Pretty Pictures

100_0387_0374100_0190_0541_0001100_0082_0218_0001100_0156_0291

It’s been a very long four and half months since I’ve actually taught in the classroom. This morning I returned, but this time with a mask and social distancing. Trust me, that’s difficult when you’re trying to explain a concept and a student asks if you can check their grammar in the paragraph you’ve just assigned. My student and I giggled as we sprayed our hands with antibacterial spray and carefully handled the sheet of paper as if it were a grenade. Our masks obscured our noses and mouths. It felt as if we were either having an early Halloween, an educational masquerade ball, or were extras from the old television show Batman and Robin or the soap opera General Hospital.

While we both were a bit stressed about returning to face to face instruction, we both followed the protocol and actually enjoyed our class. I made sure to disinfect everything as much as possible. It was our first day back and it was successful.

Photography makes me happy. Looking at photos of nature and animals calm me. I wanted to share these with you all. The first picture is a beautiful white duck that used to live in a marsh next to the lake near my house. I love the calming effect of blue and white along with the orange bill of this duck.

The second photo is in Cobh, Republic of Ireland. I took this photo from the window of a tour bus. I thought it was so calming with the soft silvery shadows falling against the late afternoon sky and calm waters.

The third photo is a colorful window box attached to a a happy pink cottage in Bunratty Folk Park, Republic of Ireland.

The fourth photo is a sweet little donkey at Ring of Kerry, the Republic of Ireland.

100_0199_0537

This fifth and final photo is of a beautiful white pony at Newtown Farm Guesthouse in Youghal, Republic of Ireland.

Looking at beauty lifts my spirits. As I said, these past few months have been challenging. I feel better getting back into my routine although it is modified.  Looking back at these happy memories from my trip to the Republic of Ireland lifts my spirits. They remind me that there is still a beautiful world out there. I can go and see this beautiful world if I choose to. Protocol might be modified, but I have to believe that it will all be better sooner than later. I have to continue to hope and to believe in the future.

I thank all of you for your encouragement during these challenging months.

There is hope for tomorrow. I have to believe that. As soon as I can, I am going to return to the Republic of Ireland and retrace my steps and walk new paths to places I didn’t explore the last time I visited.

Here’s to tomorrow! Never give up hope. Never.

 

Copyright  Jenny W. Andrews 2020

Trust Us: It’s For Your Own Good

WIN_20200722_21_38_06_Pro (2)

Yep! I’m obviously not Van Gogh. (Maybe a bit Dali or Picasso, perhaps?)

It’s been a few months now since the mask mandate and the majority of folks are donning their masks.

After I got home from grocery shopping today, I sat down on my comfy sofa and drank my homemade cafe latte and thought about all the faces I half-way saw at the store.

They all appeared (from what I could see) in various stages of emotional alarm anytime anyone neared them.  All I have to go on is the memory of eyebrows arched upward, eyebrows knitted together, eyes round like saucers. Everybody six or more feet apart, and cringing anytime another person even appeared to be 5.75 feet near their space.

Occasionally eyes would meet mine and they would quickly step away as if I myself were a contagion ready to unleash my toxins upon them.

I don a mask when I am in public. I obey the law whether I want to or not. I’m not a donkey’s bottom so I do as the law mandates (within legal and moral reason, of course).

I have learned a lot in the past few months. The coronavirus lockdown has taught me that I can make my cafe lattes at home for a fraction of the price I used to spend in coffee shops. I have also learned that I don’t really need to go to clothing stores or libraries or bookstores because I can order on Amazon. I have also learned that I can bake my own bread and pastries and I don’t have to even go to the bakeries anymore. I have learned that I can work from home and don’t even have to go out to work. I have learned that I no longer have to waste my money buying flavorless vegetables from the supermarket because now I have my own beautiful vegetable garden. I have learned that I don’t even have to go to church. I can attend church online.I have learned that I can go days without even speaking to another human being other than family members or close friends on the phone. Yes, the coronavirus lockdown has taught me a lot. Mainly that I don’t need to interact with merchants as much as I did in the past. It has taught me that I don’t need to interact with others outside my immediate circle of family and friends.

I think back to the fear I see in the eyes positioned directly above  masks and I can’t help but wonder what the long-term impact this social distancing (aka social isolation) will have on our abilities to interact with others face-to-face when all this is over.

