

I am so thankful for the readers of Doing Life Together. When we first started this blog in August of 2014, our goal was to share our lives with you, and possibly help you through difficult times with the benefit of our experiences. We started out as a pool of nine writers, and as life has intervened, our numbers have dwindled, and we don’t share as often as we would like to. We’re sorry. Yet, our faithful readers continue to visit regularly and encourage us. Thank you so much for your friendship—it means the world to us.

I follow lots of blogs that inject beauty and inspiration into my life. They help me write better; they inspire me to capture my fleeting ideas and to attempt artistic endeavors. Here are ten of my favorites, in no particular order:

  1. Ricoh CameraCee’s Photography. Cee is an awesome photographer and instructor. Her website features lessons and tips and (my favorite) challenges which hundreds of professional and amateur photo bugs participate in every week.
  2. Goins, Writer. I credit Jeff Goins with helping me figure out what to do with my life after I left teaching. Besides being a wonderful writer, he is passionate about helping people find their purpose.
  3. Helping Writers Become Authors. K.M. Weiland is not only a wonderful author, she is extremely generous about sharing her expertise. Her website is full of helpful advice for novelists.
  4. My OBT. Donna’s blog began as a quest to find one beautiful thing every day.
  5. Palette-300pxSketch Away. Wherever she goes, Suhita Shirodkar carries her sketchbook along with her and records what she sees.
  6. Treadlemusic. This great-grandmother rides a motorcycle and does free-motion quilting (not at the same time). She shares pictures of her projects, and also of the quilts her buddies make.
  7. Writers in the Storm. Laura Drake, Jenny Hansen, Orly Konig Lopez, and Fae Rowen started this blog about the craft of writing. They are joined by other well-known writers and instructors, such as Margie Lawson, Kathryn Kraft, and Angela Ackerman, who regularly contribute guest posts.
  8. Christian writer Ann Voskamp’s blog is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Not only are the articles helpful and positive, but her photographs of simple things are absolutely stunning. Every Saturday she writes a Multivitamins post, which includes links to articles and videos she enjoys.
  9. girl-writing-2Writing and Illustrating. Kathy Temean, herself a writer/illustrator and the former New Jersey Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, writes about the children’s book market. I especially love her Saturday profiles of illustrators.
  10. Quilt Inspiration. If you love looking at beautiful quilts, this is the place for you. Besides photographs of quilts by thousands of quilt artists, this blog features a huge archive of free quilt patterns.

I hope you’ll visit some of these blogs. They are well worth your time to explore. Also, please share a link to one of your favorite blogs (or your own blog) in the comments below.

Posted in Art, Blogs, Creativity, Doing Life Together, photography, Quilting, Writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Heav’n-rescued Land on 4th of July by Betty Mason Arthurs

Heav’n-rescued Land on 4th of July

By

Betty Mason Arthurs

America is the “land of the free and the home of the brave” as sung in The Star-Spangled Banner, our national anthem. But do we know the second verse?

“O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just;

And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!’

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’re the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

Francis Scott Key penned the opening words to this anthem on the back of a letter while pacing the deck of a ship in the Baltimore Harbor. It was the war of 1812 when British ships were bombarding Fort McHenry. All through the night the battle raged and at dawn, Francis saw that the victorious American flag still flew over the fort. The flag, given to Fort McHenry by a Mrs. Sanderson, is still on display in her museum home in Baltimore, Maryland and the city erected a magnificent statue in honor of Francis Scott Key.

Our patriotic hymn was adopted and declared to be our national anthem by Congress on March 3, 1931.

America is a vast land and has many different cultures. And all across our country in May or June, high school seniors graduate, ready to launch into adulthood. Last month we attended our grandson’s high school graduation in Flagstaff, Arizona. Once again I was reminded of the blessing of living among a variety of cultures. The ceremony held in Northern Arizona University’s J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome opened with the processional, Pomp & Circumstance, as the 300 graduates walked to their places. Then the choir sang our National Anthem, a tradition which always brings me to tears. We heard welcomes from students in English, Spanish, Navajo and Hopi. Some of the young women graduates wore Native American dress beneath their robes along with moccasins. Female Muslim graduates wore scarves wrapped around their heads. Last names I never heard of before were listed in the program. Students going into the military were acknowledged. Truly this was a mix of Americans, celebrating together the success of our young people

The words to the Flagstaff High School alma mater, “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters,” written by Theodora Brown in 1930 ring true today:

At the foot of ‘Frisco Mountain,

Under skies of blue,

Stands our noble Alma Mater

Glorious to view.

