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

Blending Two Separate Families – there’s an App for That!

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There's no Business like Show Business

Wedding rehearsal begins with “There’s no Business like Show Business” my kid’s favorite song from childhood.

Just kidding! There isn’t an app.; but my son, a science teacher, used a chemical experiment to show the children that it is possible.

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Blending Family “practice run”

Chris was lucky enough to have his older sister Pam, a “Celebrant” officiate at his wedding. The input from the couple and the expertise of Pam made for a lovely ceremony. I have photos of the rehearsal on Friday, and the official wedding on Saturday, June 25.

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Pam Torres Officiater

The weather cooperated and we had clear skies both days. The backyard was in full bloom and the sunshine bathed us in glorious light. After the rehearsal, we binged on ham, macaroni and cheese, bread and green beans. Later we had croissant sandwiches and yummy desserts.

To avoid the heat, the wedding took place at 10 a.m. the next morning. Attendees each took a rose and placed it in a circle around the couple, symbolizing the love of family that surrounded them. Music was also performed by the groom’s younger sister, Holly; a duet with her daughter Amelia. Holly’s husband Mark played the trumpet after the couple were pronounced man and wife.

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Encircled in love and roses.

Friends and relatives congratulated the two families and then went inside for coffee, wedding cake, and conversation. Funny stories and experiences were shared and remembered. The photos speak for themselves.

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Holly & Amelia sing duet; Griffin wearing hat, and Pam on the right.

Hope and faith made the experience joyful. The future is unknown to all of us. We usually walk confidently into our lives knowing that much of what happens is in the hands of fate. For believers, trusting in God to walk with us gives us an additional edge over those who are skeptics.

Below, Tamara’s mom discovers she has cake on her shoe from cutting the wedding cake.

I hope time and shared experience will blossom in the lives of my son and his new family.

I now pronounce you man & wife

I now pronounce you man & wife

Who will keep your Children Safe in America’s Gun-free Zones?

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“Fuchsia Fantastic” 14 x 18 acrylic on canvas

I’ve always considered gardening to be as close to God as you can get. The miracle of planting a seed, caring for it, and then watching it grow is just short of creation. So many things can go wrong. If you forget to water, the seed will wither and die. A hungry caterpillar or rabbit may come along and chop off the blossoms or chew the plant into the ground. Lots of TLC is required in order to get your seedling to reach its full potential and produce.

Children are a lot like seeds. Sometimes their lives are snuffed out before they even begin. Genetic problems may hasten their demise or create a problem long after they’re born. The mother’s health can affect the baby’s well-being. The environment the infant is born into may be physically risky. The child may not receive the nourishment or love that it needs to grow. So much depends on circumstances as to whether the child will thrive and survive.

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“Hibiscus Glory” 16 x 20 Oil on acrylic canvas

Life is a precious gift and should be cherished and protected. Sometimes our priorities are topsy-turvy. We “worship and serve the creature more than the creator.” (Rom 1:21-25 KJV) A gorilla’s life may become more valuable to us than a small child’s; a human being who may one day discover a cure for cancer, or create a solution to eliminate genetic imperfections. The gorilla on the other hand has reached the full extent of its potential.

Have we come so far that we place animal life above that of humans? Has mankind become our next endangered species?

There’s much talk and angst between proponents of gun control and those who believe strongly in the 2nd amendment and the right of Americans to own a gun if they are of sound mind. I placed those words in italics because most of the school shootings have not only occurred in supposed “gun free” zones where there is no one equipped to protect the innocent, but the violence was imposed by those who were mentally disturbed and were still able to obtain a gun.

Until we make our schools and our environments safe, our children will continue to be exposed to unnecessary risk. Our laws must be enforced. There must never be gun-free areas where only criminals and predators are safe. The sale of illegal guns to criminals and the infirm must stop if the majority of our citizenry are to be kept safe.

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“Peaches ‘n Cream” 12 x 16 acrylic on wood panel

Although our pets and other animals bring joy into our lives, we must never place them above human life. They were created, after all, for our benefit. Even though I abhor animal cruelty, human life must not be relegated to a lower position of importance.

Taking care of our environment and being good stewards is commendable; so is having compassion on all living things, but not at the expense of human life. When we place human life secondary to “the planet, to “the world,” or to other forms of life, we make a mockery of God’s plan for human existence.

Before you become a champion for some other cause make sure that you’re not endangering your own life in the process. Study the issues on both sides. What are the long-term consequences? What does history reveal about this path? Have others made this same mistake before?

Don’t vote until you research the issues that face you. No matter what you decide, you will (along with others) face the consequences of your decision for many years to come.

What’s not to Love – or Hate?

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“Beach Buddies” 20 x 16 oil on canvas

Yes, I’m one of those sappy people who watched Sound of Music to hear once again the familiar and wonderful songs of long ago and to watch Carrie Underwood’s take on a timeless classic.

What I was not prepared for was the avalanche of hatred aimed not only at her, but at her faith after the show concluded. Was the criticism aimed at her performance? No. It was simply a barrage of anger leveled at her Christian faith and her belief in the Bible; cheap shots in my opinion.

