It’s been a while…

The self-doubt hole

I’ve been distracted. I’ve been busy. Actually, that’s kind of a fib, or a half truth, or slightly inaccurate and misleading. The real reason it has been a while is I fell into the hole and the key to getting out was convincing myself there was even a purpose to having a blog and putting my thoughts out there for total strangers whom I’m convinced don’t even bother to come and see what I’ve written, much less read what I’ve written. And why should they? Of the gazillions of blogs out there, why in the world would anyone want to read what I have to say. Sure my family might visit my blog out of curiosity. But aside from them, who really cares? What’s my purpose anyway? It just began to feel rather presumptuous of me to expect that thousands of people would even give a shiitake.

That ever present hole of self-doubt which I painstakingly hid under the runner next to my bed, although hidden continued to grow till one evening I simply fell deep within it. I couldn’t for the life of me get out. The rug had fooled me into thinking the hole was contained, out of sight and too small to cause harm. But it had grown there beneath the fibers, laced and intertwined into colorful patterns of harmless and effervescent daisies, so that as I stepped on the edges green and earth-toned, I slid down, runner and all, into an abyss, deep and debilitating. Once there, my every effort to climb upward met resistance, slender, ivory talons clawed and cajoled  sucking me deeper.

Self-doubt is a powerful foe, perhaps the worst foe ever. It feeds itself so that each time I revisit it, I find it more powerful than the time before. It is the kind of foe that can only be conquered head on; and even then, perhaps only confined. Even in the wildly successful, it has a home in a forgotten space, a corner down deep where it lurks and festers, peeking and poking. The only recourse is to confront it and perhaps accept its companionship. It’s there. It will always be there. But I needn’t fall in.

Actually, that is all on the creative front. In my real world, I have been busy, providing ample excuse to forgo using my in between moments to write. I moved into a new home…a first home, actually. I’ll give more detail in another post. I’ve been writing curriculum for high school learning modules, time consuming stuff. Also, my mother has slipped further into her mind and we were forced to start hospice for her, which I will address in still another post. Do you care? You, nebulous imaginary reader? We shall see if you do.

Change the Rubric

My entire life I’ve felt unsettled. Is there something wrong with me or is that how everyone feels? It didn’t help that we moved seven times before fifth grade. Each move tinged with the excitement and possibilities of new friends, new teachers, new adventures. But the excitement soon wore off, fluffy frosting on top quickly devoured, leaving ordinary cake behind. At home, whichever home we resided in, my father kept long hours, hiding away at work or in a bottle. My mother slipped off to her ‘office,’ pencil and paper pad in hand, etching stories, graphite on white and dreaming of author fame. One by one my elder sisters bolted. The eldest scarped to illegitimate motherhood, exchanging school and future for hazy ganja plumes. The next with high school diploma in hand went off to college like a good girl; but an unexpected pregnancy sealed her departure. She did eventually snag a husband, forming an instant family with his two children. A glimmer of hope there, but her tireless efforts could not extirpate his escapades, ‘research’ into his field of study, perhaps, being a Psychologist with specialty in sexual addiction.

The next two girls in line blended into hippie crowds, free to be you and me, peace baby peace, galavanting across the American continent by thumb. That left two of us to fend. Then, the last before me slipped into the cycle. Her reputation preceded me. In my transition to high school, I worked as hard at my studies as I did at eradicating the image she left behind. At every turn unsettled, always scraping to deal with baggage I didn’t earn, but somehow inherited. I looked hopefully to adulthood assuming then I would finally be in control.

But, I had been mislead. I had allowed myself to be mislead. As a child, in black and white, I watched old episodes of Father Knows Best, Jim reclining in a chair, newspaper in hand and Margaret standing by his side. How can that be? Was that perfection? My experience couldn’t measure up. Then, there was Leave It to Beaver. Ward and June managed their family with ease, a team, cool, respectful…and so happy.  I watched. I laughed. And deep down, I calculated, measuring my lack. Those relationships appealed to me. They were simple and logical. The characters fit together easily, puzzle pieces snug in their places, confident in their belonging. A nice formulaic approach to life, school, job, marriage, home, kids, and eventually retirement. Bewitched, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie further confirmed my musings. The expectations I developed dazzled me. By the time I grasped that these were constructed families, the damage had already been done.

