Vintage Artificials …Floral Friday

My friend Jorge dropped by this week and brought me a large basket of flowers.  No, he hadn’t stopped by a florist to buy an autumn bouquet or anything like that.  He had come across some old hand-made silk blooms.  We estimate they were made in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

I was ecstatic with delight because they are the sort of vintage artificial flowers I enjoy most.  Right away, Jorge helped me choose the containers to use for today’s Floral Friday projects.


I paired a green Abingdon jardinière with a contrasting hue. I formed a bed of leaves to help support the most delicate of the pink flowers.


A dark blue Bonsai bowl provides the base for a construction of natural tree bark pieces and a small array of more pink blooms.


There were just a few blue flowers left in the basket. The medium size Indian brass jardinière provides the exact metallic appearance I was hoping for.  The final arrangement could be used as a December holiday arrangement, too.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness hopes to dispel the prejudice against artificial flowers. Silk flowers are also a product of Mother Nature–interpreted by the talent and labor of human hands.

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Composed Stillness

I’m keeping track of a large daddy-longlegs parked in one of the upper corners of the music room. At first, I thought it might be dead because it hadn’t seemed to move for a couple of days.  I decided to determine if it ever moved.  Sure enough, it apparently walks around at night. Each morning, it poses in a very slightly different position.

Perhaps the daddy longlegs is able to remain in one place because it has a pinpoint size brain.  The arachnid fascinates me because it appears to be very patient. In any case the small creature seems to possess composed stillness.

Perhaps you’ve also paid attention to other tiny creatures that sit still for hours on end. A garden spider on her web is absolutely calm until the very instant a gnat collides with the web. Then she springs into action to collect her meal. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to experience such a state of composed stillness, even though our diet does not consist of insects?

activebutquiet-03The popular view of meditation is that people think we must empty our minds of all thoughts and sensations. Of course, this is not true, unless one is drugged or sleeping.  A mind that is empty of thoughts and feelings is not a sharp, keen, meditating mind. That sort of mind is a dull mind. A dull mind is not advantageous to the life of anyone nor anything. If the daddy longlegs has a mind, dullness would cause it to starve to death.

In a similar way, a dull human mind is not conducive to skillful meditation, nor a vibrant, happy life.  The discovery of and the enjoyment of life requires our minds to be silent yet active.  This silence or state of quietness is enabled when we let go of preconceived notions, beliefs, and opinions.

The daddy longlegs doesn’t know that it is a daddy longlegs.  It just exists without introspection and self-analysis. It doesn’t have a vocabulary. It just remains alert and conscious  n the moment.

Even though I have a vocabulary and I know a little bit about the creatures that are classified as daddy longlegs, I don’t need to run that information through the mind as I view and observe the little creature.  I can just settle back and watch it for awhile.

The time spent observing the daddy longlegs is short because my mind is so active.  Even though the arachnid is intriguing, the mind wants to focus elsewhere. The mind wants to have another sip of coffee and resume writing something for this blog.

After writing for awhile, my active mind wants to sneak a peek at the daddy longlegs, just to satisfy some lingering curiosity. There is an aspect of my mind that wants to discover, first-hand, something about that creature. I want to go beyond what centuries of propaganda and tradition say about tiny eight-legged creatures.  With Wikipedia, I can discover even more information about them. I learn that they are an order of arachnids known as “harvestmen”. There are perhaps more than 10,000 species of these things, worldwide.

I don’t need to know these data in order to simply enjoy the fact that this particular daddy longlegs is sharing my work space today.

My opinions, beliefs, and concepts about arachnids are simply the reaction and result of what I have been told and what I have read about them.  Unconsciously, I reiterate to myself and to others what is my experience.activebutquiet-01

To retain authenticity of my own experience, I need to question the validity of my beliefs. By this questioning, I can look and listen attentively to what my mind is telling me.  Must I hold traditional opinions about daddy longlegs, or anything else?

While I can remain calm and motionless on the outside while observing the arachnid or while meditating at my shrine, my mind is not asleep. The mind is quite active and focused. This dual quality of composed stillness is the state of mind that allows for a richer quality of life.

In short, to live life fully, the mind can be calm and objective. To satisfy our urge to investigate we have the added quality of alertness.

moi1988bThe Blue Jay of Happiness notes that daddy longlegs species can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

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I Went To Costco

My friend Dianne is a huge fan of Costco retail warehouse outlets.  Quite frequently she extols the benefits of some product or another that sports the company’s in house brand name or perhaps a great bargain she found by shopping there.