We are seeing that people are confronting each other over masks use. Usually this confrontation is fueled by fear. Some people have a fear of suffocating behind the mask. This could be psychological, physiological, or emotional. Who knows? But, isn’t that that person’s own business? I think so. Agree with me or disagree. It’s just my opinion and I have my right to it. Or the person could just be a donkey’s bottom. Who knows? Social courtesy dictates that we should mind our own business. It is the role of the authorities to intervene, not us. I fear that social courtesy has been damaged by this lockdown, this social distancing mandate. People are forgetting how to respectfully interact with each other in person. Fear of getting sick is a legitimate fear, that I do not doubt.  Nobody wants to get sick. This is where our own personal choices and behaviors come into play. I hate wearing the mask, as I do believe most people hate it, too.. I wear it because there is some evidence that it can protect me and others from this virus.  It is a reasonable mandate, however, the mandates do have exceptions for people with certain psychological or physiological issues.

In the grocery store, I have seen some people not wearing the mask. It is not my business whether the person wears it or not. I do keep my distance, as I have actually always done in a public setting.

So, I sit here on my comfy sofa, finish my cafe latte, type out my opinion on what I think could potentially be the long-term consequences of this coronavirus lockdown. It has felt like de facto house arrest, actually. I wonder what the psychological damage this entire experience will have upon those who suffer from anxiety and depression. Isolation is damning to the mind and spirit and has devastating repercussions for physical health.

Stay home, stay safe might not be really safe at all. In fact, it might be downright out dangerous. Only time will tell.

For me, I plan to go shopping this weekend (on line) because I just don’t feel like standing in line while ten other shoppers are counted out before entry into the stores.

Yep, the coronavirus lockdown has taught me a lot.

It’s yet to be seen whether what I have learned from it has  actually been  beneficial to my spirit in the long run.

Jenny W. Andrews, Copyright, 2020

 

Beauty of Flowers

100_0811_0004100_0810_0003

There is an arboretum a few blocks from my house. It is a peaceful refuge.  I enjoy taking my camera with me there and photographing flowers. I find that the single kindest act I can do for myself is to switch off the negative news, go out into the sunshine and walk among flowers.

All too often, we get caught up in the rush to the next minute rather than stopping to enjoy the beauty right in front of us.

100_1275_0057

So, stop and smell the roses!

So, stop and enjoy the timeless beauty of a garden.

Enjoy this life rather than complain about its imperfections.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, will ever be as perfect as the petals of a flower!

Have a beautifully blessed day!

Jenny W. Andrews Copyright 2020

Mother Mary, Pray for Us

WIN_20200713_20_21_46_Pro (2)

 

This statue of Mother Mary stands in my garden among pink, yellow, and lavender roses. Early morning, I sit in my garden and drink a cup of hot coffee, listen to the birds sing, and rest before I start my day. I ask Mother Mary to pray for me, to pray for us. In my heart, I know that she carries my prayers directly to God. Of course, I can pray directly to God, and I do, but it is comforting to know that Mother Mary, all the saints and the angels are praying for me, surrounding me with their love and prayers, too. It is comforting to know that there is this limitless love surrounding me, and us.

Just today, I read that some poor souls set fire to statues of Mother Mary in both New York and Boston. This makes my heart so very sad. They had written “idol” on the statues. I pray that whomever did this will one day come to understand that Mother Mary’s words asked us to do what Jesus told us to do which is to love. Love. Love. Love.

In John 2:5 Mary tells the servants at Cana to do what Jesus said to do. He turned the water into wine. He performed a miracle, one of many that he performed.

We can take Mother Mary’s words to heart and we can take it steps further. What else did Jesus say? What was the most important thing that he said?

Matthew 22:37-39 is where Jesus tells us to love God with our whole hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves. At verse 40, he tells us that all the Law and prophets hang on these two commandments. Love God and love our neighbor, plain and simple.

Torching a statue of Mother Mary is an act of extreme hate. Hate eats at the soul like a cancer. It eventually destroys and consumes the person who hates.

It is my prayer that this world will open its heart and listen to Mother Mary’s instruction to do as Jesus says. For those servants at Cana it was following Jesus’ directions regarding the water jars. For us, I believe, it is to do as Jesus says which is  to love God with our whole hearts and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Please let’s stop the hate.

Please let’s stop the hate.

Please let’s stop the hate.

Mother Mary, please pray for us. . .

Amen

 

Copyright 2020  Jenny W. Andrews

 

Forever Sisters

WIN_20200705_20_57_58_Pro (2)

This is my sister Darlene and I way back in 1985. She was eight months pregnant with her first daughter, Denise. Could it possibly be true that 1985 was really thirty-five years ago? Could it possibly be true that my beautiful, artistic sister just turned sixty years old? Could it possibly true be that she is now the grandmother of three incredible little girls?

