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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The Dangers of Socialism are ignored Because of Promised Perks

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“Victims of War” are usually women and children. Here “History repeats itself!” 24 x 18 mixed media on canvas

In America, the Land of Plenty, we’ve grown soft. Many of us have experienced affluence, opportunity, security, a good education and a clear path to success.

According to a recent article by Cal Thomas “51% of young people between the ages of 18-29 do not support capitalism; yet even the poorest American lives better and has more opportunity for advancement than most of the rest of the world.

“Why does socialism receive such strong support among the young?” Thomas writes. “Could it be that socialism A.K.A communism is being peddled in our schools, and that newspapers and demagogues in the higher echelons of government are pushing socialism because it makes them richer and more powerful (votes)? After all, who wouldn’t rather get a check than earn one?

Thomas uses quotes to point out the fallacies of Socialism “both its false promise and its danger:”

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” – Winston Churchill

“The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” – Margaret Thatcher

“The goal of socialism is communism,” Vladimir Lenin (No matter how many times Bernie and Hillary deny it!).

“Capitalism and its political sister, democracy, offer opportunity, not guaranteed outcome. Socialism is mutually shared poverty.” Cal Thomas

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“Prayer Circles” 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

My previous blog was also politically motivated. We are in a critical juncture in America. We are leaving behind the principles that guided us in the past, and we are treating with disdain those Constitutional precepts that have made our country great for more than two hundred years. We are allowing our emotions and our lusts to determine our choices rather than history’s lessons of the past, truth or common sense.

Young people who embrace the promises and slogans of socialism should travel more to gain a perspective on what this lifestyle means. When I was last in Germany the wall was still up splitting the city of Berlin right down the middle. We were able to compare modern Berlin to its poverty-stricken sister in the East.

We cowered as we showed our passports and boarded the train. Eerie quiet confronted us on the east side as we walked into the first plaza. Red Soviet flags hung from many of the buildings. I was about to take a photo and was told by an uniformed guard that photographs were not allowed.

We used a lavatory in the visitor’s building. Coarse paper was in some cases provided as was a half-used bar of soap. We discovered later that toilet paper in East Berlin was in short supply.

People spoke softly or very little. We stumbled into a small café at lunchtime and discovered it filled with workers on their break. All eyes were upon us as we sat down. Then their private conversations continued. We were able to order something to eat and chose what the locals were having: a bowl of soup and a slice of bread.

We were able to bring a few souvenirs across the border upon our return. I chose some ordinary shops; a hardware store and a small department store. I wanted to see what the residents normally purchased and how they lived. I came home with a small shelf that was nailed with wooden pegs, and two planters that were made without any nails. We also bought our children a Russian set of nesting dolls made in the Ukraine.

It became obvious by the end of the day that the people lived simply and in constant fear. They, and us, were being watched and monitored. If the citizens received any goods or services from “The State” it was not obvious. When people are entrapped and they can’t travel or purchase fine things for themselves, they are nothing more than prisoners and slaves in their own land.

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“Prince of Thieves” 20 x 16  canvas — Oil on acrylic under painting

In socialism and communism the only people who eat well and spend luxuriously are the ruling class. Everyone else is a ward of the state. What happens is the ambitious and powerful rise to the top while the regular folks, the workers fall into poverty and stagnation.

Is shared poverty what you want? Will you trade your freedoms for dependency and submission? In the beginning having free healthcare, free education and food sounds fantastic. But all that glitters is not gold. Someone has to pay the piper and it just might be you.

 

So much for Thrift for Thrift’s Sake

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“With these Hands — Love” a child loves her daddy while he sleeps.

Some people are more thrifty than others. As a spouse, with a family, you learn to pinch pennies, clip coupons and sometimes go without. But when thrift becomes the dominant force that drives your focus, and people’s feelings become less important than the “all mighty dollar,” you have a problem.

My daughter was married to such a man who suggested that she fashion her own sanitary products in order to save money. They also fed their dog old bakery scraps they received for free. In the end, the dog’s diet made him fat and unhealthy and their marriage started on the road to ruin.

These thrifty types will crop a dog’s ears and toenails without proper medical skill or tools. They find any means to get ahead even if it means “fudging” a little here or there, or even lying if necessary.

