Money Signifies Worth; How much we Earn Defines our Value

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“Celebration” 20 x 16 Acrylic on Gesso Board

I wanted to be a writer from the time I was in third grade. My first short story was written on a script tablet I used to learn cursive. By the time I reached high school, I won an award and was featured in our school’s “Whispering Pines” literary magazine. I loved the written word and the power it held over my heart.

It was only natural that I continued to write even after I got married and began raising my six children. Hidden moments were stolen during nap times, and ideas generated while ironing, serving as a chauffeur, cleaning and even bathing. There wasn‘t a time that I wasn’t imagining, phrasing, or constructing in my head.

When I finally started writing things down and actually creating, I had already started selling a few of my wares. I had read so many stories to my children as they grew up that I figured I could write a few of my own. Finally I was receiving validation for my hours of work. Until that time, my efforts were considered a waste of time by my family and friends who were ultra conservative and devoted to saving themselves by their own efforts and working in their church and community.

There is something to be said for volunteering and doing things for free. I was able to hone my skills by crafting stories, plays and scripts for local church and community groups until I developed my talents enough to write for profit.

Great things can come from the giving of your time and talents for a good cause. What can happen?

  • Recognition; people become familiar with your face, your name, and your reputation for excellency and dependability.
  • Opportunity; if someone is looking for a writer or an artist, they may think of you through past experiences together.
  • Connections; exchanging of personal information, business cards, and shared work sticks in people’s minds. They will refer you to someone else when a job is needed.
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“Bella Bellissimo” 16 x 20 Acrylic on canvas

I met a photographer at my church that saw my creativity firsthand at one of my events. He asked me to meet with him and that opportunity led to my writing of many, many scripts that were used in children’s education. Our divorce series (four films) won the New York Film Festival for “Best Series” that year. The photographer I worked with also introduced me to “The Learning Exchange” where I wrote some fun economic scripts for children on the history of barter and exchange.

Through another connection (that started when I was doing things for free), I was able to move into adult training and education scripts for a large insurance company; writing on subjects like “Structured Settlements” and “Claims Training.” By the time I finished these projects, I was getting referrals from other entities: major airline companies, and many school districts that were promoting education and safety.

By this time I had taken up drawing, illustrating and painting. My goal was to illustrate some of my own work. Getting paid had turned my so-called “waste of time activities” into making a real contribution to the family budget and becoming totally independent for my own sustenance.

It’s too bad that we allow our own self doubts, the  criticism of others or money to define us: “You’re not good enough, experienced enough, or talented enough to get paid for your efforts.” In the beginning, most of us must work for free. But don’t give up! Your generous heart will eventually be rewarded.

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“Peaches ‘n Cream” 12 x 16 Acrylic on Gesso Board

Giving Thanks will Change your Life

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(The “Golden Rain Trees” are in bloom!” 1st the yellow flower spears, then the peach lantern seed pods)

Halloween is not over and here we are thinking about Christmas. Thanksgiving gets sandwiched in-between and almost forgotten. Ironically, the first two holidays are what I call “Give me holidays.” We ask for things and then wait expectantly to receive. The “glossed over” holiday in the middle is for “giving thanks.” But what do we do? We think about getting off work and indulging some gluttonous feasting.

Giving thanks is inborn in our DNA.  An atheist friend of mine is always pointing upward when she receives something good, and then pulling her hand back in embarrassment. She thanks “whoever” or “whatever,” afraid that she might get caught in actual gratitude toward God.

A few years ago she sold a painting. She lamented that she had only received $150 for it, and then proceeded to tell me that it went right into a new disposal for her kitchen sink because hers had quit.

“Don’t you see what a blessing that is?” I asked her. “You didn’t have the money to replace the disposal, and then you sold a painting for the exact amount you needed? Do you see the irony in that?” She simply charged it up to coincidence.

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(This photo shows the yellow spiked flowers that fall before the peach seed pods grow.

How hard it is to give thanks. We shrug it off with feelings of embarrassment, as if that makes us dependent on someone else or even God. And we’re far too smart for that! Besides, we had it coming.

