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My Mom: The Greatest Teacher by Pamela B. Marshall

by An Abundance of Good on 09/18/16

My mom was born in 1926, a black child in the deep south on a county farm in rural Madison County, Tennessee. Life for her was hard. My grandfather died when she was a child, so she and my grandmother struggled to get by. My grandmother was a child bride herself, 16 years old, with no formal education. At 16 years of age, my mom and grandmother moved to Illinois, during the time of the Great Black Migration, in hopes of a better life.

Believe me, living while black in Rockford, Illinois in the 1940’s was no great picnic. While enrolled in 10th grade, my mom faced many prejudices. She had a guidance counselor who did not know what to do with black students, or should I say, she put forth no effort in helping them achieve.

(The irony of this story is that I had that same guidance counselor, at the end of her career, tell me in the 1960’s not to take French, Algebra or Geometry because “as a light skinned colored female” the best I could aspire to was to be a secretary. So she tried to guide me towards typing and shorthand. Needless to say, I was not having it. Not only did I aspire but I achieved and was inducted into The National Honor Society. I went on and completed college in 3 years because that is what I do when opportunity is denied me.)

During my mom’s first week in her new school, while participating in a gym class, the students were to get a partner for a game. Nobody wanted to be my mom’s partner because she was the only black girl in the class. She stood there humiliated until the teacher made someone her partner. That single experience shamed my mom and stayed with her until she died. She always expressed the pain and humiliation she felt.

Because of that, it made me a teacher who would not allow any child in my classes through the years to be hurt, bullied, singled out or humiliated. For I understood how deep emotional scars may heal over, but they never go away. I learned that from my mom. I could not remove her pain, but I could make sure no child ever felt that under my watch.

My mom gave in to the times she lived in. She dropped out of school that same year in the 10th grade to help bring in income. She gave up her dreams of a high school diploma for herself.

But a bit of that dream never, ever died within her. She passed it on to us. As early as I can remember, we were surrounded by books. In the 1960’s, she bought us a set of “Negro Encyclopedias” which came in a set of 5 books and turned me on to the accomplishments of black inventors, explorers, scientists, and scholars. We always had National Geographic magazines and books around the house. She drilled into us that the key to success was education whether it was formal or self-taught. Because of her, I always had a book in my hand and a dream of being a part of a world much bigger than the space I lived in.

My mom lived her life working as a janitor in a factory. She took pride in her work. Yet, she always wanted her high school diploma and got as close as within 1 point of passing her GED while in her 70’s. But her greatest accomplishment, I believe, is that she actually lived out the role that Colossians 3:23 states: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." This is what she did and what she exemplified.

My mom always told us “Don’t be like me”. Be somebody. Get an education. But I can honestly say “Mom, you are exactly like who I want to be." I learned from you how to dream. I learned what it takes to achieve and persevere. I
learned from you how to love God, family and friends. And most importantly, I learned to never, ever stop reaching for my dreams. You taught me to dream big! Your life is and will always be my greatest teacher.

Pamela B. Marshall is a blogger in Brown Deer, Wisconsin. Visit her at

Up Close and Buzzing with Life

by An Abundance of Good on 09/08/16

Sarah Kuzmak Kioko brings to us an end-of-summer treat to refresh the soul and recharge the mind for a new school year.

Bees, leaves, and flowers are all right there (and perfect) at the Hernley's "Spring Creek Farm" in Manheim, Pennsylvania. Of course, you don't have to head to a far-off meadow to find an abundance of good buzzing and blooming. If you take just a moment, especially right now while the world is heavy with summer time, you'll find these very things and so much more.

See Sarah's wonderful work at

El Nido Philippines by Joy Salcedo Posadas / Photos by Joy Salcedo Posadas

by An Abundance of Good on 05/30/16

El Nido Philippines was recently included as a destination in CNN's Traveler's Choice World's Best Beaches: Trip Advisor

As a writer, I've visited El Nido Resorts in Palawan and have unforgettable memories about nature's grandeur.