No wonder I always felt unsettled. I lived my life comparing it constantly to what I thought it should be. In some ways, I suppose that is not such a bad thing. But the models I had placed in mind were not real. They were fabricated relationships. Someone wrote the plot, another filled the script, and actors played the roles. It’s good to strive, to aspire to something better. But only so long as you can still maintain gratitude for what you have. Rather for me, my lack stood an open, slimy pit before me. A space of deep dejection in which to wallow. A pit of my own creation, where my expectations romanced reality, but found they were incompatible. I needed to change the rubric by which I assessed my life and learn to let go, or…sink.

Letting go meant understanding that there is no control. As social beings, we can affect by tireless effort, but, even then, we are not entirely in control. So long as we live socially, we need to interact, delegate, and rely on family, friends, and community. But, we can’t control any one of them.

I can only control me.

I can prepare.

I can choose.

I can be satisfied with my life. Expectations are just expectations. They are not reality.

My Daughter

As I place the dishes in their space, and the cups in their space, I think of her. I sort the forks, knives, and two sizes of spoons. I have a system for how I put them away. Designed for efficiency. Why do I need to be efficient about this? Why do I try to be efficient about anything I do? But I order steps in my mind and whiz through them in such a logical fashion, like driving to a place you drive everyday and, at one point, lost in thought, you realize that you’ve arrived and honestly, you don’t remember how you got there. That’s how I put the dishes away.

I send a kiss and a prayer to her. She always replies quickly, but in a few syllables, then finished. Simply, “I love you.” Her response has closed the door. If I initiate with a further question, I imagine her annoyance sizzling through the inactive screen, a groan and an ‘ugh.’ So I conjure what she may or may not be doing. I look at the clock, 8:30 am, and consider what I know of her schedule. I think, ‘She’s at work…behind a desk, her face staring into a computer screen, designing pages for strangers, attending to their wishes.’  Sometimes, I send a kiss, a prayer, and a ‘how are you’ in one swoop hoping to initiate conversation. But her reply, “I love u …fine,” leaves no room for further chat. I close my heart and turn to other things, back to chores, to cleaning dishes, setting the meds, and making cream of wheat for my mother.

She doesn’t miss me like I miss her. I know this because I did pretty much the same. Busy in school and work, I only felt my own immediate world, not my family’s anymore. Although I didn’t have a message system nor a communication device snug in my pocket, I did have a phone. At that time, our conversations  connected by squiggly wires hooked to sockets in the wall, rooted us to one space. Still I couldn’t see beyond the radius of me, myself, and I any more than she does now.  Understanding that doesn’t make it any less painful.

My heart is empty where she resided. I walk through my days and my routines feeling a shadow of an ache, just there, behind today’s chores–a soreness that happiness can’t relieve. In that space, all my hopes of our future together twirl and bow in a frenzied dance of dreams, thousands of scenarios that never came to be…possibilities.

Masi’s Little Girl

Story Background


In the Urdu language, the word “Masi” means “maid.” In Pakistan and India, an entire workforce of Masis come from outer village areas to the larger cities to earn money. Masis are so numerous and inexpensive, that even lower middle class families can afford their services on a daily basis.

For the most part, Masis are uneducated women who have lost their husbands, whose husbands are unemployed, or whose supplemental income is necessary to meet the family’s needs. They carry a load of houses that they visit daily. They perform a number of duties such as sweeping, wiping (mopping), dusting, washing clothes or even sometimes cooking, etc. They sweep using a jharoo, a long brush with a handle. To use it efficiently, Masis squat and sweep with it horizontally across the floor. They wet wipe the floors with a large rag. They often wash clothes by hand.

Most Masis do not have a formal education, but they are capable businesswomen, nonetheless. Although public school is free, school books, supplies, uniforms, and tuition fees can be costly. Consequently, if a Masi has sons, she may try to apprentice them for specific skills of butchery, carpentry, construction labor, baking, or tailoring, etc. If she has daughters, she will likely train them to be Masis, too. When it comes time to marry, being a skilled Masi with an established clientele is a highly valued asset.

Interestingly, most people do not know their Masis’s name. Or, if they are aware of their Masi’s name, they still call her “Masi.” And so, an entire workforce of human beings exists whose personal identity is synonymous with their trade. Of equal notice is that as disinclined as people are to know their Masis’ by name, the Masis also show little interest in revealing their names.

Masi’s Little Girl

She had short black hair and a bright smile. Her clothes were worn and faded. She took her slippers off at the gate and walked about bare-footed.