I listen and make mental notes about her satisfaction and file them away for future reference.  I really don’t have a pressing need to stock up on large quantities of stuff costco01because I live alone and don’t support any pets.  Whatever I need, I purchase at the local supermarket or at some place like Target.

Dianne has offered to buy things for me several times and has invited me to accompany her to the Omaha Costco a few times. I declined because, as I have already mentioned, I didn’t see a personal need.

The fact is, that I never gave one moment of thought to Costco until I met Dianne. I wasn’t even aware that it existed.  I had heard of Sam’s Club long ago and have no interest in the Walmart brand whatsoever.  So, when I heard about Costco, I just wrote it off as a variation of the Sam’s Club model.costco02

Time and current events conspired to make me aware of Costco, anyway.  In the ongoing flap about Walmart, Incorporated and the negative media coverage regarding it’s reputation for poor pay and work policies, many news stories began comparing Walmart policies with Costco policies.  Costco was often positioned as the “Anti-Walmart”. Stories sometimes mentioned the generous pay and benefits that Costco employees enjoy.

So between the insistance of Dianne, and my growing admiration for companies like Costco, it was inevitable that one day, I would have to visit a Costco Warehouse Outlet. Because there is only one of the outlets in Nebraska, the trip would be to the one in Omaha.

Recently, Dianne mentioned that her supply of dog biscuits, dog food, and cat food were running dangerously low.  She needed to make a run to Omaha to restock the supply of pet food plus numerous human food items that she likes. To make the trip worthwhile, she usually buys enough basics at Costco to last two months. Once again, Dianne invited me to make the supply run with her.  So this time, I said yes.

The Monday of the trip rolls around and Dianne rents an SUV because she needs the extra cargo space.  For this trip, the truck happens to be a 2017 Jeep Compass.  Then we head down the highway to Omaha.  I thought the seats were reasonably comfortable, Dianne had a less positive opinion.  The upholstery was some sort of nylon-like synthetic. The slick fabric was jet black and attracted every stray bit of lint and dog hair we had on us.

We finally pull into the parking lot.  It’s huge, just like the gigantic warehouse building we’re about to enter. Even Dianne’s prior descriptions of the place didn’t prepare me for what was about to happen.  We pass through a covered, open area where hundreds of shopping carts are stored. They’re about three times larger than regular supermarket carts. We get one apiece.

Upon walking into the Costco, it looked big enough to store a few Boeing 777s. The place was packed, wall to wall, with industrial size shelving. All the shelves were chock full of multi-pack retail goods.  You don’t go into a Costco to buy a single cup of yogurt, a box of Cheerios, and a few cans of cat food. This warehouse was designed for supercharged consumerism.

Dianne looked like she was in Nirvana, I was simply awestruck, while pushing her auxiliary mega-cart like a robot.  We went from row to row. I watched her hoist multiple-package flats into the carts. We entered walk-in refrigeration rooms that were large enough to hold small houses.


After perhaps an hour, I wasn’t keeping track, we push our heaping full mega-carts to the check-out lines. I wasn’t worried about my purchases, because I only had four items:  Some sort of frozen veggie nuggets, a huge cello bag of veggie burger patties, a case of coconut water, and a huge jar of cashew butter.  The nut butter made the trip worthwhile.

At last, the purchases were rung up. Dianne ended up with several hundred dollars worth of super discounted merchandise.  We wheeled the mega-carts to the parking lot and began to load the Jeep.  We placed stuff in every available space in the cargo area, then on and in front of the back seat. The cold items went into soft-side insulated bags and boxes.

We had one last stop–the lunch counter. Dianne ordered a large berry smoothie. I was convinced to have a large slice of the popular Costco pizza.  I learned that Costco is one of the biggest pizza sellers in the United States. The generous slice was really tasty, albeit more greasy than the pizza I usually eat.

Once we arrived back in Norfolk, it was time to unload the Jeep and bring the bulky, heavy load into Dianne’s house. I’m glad I was there to help her carry the stuff inside.

I have a few thoughts about the Costco Warehouse after our shopping spree.  I think the bargains are worthwhile if you actually use bulk quantities of supplies, for instance the huge bags of pet food.  You have to figure in the transportation costs and determine whether or not you’ll save. In Dianne’s case, the rental fees for the Jeep were easily offset by the savings on two months worth of pet food.

There are a few places in the Omaha Costco that I wanted to see, but we didn’t have time to check out. Perhaps they’re worth a solo trip to Omaha, or maybe not.

Will I visit Costco again?  Probably not on my own. I’ll likely accompany Dianne to help her load and unload her bargains in the future.  While I appreciate the warehouse shopping paradigm, I still prefer shopping at a conventional supermarket.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness notes that Costco does not have an advertising budget. They rely upon people like my friend to spread the word.

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Prevent Crime

A couple of weeks ago a Facebook update caught my attention.  On the page for our county’s “exchange”, I scrolled through and found that someone was eliciting sympathy for two friends he referred to as “my favorite peeps”.crimeprevention-02

His story said the couple had been planning to move to North Carolina in order to work on a wind turbine farm.  They had sold nearly all their belongings except for some clothing and their car. Their vehicle had been vandalized and broken into at 5:15 AM and the purse containing the money from the sale had been stolen. The posting was accompanied by a photo that showed a shattered auto window.

I typed a short comment expressing my concern for the two victims.  I also noted that I wondered why anyone would place a purse, empty or full, on the seat of a car parked on a dark street.

A few minutes later, the poster replied that the two people “are very trusting” are used to sleeping in a crime-free town without locking their doors. They didn’t think anybody would ever break into their car.

The reply didn’t look plausible and set off a mental alarm in my mind.  First, I wondered if they were really naïve enough to think they lived in a fairytale perfect small town. Our city has a less than stellar reputation for crime.   Furthermore, the couple’s neighborhood is known as a moderately high crime area. There are regular reports of vandalism and burglaries throughout that part of town.

Moments later, I wondered if the individual who posted the photo was trying to crimeprevention-03convince people to send money to help the couple.  The thought also occurred that maybe the post was a set-up for a scam.  It’s easy to make up a story and then find a photo of a vandalized vehicle via a Google search. I felt sorry that my suspicions had been aroused. However, the post was on Facebook.

If the supposed incident was indeed the bait to lure people to help financially, it didn’t work.  Most of the other comments expressed outrage and advocated violent retribution against the, as of yet, absent criminal(s). There were many other comments that reflected my puzzlement about why anybody would leave a purse in plain sight in an unoccupied vehicle at any time of the day or night. Nobody offered any help besides the  usual, bland “thoughts and prayers” Internet response.

Contrary to popular myth, there are no longer any sugar coated little towns where crime does not exist. Most people do not feel secure enough to sleep in a house with the doors unlocked.  I wondered if the “victims” had ever seen or heard any of those famous “McGruff the Crime Dog” public service announcements that ask us to “Take a bite out of crime”.

Motor vehicles are broken into and burglarized or stolen every day, even in small towns.  There are numerous precautions that people can take to help prevent or lessen the chances of vehicle theft or burglary.

My curiosity as to whether the Facebook posting was legitimate or fraudulent was not spurious.  We often hear about people who are ripped off because they were convinced to send money to victims of crime.  Most of us know that it is best to contribute aid to legitimate mainstream charities like the Red Cross or a community organization that helps victims.crimeprevention-01

There are numerous programs to help prevent crime. Most jurisdictions have some form of “neighborhood watch” that works in conjunction with local law enforcement. If there is no formal program, many neighbors report suspicious behavior to the police, anyway.

In any case, their are other programs set up to help prevent crime or to help capture perpetrators. We know there are child safety organizations, babysitting safety tips, identity theft prevention groups, personal protection organizations and many more. In other words, there are long-established ways to prevent crime that do work if they are heeded.

A great place to refresh your knowledge about crime prevention is at this link: .

Be safe and crime-free.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes this pithy quote from Lucius Annaeus Seneca: “He who does not prevent a crime when he can, encourages it.”

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Move On

The problem of cogitating about past slights and hurts from others is common to our species. Equally common are regrets we harbor about words we have spoken and risks not taken in the course of our lives.

Whether we admit it or not, people have trouble letting go of the past and learning from mistakes.  It’s very easy to get caught up in the past and become unable to move on. Bitter memories and playing the blame game cause us to miss new opportunities and just live our lives as free people.

movingon-02The ability to forgive and move on is a skill that can be learned. We know that when we find it in our hearts, when we release ourselves from disappointment, resentment, and regret that life takes on a more positive tone. It’s not that we must forget the past actions of others and ourselves. Hindsight can supplement the wisdom of present-day reflection and foresight.

Terrible things happen to people. Those who dwell on the past tend to get stuck, and live unhappy lives. Those who move on, learn to live and let live and experience reasonably pleasant lives. We can take a page from the life of Elie Wiesel. He was able to find the strength to look beyond the cruelties and torture that he witnessed and endured at Auschwitz and Buchenwald movingon-02

Wiesel understood that if he indulged in resentment and fear that he would suffer miserably like most of his fellow prisoners. Instead, he became an inspiration to those prisoners who chose to follow his example. At the end of the war, through his writings, he became an inspiration to millions of everyday people.

Thankfully, most of us have never had to endure the miseries of a concentration camp, but we have had some harsh encounters in life.  There have been people who wish us harm and there are those who want to hold us back from living full lives.  Some of us have suffered physical and mental abuse that make living seem almost as cruel as a life lived within the barbed wire of a death camp.

For extreme cases, professional counselling is necessary, but for the rest of us there is reason for optimism. We can realize the implications of the past and learn to appreciate the lessons learned from our experiences. We eventually find ourselves ready to pick up the pieces and move on.

movingon-03There will always be some fair amount of bittersweet memories, regret and nostalgia. These will sometimes resurface as we get older. We can affirm and enjoy nostalgic memories for awhile, then rejoin the present moment.  We can learn to embrace the end of suffering and take up new friendships, creative interests, and healthy emotional outlets. We find strength while once again engaging with life.

We can mentally step back and observe how emotional destabilisation can be used to reconfigure our lives and change how we understand this business of living. We can rediscover what it is that we truly want to do with our lives and what will make us feel most fulfilled. We understand that oftentimes, disappointment is necessary in order to dispell delusions and fantasies. We can transition from pie in the sky to positive realism.

We find out that moving on has another name. It’s also called “acceptance”.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Johnny Cash. “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”

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Food Day Is Today

You might be eating something or thinking about eating something as you read this on your device.  In developed countries, access to food is taken for granted.  While we might be concerned about what we’re going to eat today, more than 805,000,000 people are concerned if they’ll be able to eat today.foodday-01

Along with basic shelter and clean water, food is a basic human right.  Nobody, at all, should have to face chronic hunger and the risk of malnutrition.  Unfortunately, this ideal is far from reality.

Each year, about 5,000,000 children younger than five years of age perish due to malnutrition. 40-percent of children in underdeveloped nations suffer continuing malnutrition with the result being bodily and brain damage. Some 60-percent of the hungry are females.

The hunger problem is often portrayed as happening in some far off nations. If one looks closer, we find that one out of every seven Americans will not have enough to eat today. Every day somebody suffers an accident, a family tragedy, the loss of a job, or decline in health causes a family financial crisis. Because nutritious food is expensive, the loss of income can drastically affect a family’s overall health and well-being.

When poverty and hunger affect individuals and families, people develop learning difficulties, productivity at work declines, illness becomes more frequent, and lives are foodday-03drastically shortened. On a larger scale, hunger leads to national insecurity, and environmental depletion.

This is why social safety nets are so important:  Helpful policy and resiliency standards can be set by intelligent, compassionate groups of concerned people. The most basic needs of everyone can be met if society wants this to happen.

Today is World Food Day, a day of action against hunger. This is when leaders and citizens across the world rededicate themselves to eradicate hunger.

World Food Day commemorates the institution of the “Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on October 16, 1945.  Concerned citizens assembled that day in Quebec, Canada to organize nations and groups in the ongoing movement to end global hunger.foodday-02

World Food Day USA and the Canada Network work in concert with the Food and Agriculture Organization Liaison Office for North America to bring public awareness and engage people in real action against hunger. Many communities will host food drives, walk-a-thons, meal packaging events, and even dinners to motivate people to be part of the solution to this problem.

The ultimate goal is to achieve a zero hunger world as soon as possible.

foodday-04iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the ancient Greek dramatist, Aristophanes.  “Hunger knows no friend but its feeder.”

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Corn Scouts

corn-02Even Nebraskans who don’t grow up on farms find ourselves immersed in some aspect of corn culture. It seems like corn is everywhere in Eastern Nebraska. Corn is even in our state’s unofficial moniker, “The Cornhusker State”. We fetishize the University of Nebraska football team, “The Cornhuskers”.

Fields of corn are so ubiquitous that we rarely think about them.  Local broadcasting stations include commodity reports on major newscasts.  Special attention is given to corn prices.

I’ve sometimes wondered if Nebraskans raise corn or does corn raise Nebraskans.  It’s probably more accurate to say that corn raises the world.  Corn was one of the backdrops in the drama of my boyhood in small town Nebraska.  Corn is often a feature in many of my oldest memories.

Our town’s Lutheran churches owned a lake a few miles north of town. Well, to call it a lake is to exaggerate. It was more like a shallow pond, located in a swampy area. It had cattails around the perimeter and green algae on its surface. Some people claimed it contained fish that the state game and parks people brought in.

As far as I could tell, the main reason the Lutheran churches owned the “lake” was for religious gatherings and church picnics.  The only structures were a couple of picnic table shelters.  There was a small area of land that was cleared of swamp vegetation where people could socially engage in conversation and children could scamper about in play. Of course the “lake” was surrounded on all sides by a large corn field.