Time is brutal in its passage; it does not stop for anyone. Time is precious like the final drop of water in a vast and scorching desert. Time is elusive; its march cannot be stopped. There is no turning back with time; once spent it is forever, irretrievably lost, gone.

My niece Denise called me to tell me that she cannot believe that she is five short years away from forty. Her daughter Maya is about to turn seventeen. Yes, time marches forward and never waits for any of us.

Time is shockingly short, as well, when we look at the thousands of years that stretch out behind the human march forward to this very second in which we live. We are here for just a little while when viewed through the lens of millennia. 

On the day that my sister and I smiled into the camera that our mother was holding, the whole of our futures lay before us. She was eagerly awaiting the birth of her precious daughter; I was a young bride, just recently married. Yes, the whole world lay before us. We were giddy with the promises of love, of children, of careers, of travel, of all that our hearts could ever possibly desire.

Neither of us could at that moment have possibly comprehended just how shockingly cruel that time’s march forward could be. Neither of us could have imagined the losses, the hurts, the disappointments, the ravishes that time could exact upon dreams, aspirations, and the human heart.

Our beloved sister Sara died of lymphoma a few years later and our beloved mother died within a few years of that picture being taken, as well.

Now, Darlene and I have both surpassed the age at which our beloved sister Sara died. Sara died at forty-nine years old. It feels as if it were just yesterday that Sara, Darlene, Mama and I sat at the kitchen table gossiping, drinking sweet tea and eating pound cake. It feels like just yesterday. Just yesterday.  But, it isn’t.  It is as if we blinked and the decades dissolved and have become irretrievably lost.

Time marches on and we cannot call back any of it. We cannot change a single second by looking backwards. Once done, it is over. It is a waste of this  precious, shockingly short life when we hold grudges, envy, and hate. It is a waste of this precious, shockingly short life when we fail to forgive, when we fail to love.

One day, we will all have to say good-bye to this world and all that  is in it. We are all here for just a short time.  Shouldn’t we spend this brief time building up rather than tearing down? Shouldn’t we leave this world a better world than when we arrived in it? 

I am shocked by the passage of time. I remember at thirty years old thinking that my forty-nine year old sister was old. Now that I am almost fifty-nine, I think that she was way, way too young to have died so young.

Oh, what I would give to just spend ten more minutes at the kitchen table talking to Sara, Mama and Darlene! If only I could go back to those moments and give each of them a hug! I would wrap each of them in an embrace and I would never, ever let either of them go.

But, I cannot go back and hug Mama or Sara, but I can hug Darlene. She is my beloved sixty year old sister. I know that one day one of us will no longer be here in this space in time, that one of us will have to say good-bye first and leave the other one behind.  Time is brutal in its passing.

Time waits for no one. Time marches on. The past is the past and it cannot be altered in any way. All we truly have is this moment. I plan to call my sister just to say “I love you, Nina.”   And I do.

Life is short; time passes quickly. Please remember that and reach out to those whom you love. Time waits for no one.

May God have eternal mercy on us,  give us wisdom, grant us peace, and forgive us our transgressions. Amen.

Copyright 2020 Jenny W. Andrews

 

A Few Quotes Just for Laughs

black and white cat
Photo by Guillaume Meurice on Pexels.com

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I have taken a complete break from the news media. I have no idea what is going on in the world right now and as a result  my anxiety has dialed down to negative zero. An added bonus is that I sleep much, much better!  I have spent my time gardening, editing my first novel, doing revisions on my previously published poetry book “Life at the End of the Rainbow,” learning to speak French via You Tube videos,  running mini-marathon laps in my backyard, and teaching English online. The reason I am sharing this slice of my life is to let you know that it isn’t necessary to be glued to the news 24/7 or social media. Just taking a break is refreshing mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

This afternoon I was thinking about how laughter can be emotionally uplifting. I googled a few quotes that made me laugh. I would like to share them with you. I hope that you enjoy these as as much as I do.

“My mind is like my internet browser. At least 19 open tabs, 3 of them frozen. And I have no clue where the music is coming from.”- Anonymous  (coolfunnyquotes. com)

“The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.”- Oscar Wilde (Brainquotes. org)

“The biggest lie I tell myself is ‘I don’t need to write that down. I’ll remember it’.” (Snippy Chuckles Journal)

Thank you for reading.