We ignore our waiters at a restaurant watching them come and go as if they are beneath us, and instead reward them with a tip afterward if they satisfy us. We have become a nation of ingrates. Our mother’s called it being courteous. Our teacher’s called it being polite. In fact, when we were young we threw please and thank you around by the dozen to get a smile or a pat on the back.

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Now people bump into each other on crowded streets and buses, and simply grunt to show that they’ve been inconvenienced. Pushing and shoving has become the order of the day, even on crowded highways. Automobiles jostle for position weaving in and out like a game of bumper cars.

When was the last time you allowed someone to pull in front of you? And how about that driver waiting on a side street; did you let him or her pull forward into traffic?

Since when did we all become so selfish, so in a hurry?  Was it at the beginning of the computer age when life itself accelerated? First we became inwardly focused, and now we’re more technology focused. Eye contact is not only scarce, it has become scary; a thing to be avoided because it encourages intimacy and opens the door to conversation.

When was the last time your teenager looked you in the eyes with fondness and emotion? How often do you allow yourself a good soak in the tub to soothe those tightened muscles? What happened to those lost moments when you dreamt about possibilities instead of obstacles?

I fear that in spite of all our technology, we still feel like we must “Go, go, go” every minute, and yet we never catch up. We are in an endless pursuit of accomplishment. If we’re not aspiring or growing, we are getting left behind. Our “failure” complex has a grip on our minds that we can’t shake off. We’re out of breath and sweating even when we’re standing still.

As we ease into the rush of holiday preparation, the shopping and the anxiety let us all remember “the reason for the season.” Take the time to appreciate and recognize what is happening around you. Be grateful for those who try to make your life easier. Do your part to keep you and yours safe and free from anger and accidents. And as Tiny Tim said in Charles Dickens’ “The Christmas Carol” “God Bless us, everyone!”

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(Great granddaughter pumpkin hunting.)

The Right to Vote is a Gift of Citizenry and must be Protected

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“Sea Breeze” Acrylic on 30 x 24 canvas

Many of us imagine how wonderful it would be to live on a tropical island. We picture swaying palm trees, crystal blue-green waters, fabulous sunsets, exotic people, and luscious menus.

HG T.V. illustrates this dream by filming people who sell their homes and start over with new lives, and new jobs in their own special paradise of love. And then Hurricane Matthew woke us up and them to reality. If you live on an Island, surrounded by water, you become a target of hurricanes and foul weather at least half of each year.

My heart broke watching the people in Haiti get hit once again. They were still half-broken from the last hit a few years ago. And Matthew may come back around and douse them again with more wind and water.

Still living in shacks created from mud and grass, or tin and cardboard. They had no protection. And as of last count, more than 800 people are dead, swept away by flood waters or crushed by fallen trees and parts of exploding debris.

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“Sea Swirls” Acrylic 24 x 18 canvas

Natural foods are a draw in Haiti. The people enjoy fish from the ocean and tropical fruits and nuts from nearby vegetation. As a result of Matthew, their water is contaminated and many of the trees in the area were downed. What little they had in the way of material possessions was destroyed.

Whatever you think about the millions of dollars already poured into these tropical islands, they need more. U.S. Aid has been flown in carrying food and clean water. Will the government of Haiti disperse the charitable offerings or use it as a power wedge as they did before? The fact that most of their people were still in tragic straits before Matthew tells us what will likely happen.

At a time like this, judgment does not help. We must pool our resources and our compassion and help them once again. Innocent people are being hurt by their own government which is exactly what totalitarian leaders do. Children are at risk. Somehow the donations, goods and money never filter down to the people.

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“Beach Buddies II”  Oil on 20 x 16 canvas

Let’s hope America is never so foolish that she will throw aside the best Constitution on the planet and trade it in for socialism or communism. If we do, we may be the next country with our tongues and hands hanging out, depending on others to bail us out.

Power is seductive and corrupts. Money allows power mongers to control others. Paying for favors, votes, or outcomes is common practice in a totalitarian government. In a one-party oppressive government, bribes, immunity, and cover-ups are typical; far worse, in fact, than a weak man or woman’s slip of the tongue that may or may not offend overly sensitive ears.

