Books that changed my life

Ask a librarian, “What’s your favorite book?” and he or she is likely to cock an eyebrow and respond, “Is this a trick question?” Luckily, this month’s theme at the BeZine is “Books that changed our lives”.  For me, that’s a much easier question to answer.

A quick bit of background: I’ve always been a Type A personality. I used to worry about every, little detail and tried to plan for everything. I was always anxious about the future, dreaded unexpected problems and tried to control everything (and sadly, a lot of people) in my environment. It led to a constant state of stress, which affected my physical health and took a toll on my mental and emotional well-being, too.  Not long after I graduated college, I fell into a spiraling depression, hit rock bottom and it seemed like there was no way back to a life worth living.  And then a well-meaning friend gave me a book that quite literally changed my life. That book was “The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff.

Tao and Te

It started me on the path of Taoism and I never looked back. It was closely followed by “The Te of Piglet” and then “The Tao Te Ching” by Laozi (Lao Tzu).  I learned that we all have elements of each one of A.A. Milne’s lovable characters from the Hundred Acre Wood. It’s what we do (or don’t do) with each day that counts, and we only ever have one day at a time, so it’s worth making the best of each day. Worry and anxiety are a waste of energy.  The only thing we ever have control over is ourselves, and how we react to what life hands us each day.

taoteching

If you find yourself stressed and anxious, a Type A personality without the ability to let go of control and take what comes, I highly recommend reading all three books I mentioned. I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t regret it, and maybe they’ll change YOUR life, too! :)

Tao and Te2

 

 

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Poetic Evolution…

Poetry moves us. It makes us think, feel, inspires us to do more, be more. It has been here as long as people could speak and sing, and its energy and intention will probably outlast the end of humanity. Like everything in life, it has had to evolve and adapt. One of the main purposes of poetry, to communicate something with someone else, has necessitated new ways of reaching an audience. This is especially true now, in this digital age of instant gratification and social media.

Poetry has learned to deliver its message via video, recorded poetry slams, Skype, flash mob poetry in action…blink and you might miss it. But even if you DO miss it, you can probably find a recording of it somewhere. No longer is it simply written words on an immortal page in some heavy, dusty collection of poetry, or an oral history sung through the ages and generations.  There are still formal forms, still meters (or even free form, as even it has a “beat”), still rhymes (or not), still those who will read it and listen to it. Some things about it do not change.

There have been many famous poets who have attempted to define what poetry “is”;  the well-known, poetic “greats”, and they all have valid definitions. I tend to agree with one of my favorites, Robert Frost, who said:

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

To me, poetry is a type of communication that touches the heart and soul. 

In honor of (inter)National Poetry Month celebrations at The BeZine, I would like to share a couple of poetic videos with all of you. Both of these “spoke” to me. I hope that you find them as powerful as I did, and maybe that you will look at poetry as more than dry, printed words on a page. It is very much a living thing. And it continues to evolve, just like people do. :)

First, is a poem by actor Woody Harrelson.

Next, is a piece by rapper Prince Ea

 

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Campaigning for Compassion…

Photo 2016 © Animalpages.com

Photo 2016 © Animalpages.com

The focus of this month’s BeZine is “All God’s Creatures”. Try closing your eyes for a moment and imagining a world without animals. No gentle bird song to wake you in the morning, no coyotes or owls to sing you to sleep at night, no furry face or wagging tail to greet you after a hard day at work.  Your diet would be affected, too, whether you eat meat or not – about 35% of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators. As it is, animal species extinction is happening 1000 times faster because of humans. I think it would be a very different world without our animal friends; a darker, much emptier one.

Fortunately, speaking up for animals is one of those things that just about anyone can do.  Whether it’s a preference for domestic cats and dogs or wild and exotic animals, no matter what kind of animal you love, there is a campaign out there just waiting for your help.  I’d like to present some of the causes of specific animals which are important to me, and encourage you to join me and find animals you’d like to help.

  • Meet Tony, the Truck Stop Tiger.
    Photo: ©FreeTonyTheTiger2014 | ©The Animal Legal Defense Fund

    Photo: ©FreeTonyTheTiger2014 | ©The Animal Legal Defense Fund

    Tony is a sixteen-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger who has lived his entire life in a cramped, concrete cage in a truck stop parking lot in Louisiana. Poor Tony is an exploited, illegally kept roadside attraction/gimmick and activists have been fighting to free him since 2010 (6 years!) to get him released to a reputable big cat sanctuary (there are several who have offered to take him in, since he would not survive in the wild).