Chorus:

Lest her praises be forgotten,

Sing them to the sky;

Hail, to thee, our Alma Mater

Hail, dear Flagstaff High.

And no matter where we wander,

Or what life may bring,

We will always love you, Flagstaff,

Loud your praises sing.

It’s a privilege to be in a nation of so many diverse people who love our country.

Once again this July 4th, let’s praise God for he has made and preserved us a nation. We are a “heav’n rescued land.” Let’s also pray for our country and the world.

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Ten Quotes to Help You Accept Change…by ARHuelsenbeck

I hate change.

When I like something, I want it to stay the same. Forever.

J.D. Salinger, in The Catcher in the Rye, wrote: “Certain things, they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone.” I totally agree.

Yet, change is an inevitable part of life. To cling to the old is to die.

fearI can embrace change, as long as it’s a change I want, a change I’ve initiated. But if someone else tries to change something I think is fine the way it is, if someone tries to fix something that ain’t broke, I oppose it.

 

I resigned from two jobs when their paradigms shifted. The work I loved turned to torture; my satisfaction changed to uncertainty. As Mary Shelley wrote in Frankenstein: “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

Though leaving my jobs was a positive solution, I deliberated for a long time before making my move—for a year the first time, three years the second. Even in my rebellion, I resisted change. The status quo paradoxically offers comfort, even when it’s barely tolerable.

If I can’t change, I can’t progress, I can’t grow. I’m a dinosaur, destined to die out because I can’t cope with the climate.

So I look at the kaleidoscopic world around me and try to accommodate some of the transformations, the technologies. I’ve conquered basic blogging, but I’m too stupid to use a smart phone, and frankly, I don’t want to learn. I still buy CDs, rather than subscribing to a streaming service. I’m learning how to use a DSLR camera (though I’m still using all the auto settings).

Writer with scared mask

Are my efforts enough? Probably not, but at least I’m not totally left behind.

I turned to literature for some advice on how to handle change, and found these nuggets of wisdom:

  • “You can’t stop the future
    You can’t rewind the past
    The only way to learn the secret
    …is to press play.”― Jay AsherThirteen Reasons Why (Yes, I get the irony that you have to know what a tape player is to understand this quote.)
  • “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”― Lao Tzu, father of Taoism
  • “The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”CHANGEC. JoyBell C., author
  • “I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back….”― Erica Jong, author
  • “The comfort zone is a psychological state in which one feels familiar, safe, at ease, and secure. You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”― Roy T. Bennett, author (I follow him on Twitter. His handle is @InspiringThinkn.)
  • “Renew, release, let go. Yesterday’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to bring it back. You can’t “should’ve” done something. You can only DO something. Renew yourself. Release that attachment. Today is a new day!”― Steve MaraboliUnapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
  • “I give you this to take with you:
    Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
    begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.”― Judith MintyLetters to My Daughters
  • “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”– Isaiah 43:19 NIV
  • “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”– Joshua 1:9 NIV
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”– Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

What about you? Do you have trouble addressing change, or do you meet it with open arms? Do you have any advice for combating aversion to change? Share in the comments below.

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Fathers to the Rescue by Betty Mason Arthurs

 

 

Fathers to the Rescue

by

Betty Mason Arthurs

Father’s Day is here and it’s a time to pay tribute to our fathers and their positive influence in our lives. I also love the stories about fathers in the animal kingdom and their heroics in rescuing their young.

Recently I was fascinated by a story which reported about my state of Arizona and its Salt River Horses. One click on the internet and I entered a fascinating world, a cowboy era of the Wild West…taking place today.

To the east of Phoenix for 200 miles runs the Salt River through the White Mountains and Tonto National Forest. Over 100 wild horses roam along a 16 mile stretch, among the salt cedars and desert creosote. The wild herds are lead by stallions which have a harem of mares and their young which have adapted to the searing desert heat. Facebook posts and websites give us horse lovers’ updates and photos.

