More Art Glass From Poland …Floral Friday

Earlier this Summer I featured a few art glass vases that were manufactured in Poland. Since then, I’ve come across a few more small examples that almost beg to be used in floral projects. None of the pieces were marked with names of the city or factory that made them. Each of them only had country of origin stickers applied to their bases.

The light green globe is larger than a baseball but smaller than a softball. It’s just right for a tidy, colorful spritz of blooms.

The yellow “handkerchief” folded glass vase is much smaller than one that was featured last month. I’m guessing that it was also manufactured in Tarnow. The piece is barely large enough to contain a few small buds. Small bright pink flowers were chosen in order to compliment the yellow glass.

Upon seeing the footed bowl, I wished there had been a set of them because they’d be perfect dessert dishes. Since there was only one bowl, I decided to fill it with sand and use it as home for a red succulent instead.

The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this old, traditional, Polish proverb: “A success has many fathers, a failure is an orphan.”

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Breakfast Time

A good way to become more mindful about one’s morning routine, is to be an overnight guest. The first time I stayed overnight with my boyfriend, I observed what he did and the order in which he performed his morning habits. One of the last things he did before starting the rest of the day was to eat breakfast.

During breakfast that morning, I compared my observations about his morning with what I do most mornings. He confided that actually, his usual morning routine is almost the same as mine. He had changed his behavior for that morning because doing stuff in the particular ways and in a particular order seemed to conform to the stereotypical American morning. In doing this, he hoped I would be impressed.

It turned out that we do three main parts of the morning in much the same way each day. First is bathing or showering, second is making the bed, third is eating breakfast. Our other preparations are in different orders, but those three major activities are taken care of each day in the same order.

Surprisingly, our breakfasts consist of the same types of food, with one major difference–meats. BF sometimes has bacon or sausage with a hot breakfast and I abstain from eating meat all the time. Because both of us are busy, our default breakfast food is cold cereal. The idea is to eat something before going out to the busy world.

Several years ago, I was the house-guest of my friend Graham in the UK. He is married to a fun-loving, busy lady and, at the time, his two children were primary school pupils. The family’s routine was busy, but not frantic. Their breakfasts were not much different from my own, except the types of cold cereal are different in England.

Whenever Graham and I were out and about, we usually had breakfast away from home. He always ate a traditional English breakfast. Most often, eateries serve orange juice, stewed fruit, eggs, sausages, baked beans, fried mushrooms and/or onions, and toast with jam or marmalade. Graham is a traditionalist and drinks tea with his meal.

I mentioned that, baked beans seem incongruous with breakfast. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around eating them first thing in the morning. My friend challenged me to order the vegetarian version of an English breakfast complete with baked beans. So, I did. I actually enjoyed having the beans as part of breakfast. It was an interesting experience, but one I did not repeat after returning home to Nebraska.

One other note about non-American breakfasts include the morning meals I enjoyed in rural South India. I was the guest at a spice and betal nut farm near the city of Mysuru. After I put away the bedroll and showered, breakfast was served. Padmini, the lady of the household, had been awake two hours before the rest of the family woke up. She had been busy preparing their usual morning breakfast.

She usually served dosa (a type of crepe) along with a lentil based curry called upma. The children liked something called Poori and Aloo Masala, so Padmini usually prepared that in the morning. I can only describe it as the Indian equivalent of dumplings. The foods were served on a banana leaf accompanied by yogurt that she prepared herself. There were dishes with vegetables, rice, and various chutneys we were encouraged to eat, too. The drinks were delicious sweet chai or strong milk-coffee.

The manner in which the family was served breakfast was a culture shock to me because of my egalitarian personality. The adult males, including me, sat at the kitchen table and were served first. The young children sat cross-legged on the floor and were served next. We men and the kids ate at the same time. It was only after everyone else had consumed the meal, that Padmini would eat her breakfast. She ate from her husband’s banana leaf.

Those Indian breakfasts are some of the most noteworthy, and memorable meals I enjoyed while in South Asia. Just recalling and writing about them makes me wish there was an Indian breakfast waiting for me now.

There won’t be an Indian breakfast, nor an English breakfast to eat today. Because I’m in kind of a hurry, I’ll prepare a mushroom and cheese omelet with a side of leftover vegetables.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the late actor Peter Falk. “My idea of Heaven is to wake up, have a good breakfast, and spend the rest of the day drawing.”

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With Respect

“These days, trouble is, people just don’t respect the environment anymore.” This is what one woman said to another woman at the public library yesterday. I had been relaxing in one of the library’s upholstered chairs, leafing through a couple of magazines when I overheard the comment.

