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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Does your body language say: “Come and get me?” or “I can take care of myself.”

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"Belly Dancer" 11 x 14 acrylic on panel

“Belly Dancer” 11 x 14 acrylic on panel

You are a walking advertisement. What are you selling? Young women often “strut their stuff” searching for a date or a mate. But what are they really saying with the way they dress or act? Probably that they’re looking for sex. If you’re dressed like a hooker, don’t be surprised if that’s the only kind of invitations you’re going to get.

What kind of friends do you want to attract? Are you casual and athletic, or are you more the theater and stage kind of person? Do you love to read and are up on current events, or do you just slide by and prefer small talk and gossip?

"Reggae Night" acrylic on canvas

“Reggae Night” acrylic on canvas

Every time you go out in public, you send a message about yourself. Are you confident and poised, or insecure and “needy?” Are you pushy and demanding or are you courteous and thoughtful of those around you. Some people are afraid to show their soft side for fear that they’ll be taken advantage of, and there is some truth to this feeling. But if you act confident and sure, you are more likely to be ignored by someone who is looking for a “soft touch.”

The bad guys study your non-verbal clues. They know who’s an easy mark and those who may put up a fight. Of course, if there’s more than one attacker, it’s best to give them what they want, unless you have a concealed weapon of your own that is.

As people debate this issue, just imagine yourself in the above situation either on the street or in your home. Are you just going to surrender to mutilation, rape, or robbery, or are you going to scare the hell out of your assailants and send them on their way?

"Broken" 11x14 mixed media (SOLD); prints available.

“Broken” 11×14 mixed media (SOLD); prints available.

It seems our whole country is being overrun by gangs and weirdos who are able to purchase weapons illegally, and use them against us. Why should law-abiding citizens be denied the right to defend themselves against the lawless who don’t mind skirting the law? Since the 2nd Amendment is very specific about this freedom, the discussion should be over.

Did you know that the government is buying up ammunition hand over fist? They figure if they can’t confiscate all the guns, they can at least keep the guns from firing. This unconstitutional act should be challenged if it isn’t already.

History tells us that in every dictatorship that has come to power, one of their first acts is to confiscate all the guns. As a free people we should not allow this. Statistically the odds for getting killed by a gun are slim to none.

Self-defense is an important tool. In Fort Myers, several elementary school girls have escaped the stalking and invitations of would-be rapists simply by screaming at the top of their lungs and running away.

Unfortunately, one young woman was grabbed by a man who stuffed her into his trunk so fast, she didn’t have time to react. Learning the techniques of self-awareness, environmental awareness, and some simple methods to disarm or disable an attacker has saved more than one person’s life.

Your job is to be as prepared as possible in the event something like this should happen to you. The very young and the feeble old are assaulted in greater numbers because they are weak and often defenseless. Paying for lessons for you and your children on self-defense to build up your knowledge and skills is well worth the money.

The Secret to Becoming a Good Conversationalist – “It’s all about them!”

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“India Rising — Prince of Thieves”

When the internet first came out, kids and teachers discovered that they “hadn’t even scratched the surface” of the information out there. They also learned the hard way that some of it was erroneous.

Today’s students know better. They live on the fast track where what they want is only an “app” away. The internet is so easy that many people rely solely on the information they get without knowing the source. Where does truth lie? If you want to know something, do you go to the experts or do you take the word of friends, relatives or some nobody online?

When you find a nugget of truth are you willing to accept it or do you argue with the evidence? Do you trust yourself to make judgments or do you know that you’re wishy-washy, at best, and lack confidence?

How deep do you go inside yourself? Do you really know how you feel about sex, about God, about Socialism, Capitalism, Communism, and Buddhism? What hidden secrets are you afraid to confront? But don’t spend too much time “navel gazing.” There’s a fine line between knowing yourself and becoming narcissistic or arrogant. In fact, the more insecure people are, the more time they spend internalizing.

Reggae Night

“Reggae Night”

Many years ago, I was self-conscious at parties and around groups of people. I didn’t know what to say. I was so shy and introverted. I stood on the sidelines and observed before I even dared enter the conversation.

When I started working as a writing consultant, I had to interview people. I was terrified. Then I discovered that if I could get the other person or persons to talk about themselves, I didn’t have to talk about me at all! I soon became very popular and known as a “good listener.” I made a point of keeping other people’s information private, and soon gained their trust. It was a winning combination.

Pulling others out of themselves is a skill that can be learned. It doesn’t matter if you’re shy. All you need is a question to ask the other person, either about their job or where they are from? A compliment about what they’re wearing is also a good starting point or perhaps finding something you have in common like interests, co-workers or friends. Planning a few icebreakers or interview prep questions can get you off on a positive note. The more they talk, the less you’ll have to unless they start asking questions, too. It isn’t as hard as you think to respond back.

Information is all around us. We may get confused looking for answers. There are certain things we must learn to trust in or we’re bound to get lost. History that has not been altered can teach us a lot about human nature and the course of human events. Our own experiences may teach us about whom to trust and how to make better choices.

"India Rising -- the Lost"

“India Rising — the Lost”

Knowing your enemy is important. There may be certain people in your life who always discourage you or intentionally “put you down.” Honesty is important. You want friends who level with you; but if their motives stem from jealousy or envy, their so-called truthful answers may actually harm you.

Poisonous people are not your friends. If you feel less confident and authentic around someone, change course and find others who are uplifting to be around and inspire you to be a better person. Then watch your self-confidence soar!

Where do you go for spiritual knowledge? Do you find a card reader or a fortune teller in the yellow pages, or do you read the Word of God? Do you check your daily horoscope, or do you ask the God you believe in for guidance?

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“Prayer Circles”

Authority, history, books, newspapers, can provide additional data that may make the difference in the accuracy you’re looking for. Just remember, that most information is written by other people and may have shreds of personal opinion and untruths. Use discretion and compare notes. Don’t rely on one source. Trust your “gut.” Listen to your heart.

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“India Rising — The Found”

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”