Please leave a comment and let me know what your favorite funniest quote is.

Thanks!

Jenny W. Andrews Copyright 2020

 

Love: Share it

orange tabby cat beside fawn short coated puppy
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Spread love everywhere you go.

Let no one ever come to you

without leaving happier.   – Mother Teresa  (Brainyquotes)

In Matthew 22: 37, Jesus replied to a Pharisee who had asked him which is the greatest commandment in the Law, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  Jesus continued his explanation in verse 38, “This is the greatest commandment.”  And at verse 39, “And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus summed up at verse 40, “All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Love. This is the foundation upon which we are to establish our lives. Jesus has taught us that love is the greatest commandment of all. We are to extend love to our neighbors just as we do to ourselves. We are to love God with everything that we are: our minds, our hearts, our souls.

I John 4:8 tells us, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Love. God is love. 

I Corinthians 13: 4-8 defines for us what love is: (4) “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (5) It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (6) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (7) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (8) Love never fails. . .”

I Corinthians 13: !3 reaffirms what Jesus taught us about the greatest commandment:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Mother Teresa’s words reflect the greatest commandment to love.

Of course, in reality, it isn’t always easy to love others especially when others are less than kind to us. In my own life, I try to consider the other person’s life, those hidden hurts that I cannot see that lie hidden in that person’s soul. Of course, I cannot save anyone. Only Our Lord Jesus can do that. But, I can be kind. I can be patient. I can be polite. I can be compassionate. I can attempt to understand the other person’s point of view although I might not agree with it. I can choose to build bridges rather than destroy bridges. I can extend a hand rather than refuse to hold a hand. I can show God’s love by reflecting His love and sharing it with all whom I meet.

Jenny W. Andrews Copyright 2020

 

Joy of Gardening

food healthy vegetables peppers
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Last week, I turned off my computer and completely tuned out the news. I tuned out the vile vitriol, the hatred, the distortions, the bias, and manipulations that have come to characterize the 24/7 media of our day. Alas! Media distortion isn’t new, however. Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) penned a poem in 1913 entitled The Old Stone Cross in which he takes issue with journalistic integrity (or rather the lack thereof). Here is William Butler Yeats poem:

A statesman is an easy man, he tells his lies by rote. 

A journalist invents his lies and rams them down your throat.

So stay at home and drink your beer and let your neighbors vote. (poetryverse.com)

Taking a cue from Mr. Yeats, I have done just that—-stayed home and, well, while I’m not really a beer drinker I do enjoy myself an occasional Guinness Draught Stout. It reminds me of Dublin, the city after my own heart!

In my garden, I have planted a variety of peppers, tomatoes, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, daisies, roses, lemon grass, lemon balm, peppermint, basil, hibiscus, sage and lavender.  It the middle of my garden, I have placed a  stone statue of Mother Mary. She is surrounded by roses, pink, yellow, and lavender. In the tranquil early morning, I sit with my hot coffee, listen to the red cardinals, blue jays, brown-winged hawks, and rust-colored robins sing like a heavenly chorus high above the cherry laurel and oak trees in my backyard. It is in this tranquil setting that I meditate and focus my mind on God’s blessings, on Jesus and his message of  love, forgiveness and redemption, on Mother Mary and her obedience to God’s call in her life. In the stillness I pray. In the stillness I rest and accept those things I cannot change and I ask God to bless me with discernment to change those things that I should change, and that I have the power to change.

I find peace and truth in the quiet of my garden. I find peace and truth that only God can give. This world and all that is in it passes away. Only God’s peace and truth remain.

Isaiah 26:3-4 tells us: You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in youTrust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is the Rock eternal.

In John 14:27 Jesus comforts us: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I cannot tolerate the constant onslaught of violence and hatred in which the media relishes. They no longer report facts, but rather design “stories” to incite hatred, anger, strife, division.  High drama sells.  I, for one, choose to step back and not allow myself to be manipulated, to be made afraid.

Of course, I do not stick my head in the sand and pretend everything is perfect; of course, it isn’t.  I choose to rely on My Lord Jesus for strength in the storm. I choose to rely on My Lord Jesus for help in danger. I choose to rely on the comforting words of My Lord Jesus.

Jesus told me not to let my heart be troubled and to not be afraid.

I put my complete trust in Jesus’ holy words and  in His promises.