I smiled to myself about how ironic it seemed that she complained about a lack of respect for the environment, yet the woman had been lecturing her conversation partner loudly. She had not been respecting the social norm of being quiet in libraries. Since the loud talking was distracting, and in order to respect the women’s privacy, I relocated to a chair that was further away from them.

Later on, I began ruminating about my personal concept of respect. I can boil it down to a few sentences. I respect people for who they are. They don’t need to earn my respect. They earn my disrespect. Yet my disrespect still respects their humanity.

I didn’t always have this attitude nor did it come about as an epiphany. I learned it slowly in the “school of hard-knocks”. It was after I began to look beyond my little bubble, that I more fully realized that our world is very diverse. There are many variations of society and a plethora of sub-cultures. The fact is, that many sub-cultures simply do not get along with each other.

Furthermore, some of the older sub-cultures feel a strong sense of entitlement, in that they should receive respect by default even if they disrespect other sub-cultures. Members of the traditional sub-cultures are blind-sided because of belief in exclusivity and a lack of empathy towards others. They seem to have forgotten that in order to obtain respect, they need to show respect.

There seems to be a trend towards strong beliefs and a lack of understanding of the importance of moderation. The “middle way” has a lot of intrinsic value. In a nutshell, the middle way is not aggression and is not passivity; it is a balanced approach to life. In today’s world that is filled with political and religious extremism, it’s helpful to dial back emotional fervor. We can remember the old maxim, “everything in moderation”.

When one side pushes for its views to take dominance, the other side rightfully refuses to surrender to submission. If one side achieves extreme ends, backlash from the other side erupts. However, when moderation and mutual respect come into play, diplomacy, and more clear-headed thinking allow for discussion and better chances of achieving mutually beneficial solutions to problems. In my opinion, the key is mutual respect.

A popular, common reminder that we’ve all heard, is that to succeed in life it’s best to be a hard worker, be a kind person, and treat everybody with respect. I try to keep this advice in mind each day.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes writer, poet, aristocrat, journalist and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “I have no right, by anything I do or say, to demean a human being in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him; it is what he thinks of himself. To undermine a man’s self-respect is a sin.”

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More Bonus Blooms Today

I ran into a bonanza of old containers at a garage sale in my neighborhood this past weekend. After the pots were boxed up, the neighbor tossed in a few batches of very obviously artificial flowers for free.

Who am I to argue about getting a bargain? I’d find a way to use the “like new” blooms. Why not use some of them soon? That’s why we’re having another bonus blooms bluejayblog post today.

The idea of using obvious fakes to fill good quality vintage vases is appealing to the contrarian part of my personality. The pristine white 1940s era USA Pottery vase contains generic flowers accented with fairly nice red roses. The oddly ironic combination looks like Americana.

The large white “Hall China” vase is the fanciest container of the batch. It calls for a conventional arrangement. I already had a trio of quality hydrangea clusters that I was going to use for a different project, but they seemed to be perfect for the fancy vase instead. They are sandwiched between the garage sale yellow irises and brilliantly blue roses.

The heaviest vase in the box was carved from a solid piece of marble. This is a container I’ll want to use for many future projects. However, today, the silky fake pink roses satisfy my irony nerve.

The fourth project uses a small Japanese vase from the garage sale but contains non-garage sale floral elements. I put it together after finishing the three projects I will share with you this Friday. This project does not conform to either of this week’s themes, so think of it as a bonus.

The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a line from Orson Welles. “Fake is as old as the Eden tree.”

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Haven’t most of us spent a great deal of time trying to be socially acceptable? Trying to fit in is a big part of being social creatures. We must “fit in” in order to survive in our culture. If a person has no choice of not fitting in, for almost any reason, she or he becomes an outcast. If someone chooses not to “fit in” she or he has some choice in the matter, separation from society can take other forms.

A few years ago, the gym where I work out hosted a “come as you are” appreciation social hour and buffet. The intent was to express gratitude for members of the gym and the gym’s employees. I did not have a date for the evening, so I asked Landon, one of the gym’s janitors, if he needed a ride to the event because Landon does not own a car.

Landon (not his real name) is a cheerful, happy-go-lucky, hardworking man who was born with Down syndrome. He became attached to a few of us gym members because we enjoyed hearing him talk about his daily work and life routines. He’s a benign character who knows how to put a smile on your face if he senses that you’re not judgmental about him. There are probably half a dozen or so of us with whom he was comfortable.