One summer day, I was invited by our town’s Boy Scout troop to join them in an overnight campout. It was an effort to convince us to transition from Webelos Cub Scouts into the ranks of the Boy Scouts. Oh yes, my little brother, Mark, could tag along; he might have enjoyed the campout so much that he’d join the Cub Scouts.corn-00

That afternoon, mom packed some sandwiches and fruit into my knapsack for Mark and me. We strapped our sleeping bags to our backs, mounted our bicycles and rode out to the lake. When we arrived, there were perhaps a couple dozen boys, including Webelos and regular Boy Scouts. There were a couple of the troop leaders’ station wagons that brought out the tents and food.

There really wasn’t much to do at a swampy pond in the middle of a corn field.  There was an orientation lecture by one of the adult leaders. We then pitched the tents on the flat clearing area and laid out our sleeping bags inside of them.  Next, we built a campfire from small twigs and branches that had been hauled to the lake site earlier that week.

While the campfire came to life, the adult sponsors got into their station wagons and drove away.  There was only one “youth leader” an Eagle Scout, Greg, who remained behind to supervise us.

We prepared a makeshift meal over the fire and sat in a large circle to eat. After supper, there was a sing-along. I think we actually sang “Kumbaya”. After we shared a few “tall tales”, it was time to climb into our sleeping bags.  Mark and I shared our tent with Karl, one of the Boy Scouts. Soon the idle chatter of the campers subsided, and the campsite grew silent.

Karl, Mark, and I couldn’t drop off to sleep. We felt uneasy laying vulnerable in a tent that was located right next to the corn.  We strained our ears to listen for the presence of wild animals.  Karl wondered what we might do if there was an escaped prisoner from jail on the loose who wanted to hold us hostage?

More spooky thoughts crowded my head as I listened to the rustling of corn plants. Karl then mentioned that a person can hear corn growing taller in the summer. I had heard the same thing.  Growing corn sounds different than wind blowing past the leaves.  It’s a “sturdier” crackling sound. When thousands of corn plants surround you at night, the growing sound is unmistakeable. The three of us laid back down to listen to the corn.

I still have a vivid memory of what happened next.

My mind was in that “twilight zone” between wakefulness and sleep. A flash of lightning lit up the tent, then, there was the soft rumble of distant thunder. It was going to rain. The three of us listened as the pattering of rain advanced through the corn field. Like an advancing army, it came closer and closer, then it assaulted our corn-03humble camp.  The noise of rain striking the tent was overwhelmed by the hiss of the downpour on the leaves of the corn plants.  Soon, I felt the cold wetness of rainwater soaking into my sleeping bag.

Greg, the Eagle Scout opened our tent flap and ordered us to leave the tent and bring our sleeping bags, because the campsite was becoming flooded. We were told to meet at the large picnic shelter.  The Eagle Scout lit the Coleman kerosene lantern inside the shelter and hung it from a roof support beam. He called roll and was satisfied that everybody was present.

There was nothing to do inside the picnic shelter but watch the terrible storm or complain about the poor planning of the campsite, and the lack of adult leaders who could help us. A few of the scouts were able to stretch out on tables to sleep.  The rest of us surrendered to the peculiarity of the situation and stayed awake.

In such a scenario, boys will be boys.  There was plenty of friendly rough house play and some quarrels among the sleepy, cranky kids.  A while later, Karl climbed on top of one of the picnic tables so he could adjust the knob of the Coleman lantern.  At that point, one of the scouts yelled out “strip tease!”.

Soon, all of us were singing the “ta da ta, ta da da ta” music of “The Stripper”. Karl played along by shaking his hips and waving his arms. A few of the boys taunted Karl and dared him to actually strip.  Karl was not shy, so he continued with a very slow striptease while we carried on with our improvised version of “The Stripper”.

Karl was down to his BVDs when,  a pair of headlights suddenly swept onto the lake path. He jumped from the table and swiftly slipped into his jeans. The station wagon stopped  and two adult leaders ran into the shelter. Our little party was over.

I don’t remember very much about the rest of the campsite misadventure except for the difficult bicycle ride back home with Mark. I’m not sure if mom interrogated us, but we were exhausted. Afterwards, mom said we slept 13 hours straight through.

I did join the Boy Scouts, but only for a year. Mark was totally non-plussed and didn’t become a Cub Scout.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness remembers that the Scout Motto tells us to “be prepared to do our duty”. It’s a good idea. Nobody followed the advice that night at the cornfield “lake”.

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