H. A. O'Connor

What Color is Chartreuse, Anyway? My Take on the Mandela Effect

Ethereal, Searching for Inspiration No Comment
What Color is Chartreuse, Anyway? My Take on the Mandela Effect

Just the other day, I wrote a post on aloe vera, in which I mentioned that my “green thumb” was probably more like a chartreuse color. What I didn’t say is I had to check to be sure “chartreuse” was a yellowish-green, rather than a fuschia-ish pink.

After doing some inquiring, it seems I’m not the only one who finds this color confusing. Everyone I asked thought it fell somewhere in the pink-red-purple-brown range, with most answers tending toward pink.


Chartreuse…or Chartreuse??

This tells me one thing: I’m not alone. It doesn’t tell me why so many of us remember this color wrong–but something else might.

Ever heard of the Mandela Effect? I hadn’t either, until the younger of my sons mentioned it.

Apparently, the Mandela Effect (according to Snopes.com), is a “collective misremembering of a fact or event.” Although some people believe the Mandela Effect represents evidence of the existence of parallel universes (i.e. we’re communally remembering things wrong, because that’s how they actually are in a parallel universe), I have to go with Snopes on this one: it’s probably just a common memory glitch.

The term, “Mandela Effect” is attributed to Fiona Broome, who claims she encountered the phenomenon when she discovered she had a false memory in common with others, namely that human rights activist and South African president, Nelson Mandela, had died in the 1980s. (He didn’t pass away until 2013.) I don’t share this same erroneous memory, but it seems many others do.

Maybe it relates to the fact that Mandela was imprisoned during the eighties and received worldwide support? He was released in 1990 and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize and other accolades, but …whatevs, people who already had him resting in peace.

Nelson_Mandela-2008_(edit)South Africa The Good News / www.sagoodnews.co.za [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)


There are still other examples of the Mandela Effect.

Snopes also mentioned the popular children’s books and animated television series, The Berenstain Bears. Apparently, many of us (myself included) remember the name as being, The Berenstein Bears. Nope, not “-ein” then or now.

Another example? Snopes describes a portrait of Henry VIII, in which he’s reportedly dining at a table with a turkey leg in one hand. The problem is, the portrait doesn’t exist.

But I know I’ve seen it. You’re with me on this, right?


Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/1498-1543) via Wikimedia Commons

Which begs for another share:

Yeah, really sorry about that earworm…

Yet other instances of the Mandela Effect involve the premature passing of various famous individuals. One of the most widespread of these is Billy Graham–plenty of people believe they saw his funeral on TV. Don’t know what they were watching, but as of today, the man’s still alive. Also, lots of folks believed Mother Teresa had been canonized in the 1990s, when we’re probably all aware she has just attained sainthood.

This next link doesn’t quite fall under the heading of the Mandela Effect, but it’s close enough. I found it while researching this blog and enjoyed the watch. Freaked me out a bit, too. 😉

Why are we changing maps? (From The West Wing)

So, what’s the probable explanation for the Mandela Effect?

Memories are fallible. They are constructed by our minds, through a blending of real-life experience and pure fiction. Recently, I heard someone (maybe on the radio?) say that each time we remember something, we are actually remembering the last time we experienced the memory. A slightly dizzying concept (I envision mirror rooms in funhouses–a reflection of a reflection of a…), yet it could explain why our memories lead us astray so much of the time.

So, if you’re feeling frustrated by someone remembering a shared experience differently? Turns out, in the grand scheme of things, their memory may be just as legitimate as yours. And the next time someone insists chartreuse is a pinkish color instead of a yellowy-green one? Just smile and shrug. Maybe in some parallel universe, it is. 🙂


H. A. O'Connor

Natural and Noteworthy: Aloe Vera

Earthy, Natural and Noteworthy, Natural Beauty 5 Comments

My thumb isn’t exactly green, but it has developed a vaguely-greenish tint over the years. It’s maybe a chartreuse by now.

(Side question: how many of you think of chartreuse as being a color in the pink-red-purple range, instead of the yellowish-green that it is? I’m genuinely curious, because it seems to be a “thing.” I’d love to hear from you in the comments!)

via FreeImages.comSarah Williams

Image via FreeImages.com/Sarah Williams

So that’s chartreuse??

Back to my chartreuse thumb–I love plants, but I have a system of what I loosely label “natural selection” happening at my house. If a plant can survive my sometimes-sporadic care, it is welcome to stay and thrive all it wants. If it doesn’t make it? Cue the guilt.

Aloe vera is a plant that falls somewhere in between for me. I can keep an aloe plant alive for a fairly long time, but then, all of a sudden, the decline begins and I start covering mirrors in my house. (No, not really.) Still, aloe vera is a wonderful, multi-purpose plant, so I love to have one here.

*NOTE: Aloe vera is toxic to cats and dogs, so if you choose to have an aloe plant, keep it somewhere pets can’t reach! If you’d prefer not to keep an aloe plant at all, aloe vera gel is available. Just check the label, to be sure it’s pure.

