Third Party Candidate, Henry Cat by Betty Mason Arthurs

HenryThird Party Candidate, Henry Cat by Betty Mason Arthurs


What a relief the mind-numbing nominating conventions are over. The God-bless-Americans are ready to ponder the state of our union and endure campaign strategies whipped up in the blender of political back rooms. We have our two candidates whose faces are breaking in two because of all the smiling they’ve been doing and right hands which are painfully being reshaped by eager constituents shaking them for hours each day.
I have a solution for the confused voter if they can’t decide between the two candidates. My sweet, pouty cat, Henry, ten minutes after the last balloon fell on the presidential contenders’ heads, decided to form a Third Party and named himself as a presidential contender. I will let him postulate on his magnanimous decision.

“Hello to my fellow Americans.” Henry purrs out his feline delight. “I want to include all animals and humans in my remarks. Let us come together under God’s big umbrella of all his created species. Our world is in dire straits and I aim to offer creative and lasting solutions to every problem. And I am a proud all one color handsome cat with black fur and black whiskers and yellow empathetic eyes.

“My presidential slogan is: ‘We Meow For You!’

“My theme song is sung by the gospel choir of the Purrfect Church of Tempe, Arizona. It touches me and makes me purr in high octave C like no other song. Hear it now on: http.//

“I have chosen my vice-presidential running mate carefully. Leland, my cousin from Flagstaff, Arizona, has agreed to be by my side and claw anyone who opposes me. My other dear cousin, Bindy, is of good moral character and will be our chief chef. Since eating is a huge priority for me as I make many important decisions, I must have her fish cakes and mouse head pie on a daily basis. However, we will recruit TV chefs to cook for the humans in my administration. Grumpy Cat will be my press secretary and I know he will make hiss-story with purr-fect statements. Felix the Cat, who comes with high recommendations, agreed to be my Secretary of State. My secret service agents will be led by James K.A.T. Bond.

“We will fight hard to end poverty. Charity begins at my home so I’ve recruited Garfield, famous cartoon character. He will use his cute, devious ways to obtain wealth from rich retirees, Hollywood stars and business gurus and give to the poor. His secret nomenclature is Robin Hood.

“I plan to marry my neighbor, Miss Charlotte Finicky, before taking office. Her beauty and charm will enhance the atmosphere of the Gray House. Yes, the White House must change color to be neither white nor black but gray, a fine suggestion from my lovely fiancé, who has sophisticated, sensitive taste and non-prejudiced heart attitudes.

“Combat trained cats are ready to claw terror suspects apart around the world. Led by the Storm Troopers from Star Wars, fearless felines foam at the mouth and cough up radioactive hairballs which drop from drones that disintegrate our enemies. No need to fear, combat creepy cats are here.

“I have big plans for the Gray House. I insist on a dog-free zone in a one-mile radius around it. There will be a comfy bed in the oval office since I do my best thinking on a bed and not a desk, but since I am shy by nature, hiding under a bed also comforts me.” Here Henry purrs at the very thought of a long nap in the most famous house in our beloved America. “I will build kitty condos for homeless cats on the south lawn. Let’s leave no cat behind.

“To offer comfort and patriotic thinking, there will also be red, white and blue litter boxes in every wing of the Gray House, so choose whichever and whatever works for your feline fancy. Paw sanitizer will be available in tuna fragrance.

“Please visit my website, ‘’ to view more of my presidential reforms and see photos of me and my campaign staff. God bless you and the USA! Meow! Meow!”

Posted in America, Doing Life Together, Elections, Finding solutions, Humor, Politics, Uncategorized, United States of America | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Creative Playground…by ARHuelsenbeck

One of my fondest childhood memories is of the hours I spent at the playground in the park near my New Jersey home in the 1950s. Two ancient swing sets stood in the shade of mature trees, their massive wooden seats fastened to the crossbar not by chains, but by rigid iron bars with hooks on both ends. They let out a satisfying metallic screech as each arcing motion reached its zenith.

The mountainous silver-surfaced slide had a huge bump about halfway down, which made us kids scream with delight—except when the hot summer sun shone directly on it, and you burned your bottom. Sometimes the slide was “slow,” and you’d stick to it. An enterprising child would run home for a sheet of waxed paper and wax the slide by riding down it a few times while sitting on the waxed paper.