I also unearthed some pictures from a working trip to El Nido, Palawan a few years ago. By sharing these photos, may we be reminded of how much the world stands to lose if we fail to take care of earth's gifts.

Interesting rock formations abound in El Nido.

We explored the big lagoon with our kayaks. After snorkeling in the area, however, we found the corals in poor condition.

We entered caves where remnants from the Neolithic period were found.

Joy Posadas has an internationally published book "Etiquette Guide to the Philippines" and writes for various publications. She recently started a blog

Checking in with Le Petit Prince by M.S. Warren

by An Abundance of Good on 05/26/16

Perhaps the greatest thing about schooling your teenagers at home is the freedom to pick your favorite books for their literature classes. That, combined with my forcing them to learn French  sparked into life a cozy little discussion group on Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Le Petit Prince.

Of course, we are reading it in English. (One far-off day I hope to have them work on translating from the original French.) My own first reading of this book was at age 23 while I was staying in Spain. I had been told about this book by a Francophile traveling companion, but I could only find it in Spanish at a local bookstore. Over several weeks, in my quivering, beginner-level Spanish, I painfully plodded through its pages, often wondering if it was really saying what my translations seem to indicate.

"Odd book," I often thought, checking back to my little dictionary on the suspicion that had I botched a certain word or phrase.

Unfortunately, I was caught up so much in getting the literal translations (and caught up also in being the grown-up Saint-Exupery warned so much about) that I missed the quiet beauty of its story.

Now, several translated readings later, I am not only mesmerized by the quiet story but still enchanted by its odd dialogue. (Or, as Saint-Exupery so convincingly illustrated, we grown ups have the odd dialogue; The Little Prince has it right.) And today, our little party has delved into Chapter Four's reflection on how grown ups like numbers instead of what really connects people:

"... When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, "What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?" Instead, they demand: "How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?" Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him."

My thirteen year old daughter smiled at this. You could see the "so true!" in her eyes, and I knew that without my preaching or pointing or trying to force it into her head, I had brought to her the idea of the true nature of relationship; of really being able to connect to someone on things that truly matter.

Maybe my very young grown ups are still just old children. Maybe they will catch themselves before they launch into numbers and facts and classifying other people into numbers in facts.

I don't know. But I can check in with the Little Prince and give you updates on how that's all going.

For now, I will leave you with the very proof you need to know that the Little Prince really does exist:

"The proof of the Little Prince's existence is that he was delightful, that he laughed, and that he wanted a sheep. When someone wants a sheep, that proves that he exists."

So, there you have it.

The Stirring Hour by Celeste Behe / Photos by Sarah Kuzmak Kioko

by An Abundance of Good on 04/30/16

“There is one stirring hour when a wakeful influence goes abroad over the sleeping hemisphere. At what inaudible summons are all these sleepers thus recalled in the same hour to life?  [They] have not a guess as to the means or purpose of this nightly resurrection. Towards two in the morning they declare the thing takes place; and neither know nor inquire further. We are disturbed in our slumber only that we may the better and more sensibly relish it.” 

Robert Louis Stevenson, author of A Child’s Garden of Verses, penned these words in 1878 while on a twelve-day trek through the highlands of France.  One evening at sunset Stevenson settled under some pine trees and, after enjoying a meal of bread and sausage, chocolate, water, and brandy, he crawled into his “sleeping sack” and fell asleep.  He awoke shortly past midnight, and spent the next hour smoking and contemplating the night sky before falling into a slumber that would be “the better and more sensibly relish[ed]” because of the wakeful interlude.

Stevenson’s poetic reflections on that “one stirring hour” suggest a deep appreciation for what we now call “segmented sleep.” Segmented sleep, or a two-shift sleep pattern, was the norm for humans for the thousands of years prior to the industrial age. Homer even refers to “first sleep” in his Odyssey, which was written in the 8th century B.C.  That “first sleep,” during which people would go to bed and sleep for a few hours, would typically take place soon after sunset.  Sleepers would then awaken and stay awake for a period before turning in for their “second sleep.”  This period of wakefulness came to be called the night watch.  During the 19th century, the night watch was a time to stoke the fire, brew ale, write letters, do housework, visit neighbors, or stargaze.  Married couples might spend the night watch engaged in more tender pursuits.  Other folks might follow the advice of Ben Franklin, who said that “Those who can afford to have two beds will find great luxury in rising when they wake in a hot bed, and going into the cool one.”

But the practice of segmented sleep had little to do with comfort or necessity or love; rather, it was rooted in circadian rhythm, commonly called the body clock.  The body clock is endogenously driven, which means that it does not depend upon environmental cues. This fact was borne out by a landmark study that was conducted in the early 1990s by the National Institute of Mental Health. Study participants were exposed to natural and artificial light for 10 hours each day and confined to a dark room for 14 hours each night. Each of the eight subjects developed a sleep pattern similar to that followed in the preindustrial era, sleeping in two sessions of about 4 hours each, separated by 1 to 3 hours of quiet wakefulness. During the wakeful period, the subjects’ level of prolactin soared, causing them to experience a meditative state that was in keeping with the historical description of the night watch as a time of contentment. 

But if segmented sleep is our natural pattern of rest, why have we discarded it in favor of consolidated sleep?

Blame the shift on our nonstop culture.  Electric lighting, all night TV programming, computers, global travel, and 24 hour shopping all contribute to an environment that is downright hostile to natural sleep patterns.  In subjugating our body clocks to our frenzied schedules, we both deprive ourselves of the caliber of sleep that nature intended and eliminate those wakeful nighttime hours during which Robert Louis Stevenson said “life begins again afresh.” 

“In my whole life I have never tasted a more perfect hour of life,” said the poet of his night watch in the highlands of France.  Perhaps it’s time that our frenetic modern culture consider a return to the segmented sleep pattern, and experience that blissful hour in which “the cock first crows, not this time to announce the dawn, but like a cheerful watchman speeding the course of night. Cattle awake on the meadows; sheep break their fast on dewy hillsides, and change to a new lair among the ferns; and houseless men, who have lain down with the fowls, open their dim eyes and behold the beauty of the night…

We have a moment to look up on the stars.”

Hill of Tara

by An Abundance of Good on 03/17/16

Again, a picture is worth a thousand words: Green, gentle, peaceful, inspiring. Sometimes, it's the littlest things you notice about a famous place that really stick with you.

Think Poppies!

by An Abundance of Good on 03/07/16

(M.S. Warren)
We just got the forecast: Spring! So, we have big and plump bright-red poppies on our mind. An abundance of them.

The poppy flower is our adopted flower; the metaphor for an abundance of good. It symbolizes remembrance, hope, peace, and (nicely) sleep.

AOG's own Sarah Kuzmak Kioko has already provided our own little bunch: (from Ostia Antica, Italy)

As a plant, it rather stands out. (No it is not the same plant that provides the drug.)

Papaver rhoeas
Papaver rhoeas - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-101.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Papaveraceae
Genus: Papaver
Species: P. rhoeas


The poppy flower is an object of beauty which symbolizes many things - not just the warm and cozy feelings that other flowers might. (No offense to you daisies or mums or pansies or roses. It's just that the poppy's got you beat on emotional complexity.) 

According to the delightful site, American Meadows:

The once bucolic meadows of Flanders had long been graced by the brilliant red wildflowers each spring and summer, but during the Great War, the poppies disappeared. Since they are annuals, and grow quickly from seed each spring, the constant trampling and bombing of the battlefields simply stopped the famous bloom for four full seasons. When the war was over, and the poppies were able to bloom again, the display was spectacular. Actual seed counts were taken, and over 2,500 poppy seeds per square foot were found.

