Tuesday, April 27, 2021

No Longer Running Away, I Discovered God's Love

 

by Helen A. Bemis

 

 

     What is God really like?

     Is He someone to fear and run away from?

     In my youth, I was constantly told to be a good girl, and all my life, I have always worked at being a “good girl,” but….

     Now, I’m told I will not get to Heaven by my “good works” but only by God’s Grace.

     In my youth, I was also told that my God was an infinite, loving God.  I found the words “infinity” and “infinite” hard to understand when I was a little girl. I still find them hard to understand. 

     What I found even more confusing is: if I committed a sin, this infinite, loving God would not hesitate to send me straight to Hell.  The descriptions of Hell not only scared me as a child but still make me shiver in fear today. 

     I looked for love.  Sometimes it was in the wrong places.  I looked to be liked, not the same as being loved, but being liked did feel good.  Yet I found that if I wanted to be liked, I needed to follow the expectations of others, and sometimes that would conflict with my beliefs.

     My solution?  Usually, I ran away.  I ran away from a God I did not understand.  I ran away from difficult decisions.  I continued to long for love, and I wanted to understand the truth of God’s love. As I slowly began to recognize God’s love as compassionate, kind, sensitive, freely given, and so much more, I started to trust in His promises for me.

     As I discovered the truth about God, I recognized His love for me, and I realized fear had no place in God’s world of love. 

     Could the problem with “love” be that we only have one word (in the English language) for love?  Actually, there are at least three forms of love: sexual love, familial love, and compassionate (sometimes referred to as the Greek agape) love.

     The New International Version of the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes love as follows:

     “Love is patient; love is kind.  It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud.  It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

     One of the places in which I found God’s presence was with Mother Nature.  I took many strolls, and through the sounds, scents, and beauty on the 200-acre farm, I felt God’s presence.

     My childhood home sat on a hill, and at the bottom of this hill was a slow-moving trout stream.  When I walked by this stream, I could hear fish jumping and frogs croaking.    

     Milk-weed plants grew along the river banks. In mid-summer, their sweet perfume filled the air, luring the bees to snuggle inside flowers.  I found the river area a peaceful place, though never a quiet place. Besides the river’s sounds, the birds sang in joy or squawked in protest when I visited its shores.  During these times, it was easy to talk with God as I walked with Mother Nature.

     After high school graduation, I attended a school of nursing.  I did enjoy learning many things at this school, but I still ran away. At first, it was by sleeping ten to fourteen hours a day. Then, after thirteen months of study, I quit nursing school. I ran home. 

     Sometimes, the unknown scared me.  Running away seemed the best decision.

     During this time, I met my future husband. However, when I told my priest that I was planning to marry a Methodist, his response shocked me, “If you marry this man, you will go straight to Hell!”

     My husband and I have had our share of problems, but I never felt myself in Hell after we married.  I felt that my husband helped me to learn how to trust God.  Our firstborn was a son.  At eighteen months, he developed Reye’s  Syndrome, a disorder that, I learned later, would sometimes occur if you gave aspirin to a child who had the flu. 

     This time, I was willing to trust God with my son’s life.  My words were very hard for me to say, but they were my most honest and sincere prayer to God: “God, I realize that my son is really Your child.  I may have no right to ask for his life, but I am asking that You heal him.  I know You always give the highest good in any situation.  I trust You. I will honor whatever You decide in this time of his sickness.  Thy will be done!”

     I had not run away.  I would not run away from praying for God’s mercy and grace for our little boy. He did answer my prayer by healing our son.

 

     Mistakenly, through the years, I fell into the trap of believing in a “vending machine” God.  If I were a good girl and obeyed the rules, God would be “good” to me. 

     I went to church every Sunday, sang in the choir, and made many friends.  The ministers were varied, and as lessons about God continued, I still felt something was missing.  My time in the choir was my personal prayer time with God.  During that time, I had a few special “God Moments,” akin to viewing beautiful sunsets or rainbows. Yet, my longing was echoed in the choir’s hymn, “Nearer My God to Thee.” 

     Then came the disturbing news: breast cancer.  Oh, I knew that it was not the death sentence that it used to be, but I WAS scared, even as I said to others, “I’m not afraid to die.”

     I did feel I had more to accomplish with my life.  Prayers at church and the stories of others encouraged my resolve to “beat this cancer,” but truly, the key for me was how I began to listen to God.  At that time, the minister’s wife told me about her breast cancer experience.  She said that she felt it was the closest she had ever felt to God, “a very sacred time.”

     As I listened to her story, I knew I wanted to feel that special relationship with God.

     Medical procedures proceeded. After my lumpectomy, I was told the good news that the cancer was not in my lymph nodes.  Yet, the doctors wanted to have me go through a regimen of chemotherapy and possibly even radiation.

     My oncologist assured me she would use a very mild form of chemotherapy.  Even so, I still became very sick.  I did not understand why they needed to give me chemotherapy if the cancer had been completely removed.

     I sought a second opinion.  This oncologist explained the HER-2 factor that had been found in the cancer.  “It’s like your body is stepping on the gas (creating a cancer-forming factor), and chances are great that you would be getting another cancer within as short a time as four years.  The drug they use to stop your body from manufacturing the HER-2 will not work unless coupled with chemotherapy.

     “They have done many trials to see the best combination for each individual.  I believe I can find the one for you that will work without the side effects that you had experienced in the past.”