Anyway, on the evening of the appreciation event, I stopped by Landon’s assisted care apartment. He was eagerly waiting at the front door of the building for my arrival. He wore his best cowboy outfit including brand new cowboy boots and a”Stetson” hat. The new items were birthday gifts he had received from his parents a week prior to the gym event.

After we arrived at the gym, it was clear that Landon had not dressed appropriately for the occasion. The rest of us wore jeans and tee-shirts or some sort of workout clothing. I sensed Landon’s discomfort and he picked up on me noticing it. He quickly mentioned that he’s “used to it”. This is because many people are not comfortable around him due to his disability. I told Landon not to worry, because I’m kind of a misfit and we could be the “outlaws” of the gym that night.

The gym manager, Landon’s boss, told us he was happy that we could make it to the event and that we should relax and enjoy ourselves. Several members also cordially greeted us but seemed cool and stand-offish. We had a hard time of mixing with the group. Landon became visibly unhappy. Awkwardness became the dominant feeling.

Thankfully, we discovered another one of Landon’s gym member friends. The three of us sat together at a table for our meal. The friend and I enjoyed some small-talk and encouraged Landon to talk about himself. Even so, Landon still seemed to be uncomfortable. He wanted to go home early.

I brought him to his apartment. He shook my hand and thanked me for bringing him to the buffet. Then I remained seated behind the wheel to make sure he was inside the building.

During the drive back to my own home, I pondered the concept of acceptability and how it relates to Landon. There seems to be an invisible barrier around Landon that’s maintained by Landon and the people in his life. Most of us keep up some sort of boundary, but in Landon’s case, it appears taller and more formidable. He understands that he will probably never be fully acceptable to society at large, but he is managing to be more acceptable to himself.

I thought about Landon in his cowboy outfit. He was willing to present himself in an authentic manner. He was also courageous enough to show up at the buffet, fully as himself and let the chips fall as they may.

Landon quit his job two years ago, due to health concerns, so we rarely see each other anymore. I ran into him and his social worker at the supermarket last Wednesday. We caught up on some small-talk and shared some friendly laughs. Landon was dressed in western duds and sported a brand new “Resistol” cowboy hat.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes children’s television celebrity, the late Fred Rogers. “You know, you don’t have to look like everybody else to be acceptable and to feel acceptable.”

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Thinking About Democracy

My dayplanner notes that today is the “International Day of Democracy”. I wonder if it will be celebrated by the people in power. If it is mentioned by them, what will they say and do? People who love the democratic process as well as those who fear and hate the democratic process are fond of praising and extolling democratic values.

It’s interesting to note how many countries that suffer under authoritarian regimes have the word “democratic” in their official names; I count at least five. There are Algeria, Congo, Ethiopia, Laos, and most infamously, North Korea. What is further interesting is that no nation that is governed as a pure democracy or a democratic republic has the word “democratic” in their official names.

“A pure democracy is a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person.”–James Madison

There are a good number of nations  actually governed under some form of democratic republic structure. They popularly regard themselves as democracies or as democratic nations. Among the many are India, Costa Rica, Canada, and the United States. There’s another North American nation with “united” in its official title–The United Mexican States. Mexico lists itself as a federal presidential constitutional republic.

We have placed democracy on a pedestal as an ideal. We see it as a catalyst that enables personal and social liberty and development.

Democracy can help bring about freedom and opportunity for the common good as well as social justice.

Democracy has a great many advantages for society as a whole, but there is one major problem with it. That is the tyranny of the majority. This happens when minority status people are treated unfairly due to their situations being different from that of the majority of people in a democratically governed nation. This problem is partially addressed by instituting a democratic republic rather than governing by pure democracy. In a democratic republic, the needs and concerns of the minorities are not overlooked out of hand.

“Tyranny naturally arises out of democracy.”–Plato

Another major flaw of democracy is that it contains the seeds of its own destruction. Citizens can knowingly or unknowingly vote it out of existence. In as much as most people desire democratic forms of government, tyrants need to convince their followers to alter their governance through deceitful and dishonest ways. Deceit is the smokescreen through which the power-hungry seize control of nations. Truthfulness, openness, and integrity provide safeguards for the democratic process.

Democratic republics have been under constant attack ever since their inceptions. Opponents of democracy have used sophisticated and/or brutal means of subverting it. The enemies of democracy are currently on the ascendant at home and abroad. We are losing our democratic republics through erosion by deceitful individuals and groups.