How do I love thee, aloe vera? Let me count the ways:

via pixabay courtesy of unsplash

Image via pixabay/unsplash

  1. Helps to treat minor burns, including sunburns–This is why I usually keep aloe handy, somewhere in the vicinity of my stove. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, aloe compounds help reduce pain and inflammation, while promoting skin growth and repair. Just snip off an aloe leaf (as close to the base as possible, without disturbing the roots–although I sometimes only take the tip of a leaf), split it open to access the gel and rub the gel over the burn. DON’T apply to open wounds.
  2. Bug bites or minor skin irritations–As with treating minor burns, aloe’s antibacterial properties can help heal skin irritations and bring relief to bug bites (it helps with pain and discomfort very quickly).
  3. Bruises–Aloe is said to speed up recovery time when applied to bruises, by sealing the skin and offering healing properties.
  4. Rashes, cold sores–Since aloe has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, it can help heal minor rashes, itchy spots, and cold sores. Simply apply the gel to the area three times a day, until the rash, etc. has healed completely.via pixabay courtesy of Birgit_H                                         Image via pixabay/Birgit_H
  5. Acne–Aloe has been shown to help heal existing acne and acne scars, but it probably won’t prevent future breakouts.
  6. Moisturizer/aftershave lotion–Although aloe vera is not sufficient to moisturize skin properly on its own, it can act as a soothing component to a moisturizing system (when combined with emollients–e.g. jojoba, rosehip, or avocado oils; shea or cocoa butter–and humectants–e.g. lecithin, glycerin, or panthenol/Vitamin B5). Such a moisturizing system would work great as an aftershave treatment, as well.
  7. Face mask–To improve skin’s color and texture while reducing inflammation, apply a thin layer of aloe vera gel to your face and let dry, then remove with warm water and a wash cloth. Some people may find this drying to their skin, so be sure to follow with a moisturizer (see above).
  8. Anti-aging treatment–As part of a moisturizing treatment (see above), aloe is believed to help reduce and/or prevent wrinkles.

via pixabay courtesy of PollyDot

Image via pixabay/PollyDot

More about aloe vera:

Aloe vera is a succulent, one of hundreds of varieties of aloe plants. Though cactus-like in appearance, it is related to lilies and onions.

In caring for your aloe vera plant, you can mix some sand in with your soil and allow it to dry between waterings. Drench the soil completely when it’s time to water your aloe, but make sure the soil drains well. Aloe plants do not like standing water.

Aloe vera does not need to be fertilized, but if you choose to add a fertilizer to the soil, do it once a year (in the spring) and use a very diluted version of the fertilizer (if using your aloe for medicinal purposes, make sure you use a fertilizer for edible plants). Aloe plants are accustomed to growing in harsh conditions and usually do better in similar environments within your home.

To propagate, remove “pups” or small offshoots with their roots intact and replant. Wait until the pup is about one fifth the size of the mother plant before separating. (Sometimes they will need to be cut away from the mother plant.)

Propagating the plant through cuttings can also be done, but it is tricky and not often successful. Cut the leaf close to the base of the plant, allow the cut area to dry (one week) before replanting, to avoid infection. Dip in a rooting hormone and replant.

**Some people recommend taking aloe internally, but not enough research has been done to convince me. It is known to be dangerous when taken internally by pregnant (also possibly lactating) women. I feel similarly reluctant about using aloe to treat dental or mouth issues. Also, some people are allergic to aloe, so you should stop using it if you develop a rash or any other symptoms of an allergic reaction.

***This post is intended as a reference only and NOT to take the place of any medical advice. Always check with your doctor before trying any new treatments, including natural ones.

via pixabay courtesy of strecosa

Image via pixabay/strecosa

So, do you keep aloe vera in your home? Have you tried using it for any of the above issues? Any last thoughts on the color chartreuse?? 🙂

H. A. O'Connor

My Favorite Coffee Substitutes

Animalia, Earthy, Ethereal, Searching for Inspiration 2 Comments
My Favorite Coffee Substitutes

I’d so like to be a “real” grownup and have a love affair with my daily cuppa: Joe, Mud, Brew, Java, Daily Grind, Bean Juice, Brain Juice, Go Juice, Jitter Juice, Battery Acid, Cup of Jolt, Liquid Lightning, Mojo, Tar, and my current favorite, Brewtus. But alas, no. Coffee is just not that into me (see: Jitter Juice), so we’ve agreed to keep it platonic.

Sylwia Bartyzel

Image via Unsplash/Sylwia Bartyzel

*sigh* unrequited love

So, how have I been filling my coffee-deprived mornings? Well, I drink tea sometimes, but … besides that? Pets. You heard me right. Pets.

Unless it’s raining buckets or bum-freezing cold, I plunk myself down on my front step first thing in the AM, sporting whatever mismatched concoction served as last night’s pajamas, topped off with my crazy morning hair. Then, I hang for a while with my four-leggeds.