      He also explained my need for radiation.  “If you were to dig the dandelion weeds from your lawn, you might see some of these dandelion weeds still grow back.  That can be the same with breast cancer.  An occasional cancer cell might still be left in your breast.  Today they can zero in on the exact area of the cancer site and eliminate through radiation any such existing cells that may still be located in this area.”

     I agreed to the treatments of chemotherapy and radiation.

     During this time, I found that sometimes I could not fall asleep, even though I was exhausted from the treatments.  However, I discovered some wonderful blessings that only came by trusting God’s care for me.  I had learned to rest my body and not worry about every little “speed bump.” I called them “speed bumps” because these concerns could shake you up or make you worry without killing you. I began to recognize that most of these situations were not worth the time to be considered. 

     My priority became to look for laughter as well as things to be grateful for.  I listened to the silence and to the delightful sounds of the world around me.  I heard the birds singing, the soft sound of the wind tickling the trees, and the buzzing of the insects. I appreciated the blue of the sky, the shape of the clouds, the bright colors in the flowers around me.  I adopted the expression, “Stop and smell the roses,” as I smelled the fragrant air after a rainfall or the lawn after it had been freshly mowed.

     I discovered a sweet and precious friendship with God.  It surprised me.  It was like discovering a very special new Friend, and I wanted to learn more about Him.  We shared comfortable silences, as when you share a cup of coffee or a moment of companionship with a loved one. But it was so much better than that.  I now understand why some say that their relationship with God can be hard to explain.

     But is God’s love real only when He grants us our wishes?  He is certainly not a wish-dispenser!  He is not a God only to be valued only when giving us our desire!  What I discovered during this time may be a hard-to-describe love, a love like a precious jewel or like a profound solace.  It is often referred to as “a peace beyond understanding.”

     I discovered my God to be a very personal God.  He knows me and has showered me with awesome love.  He does what is best for me, even if I feel that it is not good for me.  He strengthens me in my weakness and blesses me with his gifts, gifts greater than I ever imagined.

     Discovering this personal God is an experience I wish for others. It satisfies the longing we endure, and it fills the emptiness that only He can fill. 

     I found in God’s love, indescribable peace and joy. Because I discovered God’s infinite love, I realized that I no longer wanted to run away.


Helen A. Bemis is a novelist who has written over a dozen books about the fictional Upstate New York town of Riverview and about the Riverview Animal Shelter and the pets, loves, conflicts, and kindness of these country people.

I have had the pleasure of being her editor and writing coach. Her books are readily obtained from Outskirts Press and amazon.com: 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=%22Helen+A.+Bemis%22&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

Sunday, April 11, 2021

CORONA VIRUS - FROM WUHAN LAB OR MARKET?

The Covid-19, a.k.a “Wuhan,” coronavirus has killed a half-million Americans already and sickened many, many times more.

A former head of the U.S. CDC now opines it likely originated in the Chinese government’s virology labs in Wuhan; this opinion is resisted by those who usually treat CDC statements as gospel.

It makes little difference whether the Chinese lab had an accident or the local meat market got unlucky and sloppy. We know the Chinese military has been investigating viruses as biological weapons, as we did at Ft. Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, where I served decades ago.

The Chinese Communists stopped domestic travel from Wuhan once they knew (and lied about) the human-to-human transmissibility of the virus. The CCP kept it a secret and allowed international travel to spread the virus worldwide, the sin for which they deserve to be excoriated, regardless of whether the virus came from Wuhan’s virology labs or its butcher shops.

Spreading the virus worldwide was an act of biological warfare few in the U.S. dare charge, as we would have to face the perfidy of the regime and the ghastliness of this attack on the rest of the world.

Suppose something like this pathogen had spread from Ft. Detrick or Frederick, MD, while I served there. I am sure that the American and international news media would not have hesitated to blame the U.S. government, especially if it were under the Republicans at the time. They would not have suspected the local ShopRite.

The first barrage of World War III was biological. 

Now what?

 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

REVIEW of THE WOKE SUPREMACY

The book's subtitle is "An Anti-Socialist Manifesto," and the author provides just that.  

86% of the over-300 reviews at amazon.com are 5 stars, well earned.

I have listened to the book twice using my Kindle and Alexa. The book made the nuttiness of the Woke Crusade more understandable, though no more attractive. They hate possessions (except theirs). countries (especially the USA), and religion (especially Christianity and Judaism, but not Islam). If you are a white male, you are a target, as I am.

In sum, they passionately maintain there is no right or wrong, except that Trump voters were terribly wrong. Got it?

To get the book:

Sunday, April 4, 2021

REVIEW of BEST-SELLER STATUS

 I generally don't review a book here unless I like it.


Being an author is hard enough without having someone spit on your baby, and there is "no disputing taste," no accounting for taste, an ancient adage warns. Still, testimonials are influential, and, as an author and coach and editor myself, I sure like favorable mentions when I get them.

The first 20 pages or so were merely "here it comes." I wondered whether there would be "beef," and it did come: insights about writing, publishing, promoting, and profiting, covered in the next 60 pages.

I have a love/hate relationship with the book industry, given that some classics were ghostwritten and some authors made up their "true stories" and some best-sellers were written poorly. My favorite movie is Chariots of Fire, and the contrast between the two central characters' methods of achieving success reflects my ambivalence about the best-seller status that has eluded me. Is the best measure of success where you ended or how you got there? Ideally, you would be making it without faking it.

Authors-to-be and authors-right-now would profit from Michael Butler's succinct guide, especially about how to get their work legitimately noticed, heeded, shared, and appreciated.

Intelligent and informed effort is key to best-seller status. This book can help.

