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Mountain Musing 3.18.19   Leave a comment

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Posted March 18, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Scent of Childhood   6 comments

March 18, 2019

If your childhood had a smell, what would it be?


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Cyrill Connelly famously stated that “The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet.”

I have to start out by saying that I am not a person who lives through my nose. My sense of smell is the weakest of my senses, so this article took some thought.

I grew up in Alaska, where homes are closed up against the winter for 6-8 months out of a year. You can’t even open the doors to air things out once a week. When I think of the smell of my childhood, I think of coming home from school and smelling the closed-up house – diesel heating fuel mixed with cigarette smoke mixed with damp-dog smell mixed with good food on the stove and coffee on the perk. Yeah, not all that appetizing and certainly not how my kids remember our house.

Our daughter, who does live through her sense of smell, says she always thinks of Pine Sol, Murphy’s Oil Soap, and lavender potpourri
mixed with the Asian spices of the stirfries that are my go-to weekday meal when she thinks of home.

But there’s another smell that came to my mind immediately when I read this topic. The smell of cold icy ground and new green growing things. There’s a bite to the Alaskan air just before the melt starts. Our trees, the great lungs of the atmosphere, take an ice nap from October through April, so there’s a natural build-up of nitrogen and CO2 in our winter air. You can feel it if you’re active outside in the spring, even when you’re a long way from human habitation. You get the slightest headache because your body knows it’s not quite right. And, when the snow starts to melt, there’s this delicious cold flavor to everything. It’s like ice cubes with just the barest hint of salicin (you know that as aspirin) from the willow trees that are the first to wake up. I love to stand at the head of a hiking trail, just far enough from my car that I can’t smell the heat from the engine and pause … take in a deep breath … launch into the Alaskan wilderness. In a couple of weeks, the snow will be gone and the plants will suck in all that extra CO2 and burst into a spring that is so fast you’d think it was part of a Nature channel documentary.

Yeah, I’m feeling nostalgic because that incredible state of being is about 2-4 weeks away. We’ve survived another winter and our house windows will be open all summer because I prefer the smell of rain, sun, growing things, and freshly mowed grass over what I grew up smelling. Not every childhood memory is worthy of nostalgia.

Now let’s check out what my fellow bloggers have to say about their childhood scent memories.

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Blog Hoppers

Mountain Musings

Stevie Turner

Blue Honor Blog

Lydell Williams

Posted March 18, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Daydream Writer   6 comments

When you are daydreaming, what do you dream about?


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Daydreaming is a controversial topic. When I was a kid, schools really hated daydreamers because they thought we wouldn’t learn whatever nonsense they were trying to teach us. Yeah, I mean you, Mrs. Fischer.

And apparently, some neuroscientists worry that adult daydreamers may fixate on negative emotions and harm themselves, so they suggest we don’t daydream.

Other neuroscientists point out that we’re more likely to be creative if we daydream and that some of the greatest leaps in human intellectual history may have been a result of daydreaming.

I think there’s merit to all three of these arguments, but I also see problems with all three. The fact is daydreaming is a great creative tool that can distract from the world around us and can lead us into dark places … or light places as well.

I love to daydream. I get a lot of writing done while I daydream. And my best daydreaming times are:

  • 1) when I’m trying to fall asleep at bedtime;
  • 2) when I first wake up in the morning;
  • 3) when I’m on a long car trip;
  • 4) when I’m doing something boring and mundane at work.

Seriously, the more boring the job, the more productive I will be at writing when I get home that night. Filing doesn’t really require a lot of mental effort, so why not put my brain to productive use?

I try to spend at least a half-hour stretching before I get up in the morning. There are health benefits to this, but I also tend to daydream/pre-write while I’m doing it.

I almost never fall asleep the moment my head hits the pillow, so why not use that half-hour or so to think about something writing-related?

Alaska is a big state and it takes 5-7 hours (depending on season) to drive from Fairbanks to the “big city” of Anchorage. And, while most of my attention is on the road while I drive, daydreaming keeps me from zoning out and potentially falling asleep at the wheel.

I don’t often plan what my mind will work on in the daydream state. It’s whatever my imagination wants to focus on. Sometimes it’s a conversation between characters. Sometimes it’s a beautiful scene of fantasy landscape. Sometimes it’s a character having an emotional rant about something that is unfair in his/her “life”. I welcome it. I embrace it. And then when I’m able to, I sit down at the computer and I transcribe it. Sometimes I’ve spent days working on something mentally and when I sit down at the computer, 2000 words will spill out in an afternoon. So, yes, daydreaming is highly productive for the writers among us. We only look like our minds are wandering.

Posted March 11, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Here Comes the Sun   7 comments

How do you recharge?

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Everybody gets tired and reaches the end of themselves at some point in life and I am no different. So how do I recharge the cells and renew my interest in life?