There were seesaws, too—wooden planks that teetered on a horizontal pipe. I didn’t like them—if your partner suddenly jumped off, your end of the board came down hard on the ground.

With the simplest equipment, we kids were able to have lots of fun. However, I am blown away by the imaginative playgrounds built today.


I love the organic look of this wooden structure. Photo by Martin Vorel.


Adventure Playground in High Park, Toronto, assembled by volunteers. Can you imagine playing in that castle? Unfortunately, the castle was destroyed in a fire. Photograph by Alaney2k.

ship playstructure in Estonia

“Ship” play structure in Estonia. Photo by Jaanus Silla.


Suspension bridge. Photo by Nino Barbieri.


Vivo City playground. In a shopping mall in Singapore. Photo by William Cho.


This playground is located at Yachthafenresidenz Hohe Düne (Yacht Harbor Residence High Dune) at the Baltic Sea, Rostock, Mecklenburg, Germany. Photo by Beauwell.

To my way of thinking, these beautiful playgrounds could only enhance imaginative play.

But the truth is, many of today’s children spend more time in virtual play than on an actual physical playground. Does it matter?

In the United States, elementary schools are pressured to devote more time to instruction in order for children to perform better on standardized tests. In that high-stakes environment, recess and physical education look like wasted time. But are they? Evidence suggests that students who have ample opportunity to move and play actually concentrate better and learn more with less effort because their brains and bodies are refreshed.

Playgrounds need not be expensive propositions. It’s possible to build beautiful play structures out of inexpensive, easily obtainable materials assembled by volunteers.

For more information on play and to see more examples of well-designed playgrounds, visit these websites:

In the olden days, many parents were with their children much of the day. Many parents worked in the home, some came home for the lunch hour. In a simpler time, children went off to play in the neighborhood with their friends.

Today’s parents have complex occupational requirements that prevent them from spending the day with their kids, and they may not be comfortable with them being outside and out of sight. Certainly, we are aware of the danger of children not being supervised. Yet, in those precious off-work hours parents might not have the time or energy for a trip to the playground.

What do you think? Do you like the play spaces in this article? Are modern playgrounds a waste or a necessity? How do we balance children’s outside play with their safety? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted in Creativity, Doing Life Together, Play | Tagged , | 6 Comments

When You Long to Escape

Some days I dream about escaping. I picture myself at the Hotel del Coronado (“the Del”) on the southern California coast for three days. By myself.

The dream is most vivid seconds before I open the door for the first time in the morning into my 91-year-old mother’s room. With my hand on the doorknob, I sigh. Then I pray. I know what waits on the other side.

The stench of urine from nighttime diapers she can’t remember to change. Once in awhile, a trail of feces leading into the bathroom, where sometimes the results of “an explosion” remain splattered on the wall and floor around the toilet.

That’s when I long to breathe in ocean air.

Mother’s scripts are gone. But I remember. She used to say every night, “Thank you for everything you do for me. And I am well aware of what all it is.” Now she parrots my words, “Sweet dreams.” “Sweet dreams.” “I’ll see you in the morning.” “I’ll see you in the morning.” “I love you. “I love you.”

I remind myself God says, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24) Yes, it is, and yes, we will.

I know I also will see the smile I have loved for all of my 64 years, when the look of recognition eventually registers on her face. I am blessed she still knows me. I’m aware the day may come when she doesn’t. I also know I will hear, “Well, good mornin’, darlin’,” in her Southern drawl that I have memorized, and I know one day I will miss it. One day soon. Hospice thinks she has weeks to live.

And then I realize I really don’t want to escape. There’s nowhere else now I’d rather be right now than with her. My husband Jim (her “son-in-love” for more than 33 years) has offered to stay with her so I can go. But I want to see the twinkle in her eye for as long as I can.

But I also want to sip coffee on the patio of the Del and watch the sun dance on the waves. I want to hear the music of the deep crescendo on the shore. But that is not for now.

If I were at the Del, I would linger over brunch enjoying outside dining, mesmerized by the rhythm of the waves. Since I’m at home, I’ll sip Breakfast Blend on my patio, absorbing the beauty of my desert-view backyard.