Friday, April 2, 2021

REVIEW of FAUCIAN BARGAIN

REVIEW of FAUCIAN BARGAIN

Authors: Steve Deace and Todd Erzen:

 This hard-hitting, extensively documented philippic became a best-seller the first week it appeared, in late March 2021. It is easy to understand why those skeptical of some of the measures taken to attempt to resist the spread of Covid-19, a/k/a the Wuhan coronavirus, greeted the book so enthusiastically.

The virus and responses to it radically changed our lives, and some of these changes seem likely to be permanent. Deace and Erzen blame Dr. Fauci and his acolytes for conflicting advice and Orwellian expansion of government intrusion.

“Faucian” plays on “Faustian,” derived from the legendary story of Dr. Faustus, who gave up his soul to the Devil for 24 years of magical powers and the fame and fortune they provided. This trade did not end well. Dr. Fauci, the Faucian Bargain maintains, has traded his scientific reputation and ethics for the Covid cause and, perhaps, for fame.

The authors maintain that the fear of Covid-19 has generated a cult, and they match it with the seven characteristics quoted next that they say apply to the “Branch Covidians”:

1.    Cults discourage, if not outright oppose, critical thinking.

2.    Cults isolate themselves and their members from the outside world, sometimes even forcibly.

3.    Cults claim to have special knowledge or that only the special can attain their knowledge.

4.    Cults put loyalty to their leader above all else.

5.    Cults seek to detach you from your families.

6.    Cults cross moral boundaries and at times encourage others to as well.

7.    Cults separate you from the true church.


The authors recommend resisting the cult by

Prioritizing truth.

Encouraging critical thinking.

Taking the appropriate health precautions.

Relying on established science.

Reuniting with your family.

Reopening your life.

Trusting in faith, family, and freedom.

Critical thinking can be facilitated by going to some of the 202 footnote sources they reference.

They conclude we will emerge from the pandemic with a somewhat less-free society.

Their advice, “Kick the dust off your sandals, and move on with your way of life.”

 

  


Sunday, March 28, 2021

GRESHAM'S LAW AND EMAIL

 One of my email accounts runs about 20 to 1 spam to desired mail, reminding me of Gresham’s Law, which goes back to Elizabethan days and her great financial wizard Thomas Gresham.

Express his "law" in various ways, such as:

-        “cheap money drives out dear;”

-        “bad money drives out good.”

It means that equal denomination coins of unequal metallic worth will circulate in the economy such that the precious metal coins are hoarded, and the others remain in circulation.

We saw this decades ago during the introduction of copper-nickel quarters that gradually replaced silver quarters in US circulation.

Similarly, when it comes to my email, junk or near-junk grossly predominates, to the point that it is hard to find the email I value.

Fortunately, I have a second, nearly secret, email account to “hoard” the more precious communications. I’m sure many other people do the same.

 

A recent book on Gresham and his times and his law is at: https://www.amazon.com/Greshams-Law/dp/1788162374/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=gresham%27s+law&qid=1616939697&s=books&sr=1-1

My friend William Bauer has today instructed me on using the filter option on my email account to send email from certain accounts to designated categories, including Trash.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Tina Su Cooper Readmitted to Hospital, 16 Mar 21

Friends and Family, 

During an office visit with our new primary care physician on the 11th, Tina was minimally responsive,
and it appeared that she might be over-medicated with seizure-suppressing medication,
Keppra and Dilantin. We were able to get an office visit with a neurologist
on the 16th, and he said she was exhibiting seizure activity (though it was different
from what we had observed before) and he had her taken to the Garnet Medical
Center Emergency Room.

She was admitted to the hospital, is undergoing a 72-hour EEG observation, and has had one
or two MRIs of her brain, where "minor bleeding" has been observed. Had it been more, I
was told, they were ready to send her to Westchester Medical Center.

Yesterday, one of her doctors called to get more information about her and to tell me
what they were doing on her behalf.. She was said to be almost unresponsive, though
she did smile when her name was called.

Tonight the nurse caring for her told me that Tina's vital signs were normal, no sign of
infection (a continuing problem recently), but she did not respond to her name. They
changed her Foley catheter and are giving her an antibiotic (Fortaz) she has had
before. They understand they are to do whatever they can to preserve her life.

Tina has come through some very difficult medical situations in the past, so we
must not count her out, but this seems the most dire thus far. 

We appreciate your hopes and prayers for our heroic Tina.

Love,
Doug 

Friday, March 12, 2021

REVIEW of THE DEEP RIG

REVIEW of THE DEEP RIG: How Election Fraud Cost Donald J. Trump the White House

Author: Patrick M. Byrne

 

Yes, it’s President Joe Biden.

For now, anyway. If the Creek don’t rise, and if the Chinese don’t gain control of the US, weakened as we are by the Chinese coronavirus, a form of biological warfare, and by our political intrigues.

In the first half or so of The Deep Rig, former Overstock.com CEO and Chairman of the Board, Patrick M. Byrne, supports the view that the presidential election was stolen, was rigged, or that at least this is plausibly believed by about half the US population, a belief whose truth or falsity could have been ascertained by court-ordered counting of the back-up paper ballot records in the six major Democrat cities that swung the election for Biden.

In the second half of the book, the fingerprints of the Chinese Communist Party are shown to be in some areas they shouldn’t be. Here, Byrne acknowledges the evidence is less strong.

Dr. Byrne and General Flynn and the indomitable lawyer Sydney Powell and a myriad of like-minded skeptics presented pre-inauguration a case for ballot malfeasance that followed a pattern: an unusual stop to the counting, followed by a Biden-rich influx of new votes that exhibited statistical improbabilities.