“Who is she?” I asked my mom.

“That is Masi’s little girl. Why don’t you play with her in the garden?”

“Does she know English?” I asked.

“No, honey,” my mother replied. “She speaks Punjabi like her mom.”


Masi’s little girl ran around in the grass. She picked a rose from our rosebush and smelled it. I took off my slippers and ran over to her.

She smiled.

I smiled.

She giggled.

I giggled.

She gave me the rose. I still have it. I pressed it in my scrapbook.

Each day, Masi brought her daughter so we could play. We followed Masi around and watched her work.

Masi swept the floors with a jharoo. We swept, too.

Masi wiped the floors with a wet cloth and water. We wiped, too.

Masi squatted at the outside faucet and washed our clothes by hand. We kicked about in the soapy water as it flowed from the faucet to a flowerbed.

When she hung the clothes to dry, we stood under them. The drips were raindrops. Cool kisses of relief from the suffocating heat.

One afternoon I asked my mom, “Can we go to Masi’s house?”

“Masi doesn’t have a house, sweetheart. She lives in a hut.” My mom answered.

“But a hut is a house.” I said.

“I suppose you’re right,” said my mom hugging me. “But Masi’s hut is different. She has a home far in the center of Punjab, but she comes here to the city to earn money. While she’s here, she finds an empty space and with branches and clothes makes a temporary home to live in.”

“Oh…I see,” I said; but I didn’t.

“Can we go there?” I asked.

“Maybe…someday…we’ll see…,” my mom mumbled. I knew what that meant. When she mumbled that usually meant, ‘not likely.’

One day I climbed up on the bed and cuddled up to my grandma. Her breathe smelled of sweet anise and betel nut. “Dadi Jan, does Masi’s little girl go to school?”

“I don’t think so.” She answered.

“Why not?” I asked.

Dadi Jan sighed, “Because Masis usually raise their girls to be Masis, too.”

“What is her real name?” I asked.

“Whose real name?”

“Masi’s real name,” I said.

“I don’t know.”

“What is her little girl’s real name?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I never thought to ask her.”

The day we were leaving, I saw Masi’s little girl for the last time. I showed her my suitcase. She liked it. We ran around the garden. This time I picked a rose for her. I clipped it to her hair.

Before she left, she smiled and said, “Bushra.” I did not understand. She pointed to herself and said, “Bushra.”

“Oh,” I said, “Your name is Bushra.”

I pointed to myself and said, “Sara.”

Bushra slipped dusty feet into her slippers and left with her mom.

When I hugged Dadi Jan goodbye, I said, “Dadi Jan, Masi’s little girl’s name is Bushra.”

The next time we went to Pakistan, that Masi and Bushra were gone. They had gone back to Punjab. Another Masi replaced her. But I have never forgotten Bushra. I wrote her name next to the rose I pressed in my scrapbook.


The More I Read, the More I Defined Myself

Until sixth grade, I lived in an unaware haze. When I try to remember me then, all I see is fuzzy and undefined. It was that first year at Rockford Elementary School, that my mind woke up, primarily thanks to an incredibly understanding and inspiring teacher, Mr. Bakke, and a wonderful, fellow student, Linda Nistler.

Linda was the smartest girl in our class. I envied her blonde hair and pretty blue eyes. One day she led me through the wall dividers that separated our three sixth grade classes to an enormous floor to ceiling bookshelf.

“Do you like to read?” She asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I’ve never thought about it.”

“How can you never think about reading?” She asked. “Reading is so much fun.”

Linda pointed to a shelf, gliding her fingertips across the book spines as though each and every one indeed belonged to her, “This is the Hardy Boys series, if you like mystery.”

She pointed to a row of books on the shelf beneath that, “This is the Babysitter’s Club.” She stuck the tip of her finger onto the top binding and tilted book number seven towards herself. “I’m on book number seven. Why don’t you start at number one? If you read fast, you can catch up with me and we’ll read them together.”

Linda pulled book one from the beginning of the row and placed it in my hands.

“But, I warn you. I read pretty fast, so…”

The implication was clear. Linda did not think I would ever catch up to her. Neither did I, frankly.

“There must be hundreds of books on this shelf,” I said gazing in awe over each row from the bottom to the top.

“Two hundred and fifty-four, to be exact,” Linda confirmed.

As we headed back through the room dividers to our classroom, I asked, “how many have you read?”

