Monthly Archives: February 2015

Taking the Stairs or the Escalator?

I watched two shows this morning on PBS, The Italian Americans, about the very real challenges Italian immigrants faced integrating into American society. The other, Instruments of Change, spotlighted Ruth Greenfield’s Fine Arts Conservatory in 1950’s Miami where she provided arts instruction to local youth, irrespective of race or economic status.

Italians are known for their wonderful cuisine and for organized crime, among other things. This program illuminated the danger of trying to climb into prosperity too quickly, via either organized crime or political radicalism. But the “silent majority” of Italian immigrants who took the slow route to acceptance and success quietly achieved it, albeit in later generations.

This reminded me of my research in Cambridge, England, on my father’s ancestors. We had already discovered that our mother descended from English and Scottish kings, and we could certainly see that heritage in her ambition and high brow tastes. My Dad was hardworking, honest and had the most perfect character of anyone I’ve ever known. I was surprised, therefore, to discover that at least this branch of his family were listed in the 1800’s census records as “farm laborers, beer sellers, blacksmiths” – clearly working class. After watching many British TV shows depicting the life of the 1800’s, I formed a composite image of the “faithful steward” who rises slowly into positions of trusted employment with the aristocratic landowners. This took generations of lowly toil, often being treated unfairly and bearing it with patience, but in the end, rising steadily. My family benefited from both heritages, and I am deeply grateful for their examples. It’s a lot to live up to.

Ruth Greenfield and her husband Arnold were severely punished for their defiance of the rules of segregation, losing their employment, their luxurious home, and ending up starting their own business in a much poorer part of town. They looked forward with hope to new opportunities rather than back in anger, self-pity, or bitterness. After Arnold’s death, Ruth continued to promote the arts, starting the Lunchtime Lively Arts concerts that started a cultural revitalization of downtown Miami. She’s now revered as a pioneer, and numerous dancers, musicians, and artists trace their success to her early encouragement and training. Many remember being told, “You are special,” and how it fueled their upward climb for years afterward. If Ruth and Arnold hadn’t persevered, their contributions would have been much smaller; but they ran the race of patience and many people won.

I think life presents us with a fundamental choice of either taking the slow but real road to progress, no matter the consequences, or trying to take the false road to “Easy Street.” The false one is like the Up Escalator that moves us along without much effort, but we’re not able to see where it’s really taking us. Or we can choose the stairs where a lot of muscle power is needed and the destination is labeled: Top Floor. We just don’t know how many flights we have to climb!

I also believe that life is designed like this for a reason. We read in the New Testament:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword,
piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow
is a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

I believe that reason is to see what we will choose, all on our own. It isn’t earthly success that matters as much as character development and the heritage we leave. And, in the end, we all must face our maker, ourselves, and those we influenced, and account for our choice. I think we’ll be happier if we’ve taken the stairs and avoided shortcuts. As LDS Apostle LeGrand Richards once said (paraphrased from memory):

The wheels of justice may grind slowly, but they grind very, very fine.

I take that to mean, all good choices and the intent behind them will ultimately be fully known and rewarded, while all bad ones will lead to regret and sorrow.

Let’s look within, then, to decide which path we’re on, and be faithful stewards wherever we find ourselves. I believe we’ll end up being glad, no matter how hard the journey.

Stairway of Life, Courtesy

Stairway of Life, Courtesy



Spring Roads, New Life

My granddaughter stayed with me last weekend while my son’s family was out of town. We are Lord of the Rings fans, so over the course of four days, we watched all three LOTR movies, the extended versions! We each had our favorite scenes and characters: Aragorn and Legolas for Taylor, Theoden and Eowyn for me.

The weather was also unseasonably warm and balmy, so we went for a walk on our local riverside Greenbelt. We saw ducks, geese, and a surprising amount of new, green grass, and it was only early February! Falling for a long-standing cliche, seeing the new green grass made me reflect on all the new things appearing in my life. They seem to focus mainly on building better health, hopefully sprouting up as increased energy and leading to new adventures. Here’s the photo I shot that day:

Spring Roads, New Life. Photo by Author

Spring Roads, New Life. Photo by Author

First up: Homemade kefir that reminds me of the army of Rohan that helps rescue Gondor in the final battles of Middle Earth (The Return of the King). Kefir is like super yogurt providing 3-4 times more strains of good bacteria as well as healthy yeast. I culture a new batch every two or three days and drink some at bedtime with ginger and a little Stevia to soften the tangy flavor. I purchased my kefir grains online and use local raw milk. Check out my source on ebay. They have 100% positive ratings for good reason.

I start my day with homemade yogurt and fruit, using the same raw milk. Contact me if you want the Lazy Woman’s Yogurt recipe. I use Stoneyfield Farms organic plain yogurt as my initial starter since I like its mild, creamy flavor. I make 1-2 quarts at once, it keeps 10-14 days, and provides starter for the next batch.

I just received Sally Fallon Morrell’s new book Nourishing Broth. What an eye-opener! We’ve been robbed by the food industry who’ve substituted MSG and other artificial flavorings for old-fashioned, long simmered meat and bone broth. I highly recommend you look into it. Here are two sites for further information: and of which Mrs. Morrell is President.

Rather than always making homemade versions, I’ll also buy some high quality extracts: Vital Proteins is the recommended source of collagen supplements. See: Dr. Ron’s Ultra-Pure for a source of “additive-free” foods and supplements, including the oils below.

I’ve also discovered the benefits of high quality fermented cod liver oil combined with healthy butter oil for maximum absorption of nutrients. The recommended brand is Green Pasture, in chocolate, cinnamon or plain flavors, available on multiple sites. Don’t buy into the food industry’s PR about saturated fats. My research shows that’s how they sell cheap vegetable oils for huge profits, none of which are healthy, according to more independent research. The Weston A. Price Foundation has recommended suppliers (which include all those listed here). I’ll rely on their research, but you should also do your own due diligence.

The more I learn about health, the more I realize our digestive tract is critical. Good probiotic bacteria manufacture B vitamins and other nutrients, is a major player in our immune system vanquishing the bad guys, not to mention breaking down and properly absorbing nutrients from our food.

Why let those orcs and trolls of disease dominate our health? We can call forth armies (Kefir, yogurt), wizards (nature’s foods) and ordinary Hobbits (good habits) to vanquish them. If you feel small and helpless in the face of the many assaults upon our health, remember Eowyn, the only woman on the battle field at Minas Tirith, who faced the Lord of the Nazgul. He threatened her with these words: No man can kill me. Her reply: I am no MAN and proceeded to plunge her sword straight into his head, ending his reign of terror. We too have power if we dig out nature’s precious knowledge and apply her remedies. I’m already reaping more energy from my daily yogurt and kefir routine.

Have a wonderful spring and remember Bilbo’s words from The Lord of the Rings:

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road,
and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

Isn’t that the point of good health – to be able to have those adventures and enjoy them?

Going Out the Door. Courtesy

Going Out the Door. Courtesy


Speak Friend and Enter

Do you remember the neighbor who knocked on my door two weeks ago, right after I gave my financial concerns back to God? It’s in my post, The Prayer of Relinquishment. Well, here’s the update: She listed her town home with me that week, I sent out a blanket email to my whole brokerage, we launched on the MLS, and we received two strong offers within 24 hours! A nice gift to my very deserving seller, and a nice message to me of providential care from above.

But there were still those two offers to juggle properly. My seller and I stayed in close touch and I knew we were considering all options, but I still didn’t feel completely at peace. Then I remembered prayer. After 40 years of being a Christian, you’d think adjourning to my knees would occur to me sooner!  As soon as I said a mental prayer, the uncertain feeling went away and my mind cleared up. I added a mental prayer each time we navigated the next step – the options before us soon resolved into a clear, single way forward. The end result left my seller dazed and very happy, and it left me wiser and very grateful.

And what about the other desire I relinquished, for a husband? First, I just lost myself in discerning and then following God’s will. Happiness and contentment showed up, and showed up abundantly, with many high moments. A scripture came to mind more than once: The laborer is worthy of his hire. I found several versions on Here’s my favorite:

And devote his whole time to this high and holy calling, which I now give unto him,
seeking diligently the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness,
and all things necessary shall be added thereunto; for the 
laborer is worthy of his hire.
(LDS Doctrine & Covenants 106:3, see also 1 Timothy 5:18 and Luke 10:7)

Additionally men just showed up! A clerk at Home Depot joked with me while making extra keys, a man at the Post Office started a conversation, three men came up to me to discuss my Healthy Food class a week later. I had actually put men out of my mind because the Lord had kept me quite busy, so all this not only took me by surprise but was a real departure from past experience.

Who knows where all this will go? Oddly, I don’t care as much as before. I trust that God knows best and that He isn’t capriciously toying with me. And most importantly, I found I really did want God more than a human male companion – something that will anchor my life forevermore and help put me on that proverbial pedestal women seemed design to inhabit. (That’s a whole other discussion….)

What did I learn from all this?

* Remember to pray, sooner rather than later, and trust the answers. They may be subtle or require us to change a preconceived expectation, but answers will be there, and they always bring peace and clarity.
* Let God be God and do His job. Don’t try to do it for Him by second guessing circumstances and what we think should happen or even worse, watching anxiously for it to arrive.

There’s an analogy embedded in The Lord of the Rings that I recall frequently. Remember when Frodo and friends tried to find the entrance to the Mines of Moria? They faced only sheer granite walls with no sign of a door. Then as the moon came out from behind the clouds, they saw iridescent lines defining the doorway, with these words above it: Speak Friend and Enter. Gandalf, thinking the word Friend was a form of greeting, tried every magic incantation he knew and none worked. Then Frodo had a paradigm shift and asked, What’s the elvish word for Friend? Of course, that worked, once they decided that the word “Friend” was the password.

I think prayer is like that too. We have to remember to pray in the first place, then we have to ask the right prayer, and finally we have to be willing to follow the answer. I hope when you face your own blank walls that you can remember a way will always appear if you ask the right question, truly wanting to follow the answer.

The Door to the Mines of Moria Used Under Fair Use Copyright Provision, from Pinterest Post

The Door to the Mines of Moria
Used Under Fair Use Copyright Provision, from Pinterest Post