I have been awaiting such a book from Sydney Powell, but this one goes a long way to satisfy my need for summarizing the quantitative analysis. Being a Kindle book with active links means it allows one to dive into the controversies and see the talks and arguments of the major figures.

Libertarian Byrne started out quite negative about Trump, and Byrne had not ever voted for a Republican (or a Democrat) for president. At the end of his experience, he liked Trump more…and Democrats and Republicans less.

Rudy Giuliani, America’s Mayor and a man I have admired, Byrne criticizes as being too old, too fond of his alcohol, and too distracted with his broadcasting activities to do his best work and to recognize that the quantitative approach being taken by Powell and Byrne and allies might be so clear-cut in its analysis that the population and the courts would be convinced the results needed correcting or, at least, called for a limited “do-over” in six states. Trump did not seem to realize the power of that analysis until too late, and at least one of the mathematical demonstrations in the book would puzzle all but the “quants” among us. Giuliani's arguments against the non-legislative changing of the voting rules seemed strong but could not get traction in the courts.

Cheekily, Dr. Byrne ends his well-written and extensively documented book with this comment about the oligarchs who rigged the election, “he believes the oligarchy has two wings, Wall Street and the Deep State, and that he has them cornered.”


Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD

   

Friday, March 5, 2021

REVIEW of WORKING BACKWARDS

 Two former Amazon executives have summarized and illustrated the tenets that have made Amazon a world-class company and elevated brilliant Jeff Bezos to be one of the world's richest men. The authors state the heart of “being Amazonian” are the following 14 characteristics of excellent leaders:

·       Customer Obsession. Put your customer first. A bit like Covey’s “Begin with the end in mind,” Amazonians are urged to work backwards: to start with what it is the consumer wants, not what they want to sell.

·       Ownership. A fine leader owns the project, wants it to prosper over the long run, not just for the coming quarter.

·       Invent and Simplify. Be smart, clever, ground-breaking, but aim for the virtue of simplicity.

·       Are Right, A Lot. Smart, thorough, careful people make fewer mistakes. They listen and observe a lot. And argue.

·       Learn and Be Curious. It’s a big world. Explore.

·       Hire and Develop the Best. Recruit well, then train.

·       Insist on the Highest Standards. Is there a “close enough”? Probably not to Jeff Bezos.

·       Think big. That’s THINK BIG!

·       Bias for Action. Make sure you are right, then go ahead, hard, fast.

·       Frugality. Waste not, want not. Do more with less.

·       Earn Trust. Truth and candor and reliability are keys.

·       Dive Deep. Get to the bottom of things, quickly.

·       Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit. Fight for your views, then support the team wholeheartedly.

·       Deliver Results. Never settle.

 

The authors tell of Amazon victories, like the Kindle, and failures, like the Unbox TV-film-streaming application.

We meet briefly many talented Amazonians. “Jeff” is everywhere, or more precisely, his spirit is. He examines the memos he receives by interrogating every sentence. He emphasizes over and over the importance of putting the customer first and believes that Amazon’s interests and their customers’ interests are, properly viewed, identical.

There are handy tips: PowerPoint is not just passe but an inhibitor of thought in business meetings, replaced at Amazon by six-page treatises read by all attendees before the discussion gets underway at their meetings. Hirees impress less with credentials, more with past project achievements. Execs get modest salaries and major stock participation, to align their incentives with the company’s long-term growth.

One of my sons gave me the Kindle 2 a decade ago, and I loved it. Then, it fell off the kitchen table onto the tile floor and it broke. I mourned, briefly, then wrote Amazon and told them the story, noting that a book would not have broken, though admittedly a computer would have. They sent me a new Kindle, cementing our metaphorical marriage. I’ve had a couple more Kindles and was gifted a Fire HD 8 last year, and it does almost everything but walk the dog.

I’m less enamored of Amazon right now because of its recent political activities. I still love my Fire e-reader, which now reads to me (Alexa does) when I want to rest and be informed and entertained.

Alexa read much of Working Backwards to me. I occasionally thanked her, as though she were human. She isn’t, is she?

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

"Identifying" As a 130-pound Boxer

 In the distant past at Cornell as a freshman, I boxed at the 150-pound level, winning one, tying one, and retiring.

If I could have, back then, gotten away with “identifying” at 130 pounds, I probably could have been undefeated, a middleweight beating up lightweights.

Much the same thing happens when a biological male “identifies” as a female, enters a female athletic competition, and wins. Unfair. Could mean the eventual destruction of real women’s sports.

Solutions? You are what your chromosomes/genes say (XY or XX), not what you say. Alternatively, have separate competitions for males, for females, and for those who are modified to be somewhere in-between.

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

RUSH LIMBAUGH Was a Radio Revolutionary

In the early 1980s, I did part-time political talk radio in Boston, as guided by the station pros. 

Their metric for success then was the number of calls one got. One temporarily successful show was that of a psychic, who did her thing with the callers. Eventually, someone realized this was too low even for talk radio: lots of callers, not much value, perhaps few listeners.

My political talk show (on WMEX-AM, then WITS-AM) was a rarity, being from the right, although Avi Nelson and David Brudnoy and Dan Rea were also of that persuasion. The pay rate was middle-class, but one hoped to be making a difference. 

What was hardest to do, and what Rush subsequently did so well, was talk without a guest and without callers, for long periods on his show, with ease, insight, humor, and courtesy. Furthermore, he later showed you could become rich from radio.

When Rush moved to New York and started his national show in 1988, I was among his first listeners, and I recognized his talent immediately, though I had no idea he would be so successful. He made what was hard look easy. 

Rush re-wrote the book on being a talk-show host, and we find most of his fellow hosts now following his lead. He showed how to make the talk genre thrive. It took courage to be different, and he flourished. 

I wish I could have known him personally. 

He is missed already.


Sunday, February 14, 2021

"What Would You Like to Watch?"

 "What would you like to watch?" I asked my quadriplegic, ventilator-dependent, beloved wife of 36 years, as I brought her in her wheelchair to our kitchen to spend an hour together watching TV, during her once-daily liberation from her bed.

I gave her a list of her usual preferences: Hallmark (romance), Food, Home & Garden. Usually, she chooses one and we hold hands and watch it. 

I have loved Tina Su since February 14, 1963. She can barely communicate now, her multiple sclerosis having attacked her once-brilliant brain, her breathing often too weak to produce audible speech, so we must read her lips.

What has not been destroyed is her loving concern for others, despite her plight. She often tells us, "I love you with all my heart." 

Usually, in response to my TV question, she chooses a channel and says little more, but this day she asked me, "What would you like to watch?"

Monday, February 8, 2021

COVID VACCINATION OUTCOME OF MOST IMPORTANCE

 

Plausibly, the key metric is reduction in hospitalizations.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/02/04/covid-vaccine-trial-results-hospitalization/

More likely, deaths will trump, partly because they are so final, partly because hospitalizations are still somewhat qualitative, but deaths are less ambiguous.

More complex measures, such as "quality-adjusted life-years of life expectancy" might make more sense but are less likely to get public acceptance.

REVIEW: Resurrected from Plato's Cave

 

Authors: Pete Delmonico & Virginia Nodhturft

Reviewer: Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD

 

This memoir, ostensibly a novel, should be a movie, at least the first 100 pages of it. Triumph and tragedy, heartbreak and heroism, romance and rejection…it has all this and more.

The small-town son of an abusive, alcoholic father perseveres to make a success of his own life, even if he cannot save his whole family, especially his sorely abused mother.

Good looks and bad behavior add up to a father who cannot be trusted with drink, dough, or women, a man who terrorizes his family during an era of little recourse and few resources for those so badly treated.

Our hero, “Jack Long,” survives through intelligence, outstanding athletic talent, the help of a sympathetic coach, and, much later, the aid of a classmate with a big heart and extensive nursing expertise. He not only survives but eventually thrives, marrying his high-school crush, enjoying a fulfilling marriage and a successful career.

A happy ending? Not so fast. Jack’s wife has a stroke that incapacitates her, leading to her placement in a nursing home when Jack’s home-care efforts prove inadequate. For eight years he visits her twice a day, but her discouragement drags him down, and she becomes nearly suicidal.

Joel Osteen’s ministry connects with Jack, and with the encouragement of “Mary,” a former classmate shocked by what has happened to this once-healthy and once-prosperous friend, minister, ministry, friends, and faith pull Jack up from his depression and despair. A long struggle seems to raise his wife to acceptance of her situation, only to have her give up and soon after, die.

The narrative ends with Jack’s starting to contact more former friends and to ponder where he should live and with whom.

There are poems and lyrics written by the authors that address the emergence from “Plato’s cave,” where that philosopher imagined prisoners who could only see shadows rather than reality until they, like Jack, broke free to enter the world of the living.

The book ends with valuable lessons learned and other resources.

Any reader will be inspired by the examples of Jack and his friend Mary in overcoming the great difficulties that threatened to imprison Jack in Plato’s cave.

 

I have the good fortune of knowing one of the authors, Dr. Nodhturft, wife of my best friend, Phil Nodhturft, Jr. My congratulations go to her on the publication of her second book and on the success she has had in enriching, perhaps saving, the life of her co-author.  

  

 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

TWO FACE MASKS OR ONE?

TWO MASKS OR ONE? Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D. 

To prevent hazardous particles from being inhaled, some people choose to use two face masks rather than one. This short article will examine that choice. 

Let Q be the total breathing rate for the person, as in liters/minute. It is the total of Q’ through the mask and Q” through the leaks in the seal to the face: 

Q = Q’ + Q”

Let p be the pressure difference between the space inside the mask and that outside of it. The flow for these two paths is proportional approximately to p: 

Q’ = k’ p 

Q” = k” p 

Q= (k’ + k”) p 

A simple case is two identical masks. The mask flow becomes about half that of a single mask, 

 Q’ = (k’/2) p 

 So, the total flow becomes 

 Q* = (k’/2 + k”) p*, 

a reduction versus one mask, unless the breather breathes harder and increases the difference in p between the outside and the inside of the mask 

To get the same flow as for a single mask, Q=Q*, 

 Q= (k’ + k”) p = (k’/2 + k”) p* 

The mask user will need to increase the inhalation pressure difference 

so (k’ + k”) p = (k’/2 + k”) p* 

p*/p = (k’ + k”) / (k’/2 + k”) 

 This increase in the pressure difference will increase the leakage through the seal to the face, a leakage that brings in unfiltered air. Less air will flow through the mask and be filtered, but filtered better. Whether this is a net gain depends on the details. 

Two limits are clear: 

1. A second mask that is almost perfectly filtering the air but is almost not allowing any air to go through it will lead to (unfiltered) leakage almost exclusively. 

In the limit, it blocks all flow except leakage, which is unfiltered, and it will accelerate fatigue of the breather. 