Sure, it takes some finesse to pet four furry beings at once (side note: I’ve been brainstorming ways to add extra hands to busy-mom torsos, but still have only two as of yet. I’ll update you if there are any changes on that front). A cup of Brewtus  might give me the energy boost all that petting requires, but since coffee and I are still only friends, I rely on the sparkle of sunlight, the freshness of morning breezes, and the faces of these four lovelies to start my day off right:

Copy of Spring 2011 and Sean's First Communion 012 (2)

Beloved Queen Molly, ruler of all. She mainly divides her time between permitting well-deserved head pets or perfectly-placed chin scratches, and surveying her royal subjects from the elevation of a nearby table top. She also occasionally likes to swat at lowly canines, but only as a hobby. She is a Master Purrer and goes by the nickname World’s Bravest Cat, for consistently tolerating the obsessive stares and stalkings of a certain infatuated Golden Retriever.


Nellie Bean, aka Sweetest Beagle Ever. She tap dances when she gets really excited, but usually starts her morning with a short explore, before returning with a crooked smile and a distinctive waddle on her four-inch legs. She’s so thoughtful, she’ll even lift her front paw to make tummy rubbing an easier task. She can’t get enough of kisses or cuddles and does a spot-on impression of a stuffed animal (only her snoring gives her away). This senior-aged pup honestly couldn’t be more wonderful if she tried.


Miss Tess or Tessa Monster, depending on how high she’s set her sass meter at any given moment. She goes from attaining a state of perfect zen inside the house (have you ever seen a dog meditate? because I have), to becoming head-spinning incensed that a bee has dared to look at her family the wrong way. She’s also the universe’s fastest runner and a world-renowned escape artist (the two titles go hand-in-hand from what I understand). She has appointed herself guard duty over our morning porch sessions, but every so often she stops by for some ear rubs and a kiss–or two or five–on the head.


Last, but never least (especially if he has anything to say about it), is our Bodhi Bear. No, he should definitely NOT be sitting on that seat in the photo above, but what can I say? The dog sees a chair and believes he belongs in it (just ask our vet) and, besides, he has a pretty fantastic smile. (We made him get down immediately after the photo-op, by the way!) Mr. Bodhi Licious is certain he’s still a very tiny puppy, so he spends our mornings on the front step squeezing himself between “Mom” and any furry family member who is vying for attention. All too often that ends with him plopping his 70+ pound self onto my lap.

So there you have it, a glimpse of the magic that gets my mornings going. It’s no Cup of Sludge, but it’ll do. Besides, two of our furry loves were recently diagnosed with illnesses (thyroid and heart conditions) 🙁 and are also into their double-digits, so we’re treasuring every moment we’re given.

Our motto: seize the morning and the day will follow!


*One more aside: three of these four were official rescues and the last was “rescued” from a less-than ideal situation, so as you can see, we are all for adopting! Including these guys and former pets (whom we’ve loved into old age and beyond), we’ve adopted from small, local animal rescues, as well as larger shelters.

Please spay and neuter and remember to support your local rescues and shelters! 🙂

H. A. O'Connor

Taking Back Sunday

Animalia, Earthy, Ethereal, Searching for Inspiration 2 Comments
Taking Back Sunday

No, not the band. The concept.

Today is the last Sunday of summer break, so it seems even more important than usual for my family to take back the day. Where did it go, you might ask? Oh, it was stolen–by the work, technology, and myriad of other distractions that fill virtually every minute of our daily lives.

We as a people are stressed, aren’t we?


Image via pixabay/dpkumarjt

Stress? Who’s stressed??!

The lines between worklife and homelife are increasingly blurred–in fact, many of us work from home, which has numerous benefits, but also means we lose much of the workplace’s social aspects along with the regularlity of a 9-to-5 day. Whether WorkAtHome-ers or not, we habitually toil through lunches, endlessly check emails, and often chug away at projects round the clock.

As for technology … ugh. People who know me well know technology and I aren’t the best of friends–in fact, we’re barely on speaking terms–but I won’t launch into (much of) an anti-tech diatribe here. Instead, I’ll sum it up with one thought: technology is supposed to make our lives easier. It has done so in many ways, except in the ways it hasn’t. In today’s world, we’re busier than ever. “Downtime” has become a foreign concept, as we jump from checking emails to texting to Pokemon Go-ing (you know I had to mention it) and so on. People are having an increasingly difficult time disconnecting from the constant barrage of information and stimulation. We hardly ever take the time to be–just be–anymore.

free images Sarah Vaughan

Image via FreeImages.com/Sarah Vaughan

Can’t we all agree to communicate through smoke rings??

So, today, this is what I want to do: be with my family.

Summer vacation is slipping through our fingers like sand. Working, texting, emailing, etc., will only make it spill faster.