Memorials at Flanders Field.

And we might remember the striking scene in London

The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red exhibit at the Tower of London, which consists of 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each British and colonial death[5]

But let's get back to some happy poppy scenes:

Georgia Okeeffe's:

Vincent Van Gogh's Poppies:

And, last but not least, John Singer Sargent's:

The single greatest feature of the poppy is the way it pops up into view to surprise us in some of the most unlikely places and at some of the oddest times. It's sort of like the good that's out there: When surrounded by difficulties, you'll find an abundance only if you take a second look.

A Leap Year Moment

by An Abundance of Good on 02/25/16

Why launch a website called "Abundance of Good" at the end of a seemingly dreary month? And why hesitate at the month's last days, looking around for an abundance of anything? Let's just get on with spring, right?

Well, today is that well-known extra day of every fourth year which many of us don't notice until we are right on top of its assigned square on the calendar. And although there are superstitions hovering around this bonus day, February 29 is also a day of opportunity: Women may propose marriage to men, "leapers" can celebrate their birthdays with a little more self assurance, and, since March or April or May aren't the ones to grace us with this extra 24 hour period, winter can claim the day as her very own. I'd say that February 29 is a gift for every soul to slow down,  look up, and acknowledge the abundance of winter wonder.

(Winter Wonderful)

Of course, it's hard to get outside when you are concerned with all the crazy things inside. That's why there are gifted people like Sarah Kuzmak Kioko.

Sarah is a musician, artist, and photographer who lives way way out in the woods in a classic A-frame house with her husband and little boys. I found Sarah through the photography she posted on line:

Sarah has a special knack for capturing those allusive moments of quiet and beauty:

(Yes, a snowflake. Really.)

Colors, textures, creatures, and other unnamed wonders are abundant if you simply look. Sarah's work helps us to look and to contemplate.

That's why she's assigned (officially) to be a regular contributor to Abundance of Good. (See more of Sarah's work at

Lust for Life and Life with Vincent

by An Abundance of Good on 01/08/16

Sadly, I'm on the final pages of "Lust for Life," Irving Stone's story about the life of Vincent van Gogh. Yes, I said "sadly" because I feel as if I'm saying good bye to a wacky, unpredictable friend who might tire me with every encounter, but to whom I'm strangely attached. In fact, now that I know Vincent, I can't live without him.

The end of this sweet film says it for me.

No longer will I sneer at the faded, plastic covered prints of "Starry Night" at the thrift shop or laugh at the polyester "Cafe at Night" curtains discounted on line. People want Vincent. They must have the color and life and unpredictability of his paintings.

Yet, as we all know, he was completely unappreciated in his time.

Which gets me to wondering: Who is unappreciated in her or his time - this time right now? Who has something awesome to give the whole planet but goes unnoticed and maybe even scorned.

I wonder who.

Finding Gold

by An Abundance of Good on 09/26/15

It's easy to get into the habit of blowing off the claims of someone who has had the term dementia pinned to his person. That's the tragic thing about the word. An old guy, perhaps funny and kind and even brilliant at times is always under suspicion because the health of his brain has been brought into question.

Even if the old guy with that nasty unwanted label is your own old guy, the eye roll or the lip pucker become unconscious ticks in response to just about any communication the poor guy might attempt. It's actually quite unfair as we all know that even if he is making sense ninety percent of the time, his reputation is based on the wilder ten percent. It's as if we are subconsciously reacting to a spectral of cloudy letters - d-i-m-e-n-t-i-a - floating along right under his eyes or above his head like an aura . Maybe if Salvador Dali had to paint "The Impersistence of Memory" the piece would render thick tarry clouds obscuring the head of his Gala in the way we see those thick tarry clouds along the halls of our favorite memory-care institutions.