2. A second mask that filters well but supplies almost no resistance to flow will not increase fatigue, will not increase leakage, and will filter the air better than a single mask. If the mask is a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) mask, it will have near-perfect filtration singly, and little or no improvement would be expected from two of them, as raising the air flow resistance will cause more leakage at the seals.

Thus, using one HEPA mask seems optimal.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Jerry Jenkins's 25 Tips for Writing Well

Douglas, Whether you’re a beginner or have been at it for decades, writing well is hard work. I’ve written and published nearly 200 books, including 21 New York Times bestsellers, and I still work daily to improve. I believe we all should commit to lifelong learning. 

One doesn’t arrive at good writing. Grow or stagnate. Maybe your writing lacks punch. Or you’ve hit a brick wall. Don’t give up! With help, your message still has the potential to reach the masses. I can’t turn you into a bestselling author overnight, and I urge you to suspect anyone who says they can. But I do believe I can help improve your writing immediately. 

1. Don’t aim to write a bestseller. That’s the last thing I think about when I start a new book. To have any chance at success, my manuscript must come from my passions, the overflow of what I really care about. I have no control over the market, sales, reviews, and all the rest. All I can control is how much of myself I give to a writing project. What’s your passion? What drives you? Write about that. Your passion will keep you at the keyboard and motivate you when the writing gets tough—and if you’re doing it right, it always does. 

 2. Always think reader-first. Write Think Reader First on a sticky note and place it where you can see it while you’re writing. Your sole job is to tell a story so compelling that your reader gets lost in it from the get-go. Treat your readers the way you want to be treated and write what you would want to read. That’s the Golden Rule of Writing. Never let up, never bore. Always put your reader first. 

3. Avoid throat-clearing. That’s a term we in the writing business use for any writing that stalls a story or chapter by beginning with anything but the good stuff. Cut the setup, the description, the setting, the philosophizing, and get on with the story. 

4. Show, don’t tell. Telling spoon feeds your readers rather than allowing them to deduce what’s going on. Showing triggers the theater of her mind (See No. 7). Telling: It was late fall. Showing: Leaves crunched beneath his feet. Telling: It was cold. Showing: He tightened his collar and turned his face from the biting wind. “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” — Anton Chekhov Click here to read more about this. 

5. Avoid telling what’s not happening. “He didn’t respond.” “She didn’t say anything.” “The room never got quiet.” If you don’t say it happened, we won’t assume it did. 

6. Introduce your main character early, by name. The biggest mistake new writers make is introducing their main character too late. As a rule, he should be the first person on stage. 

7. Trigger the theater of your reader’s mind. Ever wonder why the book is always better than the movie? Not even Hollywood, with all its creativity and high tech CGI capability, can compete with the theater of our imagination. Give your reader just enough information to engage his imagination, making him a partner in the experience, not just an audience member. 

8. Cut dialogue to the bone. Unless including them to reveal a character as a brainiac or a blowhard, omit needless words from dialogue. Obviously, you wouldn’t render a conversation the way a court transcript includes repetition and even um, ah, uh, etc. See how much you can chop while virtually communicating the same point. Like this: image This doesn’t mean your dialogue has to be choppy—just cut the dead wood. You’ll be surprised by how much power cutting adds. 

9. Omit needless words. Less is more. Tighten, tighten, tighten. Again, you’ll find cutting almost always adds power. image 

10. Choose normal words over fancy ones. Showing off your vocabulary or flowery turns of phrase draws attention to the writing itself rather than the content. That’s the very definition of author intrusion. 

11. Use active voice vs. passive voice. Fix passive voice by replacing state-of-being verbs. Passive: The party was planned by Jill. Active: Jill planned the party. Passive: The book was read to the children by the teacher. Active: The teacher read the book to the children. Avoiding passive voice will set you apart from much of your competition. And it adds clarity. 

12. Avoid mannerisms of attribution. Have people say things, not wheeze, gasp, laugh, grunt, snort, reply, retort, exclaim, or declare them. Sometimes people whisper or shout or mumble, but let your choice of words imply whether they grumble, etc. If it’s important that they sigh or laugh, separate the action from the dialogue: Jim sighed. “I just can’t take it anymore.” 

 13. Avoid began to… …laugh, or cry, or shout, or run. People don’t just begin to do these things. They do them. Just say it: He laughed, she cried, Fred shouted, Traci ran… 

14. Eliminate clichés. And not just words and phrases. Also, root out situational clichés, like: Starting your story with the main character waking up Having a character describe himself while standing before a mirror Having future love interests literally bump into each other when they first meet Having a shot ring out, only to have the shooter be a surprise third party who kills the one who had the drop on the hero Having the seemingly dead or unconscious or incapacitated villain spring back to life just when we thought the hero had finally saved the day Also, avoid the dream cliché. It’s okay to have people dream but eliminate the dreadful cliché of spelling out an entire harrowing scene and then surprising the reader by having the character wake up. That’s been used to death and lets the air out of your story. Also, avoid heart and breathing clichés: pounded, raced, thudded, hammered, gasped, sucked wind, etc. If you render the scary situation compellingly enough, you need not tell readers anything about your character’s heartbeat or breath. Readers should experience those themselves. 

15. Avoid on-the-nose writing. A Hollywood term for writing that mirrors real life without advancing the story, on-the-nose writing is the most common mistake I see in otherwise good writing. Eliminate small talk, banalities, etc. 

16. Avoid the words up and down—unless they’re really needed. He rigged [up] the device. She sat [down] on the couch. 

 17. Read The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White Every writing teacher I know recommends this short paperback, and it should be at the top of your list if you want to improve as a writer. I’ve read it at least once a year for more than 40 years. Its simple truths cover everything you need to know about style and grammar. Click here to get the book. 

18. Give your readers credit. They understand more than you think. Example: “They walked through the open door and sat down across from each other in chairs.” If they walked in and sat, we can assume the door was open, the direction was down, and—unless told otherwise—there were chairs. So you can write: “They walked in and sat across from each other.” 

19. Use powerful verbs. Ever wonder why an otherwise grammatically correct sentence lies there like a dead fish? Your sentence might be full of those adjectives and adverbs your teachers and loved ones so admired in your writing when you were a kid. But the sentence doesn’t work. Something I learned from The Elements of Style years ago changed the way I write and added verve to my prose: “Focus on nouns and verbs, not adjectives and adverbs.” To learn how, read my post 249 Strong Verbs That’ll Instantly Supercharge Your Writing. A couple of things to watch for: 

 20. Resist the urge to explain (RUE). image Avoid hedging verbs like smiled slightly, almost laughed, frowned a bit, etc. The character either smiles, laughs, frowns, or doesn’t. Avoid state-of-being verbs: is, am, are, was, etc. Not: There was a man standing on the train platform. Rather: A man stood on the train platform. image 

21. Don’t shortchange your research. Though fiction, by definition, is made up, to succeed it must be believable. Even fantasies must make sense. Once the reader has accepted your premise, what follows must be logical. Effective research is key to adding the specificity necessary to make this work. Accurate details add flavor and authenticity. Get details wrong, and your reader loses confidence—and interest—in your story. The essentials: Consult Atlases and World Almanacs to confirm geography and cultural norms and find character names that align with the setting, period, and customs. If your Middle Eastern character flashes someone a thumbs up, be sure that means the same in his culture as it does in yours. Online and hard copy Encyclopedias. YouTube and online search engines can yield tens of thousands of results. A Thesaurus, not to find the most exotic word, but to find that normal word on the tip of your tongue. In-person interviews with experts. People love to talk about their work, and often such conversations lead to more story ideas. And remember, research detail should be used as seasoning. Don’t make it the main course—that should be your story itself. 

22. Become a ferocious self-editor. Agents and editors can tell within two pages whether a manuscript is worthy of further consideration. That sounds unfair, and maybe it is. But it’s a reality we writers need to face. Learn to aggressively self-edit using the tools I’ve given you here. Never submit writing with which you’re not entirely happy. 

 23. Develop a thick skin. Every piece of published writing is a duet between editor and writer, not a solo. Learn to take criticism, especially from professionals who are on your side and want you to succeed. 

24. Become a voracious reader. Your career as a writer can end before it starts unless you make time to read. You won’t find the time—you have to carve it out of your busy schedule. That might seem impossible with your busy life, but how badly do you want to become a published author? Writers are readers. Good writers are good readers. Great writers are great readers. 

25. Don’t let fear of failure stop you. Even the most successful writers fear there’s too much competition and they’re not good enough. They’re right! So don’t try to overcome that fear. Embrace it. It’s valid! Instead, let it motivate you to do your best work. Every time. You Can Get Better at Writing I’ve dedicated most of my life to coaching writers, because I love paying forward all I’ve learned and seeing you succeed. Practicing these tips won’t turn you into an overnight success—writing is hard, exhausting, time-consuming work. And if it isn’t, you’re probably not doing it right. But all that effort is worth it. Dreamers talk about writing. Writers write. So don’t quit. Before long, you just might find yourself becoming a better writer.  Jerry

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

GUEST POST: Finding the Light after Going Through Dark Times, by I.C. Robledo

Hello, This email is somewhat longer than usual, but today I want to share a part of my personal story with you. 

In life, we often want so badly to be happy and to have everything go perfectly. However, we must understand that when everything goes wrong, this is just an opportunity for us to turn everything around. 

 I spent, or perhaps wasted, years of my life. I spent that time in a negative haze, with a dark cloud hanging over me. I had problems with being sociable, so I assumed that people didn’t enjoy being with me and that they did not like me. It was a great struggle for me to be around people, because I felt that they were thinking negatively about me. I didn’t sense it at the time, but my issue was more with my internal negativity, rather than any true negativity on their part. 

Sometimes, people even asked me, “Why are you so negative? What is wrong?” 

But I never had a good answer. My belief was that reality actually was negative and terrible, and that I simply had to deal with it. I didn’t understand that I was being consumed by my own negativity at the time – and that my way of seeing life didn’t represent reality. However maladaptive my negative way of thinking was, by my early twenties I was getting used to it. I thought that the negativity was a part of who I was – that it was in my personality. 

My life had evolved into a bad habit of seeing, thinking, and doing in a negative way. 

Of course, I was not happy about this – but at the same time, I didn’t see any other options. I didn’t know any other way to be. I felt entrapped, but I couldn’t grasp any way out of the reality that I had created for myself. This way of being lasted for many years, and then came the toughest period of my life. 

I had applied to a graduate school program in industrial-organizational psychology. I had a deep doubt within me, realizing that I would be tested beyond what I could even imagine. A part of me knew that I was not ready for this program, but I applied anyway. On paper, I was an excellent student, but my communication skills were quite poor, and I was worried about this. Nonetheless, I was accepted into the program. 

 In the first week, I realized that this would be the biggest challenge of my life. 