Linda’s hair flipped forward over her face as she plopped down onto the brown and black, plaid, reading corner sofa. The same slender finger that had claimed dominance over the Hardy Boys Series, delicately slid silky, blond strands behind her ear. A silver cross dangled from her lobe.

“I’ve read forty-six, actually.” She tapped the empty cushion next to her, “Come on, join me. You’ll see how much fun reading can be.”

That’s all it took. From that moment forward, reading is all I ever did. Reading was all I ever thought about. I did catch up with Linda. We voraciously completed the entire book shelf. The more I read, the more I defined myself.  The haze cleared, revealing me.

Focused on My Boat

Trapped in the conundrum of daily tasks and chores, its so easy to lose touch with the reality of our world. The burden of guilt hovers over me, a menacing shadow, as I struggle through my life, my face turned aside, using the preoccupation of meeting my needs as an excuse to ignore the vast suffering that exists out there…in the world. Handy phrases come to mind that support my practiced indifference, such as “Put yourself at the top of your to-do list and everything else will fall into place.” “If you can’t fix yourself, you won’t be able to fix anyone else.” “Fix the hole in the boat, before you take on extra loads.” Of course, there’s not much I can offer if I myself am messed up. The least I can do is be aware, be informed, and perhaps, spread the word.

I lived for eight consecutive years in North Karachi, Pakistan. Until then, I had never truly seen or experienced poverty. Sure, I had struggled to put myself through college (Thank you, Pell Grant). In pursuit of my degree, I worked as a phone solicitor for the University Alumni Association and sold my blood plasma twice a month to afford room rent and groceries. I thought I was poor. But to the poor of Pakistan, I was upper middle class. I had the opportunity to attend college and  access to some level of government assistance. I completed my BA with honors, no less. That liberal arts education has served me well, but it has never been easy. It’s constant toil, buoyed by luck and skill, that allows me to skim precariously over the depths of debt. I’ve managed to float my boat so far, but only so long as I remain focused on my boat.

My in-laws were probably middle class, at least until my father-in-law unexpectedly passed away, bequeathing all financial responsibility to my husband, the oldest son. In Pakistan, even the middle class or lower middle class can afford a Masi (a house maid). Coming from America where maids are only for the most wealthy, I at first felt confused and uncomfortable about the Masi culture. I wondered how my in-laws could afford it. I wondered how we would be able to maintain the Masi after my father-in-law’s departure. That’s when I realized how very little these hard working women earned.

Most Masis come from cities further north. They come south to Karachi to earn money to send back to their villages. In Karachi, they set up lodging on empty lots, building makeshift homes of fabric draped over wooden, pole frames. Their husbands take labor jobs, where they can, and their children, often barefoot and threadbare, do not have the privilege of going to school. The children’s contributions to the household income are too important. The girls, young Masis in training, help their mothers clean homes. The boys walk the streets with burlap sacks over their shoulders collecting plastic and cardboard to sell, or they are placed on street corners to take handouts from passing cars. Countless times in my daily commute, I’d pass them, young boys dirty and disheveled on the street corners the same age as my son sitting in uniform beside me, anxious for the day of school ahead. It disturbed me. I felt powerless. I would hand them my spare change in hopes that God would absolve me of guilt, small contributions that, rather than change the situation, allowed it to perpetuate.

The Masi comes into your home for a few hours everyday. She sweeps the floor with a horizontal broom called a Jharoo. Squatting, the Masi methodically shuffles through the home sweeping the dust and daily debris ahead of her. Knowing that the Masi will come every morning, members of the household don’t bother to place wrappers or food crumbs in dustbins, rather they toss them on the floor carelessly. They develop what I have coined as, a Masi Mentality, “Throw it anywhere, someone else will pick it up.” After applying the Jharoo throughout the home, Masi, still squatting, wipes the floor with a used piece of fabric. She dips the fabric in a bucket of water mixed with cleaning fluid, wrings it out, and wipes each patch of the floor meticulously. How many times I wished that I had had the mop and bucket system commonly used by janitors in US. It would have relieved the Masi of this backbreaking labor.

Masi washes all the dishes and pots and pans and every other day she washes clothes, often by hand. Some Masis also cook the rice and the bread that we would use for lunch and dinner. After Masi leaves the house, her daily grind has not come to an end, she would move on to her next paying household to perform the same duties again. Our Masi, with her young girls in tow, cleaned four to five houses in our neighborhood before returning home to clean her own. Now, I sit here in air conditioning, typing on my laptop, wondering how I will pay my mortgage this month or if my latest check will arrive in time to buy groceries. I have worries, enough to bring me to tears. It is at this point that I remember Masi and her family and her daily struggles, that will likely accompany her to the grave, and I thank God for my blessings. I ask Him for strength. And I pause to whisper a prayer for Masi.