Recently a post shared the story of a stallion named Champ. The photos captured this dappled grey stallion and his harem crossing the river. One dark brown filly struggled to stay close to her mother. There was no sound but you could see that she screamed in fright when she was swept away. Champ chased after her, grabbed her by her mane and dragged her to shore where she once again snuggled close to her mother. See the photos here taken by the “volunteer horse protectors” who fight to preserve these wild herds.

I often find myself in tears when the animal kingdom reflects our human world.

Years ago in the 1950s when I was thirteen, my father and I were visiting our Minnesota family. They owned an old deserted lodge built in the 1920s on Moon Lake. My cousins and I begged the adults to take us for a boat ride on a balmy summer day. My dad agreed to take us and for an hour we enjoyed our time on the water, a new experience for me. Never mind that I couldn’t swim or none of us had life jackets or the ten-foot boat had no oars, the old motor puttered along just fine. Then the sky grew dark, rain started to fall and the wind whipped water into the motor and boat. I kept my eyes on my dad, who in the slashing rain, calmly took the motor apart and dried the spark plugs. Soon the motor sparked to life and a group of waterlogged cousins and I gratefully jumped ashore. Later my dad told me, “I was praying hard, Betty. I made a big mistake of not making sure we had life jackets and oars.” I don’t remember being afraid since I kept my eyes on my father and he had always kept me safe. Dad Mason

Here’s a photo taken of my father, Willard, in the 1980s:

 

A few days ago in Virginia, a gunman opened fire on a congressional delegation of amateur baseball players practicing for a charity event. It happened to be a contingent of Republicans and one congressman had his ten-year-old son with him. As the shooting started over 20 men surrounded his son in the dugout, offering a wall of protection. “My son had many fathers that day,” he said.

Whether human or animal, fathers are a precious part of our lives.

The Bible tells us about God, our Father:

As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him (Psalm 103:13 NIV).

Do you need a father…a rescuer in your darkest hours? God longs to be that father for you.

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A Dad, a Daughter and a Butterfly by Betty Mason Arthurs

A Dad, a Daughter and a Butterfly

by

Betty Mason Arthurs

 

Father’s Day is coming and I love stories about fathers who have been involved in their children’s lives, bringing strength and loving care into every moment. My pastor, Andrew Cunningham, recently shared about a science project he worked on with his youngest daughter, Emma.

“I can’t dissect the butterfly, Dad, it’s alive!” Emma stared in horror at the insect her dad caught for a seventh grade science project. Andrew, a savvy father, had caught the yellow butterfly after a lengthy search of our Phoenix parks. Using a cheap net purchased at a dollar store, he had chased the “scientific specimen” as time and time again it fluttered away.

“Emma, don’t worry, we’ll kill it before you pull it apart.” He dropped the butterfly in a jar, “We’ll put it in the freezer and it will painlessly die, then you can dissect it.” It seemed Air Force veterans, like Pastor Andrew, are great at problem solving. A few hours later, Emma pulled the jar out, gently laid her butterfly on a paper towel and then yelled, “Dad, its legs are still wiggling!” Andrew made an “executive father decision,” and took Emma outside where they released the winged creature.

He told us during his Sunday morning sermon, “Emma has a sensitive heart. How could I demand she kill one of God’s creations? Surely there was another project she could do for her science class.”

The Bible gives fathers instruction about their children:

Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master. Ephesians 6:4 (MSG)

I pray God will give us more sensitive fathers like Pastor Andrew.

Do you have a happy memory to share about your father? Will you share it with me?

Don’t forget to thank your father on this Father’s Day, June 18, 2017.

Posted in children, Christian Living, Family Life, Fathers, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Aged Senses for Better…Mostly Worse by Betty Mason Arthurs

betty-a-001.jpg

For better or for worse, aged bodies and their five senses groan under the load of sensitive blood cells heading to distinction.  Like the antiques rotting in great-granny’s attic, my hearing, vision, touch, taste, and smell have gone kaput. Let’s combine those with memory loss and this old lady and her man, both retired and married over 50 years, must make daily decisions on how to connect with each other and the land of scorpions and termites in Arizona.