I work full-time, have a family, attend church and write novels on the side. And sometimes I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel and I just want to get off and go lay down to sleep for a day or a year and even that might not be enough.

My recharge methods vary depending on season, how much time I need, and what it is that has exhausted me.

Often when I’m tired, I feel cold. I think it’s my body’s way of tricking me to lay down under the covers and sleep. And sometimes that is what I do. There’s little more recharging than sliding under the covers for a full eight hours. But my internal clock appears to be set at seven hours and in the summer it’s daylight or dusk 24 hours a day, so I’ll only sleep five … maybe. A psychiatrist I used to work with at community behavioral health told me that is quite normal. Not everyone needs eight hours and, yeah, the variable light levels around here mess with circadian rhythms.

I love hot baths. There’s something so soothing about sitting in a hot bath in a dimly lit bathroom and just letting the warmth soak into your bones. Sometimes that’ll get me a full eight hours if I go to bed right afterward.

If I’ve got the time and it’s winter, we drive the 60 miles to Chena Hot Springs Resort and do our recharging there. There’s something about that drive that just gets you in the mood for relaxation. If it’s cold out, you can spend hours in the hot pools. When your core temperature reaches fever level, you just stand up into the frigid Alaskan air and cool yourself down. If you go midweek, there’s mostly Japanese and Chinese tourists there, which means conversation is limited and Brad and I can manage the drive back saying no more than “pass the water, please” and “there’s a moose” for an hour. Ah, so refreshing.

Chena Hot Springs is no fun when it’s warm out. You spend five minutes in the pools and then you’re too hot to enjoy it. So in the summer, we head out on the hiking trails. More than 95% of Alaska’s millions of acres are public lands, so a hiking trail is easy to find, though it may come wrapped in a bow of federal red tape. We finally purchased 20 acres out northeast of town. We still haven’t built a cabin on it because there are logistical issues like access and Borough taxes, but we go out there and clear brush, pick blueberries or – my favorite – sit by a shallow waterfall along the creek and watch sunbeams twinkle off the fast-moving water. Like Chena Hot Springs a part of the appeal is that it doesn’t have internet or cell phone access. It’s a day or two away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. We usually return home feeling tired and dirty, but after a shower and a night’s sleep – ah, so ready to face my life again.

Last night, we turned off the phone and closed the laptops to play bacgammon and watch a Jason Stratham movie. Why? Because we could and it feels so good to not do modern life for a while. I think we might be on a theme here.

I love going to church, studying the Bible, hearing what my fellow “ordinary” Christians think about what we’re studying, lifting my hands in praise during the song service and learning from our pastor. I’ve sat under a lot of great pastors (and a couple of duds) and they each have drawn me further along on my spiritual journey. And, sometimes when I’m just feeling empty, I flip open my Bible and do some study of my own. I suspect, I’d feel let empty less often if I were more consistent with opening my Bible before I start writing.

Oddly, the most recharging activity I know of is writing something exciting. I’m working on a short for an anthology and it’s a great story centered around a great character and I can see where he might become the center of a novel someday. And while I’ve been pouring my talent and energy into this character’s story, I can actually feel myself recharging. That might have somewhat to do with the reality of our outdoor world. We’re up to 10 hours of daylight now and I spent yesterday afternoon writing in a pool of sunlight. And when I finish the short, I’ll knuckle down to my primary project once more, fully recharged and ready to go … with short breaks for water, sunlight and family.

And there you go – Recharge!

Posted March 4, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Road to Hell   8 comments

Feb 25, 2019

What have you done to make the world a better place?

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I have deep and abiding distrust of people who try to make the world a “better place”. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Good intentions and a belief in our own morality has led to some dark, dark, DARK places. Che Guevara wanted to make the world a better place. Not kidding. Read “The Motorcycle Diaries.” Pot Pot thought he was making the world a better place. The Crusades started out as well-meant effort to protect Christians from Muslim aggression and morphed into something quite evil.

People who view themselves through the lens of good intentions cannot imagine that their good intentions might lead to bad places when imposed about large swaths of the population. They rarely imagine that they could be pawns in someone else’s game. They cannot imagine that their high ideals can be manipulated or repurposed by others in ways that negate their good intentions. They are (often) unwilling to acknowledge this and refuse to develop any sort of nonsense detection. They tend to think they are so well-intentioned, that the will double-down on the approaches they’ve taken and the commitments they’ve made and it all-too-often leads them to justify abuse and to take an “ends justifies the means” attitude. Consider Prohibition, the invasion of Iraq, and the century of forest fire suppression that came before the massive forest fires in recent years. Just a few examples where high-minded individuals with the best of intentions paved, walled, roofed and furnished hell and caused immense suffering.

I actually pray that God saves us from do-gooders who want to make the world “a better place.” My “better place” might well be your “hell on earth” and the reverse most assuredly will be true.

I think I have made the world a better place. Someone might read this article and say “hey, shes right” and commit to a life of voluntaryism instead of statist control of their neighbors. See, better place.

I try to make the world a better place by not actually trying to do that. It’s a kind of silly meme – the “vast liberarian conspiracy to take over the world and leave you alone” but I mostly subscribe to voluntaryism – the idea that I can inspire you with my life choices and offer to exchange resources, but I can’t force you to do what I think is best for you. I try to make the area within my personal space a better place. I control that and I should. But I have boundaries. I don’t control you and I shouldn’t. Yeah, sometimes I wish I could fix you, but ….

I recognize I live in a fallen world populated by broken people, who are not unlike me. We delude ourselves into believing that we who are oh-so-broken can make the world become a better place. That is deity level work and we’re not capable. Only God can make the world a better place to live. That humbles me and because I am humble before the Greatest Force in the Universe, He can use me in small ways to make the world a better place one or two people at a time.

I have volunteered my time at a homeless shelter and the local food bank, cleaned the streets of my town, taught English to the foreign born and suppressed my claustrophobia to enter the local jail to work with the incarcerated. I give a sizeable chunk of my income to charitable work through my church and directly to Samaritan’s Purse and Heifer International. I’m now starting to move into mentoring younger Christian women, particularly those who are struggling with family addiction issues.

I’ve spent a lot of effort in educating people from my blog about voluntaryism, faith, and the history of human beings asphalting the road to hell with the bodies produced by good intentions. I host discussions on my Facebook page designed to teach people to debate without hatred and rancor, to see the other sides of an argument and not think the people espousing them are evil or stupid.

And whenever God gives me the opportunity, I share the gospel with the willing, because I know in my heart that the world will never be a better place without Jesus Christ.

I have no intentions of imposing my good intentions on anyone else. I believe in voluntary exchange. If something I do, something I write, how I live my life, inspires someone else to make their personal life better, then I have actually made the world a better place without building any roads to hell.

Posted February 25, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Recovering Stone-Chucker   8 comments

Feb 18, 2019

What was your best drop the mic moment?

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I guess it depends on how you define a “mic drop moment.”

Those who have followed my discussions on Facebook know that I don’t advocate for shutting down conversations, so quite often, when I could have a “mic drop”, I choose to let it go. I think mic drops are (mostly) arrogantly executed by people who believe they’re right and are unwilling to hear any evidence to the contrary. That’s not me (most of the time). I do believe I know some things a lot of people don’t know (and, I’ve tested that theory a bunch, so I have evidence to support my suspicion I’m right), but I like seeing a broad range of discussions and points of view. Sometimes they change my mind, mostly I’m hoping I can change their minds. If I do a mic drop, I’m shutting down that conversation and that rarely, if ever, changes anyone’s mind.

But I do have them occasionally. Often it’s not intentional. I’m a quippy person in my everyday life and I’ve gotten into some verbal sword-play and I’ve said something that caused the other person to go – “hmm, I can’t think of a comeback”. Since it’s not intentional, I don’t keep track. I don’t glory in it. I kind of think it was a failure because it stopped the discussion. A few times, though, I’ve had that person come back to me and say “You had a point and I changed my mind.” Good, but half the time, I can’t even remember what I said.

I had one to share with people on gun control (it really was a glory moment), but I changed my mind this morning after my pastor’s sermon mic-dropped a bunch of people in the congregation and I thought, yeah, there’s my topic.

The Bible is unequivocally clear that Christians aren’t supposed to participate in sin and I try to live my life accordingly. It’s been 27 years ago in December since I’ve drunk alcohol – not because I have a problem with alcohol. I’ve always been able to stop at one beer, wine, whatever and I’ve never really needed it to have a good time. But I take seriously that if I cause my brother (or husband) to stumble, I am as guilty of his sin as he is, and so, I chose to give it up and I don’t regret that. I don’t judge anyone for their ability to handle an adult beverage or two, it’s just that someone in my household can’t, so I judge myself accordingly. It certainly wasn’t a sin when Jesus turned water in REALLY GOOD wine, but it would be a sin for me to drink it because it stands a good chance of dragging my husband into what is truly a sin for him.

I also don’t cheat on my husband and that includes reading (or writing) books that have detailed sexual encounters in them because I take seriously Jesus’ admonition that if you commit a sin in your head, you’re as guilty as if you committed it with your body. I don’t judge you if you can read (or write) such books and feel fine in your marriage. It would be a sin for me. It might not be a sin for you. If you’re worried about it, consult your Maker, not me.