Which is worse: breaking the law, lying, destroying evidence while under investigation or while holding office, or simply saying something vulgar or in poor taste as an average citizen; tawdry language that we hear every day on television or in the movies?

Do we want a President who can fix America and put Humpty Dumpty back together again or more of the same: regulations, sky-rocketing debt, lawlessness and out-of-control taxes?

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“Window on Pine Island” Oil on 20 x 16 wrapped canvas

I’ve heard it said that politics is a “blood sport,” but it’s we the taxpayers who end up with blood on our hands as a result of voting for abortion on demand, gun control that deprives us of the right to protect ourselves, and the loss of religious freedom to worship and practice what we believe?

I wore a sticker many years ago that said “Pray the Vote.” Good advice. May I add to that “study the issues?” If we vote in ignorance, we are the ones who will suffer from the results.

Voting is a privilege of being a citizen. When there is vice or corruption to tip the scale for one candidate or the other, we are all tainted. Voting is not a personality contest. Who can speak more eloquently or who is more poised and in control should not influence our vote, even though it does.

Weigh the options. Read the proposed policies carefully. What do you support and what do you abhor? Don’t allow your emotions to cloud your judgment. When you pull that lever or push those buttons do so with confidence. Leave with a conscience at peace with your decision.

Advice or Meddling? Guidance or Interference? A Parent’s Dilemma!

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Oldster’s love to share their wisdom with others; especially their own children, and experience does provide new insight. If you don’t learn from history, you or your posterity are bound to repeat the same mistakes.

I recall writing a letter to my oldest daughter before computers came on the scene. I admit I sometimes waxed poetic and a bit philosophical. Her response sizzled with anger and sarcasm. “Is this some more of your good advice?”

I was stung and surprised. What had I said that offended her so much? Did my efforts to help come across as meddling or had I actually “hit the nail on the head” and brought her up short?

I will never know. Her rocky start into a difficult marriage finally ended in divorce, but not after bearing five beautiful children.  We never know how our words will impact others because we cannot see into their minds or know what they’re going through at the time. That’s what makes relationships so doggone difficult.

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Sometimes our children actually ask for our advice. I always tell them “You’re the only one that can make that decision, but I can tell you what helps me when I have tough choices to make;” then I bloviate about taking a sheet of paper and writing PRO on one side and CON on the other, followed by a list of the positives and negatives about each choice and an evaluation.

To tell you the truth, I’ve used this process most of my life and it seems to work quite well. Whether my children actually follow this method is another matter. I remember the wisdom my mother shared when I married at age 17.

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“You’re on your own now. I don’t want you to come running home whenever you have a problem. You and your husband should work out your differences together;” sage advice that served me well.

Did I resent her “meddling?” Not in the least. I knew that she was right. She had married at 16 herself and knew the obstacles. I accepted the fact that there was no turning back. The only thing that hurt was that she had closed the door on my youth.

Our job as parents isn’t to coddle our children forever; it’s to send them off into life prepared for the difficult decisions and dangers that lie ahead. It is to help them learn how to be independent. Children who must talk to their parents every day in order to make hard decisions are not equipped to survive the rigors of adulthood.

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Teaching your children to be independent and to accept adult responsibilities is a lonely job. You may not hear from them as often as you would like. Their preferences and life styles may be far different from the ones you would have chosen for them. Their political and religious persuasions may contrast sharply with your own. The only thing that keeps you together is blood, shared memories, and if you’re lucky love.

I take pride in my children’s accomplishments. They have used their talents and interests to provide fulfilling and interesting lives. They are helpful, kind, and hardworking. What more could a mother want?

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Politics is a Blood Sport; and Words can Kill

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Dolls are fast becoming a leading seller in art galleries and shows around the world. The latest additions are spunky, funny, and like mini-sculptures with attitude.

Collectors of these dolls are growing in number, and the artists are being propelled into notoriety. But It was a recent article in the newspaper that got me thinking about dolls; especially my own as a child.

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(Here I am taking a photo through the glass. A mirror is on the other side)

Her name was Shirley, and I carried her around by the arm because she was fairly large for my toddler body. Made out of a celluloid material that looked like a cross between wood and papier-mâché’ her toes and fingers wore down into white scuffs and eventually holes.