Are these the same hate mongers who demand free speech for themselves, but wish to deny it to others? Are they the ones who yell racism and discrimination whenever it suits their political agenda with little evidence to back it up simply to stir up trouble?

Where does this kind of hatred come from? Envy? Self-loathing? An empty soul? Christianity is a religion of love: “Love thy neighbor as yourself,” “Love your enemies,” “Do good to those who despitefully use you,” and on and on.

Christians are sinners who are striving to do better. They are given ugly labels they do not deserve. They are only human. Why is it that when they stumble or reveal their vulnerability they are laughed at or worse called a “hypocrite” for making a mistake? The mockers defile them with crude language while their own behavior would make a sailor blush.

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“Broken Hearted” 11 x 14 pastel in matt & ready to frame

I’ve always cheered for the underdog, but when did we start putting vulgar language and crude behavior on a pedestal? Since when was innocence a negative and raunchiness applauded? Our “ship of state” is sinking into the mud, and I for one am saddened by our descent into degradation.

I think that’s why I paint portraits of children and enjoy painting scenes that kids will find funny or inspiring. I like their fresh perspective, their trusting and simple belief in goodness and their frank and open dialogue. If someone is unpleasant or mean, they’re not afraid to tell it like it is. They see through the outward trappings of poverty and pigment and head straight for the heart. They can sense evil almost immediately and try to avoid people who give off negative vibes.

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“With these Hands — Wonder” 1st the a “hands” series. Original available + prints

We should encourage this goodness before it becomes tainted by peer pressure and adult provocation and perversion. These are our children. They are our future. Do we want a world where hate rules and crude behavior becomes the norm? Where will we find inspiration or beauty in such a world? How will we survive if the passion to deface and destroy becomes the norm as it was in Rome or worse yet in Sodom and Gomorrah?

In our efforts to accept people as they are and welcome them into our “big tent,” let us not expose our innocent children to danger either ignorantly or willfully. They are our only hope.

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“First Daffodil” Acrylic on canvas

 

When Hope is Gone we Cease to Dream; we Stop Living

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"Ibis on a Perch" original drawing

“Ibis on a Perch” original drawing

Our church is a praying church. People in the community and friends of members often ask for us to pray for them. A school teacher requested prayer for her daughter who was a drug addict. When she went missing, there was general panic in their circle of family and friends.

Sadly, the prayers were too late. She was found dead in her car at a shopping mall. The car had been sitting in the same place for seven days and no one even noticed. She died from an overdose of heroin. Oh, the risks people take. The dangers they ignore. The willingness to dip their toe into deep waters until they sink in so far it’s too late to turn back.

They’re caught in a vice. They lose control in a downward spiral that ends badly. Their names are found on missing person’s reports, in obituaries and on tombstones. Others try to help, but cannot supply the will to live nor the decision that plunges their loved one into a gut-wrenching tragedy. Warnings have no effect. Peer pressure drives their actions. The end game is sometimes final.

"I Stand on the Brink" original drawing.

“I Stand on the Brink” original drawing.

Like most teens, I walked that narrow ledge. What kept me from crossing over? I didn’t want to hurt my parents. I knew that a failure on my part would crush them. Their love kept me close and harnessed my wild flights of fancy.

The state of the family in 2015 is a sad one. Children are disobedient and disrespectful to parents and they disdain authority. Gangs are taking the place of family in some communities. Parents, for the most part, are working to keep the family financially afloat. They are absent and uninvolved in their children’s activities. Rampant divorce has created homes without fathers and mothers who try to be both.

Love is not always enough. Parents often lack time and desire to give their children more of themselves. Unsupervised kids roam the streets and get into trouble. Children not only need to hear the words “I love you,” on a regular basis. They need to have it affirmed in action. When you spend more time with them, they see that you mean what you say.

Children today need hope in the future. Their lives need to be grounded in something larger than themselves. Secular parents prize what money can buy more than they do the lives of their children. Prayer is something they may participate in once or twice a year on Easter and Christmas or never. Faith is a word many have never heard of, let alone practice; some willingly and others from ignorance.

Parents need to get back to their roots. In addition to the love that should bind families, traditions and culture provide the arms that encircle us and link us to our ancestors. Foundations of faith, service and promise were once strong and sound. Today they are crumbling around us and we wonder what has happened?

History does repeat itself. If we want to survive in this dangerous world, we must learn its lessons and build our own dreams on the building blocks that those who have gone before have built for us.

Forward March "Hut, Two, Three, Four" . . .

Forward March “Hut, Two, Three, Four” . . .

Have you Discovered your Purpose in Life?

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Do you just follow along to get along or do you forge your own path?

Do you just follow along to get along or do you forge your own path?

Do you feel like you’re aimlessly walking through life not knowing where you’re going or even where you’ve been? Are you being pushed and pulled in different directions by other people or situations that leave you empty and confused?

Rivers meander like this weaving through obstacles, passing things by, and going wherever gravity and the shift of ground takes them. You’re better than that! It’s time to put your concerns and hopes on paper.