"Bella Bellissimo" acrylic on canvas SOLD (prints available)

“Bella Bellissimo” acrylic on canvas SOLD (prints available)

I also endured years of lectures about how much shampoo I should use (a dime-size dab); how many squares of toilet tissue was appropriate, and how much I was allowed to cut off the top of a strawberry. If I told you all of the other rules that surrounded my day, your head would spin, so I won’t.

“Waste not, want not” was not only a saying, it was a way of life. Our parents and grandparents went through the Great Depression. They lived in fear that there may not be money for the next meal. The Salvation Army and other charities kept many people alive until they could get on their feet.

For those lucky enough to have the space, a garden and a few chickens provided the sustenance to feed a family and perhaps sell the extra produce for money.

On a well-traveled road not far from where I live sits a small stand with a canvas top for protection from the rain. A brother and sister “man the fort” on weekends selling Georgia peaches, home-grown tomatoes and sweet Vidalia onions.

In our present economy there are signs everywhere of poverty and continuing unemployment. When the Stock Market plunged to new lows, I wondered if our country would slide even further into hard times.

“Money is the root of all evil,” the Bible says. But it is the obsession of money that is evil. The kicker is that thrifty people sometimes obsess over finances and subordinate other people’s needs in their miserly attempts to save money and to get more.

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel in Bristol; matted and ready to frame.

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel in Bristol; matted and ready to frame.

We’ve all read stories of millionaires and billionaires who died in poverty without ever spending a nickel for the simplest of pleasures. They didn’t take it with them. They never shared their abundance with a loved one or a neighbor. They went tight-fisted to the grave, but their grasp, their hearts were empty.

Money hard-earned should be saved, invested, and wisely spent. Being thrifty is prudent and smart when you have little of it and your needs include retirement, a home, and your children’s education. A couple need to work on this together and in consultation with each other so they have mutual goals. It is lack of communication that is the downfall of many.

Being thrifty is a good thing in hard times. Obsessing or pinching pennies and allowing money to become your focus, your God is when it becomes a destructive force which may lead to evil actions and failure.

We are all in this Pot of Stew Together

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"Does this hat make me look fat?"

“Does this hat make me look fat?”

When a group of mothers get together, the audible sound bytes will likely include chatter about the perils of giving birth and raising children. Center stage is the person who had the longest labor and delivery or whose birth canal sustained the most damage.

Of course, I’m long past that stage of my life, but the memories linger on. Today I reminisce watching “Call the Midwife: a Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times” on PBS. Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth a nurse and midwife in post war London in the 1950s, the show is a delightful stroll down memory lane.

Even husbands are in awe watching live births actually happen on screen. Eyes tear up as each infant takes in its first breath and wails that familiar newborn cry. Mothers forget their pain. Midwives are reinvigorated with purpose as the intertwined plot reveals the seedier side of life in London’s urban squalor.

"Broken" prints available

“Broken” prints available

Almost as popular as Downton Abbey, another PBS favorite, viewers discuss Midwife’s characters and plots via email, texting and “face time.” Chummy is down to earth and lovable and has become a symbol of women’s changing role in society and her need for independence and fulfillment. Jenny, the main character, mirrors our own hopes, dreams and aspirations.

Watching people cope with poverty, ignorance, domestic violence, lack of birth control and disease is heart wrenching. When someone in these circumstances makes a wise choice or demonstrates not only their humanity, but an unrestrained compassion for others we are lifted in the process.

In the midst of filth and degradation, these mothers courageously bring life into the world with dignity. They embrace life and cling to hope. Viewers are inspired and ashamed at the same time. The characters have little, but they give all they have. Their courage and defiance in the face of tragedy make us, who take so many things for granted, ashamed. We are filled with a new sense of gratitude for our own abundance and ease.

Historical dramas remind us of where we’ve been and to whom we owe gratitude: the trail blazers, the researchers, the movers and the shakers of the past. We are enriched by their struggles and made aware of the sacrifices that were made on our behalf. Our own past and the trials and challenges that we faced may also be inspiration for those who come after.

“No man is an island,” penned John Donne. We are all connected and we influence every person who comes into our life whether with a simple smile or a helping hand when it is needed.

No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

John Donne