    “Tony, a Siberian-Bengal tiger, has endured more than a decade of misery at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. Living at an isolated gas station parking lot, with the stench of fuel and the drone of diesel engines, is harmful to an animal with such sensitive hearing and an acute sense of smell, says veterinarian Jennifer Conrad, who has cared for captive large cats for decades. Tony is “in poor condition and needs intervention on his behalf,” she says. He has been taunted by truck stop visitors and his enclosure lacks adequate enrichment. As a result of this stressful confinement, Tony constantly paces, putting him at risk for dangerous and painful injuries.” ~ ALDF.org

    Tony’s Story
    Facebook Page
    WordPress Page
    Petition for Freedom
    Twitter: @FreeTonyTiger and @TonyTiger2000
    Instagram
    Pinterest
    Youtube

     

  • Meet Lolita, the Orca.

    Lolita - Image © PeTA

    Lolita – Image © PeTA 2016

    Lolita is a 20-foot-long, 4-ton orca who has lived at the Miami Seaquarium since 1970. She was 4 years old when she was forcefully taken from her mother and pod in Puget Sound and placed into a 35-foot wide, 20-foot deep tank with no shade. Activists have been trying to free her to have her relocated and reintroduced to her home in Puget Sound since 2003.  Not only are killer whales highly intelligent, they can roam as much as 100 MILES a DAY in search of food and play. From a range of hundreds of miles to a small, concrete tank that’s 35-feet wide, forced for 45 years to do tricks for human entertainment

    “When not performing in her show, Lolita floats listlessly in her tank, all by herself.  In the wild, killer whales swim hundreds of miles a day, diving as deep as 500 feet.  In her tank, she swims in circles inside the 35 foot wide area and can only go as deep as 20 feet, in a small area in the center of the tank.” ~ Save Lolita.org

    Lolita’s Story (YouTube)
    Facebook
    SaveLolita.org
    OrcaNetwork.org
    Us.Whales.Org

  • Meet Lucy, the Lonely Elephant.

    Photo: © 2016 Sam Whincup and Lucy's Edmonton Advocate's Project (LEAP)

    Photo: © 2016 Sam Whincup and Lucy’s Edmonton Advocate’s Project (LEAP)

Lucy is a 40-year old Asian elephant who was sold to the Edmonton Valley Zoo in Canada as a young calf. Not only is the near-freezing climate horrible for ANY elephant (who live in tropical or desert regions in the wild), but Lucy has been alone for a very long time, suffering serious foot problems, obesity and arthritis (due to standing on concrete floors her whole life), and exhibiting all the classic signs of stress and depression that are known to plague elephants in captivity.

There are numerous celebrities (like Bob Barker, Leonardo DiCaprio, William Shatner and others) who have gotten involved, two well-known elephant sanctuaries (The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society)) have offered her a permanent home in climates MUCH more suitable with experienced elephant vets on staff, and enough money has been raised and donated to pay for her transfer fifty times over. Activists have been fighting to free her for over 10 years, but the city and zoo both refuse to allow any independent veterinarians (meaning not associated with the zoo) to examine Lucy, so she continues to suffer. And we continue to fight for her freedom.

From Elephant Advocacy: “They are born to roam often traveling as far as 30 miles per day browsing and foraging for food and water. When an elephant is deprived of the ability to roam long distances and to socially interact within a stable herd, they lose their sense of belonging and slip into neurosis, depression, dissociation and chronic illness. The complexity and depth of the elephant psyche is terrorized and traumatized by captivity. Social deprivation, solitary confinement, chains, taming techniques and circus training is cruel and unusual abuse for any elephant and enslavement to entertainment venues is inhumane.

Lucy’s Story
Friends of Lucy on Facebook
Save Lucy the Elephant on Facebook
Lucy’s Edmonton Advocates Project (LEAP)
Friends of Lucy (YouTube)

I’m not saying that all zoos or aquariums are bad. Zoos often play an important role in conservation/rehabilitation and may end up being the only reason that future generations are even able to see living examples of certain species.  But we share this planet with animals. That doesn’t mean that we can endlessly kill, trap, destroy their habitat, exploit, dominate and drive to extinction the rest of the animals that are left! I hope you’ll give it some thought and agree to be another voice for those creatures who have no choice, no say in how humans affect them. The Earth needs them. WE need them.