This Sunday, therefore, the emails can quietly wait. The laundry can stay cuddled up in overflowing hampers. Yesterday’s unopened mail can rest easy alongside the general clutter, while outside, the weeds and grass get to soak up the sun and stretch a little taller. Today, those things can all just be–same as us.

elizabeth lies

Image via Unsplash/Elizabeth Lies

Time to be, grass

Yes, my family and I are taking back this Sunday and then we’re going to take a walk together–at a park, maybe through the woods, somewhere beyond where the voices of our neverending chores can be heard. We’ll eat together. We’ll talk and laugh and breathe. Today, we’ll pet our dogs and cat. Maybe we’ll sit with a chicken or a guinea pig in our lap.


Just be today, Charlie

My family will take back our Sunday because we deserve it–a day of rest, a day to enjoy living, a day to be.

Happy Sunday to you–hope you take yours back, too. 🙂


H. A. O'Connor

A Few of My Favorite Things

Ethereal, Searching for Inspiration 6 Comments
A Few of My Favorite Things

Today’s topic occupied far too many of my childhood thoughts–maybe it did for you, as well. From my first school fire drill, I became terrified by the idea that my house might catch fire. (I also began chanting “Stop, drop, and roll” under my breath like it was the key to opening Ali Baba’s cave.)


Image via pixabay/Hans

Hello? Anyone in there?

In an effort to regain my peace of mind, I devised various plans for rescuing all my loved ones, pets included (which always complicated things–we had a lot of pets). This allowed me to sleep at night, but even then a nagging sadness remained. I knew most, if not all, of my favorite belongings would be lost to the flames.

Sure, this seems like a sad place for thoughts to dwell–it was–but it also came with a gift: it allowed me to know, at any given moment, what my most precious belongings were. I’m still very aware of my personal treasures and most of them haven’t changed, although maybe a stuffed animal or two dropped out of the running (cover your ears, beloved toys of childhood) to be replaced by something more enduring.

Here is a list of my favorite, most meaningful belongings (I’ve chosen my top five six):

(1) Photographs–ALL my photographs. I’m not limiting myself to one photo or album, because the thought alone threatens to reduce me to a puddle of despair. I wouldn’t do that to myself and neither should you.

From photos of my ancestors, to shots of family and friends taken during my life, to (especially) photos of my children–from when they were tiny, peanut-shaped beings in ultrasound images to the pictures I’ll take tomorrow. Because they represent so many loved ones and places and times I enjoy revisiting, my photographs are my most treasured belongings.


Image via pixabay/jarmoluk

(2) Handmade bookcase–yes, I just said I’d rescue a piece of furniture in a fire, but we’re being hypothetical here, right? Besides, who knows–maybe I’d get one of those massive adrenaline surges and develop spontaneous super powers. I could carry the bookcase out on my back and, *bonus* I could fill the drawers with my photographs and other favorites.

My grandfather made me this bookcase when I was a child. (I’ve loved the scent of sawdust ever since those days of visiting his workshop.) It went from my room to my children’s rooms, but it’s now on the second floor of our foyer and, temporarily, housing my homemade soaps.

Just a thought: while I’m saving furniture, I might as well pile a few more pieces onto my back. I’d take the dresser/vanity set my mom refinished for me and the secretary desk that came from a relative’s home, which was passed along by my aunt. (Thanks Grandad, Mom, and Aunt J!)


My handmade bookcase (temporarily being used for curing soaps)

(3) Jewelry–I don’t have any very expensive jewelry, but I do have some pieces that are rich with sentimental worth. Again, I can’t limit myself to just one item, so here’s the condensed list: I’d choose my engagement ring (my wedding ring would already be on my finger, so that equals an automatic save), plus a handful of favorites–those that were gifts from family and friends, along with a few silver pieces I inherited from my grandmom. Wearing this jewelry makes me feel close to the ones who gave it to me, and that means more to me than any appraisal value.


Two stones that were my grandmother’s,

plus a gift from my cousin after she read My Watcher’s Eyes

(4) Found items–when I was a child, my dog Holly came strolling out of the woods behind my house one day, carrying a strange, flat stone in her mouth. She brought it to me, so I washed off the dirt and dog slobber, to find shell-shapes imprinted in its surface. My mom said it looked like fossilized mud, so I immediately fell in love. Imagine holding something that was old enough to be fossilized–old enough to date back to when water had covered the local land? That’s big to a kid; it’s big to me still.

As an adult, I discovered another, similar “treasure.” My husband and I were removing a dogwood tree which we’d planted and which, unfortunately, had not survived. As my husband lifted the tree from the ground, I saw a strange stone sticking out of its root ball. I dug it out to find it had been chipped away along both sides: one looked like it would serve as a finger grip and the other had been sharpened into a rough edge. I did some research and found the stone closely resembled tools used to scrape animal hides by the Lenape women who’d once lived in this area. Since I’ve long been fascinated by American Indian cultures–the Lenape people in particular–this felt like a one-in-a-million find. I’m beyond honored just to be able to touch it.