The article in the paper told about a Jewish woman’s doll and the travels it made during World War II. She and her doll were separated many times, but they always managed with the help of others to be re-united. The dolls of these children were especially important to Holocaust victims and survivors.

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Sometimes mothers made simple dolls and toys for their children in the camps. Often a family would say that their daughters or sons were twins so they wouldn’t be separated. Unfortunately, these children were selected for tortuous medical experiments by Dr. Mengele and his staff.

Today, some of these dolls reside in Holocaust museums:

Two dolls taken away from Jewish sisters during the Holocaust found a home with a French family — for three generations.

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Denise and Micheline Levy, 10 and 9 at the time, were being lined up in the French village of Gemeaux, when a gendarme grabbed the dolls and threw them on the ground.  (The complete story and two endearing photos are on the reports. link.) A family in the village took the two dolls home, one in a pink dress, another in a blue.

“None of us ever played with the dolls. We knew the story,” Frederique Gilles, whose grandmother first found the dolls, said. “Our family tried to find out what happened to the two girls, but they never came back. We were unable to trace any relatives.”

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Gilles decided to turn the dolls over to the Shoah Memorial in Paris last week, saying she felt wrong passing them down to her four-year-old daughter. “It wasn’t easy to give them up but it was the best thing we could do for the memory of those little girls,” she said.

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The Holocaust was the systematic annihilation of six million Jews by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis during World War II. In 1933 approximately nine million Jews lived in the 21 countries of Europe that would be militarily occupied by Germany during the war. By 1945 two out of every three European Jews had been killed by the Nazis.

1.5 million children were murdered. This figure includes more than 1.2 million Jewish children, tens of thousands of Gypsy children and thousands of handicapped children.

The Holocaust is a history of enduring horror and sorrow. It seems as though there is no spark of human concern, no act of humanity, to lighten that dark history.

– Louis Bülow
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There is a new book out that I want to read called “Mischling” a German word that means half-breed. The author, Affinity Konar, bases her book on actual Auschwitz survivors Eva and Miriam Mozes and the details they shared of infamous Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele.

The haunting words of George Santayana remind us that the lessons of history are invaluable in determining the course of the future: “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

Sadly many Millennial’s and college students stick today’s politicians with the “Hitler” label without even studying the history and the horrors of what Hitler and his cohorts actually did. Politics is, indeed, a blood sport; and words can kill! Please be informed before you speak!

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https://youtu.be/saZcy4RAXIY   Dolls in Orlando’s Holocaust Museum.

https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005142 link for more info on children

Hang on with your Fingernails – the Election will Soon be Over!

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I’ve always considered myself an optimist. But lately I’m leaning toward pessimism. Is it because there is less future ahead of me than past? Is the political climate getting me down? Are the newspapers really more biased today than in the past? Are my opportunities more limited and my energy not what it once was? Has “my dancing heart” stopped dancing?

I know I’m changing when those close to me accuse me of negativity. I reply that I’m being realistic. Today I trust people less and doubt the truth of what I read and hear. When I see people with power and money get off scot-free for offenses that you and I would be jailed for, then yes, I’ve become a pessimist.

I once believed in this country and its laws. I thought that because of the Constitution the most “perfect Union” in the world had been formed. Now I see our laws blatantly disregarded and ignored by those in authority. Men and women of integrity are becoming harder to find let alone to serve. Everywhere you turn there are scandals revealing the dishonesty and corruption in government, sports, and local politics.j0315822

Every day our work and our play is interrupted by telephone scammers telling us we have won a cruise or that they wish to help us fix our computer. The whole purpose for most of these propositions is to gain access to our PC, our bank account or credit card numbers.  Under the guise of our medical provider, some even inquire about our health and brazenly asking us to confirm our social security numbers.

Two years ago, my husband fell for a caller supposedly representing Microsoft. They asked if he had any problems with his PC, which he did. They were all too happy to help him.  When they were done, his computer went black and was never seen or heard from again.

My question to my husband was this: “Why out of millions of users would Microsoft select you?  When you really needed help, they never called or answered your emails. Why you? Why now?”