With my acute hearing loss, I have two marvelous high-tech hearing aides, but they don’t help much. I blame John’s hearing loss on 1960s good ol’ rock and roll with stereophonic, earth shattering sounds of lead guitars he loved to sing with. One recent morning John said, “Preston has school soccer practice.” Honest, that’s what I heard.

“Oh is soccer starting?” I asked. Preston is our teenage grandson.

“What? Soccer? I didn’t say anything about soccer.”

“Yes, you did.”

“Babe, I asked if you need your stool softener with breakfast.”

“Why would he need stool softener for soccer? You just bought him those great soccer shoes?”

“What?”

“Well maybe it would help with my constipation.”

“I’m talking about breakfast and constipation prevention.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so. Yes, I want my stool softener.”

Hearing loss becomes a plague that kills nice communication between aging couples and their offspring, like termites chewing up your attic beams and the tender floor boards of your home. But the beauty of cell phones is you can turn the volume up and never miss a word. Cell phones and texting keep us in touch with family as never before. Just ask our grown kids. For some reason they don’t want us having important conversations when on lunch dates.

My phone rang while my daughter and I were enjoying a lovely meal.

“Mom, don’t answer, let them leave a message.”

“Helloo, this is Betty,” I shouted above the din.

“Mom, shush, you’re talking too loud.”

“What?!”

“But it’s my doctor’s office.” Darling daughter heads to the restaurant bathroom.

“So glad you called. What a relief, no change? My bone loss is the same as five years ago?!”

Why was she embarrassed?  Good news should be shared. Also the exterminator eliminated our termite problem and sent me a congratulatory text, which makes me glad he didn’t call. Grown children are just too sensitive.

One very important sense of the human body is touch and for me, it’s a very jumpy subject. The reason is:  if you can’t hear chances are you will leap outta your skin when someone touches you since you didn’t hear them coming. This is a skill my husband has mastered. Last night I got up from bed to go to the bathroom being careful to avoid scorpions which crawl in the night…and our black cat. In spite of a five night lights, I didn’t see or hear John. He touched my shoulder. Eeek! The nerve endings on my wrinkled skin erupted in a panic and my fright mechanism, though old, lashed out to eliminate the threat. Jumpy indeed. It took an hour before we relaxed enough to go back to sleep. I must remember to buy a motion sensor for the bedroom or wear my hearing aids and glasses to bed.  And skip the morning stool softener.

Now we must chat about the sense of sight. We enjoy 20/20 vision thanks to eye glasses we bought on special, “Get two for the price of one.” But if you are mega near sideded like me the cost goes up by $510. Then we both must purchase computer glasses which my dear one forgot to take off as we blithely traveled to the grocery store…at night.

“Where are the white lines they’re supposed to paint in this parking lot?” Computer glasses complained.

“What are we doing here? This is Lowe’s?”

“Yes, it’s Lowe’s.”

“Yes, but the grocery store is over there. You must have thought I said Lowe’s when I said loaves.”

“Really? You’re the one with hearing aids. Why can’t you stop mumbling?”

“I give up. Since we’re here, you might as well pick up the light bulbs and paint we need. I’ll walk over and get the bread, milk and bran flakes.”

“Okay, I’ll pick up the paint while you get the bread.”

An hour later I text John, “Are you done? I can’t find the car…or you.” Even the termites see better in their dungeons than we do.

The senses of taste and smell are very closely linked as you age. I have tender ancient taste buds and a sensitive stomach so bland food is good for me. John prefers jalapenos over everything, but I think the hot peppers have cauterized his nasal passages.

“Please take out the trash, it stinks to high heaven.”

“I don’t smell anything.”

“Exactly, you can’t smell anything.”

“I was a salesman and last week I sold my old Ham Radio transceiver online.”

“Not sell, smell. Never mind, I’ll empty the trash myself.”

“What are you doing? That is too heavy for you.” He grabs the bag out of my hands and says, “Hey you’re right, this does stink!”

For better and mostly worse, our aged senses are spinning out of control. But like John tells me when I’m nestled in his arms, “We’re in this together, Babe.” Someday I’ll touch his face and shout in his good ear, “I’m Betty, not Babe.”

Yes, my Love, grow old along with me, the worst is yet to be.

Posted in Aging, Christian Living, Doing Life Together, Family Stories, Greatest love ever, Humor, Life Transitions, Love, Marriage, sweethearts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments