Hardcore Vase Filler …Floral Friday

This week’s projects take on a rocky, sandy path. The vase filler materials consist of either river rocks or gritty sand inside of glass or crystal vases. Later, as a bonus, period correct timepieces were added to the picture stage to create simple still-life arrangements.

A tinted 31 cm (12″) department store vase takes on heavy work with river rocks and potpouri filler material. An orchid stem and dried material provide the decor focus. The Seiko desk clock motor is on its last legs so it’s scheduled to be replaced with a radio controlled atomic clock motor when the original conks out.

There are two bonafide antiques in this arrangement: a 1910 Westclox “Baby Ben” and the circa 1900 U.S. Glass “Galloway” stretch glass bud vase. Light green lilies are anchored in aquarium gravel. The accompanying knick-knack is a Lefton porcelain lotus.

The Cold War years are represented by three items: a Westclox Electric alarm clock, a Bulova “Whale” watch, and a Yugoslavia manufactured cut crystal tulip vase. Pink sand anchors a rose and fill flowers.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes classical composer, Gustav Mahler. “The call of love sounds very hollow among these immobile rocks.”

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In The Shadows

The early morning weather conditions were unusually benign for this time of year. Stars filled the otherwise dark, clear sky. The LED streetlights formed pools of light on the street’s tarmac. The lack of wind brought out the desire to enjoy a short stroll to the supermarket.

As I walked further down the street towards a major traffic intersection, I noticed that one of the streetlights had malfunctioned, but the next one was OK. As I made my way further west, two light poles were dark. A familiar bridge lay within that dark shadow. Halfway through the bridge crossing, I paused briefly to study the pinpoints of reflected lights on the river. They reassured me that I was surrounded by civilization. Resuming my stroll, I reached the refuge of the next lit streetlight pole. Glancing to the south, the oasis of the floodlight-illuminated supermarket’s parking lot came into view.

Shadows and lights have the ability to engage our imaginations. These powerful stimuli trigger fear and relief from fear. We feel fearful in the darkness because unknown threats may lurk unseen. The darkness is allied with our inner darkness that conceals the vulnerablity and rage at the world we all have. Our deepest secrets find safe harbor in the shadows of the mind. Meanwhile, the lights bring the comfort of revealing potential physical dangers. The lights of owning our personal truths show us that there is little for us to fear about ourselves. Reflecting upon the contrasts between shadows and lights brings about understanding.

If we are honest with ourselves, we realize we have a shadowy side even if we are overall positive people. It is the darkness that catalyzes the creative process. Darkness brings our primitive fears to the surface and washes away false hope. We are stimulated to constructively address our weaknesses and distractions–if we so desire. If not, we might choose to submit to the temptation to feed the shadows of self-deception and wishful thinking.

The great musicians’ legacies were created in part by composing what they felt in the dark recesses of their minds. They explored the wordless puzzles of life’s deeper meanings. They wrote what they discovered and what they were unable to solve. They created light from the darkness of their being and the love they had for their art. The composer and pianist, Robert Schumann wrote: “To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts–such is the duty of the artist.”

An ancient wise seer from South Asia stated, “One man denies the truth. One Man denies his actions. Both go into the dark and suffer for they offend the truth… See what is; see what is not.”

Truth and deception go hand in hand. Our lights and our shadows are intertwined so much that by trying to shove the dark, negative figments of our life aside, we prevent ourselves from partaking in the fullness of life as a whole.

In my opinion, it seems that we all harbor some amount of darkness within our minds. Such a condition is not reserved only for people who suffered terrible childhoods. The darkness exists to some basic form as part and parcel of the human condition. In the process of living our lives, we are left with the decision to seek out solutions through shining the light of truth unto our problems. Meanwhile, we go from bright streetlight to bright streetlight and learn to cope with the shadows beneath those darkened streetlights along life’s path.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science communicator, Carl Sagan. “There is a wide, yawning black infinity. In every direction, the extension is endless; the sensation of depth is overwhelming. And the darkness is immortal. Where light exists, it is pure, blazing, fierce; but light exists almost nowhere, and the blackness itself is also pure and blazing and fierce.”

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So Much Sugar

My late friend Diane used to bake a large pan of baklava for me each holiday season. The dessert was one of the special treats she prepared for her family and friends. She understood that I rarely eat sweets due to diabetes, so she always delivered my gift to the radio station to share among my coworkers. The office manager usually reserved half-a-dozen pieces for me to bring home to enjoy later.

The winter holiday season is beset with carbohydrate hazards to people who cannot or choose not to ingest sugar and other simple carbohydrates. Friends prepare and offer treats with good intentions and out of traditional habit. The goodies are so tempting that my resistance usually breaks down; causing me to nibble a few along with my friends.

Unfortunately, I regret it the next day. I awaken with a mild sugar hangover which includes feeling dull and headachy. During the rest of the year, I completely swear off of anything sugary. Doing so decreases neuropathic pain and increases overall well-being.

According to my physician, our bodies’ inflammatory reactions are necessary in their physiology to heal injuries, rebuild muscle tissue, and ward off infections. On the negative side, too much inflamation increases the risk of cancers, chronic pain, yeast infection, atherocsclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and other serious health problems. Add to these, tooth decay and gum disease. Sugar being an inflammatory food, means that consuming excess sugar exposes our bodies to continuous inflammation. Sugar addicts are at higher risk of coming down with chronic health problems.

Personally, as someone who has always been sensitive to sugar intake, I’ve spent the lion’s share of my total, personal meal planning time calculating the proper mix of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for each meal and snack. I discovered early on that eliminating simple sugars wherever possible is a shortcut to healthy eating.

Meantime, I do not proselytize the anti-sugar gospel. When my friends chow down on carbs, I’m not bothered at all. Whenever we dine out, my pals indulge in starchy and sweet dishes. Some of my friends like wine or beer with their meals. As they’ve grown older, a few of them have learned to cut back on high-carb treats as a matter of health worries. My friend Jorge used to overindulge on tortilla chips and sweet salsa. The intake of his favorite snack began making him feel tired and out of it. Because he’s a commercial truck driver, a tired state of mind is dangerous. Jorge claims that ever since he’s mostly eliminated sugars from his diet, he is a safer driver.

Regardless of my own personal dietary needs and practices, I know that my loved ones and friends will continue to enjoy the winter holiday season by eating foods containing plenty of carbohydrates and too much sugar. Meanwhile, I’ll keep munching on savory snack foods.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes English author, humorist, and satirist, Terry Pratchett. “Too much alleged ‘fantasy’ is just empty sugar, life with the crusts cut off.”

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I stumbled across an archaic noun yesterday; one that I rather like. Benighnity is defined as a benevolent deed or favor motivated by selflessness or devotion. Benightnity is also possessing the nature of kindness and tolerance towards other beings. Its closest synonym would be benevolence.

I like archaic words in part because they express concepts in ways that are rarely used today. Also, archaic words surprise the reader and cause her or him to pause for a moment longer than they usually would while skimming text. That said, it’s wise not to sprinkle archaic words into daily conversation so as to avoid sounding effete and snobbish.

To see benighnity and benevolence side by side, we notice the unfamiliarity of benighnity’s spelling. It seems that benighnity should be familiar because it is derived from the Latin noun “benignitās”, which means friendliness, graciousness, and kindness. The Latin adverb benignus indicates an act that is done neatly, rightly, and well. We see right away that the contemporary adjective benign is directly derived from Latin.

When we consider antonyms of benighnity–cruelty, harshness, malevolence, miserliness and spitefulness–we understand the full implications and scope of the antique word. As far as I can tell, benighnity and cruelty are the most obvious polar opposites of each other. To be of a personality that manifests benighnity as a default trait is more auspicious than to be of a personality that manifests cruelty by nature.

I like to compare such qualities of benevolence, goodness, and kindness as aspects akin to the physical property, heat. Meantime cruelty, evil, and indifference are like the physical state, cold–the absence of energy and heat. One may say that benighnity encompasses life while cruelty encompasses death.

We might also consider benighnity with a parallel to the saying, “Peace is not the absence of war, it is a virtue.” Benighnity is not an absence of cruelty, it is a disposition for confidence, friendliness, generosity, and kindness. To remove humanity’s ignorance and indifference of each living being’s suffering is an imperative act of benighnity.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Renaissance doctor, humanist, and writer, François Rabelais. “There is no truer cause of unhappiness amongst men than, where naturally expecting charity and benevolence, they receive harm and vexation.”

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Jonathan remarked that he doesn’t enjoy going to theme parks to ride roller coasters anymore. He also remarked that he finds nightclub hopping on weekends less enjoyable than he used to. My friend wondered if this lacking is something he should worry about so he did a Google search about this feeling.

The search results came up with a term he’d never heard of before now–anhedonia. Basically, it means to find less enjoyment in activities one used to enjoy a lot. Jonathan then asked if I had ever experienced anything like anhedonia.

I answered by saying that I also do not go out of my way to ride roller coasters even though I used to be obsessed with roller coaster parks like Cedar Point in Ohio. Now, I couldn’t care less. I also used to find plenty of pleasure in assembling scale model cars, airplanes, and ships. Now, that hobby has lost much of its luster. I told Jonathan that this diminishment can probably be chalked up to age. People simply grow out of prior interests.

Jonathan added that anhedonia can manifest in more serious ways such as in depression or other mental illnesses. He says he’s not depressed or anything like that; but while reading the word’s definition, he became worried. I remarked that going down the rabbit hole of self-diagnosis is one of the hazards of the Internet. If he’s worried about depression, then he might consider seeking a licensed therapist.

It’s considered normal to not be fully enthused all the time, the manic state does not have much appeal. We go through regular cycles of being excited about various things. Perhaps a string of cloudy days triggers greyness of mood or bleakness. The state of pleasurelessness is usually temporary. It is relieved when the clouds part–allowing for sunny days again. Not feeling motivated to engage in a favorite hobby might also come about during a period of grieving. When we mourn the loss of a loved one, it’s best not to go into denial about our feelings. If the sadness continues longer than expected, perhaps talking things over with a trusted friend or family member will help. Barring that, professional help might be warranted.

I reiterated something one of my former bosses told me: Part of getting older is that one becomes more cautious and careful. This does not mean that we necessarily become conservative politically or socially. It means that we become reticent about taking personal risks. If something no longer brings a person joy, then it might be time to try something else on for size. This is not to advocate for leapfrogging from one thrill to another. The advice implies that there comes a time to let go and be open to finding another enjoyable pasttime.

Jonathan remarked that he arrived at a similar conclusion. It’s just that people have adapted to long periods of time between happier times and good news. The state of the economy, coupled with the angry political environment have prolonged our natural up and down cycle of emotions and moods. It is good to partake in joy wherever we find it. My friend advocated that we should take a page of advice from Epicurus. Not with an escapist mindset; but in the mindful manner of a connoissuer. A connoissuer of joy without any pretentiousness.

I like Jonathan’s conclusion. I’ll keep this in mind the next time I feel the dusk of anhedonia coming on.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Ancient Roman statesman, dramatist, and philosopher, Seneca The Younger. “Tranqility is a certain quality of mind, which no condition or fortune can either exalt nor depress.”

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Out From The Masses

The old idiom about not being able to see the forest for the trees is a common saying refering to people or organizations not being able to see the big picture due to too much focus on details is apt. This has happened to me when painting a room in the house. If I want to coat the walls in one day but spend most of the time mixing the paint and fussing over the type of brushes and rollers, the job will not be finished on time.

Meantime, I want to turn that idiom inside out today. What about not being able to see the trees for the forest? Using the room painting analogy again, the rooms in my little house were hastily painted by the contractor who prepared the house for the next occupant. The walls, ceilings, doors, trim, light switches, light fixtures, and electrical outlets were covered in flat white paint. The rooms looked as if the painter used a spray gun to apply the paint.

I received permission from the landlord to repaint the rooms to make them more homey. In each room, I removed the switch plates and outlet covers, then used masking tape to cover frames and trim work. I selected a scrubbable semi-gloss off-white then applied it with a roller and nice-quality brush. When the paint was dry, I replaced the caked over switches, outlets, switch plates, and outlet covers with new ones. As time permitted in the future, I repainted the doors and window frames in a complimentary neutral, semi-gloss color. I kept the ceilings as they were.

Simply doing these basic tasks more carefully resulted in better looking rooms. Paying more attention to details gave the rooms a more professional, balanced appearance. Using the inside out analogy, I could see the trees in the forest. After all, the forest consists of individual trees.

“All generalizations are false, including this one.”–Mark Twain

It is easy and tempting to stereotype people into categories for easy mental reference. However doing so is unfair to individuals and inaccurate as a whole. To claim that all Republicans are theocratic authoritarians, or that all English people are uptight with stiff, upper lips is borderline slanderous. It is unwise to paint an entire demographic with a broad brush based on the behavior of the group’s leaders or a minority of the population. Demographic behavior is only a rough approximation of social expectations. Individuals of particular demographic groups exhibit more nuanced behavior and beliefs. We discover this fact when we communicate with them on a deeper level.

It’s interesting how so many people make judgments based upon our personality traits and how we look. We have been painted with the broad brush of stereotyping in an effort to dehumanize each other. I’m LGBTQ, so a lot of people believe I’m supposed to behave a certain way, harbor certain opinions, and fly my freak flag high. After folks get to know me, they’ll likely discover that I do not fit into conventional, socially defined stereotypes about gay people. Take any minority group or demographic, and you’ll notice there are stereotypes and prejudices about all of them.

It’s wise to be suspicious and skeptical of generalizations. They cloud our judgement and make it more difficult to become acquainted with particular individuals. It behooves us to remember the inaccuracy of generalizations in today’s hyper-polarized society.

Economics, political science, theology, and so forth, concern themselves primarily with empirical and theoretical generalizations about the behavior of demographics, institutions, nations, and other general fields. Most, but not all, academic research operates this way. While statistical findings provide a rough idea about certain types of people, they do not tell us much about individuals within categories. To understand the individual we must turn focus away from the forest and onto the tree. Failing to do so, will negatively affect our behavior and thoughts about trees.

Contemplating a tree within the forest, helps us understand how the tree survives and flourishes. Seeing each member of a particular human group as an individual who has specific desires, needs, and dreams is the first step towards choosing mindfulness and kindness as modus operandi in our interpersonal relationships.

It’s good to remember to see the forest and the trees are interdependent and that the forest would not exist without the trees.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes actress, comedianne, producer, singer, and writer, Rachel Bloom. “I feel like a lot of serious music lives in generalizations–‘Love is a flower’, ‘The sky is so dark’–but comedy lives in specifics.”

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Well, we’ve made it past Thanksgiving and Black Friday–two days when we are encouraged to feel and behave in particular ways. On Thanksgiving, we’re expected to gather in family groups and display thankfulness whether or not we feel grateful. On Black Friday, we’re encouraged to spend money en masse like lemmings rushing over the limits of our credit ratings. Now that it’s Saturday, we’ve arrived at Blasé Day.

Today we are allowed, yet not encouraged, to let go of artifice for awhile. If you ever have moments when you long to be passive and do not need to prove anything to anybody, this is the holiday for that. Today, we have permission to relax the frowns and wipe the phony smiles off of our faces. We can feel blasé if we so desire. We have the option to be unenthusiastic today.

Blasé is a word that seems outdated and elitist. Blasé is not being full on indifferent nor feeling jaded. Blasé is a sense of apathy to excitement and pleasure as a result of excess enjoyment and indulgence. One may compare feeling blasé to a mild hangover after a night of moderate alcohol consumption. We might also think of blasé in the category of tourism as a world-weary traveler. However, the blasé state seems to be an affectation more than an authentic mood. Today, we are permitted to feel blasé about feeling blasé.

A few decades ago, one might say he has the “blahs”. In my opinion, blah is a more accurate word to describe that emotional hangover state of mind. The contemporary word that seems to fit the authentic, blah emotional state is, “meh”. Meh takes the edge off of blah and blasé. Just as blasé implies indifference to common exciting events, meh is that feeling, minus the real or affected superficiality of appearing blasé. Meh is honest and real.

To feel meh does not require a prerequisite of sophistication, worldly wisdom, an inclination towards materialism. Meh means authentically not being impressed–feeling so-so. Meh, expresses a mild disappointment with something, especially something that has been overly hyped.

In an effort not to overly hype Blasé Day, I’m only mentioning the unofficial holiday so you can choose to recognize it, ignore it, feel indifferent about it, or just feel meh about it.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Belgian writer, Raoul Vaneigem. “Daydreaming subverts the world.”

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