If I were at the Del, I’d relax with an anti-aging facial in the ocean front spa. Since I’m at home, I’ll scoop out the used coffee grounds from my Keurig pod and exfoliate in the shower.

If I were at the Del, I would walk barefoot on the beach, playing tag with the Pacific. I’d enjoy the resulting smoothness of my feet from the sand and feel the stretch in my calves. Since I’m at home, I’ll lace up my tennies and walk around my neighborhood. I’ll stretch on playground equipment and lather on Pretty Feet after a morning shower.

Have you ever wanted to run away? To escape, even momentarily, from your daily reality? Oh yes, I know blessings often come disguised as burdens. There is character to be built and grace to be experienced. And I know that all will be well and all will be well, and all will be well. I also know, once in awhile, everyone needs a break. You don’t have to be caring for an elderly, demented parent to fantasize about life on a tropical island or in a mountain cabin.

You probably know the feeling. If so, you understand how much of a blessing a note from you could mean to someone else who could use a break. A word of encouragement. A small gift perhaps. My daughters have given me the present of mini vacations in the form of gift certificates for a massage. Their love and thoughtfulness mean as much as the gift itself.

I heard of a woman who longed for a trip to Florida. She scrimped and saved, sacrificing all but the essentials. At the last minute, she was not able to go. Friends, knowing her disappointment, showed up with a shopping bag full of oranges. “We brought Florida to you!” they exclaimed.

One more thing.

If I were at the Del, I would spend leisurely mornings delighting myself in the Lord, savoring His word, enjoying His company, meditating on His thoughts and making them my own. Since I’m at home, I’ll do the same thing, rising early to begin my day with Him.

When I am tempted to despair, to dread, to discouragement, or to doubt God’s goodness in the daily drudgeries, I have learned to re-focus on the words of Jesus, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 14:1; John 16:33)

The refreshment that comes from Him alone beats any spa treatment, even at the Del.

Posted in Aging, Alzheimer's, Being still before God, Bible, Caregiving, Christian Living, Confession, Dreams, facial, Faith, Family Life, Finding solutions, Frustrations, Gifts, Grace, Grief, Health and Beauty, Honor, Hope, Jesus, Kindness, Life Transitions, Love, massage, Mom, ocean, peace, Perserverance, Prayer, Remembering, rest, spa treatments, Trust in God's promises, When life seems too much | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Why I Love the United States of America…by Andrea R Huelsenbeck

As the two-hundred-fortieth birthday of our country approaches, it’s appropriate to consider what it means to be an American. Personally, I am thankful to be a citizen of the United States, proud to be a part of what it stands for.

  1. Freedom. Our constitutional form of government empowers citizens to actively participate in self-determination. The Bill of Rights ensures our individual civil liberties. But where there is great freedom, there is also great responsibility. Apathy is not an option. Our freedom is vulnerable, and we must be ever vigilant to retain it. Spend your vote wisely, and support the men and women who serve to defend us.1024px-Declaration_independence
  2. The American Dream. We believe that through hard work, every person can become successful and prosper. In this century, the media and politicians challenge that belief, but the fact remains that the United States enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world. Seriously. If you earn $25,000 a year, you are in the wealthiest 10% of the world. Don’t believe me? Check this 2013 Gallup poll, this article from Investopedia, and the website Global Rich List.
  3. Compassion. As blessed as we are, it is only right to share with those less fortunate. After World War II, the U.S. did something unprecedented—through the Marshall Plan, we contributed $13 billion (that would be about $130 billion in 2016 dollars) to help rebuild Western Europe’s economy (including vanquished Germany, our sworn enemy). In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps, which sends American volunteers overseas to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. In 2015, the US distributed an estimated $8 billion world-wide in international disaster relief and refugee assistance (see report, p.11). In addition, hundreds of thousands of American individuals contribute to religious and private charities that also respond to catastrophes, development, and other needs abroad.

    Naturalization Hesitation

    Newly sworn U.S. citizens celebrate at a July 4, 2012, ceremony in Portsmouth, N.H., from

  4. The Melting Pot. Drawn by hope for a better life, people pour into our country from around the world. I, myself, am a beneficiary of the American immigration policy. My parents entered the United States from Germany in March, 1952, after applying and being screened (to be sure they weren’t undesirables, like Nazis or war crimes perpetrators). My parents proudly became citizens five years later. Immigration has helped our country grow in human resources. However, there is an official process that should be followed (though it needs to be made less unwieldy). No one should be allowed to sneak into our country.
  5. America the Beautiful. Bookended by oceans, bounded by Canada and Mexico, with Alaska extending into the Arctic Circle and Hawaii smack dab in the middle of the Pacific, the United States covers three million, eight hundred six thousand square miles and spans nine time zones. Its landscape includes glaciers and tropical paradises, mountains, valleys, and prairies, rivers, lakes, and deserts. Its astounding diversity and natural wonders inspire delight, surprise, and humility. Who wouldn’t want to live here?

Kansas prairie

America, America, God shed His grace on Thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!
—Katharine Lee Bates

Do you love your country? Why? Please share in the comments below.

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Waiting to Hear Their Voices in Orlando by Betty Mason Arthurs


Waiting to Hear Their Voices in Orlando by Betty Mason Arthurs

Once again we are a nation in mourning. We mourn over the horrific mass shooting and killing of the innocent Americans enjoying a night out at an Orlando nightclub.

We weep with the fathers and mothers who long to hug their children once more, but their children are dead. We tremble with outrage that one violent man’s hatred could rain down terror and express itself in killing so many people. We cry with the grandparents who have lost their beloved grandchildren in the blink of an eye. Our hearts go out to those who sit in anguish by the hospital bedsides of the injured and hope for good news. Aunts and uncles, friends, sisters and brothers all join in prayer for healing of hearts, minds and bodies…and we join with them from near and far around the world. We pray for the medical personel who used their skills to save lives and also held the hands of the injured who didn’t make it. We thank the police who rushed to rescue those in danger.

My prayers and thoughts were a chaotic mess over this tragedy and out of the blue came the song from the 1960s by Paul Simon, “The Sound of Silence.” Perhaps this title came to my mind after people at the killing zone reported the cell phones ringing and ringing from inside the nightclub. I visualized the phones beside the lifeless bodies and the mortally wounded, calls from loved ones longing to hear the voices, to know if they were alive. But there was only the sound of silence.

One phrase from The Sound of Silence that the duo Simon and Garfunkel sang is:

“Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk to you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping…”

This link will lead you to them singing this touching song.”

Yes, this is a time of darkness and I can imagine a mother listening to her son’s message on his cell phone, “Hi, this is Mike, leave me a message,” then there’s the beep and the silence. Again and again she calls and the voice she longs to hear never answers; she will never hear his voice again.

Perhaps you’ve lost a parent and long to chat with them. I imagine the young mother and father whose toddler drowned in a pool last week in Phoenix, listening for her sweet giggles. All they hear is the silence. And they watch the videos of their precious girl again and again to bridge the silence.

When my husband and I lost our first-born son in 1968 when he was only six weeks old, we no longer heard his hungry cries from our nursery. We reeled from the shock of his death and the silence of our home. We wept and prayed in one another’s arms many nights. God gave us hope in ways only He can. In one year we gave birth to a precious girl and once again our home was filled with newborn cries. In a few years we had another son…we traded sorrow for miraculous joy. Now they are grown and have given us seven grandchildren.

The Bible says in John chapter three, verse 16 that God so loved the world that he gave…what did he give? He gave his only son Jesus that we might have hope and everlasting life. Verse 17 says “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

God’s love is beyond human comprehension and to me that means he cares deeply about what happened in Orlando. Debate all you want about gun ownership, deranged terrorists, hate-filled humans who set out to destroy their neighbors, but why become heartless men and women? Can we say with Saint Francis, “where there is hatred let me sow love?”

Another 1970s song from Simon and Garfunkel is “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Every time I hear it, I shed tears. The words ring true today as never before:

“Oh, when darkness comes and pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down.”

This link will lead you to a video of them singing this beautiful, comforting song in 2012.

I join with millions around the world who pray for the bereaved, for those who are in a weeping place, an endless dark place. It may take years but, I pray they will reach a time where they can cherish the memories of good within the sound of silence and be comforted.

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Honoring People You Don’t Respect

Honoring someone you don't respect...