Fossil rock and (probable) Lenape scraper

(5) Antique books–I’m not a collector, except when it comes to books. I LOVE old books. I don’t own many, but I adore the ones I have. My first antique book came from a great aunt who was involved with The Hedgerow, a local theater I’ve loved since childhood. She was not only a small-time actress, but also a lover of fiction. I think we would have gotten along wonderfully. (Did I ever mention my mom used to call me Sarah Bernhardt as a child? Totally earned that nickname.)


Books and Basil (which is one of the many plants I’d rescue, too!)

(6) Teddy bear–I tried to limit my list to five things, but honestly, how could I leave out Brownie? (Side note: wasn’t I the most creative teddy-bear namer?) This little guy has been through a lot, so he shouldn’t have to endure a fire, too. My grandfather gave him to me when I was little and I proceeded to love him nearly to death. His head actually came off from one too many hugs. My mom sewed it back on, but she must have been in a hurry, because she attached it backward. Poor Brownie’s plump little tummy had to become a pudgy little bum. (Luckily, his arms and legs moved, so they could make the transition, even if his toes were upside down.) Never mind–I still loved him. Yet, Brownie’s trials and tribulations weren’t finished. He survived in storage all the way into my adulthood, just in time for me to rediscover him and for one of my dogs, my sweet Jake, to snack on his nose. Brownie and I were both heartbroken again, but I did some (questionable) reconstructive surgery and re-repaired his head while I was at it.


Dear, sweet, strangely-repaired Brownie

(I’m not very good with a needle and thread, but his head and feet are facing forward now) 🙂

So, that’s my list–short (okay, longish short) and sweet to me. Granted, I’d need a trailer to haul everything away, but it would be worth it.

What does this list tell me? It says, knowing my loved ones were safe, I’d do what I could to save our memories. One of the best parts of my life (as most would agree) is sharing experiences with the ones I love and holding onto those memories, so they can be shared again.

And you? After ensuring the safety of your loved ones and pets (and plants–can’t forget our plants!), what else would you rescue? How do these things reflect what you value most?

H. A. O'Connor

The Other

Ethereal, Searching for Inspiration 6 Comments
The Other

Who is this “Other?” Only one of the most common characters in fiction–and unfortunately, in life.

I first heard the term “Other” in a college literature course, although the concept was already familiar. In fiction, The Other is a character who is seen as being fundamentally different from the dominant group, destined to remain separate and unaccepted.

In life, Othering happens when we encounter someone new and begin taking stock of how they differ from us. It may seem relatively harmless, but when we don’t look beyond our differences, we hold The Other at a distance. This sets us up for judging them as somehow lesser than us and, yes, for allowing them to be treated accordingly.


Image via pixabay/PublicDomainPictures

You are The Other

Why do we have this tendency?

I don’t know, bad habit? Or it could be that Othering is a leftover from prehistoric times. (Othering as vestigial human behavior?) In those old, old days, everyone’s survival came with a daily question mark, so it might have seemed necessary to draw loved ones near and push away outsiders. Maybe, instead, Othering has its roots in self-identification. “I define myself by who I am not.” Except, wouldn’t it be better to define ourselves by who we are? “I am my beliefs and interests and goals, my passions and loves. I am how I behave.”

Othering happens everywhere; none of us are immune to it or its effects. I have Othered and I’ve been Othered.

When I was younger–again, college-age–I worked in a store on Philadelphia’s South Street. I’d been offered the job by the store owner while shopping with friends and I accepted, figuring I’d like it. I did. I had fun with my coworkers, bought clothes with my discount, and generally enjoyed being part of the South Street peoplescape. Yet, once the novelty wore off, I decided the late nights and long drive home weren’t worth the trouble.

At the end of one of my last nights of work, I was driving down a back street with my doors locked and favorite CD playing. I stopped at an intersection and, there on the opposite corner, stood a girl about my age. She was alone and looked uncomfortable, maybe even a little scared. Her dress and demeanor suggested she was a prostitute. I was young and fairly naive, but even I could see that much.

Our eyes locked and, almost instantly, I labeled her Other. Her choices–or those made for her–had brought her to this street in the middle of the night, waiting to be picked up by a stranger. I, on the contrary, was leaving a job I’d accepted because it was fun and not because I needed the money. I was in my own car, on my way to my own apartment–a place where I’d be surrounded by roommates and friends, a place where I was pursuing a degree that would broaden my opportunities.

I could have closed my mind to this girl after labeling her Other. If I’d thought something along the lines of, “maybe she deserves it”–a phrase that sends chills down my spine–it would have been easy to keep her safely ensconced in her Otherness. Her welfare would have quickly dropped out of my concern.

Instead, I looked beyond her differences. I saw myself. I recognized that if I’d been born into alternate circumstances, with another set of choices, I might have been the one standing alone on the street, scared and vulnerable.

Molly Porter

Image via Unsplash/Molly Porter

So, in those few, long seconds at the stop sign, I hesitated. I wanted to roll down my window and ask this girl if she needed a ride. I wanted to take her in like a lost puppy. I wanted to show her there were other choices. I didn’t do any of these things. The girl looked away and I drove on. I can only wonder what happened to her that night or throughout any of the nights that followed.

What if I could return to that moment? Would I help?

I wish I could vow, up and down, that I would, but I can’t. That night, I chose my own safety over another’s. I acted–or rather, failed to act–based on fear. My worry was that if I reached out to this girl, some of the dangers enveloping her life might latch onto me. This may have been true. Let’s face it, fear is there to protect us.

Yet fear can also be a danger. Choices made in fear–or anger or hatred or any negative emotion–aren’t usually our best. On that night, those years ago, fear left me helpless. I really, truly felt for that girl, yet I did nothing. What if, instead of being distracted by my fear, I’d opened my eyes to other options? Maybe I could have contacted someone, sought additional help. One act and this girl’s life might have changed forever.

Othering happens–every day, all around us. Every child who has ever been bullied suffered because he or she was labeled Other by the victimizing person or group. Othering is at the heart of racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, xenophobia, discrimination against the ill or disabled, etc. Othering can be taken to horrific extremes. Think of humans’ worst crimes against humanity: genocide, eradication of native peoples during colonization, slavery, fanatical terrorism, wars, mass rape, religious persecution. None of these could have happened without dominant groups viewing Others as lesser.


We are all part of the picture

The world is enormous and so are its problems. It’s overwhelming–I feel that, too. There isn’t an easy, all-encompassing answer as to how we should reach out, when so many are in need. Still, if we really want to make a change, I guess we do what we can, when we can. Even small acts are able to add up to something big.

For instance, when we encounter someone new–whether directly or indirectly–maybe rather than giving in to the impulse to distance ourselves, we could make the effort to look beyond their differences. What if we unother those Others? We might recognize that beyond their different features or skin color or religion or age or sexual preferences or political views, they share our basic needs–for food and water, shelter and clothing–as well as our deeper needs–for acceptance and empowerment, companionship and love. Empathy on its own won’t change the world, but it’s a really good place to start.

What if that paralyzing fear shows up? Instead of letting it control us, maybe we could push past it. Working together–as a team–might get us there. I’m not suggesting we go around leaping into harm’s way, yet standing aside while bad things happen isn’t working very well for our society, either. We should never forget there is safety–and power–in numbers, enough of each to drive back fear.

We are living in a volatile time, an important time, a future-changing time. Maybe we ought to take a hard, clear look at this Othering thing. It’s possible that, one by one, we could do something about it. Wouldn’t it be some kind of wonderful to live in a world where people recognized themselves in every Other–a world where we could count on the kindness of strangers when we needed it most?

I can type until my fingers are numb, but I’ll never be able to say it as well as Maya Angelou: (excerpt from her poem, “The Human Family”)

I note the obvious differences

in the human family…

I note the obvious differences

between each sort and type,

but we are more alike, my friends,

than we are unalike…

Benji Aird

Image via pixabay/Benji Aird

H. A. O'Connor

Body Butter and Flower Power

Earthy, Natural Beauty, Saving the Green No Comment

Just wanted to share that I’ve posted two new videos to my youtube channel, one on making a simple, lovely rose body butter and the other on how I use flowers from my yard/garden to add extra nutrients to my oils. Hope you’ll take a peak!

H. A. O'Connor

Sharing Some News, 7-27-16

Uncategorized No Comment

Signed my publishing contract today (Woohoo!) and work is already getting started on releasing my sequel asap! :D (Looks like it will be available for pre-order December 1st and the release date should be January 1st.)

(Also put up a youtube video on how we made our chicken tractor. The girls say “Hi!” at 08:00!)

H. A. O'Connor

The Noble Act of the Dumpster Dive

Earthy, Ethereal, Neighborhood Homesteading, Parenting, Saving the Green, Searching for Inspiration 6 Comments
The Noble Act of the Dumpster Dive

Think about it, just for a moment. Dumpster diving probably doesn’t conjure up pretty images for most of us. Not for me, either.

The other morning, though, I was needing a little self-TLC, feeling tired and a bit lost, so of course I found myself on youtube, looking up videos of Nigerian Dwarf Goats. What else, right? I watched a few and then I came across a video of a single mom, raising her kids on a farm and supplementing their lifestyle with dumpster diving. Since dumpsters don’t sound like pleasant places to dive, I opted instead for another video of bouncing (literally) baby goats. But that mom and her children and their dumpster trips were still there, along the side of the screen, waiting patiently with all their viewing potential.

jlwaswilson pixabay

Image via pixabay/jlwaswilson

Hmm, baby goats? Dumpsters? Baby goats? Dumpsters?

Okay, I’ll bite, I thought. So, I watched, ready to cover my eyes if the woman started sifting among messy, smelly dumpsters. Instead, what I found was a sweet young mom, raising her family on a farm in the midwest, spending her day feeding chickens and ducks with the help of her kids, going over homeschool lessons, pushing them on swings and sharing quiet laughter. It all looked pretty peaceful, to be honest. Sure, there were piles of clothing on her furniture and clutter in the corners of her rooms. She’s a single parent of four. I’m a co-parent of three and there are days when I wonder what the Health Department would have to say about our house. Still, she had yet to take her viewers on a dumpster tour, so I wasn’t sold on anything.

I didn’t have to wait for long. The woman broached the topic by mentioning she’d recently picked up some coffee from a dumpster, saying the package had been resting on the top–sealed, uncontaminated. Still, my stomach waited, threatening to turn. I don’t drink coffee (caffeine doesn’t like me), so this remained safely-distant territory.

Glen Carrie

Image via pixabay/Glen Carrie

No coffee for me. Definitely no dumpster coffee for me.

Cue the next scene: the woman parked beside a dumpster outside of a craft store, pulled out one of those long, reachy, grabby things (sorry–dysnomia moment), and got to work. Instead of extracting an item that looked like it was ready to crawl from a lagoon, she pulled out package after package of…craft supplies, each one perfectly sealed and clean as could be. On another stop, she found brand-new toys and, later, games, and books. All these items–the ones she plucked from the dumpsters–were fine. Better than fine. If someone had put them back on the racks inside the store, I suppose anyone would have bought them. Instead, for whatever reason, these items had been tossed into a dumpster and were destined for a landfill.

I started thinking: if I were in this woman’s shoes (she also found a pair of unused shoes in her size, by the way), would I do this? Well, maybe I’d cross state lines first, but…. Really, though, who am I to judge her? Pride is stupid. It’s useless. So, what is this woman doing? She’s going around pride. She’s doing the best she can for her family, simple as that.

I am not a single parent of four, but I do know something about having to struggle with finances. So many of us do, don’t we? Times are tough and people’s salaries aren’t necessarily keeping up with the demands. My husband is talented at what he does, but his paycheck doesn’t always reflect this as much as we might wish. I, on the other hand, have gone from being a stay-at-home mom for a decade and a half, to working 30 hours a week and writing on the side, to dealing with health issues that have me home again and looking for a work-from-home situation, which hasn’t shown itself on the map yet. So, yes, we are financially stressed and, no, I don’t usually treat my kids to many extras, unless it’s to celebrate a birthday or a holiday or an end-of-year reward for good grades. That said, my kids are fine. They’re happy and healthy and I couldn’t be more grateful. They understand there are limits to the things we can afford, but not to love.Ben Kerckx

Image via pixabay/Ben Kerckx

Love? Priceless

I have to confess, since watching a couple of these videos, I haven’t dived into any dumpsters. Yet, this woman still has me thinking. There are ways to provide for ourselves and our families outside of what might be considered the norm. Should there be shame in that? I’ve been trying to shift my family’s lifestyle into a homesteading one–keeping chickens, growing our own herbs and vegetables, making soaps and other personal care items. I began it to help us live a healthier lifestyle, but I love the self-sufficiency of it just as much. Dumpster diving doesn’t completely jibe with my view, since I’m trying to streamline our lifestyle, minimalizing things we have around the house and don’t need, but then again, what if a dumpster somewhere contains a nice, clean, unbroken version of something we DO need? If you never seek, how can you find? Reduce,reuse, recycle, dive? Maybe that ought to be the new-and-improved way to provide for your family, while *bonus* helping to protect the environment?

Brooklyn Morgan

Image via pixabay/Brooklyn Morgan

Reduce, reuse, recycle, DIVE?

All I can say, is after watching that mom doing the best she could to make her family’s life better, working within what was available to her, I didn’t feel the least bit judgy. I felt ashamed, in fact, of the way I’d reacted when I first saw the headline to her video. Eww, dumpsters had changed to something else. This woman had shared a glimpse of her life and, afterward, I wanted to shake her gloved hand, maybe even peek with her into the next dumpster she visited.

So, I did something–took a very, very small step. I clicked “Subscribe.” Like I said, it’s not much. Maybe, though, it’s a move toward something bigger, a change in perspective. I just can’t help thinking there might be some important lessons to be learned from a woman who is noble enough do dive into dumpsters for the sake of her loved ones.


H. A. O'Connor

Hello, Before I Fade Again

Ethereal, Searching for Inspiration 4 Comments
Hello, Before I Fade Again

Okay, maybe that title is a tad bit dramatic, but Hyperbole is my middle name, so…. Besides, it’s not that far from how I feel right now.

Actually, at the moment, I’m feeling a little like Wonder Woman. No invisible jet or unbreakable bracelets, but I’ve been enjoying more energy, fewer aches and pains, and a clearer, brighter head than I’ve had in … a while. Longer than I care to recall.