Who Would Choose to be Blind?

No Worries

toddler in sunglasses looking at reflection in mirror
No worries -even my reflection looks like a new friend

When I was safest, I didn’t know that I was safe. When I was happiest, I didn’t know that I was happy. I don’t mean safe as in protected from physical danger. I refer to the time before I had to feel responsible for my every action. By safe, I mean I didn’t have any financial worries, no obligations, each day involved a series of interactions defined as happy, sad, good, bad…in retrospect, everything then seemed simple. Although, at the time I didn’t see it that way. Safe meant freedom from awareness of accountability. The promise of ‘tomorrow’ loomed large, mystical, and alluring. Knowing that the sun would rise in the morning was enough to help me bear today. The world revealed itself a farce, but then it didn’t matter. Now, it does.

husband wife child hold hands with the world behind ideal family
The ‘Father Knows Best’ Standard

I see a man. He struggles to earn, to pay the bills, to bring home the food, to feed the mouths that eat and complain in the same breath. I see a woman. She made herself prisoner to the expectations of others, panders her soul to justify her place in this space. I see children. They starve for love and search the ‘Why?,’ while media herds them to conform. It’s a pressured cycle, spinning just fast enough to hold them in orbit, but not fast enough to allow them to break free.  There was a time I yearned for the ‘Father Knows Best’ standard, assessing my own experience as abnormal. I wanted routine schedules, routine goals, shared meals, laughter, love…hindsight reveals precisely how abnormal that expectation was. I’ve learned that I cannot control my surroundings or the people around me. The most I can control is myself, and even that challenges me.

Do you know what’s missing?

I worry for those who wallow there. They have not yet grasped who they are or where they are going. The cycle traps them. Inside they yearn for something they cannot define. They yearn till it aches and take round trip excursions in drug-influenced bliss, imagining that they have escaped, only to return further lost and deeper in spiritual debt. They don’t understand what’s missing. After all, modern scientists claim that they can only believe in that which they see, touch, and measure. They cannot see the pain. A doctor will ask them to rate it on a scale of one to ten. But who’s to prove that his five equals her five. They cannot see the love. Is what I feel the same as what you feel at any given time? How could I ever know? Pain, love, and hate are just a few abstract emotions that we claim to experience but we cannot prove. Does that mean that they do not exist? And what of hope? Is it real, if I cannot catch it between my fingers nor taste it on my tongue?

young child's hand grasped by parents' hands
Can’t quantify love!

Some things can be measured and some things can only be experienced. Can you quantify love, happiness, satisfaction or faith? To quantify it, is subjective. I know love is, because I feel it in my mother’s hug and my child’s trusting smile. I know love is real because I can feel its absence…acutely. I know hate is, because I glimpse it in the leer of the hater and respond in kind. It amazes me that we as intellectual beings are so ready to accept that love, hate, or pain exists because we see the evidence of its existence; but we are unwilling to admit the existence of an Ultimate Creator in spite of all evidence.

That very scientific reasoning that denies an Ultimate Creator, also denies the spirit, the self, the soul…And so, they wallow, unaware that they ache for that which they refuse to see. What they search for has been inside them all along. We are taught to count, to measure, to memorize, but we were never taught to believe. Who would choose to be blind if they could see?

The Cavalry Isn’t Coming

As I mentioned before, I’ve been shopping for a home. I’ve learned a lot over the last few months about interest rates, mortgages, house insurance, HOA fees, double-pane windows, etc. I had no choice. It just wasn’t sufficient anymore to simply nod. I had to understand what was being said to me and grasp exactly how deep of a hole I was digging for myself. I had to actually make these super hard and expensive decisions and justify them to myself. I still don’t know if I’ve made the right ones. I could be in way, way over my head.

I really believed the cavalry would come in and save me. By cavalry, I mean an enormous sum of sudden, unexpected money from book sales. Such a fool. In over a year, I’ve sold a grand total of eight books. Any other books that have entered the book-sphere, I’ve had to offer for free. I have to beg for reviews. I’m so ready to interact with my readers….problem is, they literally do not exist. Still, I dream. I imagine opening my monthly bank statement and surprise, there is an enormous deposit from book sales. All my troubles are solved. I can use this money to pay off the principle on my home. I won’t have to worry about large monthly mortgage payments anymore. I could relax just a bit from the daily tension of making ends meet. It’s not as though I am asking for a handout. I’ve offered a well-written book in exchange for a modest sum.

Love You Mom

Well…the cavalry isn’t coming, but I have made an offer on a home. It nearly consumes my nest egg but it is worth it. It’s a small three bedroom home, two story. My mother will have the master bedroom downstairs. I want her to feel safe and cherished. The window in her new room looks out onto the back yard. In our apartment, she has developed the habit of feeding the pigeons on our patio. I think every pigeon in the city comes to our back porch. Now she can feed them in our backyard and watch them easily from her window. She has this fanatic, little Chihuahua, Prancer. Prancer is literally mean to everyone. But, she loves my mother and I am just her poop and pee servant. Now I won’t have to walk her several times a day, we’ll simply open the back patio doors and Prancer will run around freely without a leash.

My son is fifteen years old and he will finally have his very own room.  There are two bedrooms upstairs, one for him and one for me. We haven’t even gone through inspections yet, but he is already collecting items to decorate his room. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I am so very excited. I am thankful that I will be able to give my son this experience. I wasn’t able to give it to my daughter. We moved around so much. She got tired of waiting for her own room and finally moved out. And on the other hand, I am terrified. What if I can’t make the payments? I have to be inhome to care for my mom and so my work is freelance and subcontracting. It is irregular and unpredictable. Can I make it?

But here in our apartment the rent keeps going up. Each year it goes up nearly a hundred dollars. Paying a mortgage will actually be less than we pay to rent. But there are other fees. What if the washing machine stops working or the air conditioner? What if the electricity is too high? And now that I have sunk my nest egg into the house, I won’t have it to help me when the unforeseen occurs. Hence, terror nips at the edges of my happiness. Now, I don’t have the liberty to feel tired. I will have to keep moving whether I’m in the mood or not…like the hamster in the wheel…round and round. Happy yes…but not going anywhere.

The Arrogance of Disbelief

Order vs. Random

A moth rests on orange red blooms
In nature there’s order and purpose

I don’t believe in random. I think the word ‘random’ only exists as an antonym to ‘order.’ Tightly bound, limited by time and space, our interactions in this existence are completely causal, cause and effect. Thoughts or actions that appear random or that we label as random can actually be mapped definitively to specific causes. When I examine nature, I find only order and have yet to find a verifiable example of random. We label things as random when we don’t understand them or the motivations that led to them. When you step back and view all data, a clear, ordered relationship reveals itself. What you assumed was random, actually is explainable and the result of specific ordered, reasonable interactions.

Order is the Foundation of Human Physiology

All modern scientific endeavors, psychology, biology, earth sciences, or mathematical fields of study, depend upon and build from an irrefutable, lasting, prevailing order. Who made the physical laws? We have observed them, defined them, and used them; but who put the laws in place? Laws or rules imply order. Humans, animals, and plants obey specific stages of growth. In the womb or after birth, we have mapped and studied the development of each form of life. Based on these observed stages, we can project and predict.

Three strands of DNA magnified
A DNA strand in double helix form demonstrates order

Just reference the amazing order at the base of our human physiology, Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Nearly everyone is aware of DNA. Thanks to modern TV crime shows and the news, we know it can make or break a case against a suspected murderer. We struggle to learn about DNA in high school Biology and if we go further in-depth into fields of medicine, we  memorize the intricate chemical interactions of DNA in college Biology and Anatomy courses. I’m sure everyone has an inkling of what DNA actually is; this incredible strand of genetic code carries detailed instructions used to map out the development of our bodily systems and organs, our physical growth, and the functioning and reproduction of all known living organisms on the planet. DNA “contains the entire set of information essential for the survival of an organism.”  (1)

Spiral Galaxy in space with a central star
NGCC 4414 Barred Spiral Galaxy Constellation

The basic structure of DNA includes a phosphate group, a five-carbon sugar and one of four nucleobases. The sequence of these four nucleobases (A, T, G, C) follow complementary base pairing rules, A aligns with T and C aligns with G, always. And the order by which these bases occur within the DNA sequence, literally “writes the code” for who you are. Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, contains the entire set of information essential for the survival of an organism. And there are more than 3 billion of these ordered bases in one strand of DNA. (2) Can you even fathom the order required? But, don’t stop at DNA, simply reflect over the multitude of systems that maintain life on this Earth. Beyond internal body systems, look at the water cycle, weather patterns, seasons and their impact on agriculture and food production. The order, the patterns are everywhere.