Lest you think I’m as pure as the fresh-driven snow, I’m not, and I don’t pretend to be. I slammed a lot of caffeine before writing this article, for example, and my heartrate informs me that is not treating the temple of God (my body) with the respect it deserves. I also still have some weight I’m trying to lose and that too is a desolation of God’s temple (my body). My lack of self-control assures me I am a sinner just like everyone else. My sins are just more socially acceptable than some people’s sins, but God isn’t a socialite, so I am without excuse.

Romans 2:1-11 is an interesting passage – I won’t post the whole thing here because it’s long, but it basically says (after talking about non-Christians in Chapter 1) – “Christians, you are sinners too, and you have no excuse for judging those who are non-Christians because God doesn’t see shades of grey when it comes to sin. And you will be judged if you treat non-Christians as if you are better than them because you’re not.”

My overindulgence in caffeine is not better than my husband’s past overindulgence in alcohol … just as an example. The teller of “white lies” is as much a sinner as the murderer. In God’s eyes, we’re the same, sinners one and all. The only thing that separates Christian sinners from non-Christian sinners is that Christians have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf as salvation. He bought out our slave contract, in essence. WE didn’t do that. He did and He did it for the whole world, we’re just the ones who have accepted it. Anyone else wanting to join us is welcome … by me anways and certainly by Jesus … but more on that in subsequent paragraphs.

Now, understand, paired with other passages of the Bible, this passage is not saying Christians are supposed to join the non-Christians in their sin. No, we absolutely are called to be a counter-cultural movement within society. But we are absolutely wrong if we think that makes us better than those who compose the cultural tide we’re swimming against. We’re all wading through the same cesspool, it’s just Christians have heard that rescue is upstream, not down.

The mic drop here is that many many conservative Christians are judgmental stone-chuckers and I’m not really innocent of this charge. I’m a recovering stone-chucker. It’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I can look at people who commit sins, clearly know that they are committing sins, commit to not joining them, and just say “Yeah, your choice, I’ll pray for you.” This doesn’t mean I condone their sins by any stretch of the imagination. Just as I am still working on learning not to make excuses for my own failures, I am not going to white-wash the world around me. There is a lot of crap in my culture that I know makes God’s heart bleed for my fellow humans and so I (try to) refrain from those activities because I don’t want to embarrass my Heavenly Father, but there were a lot of people in the congregation this morning who walked out trying to justify their own stone-chucker behavior. I could see it in their eyes. They were a little pissed at the pastor, but in reality, they were more than a little pissed at the word of God, and that’s on them – that’s their sin and I’m called to not join my fellow Christians in their immorality either.

So, I didn’t do that. It was done to me and to the people sitting around me by a man (our pastor) with an incredibly tender heart and a son sitting in SuperMax lockup. Do I think my pastor might be a recovering stone-chucker? Oh, yeah! And, I know people in my congregation who are WAY bigger stone-chuckers than I am (some of them have recently written letters to the editor so that we know how judgmental they are) — but God doesn’t see it that way. In His eyes, my little tiny pebbles of judgment are the same as the meteors some of my fellow church-goers hail down on secular society. There is a fine line between recognizing that something is a sin that Christians shouldn’t participate in (and choosing not to participate even when there are big consequences for our refusal to comply) and using that knowledge as a bludgeon against an unbelieving world. I AM CALLED to NOT PARTICIPATE in the world’s folly, but I am NOT called to try to make the world conform to my morality. I’m supposed to be a spiritual salmon, swimming upriver, but not trying to change the river’s course. Let the river go where it will. I know my destination.

So, the mic got dropped on me this morning and I am without excuse. And, as with all mic drops, now that I’ve been rendered without defense, I get to decide what I’m going to do about it. Not “What am I going to do to other people about it”. Judgment of others is always the temptation, right? No, I must decide “What am I myself going to do with this knowledge?”

Posted February 18, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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What Is Truly Important   5 comments

Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and your pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

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The last few weeks’ topics have been hard, but this one is easy. There’s a lot of things I would regret losing in a fire, but I’d move on because those things don’t define my life, even though many of them are one-of-a-kind originals. I’d miss my daughter’s art and my mother’s furniture, the collectible jewelry and milk bottles. But I could live without them.

The one thing I would return for would be a table-top hope box that contains our archives. I’ve digitalized a lot of photos, even from my mother’s albums from the 1940s. Also in the box are my dad’s seaman’s papers (the only photo I have of him before he was 30, along with the only photos I have of my mother’s family (all six siblings and her parents) and Dad’s sister. My husband, who has a few family photos in there as well, included several of my old spiral-bound journals and there are discs of my writing. This winter, I finally got around to adding copies of our wills and important papers to the archives so that if something happens unexpectedly our son knows he can find the important stuff in the box. So, I would grab that because that’s our family history and my fictional worlds.

I’m thinking I might need a bigger box … or more digitalization.

 

Posted February 11, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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