Companies, churches, and large corporations usually have a “Mission Statement” to keep them on track and to guide them through difficult transitions. Why not you?

'Hut two three four" Take that first step and keep going until it becomes a habit.

‘Hut two three four” Take that first step and keep going until it becomes a habit.

A mission statement is an overall view of what you want your life to be about and why. It is greater than a goal that details individual projects and desires. What do you want to accomplish? Where do you want to end up when you’re 65+ years of age?

Clarify your position in terms of your faith, your family, and your dreams. Goals will come later as to how to get there. For now just set the tone of your life and what kind of person you want to become.

Once you have that list prepared, create highlights from the most important to the least. Now work on your statement. Here’s an example of a work-related mission statement:

“My mission is to use my talents and skills to assist, direct and manage the scope of my responsibilities in such a way as to make those I serve more productive and successful; in doing so, I will also grow and prosper.”

Emma's Birthday -- Looking back brings her joy!

Emma’s Birthday — Looking back brings her joy!

Here’s an example of a life mission statement:

“My mission in life is to use and expand my God-given talents and abilities in such a way that I remain true to myself, true to my family and to my God. I will do my part to enrich and strengthen the lives of those around me leaving the world a somewhat better place just because I was here.”

If you want to leave a positive footprint on the earth while you’re here, create a personal mission statement that will guide your efforts in being a better parent, a more productive employee, a supportive friend and neighbor in your community. Once you have developed your purpose, then go back and see what things in your life you need to change to get there.

Here is where goals come into play. Work on one goal at a time so you don’t become overwhelmed and give up. Life is not an event but a process. Taking one step at a time and overcoming one difficulty at a time solidifies your efforts into long-term habits. Once a habit is developed, you don’t have to think about that part of your list. You can go onto the next project, define your goal, and begin again.

Stay with it while you build a chain of positive habits that will assist you in fulfilling your purpose or mission in life. Good luck!

Tis the Season that Memories are being Made All Over the World!

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We usually repeat what’s pleasant: a beloved piece of music, an old storybook, a novel reread until the stitching comes loose on the binding. Old movies are another sweet experience we enjoy reliving over and over again.

Warm memories shared may replay in our minds especially if their associated with a holiday or vacation. Rituals we cherish with those we love are automatically recorded and later brought to mind in times of loneliness or pain.

Before bed, my children adored stories, songs and “cuddles and kisses.” When I was in a hurry, I’d rush through a rhyme my Uncle Walt taught to me: “I’ll tell you a story about Annie and Norrie; and now my story’s begun. I’ll tell you another about my brother, and now my story is done.”

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My kids were so disappointed. “No, no, not that one,” they wailed. Read Go Dog Go!” Dr. Seuss was always a favorite. As a result, a familiar chant “Go, around again, dog” was said when someone had to repeat an action or they wanted a do-over.

The Chipmunks brought us “Pardōn” with the appropriate response: “wee wee, Monsieur.” That phrase still slips out in my speech today, even though no one is around who is familiar with this practice. I respond, even though I’m alone, with an appropriate “wee wee, Monsieur.” Old habits die hard.

If one of my sons came up with a bright idea or outsmarted a brother or a sister, they would put a small finger beside their nose and say: “I be smart” thanks to old “Ben Gunn, a character from “Treasure Island” that they enjoyed imitating. The books we read together and the fun we shared found its way into our vocabulary and in our interactions with others.

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I had a friend who always lamented that she was a “terrible mother.” She wasn’t patient. She was too busy working and didn’t spend as much time with her boys as she would have liked. One day she fell and fractured a rib. In the process of dealing with it, the doctors found she had a tumor on her kidney and was near kidney failure. She immediately went into hospice.

I was there for her funeral. I wondered what these “neglected boys, now men, would say about their mother?” Had they been unhappy? Did they feel ignored and alone?

The memorial service spared nothing. A presentation of slides and photos revealed it all – the happy faces, the rough and tumble play, the picnics and the story telling. One by one each son stood and expressed his love and gratitude toward a mother who never knew, perhaps because they had failed to tell her.

Each son quoted passages from famous authors and their books. Shakespeare was a favorite. Biblical passages once memorized were used in praising her. Some had been used in helping them make difficult decisions in life. Their mother’s influence had been with them throughout their lives and had helped them to cherish great literature, to glean wisdom from its pages, and to live honorably because of it.

This faithful woman had died thinking she was a failure; that she should have done more. Yet her sons had blossomed under her care into doctors, attorneys and teachers. They had become good citizens, neighbors, husbands and fathers. Small and insignificant things do matter!

The unique touch of a mother’s hand can leave an indelible imprint on the future of the world. What if these sons had focused on her deficiencies and mistakes; would they have achieved as much recognition and success as they apparently had? Would they see their lives half-full instead of brimming with laughter and knowledge?

The perfect life doesn’t exist. We never have enough time or money to do all of the things we wish to do before our own demise. Sometimes our bucket list never gets finished. The best we can do is to let the people we care about know how much we love them so they don’t end up like my late friend, never knowing the truth.

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Some of my “Grands”