Jenny W. Andrews Copyright 2020

 

 

Remembering a Summer Past

WIN_20200611_19_27_59_Pro

Way back in the summer of 1994 I was driving through Texas with my three year old son Alex. Life had not been kind to me. In 1991, my sister Sara Jo died at the age of 49 years old of lymphoma. In 1992, my husband decided that he didn’t want to be married anymore and he didn’t want to be a father anymore either. In 1993, my mother died of spinal cord cancer. In 1994, I lost my job as a legal review specialist at a mortgage company.

I can still remember the sickening feeling in my stomach when I was presented with the white envelope in which my one month severance pay was enclosed. I can still remember sitting at my cubicle staring at my name plaque and all my awards for being a top legal reviewer. Scattered among my awards was my little son’s photo and my mother’s funeral notice upon which Psalm 46 was printed.  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fail into the heart of the sea. . .” Each morning those words got me through the pain of loss and the challenges of the day.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Those words rung in my ears and mocked me.  My earth had given way and my mountains had fallen into the heart of the sea. I couldn’t even cry. I sat stunned. I had lost my precious sister Sara Jo. My husband whom I loved dearly had abandoned me and our baby son without even a glance backward. I had lost my beloved mother. And now, I had lost my job upon which I depended for support of my son and me.

I remember wondering how I was going to survive. I remember getting angry at God. I remember begging God to help me. I was lost in the dark. How much more could I take? How much more could I lose?

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). That verse struck me in the dead of night along with the smothering gloom of anxiety.

Be still. Be still, Be still.  I decided to do just that. I took a deep breath and decided to just be still.

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:11).

Anxiety ate away at me, but I decided to just keep moving forward. I committed this psalm to my heart and prayed it continuously. God promised me that he was an ever-present help in trouble and told me not to fear. I had to trust Him. I just had to. He was all I had left to carry me through the darkness to the light on the other side of the abyss my life had fallen into.

So, in the summer of 1994, I drove through Texas from Houston to a beautiful little town called Glen Rose. My son loved dinosaurs. I had found out about the Dinosaur Valley State Park at Glen Rose. My son was overjoyed about going to a place that had actual dinosaur prints in the earth. He loved cowboys, so I bought him a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. His little face lit up as he eyed all the ranches along the way and saw actual cowboys riding horses. The Texas countryside sparkled like a beautiful comforting paradise to both our souls. That long drive was a balm to our spirits. It lifted us up from the darkness.

In Snook, Texas, I stopped at a little market and bought a two-dollar lottery ticket and won 500 dollars. The cashier gave me the money on the spot. I was shocked. I walked back to the truck with the cash and was speechless.

That has been twenty-six years ago this month.  God has brought me through  those dark days and has given my life light, purpose and joy. In Him, I place my absolute trust. He promised me that he is my refuge and strength. He was then, is now, and will forever be my refuge. He is my fortress upon whom I depend.

 

Jenny Andrews Copyright 2020

 

 

Missing Aunt Gladys

WIN_20200224_19_39_34_Pro (2)

This is my Aunt Gladys.  That smile was contagious. Her laughter was boisterous and as loud as she was. A small woman, barely 5 feet tall, she filled up a room with this sheer joy that radiated from deep within her heart; she was generous, loving, kind.    Having grown up with eight brothers, she had to learn how  to hold her own in arguments. She was a strong lady. She also had two sisters, Myrtle and Eltrum. I honestly don’t know which aunt I loved the most. That goes for my uncles. None of them are alive anymore. They have all left me alone in this cold world with just these childhood memories of Sunday dinner, of funerals, of laughter, of tears, of family stories of a paternal grandpa and paternal grandma I never knew.

Time moved on. The world turned. Nothing is left of that childhood of mine, except photos of those whom I loved. Photos of uncles, aunts, and family who are no longer here.

It is summer that reminds me most of them. Summer brings back watermelon spread out on tables in the yard. Summer brings back memories of all my uncles and aunts gathered on the front porch reminiscing about their childhoods.

I miss them all.

Time moves on. Our time on this earth is so very limited; our time on this earth is so very precious.

I resolve not to waste one moment of the precious time I have left on this earth. Like Aunt Gladys, I want to laugh and find joy in the simplest things. I want to choose to be happy. There is good in this world. If I have learned anything from those summer Sundays, it is to give thanks to God who loves me, to share with others, and that it is better to light one candle rather than curse the darkness.

From them all, I learned that my strength comes from the Lord. With the Lord all things are possible. I believe this with my whole heart, mind, and soul.

Thanks, Aunt Gladys for the laughter. I still can hear you in my heart all these decades later. I love you, always.

 

Copyright 2020 Jenny W. Andrews