I had been far along into this habit with my own muddled old guy dad by the time we began our Potomac River scenic driving tours last Fall. Dad had spent most of his career right there along the river at a site that he'd rather not have me mention to the "Interwebs." I grew up listening to his stories of how battle ship models could be tested right inside a thing that looked like an airplane hanger and that even waves could be simulated to check how a ship might perform in the open sea.

Of course, we wouldn't get much more than that usually, unless he had an especially colorful story about his hour and fifteen minute commute back home or the exotic spot he had discovered on his lunch hour.

The best exotic spots included Glen Echo (especially sprinkled with stories about the old pool), the C and O Canal Tow Path, and Great Falls Park so that, gradually, this little stretch of Maryland became a sort of mystical realm for me and my siblings, made all the more magical because we would enter it only once every few years when Dad would take one of the ten of us to his office.  There was always a bit of a thrill when we pulled up to the saluting sailor, witnessed the exchange of familiar greetings, and caught the flash of a special little identification card.

"You know, Tessla was actually from outer space," he informed me one afternoon last fall while making a right from Goldsboro onto MacArthur Boulevard.

"Is that so," I said mechanically. "Hey, how do you like that book Rosie gave you last Christmas? It's all about him isn't it?"

"Oh it's very good," he answered.

Soon, we were passing the trophy homes along the East side of MacArthur. The trees were at peak color and the sun was sparkling to our west.

"When all of North America merges, they'll burn all the books and shut off the electricity so that we can't read."

"Is," I again replied.

"It's all part of the plot. The Masonic plot. Just like the plot to ...

Now I was sad. This was the guy who helped me with my algebra homework and encouraged me to "think like an engineer."  Indeed, this was the same guy who knew every alley and stoop of his own part of Brooklyn New York, who enjoyed calculus, studied fluid dynamics, and who could explain in his sleep where the diesel exhaust mast is on a nuclear submarine (the Soviet's best submarine, no doubt).

My dad was the dad who would fix a house's faulty toilet as naturally as I might boil a pot of water. He could prune a massive tree, build a set of bunk beds, or change the brakes on our fifteen passenger van.

"And just like the plot to bring Communists...."

Once we got past Old Angler's Inn and well beyond the first part of an especially green patch of wood, Dad suddenly pointed to the forest and said, "There was gold mining right there."

"Oh really. Dad," I said in my driver-weary-patronizing tone.

"Yeah. And it was active until the War."

That particular claim stuck on me like a piece of the tarry aura. What in the Sam Hill inspires him to say that?

"Yeah, they should have kept it operating. I bet there's a lot more gold in there."

I shook my head in an attempt to lose the words, "Come on Dad! Can't you say something true!" I veered my car right, just before the gates to Great Falls Park, and onto Falls Road. Now, we were slowly distancing ourselves from those mystical woods and heading back into the real world.

That gold mine nonsense stuck with me that night. It seemed so out of the blue. But what I had learned recently, however, is that if any claim seemed especially unfounded, it may actually have a grain of truth within in it, just like the time Dad claimed that Edgar Allen Poe explained the theory of relativity long before Einstein did. (Yeah, look it up.)

So, I sought out the gods-of-google and found that, yup, there was gold mining along the shores of the Potomac River just southeast of Great Falls Park.

Apparently, Union soldiers during the Civil War found traces of gold in the river while encamped in the area. Gold mines were built later, and, as sure as day, were operating until right before World War II. Remains of these mines could be found well into the 1980s.

Below: From a blog which says "See for yourself."

So, I saw for myself. I saw the gold mine and the gold in the mine: Mental meanderings can contain some of the best nuggets of seemingly useless information. Even now, as a middle aged woman who's wondering about her own mental meanderings, my Dad can still conjure magical forays into little known places like ghost pools at Glen Echo, long-dead mules along the tow path of the canal, and gold mines along MacArthur Boulevard.

And for me, this mind - Dad's mind - is a mine of gold.

Praises for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.
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