There are some scientists who insist that this incredible multiverse in which our tiny, inconsequential planet sits suspended, came to form ‘randomly.’ The arrogance of that supposition confounds me. The deeper I delve into science, the more convinced I am that order can never form randomly.

The Order Activity

Try this simple activity that visually drives home the impossibility of a random formation of order. Take ten pieces of paper and label them 1 through 10. Place them in a small bowl.

Someone numbers small white squares of paper near an empty small bowl
Number the paper 1 through 10.
Small bowl with numbered pieces of paper inside
Place the numbered papers in a small bowl.

Without looking reach in and attempt to withdraw the number 1. After each attempt, replace the number you withdrew into the bowl.

hand holding a 4 pulled out from the bowl
Hoping to pull out a 1, but pulled out a 4.
hand holding a 2 pulled out from the bowl
Hoping to pull out a 1, but pulled out a 2.

You could try this a number of times but the chances of getting a 1 in your first attempt is 1 out of 10. So, suppose you are lucky and you withdraw a 1, now what are the chances that you will, directly after the 1, withdraw a 2? The chances are 1 out of 90 attempts. Carry that pattern forward, what are the chances that you will withdraw from the bowl all 10 number cards in order 1-10? The chances are 1 out of 3,628,800 attempts and that is only if I place each successively selected number outside the bowl. Now imagine pulling out 1-10 in order without a mistake. In reality, I could perform this activity to infinity and likely never be able to pull out the cards in perfect numerical order.

How is it possible that this amazing, specifically ordered multiverse occurred randomly? I dare you to use your intellect!


My Father

As I move through my life, I realize how very much my father meant to me. There was a long period, when he was still here on this Earth with us, that I ignored his value. I spoke few words, wrote few letters, and called few times. I wasted so many opportunities to be near him. I will regret that loss forever and the regret grows as I age. I moved off to college, life, bills, marriage, and, basically, disconnected from him and his world. And now that I am at an age to appreciate and honor him, he is gone. I never really told him how valuable he was to me. I hope he knew.

I suppose I resented him at first. I blamed him for our family falling apart. I don’t remember all the details of my childhood, but I remember the feelings, the crying, the frustration, the fear when voices were raised in the house, echoing from the living room. He had high expectations. He wanted us to succeed. He wanted results.

“Stand straight.”

“Shoulders back!”

“I’ll give you $5 dollars for every ‘A’ on your report card.”

But hypocrisy was there. You know the typical, parental double standard, “Do as I say, but not as I do.” You see, my dad wasn’t perfect and for that he could not expect perfection of us. His weakness was alcohol. How could I respect what he said when he was drunk? How could I control myself, when he couldn’t control himself?  I begged him to stop drinking. He did not heed my request. How could his words or his requests mean anything to me? He was an alcoholic. In my young world, I could only see that he chose alcohol over me.

Now I understand. Alcohol and drugs twist the spirit, dampen it, disconnect it from the conscious mind. That’s how users feel relief, they separate themselves from awareness of self. He didn’t love me any less, actually the problem was that he loved himself less. So, I didn’t really know my dad till he was sober and by then most of my siblings had moved on in their lives. I was the youngest. I was ten years old when my dad went through treatment. No, I don’t remember all the moments, they blur together. But I do remember, in spite of everything, his love.

Some of my best qualities actually lead back to him. I am hard working, an over achiever, always struggling to be my best or to better my best. I admire how he pulled himself up from those depths. I learned from his warm and open heart to be warm and open to all. I look at his photo and wish I could touch his hair or lay my head upon his shoulder. Actually, he was so tall that my head fit just beneath the hollow of his rib cage and he would press me there so tightly that I could not breath. But I didn’t want the hug to stop. I preferred to be momentarily breathless to still feel his strong arms around me. A father’s embrace whispers, “you are dear to me, you are so special, you are my heart…”

Now I see my own mistakes and pray that my children take the best of what I have offered and forgive me for my shortcomings. No one is perfect, but that shouldn’t stop us from striving to be. I wish I could have told my father that and thanked him for all the good of me that I see came from him.