Erika Wittlieb

Image via pixabay/Erika Wittlieb

Wish I could remember where I parked my jet…

I have Fibromyalgia, although I haven’t yet become comfortable saying so. (I’m practicing, though–so thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak. I really, truly appreciate it.) Two doctors have diagnosed me with this condition based on my symptoms, after multiple specialist visits and tests have helped rule out other possibilities–Chronic Lyme Disease, Thyroid Disease, various types of arthritis, Lupus, etc., etc. There is no definitive test for Fibro as of yet and it has only recently been recognized as “real” by the medical community (and the all-powerful insurance companies).

Fibromyalgia is often described as an increased sensitivity to pain–also known as a lowered pain threshold–but I have to be honest, I sort of detest this description. Accurate thought it may be, as a Fibromyalgia sufferer,  it makes me feel like I could be fine if I’d only toughen up a little–like other people feel the same pain I do and they just deal with it instead of letting it get them down.

Yet, I’ve known pain. I’ve given birth, for instance. In fact, I opted to deliver two of my children naturally, in part due to a morbid sort of curiosity: I wanted to see if I could do it. (For the third, I decided to see how the other half lives. Only kidding; there’s often pain involved with epidurals, too.) My point is not that I’m tougher than the average person, but that I’m not weaker, either. I’m not a wimp when it comes to pain; there’s something wrong with my body and it hurts. A lot. Almost every day.


Image via pixabay/tpsdave

Eh, suck it up

Please understand, I’m not oblivious to the fact that there are far worse things from which to suffer. Fibromyalgia may be a pain in the … lots of things, but it’s not overly dangerous. It is chronic and has the potential to last a lifetime, but it apparently doesn’t damage the areas in which it causes all this pain.

Anyway, we were talking about my sudden upswing in health, weren’t we? So, why the improvement? Shortest answer: weeding. Longer answer: after decades of gardening and forest-exploring, I finally caught poison something (sumac, possibly?) and had to be put on steroids to recover. Apparently, steroids can also help alleviate some of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. So, next time I’m feeling especially Fibro-ish, I’ll go out and roll in some weeds. No, not really. Well, maybe … uh, no, probably shouldn’t.

A Fox

Image via Unsplash/A Fox

Weeds, glorious weeds!

So, these steroids I’ve been prescribed? Wow. If I felt like this every day, it might be a worthy trade off, even if I ended up looking like 1980’s-era Arnold Schwarzenegger. My brain works, my body works, my energy works. I feel the way I used to feel when I was well and, yes, that could become addictive. But of course I can’t stay on steroids. I have exactly two days of medication left (out of nine) and then? Hmmm.

To be honest, knowing this relief is temporary makes me feel like I’m about to disappear. It makes me feel like calling, emailing, and visiting everyone I can, before time runs out. I know what kind of person I am, under the cloak of Fibromyalgia–at my worst, I can barely summon the energy to talk and, at my best, I still seem a little Eeyore-ish, a little sluggish, a little lost and maybe more than a little bleh. I know this, but I don’t know what I can do about it. Steroids are only a temporary help and and the long-term medications my doctors have prescribed tend to be so strong they’re zombifying, or so mild that they only blunt the edges of my symptoms. So, for now, I’ll enjoy the relief while it lasts. I’ll write and talk and clean–do whatever I can, while I can.


Image via pixabay/Unsplash

Selfie: The Face of Fibro

Regardless of how soon it ends, this brief interlude from Fibromyalgia has taught me a valuable lesson: I have been sick. My body does hurt every day–my joints, my head, my muscles–and, no, that’s not the norm for the average, healthy person. My fatigue is so overwhelming at times, I feel like I could slip into a coma at the drop of a hat. I try to plan activities–writing and chores, even driving and socializing–around this flu-like exhaustion, but it’s difficult, because Fibromyalgia is unpredictable by nature. My brain, too, drifts with a thick fog (known as “Fibro Fog”) almost constantly. It takes an effort to locate thoughts and pull them forward into the light. Then, it takes an additional effort to keep them there. And the forgetfulness…. Um, what was I saying? Oh, I know: symptoms. There are plenty of others, some I won’t go into, but as a few examples, I get regular doses of hives, including from exposure to the cold, I suffer from restless legs syndrome and insomnia, and then there are the mental aspects that spill over into the physical–such as anxiety and depression.

Yes, this Fibro reprieve has been a blessing. It has shown me, clearer than I’ve seen before, how real Fibro is and how much of my life it impacts. I’ve confirmed that Fibromyalgia doesn’t live in my imagination. It may not yet be testable and many people–even medical people–may still not recognize that it exists, but my body knows it is real and now the rest of me believes, too.

So many people–including several among my friends and family–suffer with invisible illnesses or other conditions, such as chronic pain. If you do, have you learned to cope better over time? Does it help if there’s a definitive test for your illness, or shouldn’t this matter? My hat is off to all of you. I know how hard it can be to keep a smile on your face, when you’re struggling on the inside.

Alex Blăjan

Image via Unsplash/Alex Blăjan

For all those who live with illness–invisible or otherwise

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