Posted in Animal Rights, Animals, Awareness, Food For Thought, Frustration, Loneliness, Social Media, Stories, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Animal Stories

In keeping with this month’s theme at the BeZine, I thought I’d recommend some of the best books about animals that I have read.

© 1972 James Herriot

© 1972 James Herriot

The theme “All God’s Creatures” immediately reminded me of one of my favorite series of animal books by author James Herriot.  He was a British rural veterinarian who wrote books using many of his own cases as material. The series starts with All Creatures Great and Small, and continues in All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful, Dog Stories, The Lord God Made Them All, and finally, Every Living Thing.  Herriot’s tone is gentle but wise, and his compassionate nature and witty humor make these books a must-read for anyone who loves animals (including the human animal).

 

 

 

 

 

Image from deweyreadmorebooks.com

Image from deweyreadmorebooks.com

Next on my list would have to be Dewey, The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter. Cat lovers everywhere will adore this true story of a tiny, orange kitten who was abandoned inside a small-town library book drop!  How the library staff dealt with this windfall and how it changed not just the library, but the entire town is a story that both inspires and touches the heart. Don’t miss it!

 

 

 

 

 

Image from Johngroganbooks.com

Image from Johngroganbooks.com

And then there’s Marley and Me, by John Grogan. This one is more for dog lovers, and fair warning: it’s a tear-jerker. It’s the story of a lovable, yellow Labrador retriever named Marley and how he managed to wiggle his way into the hearts of his family, their friends and everyone who was lucky enough to get to know him. From an adorable puppy to a ninety-seven pound giant with a heart of gold,  Marley will take you on an adventure you’ll never forget.

 

 

 

 

 

Image from amazon.com © 1993 Jim Brandenburg

Image from amazon.com © 1993 Jim Brandenburg

Wolves have always been one of my favorite animals, so I had to include Brother Wolf, A Forgotten Promise by Jim Brandenburg. Jim is a wildlife photographer, who has spent years capturing and creating images that stir and move the viewer’s soul.  Brother Wolf is often told from the eyes of the wolf, beginning with a heart-felt, haunting letter to mankind. In addition to the breath-taking photography, Brandenburg’s text is philosophical, poetical and will leave a lasting impression on the reader.

Image from Wikipedia © Tad Williams and cover art by Braldt Bralds

Image from Wikipedia © Tad Williams and Cover Art by Braldt Bralds

Next on my recommendation list is Tailchaser’s Song, by Tad Williams. This wonderful story explores the myths and legends of cats from the feline point of view. The cat characters in this mystical, magical tale are all highly relatable and memorable.  It was originally marketed for young adults back in 1985, but it’s such a good story that people of any age can enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Richard Adams 1972

© Richard Adams 1972

Last, but certainly not least on this list, is Watership Down by Richard Adams. This is a well-written story about a colony of rabbits and their heroic adventures to find a new home where they can be free and safe. While it was written for children and young adults, it has some deep, adult themes that should be considered before reading it to kids.

There are so many more incredible animal stories out there, but this post would be pages long trying to list all of them. Hopefully, you will enjoy one or more that I’ve suggested, or maybe you have your own recommendations to add in the comments below.:)

Posted in Animals, Cats, Literature, Reading, Stories, Uncategorized, Writing | 2 Comments

Art Lessons

The theme for January at the BeZine is Parents and Parenting.  It took me reaching adulthood to realize how lucky I am to have an artistic, creative mother.  I imagine that all parents strive to teach their children important life lessons, but mine often came in the form of constructive examples through watching my mom create or by listening to her wise advice and encouragement.  Here are just some of the things I have learned by being blessed as the daughter of an artist*.

  • Patience.  A good life (and good art) don’t happen overnight.  You will make a lot of mistakes in both, and you know what? That’s okay. You have to be patient and allow yourself (and your art) time to evolve, time to develop into what you (and your art) are going to be.  Da Vinci didn’t become a master by trying a few times and then calling it “good”. It took many years, so be patient and keep learning, keep striving.

    "Hand of David" © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

    “Hand of David” © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

  • Waste not, want not – Reuse and share when you can.  This applies to a lot more than just art supplies. We live in a world with finite resources and there are so many people out there who have nothing. Appreciate what you have and do as much as you can with what you have been given.  Even better, if you come across someone else struggling because they don’t have enough, share and make their lives better, too.
    My mom taught art and ran two galleries for over twenty years at the local university. At the end of each semester, there were always extra art materials that students had left behind. Each semester, she would put together an “art box” of supplies and inevitably, there would always be a student who couldn’t afford supplies for class. That student ended up with the “box”, and the caveat to “pay it forward” if they were able.
"Yellow Landscape" © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

“Yellow Landscape” © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

  • Never give up! Mistakes will happen, you will face challenges that can knock you so far down that you think you’ll never be able to get back up again. But don’t let that stop you and don’t give up!  Use adversity as a catalyst to make yourself (and your art) better than ever…learn where you went wrong and make the next time better.

    "Memory Painting: The Lesson" © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

    “Memory Painting: The Lesson” © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

  • Nature as inspiration.  My mom will be the first to tell you (if you ask) that the absolute greatest artist that ever was, is God. The Divine Creator has made perfection in everything around us. We can find the Golden Mean everywhere in nature and if you’re looking for artistic inspiration, go out into the woods or find a quiet spot out in the natural world – you’re bound to discover something to awe and/or motivate you.

    "Southern Ice" © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

    “Southern Ice” © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

  • Confidence. In art, as in life, “everyone’s a critic”.  The only person you have to compare yourself to and be better than, is the person you were yesterday. By the same token, the only person you have to make happy is yourself.  So be kind to yourself and have faith that you can become whoever you dream about being.
  • Learn to accept constructive criticism.  Along with confidence, you also need a healthy dose of humility for balance.  Those who truly care about you will sometimes  give you constructive criticism…because they care.  Learn to recognize when someone who cares about you has your best interests at heart and understand that an outside perspective can have merit. Being defensive may be an automatic response, but none of us are perfect; we can all improve in some way(s).
"The Dance" © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

“The Dance” © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

  • Follow your heart.  Passion is the lifeblood of art…and the spice of life.  Never allow  your life to become so stagnant or jaded that you lose your passion. It’s equally important that you don’t kill your passion by turning it into a drudgery that you feel obligated to perform – i.e. many artistic, creative people find that when they turn their art into a “job”, it loses the passion that made it so special and unique.

    "Pandemic" © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

    “Pandemic” © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

  • Stay focused, but don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers.  In this age of distraction, staying focused on the task at hand can be difficult. In order to be successful (in art as well as life), you need to be able to stay focused on your goal(s) and keep working on them until they’re done.  Conversely, don’t become so consumed with reaching your goal(s) that you don’t make time to stop and savor the things which make life so sweet. It’s often the little things that enrich our lives to the point of being worthwhile.

    BSH at University of WA circa 1972 © All Rights Reserved

    BSH at University of WA circa 1972 © All Rights Reserved

My mom taught me all these things and so much more. It was all filtered through a lens of gentle, artistic understanding and insistence that I, her daughter, was undoubtedly her ‘greatest creation’:) Thanks, Mom. I love you. *(All images are used with the artist’s permission).

Posted in Art, Family, Food For Thought, Inspiration, Life, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

These Hallowed Halls of Hope

“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.”

–Neil Gaiman

When I saw the theme of “At-Risk Youth” listed for November at The BeZine,  my first thought was how important libraries are to helping kids like these. For those who don’t know what the phrase “At-Risk Youth” means, it’s basically a label for any young person who is “at risk” of not making a successful transition into adulthood. They are typically minorities, live below the poverty level, have a higher rate of school drop-outs and illiteracy and tend to fall into gangs, drug use and/or turn to violence and criminal behavior.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in urban cities, where the library can often be an oasis of peace in the concrete jungle. They are usually quiet buildings with ambient lighting, lots of space and most have special areas just for children, with bright colors, lots of things to look at, activities to do and of course, lots and lots of books. We all know the power of books to transport and lift us from even the most depressing of  realities, but today’s library goes far beyond that simple escapism.

Image borrowed from cdc.gov

Image borrowed from cdc.gov

I have worked in libraries most of my adult life and have witnessed first-hand how they can help at-risk young people. Many of the kids who come to the library after school are latch-key kids. They sometimes have to baby-sit younger siblings while their parent or parents go to work. A lot of them don’t do well in school, or don’t see education as a priority, so they struggle with basic reading, writing and arithmetic.  They may live LGBT or other alternative lifestyles and face rejection and bullying every day. It occurred to me that the librarian may be the only smiling, accepting face these kids see all day. Most libraries offer literacy and/or homework assistance programs that can help on an educational level, but the librarians…they are the “people factor” that can bridge the gap and make the difference between engaging or alienating them further.

Image borrowed from Flikr Creative Commons - Copyright Michael Pardo

Image borrowed from Flikr Creative Commons – Copyright Michael Pardo

Today’s libraries often have after-school activities to help keep teens off the streets and out of trouble, or mentors to offer advice and assistance.  Some participate in the YouthArts Program, which works to implement effective strategies to pair up at-risk youth with more art-focused programs. Others, like Memphis Public Library, have programs that teach teens how to do Music and Audio production, or Art Studio and Video and Photography classes. They also have resources like JOBLINC and employment workshops, giving youth the knowledge they need to find a job, create a résumé or ace an interview.

You may not know it, but the NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) has awarded $350,000.00 to the ALA (American Library Association) this year for the Great Stories Club, a reading and discussion program specifically aimed toward at-risk youth:

“The Great Stories Club funding will introduce more than 8,000 young adults to accessible and thought-provoking literature selected by humanities scholars to resonate with reluctant readers struggling with complex issues like incarceration, violence and poverty. Librarian advisors will consult on material selection, assist with development of programming guides and best practices for libraries and provide training for grantees.” ~ http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2015/03/neh-grants-ala-350000-book-clubs-risk-youth

Image borrowed from ala.org

Image borrowed from ala.org

If you know of any at-risk youth who are lost and struggling, try guiding them (or accompanying them!) to their local library.  The library has been and will continue to be more than simply a building which houses books and information. It is an ever-changing and evolving source of inspiration, hope and problem-solving; it’s an integral part of society’s infrastructure. As one librarian noted in a Metafilter discussion about funding cuts:

“Every day at my job I helped people just barely survive. … Forget trying to be the “people’s university” and create a body of well informed citizens. Instead I helped people navigate through the degrading hoops of modern online society, fighting for scraps from the plate, and then kicking back afterwards by pretending to have a farm on Facebook.”
~ https://placesjournal.org/article/library-as-infrastructure/

The entire response is here, and if you have a spare couple of minutes, I think you will find it quite eye-opening; perhaps it will give you another perspective and appreciation for how very, very necessary libraries have become for people who have no other options.  When the rest of society is ignoring at-risk youth or struggling to find solutions, libraries have become spotlighted as hallowed halls of hope.

Posted in At-Risk Youth, Inspiration, Libraries, Poverty, Stories, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

~ Under ~

((September is an extra special month over at the BeZine. We are celebrating 100TPC (100 Thousand Poets for Change) in an effort to call awareness to global poverty.  In the words of one of the Co-founders for 100TPC, Michael Rothenberg II, “500 events in over 100 countries, 100 Thousand Poets for Change Global Day, September 26, 2015. Thank you for keeping the initiative alive. 5 years of community building. Peace, Sustainability and Justice!”

Below is my humble offering to the movement. Please come share and check out some of the others as we dare to make a real difference for those in need.))

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Matthew 25:40 by Cameron John Robbins

Matthew 25:40 by Cameron John Robbins

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” ~ Matthew 25:40 KJV Bible

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~ Under ~

Homeless Joe, has nowhere
to go. He lives under a bridge;
not a troll, just poor.

(Not in some third-world country, no).

Crazy Jane lives under
a delusion – from voices
of people not here anymore.

(In the land of the free and the home of the brave).

Carmen, a single mother of five,
lives under the stigma
of using food stamps to eat.

(In America, the poor are victimized, you know).

Speed-freak Charlie lives under
the influence of the drugs
which keep him wandering the streets.

(How many poor would that daily latte save?)

All of them, under poverty’s yoke.
Under society’s up-turned nose.
Homeless, hungry and in many ways “broke”,
Do you really think this is the life that they chose?

(How about walking a mile in their…feet?)

What they truly need is understanding,
To help them get back to dignity’s door.
Out from under all the senseless branding,
Back to being visible people once more.

(Please help the less fortunate people you meet!)

~ C.L.R. © 2015

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Photo © 2013 Corina L. Ravenscraft Quote by Ram Dass

Photo © 2013 Corina L. Ravenscraft Quote by Ram Dass

Posted in Awareness, Food For Thought, Giving, Homelessness, Human Rights, Inspiration, Poetry, Poverty, Uncategorized, Veterans | 5 Comments