It took him weeks before he’d admit that yes, he was duped. Whatever they did once they gained access to his PC we’ll never know. Even his backup discs refused to work. The drive remained silent, the screen black.
untitledWe’re still getting those kinds of calls, but they’re now aimed at me. Yes, I’ve become cynical. We’re inundated by people out to get other people’s time and money.

What did those Microsoft Techies accomplish? Not a thing but the evil satisfaction of taking down another American’s device. They didn’t ask for a credit card or personal information. They just wanted to screw us up.

 

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“With these Hands Wonder” 16 x 20 Oil on Canvas

Career politicians are scammers. They lie constantly; and even though their Pinocchio’s are found out, they continue to repeat the same made-up facts defying someone to prove them wrong. Unfortunately, their supporters and the masses don’t care as long as their party wins.

Yes, I’ve had it! I’ll be glad when this election is over. Politicians don’t really care about you and me. They just want the power. They make promises we know they can’t keep or won’t deliver. Will 2017 be any better than the last eight years? Will the quagmire in the Middle East be fixed or made worse?  Will income and wages remain stagnant? Will the cost of living continue to go up while the Feds continue to deny there is any inflation?

The only thing that keeps me going is knowing that God is in control. He hears and answers prayers. He doesn’t promise what he can’t deliver. He is omnipotent. He wraps me in peace while the world is raging. He alone I trust and when I do, I have hope and optimism in the future.

Learning by the Seat of your Pants is Long Remembered

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Looks like my library as a kid.

Sometimes it seems that the only thing standing in your way is lack of money and opportunity. To say that we’re all created equal and have the same chance at success is to overlook the stark realities and conditions of our lives.

Where you are born and to whom, and what color your skin makes a significant difference. If your parents are poor and uneducated, it isn’t likely that you will be any different unless they and you are motivated enough to make the choices that will determine your future.

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This could have been me, and yes I was shy and introverted.

Even personality traits play into the mix. A shy introverted child is less apt to reach out for help or make the necessary connections without considerable coaching and encouragement. If you are part of a large family it is even more difficult to find the resources needed for education. Getting a job and helping the family in the here and now becomes more important than planning for the future. Gaining access becomes the result of privilege.

My own mother never graduated from high school and was married at age 16. My father was 18 and barely fulfilled the requirements. He did go on to become a welder, but was forced to travel away from home to obtain work. When money was tight, my mother did odd jobs like candle eggs and work in the school cafeteria. Both of my parents worked hard and lived largely in spirit and faith. It wasn’t until I grew up and moved away that I realized how little they really had.

images (4)Children never experience poverty if there is joy and kindness of spirit. It is only by comparison that they recognize the disparity.

Mother was a divine creator of nourishing eye-pleasing meals incorporating the fish that dad caught in the summer, and the fruits and vegetables that she canned in the fall. Their garden was productive and they both enjoyed working together to provide for their family.

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I made up for their lack of education by becoming a voracious reader. I spent hours at the Public Library in pursuit of education. Thirsty for knowledge, I read through many of the classics before I even knew how precious they were.

I taught myself how to write. I devoured plays and then moved on to writing them for non-profit groups. Except for a few classes at junior colleges and universities, I taught myself how to write articles and children’s stories. I learned how to oil paint and went through every available book at my fingertips on various fine art topics from portraiture to landscape. I hungered to learn.

Having a large family of my own, there was seldom extra money for my education and barely enough for theirs. Everybody worked. Five out of six of my children all received degrees and three out of six are teachers, one is a writer, and one in finance. They were non-complaining about their student loans and grateful that these funds were available to them. All have since paid off their financial obligations.

In spite of never obtaining a degree, I was able to work as a freelance writer and have some measure of success in children’s and adult education and training. My scripts, which were much like writing a play, were financed by corporations in conjunction with film companies. I studied film making and video/movie script writing, and I prayed a lot.

Many students get through college on their parent’s dime and still have difficulty finding a job afterward. They go through the motions, obtaining that degree, but failing to absorb the knowledge that someone else has paid for. When you pay your own way and struggle not only to understand, but you crave and hunger for knowledge and success, the learning is remembered.  Your efforts are rewarded.

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