Erosion of democracy not only can happen here, it is happening here. Either through the groups who are working towards invoking a constitutional convention, or through intrigue and violence it is now happening. Advocates of plutocracy, theocracy, and oligarchy are hard at work to undermine our freedoms.

Today is as good a day as any to rededicate ourselves to promoting stability, economic development, fair human rights for all, and democracy. The democratic republic form of governance represents the highest political values. We must not take it for granted because once it is lost, it might never be restored–at least in our lifetimes. Citizens of democratic republics can never take democracy for granted. Laziness and apathy feed democracy’s foes.

The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a quote by philosopher/politician Roberto Unger. “In a world of democracies, in a world where the great projects that have set humanity on fire are the projects of the emancipation of individuals from entrenched social division and hierarchy; in such a world individuals must never be puppets or prisoners of the societies or cultures into which they have been born.”

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So Much Buzz About Comfort Zones

The greatly maligned comfort zone has been presented as a pariah mindset for as long as I can remember. Hundreds of business and self-improvement writers have extolled the virtues of stepping outside of our comfort zones because they believe doing so is the only way we’re going to grow. They rightly say that moving out of our comfort zones challenges our imaginations and our directions in life.

However, I have a small problem with generalizations such as the warnings about comfort zone dwelling. In our haste to leave our comfort zones behind, we might be tilting at windmills. I posit that pop-psychology may be painting the comfort zone with too wide of a brush. We are being conditioned to be uncomfortable with our comfort zones.

Some experts tell us that the greatest things in life happen outside of our comfort zones. If we stay inside of our comfort zones, we will remain stuck and never achieve anything worthwhile in life. I get that. Certainly, it’s a good thing to desire personal and professional challenges. If we want significant changes in our lives we must be willing to explore the unknown. To get ahead, we have to push beyond boundaries.

The advice to get out of our comfort zones has become a cliché. It often seems as if the advise-givers are stuck in the paradigm of the comfort zone analogy. Their telling us to get out of our comfort zones is them being stuck in their own comfort zones. Comfort zone bashing is a multi-million-dollar industry. Isn’t “going where the money is” sort of a comfort zone mentality of its own.

I question the concept of always leaving our comfort zones because I’ve seen some colleagues take the idea beyond all reason. They flit around like bees going from scheme to scheme; never allowing themselves to become comfortable with their schemes. They have discarded their comfort zones altogether without realizing that having a comfort zone is an asset. They have become “comfort zone phobic”.

Has the comfort zone become a victim of our throw-away culture? To even ask such a question feels like heresy. Daring to ask the question is, in itself, leaving the comfort zone.

I generally agree that stepping outside of my comfort zone has been helpful in most areas of my life. I understand that as long as I’m uncomfortable, I am expanding beyond traditional norms and beliefs. Discomfort can mean that I’m growing. On the other hand, discomfort can also mean that something is seriously wrong. Knowing the difference between personal growth and self-harm is vital. Knowing that difference is a matter of analyzing nuances.

There are actually some good things about comfort zones. It’s wise to have a mental space for retreat. I posit that it is not psychologically healthy to constantly live outside of one’s comfort zone. Leaving comfort zones can be compulsive escapes from responsibility. Although the act of exploring new frontiers is challenging and can be fun, it’s good to have a comfort zone to mentally come home to at the end of the day.

There is much to be said in favor of hearth and home–having a secure place in which to hang one’s hat. If exploring a particular frontier has left one injured and scraped up, the comfort zone is the place to return to for rest and recuperation. The comfort zone is the place to be for awhile as new techniques are contemplated. The comfort zone is where we go in order to rest and heal. Then, afterwards we can choose to leave the comfort zone, in order to explore the frontiers once more.

Most importantly, the comfort zone can also be seen as a metaphor for gratitude. Compulsively pushing our boundaries doesn’t leave time and space to be thankful for our accomplishments and for the people who helped us achieve our goals. Certainly the comfort zone can become too comfortable, but we still require a certain amount of comfort in order to thrive as well-rounded human beings. Honest mindfulness helps us determine the difference between enough comfort and when we’re becoming lazy. Anyway, if you’re tired and hurting, the comfort zone is the place to be for much needed R & R.

So yes, it’s great to step outside the comfort zone and explore mysterious parts of the mind and the world. Going outside the comfort zone provides verve and vigor in living. On the other hand, there will still be those times when we need to exhale, calm down, and meditate on the life we are living in the present moment. It’s all about balance.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the comedian Tim Conway. “The reason ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ did so well in the ratings is because people were looking for that comfort zone when the whole family sat around and watched television and enjoyed it.”

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