However, the work itself wasn’t overly difficult, intellectually. Rather, there was so much work that needed to be done, that there appeared to be no end in sight to it. For example, there was a heavy load of course work, multiple research projects, learning to use statistical programs, management of undergraduate researchers, many administrative tasks, and a variety of meetings per week on research topics, all while I was adjusting to living in a new state. 

 My biggest battle at the time, however, was not the work itself, nor in adjusting to the new location. It was in learning to deal with my own overwhelming negativity. 

The force of it was becoming greater and greater, as it gained in power under the increasing pressures and stresses of my life. Even in the first few weeks of the program, I did not think that I could deal with all of the work. I felt like I was being suffocated under all of it. I had so much to do and learn that it was overwhelming, beyond anything I could have expected. 

I had begun to lose confidence that I would be able to do all the tasks required of me. 

Failure was often on my mind – I sensed that it was inevitable. 

 After several months in the program, I felt defeated. I was keeping up with the work demands, but my mind was telling me that I was going to fail, over and over, and I was not happy. Work occupied my mind all day long, and when it was time to sleep, I could not stop thinking about it. 

Generally, I would only sleep a few hours per night. I was also losing weight, and I was already thin when the program had begun. 

A big sign that my mind was malfunctioning was that I was forgetting very simple things. I would forget meeting times and sometimes I could not recall what someone had said to me only moments earlier. At my worst, my mind was occupied with incessant negative thoughts about myself – which is clearly counterproductive. I may have been sitting in a meeting, and my mind would wander into negative thoughts. I couldn’t focus on anything else but this negativity. 

Eventually, I did not want to be in the program any longer. But I continued with it 
nonetheless. After a few more months it was winter break. I should have been happy, but instead I found myself bedridden. I spent most of the days in bed, not because of a physical ailment – but because of a mental one. The negativity inside of me was on permanent full throttle now. Imagine getting into your car, putting it in neutral, and then putting your foot down on the gas all the way. The engine is revving so hard that it sounds like it could break, but the car isn’t going anywhere. This is what my mind and my life had become. My mind was working in overdrive to the point of self-destruction, but I was not making progress. The fact that I was in bed, unable to do much of anything, only reinforced the negative thoughts I had had – that I was truly not going to be able to continue with the program. 

As a simple example of just how bad things were, I found it difficult to do a basic task such as brushing my teeth – even this took all of my energy to accomplish. Sometimes I would feel good that I had managed to do this on my own, and then I would go back to bed and wonder: If this is what I have stooped to, how will I ever continue with this graduate program? How will I ever finish my degree? If brushing my teeth is difficult, how can I learn advanced statistics and manage undergraduate students, or even show up to meetings or classes? 

 I thought seriously about whether it was even worth it to continue. But I somehow realized that my mind wasn’t working properly, and I didn’t feel qualified to make such a big decision in that state of mind, so I didn’t quit. 

In reality, the program was becoming less of a concern – my life itself was now my biggest problem. If I continued to deteriorate at this rate, I would have much bigger problems than just finishing a graduate program. 

After this lowest of lows, spending most of my days in bed, I decided to finally get some help and I went to my doctor. I was given some tests, and he explained that I had major depressive disorder and dysthymia. He prescribed some antidepressants and he told me to start seeing a clinical psychologist to receive some counseling. He said that in my deeply depressed state, it was critical that I take the medication and attend the counseling. Either one alone would not be sufficient. 

 After a few weeks of following the treatment, I was well enough to function again. I could do basic tasks, but it was still a struggle to operate at the higher level that the graduate program required. 

After a few months, I was doing fine. I was no longer overwhelmed by a self-created negativity, and I was able to do all of my work without much trouble. 

The true healing would take many years, however. The medication and therapy helped to reset my mind and body, but I was not truly healed. I still needed to learn to control my mind to prevent this from ever happening again. 

After a couple of years on the treatment plan, with the aid of my doctor and therapist, I stopped taking the medication and I stopped going to counseling. I felt the need to do this so that I could control my own destiny fully. I wanted to be sure that I was the master of my own mind, and that I didn’t need to rely on either medication or counseling. I intuitively knew that I didn’t need it – my biggest problem was a self-created negativity, and therefore I could learn to control it. 

In the months after stopping treatment I didn’t feel worse, but I still didn’t feel happy, or like I was on a path that I looked forward to pursuing. I wasn’t overwhelmed with negativity, but I didn’t view this alone as a true success. It’s as much of a success as you would say being absent of pain is a success. 

The achievement of not being profoundly empty or sad just wasn’t enough. There needed to be more to life than just this. I wanted something more. As an important note, if you want to stop taking a medication or stop a counseling program, be sure to discuss this with your medical and counseling professionals first. There can be great risks with stopping either one suddenly, depending on your situation. 


 The above section was an excerpt from my book, 7 Thoughts to Live Your Life By: A Guide to the Happy, Peaceful, & Meaningful Life - available on Amazon, Google Play, other major retailers, in paperback, and on your preferred online audiobook retailer. In the book, I discuss a system of thinking for helping us to overcome whatever it is that we feel is holding us back. 

I had to hit rock bottom before I finally had the epiphany that helped me to turn my life around. If there is something holding you back right now, or you would like to learn to use the power of your Thoughts to lift you higher, then I recommend that you read the book. 

 All the best, Issac “I. C.” Robledo 

 P. S., Did you like what you read here? If so, please share with a friend. 

 DWC's comment: I rarely have guest posts, but this one, by author/engineer I.C. Robledo, is too good to miss. See his books at amazon.com, too.