You may wonder, Why would I want to honor someone I don’t respect? If I don’t respect them, do they really deserve my honor? 

Chances are, you don’t want to honor that difficult person in your life. And no, they probably don’t deserve your honor. There. Glad we’ve settled that, So now what?

As a Christian, I can’t leave it there. Because God challenges me to honor people I may not respect. It may be a boss, a fellow church member, or even a family member. Check out these verses:

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 5:16

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 1 Timothy 5:17

Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. 2 Peter 2:17

Not one verse says to honor people if they deserve it. It really has nothing to do with the difficult person’s behavior. It has everything to do with the person being asked to do the honoring. It makes them better people. It makes a better life for them. In Deuteronomy the Israelites were told if they honored their parents, they would live long and things would go well. Who doesn’t want that?

Isn’t that still true today? When you dishonor people it stirs up strife in your relationships. It becomes hard to be civil. Stress builds, blood pressure rises. Life doesn’t feel so good.

But what if you tried to see that person through God’s eyes? What are their fears, problems, struggles? What do they love? What are their interests? What makes them unique?

Try focusing on compassion instead of frustration when you see that person who’s a thorn in your side. Kindness trumps impatience. Smiling wins over rolling your eyes. A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1 NIV).

And here’s the good news. God will help you honor others. He’ll even help you change your attitude toward that impossible person if you only ask Him and believe He’ll do it.

So give it a try. Keep honoring and see your own quality of life improve.

Have you tried to honor someone you don’t respect? How did you do it? What was the outcome?


Posted in Doing Life Together, Faith, Grace, Honor, Image of God, Kindness, Legacy, Life, Respect, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Rain on My Parade…by Andrea R Huelsenbeck

Lately, incidents long past, things I haven’t thought about for a half-century or longer, are popping into my memory.

When I was in second grade, my mother signed me up for Brownies. Meetings were held in Borough Hall, a community center within walking distance from our home. I had no idea what Brownies was, but Mommy promised it would be fun, that I’d make new friends and take part in activities.

e6147f5ab3ec43cd9c23b65fbe5da09aI discovered that half of the troop were classmates of mine from my parochial school; the other girls went to the local public school. They were my instant new friends, who would be constants in my life through high school. Two of their mothers served as leaders. Mrs. Chapin and Mrs. Jenkins were sweet, patient women.

Folding chairs ringed the spacious meeting room. While we waited for others to arrive, we engaged in a lively game of tag.

After the meeting, Mom asked if I had fun, and I responded affirmatively.

The next day, when I returned home after school, my mother met me at the door with a furrowed brow and crossed arms. “Mrs. Chapin just called me. She said you were very wild at Brownies yesterday.”

I was mystified. The word wild conjured visions of jungles and tigers in my brain. How had I been wild?

I assured my mother that, no, I had not been wild at Brownies.

Unconvinced, Mom warned me, “If you act wild at your meetings, you will not be allowed to be a Brownie.”

As I was growing up, I always considered my behavior to be exemplary. Of course, remembering this incident now at my advanced age, I recognize that my hysterical laughing and running around during the game of tag certainly could be classified as wild. If I had been Mrs. Chapin, I would have called my mother, too.

The highlight of that first year of Brownies (which would be an annual event throughout my Girl Scout career) was marching in the Memorial Day parade.

Memorial Day Parade by Jose Oquendo

Photo by Jose Oquendo

The parade was already a big deal for me. I had watched it from the curb every year of my life. The marchers gathered in a nearby schoolyard, the parade route passing close by my house on the way to Victory Park. There, in front of a World Wars monument, the  brave fallen warriors were remembered in speeches by elected officials, followed by the playing of Taps and a twenty-one-gun salute.

But that year, the parade was all about ME, dressed in my Brownie uniform, while thousands of adoring fans cheering as I marched past. Obviously, I was now famous.

It’s funny how children perceive themselves as the center of the universe. I had missed the whole point of the parade—that thousands of servicemen and women had given their lives to defend my country’s freedom. They were the heroes, not me.


Let us never forget.

Did someone you love perish in a war? Are you or a family member or friend deployed overseas, or serving in the armed forces within the United States? Please share in the comments below.

Posted in Celebrations, Doing Life Together, Family Life, Life, Memoir, Mom, Parenting, War | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment